BIRD flu has now been confirmed at a Cheshire beauty spot as the death toll rises to 60 geese and 17 swans.

RSPCA teams returned to Winsford Marina to retrieve more dead and sick birds and the boat is set to come back on Wednesday.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) confirmed fears that a new highly contagious strain of avian flu had been detected following analysis of the dead birds.

The public is warned not to pick up any dead or visibly sick birds.

RSPCA water rescue team is making regular visits to Winsford Marina

RSPCA water rescue team is making regular visits to Winsford Marina

Northwich mum Tanya Pickering, 50, raised the alarm on Christmas Day and now visits the beauty spot every day with daughter, Eloise, 21, to check on the health of the wildlife.

"It is horrific, totally devastating," said Tanya, who belongs to Swanwatch UK.

"It looks like we're losing another two cygnets. If they pass, that will be all the cygnets gone.

"It is heartbreaking because there is nothing we can do. We have rescued swans before but we can't go anywhere near them at the moment."

RSPCA patrol boats retrieve sick birds from Winsford Marina

RSPCA patrol boats retrieve sick and dead birds from Winsford Marina

People are being advised not to hand feed the swans and geese.

A spokesman for the RSPCA said: "Since New Year's Eve, 37 swans and nine swans were in such a suffering state that the kindest thing to do was to put them to sleep.

"We were back in the water on Friday and a further five geese and two swans were recovered in a suffering state and had to be put to sleep."

Signs have been erected around the marina warning the public not to feed the birds, wash your hands and don't let dogs into the water.

A Defra spokesman said: "These deaths are currently under investigation as part of the Animal and Plant Heath Agency's ongoing wild bird surveillance programme.

"Members of the public should not pick up any dead or visibly sick birds."