Another busy day involving a Tawny Owl, a Buzzard, a one winged Mute Swan and a dead swan (probably its mate). Two weeks earlier the owl had been found entangled in fishing line and hanging from a tree in the wooded River Sirhowy area of Blackwood. The line was wrapped tightly around his right wing and had he not been rescued and taken to Alex, a trainee veterinary nurse at Summerhill veterinary practice in Newport he would certainly have died. Following his treatment he was transferred to the Bird of Prey centre near Monmouth run by Helen Scourse for some rehab and practice flying before he was ready for release – one of the tasks we had planned for that evening. We always try to release wild birds and animals, particularly those which are nocturnal, back to the area they came from (or even from which they came!!!!!).
The Buzzard was a road casualty and had been brought to Alex some days earlier suffering head trauma but now he was ready to go into a flight aviary so it was a case of in with one (the buzzard) and out with the other (the tawny owl). Next on our list was Symonds Yat to look for a poorly swan which had been reported to us the previous evening when we arrived back from a fund raising event in Cardiff. The report said the bird had struggled out of the water and had collapsed. Unfortunately by then, little daylight remained, but we took a chance on there being enough for us to locate the swan even although the directions we had been given were rather vague. We were unaware it had been seen by a visiting member of the public who had since left the area, several hundred yards on along the river which, had we known at the time, made our journey rather pointless. But of course, we had to try.
Back at Symonds Yat again we were now being told a different story by several people who had seen a dead swan a further half mile down the river. This was too much of a coincidence – it had to be the one we had looked for the previous evening. We found him. He was an adult swan and very underweight – weighing only 6.9 kgs, then we discovered the reason. He had an extremely tight chinstrap caused by some carelessly discarded fishing line which had obviously prevented him from feeding; it seems likely he picked this up as long as two weeks earlier. This beautiful swan had starved to death. One can’t help but wonder where that fisherman went after having enjoyed his few hours by the river and without giving a thought to the loss of that lethal length of line and the possible problems it might cause to the resident wildlife.
Before we left Symonds Yat we decided to check the one remaining swan (possibly the mate) which was being fed by some visitors to the area. As we watched we could see something was wrong with its right wing; half of it was missing. From the state of her beak and feathering it looked as if there had already been a territorial dispute at sometime in the recent past so we decided we needed to take her into care for her own safety. She also was slightly underweight – just 8.00 kgs. As we examined her we even more convinced we had done the right thing because clearly one leg was not functioning as it should – clearly there was a weakness there. Finally as we settled her for the night, including making sure she had enough to eat – and quite clearly she was very hungry – it became evident her eyesight was also impaired; she could see, but her responses were on the slow side. Obviously, she was to be one of our passengers on our next trip to the National Swan Sanctuary at Shepperton.