Newsletter 29



September 2010

A Tale with a twist – Christmas 2009

Jan Harrigan – Wychbold Swan Rescue

It was Christmas Eve when I received the telephone call to tell me a swan had been hit by a car in Worcester about ten miles from our sanctuary in Droitwich. As I do not drive and on that particular day I had no-one to drive for me to pick the bird up I decided to ask the caller if it would be possible for him to bring it to me. He said he could manage it while the swan was still a bit dazed. It turned out it was a this year’s cygnet which had tried to land on the roof of a car covered with snow and had slipped off. In so doing he had damaged one wing and received a small cut on his left leg.

He was picked up by a man who was pushing his bike on his way home and as he was wondering what to do with the swan a car came along and stopped alongside. The driver got out and said he knew the very person to contact – me. The cyclist laid his bike down in front of the car and together the two men put the bird in the boot. Anxious to get it for treatment he got in the car, put it in gear and started to drive off – and ran over the bike.

As he was leaving me, having carried the swan into the treatment room and stayed with me whilst I administered some first aid, he said he was just going to collect the cyclist who he’d left at the side of the road, and then take him to buy him a new bike. After all, he commented, its only money!!! There really are some lovely people about. He also said he was an animal ‘lover’ and loved swans but would like to ‘do something’ about Canada Geese as he couldn’t stand them!!!

Police Fund Fishing for Troublemakers

The Daily Telegraph – Saturday 22.5.10

A police force has been criticised for spending nearly £1,000 on a scheme to tackle teenage troublemakers by taking them fishing. Cambridgeshire police claims teaching young people how to fish will be a ‘valuable opportunity’ for them to transform their behaviour. Thirty known trouble makers have been recruited through the Safer Schools Scheme which will start at Decoy Lakes, Whittlesey near Peterborough next month.

Some are already signed up to Acceptable Behaviour Contracts by police after displaying disruptive behaviour at school or in their communities. The 30 young people will be taken out on the trips in three groups of ten for three days each at a cost of around £100 per session. They will be provided with equipment using funding from the Safer Schools Schemes, given a free lunch and fishing tackle as part of the day out. Plain clothes officers will accompany them to the lakes to teach them the basics.

Matthew Elliott, the Chief Executive of the Taxpayers Alliance said, ‘Law-abiding tax payers will be furious that convicted criminals are being treated to fishing jollies at their expense. It doesn’t make sense to reward these young troublemakers for their crimes. What’s needed is a strong incentive to stop them re-offending. Self respect comes from earning your own way in life – not free-loading off tax payers who you have already robbed.‘ PCSO Martin West, a qualified fishing coach, defended the scheme as valuable to the youngsters. He said, ‘It helps them build a rapport with us and break down barriers. It’s not only about teaching them to fish, it teaches them to feel respect for themselves and others. It’s worked absolute wonders.’

Note: May we now ask Cambridgeshire police to donate another £1,000 to the unpaid dedicated people who will undoubtedly be called upon to rescue those birds, and swans in particular, which will get caught up in all the lost and discarded fishing tackle left behind by these thirty young criminals after they have enjoyed their free fishing jollies at the tax payers expense and then maybe another £1,000 to pay for the expensive but very necessary follow-up veterinary treatment?

Swan Jottings for August 2010 AGM and Open Day

(Barrie Mortimer – Berwick Swan & Wildlife Trust)

The Open Day was well attended with lots of interesting questions being asked about our patients. One new arrival was a hedgehog I brought in last Friday. All our over wintered hogs have been found safe homes where someone will be handy if they hit any problems. This one was about to be released by someone I met “when a suitable bit of sheltered woodland could be found for it”. I offered to try to match it up with one of our carefully vetted foster homes and took it in to be checked over by our vet. It was a bit underweight and ate a dog bowl full of food in one sitting. We always like our released hogs to be at least a kilogramme in weight so they can survive the first few days until they become familiar with where food can be found. Another important factor is whether there are any badgers in the vicinity. Badgers love a tasty hedgehog and we don’t want all our work to end up on someone else’s menu. By the Open Day, this particular beast had put on 75grammes – in two days! We are fussy about our patients and like to give them every chance of surviving in the wild.

The four orphan cygnets in our care were a great attraction. They are nothing like Hans Christian Andersen’s ugly ducklings and they make a sweet whistling noise when spoken to. There were a number of sales tables and a wheel of fortune in the big shed. Our office served as a refreshment point and cake stall. One comment on our Facebook presence made it all worth while. “As a stranger to both the Open Day and also the AGM, I was made to feel very welcome, so thanks everyone. Yummy cakes too!” That came from a visitor who lives in Hampshire. I must record my thanks to all the people who helped make the day a success. There were stalls to be ‘manned’ and people to be talked to, but special thanks must go to Pat for not only organizing the event but also baking cakes into the small hours of Sunday morning.

Just as I was tucking into one of those yummy cakes the phone rang. It was a lady in Eyemouth wanting help for a gull with a broken wing. David, our vet, could not make out where the bird was, so passed it to me. I knew the location! You’d think the bird must have known where to go for help. It was in a corner near the house of a friend of mine. He hadn’t known it was there until I arrived and I had it netted just as he came out of the house. Whatever your views on gulls, it is not acceptable (nor legal) to shoot them. This one had a shattered bone in its wing and had to be put to sleep. At least the lady who phoned saved the bird from a slow and painful death. When I called round to let her know I had the bird in my car she very kindly gave us a donation which was much appreciated and will pay for several tins of dog food to feed all the young gulls which fall from the nest before they can fly. Normally we advise people who come across baby birds to leave well alone and let the parents look after them. In the case of gulls, however, whilst many people love them there are also those who shoot them, run them over with their cars or use them as footballs. For this reason we take them into care.

Whilst talking about Eyemouth, I must mention the swans with their two cygnets! Now there’s a surprise. These two babies have now been taken down to the harbour by their parents. What amazes me is such small creatures can swim back up to the Eye Water against the current. Or do they? Maybe they wait until an incoming tide counters the downward flow of the river. I got back to the swan shed in time to chair our AGM and we then watched the first in a series of DVDs made by a lady I have only met on the internet, Helen Iliffe-Adsett. She and her husband have discovered a disused part of the Lancaster Ship Canal which is an absolute haven for wildlife and they have produced some really professional quality films. When several people asked where they could buy the DVDs I had to tell them they are not for sale. I feel very privileged to have been given them as a gift from Helen.

Continuing on another subject, we were asked by the RSPCA to sign a new Care Agreement, but if we had, it would have resulted in us being virtually a branch of the RSPCA, so the Trustees agreed I should not sign away our rights to run our own Registered Charitable Company as we see fit. On 28th May this year I invited the RSPCA to send their Wildlife Officer to discuss the matter – a suggestion which came from them in the first place. As yet (and its now August) I have not had a reply. I can only hope they do not dispense with our services to the detriment of wildlife. Although we would be entitled to charge for any wild birds and animals brought to us by the RSPCA, we have never invoiced them for any costs we have incurred. We get on well with the regional Inspectors and Animal Collection Officers who praise the work we do, but the RSPCA hierarchy seems to distance itself from the real world.

North Wales Vets set up tissue bank for injured animals

(published by Rob Bellis – 11.6.10)

THOUSANDS of injured pets are set to benefit from a new venture in the region.

Veterinary Tissue Bank is Europe’s first tissue bank for vets. Based in offices at the Brynkinalt Estate near Chirk, their veterinary surgeons will process and bank bone and soft tissue for specialist practices to provide grafts for badly injured pets. Increasing demand from veterinary specialists led to the formation of the organisation which was co-founded by veterinary surgeons Peter Myint and John Innes, who is Professor of Small Animal Surgery and head of hospitals at the University of Liverpool Veterinary School.

Vet Noel Walker said: “I do not understand why this has not been done before. With advances in veterinary medicine progressing rapidly, demand for complicated orthopaedic surgery from specialist centres is growing on a daily basis. “This scheme is an excellent aid to the recovery of the many pets requiring these specialist treatments.”

The aim of Veterinary Tissue Bank is to improve the quality of lives of injured pets throughout Europe by providing bone and tissue grafts for orthopaedic veterinary surgeons to use during surgery. The bone and soft tissue will be sourced from donor pets. Peter Myint said: “Some people find their loss slightly easier to bear in the knowledge that they have helped other pets in need. “We hope owners will find comfort at their time of loss from the knowledge that they are able to help another in need through their gift of tissue donation.” Gatehouse Veterinary Centre, which has practices at Lavister, Wrexham and Chester is one of the first practices to join the donor scheme.

EGLWYS NUNYDD Reservoir, Port Talbot

Ellen & Peter – Swan Rescue South Wales

There are times when we have to question ‘fate’ and can we really believe in it? As an example and just a thought – when one wants to make a phone call but is unsure whether to do so or not but in the end desperation forces the decision to do it and the call is made – if the line is engaged then fate has decided it wasn’t meant to be but if the line is clear and the recipient is glad to have had the call – then is that fate or not?

On Monday 12th July we were on our way to rescue a male swan caught up in fishing tackle on Brinsham Park lake near Yate in South Gloucestershire when we received a call to say the swan had managed to ‘detackle’ itself. This was good news in one way but it also meant the hook, line and float were now somewhere in the water where it was likely to ensnare another innocent creature. This is when fate took over. A few days previously we had been advised by Brenda and Trevor who look after the swans and the fishing on Eglwys Nunydd reservoir, the resident male swan appeared to have a slight limp. We suggested they monitor him and let us know if he worsened. However, because the original incident at Brinsham had resolved itself we decided to check the reservoir swan and how thankful we were. In those few days he had worsened to the extent he could now no longer stand (so catching him was not too difficult) and he was obviously in a lot of pain.

The following day we took him to the National Swan Sanctuary in Shepperton where an X-ray showed he had suffered a crushed outer toe and broken joints caused, it was suggested from being run over by something very heavy. Because of the position of the reservoir in relation to the M4 and because this swan had a mate and six cygnets, we knew it would not have been caused by a vehicle on the motorway. We later found out the swan’s favourite roosting place was on the concrete slip-way where the nearby yacht club is situated. Apparently the people who run the club don’t like the swans because of the mess they leave on the slipway so we suspect its more than possible little care was taken when manoeuvring the boat trailers from their over night lock-up back into the water and ready for use the following morning.

The swan was on antibiotics and pain relief injections and was monitored at regular intervals by X-rays. We were told it was going to take a long time for the damage to heal, in fact it took roughly five weeks before he was fit enough for us to collect him and bring him back home to the reservoir and to his family. As we approached Port Talbot we were concerned what reception would be waiting for him and how he would be received by his mate as we could foresee there was a strong possibility he would be treated as an intruder invading her territory.

With thumping hearts we took him to the water’s edge and undid his wrap. He didn’t hang about and as he shot into the water his waiting mate went into full battleship mode. With wings up and head back she came at him with full force even trying to drown him at one point. All we could do was stand and wait and watch with horror. What was interesting was there were five other swans on the reservoir which she tended to ignore so it was odd she was so antagonistic to ‘our’ male and her mate. But even more interesting, and we still find it hard to believe, this antagonism was comparatively short lived and whilst we were discussing what we could do to rescue him from this ferocious onslaught, the whole family came together as if they had never been apart. Her attack had to be her way of saying to him ‘where the hell have you been all this time while I’ve been slaving away looking after the kids’? It was a fantastic sight to see them back together again after so long apart. Our grateful thanks (again) to Dot and the National Swan Sanctuary.

Cuckoo numbers decline by 44%

The Times newspaper 20.7.10 – condensed version.

By Simon de Bruxelles

It was a sound which country folk always listened out for from March onwards, as the true herald of spring. But time seems to be running out for Britain’s only parasitic bird and its unmistakeable call. The annual survey of breeding birds conducted by the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) and the RSPB has reported a 20% decline in the number of Cuckoos in the past year. Since the survey began in 1995 the cuckoo population has fallen by 44%.

The birds, which arrive in Britain from sub-Saharan Africa in late spring have been placed on the Red List of British Birds whose numbers have halved in the past 25 years. Others include the Grey Partridge, Lapwing and the no longer quite so common Starling. The decline is based on a number of factors, including damage to the Cuckoo’s winter habitat in West Africa and a fall in the number of large moths in Britain, whose caterpillars are its main source of food. Grahame Madge, an RSPB conservation specialist said: ‘It is the most complex of the birds we deal with because of the number of factors involved. It is regarded as a British bird though it is resident for only 3 months of the year.

The Cuckoo is a very versatile bird, able to thrive in almost any habitat from the low density woodlands of southern England to the mountains of North Wales. On paper. it should be doing well, but it isn’t.’ The adult birds return to Africa in mid July with the young birds following a month or so later. Cuckoos are one of a number of migratory birds to have experienced a decline in numbers since the Breeding Bird Survey began. There are believed to be about 10,000 breeding pairs which make the annual migration to Britain. In some areas the decline in Cuckoos has been dramatic. The numbers recorded in the South West has fallen by 71% since the survey began 15 years ago. The survey also found an alarming drop in the national population of Kestrels, an amber listed species which has fallen by 36% in a year.

Thank you Martin

The National Swan Convention has been most fortunate in having a good working relationship with the Environment Agency for a number of years now, but sadly, nothing stays the same for ever. It struggles on but in reality, nothing much has changed in respect of the reasons why we have to continue rescuing swans and other water birds almost on a daily basis. The Environment Agency on the other hand, has to respond to changing priorities and to the need to seek to do things better or more efficiently. And so it is with great regret we have to say ‘Farewell’ to Martin Stark whose responsibilities have changed with the latest reorganisation, (with effect from 1st June). Martin has worked hard on our behalf to try to gain a better understanding of what really underlies the continuing concerns about lead poisoning in swans; more resources have been made available to us in this work, and it is fair to say real progress has been made in the last twelve months or so. It cannot have been easy, with so much potential for conflict, but wherever possible Martin has helped – and we mustn’t forget it has been his budget which has also supplied our hot drinks at all recent Convention meetings! So, not only is it ‘Farewell’, but also a very big thank you to him for all his efforts, and our very best wishes to him for the future.

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