Newsletter 31



January 2011

Dramatic rescue at Eymouth

by Barrie Mortimer 21.10.10 (Berwick Swan Rescue)

It seems an age since it happened, but this is the first chance I have had to relate an exciting incident on a stormy weekend a few weeks ago. A lone swan had been wandering about on the beach at Eyemouth all morning and as it appeared to be quite healthy there was nothing that could be done about it. Things changed rather suddenly in the afternoon when the tide came in and the bird got trapped by very rough seas. I got a call to say it was being battered against the sea wall and it’s life was at risk.

Throwing on some waterproofs I dashed down to the Co-op car park but could see no sign of the swan. The waves were sending great plumes of spray right over the promenade and the council men were erecting safety barriers. Ignoring them, I went to look over the wall, and sure enough, along to my right was a white drookit bundle of feathers being tossed hither and thither. ( I never thought I’d ever use that expression). Getting back into the car I drove round to a place near the steps down to the beach. There was absolutely no way I could brave the waves and get to the swan, so I assembled my ten feet long swan hook and reached over the sea wall. Luckily, my pole was just long enough to allow me to hook the bird’s neck and hold it’s head above water. Each time a towering wave crashed down just a few feet away and sent water rushing in to hit the wall and send water soaring up and over the wall (and me), I managed to drag the half floating creature along towards the steps. Eventually we reached the steps with the swan being swept halfway up towards the promenade. I dashed round and grabbed hold of it and scrambled back up the steps just before the next wave came crashing in behind me.

It wasn’t until I had the swan strapped into a swan bag that I realised my breathing problems had been temporarily overridden by an adrenalin rush. I couldn’t speak but managed to make myself understood to bystanders by gestures what I wanted doing with the bird. After I had got my breath back we went to friends for a hot cuppa and a rest before taking the swan to our HQ for examination by the vet. My main concerns were possible internal damage due to the bashing the swan had received against the sea wall and that I might have injured it’s neck with my swan pole. Thankfully, he made a full recovery. From the ring on his leg I could tell he was a six years old cob, so in his prime. So much so that he terrorised all the other birds round the pond and had to be put in solitary confinement until we were sure he was fit enough to be released.

I’d just like to reassure Eyemouth people who are concerned about the “blind” seal in the harbour now that the fish stall is closed for the winter. I have spoken to the British Divers’ Marine Life Rescue group and we are all in agreement that the amount of fish being fed by humans can only have amounted to tit-bits and that all the seals must be capable of finding their main source of food themselves. Already the seals seem to have stopped hanging around near the fish stall.

Those local to Berwick-upon-Tweed should you find an animal in need of our services, or if you need any advice please phone H.Q. on (01289) 302882 we are happy to help. You can also e-mail via our website If you would like to donate to the trust (cheques payable to BSWT) or to become a member please contact the treasurer, Derek Roughton, Yew Tree Cottage, Branton, Alnwick. NE66 4LW. Telephone (01665) 578365. The Berwick Swan and Wildlife Trust is a registered charity in England No. 1064805.


Dogs-R-Us Puppy Farm eNewsletter

On 27th October 2010 during our investigations following up a complaint made to us from a member of the public, we came across an unlicensed dog breeder in Ceredigion, Mid Wales.

Approximately 70 plus dogs were being kept in appalling conditions on unattended property in Llanddeiniol. Some dogs needed veterinary treatment for conditions which were clearly visible. The dogs had no food or water, some were living on top of months if not years of excrement. Not one dog had a bed to lay on and one shed housing dogs had no door so was open to the elements. There were also Labradors outside in an open run, living in their own excreta, with no inside shelter.

At 3.34 pm on Wednesday 27th Oct 2010 we called the RSPCA to report the conditions the dogs were living in and made it very clear they needed urgent help. At 8.30am on Friday 29th Oct 2010, having heard nothing from the RSPCA we informed the police that we had been to an abandoned property and the owner may be deceased inside the house. The police attended the scene and ascertained there was no deceased person but they were dismayed at the sight of the Labradors on the yard so the officer decided to inspect the rest of the premises and discovered the other dogs, he then took photographic evidence.

He returned our call at 10.35 telling us what he had found, during that call he informed us while at the premises he had called the RSPCA. We then confirmed we had also called the RSPCA but they had not attended our call. The officer agreed with us that what he had seen contravened every one of the Animal Welfare Act’s Five Freedoms . We re-rang the RSPCA at 12.45 pm and informed them if they did not attend we would call in the media. At 1.16 we had a call from Barbara Pryce Jones, Ceredigion animal welfare officer, who informed us she was on her way to the premises as she had just had a call from the RSPCA asking her to attend

On Saturday she went back to the site with a vet and we were told by phone it had been decided some dogs, not all, should be removed to another premises owned by Mr Davies. These premises do not have planning permission for kennels, neither is it licensed.

Since that phone call our Welsh co-ordinator has spoken to Ms Pryce Jones again to be told the dogs which were removed are in a place of safety in licensed premises which is a complete turn around to her first statement. Also 40 dogs are still in the care of their abuser, how shocking is that? We asked if a prosecution for animal cruelty would take place but her response left us very doubtful.

So who do we turn to when we find dogs which need desperate help, we understand if the premises are licensed then its the local authority who should be informed but if unlicensed then the RSPCA should be the first port of call. Well we tried and we and the dogs have been failed by the RSPCA and now it seems dogs may also to be failed by the council!

We are just a group of concerned volunteers who do our very best to raise public awareness to the plight of puppy farm dogs and to report what we find to the attention of those who are meant to help. If we cannot get support from the richest animal welfare charity in England and Wales where do we go? We run on a shoestring, they have millions of pounds at their disposal and yet for 2 full days they did nothing and to date have still not visited the scene. When they did act they handed the case on to a local authority who very rarely remove dogs to safety or prosecute dog breeders. The end result is that some dogs have been removed to who knows where, they could be in another puppy farm and 40 dogs are still with their abuser. Thanks for nothing RSPCA, shame on you!!

Telepathy is the direct communication of thoughts and feelings between minds without the need to use normal means such as speech, writing or touch.

On the 8th of January this year we received a call for help from a very concerned man whom we knew later as Damon. He told us, for several years he’d had a pair of disabled Canada geese on his pond but then one night, one went missing leaving the other quite distraught and lonely. Damon told us now and again flocks of Canada geese would come in, stay a while then fly off and each time his goose would ‘run’ after them calling but unable to go with them. It was so sad to watch him and hear him and Damon was desperate to find a companion for him.

Knowing our involvement with wildlife rescue particularly swans and water birds, he asked if we knew where he could find another goose or if we might know of one which needed a good home. At that time, we were receiving calls about a Canada goose with a ‘broken wing’ (angel wing) on the boating lake in Cwmbran about six miles away. Having already visited the lake several times to try to catch the goose and failed, we had to tell Damon if we were ever able to get him we would ring him immediately. However, despite several attempts and due to lack of time we were forced, eventually, to give up. In fact, on our last visit, there was no sign of the goose, so we had to assume either he had gone off down the adjacent stream, or something awful had befallen him, so we had to tell Damon we would contact him if and when we had some news for him.

Months went by and nothing. Although we hadn’t forgotten Damon and his request, we lost track of when he had phoned – even whether it was this year or last year. Then two weeks ago we received a call from Mal, our contact in Cwmbran to say he had caught the boating lake goose. We had to give Damon the good news.

Remembering, or rather not remembering how long ago he had rung, which month or even which year, we started on the time consuming job of going through my last two, rather scribbled and not very well documented diaries. I had a vague memory, or so I thought, of the details being written somewhere towards the top of the right hand page so that’s where we tended to concentrate our checking. But no luck. (they weren’t there anyway, but halfway down the page on the left !!). After several hours of wasted searching we had more or less given up and decided to drive around the roads in the area where I thought Damon lived to look for a site where there could be a pond – and then the phone rang. It was Damon!! I could not believe after months of no contact at all, he should suddenly ring now to ask if we’d had any luck finding a friend for his disabled Canada. Was that telepathy or not?

After exchanging our mutual surprise at this amazing coincidence we arranged a suitable time that day for goose two to meet goose one. So with our precious cargo safely settled in the carrying box in the back of the car we drove the eight miles to introduce him to his new friend. As we approached the pond we could see Damon’s goose swimming up and down and appearing to us slightly apprehensive. We opened the box expecting our goose to leap out straight into the water but apparently he had other ideas – he was not going to move. Peering inside we realised why – he was facing the wrong way – he couldn’t see the pond. So it was a case of turning him manually and placing him on the bank whereupon he started honking loudly. He ignored the water and went and hid himself amongst the thick bank of dead reeds along the edge of the pond.

Unfortunately, we had another incident which we needed to deal with and had to leave Damon ‘in charge’. We were concerned what might happen if the two did not get on but we needn’t have worried as Damon phoned later that afternoon to say the two of them were swimming side by side around the pond. It was the ending we had hoped for.

Ellen & Peter (Swan Rescue South Wales – 07802 472788)

The Digestive system of Birds

(extract from ‘First Aid & Care of Wild Birds by J.E.Cooper & J.T.Eley)

The digestive system is adapted for very efficient rapid utilisation of food to produce the energy required to maintain a high metabolism. Animal or vegetable matter enters the mouth and passes over the glottis into the oesophagus. Birds which can eat faster than they can digest have a crop, which acts as a storage organ and allows them to retire to a safe perch to process their meal. Vegetarian species usually have crops, as do those which eat large animal prey; insect eaters, which spend some time obtaining each mouthful, have none. Beyond the oesophagus or crop is the proventriculus, a glandular region of the stomach which secretes digestive juices, whence food passes into the gizzard. The gizzard is a very muscular organ with strong inner walls, which in many species contains grit or stones to assist in grinding up the food.

A turkey’s gizzard is strong enough to roll up strips of iron sheeting and tough enough to break up steel needles and surgical lancets ! This organ allows a bird to turn hard food into an easily digested mash without the need for weighty jaw structures placed far in front of the centre of gravity. From the gizzard, food passes into the intestine, the first loop of which is the duodenum. The pancreas is a long, narrow reddish organ lying in this loop and ducts carry digestive juices from the pancreas to the duodenum. Other juices enter the region via ducts from the gall bladder, a blue-green globular body embedded in the liver. The liver which in healthy birds is a uniform rich red colour is beautifully moulded to fit in the space between the gizzard, intestine and posterior edge of the sternum and is immediately obvious when a bird’s abdomen is open. It is an important organ for the metabolism and storage of fats, vitamins, and carbohydrates. It also breaks down old red blood cells and stores their pigments in the gall bladder. These bile pigments give colour to the faeces (the dark part of the droppings), being obvious as a green colour when there is no food in the gut; they also dictate the colour of the shells of the eggs a bird produces.

Digestion proceeds as it passes along the intestine and nutrients are absorbed into the blood stream through its lining. Towards the end of the instestinal tract are two ‘side branches’ in many vegetarian birds. These assist with digestion, and in some birds (ie grouse) may be as long as the rest of the intestine. The intestine terminates in the cloaca, whence the faeces are voided at intervals. Some birds eat food containing totally indigestible parts such as feathers, fur and insect exoskeletons. These parts are usually covered with mucus in the stomach and cast up by mouth as a pellet.


Ellen & Peter – Swan Rescue South Wales

Although its difficult to choose, we believe one of the most memorable rescues we have been involved with was during the recent extreme adverse weather conditions when water everywhere was frozen solid. During that time we had a number of calls from members of the public who were convinced they had seen swans stuck in the ice. Mostly they weren’t and we were able to reassure the callers with advice and suggestions as to what actions they could take to help.

At 5.30pm on Tuesday 7th December Brenda and Trevor who look after the swans on Eglwys Nunydd reservoir in Port Talbot phoned about a cygnet caught in the ice about 100 metres out from the bank. He had been there for at least two days apparently unable to move and with no access to food. Our first thought was the local Fire & Rescue who are always very helpful in this sort of situation but then we decided to contact Alan, another of our helpers in Port Talbot but he was not in so a message explaining the problem was left with his daughter. Despite the extreme cold and lack of light we knew this was a desperate situation as it was possible the cygnet might not survive the night. Then Alan rang. He had a plan. He said if we had a flat bottomed inflatable dinghy he could propel himself across the ice by using spikes pushed into the ice. It was worth a try. Two hours later on that dark freezing night we all assembled alongside the reservoir. Whilst the dinghy was being inflated we kept watch with binoculars on the cygnet which was visible only as a tiny silhouette against the lights from the Port Talbot steel works on the other side of the water (ice). Alan had also contacted Gary, another of our valuable helpers, to accompany him in the dinghy. It was a brilliant idea and it worked. They managed to push themselves across the surface of the ice until eventually they reached the cygnet and haul him into the boat. We believe he would not have survived the night in that intense cold. He was unable to move, his feathers were stuck with ice and he had not had any food for at least two days.

Once home we settled him on a bed of hay under a heat lamp with a bowl of corn and our best wholemeal bread. He managed to eat some but then he put his head deep into the feathers on his back and went to sleep. He was still asleep in the morning but as mid day approached the noise of him feeding came through the baby alarm which is linked to the house. He had slept for the rest of that night and part of the following day. Surprisingly he recovered well and in only a short time he was well into hissing mode every time we appeared with a top-up for his food bowl.

Contact Information

e-mail :

phone : 07802 472788