Look out for oiled birds

Most people will enjoy a bracing walk at some point over the Christmas break to work off their dinner, so WRAS is asking these walkers to lend a hand and keep an eye out for any oiled seabirds which may come ashore.

Christmas often sees volunteer rescuers from East Sussex Wildlife Rescue and Ambulance Service (WRAS) having to rescue up to 1,000 oil-covered birds from the Sussex coast line.

Trevor Weeks, founder of East Sussex WRAS, first started rescuing oiled birds back in the mid 1980s and has been called to deal with them every single year since.

"Back in the 1990s the calls to these birds was much higher than it is now, and this is thankfully down to generally cleaner seas," said Trevor.

"However, there is still a problem. It only takes a teaspoon of oil to kill a guillemot."

The oil out at sea circulates year after year and quite often stormy weather brings the oil up to the surface.

During the winter months deep sea birds like guillemots and razorbills migrate through the English Channel and some of the juveniles even winter in the Channel.

As they dive for food they get covered in the sticky oil and have to paddle to shore to clean themselves.

WRAS is issuing a warning however, not to take oiled seabirds home to wash them.

"It is extremely important not to take these birds home and wash them. It is more important that they receive medication as quick as possible.

"Washing should only be done once they are treated and fit enough to withstand the stress of it," said Trevor.

WRAS's main rescuers carry special medication which is used to treat these birds on site as it is so important that they receive this medication quickly.

"It is surprising how difficult it is to catch oiled birds on the beach. They can run fairly fast and be difficult to catch.

"Do not approach them directly – walk to the water's edge and try and get between the bird and the water.

"It is sometimes better to give WRAS a call and we can try and catch the bird although we are not always successful," added Trevor.