Trevor’s Week - February 16, 2011

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I KNOW it hasn’t been the best of weather recently but if you decide to take a walk along the coast keep an eye out for small penguin-like birds on the beach!

No, I’ve not been drinking! Every winter we get cases of oiled guillemots and razorbills washing up on our beaches.

They look like little penguins and are frequently mistaken for them.

These small birds, weighing up to 1kg in weight with mainly black plumage but normally white breast feathers, are deep sea birds and are rarely seen on land except when nesting on cliff tops or oiled and on beaches.

Every year oil circulates around our seas and, especially in rough weather, oil can appear and as these seabirds dive for food they can come up through the oil which prevents them from flying or catching food.

In the middle of the English Channel they can spend several days paddling ashore and by this time the internal damage can be quite severe depending on how much they have managed to preen.

Please call WRAS for assistance if you find one and whatever you do please do not take them home and attempt to wash them clean.

These casualties need internal medication as a matter of urgency so please seek help quickly.

Twenty five years ago we used to get 300 to 500 birds washing ashore covered in oil every winter, but it is luckily now illegal for tankers to wash their tanks out at sea which has led to a decrease in oil being dumped.

The unfortunate thing is oil does not disappear easily and can circulate year after year causing problems.

Some oil is also from inappropriately stored oil on smaller vessels and WRAS volunteers have on numerous occasions found coke bottles, yoghurt pots, plastic water bottles and even an ice cream container full of oil washed up on Sussex beaches.

Overall our seas are cleaner than they used to be which is a step in the right direction to protecting our wildlife and the environment.

THIS wet weather has seen the toad populations start migrating too, across Sussex.

Historic sites like Friston Forest are alive with toads at night crawling through the undergrowth to get to the Cuckmere valley flood plains for spawning.

Unlike frogs, toads do not live in water and spend most of their time in gardens, fields, hedgerows and woodland.

At night when it is wet and has been warm, toads will start migrating, but this unfortunately takes them across roads where they get squashed in their thousands every year.

The back lane between Littlington and Exceat is one of the main sites in East Sussex and volunteers from the local villages, from the Sussex Amphibian & Reptile Group and even from WRAS pop down when they can to help the toads migrate and to prevent them from being squashed.

So please drive slowly and carefully.

Other sites in the area include the Ersham Park area in Hailsham, Knowle Lane at Halland, lanes across the Pevensey Levels, the A275 at Offham just outside Lewes, Cackle Street on Ashdown Forest and Underhill at Maresfield to name a few of the main locations.

SAM BEDFORD, from Bedfordshire Wildlife Rescue, paid WRAS a visit at the weekend, to help teach us more about young birds and improve our technique on handling and feeding.

It was very well received by the volunteers and although WRAS has limited facilities for taking in baby birds it will hopefully make an even better job of those it can help.

THE ROAD casualty pheasant and the window strike sparrowhawk have both been released.

However, we have another sparrowhawk in which appears to be a road casualty.

She was seen by vets over the weekend and it is touch and go whether she survives, but we are trying our best.

We rushed down to Brighton Marina last week after a report of a swan stuck in the lock gates at the marina.

When we arrived the swan had been freed and was placed in a large cardboard box.

The swan had apparently been fighting with two other swans at the marina and as it tried to get away it collided with the lock gates.

The swan was luckily not badly injured but suffered a couple of wounds to its feet, one of which was a nasty capillary bleed which required us to stem the bleeding on site.

The swan was transported by ambulance back to our casualty centre where it was given further assistance and after a couple of days rest, allowing the wounds to recover, the swan was released at the non-territorial flock at Princes Park, Eastbourne.

DON’T forget WRAS will be at Hailsham’s Quintin Centre on Saturday, February 18, to hand out 100 bottles courtesy of Safe 4 Disinfectants.

If you have a bird table and would like a free bottle of disinfectant come along after 10am with a photo of your bird table to claim your free bottle.

These are limited to one per household whilst stocks last.

However they are also available to buy online at WRAS’s eBay shop, just click on the link on our website www.wildlifeambulance.org.