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Meet the volunteers caring for swans, ducks and geese in Merseyside parks

11 months ago

Meet the volunteers caring for swans, ducks and geese in Merseyside parks

A group of volunteers across Merseyside are giving up their time to rescue and protect ducks, geese and swans in our parks.

Members of WWR Wings receive calls every week to help birds in distress, many caught in fishermen’s hooks or lines, attacked by dogs or even humans targeting them with air rifles.

They also go to the aid of others who are the accidental victims of people’s kindness – left unable to fly because they’ve been fed too much white bread.

Jay Scott was one of the founding members of the group 18 months ago after meeting like-minded bird lovers at Spike Island in Widnes. 

She ran an animal sanctuary for more than 30 years and started going to Spike Island to feed the swans and take care of them as the water there began declining following the closure of Fiddlers Ferry power station.

WWR Wings - The Guide Liverpool

She explains: “There was quite a large population of swans because it’s a gathering point, juveniles get taken by their parents, they meet their mates or friends and move on, or they go into moult and stay to protect each other. 

“But this time last year, after Fiddlers Ferry closed, water levels started rapidly declining which was a major concern. Fiddlers Ferry had holding tanks which they’d release into the canal, keeping it topped up, but without that the levels dropped.

“That was a real risk to the birds’ health so in May and June, over 17 days, we managed to move more than 75 swans to safety in Winsford Marina.”

The volunteers set up WWR Wing initially for Spike Island and surrounding areas in Halton, but since then their expertise has meant they’ve expanded into other areas including Liverpool – around Princes Park, Sefton Park and Newsham Park – Runcorn, Newton-le-Willows, Warrington, and Northwich.

They’ll often be contacted by people who’ve seen birds needing help but aren’t sure what to do themselves or are nervous to approach the swans or geese.

When that happens, one or two of the 12-strong admin team will head to where the bird is and do their best to either help with rescue and rehab on site or get them to a vet.

“We get there, assess the situation and if more team members are needed, or more equipment is needed then we’ll call the relevant person and get them out as well. We all have a boat of some sort, either a small kayak, paddleboard, dinghy, or a larger boat, because the birds are often in distress in the middle of water. We also have waders, nets, carriers, clippers for wires, disgorgers for hooks, and antibiotic spray and antiseptic.

WWR Wings - The Guide Liverpool

“If we can remove a hook there and then we’ll do it, but if it’s been swallowed or gone too deep into the bone then we have a fantastic vets that we use.”

Jay says the biggest threat to the swans, geese and ducks comes from fishermen’s hooks and lines.

“One of our team has been out to Newsham Park this week because a duckling has been seen a few times with fishing line wrapped around the whole of its body. We tried to capture it last week but it disappeared and now it’s reappeared again, still entangled.

“We’ve also been called recently to a gosling that had been shot in its side in Newsham Park and a few weeks ago one of the local swans who we saved last year brought his babies back to Spike Island and he stayed there with his mate because it’s his breeding ground. Unfortunately a few weeks ago he was attacked by a dog – he’s now in a sanctuary and can’t be returned to his family.”

The other major issue for birds on park lakes is their diet – families excited to feed the ducks and geese will often give them white bread which results in health problems.

“Kids love it when the ducks come up to them to be fed, but we do say please don’t feed them white bread because it can cause something called angel wing so they can’t fly. 

“We recommend that if people want to feed them bread, seeded brown bread is much healthier, but a bag of defrosted frozen peas or sweetcorn or a tin of sweetcorn are really good and they’ll appreciate that a lot more. When we go out on rescues, the first thing we do is go and get tins of sweetcorn and scatter it into the water and they’ll dunk down for it.”

WWR Wings has a Facebook page with a hotline which people can call if they want advice or a bird needs urgent help.

“We do what we can for the wildlife in the area, and the group is growing all the time,” adds Jay. “Now we have a lot of support from parish councillors and the MP in Warrington, we’re working in conjunction with Cheshire rural crime team and also meeting with the team on Merseyside.

“So many problems for the swans, ducks and geese are man-made, we just want people to be more and more aware so we can protect them.”

Follow WWR Wings on Facebook HERE.

Get the latest for Liverpool HERE.

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