TREVOR WEEKS MBE - Coastal defences forcing gulls to adapt lifestyles

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Gulls are some of the most dedicated parents you will find in the bird world.

Gulls have been forced to adapt to urban life as their natural coastal habitats are being destroyed by humans coastal defences and cleansing and smoothing of the cliff faces to remove their nests, as between Brighton and Saltdean.

As a result, many gulls have adapted and now live on roof tops in towns and villages.

Under the Wildlife and Countryside Act it is illegal to removal, kill or interfere with gulls’ eggs, young, nests or the parents. General licences can be used but these have been changed over the years and now there is a responsibility for users of general licences to try human alternatives first before using licences.

Any seen interfering with any nesting birds should be reported to Sussex Police Wildlife Crime team and also the RSPCA.

WRAS is receiving up to 75 calls a day about young gulls, and it is extremely difficult to answer them all and return everyone’s calls. Sadly we have had a number of very irate callers accusing us of not caring or not being bothered to help. This is normally by people who do not realise how small an organisation we are, and limited our funding is, when we actually go out to more wildlife rescues locally than any other organisation. Some callers think we have a call centre or loads of paid staff, when we only have two part time employees and rest of our helpers are volunteers.

At the moment WRAS is still in year 3 of 5 of the completion of its new Casualty Care Centre, and at the moment we cannot take in baby gulls for rehabilitation, however we have continued to take in injured adults although the numbers we can take in is limited. We hope this will increase over the next couple of years.

Most gull calls we are receiving are about fledgling and these can be identified as those whose wing tips overlap just above the base of the tail. Ideally there should be at least a 1cm overlap. As with all fledgling birds they are unsuccessful when they take their first flight and land in gardens. They need to spend time building up the muscle strength in their wings before they can fly. Fledglings should be left alone even if on the ground unless injured. During this time the parents often withhold food in an attempt to encourage the gulls to fly up to them, this is normal.

Our young woodpeckers have moved to their new outdoor aviary this week, thanks to the Keith Baker Memorial Trust who funded this new pen. It was really good to see them in a bigger enclosure and able to stretch their wings more. We have also managed to get a number of our blackbirds, starlings, sparrows, dunnocks and thrushes out for release too. Our young jackdaws are due to go out shortly as well.

We had a call about a badly injured Little Owl at Barcombe. The poor bird had a very nasty wound on its chest and was rushed to the vets where sadly it died. Little Owls are wonderful creatures and it’s a real shame we didn’t save the poor little chap. I’m sure most of you will know about the Community Matters Scheme at Waitrose, well this month East Sussex WRAS is one of the charities at Lewes Waitrose, so please go along and help support our charity and put your tokens in our bin – the more tokens the more money we will receive.

If anyone is interested in joining our wonderful group of volunteers to help out with some of the feeding and cleaning shifts please e-mail kathy@eastsussexwras.org.uk. We are looking to take on people for a number of shifts, including Monday morning, Wednesday morning, Thursday early evening, Friday early evening, Saturday morning and early evening, Sunday morning and early evening. Please be aware this is not suitable for someone with back or knee problems.

This week has also seem us dealing with a badly injured badger in Hastings, a road casualty fox in Seaford and Eastbourne, two groups of baby hedgehogs. Several cat attacked fledgling sparrows. A group of ducklings wandering around South Road in Hailsham. There was also a catted rabbit, a very badly injured hedgehog with half its face missing which had to be rushed into the vets and much much more.