TREVOR WEEKS MBE - Surge in road casualties as the clocks are put forward

This young orphaned collared dove came out of trees being cut down at Uckfield.
This young orphaned collared dove came out of trees being cut down at Uckfield.

Our stress and tiredness levels have rocketed this week as the clocks have now change and there is a sudden change in the number of road casualties.

Our ambulances have been inundated with calls to road casualties and what is most depressing is that very few of the patients have survived the horrendous injuries and wounds they have suffered. In the past month we have dealt with over 38 road casualties and between 10am Thursday 3rd April and 10am Friday 4th April WRAS was called out to 10 road casualties in just 24 hours. This is also in addition to all the other types of incidents WRAS is being asked to attend, like wildlife injured by cats and dogs, or birds flown into windows.

WRAS ambulance at Uckfield United Reformed Church.

WRAS ambulance at Uckfield United Reformed Church.

The trauma suffered by these casualties is huge, the extent of the injuries has been just too great for vets to treat or so bad that they are dying at the road side. I am really worried about our team, as the volume of casualties is getting very depressing.

Road casualties have included hedgehogs at Berwick, Newhaven and Hailsham, rabbits at Eastbourne, Laughton, Polegate, Saltdean, Lower Dicker, and foxes at Seaford, Polegate, Uckfield, Battle, Burwash, Newhaven, Buxted, and Badgers at Uckfield, Ringmer, Blackboys, Friston Hastings, and Pheasants at Lewes, Ripe and Chelwood Gate, and Gulls at Seaford, Henfield and Eastbourne, and a Blackbird at Willingdon, and Pigeons at Eastbourne and Bexhill, as well as Robins at Hailsham and Crowborough and a duck at Golden Cross and a Dove in Hailsham.

Despite WRAS being called out to 38 casualties in 27 days, there a hundreds more road casualties which can be found flattened on Sussex roads at the moment.

The winter storms have caused many people to question whether they want to live so close to trees and many dangerous or damaged trees are being felled too. I have seen so many trees cut down recently and sadly despite the best efforts of many tree surgeons to avoid cutting trees down which have nesting birds in, many are just not seen till after the youngsters are found on the ground now orphaned. This very young orphaned collared dove came out of trees being cut down at Oakwood Drive in Uckfield, and is now being hand reared by Kathy.

All nesting birds are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act, and despite there being a general licence for a limited number of birds to be removed under a very limited series of circumstances, the majority of nests must be left undisturbed until after the young have fledged, be that a nesting feral pigeon, gull or nesting Sparrowhawk or Blackbird. We often get asked when are birds nesting, and when is it safe to cut down trees, this is very difficult to answer and the seasons change so much. Generally the winter is the best time for avoid nesting birds. However Crossbills will nest during the winter as will collared doves. The temperature dictates when most birds will nest and the current warm weather is seeing many birds now nesting as a result and WRAS has already had baby pigeons, doves and blackbirds come into care some of which have come in via tree surgeons cutting trees down.

WRAS is urging people not to make any rash decision and to cut trees down as a result of the stormy weather this winter, but to seek advice about the safety of the tree first before making a decision.

Please think nesting birds at the moment too, and avoid cutting trees, especially evergreen trees, down at this time of year which are more likely to have nests in at the moment as other deciduous trees won’t have many leaves yet and therefore be too exposed for birds to best in. Please also remember that intentionally disturbing nesting birds is also an offence.

It’s really sad as we are often called by people cutting trees down and asked to take on the orphans but rarely are our costs covered in these situations by those responsible for the trees being felled.

Other casualties this week have included a swan in Eastbourne, our rescuer Murrae arrived on the scene quickly and managed to capture the swan which was also being attacked by territorial swans. On assessment some wounds were noticed and he was rushed into St Annes Vets in Eastbourne who gave first aid. The swan appears to have puncture wounds which may be from a dog so the swan has now been transferred up to the Swan Sanctuary for care and assessment for their specialist vets.

Kathy and I were called to Uckfield United Reformed Church after a jackdaw managed to get inside a storage area at the back of the church, the bird was caught using nets and then taken outside and released. Our orphaned bird team now have 3 young blackbirds and a young robin they are hand rearing. We also have 2 young rabbits too.

It’s also been nice to start releasing some of our overwintered hedgehogs this week, we have managed to get at least 40 hedgehogs back out to the wild to where they were originally found.

There has been a quiz night organised in aid of WRAS for Sunday 20th April at 7pm The Grenadier Pub, 67 High St, Hailsham, BN27 1AS. Please support this event, I have been asked to come along and give a brief talk at the beginning and all profits raised will go to WRAS. Teams of 4 just £1 per person with prizes for winning teams, just turn up on the night, no need to pre book.