Baby Tawny Owl in WRAS's Care

Baby Tawny Owl in WRAS’s Care

What a frustrating week! We have had ambulances off the road being repaired and volunteers off ill and hundreds of phone calls to deal with too.  However, well done to all our volunteers and staff for coping so well.  I am amazed at how many trauma cases we are seeing at the moment, especially fox cubs. We normally deal with up to a dozen fox cubs a year and we might get a couple of them which are trauma cases, but this year all but 3 of our cubs have had injuries to deal with.  This week we have had two more fox cubs come into care. Both were road casualties, one in Willingdon and the other at Sandy Lane between Framfield and Uckfield.

The Raven which was taken to Vale Wildlife Rescue sadly didn’t survive, they had to put the bird to sleep in the end, due to neurological problems which were not responding to treatment. They also mentioned the Raven also had lead shot in its body so someone has illegally been shooting at the bird.

We had an interesting rescue at East Dean Cricket Pavilion after two Swallows flew inside the building. Rescuer Chris and I had to use long handled nets to encourage one out and catch the other which was taken out side and release. A video of the release is on our You Tube Channel at We’ve also had a road casualty Tawny Owl which has had an operation on his wing, as well as a baby owl with a wound to his chest.  We also had a late night rescue at Morrisons in Eastbourne after a Magpie found itself doing some late night shopping!

Kathy with the injured Fox at Sandy LaneThe majority of calls we are receiving at the moment are about young birds. Many people panic when they see youngsters about and worry about them being taken. We often get calls from people asking us to move fledgings from their gardens as they are apparently too many cats and predators around.  It’s a sad fact that wherever they are born there will always be predators to deal with. We are often asked to move them to the countryside, but this is no safer, so moving them really isn’t an option.  It is perfectly natural for one species to prey on another, or all wildlife would have to be vegetarian, we therefore shouldn’t interfere with natural predation, in the same way you wouldn’t stop a lion killing a deer in Africa because you don’t like seeing it, they have to eat too.  It is also the reason why most birds produce so many young. Take blue tits, for an example, which can have up to 28 young in a year. If they all survived every year we would end up being overrun with them. They produce so many because they know most of them will get taken by predators. In the life time of a female blue tit she only needs to produce two successful youngsters to continue the population successfully.

Rescuer Kathy with the Morrisons Magpie

Rescuer Kathy with the Morrisons Magpie

If a bird is out of a nest too early, often being chucked out by parents as there is something wrong, caught but then dropped by predators, birds like cuckoos throwing young out of nests, or for other reason more man made like tree felling and other disturbance, then we should intervene, as they will not survive and will suffer a slow death, and therefore need rescuing.

However fledglings, which are fully feathered with no bald skin anywhere including under the wings, and with possibly only a couple of bits of yellow fluff on their heads, should be left alone. They just need time to build up the muscle strength in their wings before they can fly.

We are getting numerous calls about ducklings at the moment. Nesting in gardens and hatching youngsters. It is normal and happens all the time. Mummy duck knows that nesting away from the pond is safer as there will be less predators.  So it is important that mum and ducklings are only moved if the location is not safe for them to stay, i.e. it’s a concrete courtyard or they are in immediate danger of being run over on a busy road or falling into dangerous machinery. In some circumstances we can step in and move them, but in other cases we legally can’t – sadly we don’t write the law!  We would advise that ducklings stay in a courtyard or garden for as long as possible to build up a bond with their mum before they are moved. Other options should be looked at too, like leaving them on site, or even walking them to where mum wants to go as she will normally look at walking them to water when she is ready, this can be done through buildings from courtyards too. A family of 14 ducklings had to be caught at Langney last week as they walked along a busy road and they were too far away from a pond to be safely walked especially during rush hour. Catching and moving ducklings is very risky. The capture and bringing into captivity is very stressful on any wild animal or bird, so should only be done when it is really necessary. If mum flies off she will often abandon them especially at a very young age. If you move them to the wrong pond, she will often walk them away, crossing roads, when you are not looking and risks getting run over. Mum and babies are then more at risk because there are more predators and she won’t necessarily know where the local food sources are. There have been problems on releasing ducklings on a new pond where as soon as you release mum she flies off abandoning her babies due to the stress of the move. You then have the stress of catching the ducklings again. There are also legal issues to take into consideration as nesting birds and their young are protected under the Wildlife & Countryside Act, and should not be disturbed unnecessarily or without a licence.  We have known some ducks to have up to 21 ducklings at a time. At least half of these are likely to be taken by predators or be runts and not survive.  It is important that when dealing with wildlife we have a balanced approach, and not one which only suits us humans and our emotions. It would also help if we thought about the consequences of how we plan and construct buildings to avoid animals being trapped with babies like ducks in courtyards, or birds nesting where they are not wanted, like shallow sloping roof tops on factories then not wanting gulls nesting on top.

Some of WRAS's ducklings in care.

Some of WRAS’s ducklings in care.

Trevor Weeks MBE

Founder & Operations Director

East Sussex Wildlife Rescue & Ambulance Service (WRAS)

Reg Charity 1108880

Reg Address: 8 Stour Close, Stone Cross, BN24 5QU

Hospital Address: Unit 8 The Shaw Barn, Whitesmith, Lewes, BN8 6JD

24hr Rescue Line: 07815-078234

Private Mobile: 07931-523958

An award winning community charity.