Friday, 31 December 2010

Reader spots swan with frozen beak on river at Otley

The extreme weather has started taking its toll on Wharfedale’s wildlife – as this shocking photo of a swan with a frozen beak at Otley proves.

Resident John Morgan spotted the unfortunate bird floating in the mostly frozen River Wharfe, huddled with other swans and ducks in a rare patch of water beneath Otley Bridge, last week.

As his photograph shows, the thick ice holding the swan’s beak together had also formed a two-inch icicle hanging at the end – making it impossible to feed.

Mr Morgan wanted to reach the bird himself to help it, but that proved too difficult. The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) was contacted to see if it could help.

A spokesman for the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), meanwhile, said he had never encountered such a case before.

He said: “Freshwater birds at this time of year can suffer if the rivers, lakes or ponds where they’re living get frozen, although normally the casualties are birds like kingfishers and moorhens.

“I have personally never heard of birds having their beaks frozen like this before, although we are a conservation rather than a rescue organisation.

“It’s indicative, though, of the exceptional freeze we have had over the last three or four weeks and it’s clearly going to be the case that some birds will have perished, from mute swans right down to kingfishers.

“It’s really a case of survival of the fittest.”

“Luckily,” he added, “mute swans generally are doing very well in terms of their population, but for the individual birds trying to endure through this cold it’s a very difficult challenge.

“What we really need are kinder conditions and a thaw to give an opportunity for these birds to feed and recover.”

The RSPB’s general advice is to leave wild birds alone to sort themselves out, unless – as in this case – they are in clear distress or danger of suffering, in which case the RSPCA can be contacted.

By Jim Jack

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