Eyemouth swan saved from lingering death

I WAS settled down for a quiet evening a week past Tuesday when the phone rang. Margaret Dagrosa was worried about Jock, the Eyemouth cob.

“He keeps shaking his head and seems to have fishing line trailing from his beak,” she said.

When we got down to the footbridge near the boat yard, Jock obviously had problems on the opposite bank. On crossing the bridge, we discovered that access to where his nibs was acting in a very agitated way was barred by a padlocked gate. Even if I could have got to him I felt certain he would slide into the fast-flowing Eye Water and I would be unable to catch him.

Margaret had turned up by this time and said she would try and get a key for the lock. Very soon she was back with Jackie Scott, whose husband holds the boatyard keys. After both of us trying all the keys on a large bunch with no success, I was beginning to give up hope, but Jackie was not going to be beaten. She managed to find another huge bunch of keys. Defeat is not in her vocabulary! Eventually the gate swung open and the rest was up to me.

Margaret came up with a bread bag of broken up bread soaked in water and Jock had been joined by Jenny and the cygnets. I still expected Jock to avoid me, but threw some bread down and got the cygnets interested. Jock’s hunger overcame his fear and mistrust of me and he tried to get some of the bread. He had problems, so I crept between him and the water while he was trying to pick up some bread and then managed to get my swan pole hooked round his neck. He put up a fight and, being in the moult, had hardly any wings for me to grab.

On examining his mouth I discovered that nylon fishing line was wound round his lower beak, trapping his tongue. From his mouth, line stretched to his foot and was tangled round his toe, so that every time he moved, the line tightened round his beak.

Once I was kneeling astride Jock and holding him steady with my knees, Jackie threw my wire cutting pliers down to me and I first of all freed his foot so the line no longer pulled on his mouth. This of course meant that his head was more mobile and I had a job holding him steady so that I could cut the line from his mouth without injuring him any further. Eventually I had a pile of tangled fishing line on the ground and his tongue was free.

There was some slight bleeding where the line had cut into the edges of his tongue, but he had been lucky to get away with not having his tongue sliced through as if by a cheese wire.

I decided to release him there and then as I had no idea how long he had been unable to eat and he had been through enough trauma without me fastening him into a swan bag and taking him to the vet. Jock agreed with my decision and got into the water like a shot, whereupon the whole family swam off down the cut.

After picking up all the bits of fishing line and thanking Jackie and Margaret for their help, Anne and I went across the bridge to the car and then drove along to the harbour opposite the other end of the cut. It was rewarding to see the family looking as if nothing had happened and that Jock was drinking with what looked like satisfaction. The next day the family was again on the river and were all feeding normally. I like it when a plan comes together.

If it hadn’t been for Margaret and Jackie caring so much about our swans, Jock could easily have died of starvation or suffered severe injury to his tongue. If it hadn’t been for some careless person not tidying up his fishing tackle there would have been no need for any of this in the first place.

No picture of poor Jock all tangled up, I’m afraid. I was too busy to think of my camera.

I have run out of space, so will leave Pat to tell you next week all about our open day and AGM.

BARRIE MORTIMER

Should you find an animal in need of our services, or if you need any advice please phone H.Q. On (01289) 302882. We are happy to help. You can e-mail us via our website www.swan-trust.org.  We are also on Facebook at www.facebook.com/swantrust. If you would like to donate to the Trust (cheques payable to BSWT) or to become a member please contact the treasurer, Derek Roughton, Yew Tree Cottage, Branton, Alnwick. NE66 4LW. Telephone (01665) 578365. The Berwick Swan and Wildlife Trust is a registered charity in England No. 1064805.

BARRIE MORTIMER