Wildlife at Berwick Swan Trust is flourishing with a helping hand

It's just a few weeks since I joined the trust as a volunteer at the beginning of June, and already I'm seeing how quickly our '˜patients' flourish week on week.

By The Newsroom
Sunday, 17 July, 2016, 15:02

They come into the centre injured, ill or orphaned, and after a careful treatment and a few weeks’ rest to grow and recover in a safe environment, most are ready to get back to their lives in the wild.

Of course, I’ve joined at the busiest possible time for the trust, when the young of all species are at their most vulnerable if, somehow, they become separated from their parents.

A month ago the trust’s indoor recovery room echoed to the cheeps and peeps of eider and lapwing chicks, and blackbird and jackdaw fledglings.

But they are soon able to move into the outdoor enclosures if they get a helping hand through those critical few days.

When I first started, two separate sets of tiny gull chicks had come in, all spotty fluff balls, but with surprisingly adult-sounding cries, and those early days were spent in the warmth of the recovery room, before moving to an outdoor enclosure where they would have room to grow.

Every Wednesday when I turn up for my weekly stint of helping to clean and feed, they still have their beautiful, dotty, chick markings and their feet are still way too big for them, but my, how they’ve grown, both in size and in confidence.

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Just a couple of weeks ago they huddled shyly in the corner of their pen when I tentatively went in with their mushy mix of chopped up bread, diced fresh fish and fishy cat food ‘souped up’ with water to make it easily digestible for them.

This week, I found they’d graduated onto whole mackerel, and they all rushed towards me, clearly having adopted the maxim that ‘shy bairns get nowt’.

In the large pool enclosure two of the adult swans have been released so there’s just one left, but he now has the company of half a dozen sturdy cygnets – and the tiny one that came in on his own has now joined the throng and seems more than capable of asserting himself.

Two ducklings have the beginnings of their adult plumage – beautiful iridescent blue/purple bands lined with white on either side. The little eider duckling is paddling and dabbling among them all, quite happy to tuck into the lettuce and mealworms that get scattered on the water.

I’ve chosen to give a few hours a week of my time to help keep the animals clean and well fed, but there are all sorts of ways lovers of Berwick’s local wildlife can do their bit for the charity. Other volunteering roles include building and site maintenance work, helping to organise and run fund-raising events, or sitting on the committee.

The trust relies entirely on voluntary effort and charity donations so it is always delighted to receive money contributions or gifts bought for it. Its Amazon wishlist is called BSWT. The Trust is in need of anything from mealworms to washing powder.