Two birds die and 38 rescued after diesel spillage at pool
A number of wild birds have been killed and 38 have been rescued after a large diesel spillage in a Wednesbury pool.
The RSPCA believes the diesel was deliberately tipped into water at Hydes Road Pool last week.
However, Sandwell Council says the spillage may have been due to flooding caused by Storm Dennis.
The birds were left covered in the substance and two coots died as a result, said Ian Carroll, from the charity Swan Watch.
Rescuers used inflatable boats and nets to catch the birds.
RSPCA Animal Collection Officer Vic Hurr, who has been involved in the rescue, said: “We believe at least 60 birds have been affected by the spillage and so far we have managed to rescue 38 - which is a really good result as they are quite difficult to catch.
“We will return to the scene to capture the remaining ones over the next few days - the rising water levels is making it more of a challenge but we have had some great support from members of the public and we are so grateful to them for their help.
“The problem is the birds with oil on their feathers preen and try to clean themselves which means they ingest the contaminants. Also while they are preening they are not feeding and may become weak so we have to act fast before this happens.
“All the birds are being taken into our care and once they have been thoroughly cleaned they will be able to recuperate and will then be released back into the wild.”
The Environment Agency is investigating the cause of the diesel spillage but initial reports suggest it was dumped intentionally.
Vic added: “We would always appeal to people to think carefully about their actions and that they should not dump oil in this way as it can have devastating consequences for wildlife.”
The officers using a water rescue boat have been at Hydes Road Pool, on Woden Road South, since Saturday rescuing swans, coots, grebes and Canada geese, and are expected to be at the scene for the rest of the week.
So far the team have rescued two swans, two grebes, six coots and 29 Canada geese and are still trying to capture more affected birds - including more coots and moorhens.
The birds have been taken to the RSPCA’s Stapeley Grange Wildlife Centre, in Cheshire, and another wildlife centre in Derbyshire where they will be cleaned and will then be released back into the wild.
If oil is not removed from waterbirds it reduces the natural waterproofing in their plumage, leaving them at risk of dying from hypothermia - so it is vital that they are treated as soon as possible.
Wednesbury North Councillor Peter Hughes said: “The spillage appeared to be deliberate, as there was evidence of the diesel being spilled in a trail along the walkways down to the pool, and also on the jetty to the pool.”
Mr Carroll added: “This is probably the most serious spillage I have seen in 23 years. All the birds were covered in diesel."
A pair of swans were taken to Wychbold Swan Rescue, near Droitwich, in Worcestershire.
Jan Harrigan, from Wychbold Swan Rescue, said: “The swans are okay but a bit subdued. They came in with a very strong smell of diesel.
“It is a bit of a difficult time for them. It is coming up to breeding season in a couple of weeks. They can’t go back out into their pool until its clean.”
Sandwell Council’s deputy leader Councillor Maria Crompton said: “We can’t be certain this was done deliberately as the pool is served by many storm drains and the weather over the weekend may have washed oil into the pool.
“The RSPCA, Swanwatch and other volunteers were on site over the weekend and the majority of the swans and geese were rescued.
"An officer from our parks team was there on both Saturday and Sunday.
"An oil-absorbent boom was used to soak up as much of the spillage as possible.”
Anyone with information about who dumped the oil should call The Environment Agency’s 24-hour hotline on 0800 80 70 60.
Concerns for a wild animal that has come into contact with oil or other contaminants should be reported to the RSPCA’s 24-hour emergency line on 0300 1234 999.
For more information on what to do if you find a wild animal in need of help, visit the RSPCA website at: www.rspca.org.uk/adviceandwelfare/wildlife
To help the RSPCA continue rescuing, rehabilitating and releasing wild animals in desperate need of care please visit our website or call our donation line on 0300 123 8181.