Nature In Distress

As we left our overnight mooring by ‘The Ship’, we both commented how impressed and delighted we are by the variety of birds and wildlife on the Ouse. There’s always something to see, even if its fish swimming around just under the surface of the water.

Not far from where we were moored looks to be a nice mooring. We’ve made a mental note to stop here on our way back.

It wasn’t long before we came to Littleport, John and Rusty stayed on Cyan, while I set off with my ‘granny trolley’ to pay a visit to the CoOp. Littleport is a quiet little place, with a variety of big/small, new/old houses. I was rather upset with the CoOp as there were no strawberries on sale. It appears to happen every year, even when we lived in Spain, as soon as Wimbledon starts; strawberries become hard to find – or so it appears to me. Still, I did manage to fill the trolley with ‘other’ fresh fruit and veg, plus various extra bits to tide us over until we can get a Tesco delivery this weekend.

We were soon on our way again, and it wasn’t long before we turned left onto the River Lark. We passed a couple of GOBA moorings, and on hindsight we should have moored on them, but we wanted to moor by Prickwillow Bridge, next to Prickwillow Engine Museum.

At Prickwillow there are two EA 48 hour moorings either side of the bridge, though for some reason, the first mooring we came to is ‘out of action’. We didn’t see the ‘no mooring’ sign until we attempted to moor.

You can just about see orange plastic fencing along the mooring, with a notice saying “No Mooring”. The waterpoint at the end looks clear of the orange fencing.

It’s not obvious why the mooring is out of use, it looks perfectly fine to us, perhaps the mooring has become unsafe?

Sadly, about 200 metres before Prickwillow Bridge, there was a dead swan in the water. We don’t recall ever seeing a dead swan before, although they obviously do die. Just as we sailed under the bridge, there was another swan which was obviously dying. It’s mouth was opening and shutting as if it was gasping for air, it’s neck was down onto it’s back, and it kept shaking it’s head.

Not far from the bridge is another mooring. This time we successfully moored, and wasted no time trying to get help for the swan. Something must be wrong.

Despite not having a good phone signal, I phoned the Environment Agency as the Lark is one of their rivers. They couldn’t help, but they passed me through to the RSPCA….. Long story short, after no one answering the phone, redialling and phoning other numbers without success for an hour, we gave up on the RSPCA. We could still see the swan, in full sunshine, in a distressed state from where we were moored. John then took charge and phoned Cambridge Police for assistance. The lady on the other end of the phone obviously had an affinity with swans, and was sympathetic to our problem. She just said “Leave it with me.” She took our telephone number, and name of our boat.

About half an hour later, we got a phone call from an RSPCA Inspector saying he was on the bridge, and was looking at the swan. John joined him, to offer any help he could. The RSPCA inspector had been coming out of  court when the police phoned him, and he was still in his best ‘court clothes’.

Donning waders, and holding a hooked pole, he prodded the bank with the pole to test where he could step to get near to the swan. At one point the swan managed to swim towards the centre of the river, but soon gave up, leaving a small breeze to push her/him back towards the bank again, and close enough for the Inspector to ‘hook’ the swan with his pole. Once caught, the swan was placed in a special bag, making it easy to carry the swan without doing any damage.

The Inspector thinks the swan has been in distress for days as it was emaciated. His thoughts were that the swan, including the dead one, had been poisoned. Maybe not from any malicious act, but perhaps through a fungus brought on by the recent hot weather. He said that when he gets back to base, the vet will probably euthanize the swan, as it is so sick.  He’ll write a report for the Environment Agency, mentioning the other swan that had died. He doubted the Agency would bother with an autopsy to discover precisely how it died, as they are expensive.

We mentioned how difficult it was to get through to the RSPCA, and how we resorted to getting help via the police. The Inspector mentioned that due to the hot weather, they are extremely busy (dogs left in cars?).

Edited to say: Strange though, after being on the Great Ouse which is teeming with wildlife, there’s hardly any other wildlife here on the Lark. No ducks, moorhens, or even any other flying birds. Very strange.

We travelled 7.5 miles, and zero locks.

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