Hastings lifeguards and volunteers rescue seagull trapped under pier

A young seagull was rescued after it became tied to one of the legs of Hastings Pier by a discarded fishing hook and line yesterday (Tuesday, August 17).

Wednesday, 18th August 2021, 10:45 am
The rescued gull. Picture from John Bownas SUS-210818-103741001

Volunteers from Bexhill and Hastings Wildlife Rescue, as well as lifeguards helped rescue the bird.

The distressed and badly hurt gull was tied fast to the pier leg about half way up, and as the tide dropped it was impossible to reach it from below.

A paddle board instructor and beach lifeguards tried their best to reach the gull, but it was feared the bird might be dead as it had stopped moving.

A lifeguard heads out as part of the rescue. Picture from John Bownas SUS-210818-103803001

John Bownas, one of the wildlife rescue volunteers who was on the scene to co-ordinate efforts, said he took one last walk on the pier to see if there was any sign of life.

He said: “I spent a few minutes with one of the pier staff looking at the bird which was hanging upside down and being swung against the barnacles on the pier leg by a stiff breeze. We really thought it must have passed away, but just as we were about to give up we saw it flex its wings.

“At this point the tide was at its lowest point and there was no way anyone could get close enough from below, but we couldn’t reach it from above as it was over 10 metres down.

“Given how long the bird had been there we knew its time was limited, so I worked out a plan to get it protected until someone could get to it from the water.”

Lifeguards and volunteers were involved in rescuing the gull. Picture from John Bownas SUS-210818-103730001

The plan involved a hastily built wooden frame with a net curtain stretched across it and four lengths of rope.

John and another bystander lowered this below the gull and then pulled it up while fighting the breeze until they had the gull lying on their improvised stretcher.

John said the rescue itself was carried out by a pair of lifeguards on boards who risked injury as wind and waves threatened to push them against the sharp edges of the pier leg.

He said: “We spent quite a while figuring out how to free the bird without injury to the lifeguards. By dropping another rope to them I was able to hold one of their boards reasonably stable which allowed them to get close enough with a pair of scissors to cut through three or four wraps of fishing line and allow the gull to drop free.”

The gull was tied to one of the legs of the pier. Picture from John Bownas SUS-210818-103752001

By the time the gull was released a big crowd had formed to watch the rescue and there were cheers from everyone as the badly bruised bird was lifted back to the pier in a cat box that had been dropped downing a rope to the lifeguards below.

John said: “Within 20 minutes it was in the hands of the RSPCA, and despite its ordeal it seemed to be showing plenty of attitude, so hopefully the prognosis is for a decent recovery. I’m so grateful to everyone who helped - as, I’m sure, is the gull.”