A young gull was saved from an agonising death after a large fishing hook became embedded in its beak.
Tony Welwig from Guestling was walking along the top of Winchelsea Beach in Rye Harbour Nature Reserve on January 15 when he came across the stricken juvenile great black-back gull.
Mr Welwig said: “Ahead of us a gull was repeatedly flying into the air for a short distance then crashing back down to the pebbled-ground. It just could not fly away.
“We cautiously approached and then took hold of it.
“It was traumatised and exhausted and its head was covered in blood.
“A large barbed fishing hook was cruelly embedded through its lower bill and attached to it was a trailing thirty foot length of fishing line the end of which was tied onto a heavy lead weight that had become caught up in a thorny bush.”
Mr Welwig and his walking companion struggled to free the agitated gull, which gave Mr Welwig a painful bite to the thumb for his trouble.
After cutting through the line with a penknife, the badly bleeding gull was rushed to the Mallydams Wood Wildlife Centre in Fairlight.
Mr Welwig said: “The hook was removed successfully by a member of staff who informed us that fishing hooks and line accounted for many injuries relating to sea birds.”
The gull, named Lucky by his rescuer, stayed at Mallydams for several days, receiving expert attention and treatment.
Several days later, Lucky was released at Pett Level, much to Mr Welwig’s delight.
He said: “He flew away as a healthy and well black-back gull and he carried a new ring on his leg the colour and number of which relates to his recent deeply distressing experience.
“Lucky recovered from his ordeal thanks to Mallydams RSPCA. I shall keep a look out for him on my future walks along Winchelsea Beach.”
But sadly, Lucky’s tale is not a one-off.
In the last six months along Winchelsea Beach and Pett Level, Mr Welwig has gathered more than 200 yards of fishing line, 11 barbed hooks and 20 lead weights which have claimed the lives of three guillemots, two herring gulls and two great black-back gulls.
Mr Welwig took this photo of a gull with a hook on a fish lure embedded in its bill.
He said: “It appears that the gull attempted to dislodge the embedded hook with one of its webbed feet and in the process the second hook on the lure became embedded in the webbed foot.
“One can imagine the agony and distress the bird experienced as it slowly starved to death or possibly drowned.
“Such man-made tragedies are so sad.”