A DARING rescue at Bempton Cliffs involved a specialist team abseiling down a 400ft high cliff edge to free a stricken bird.
A worker at the RSPB reserve spotted the gannet dangling partway down the cliff with what appeared to by fishing wire wrapped around its beak.
The RSPCA were called in and a specialist team from Newcastle were drafted in to carry out a dramatic four-hour rescue.
Geoff Edmond, the RSPCA’s wildlife co-ordinator, said: “The bird was dangling on the end of about a 100ft length of string from its nest site on the cliff ledge.
“We could not determine if the line was attached to its beak or neck, but it was obviously distressed and in a life-threatening position.
“It could not have been in a worse place at the highest point of the cliffs, and rescuing it was going to be almost impossible.
“The only way it could be reached was for somebody to go down the cliff face, but that was fraught with danger because of the overhang.”
The rescue team arrived at 6.40pm last Wednesday evening and decided it was safe to abseil down the cliff to try and save the bird.
Team leader Trevor Walker said: “We decided two of us would go down to approach the bird from either side because it could not be seen directly from above because of the overhang.
“Geoff had to position himself further along the cliff top, from where the bird could be seen, and guide us in by radio.
“There were a lot of safety issues, but thankfully we managed to reach the stricken bird at about 10pm, cut it free, and take it to the cliff top in a special bag.”
The nylon fishing string had been attached to the lower part of the bird’s beak for ten hours, but the gannet did not appear to be seriously injured.
It was carried back up to safety and later released back into the wild after being checked by a vet.
Mr Edmond said: “I have been an RSPCA inspector for over 20 years, and it must be the hardest rescue that I have ever co-ordinated.
“There was so much relief all round when the gannet was finally brought to safety and it just shows how worthwhile it is to develop specialist rescue teams.
“We can’t choose which animal or bird needs rescuing, but we will always pull out all the stops to try to make it successful.”
Ian Kendall, manager of the Bempton Cliffs reserve, praised the rescuers.
He said: “It is brilliant the team were able to save the bird because it is something we couldn’t have done ourselves.
“They have also probably saved the life of the chick that it is still feeding.”