A startled mum made a very unusual discovery on the daily school run when she came across what she thought was a penguin in the middle of a quiet country lane in Tockwith, near Wetherby.
Vanessa Hill was on her way to pick up her daughter when she spotted the black and white bird in the road. After coaxing it into a canvas bag, Vanessa, who runs Leeds Cat Rescue, rang up the charity’s local vet. They checked the bird over, pronounced it was in good condition and identified it as a razorbill - a seabird that lives on the coast, and a long way off course.
Vanessa said: “He looked a bit confused when I found him and was very indignant when I tried to gather him up - I got a nasty peck for my troubles too. I looked online to see where razorbills ‘hang out’ and came across RSPB Bempton Cliffs, so got in touch with them.”
Vanessa, along with daughter Ella, then made a 120 mile round trip, to take the bird back to the sea.
RSPB volunteer, Allan Dawson, helped them release the bird back into the wild from one of the reserve’s cliff-edge viewpoints.
Keith Clarkson said: “It’s an absolute mystery as to how this little bird ended up so far inland. There are somewhere around 20,000 razorbills nesting on Bempton cliffs and, to my knowledge, this is only the third time ever that a razorbill has been found inland in the last century.
“We know there were some foggy conditions around the time the bird was found, so it may be that he got completely lost in the fog and couldn’t find his way back. It’s very unusual though.”
Bempton Cliffs’ Marketing Officer, Maria Prchlik, wrote to Ella’s school asking for leniency as she missed lessons to go on her mission of mercy.
Maria said: “Ella did a great thing in bringing the bird back home to the cliffs so I wrote to her headmaster explaining her absence from classes that day. She certainly learnt a lot about seabirds while she was here, which might not be on the national curriculum but is still very educational.”
The razorbills nesting at Bempton Cliffs will start welcoming chicks into the world around late may to early June, with fledging taking place around mid-June, so now is a great time to see the birds.
For more information visit www.rspb.org.uk/bemptoncliffs or contact the visitor centre on 01262 851179.
For more advice on what to do if you find lost or injured wildlife, visit www.helpwildlife.co.uk.