Brian the Herring Gull takes to sky after fire brigade rescue

Bird had been bound to a lighting pole more than 70 feet above Wicklow football pitch

On Friday, at a beach in Bray, Co Wicklow, a single herring gull took off and flew out in the direction of the sea. It might seem like an innocuous enough event but it was the build-up that made this particular departure meaningful.

Exactly a month ago, in the early hours of the morning, residents in the nearby Fassaroe housing estate spotted the same bird in much different circumstances. Bound to a lighting pole more than 70 feet above a football pitch, it frantically flapped at the air in a desperate attempt to stay alive.

They posted news of the distressed animal on a local community forum sparking a chain of events that would lead to a community rescuing, rehabilitating and releasing him safely back into the wild against all the odds.

"All the residents were standing around and hanging out their windows just staring at it," said Aisling Murray, a well-known local carer of injured seagulls. "He was just hanging upside down trying to keep his head up - flap, flap, flap. There were residents that had tears in their eyes."


Ms Murray had been contacted by the Kildare Animal Foundation and when she realised just how far out of reach the adult bird was she decided to contact the local fire brigade.

They arrived, quickly discovered their regular ladders were not long enough, and summonsed a cherry picker from Wicklow Town.

When the firemen eventually reached the bird they discovered it had fishing gut wrapped several times around its foot, which had in turn become caught on the pole.

In deep distress, the gull, named Brian, was brought to the nearby Bairbre O’Malley Veterinary Hospital which specialises in exotic animals including birds.

“The injury was really bad,” explained vet Claire Greene, who said the bird must have been exhausted given the energy involved in flying for so long.

“He had worn away a lot of the nerves and blood vessels. I didn’t think he was going to keep the leg which then leaves us with an issue because gulls don’t take to captivity very well.”

However, after a month’s worth of recuperation and check-ups its injury had healed sufficiently for it to be released back into its habitat, marking the end of a well-organised rescue bid.

“I think people really do care,” Ms Murray reflected on the combined effort to see it back to safety. “I think people who are negative about animals and the environment are always heard and in the background there are always people feeding them and rescuing them.”

Mark Hilliard

Mark Hilliard

Mark Hilliard is a reporter with The Irish Times