04:50AM, Wednesday 13 August 2014
Volunteers at the Eton-based Swan Lifeline charity have faced one of their biggest challenges - rescuing 42 oil soaked swans from North London.
The team from Cuckoo Weir Island regularly rescues injured swans from the Thames at Windsor and Eton.
But an emergency call from an overwhelmed RSPCA on Monday saw co-ordinator Wendy Hermon and a team of five volunteers head to Tottenham, where oil-drenched birds had been spotted on the River Lea.
Wendy said: "We got there at lunchtime and were there till 10pm.
"I have never seen anything like the state of those birds. We did not know if we were cleaning cygnets or white swans - every bit was black.
"They weighed a ton as we pulled them out the river because of the oil - they would have drowned if we had not gone that day."
The exhausted team spent two days working from lunchtime till late evening, eventually retrieving 42 birds that were all safely taken back to Eton.
The birds will probably be returned to Tottenham next week.
Wendy said: "Everybody is shattered. It takes so long to clean one bird. Two are quite poorly but hopefully they will be all right."
David Barber, the Queen's Swan Marker is working with The Environment Agency and the Canal And River Trust investiagting the cause of the pollution. He said: "There were certainly many gallons or litres, this was not just a five gallon can. It had all been poured down a drain because someone did not want to pay for disposal."
He praised Wendy and her team, saying: "If she had not rescued those birds they would have died without a doubt."
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