Riverbank woodpecker rescue

AN 11-year-old boy was lowered by his ankles to rescue a young woodpecker that was caught in fishing line at the bottom of a steep riverbank.

Fin the woodpecker after its ordeal

Fin Rawlings-Smith was seeing his grandmother, Hazel Longworth, for the first time since the coronavirus lockdown.

Fin lives in Addlestone and was helping Hazel to walk her two dogs from her home in Byfleet when they saw some people gathered on the footpath next to the River Wey.

Fin and Hazel were told that a woodpecker was caught by its wing on some fishing line and had been spotted in distress several hours earlier.

Fin Rawlings-Smith with his grandmother’s dogs, Fluffy, left, and Noodles, before the woodpecker adventure

“My nan said that I could go down headfirst to reach the bird if she and one of the other people held my ankles,” Fin said.

“I was a bit hesitant inside, because if they had let go I would have fallen into the river, but I didn’t show it,” he added.

Fin said the bird – a great spotted woodpecker – resisted being rescued, pecking at gloves that he had borrowed from one of the people on the bank.

“On the third attempt it allowed me to grab him and nan and the man pulled me back up.

We put it in nan’s scarf and took it to a rescue centre.”

Hazel said that her grandson was a hero for risking injury to rescue the bird.

An inverted Fin is lowered down to rescue the woodpecker

“I contacted friends at a local wildlife rescue who suggested offering sugar water on a paintbrush; he’d been hanging and struggling for over six hours so was probably dehydrated,” she said.

“He took it eagerly and off we went. The bird has obviously suffered nerve damage due to the tight fishing line around his wing for many hours. We’re hoping this will repair in time.”

Fin said he was pleased to have helped and had never seen a woodpecker before.

“The rescue people have named it Fin, which is pretty funny,” he said.

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