We had completed the cleaning operations and the Razorbill continued to feed so I decided it was time to return it to the sea, having had it for about five days.
I had decided upon an area at the North end of Roker beach which had a lagoon at low tide and was near to where I had found it.
So it was up early,it was work morning, and I wanted the release done by 7.30am. It was one of those grey mornings, wind from the North, quite strong, but flat water in the lagoon, and the tide was out.
Parked the car at the top of the beach, and took the Razorbill from its box in the boot and with my wellies, business suit, and a bird on my arm marched down to the waters edge.
I released the bird into the water not being quite certain what to expect next, but it paddled quite briskly away - good I thought.
It approached a small rock and I thought its going to get out and prepare itself for greater things, but then I began to think something was not quite right.
The bird simply came to rest against the rock, almost like a boat would alongside a jetty. But then it was off again paddling away from me, it looked ok.
It was about 75-80 yards away from me when events took a really dark turn.
The Black-backed Gulls were flying overhead and starting to show interest. The first three or four swooped down low over the Razorbill and they were obviously checking out their target. Then they got more determined and one of them made a strike at the bird.Then another, and another. Watching helplessly I found myself shouting at each gull attack, which were becoming more frequent until they reached a point when on one occasion the Razorbill was lifted clear of the water by its bill before the gull let go.
As I continued to shout to try to scare the gulls which had limited success I realised that the Razorbill was actually now facing the beach and doing its best to paddle away from the danger, and at the same time the gulls lost interest.
I then realised that I was standing there in my wellies in a foot of water repeatedly encouraging the bird to "come on". Amazingly the Razorbill was doing just that, and got closer and closer. It was about 20-30 yards away from me when it sank below the water, but using its wings pushed itself back onto the surface and kept coming.
Although I still can't believe that this happened, the bird paddled right up to me, so that I was able to bend down and pick it up out of the water.
I tucked its wings in, placed it under my arm and marched back up the beach determined to aid its recovery further.
However as I walked up the beach, I noticed that its head was starting to fall over to one side. Within a few seconds and just as I reached the car I realised that the last element of life had expired from the Razorbill.
I was distraught.
When I got to work, and related the tale, so was everyone else.
On getting home that evening I laid the Razorbill to rest in the garden under the forsythia bush, facing east, alongside the budgie and rabbit. I never went down to the coast for months.
........and that's about it, other than to say I have always held regrets at not having sought knowledgeable advice on assisting the bird and even though this story is thirty years old I still cannot comprehend what made the bird struggle back to me on that cold, grey morning. I know that anyone reading this will think that there has been some exaggeration but I have told it as it happened
No-one will ever convince me that birds do not have a mind. Might not be the same as ours, might me better, but they have something.