DOZENS of birds in Weymouth were rescued from almost certain death as they were battered by a storm.

Earlier this month, Storm Alex was wreaking havoc with gale-force winds and torrential downpours.

While most people tried to stay dry during the mayhem, a few Weymouth residents rushed to the aid of a group of birds that were struggling to find shelter from the extreme weather.

A group of mainly juvenile house martins, migratory birds that arrive in the UK during spring and are here until the autumn when they fly to Africa, were hiding under a shelf of the searchlight battery - a protected part of Nothe Fort along the Nothe Parade in Weymouth. Many of the birds had already died as they shivered together in a huddled mass, unable to feed or stay dry.

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They were discovered by Emma Cockburn and her son Patrick, who called Weymouth-based wildlife rescuer Derek Davey. Derek specialises in looking after birds that have been injured and nursing them back to health.

He said: "As many of the house martins were dying due to cold, rain and not being able to feed, we decided the best course of action was to take as many as we could to a place where they could be warm and hand fed. Emma and I, with the help of her son Patrick (who was fantastic at spotting exhausted house martins on the beach) managed to rescue 85 birds.

"Emma weighed a few of the dead house martins and discovered they were very underweight, around 12g compared to the ideal weight of 18-20g. The majority of the birds were juveniles, only born recently.

"As I had work early the next day I would have been unable to hand feed them so I phoned Lynne Parker of Wildlife In Need based in Bournemouth. Without a second thought Lynne and David Bowman drove down to pick them up but first Lynne bought out the whole waxworm supply from the local reptile centre to feed the birds. At Wildlife In Need in Bournemouth the birds were checked over and hand fed with waxworms. Hand feeding was necessary as the birds eat whilst flying and therefore won’t ‘pick up’ food from a bowl or the ground. Unfortunately seven of the birds did not survive as they were in very poor condition.

"The next day Storm Alex had abated so Wildlife In Need was able to release 35 of the stronger birds to continue their migration to Africa. The remaining birds were being hand fed with the aim of increasing their weight and strength so that hopefully they can released in a few days to join the many thousands of house martins making the intrepid journey."