GAY'S DIARY, 2006
8th May 2006
The day started with a call from Whyte & McKay's. A mallard had nested on their 7th floor again, the ducklings had just been spotted and needed to be rescued. otherwise they would jump from the building and land in a busy Glasgow street. Soon after Andy, Jenny and Heather arrived back with 9 ducklings, there was a call from a vets in South Ayrshire, reporting that they had a baby otter. Well, its never good news when a young animal has lost its Mum, but it was good news for Sanna, the otter cub already in care. She will soon have company, which is good. A nestful of finches, probably green-, was blown from a conifer in Lanark, and the nestlings have joined our growing number of young birds requiring half hourly feeds. Also in care are blackbirds, starlings and the first of this year's magpie chicks.
Fox cub numbers reached 11 today, with two more cubs from the east coast. One of them is an odd looking cub, with white socks on its hind feet. It is surprising that we have no owl chicks yet, perhaps they have nested late this year. Good news about the adult tawny owl in care. he began to feed himself today.
1st May 2006
more orphans in care
We have 5 fox cubs now, still living apart as either they don't match up for size, or they have injuries still being treated. There are more blackbird chicks, 3 song thrushes and the 1st nest of starlings. The starling chicks are just a few days old, and were removed from a loft because someone wouldn't tolerate them for the next two weeks, the time it would take for their parents to rear them. It will be a lot of work rearing them, and then they will need time in an aviary before being released. Yesterday I kept thinking of their parents, delivering worms for chicks they could not find. I wonder what the home owner thought when he saw the parents perched on his roof, not knowing what to do with their beaks full of food. The time to block our holes in roofs, to prevent birds nesting, is straight after the breeding season. If it isn't done then people forget, and the birds nest again the following year.
Two badger cubs came into care yesterday. One is approx 2 months old, the other grumpier at 3 months. Both were found beside dead adult badgers. We kept the cubs apart last night, to check if they were eating. Both ate well. Today we moved them to outdoor accommodation. The little one immediately started gathering straw, and in true badger fashion, reversing with it into her sleeping quarters. When we checked later both badgers were curled up together in the nest.
6th April 2006
Children's Activity Day
We had an enthusiastic group of youngsters here today, learning about wildlife. First of all they discovered some of the differences between town and country foxes, then they met Fergus the fox. Then it was time to learn about hedgehogs, and help to clean and feed some of the hedgehogs that have spent the winter at Hessilhead. After drinks the children saw photos of the various owls that we care for, and found out what these owls eat in the wild. Most of the children were happy to let Plop the barn owl perch on their arm. Finally we went to the quarry pond to feed the swans and ducks; the dogs came too. The whooper swans were still there, and we identified mallards, tufted ducks, moorhen and little grebe. More children's activity days will be organized in the summer holidays.
6th April 2006
We admitted a whooper swan last night. It had landed on the Heritage Loch at East Kilbride, and been beaten up by the resident mute swans. It seemed to recover its dignity soon after arriving at Hessilhead, and having no serious injuries, we decided to release it on the quarry pond today. There has been a whooper on the quarry pond all winter. It can fly, but chooses to stay here. Today it was delighted to find a mate, and the two of them swam around together, whooping. We wonder whether both will stay, or will they leave.
22nd April 2006
Start of the busy season
The phone rang at 7.15 this morning; someone asking if they could bring 3 blackbird chicks. They were cat victims, such a pity, as they are fat chunky chicks. They are eating well, and having such a good start, they should soon be feeding themselves and ready for the aviary. Two more blackbird chicks came later, as well as 3 hedgehogs, a gull and a pigeon. We were running a First Aid course today, so the patients made good exhibits. Now we are waiting for a delivery of Uist hedgehogs, 31 plus a pet lamb don't ask), but the van has been diverted due to an accident, and probably won't be here till 11pm. I guess we'll be ready for bed once they have been unloaded.
20th April 2006
It must be the start of the deer season. We had a call from the police at 3am yesterday morning, asking if we could help with an injured deer on the road between Barrhead and Paisley. Bev and Clare, 2 resident volunteers, had said they would like to come on a night rescue. They were ready within minutes of me knocking on their cabin door; but I think they sleeping almost fully clothed!
It was lucky they were with us. When we arrived at the site, the deer was standing, though he still had a tartan blanket over his shoulders. It looked as if he was about to do a runner, but Clare was soon in front of him, and Andy helped calm him as he tried to escape. There was no chance of examining a struggling deer on a dark road, so we brought him back to the centre. We were checking him over and discussing his injuries, when Bev appeared to give birth to a hot water bottle. She'd had it up her jumper throughout the rescue! Lucky it hadn't fallen out in front of the police!
By morning the deer was standing, but there was a broken bone near his hock. He spent 24 hours at the vets, undergoing 2 hours of surgery, and returned today, with a hefty splint on his leg. He was soon standing again, and has been eating. Fingers crossed.
Last weeks deer is making good progress, and we hope she will be ready for release next week.
14th April 2006
Sunny day, cats out!
Even if we hadn't been outside today, enjoying the spring sunshine, we would have known that the weather was good. This was because 3 cat victims were brought in, so moggies must be out hunting again. First to arrive was a female blackbird, badly cut and with most of her flight feathers missing. It will be a while before she is out to breed. Then came a robin, tail feathers missing and a sore wing. Hopefully he will soon be fit to go. Last came a wren. Now they are difficult patients. Not only is it difficult finding a cage they can't squeeze out of, it is usually difficult getting them to eat. So in this case I opted to give the bird one long-acting antibiotic injection, and sent it back for release in the same garden. I know the cat will still be there, but the wren will know where to feed and shelter. That will give it the best chance of survival. Its tail feathers will soon grown back.
Early in the afternoon the first fox cub of the year arrived. His eyes are just opening, he came from Edinburgh, and prefers meat to milk. Hopefully he will soon get a pal.
11th April 2006
Zandra and Javier, our Chilean vets, arrived back at Hessilhead with 17 hedgehogs from the Uists. The hedgehogs were very active when put into their new cages, and inquisitive too. It didn't take them long to find their food. Now we need some warmer weather, so they can be relocated.
10th April 2006
Andy and Ulrika travelled to Arnamurchan today to collect an otter cub. The small cub, perhaps 7 or 8 weeks old was found yesterday at a campsite. The holiday maker stopped to photograph the cub, which then followed the person's feet, and wouldn't leave. they tried putting the cub in the sea, but she came straight back out. Luckily they then phoned for advice. An otter cub behaving like this needs help. Something must have happened to its mother.
We gave the otter, named Sanna after the bay where she was found, rehydration fluids when she arrived at the centre. Later I gave her fish, which she soon learned to eat. She ate more fish herself overnight.. She seems a contented young cub.
2nd April 2006
Uist Hedgehog Rescue
Andy and I have just spent a couple of days on Benbecula, helping to prepare for this year's hedgehog rescue. It was a pity we only stayed two days, as the weather was warm and sunny nevertheless, we had time for a couple of walks and some bird watching, giving good views of long tailed duck, hen harriers, short eared owls and merlin. The Uist Rescue Centre is being run by two enthusiastic volunteers, Joseph and Dan. They found their first hedgehog on Friday evening, and it travelled back to the mainland with us last night. It has settled in well, is eating lots, and will be relocated soon. If anyone would like to help relocate Uist hogs this year, please get in touch.
22nd March 2006
The swan looked dreadful when it arrived. It had been bleeding from a cut on its face, and whole of it was blood stained. Blood still poured from the wound. Luckily we have 2 vets on site, Javier and Zandra from Chile. They set to work, cleaning the wound, and stitching the caruncle(knob) back in place. The swan was soon looking as good as new, and after a swim on the indoor pool it became white again. We don't know how the accident happened. The last time we saw a similar injury, the swan had hit wires, but today's bird was found on Hoganfield Loch, so that seems unlikely. We'll probably never know.
Earlier we released a moorhen that had been found unconscious on the road yesterday. By the time it arrived here, wrapped in a jacket, it was fighting fit. We kept it in overnight for observation, then released it at the pond close to where it was found. It obviously knew exactly where it was, and flew not to the pond, but to the river a little further away.
17th March 2006
Found in a quarry this morning, the tiny leverets had been kept in an office all day, the workers hoping that perhaps they could put them out again this evening. They decided to phone for advice, and partly because the site had been disturbed a lot during the day, and also because the leverets had been found on rock, not vegetation, we decided it would be better if the youngsters came here. I often wonder how leverets survive when they are born so early in the year, when temperatures can be below freezing, and there is little shelter for them. Doubtless some of them do, but it seemed unlikely that these would survive in a working quarry, with no vegetation at all to hide them. They are snuggled together in a warm box now, and have already taken their first feed from a bottle.
13th March 2006
Yesterday's snow didn't seem at all like spring was on the way. Yet our blackbird chick is fledged now and beginning to feed himself. Today a young mistle thrush was admitted. He is older than the blackbird, and came from the middle of Glasgow.
The snow made it impossible for most volunteers to come yesterday, though' Stuart got as far as the quarry, and walked it in from there. Luckily we have some resident volunteers on site, and everything had been fed by lunchtime, which was very good considering the depth of snow(8") and the difficulty of getting around. That left plenty of time for snowball fights and making snowmen! No patients were delivered, but we managed to get out to collect an injured sparrow hawk from Lugton. It has a sore shoulder after crashing into a window.
5th March 2006
Back Again and spring is just around the corner
You may have thought I had left the country, and with recurring problems with broadband there have been times I felt like doing just that! Hopefully all is sorted out now, and the diary will be back regularly.
Swans, raptors and owls have continued to come ago. There was a moorhen too, that had a large wound under its leg that required stitching, but the bird made a really good recovery and was released back in its territory near Pollok Country Park. Today we returned a buzzard to its territory too. the bird had been a difficult patient. Having recovered from concussion it refused to eat; we checked its vision, which seemed perfect; we tried different foods, but that made no difference. Even worse was the fact that the buzzard became progressively more difficult to hand feed. it really didn't like being caught and restrained. Eventually we tried something we rarely do. We moved the bird to an aviary, before it ate a thing in its hospital cage, hoping that it would eat there. After 2 days the buzzard ate a rabbit, and then a large hare, that we found dead on the road, lasted it for several days. No other food was eaten, but luckily, we found another dead rabbit, and by the time the buzzard had eaten that, we decided it was ready for release. The buzzard flew high when we opened the box, and flew towards a stretch of woodland. It circled above this wood for several minutes, and we commented that it must be searching for its mate. having no luck, the buzzard soared higher, then flew towards another wood. Almost immediately another buzzard appeared, and the two of them circled together, an old bond renewed. It was a delight to watch.
You may be wondering how I know that spring is round the corner. Well, the Hessilhead spring certainly is. Today the first two blackbird chicks arrived at the Centre. They are about a week old, in good condition, but unfortunately their mum was killed by a cat. The parents had done a good job rearing healthy chicks in this cold spell of weather, but a single parent would have no chance of feeding them and keeping them warm. We wonder what the next babies will be?
7th February 2006
The raptor influx continued with the arrival of a strong adult female sparrowhawk last night. Apparently the bird had been found stunned. She was taken to the local veterinary surgery, where she instantly recovered and caused havoc in the waiting room. I gather it took quite while to catch her.
This morning we examined the bird again, then flew her on a line. It was the best creance flight I have ever seen. It was windy, and the bird flew high, and did 3 circuits before Andy brought her down. I wondered if he thought he was flying a kite!
I gave the bird a small feed, then Andy took her back to Irvine and released her. I gather she was in a hurry to go!
5th February 2006
Yesterday was an owl and raptor day. We still have 2 buzzards in the hospital that are not feeding themselves. They are underweight, one is still concussed and the other has a high parasite burden. They are being fed 3 timnes a day so they'll gain weight. The tawny that came from Kilsyth on Friday looks pretty sorry for itself. I hand fed him on Saturday morning, but last night he fed himself. Yesterday afternoon a small male kestrel was brought in from Denny. He is a bit of a mystery. He is underweight, his feathers are dirty as if he had been on the road for a while, but today he coughed up a good pellet, indicating he had been eating well. He looks bright, and is eating everything on offer. Last night we collected a tawny owl from Kilmarnock, and it was interesting to see that the bird was ringed. It was even more exciting when I discovered today, that this owl was reared at Hessilhead, and released in August 2003. Who said that rehabilitation doesn't work?
We also went out for a buzzard last night, reported to be on the motorway verge at the start of the Greenock exit ramp at St James Interchange. We went to look forst, and sure enough, there was the buzzard, barely a foot from the road. We went off the motorway, came home for nets, phoned the police for assistance, and returned to the M8, only to discover the buzzard had gone. He hadn't appeared injured when I saw him as we drove past, so perhaps he was making use of the good lighting at the Interchange, and feeding on worms on the verge.
2nd February 2006
Seal release and deer rescue
Today we released Scuddy, the seal that was found on Ayr beach last summer. He had been up to weight for a few weeks, but developed eye ulcers, which didn't respond to the first type of ointment. When Andy and I returned from a few days break in the Yorkshire Dales yesterday, we were pleased to see his eyes open and bright. We couldn't have chosen the release time better. It was high tide at Portencross, and the sun broke through the cloud as we arrived. Scuddy soon left the carrying box, but swam round the harbour for ten minutes or more, providing many photo opportunities. Eventually he swam out to sea, and was last seen swimming near the pier.
We had just returned to the cars when we received a call on the mobile from a rather frantic lady. Her excitement was understandable, as her dog had just startled a deer in their garden, causing it to jump the fence and land in the sea ( high tide, remember) It was swimming in circles, but obviously tiring. Luckily we were closer than if we had been at the centre, but the rush hour traffic was frustrating. When we arrived the deer was collapsed on the beach. Andy was soon down the rocks, between the deer and sea, and as the deer made an effort to escape, Andy grabbed it. He struggled back up the rocks, and soon the deer was in the seal carrying box, on blankets and with the car heater on full.
At present it is in the hospital, surrounded by heaters, and lightly sedated. It has a nasty injury under a hind leg, so if it survives the night, it will go to the vet in the morning. Touch wood.
24th January 2006
This afternoon we released the male peregrine which was picked up injured in George Square last Monday. The female peregrine watched from the Finnieston Crane while a Herald photographer took 'millions' of pics. After perching on the concrete base of a lighting unit for what seemed like a long time, the male bird evenually flew strongly, followed soon after by the female.
This evening we returned a fox to Thornliebank. As soon as we opened the carrying box it jumped from the back of the car, walked away, casually glancing over its shoulder at Andy. It went a short way up a narrow lane, but by the time Andy got round the hedge and into the lane, the fox was coming back, with food in its mouth. There must be people putting food out regularly for foxes, and he remembered!
Shelby released a buzzard at Monkton, and 2 swans at Irvine, while Helen released swans at Richmond park, after collecting another crash landing casualty from across the road.
22nd January 2006
A really sad looking buzzard was brought in yesterday. Not only was it weak and emaciated, it was covered in slurry. It had 3 lots of lectade by crop tube before being allowed some food today. It looks so much better. it has been moved into a cage, is perching, and we hope that it may feed itself now. We will allow the bird to put on weight before attempting to clean its feathers. There is no sign of injury; perhaps just a young bird finding it difficult to get enough food. it probably resorted to worming, hence its close proximity to slurry, and then the feather contamination didn't help its ability to fly.
20th January 2006
We had been looking forward to several releases this week, but the stormy weather resulted in some postponements. The roe buck which came from Eglinton park in December went off successfully yesterday, although it gave the release team an adrenalin rush when it headed along a road instead of following its nose into the wood. Luckily it took another track to the woods after a short road sprint. A sparrowhawk returned to Kirkintilloch, flying well after recovering from a dislocated elbow. It hadn't exactly been a good patient. It would eat when kept in a carrying box, but not when in an aviary, nor in an indoor flight. So giving it exercise meant a lot of moving from indoors to outside. I suppose it must have felt safer when in the confines of a box, and pretty stressed when in a bigger area. We tried to release a heron, but it took one look at the weather and decided to stay in the sheltered aviary, where food gets delivered regularly. When the weather got worse, we shut the door. Hopefully it will leave in better weather next week.
15th January 2006
Andy went into Glasgow early this morning, to collect a bird that had been in collision with a window, and was causing some alarm when office staff arrived for work to find a rather large predatory bird obstructing their way. Andy was somewhat surprised to find an adult male peregrine, in George Square, right in the city centre.
The bird was concussed, and has some feathers missing from its neck. It is perching tho, and looking brighter already. Peregrines are reported fairly regularly from the city, but we didn't expect an adult to come into care. Hopefully it will be ready for release next week.
13th January 2006
Swans again......and fox
By lunch time today we had 7 swans queuing for attention in the hospital. Admittedly 3 of them weren't newcomers; they had just returned from a few days as in-patients at the vets. One cygnet has a severe fungal lung infection, it rattles constantly and came back with a bottle medicine. The adult swan that was run over (literally) in Hogganfield car park last Saturday, is making steady progress. It stands now, reluctantly, and eats and eats. The remaining cygnet is a mystery, still not eating much, bleeding slightly from sinuses, lethargic tho' would like to be aggressive. We will persevere with its treatment, fingers x-ed. The new arrivals include a healthy pair of swans from Iceland car park in Saltcoats, maybe they were sheltering from the stormy sea. An adult swan was rescued from A737, probably crash landed, and the remaining adult came from Victoria park in Glasgow. It has a really nasty swelling just above the foot, probably a chronic infection. Feeling good though, eating well.
Then, for a change, a fox arrived. Heavily sedated, it was transferred to our last big hospital cage. It was picked up on the road this morning, and taken to a vet. X-rays were taken, and reveal no fractures nor chest damage. I bet it is badly concussed tho', and the muzzle is so swollen that the animal looks more like a chow than a fox. It might be interesting giving it medication. Apparently it had come round at the vets, and wasn't too pleased about being handled. Hence the additional sedation to bring it here!
Shelby found time this afternoon to release 4 swans at Irvine Harbour. That leaves us with a net gain of 6 swans in the last 2 days! Hopefully no more will get in trouble over weekend.
10th January 2006
It was a relief to see rain and feel the warmer temperatures today, especially as the last patient to be admitted last night was a woodcock. Woodcock cope with a period in care, as long as they kept in a large box in semi darkness. A woodcock in a cage is a disaster. The bird will constantly poke its beak through the mesh, attempting to escape, and resulting in skin damage around the base of the bill. The bird also uses a lot of energy in these efforts to escape.
A boxed woodcock will feed on worms in a dish of muddy water. The problem is that they eat a lot, hence the pleasure in seeing today's thaw. It is bad enough getting sufficient worms when the ground is soft. It is impossible when the ground is frozen solid.
The woodcock has feathers missing from a wing, a wound on its breast and an eye injury. So its on quite a lot of treatment.
6th January 2006
As you know, barn owls have been increasingly frequent casualties admitted to Hessilhead in the last couple of years. This week a female barn owl was brought in; surprisingly it had been caught by a buzzard, which released its prey when disturbed. Last year a barn owl was brought in after being caught by a falconer's goshawk, so I wonder how common it is for large raptors to attack owls. The barn owl is still suffering the effects of a head injury, but is showing signs of progress.
The oiled swans are doing well. Rotating swimming time with preening time is paying off. The swans are doing most of the cleaning themselves, though inevitably a lot of work is involved in caring for a such a lot of large birds. We will be pleased to see them ready for release.
3rd January 2006
Guess what, swans
No surprise that swans were the first casualties of the year, but 18 in two days was more than we expected. The problem was stale cooking oil in Irvine harbour, and the swans most seriously affected were soaking wet. Luckily the swans at Irvine are used to being fed most of the day, and at high tide are easy to reach from the jetty. On Sunday, the first, we got 11, and another 7 on the second. We returned today, as there were two really wet swans we couldn't get yesterday, but they were out on a sand bar today, preening vigorously. The cooking oil won't cause any internal damage, so preening is ok, and eventually the swans should get clean and waterproof again. Bad weather could cause them problems, but the dry weather of the last few days has certainly helped. The swans at Hessilhead are taking turns using the swan pond, and between swims they are preening too. We hope that some will be ready for release by the weekend.
Click here for Gay's Diary, 2005 Click here for Gay's Diary, 2007