GAY'S DIARY, 2010
31st December 2010
Before the end of 2010 I'd like to say thank you for all your support and encouragement during the year. We need help from so many people with such a wide range of skills. Hessilhead wouldn't run without you all.
HAPPY NEW YEAR EVERYONE
See you in 2011
30th December 2010
The last week of the year has been a busy one, and with all the staff on holiday Andy and I haven't had much spare time. Thank you to all the volunteers who have been in to help.
Today, being much milder, we moved some of the bigger hedgehogs to outdoor accommodation. That means they are one step closer to release, but when that happens depends on the weather. The smaller hedgehogs have moved to bigger cages, and most of them are now using sleeping boxes. They are all gaining weight. We admitted a few more hedgehogs this week. There is a tiny tot for this time of year; he weighed just 248 gm. One poor hedgehog had to be moved when a garden shed was demolished. He seemed to be in a deep sleep when he was brought in, but has woken now, and is enjoying daily feeds.
More swans were admitted, but all have now moved into outdoor pens. One was a small cygnet, weighing only 4.2 kg. It was sitting at the roundabout at the Kilbarchan slip road onto the A737. We've no idea how he got there. Fortunately he was more interested in eating grass than walking onto the road.
Other casualties of Christmas week have included a greylag goose, now released, a yellowhammer, a mallard, a woodcock, 2 buzzards, and a road traffic accident roe deer. We have released other buzzards, a tawny owl, wood pigeons, a kestrel and a moorhen.
26th December 2010
The young children of a family in Greenock had an unexpected surprise on Christmas morning, when they found an owl in their living room. Not who they had been hoping would come down the chimney! Our Greenock volunteer Karen was soon there, net in hand, to catch the intruder. The tawny owl (named Santa, what else?) is now in the hospital. He should be ready for release later in the week.
On Christmas eve Andy and I were called to Knightswood Park in Glasgow, where swans were reported frozen to the ice. Indeed they were. There are about 30 swans on the pond, and a large number of ducks, and their activity has prevented an area of water from freezing. You would think that was good news, but when the swans leave the water they find themselves skidding on thick, smooth ice on the paths. They sit down, and quickly their feathers freeze to the ice. This has obviously been happening a lot, as there are several patches of swan body feathers, some the size of my hand, protruding from the ice. I hope this doesn't lead to problems later. Swans without a complete covering of feathers are likely to get cold and wet. A fox was on the opposite side of the open water. He wasn't at all bothered about us being there. No doubt he was on the lookout for an easy meal.
24th December 2010
It looks like being a busy Christmas at Hessilhead. We still have lots of hedgehogs, and hardly any of them have hibernated yet. This week several swans have been brought in. Most of them were frozen to ice. There have been a couple of tawny owls and two more buzzards too.
The centre looks lovely with thick layers of hoar frost everywhere. It has been difficult keeping water running, and of course ice in the water dishes has to be thawed out each morning. Personally I love this weather. It is a delight to be out and about.
Here's hoping you all have the Christmas of your dreams.
13th December 2010
It was the perfect day for releasing Clyde the seal. He was weighed late this morning, 34.5 kg, and straightaway his carrying box was loaded into the ambulance, and we all went off to Portencross to see him go. The tide was well in, so Clyde had plenty of opportunity to explore the harbour before heading off to sea. He returned once, swam around in front of us, and then swam directly to the end of the pier. Hopefully he'll catch his own fish without too much trouble.
8th December 2010
Clyde the seal pup isn’t very impressed with the freezing temperatures.
Mallards marching across the ice at feeding time.
7th December 2010
Only 1 patient made it to Hessilhead today. The tawny owl flew into a window in Lochwinnoch early this morning. The people in the house picked up the owl that was being attacked by crows and jackdaws, and put in into a large cardboard box. Before they could bring the owl to Hessilhead, they had to retrieve their car that was abandoned in snow yesterday. We walked out to the start of our drive to meet them, but they came prepared. They had a sledge so they could tow the owl into the centre. This evening the owl seems quite lively, and it is fat, in really good condition. We will check his vision and make sure that it flies well in an aviary, but it looks like it will soon be going home.
The buzzard that was stranded at Kilmarnock Police Station yesterday is halfway here. The mother of one of our staff collected it earlier today. Leanne took buzzard food home with her, so by now it will be well fed, and tomorrow she will bring it into work.
6th December 2010
It is December, the temperatures have been below zero all week, and most of our catchment area is under snow. So why are we still getting calls about hedgehogs? We'd have hoped that all the autumn juveniles were in care now, and healthy up to weight hedgehogs would have hibernated. Over the weekend 4 more hedgehogs were taken into care, and we had calls about several others. We can't arrange transport for long distance casualties because of the weather, but we have given instructions to people willing to help these hogs till the weather improves.
It was quite a varied weekend, with patients including kestrel and tawny owl, a roe deer involved in a motorway accident, a cygnet that landed at a riding school and a mallard that looks in perfect condition, but was easily caught. Today we are snowed in. There is a buzzard waiting to be collected at Kilmarnock Police Office. Hopefully we'll be able to get out tomorrow.
1st December 2010
December got off to a busy start today. Early this morning we had a call from Howwood Primary School, reporting a young deer trapped in the school playground. This isn’t an unusual situation, but one that must be dealt with promptly. When deer are trapped in fenced areas, they panic, repeatedly hit the fence, and may injure themselves as they try to escape. David and Andy went to the rescue. When they arrived the deer had become trapped in the railings. That made the situation easier to deal with. They gently eased the deer, backwards, from the railings, and released him straightaway in nearby fields. They said he wasted no time at all running away.
This afternoon Andy and I collected a fox from a garden in Troon. The fox appeared there this morning, limping, but also very tame. It followed Roger into the garage for a handful of cat biscuits. It has a swollen hind leg, which may be very sore, but even so, its tameness seems odd. Late this afternoon Andy and I were out again to rescue a cygnet in Paisley. This young swan had been walking around a housing estate all day, unable to find a way out. It is probable that this swan had been confused by the snowy road, and thought it was water. (Swans are easily confused!). If it walked out of the housing estate, it would have been on a busy road. Now it is safe at Hessilhead.
On the way home we detoured to collect 2 gulls, and then an oystercatcher from Ayr. So we were out for a while. We were surprised, on returning home, to find the new fox curled up in the dog’s bed, beside the radiator. It had rattled the door of its cage loose, and found the cosiest place in the kitchen. Something makes us think that this fox is used to people!
30th November 2010
Last night we had a call from George Russell, who lives in Gatehead, Kilmarnock. He had heard a car brake and swerve outside his house, and looking from the window, had seen an unusual bird sitting in the road. George put the bird in a large box, and phoned to see if he could bring it to Hessilhead.
We were surprised to find a juvenile Great Northern Diver in the box. What on earth was it doing on a road in Kilmarnock. These magnificent birds breed in North America, Iceland and Greenland, and spend the winter around our shores. The bird wasn’t injured, and had a good feed of small fish this morning. It even gave a brief performance of its haunting yodelling call. This afternoon we released the diver at Irvine. It swam away, diving, flapping, preening and shaking, apparently pleased to be back on the sea.
27th November 2010
We could do with more volunteers like Kirsty. Last night, at 10pm, just as we were about to take our meal from the oven, the phone rang. The caller reported a swan walking along Canniesburn Road in Glasgow. Could we help? We asked if the swan could be walked into a garden, and the gate closed. This would ensure that the swan was there when we arrived, (swans are unable to fly without a long take off run), it would keep it safe, and we also hoped we’d have time to eat supper before heading into Glasgow. The next call was from Kirsty. She had been driving along Canniesburn Road and seen the swan. Without any hesitation she’d picked it up, and her husband was willing to drive to Hessilhead, while Kirsty held the swan on her lap. What a star. If anyone wants to learn how to pick up swans, or other wildlife, safely, please give us a call. We are pleased to run training courses.
25th November 2010
Andy and I spent a few days in Cheshire over the weekend. We
attended the British Wildlife Rehabilitation Council conference in Cheshire,
visited relatives and had a couple of good days walking. The conference was very
good. It is always a pleasure to meet up with other rehabbers, and the talks
were informative and stimulating. It is encouraging that lots of research is
going into wildlife rehabilitation. There is so much that we all still have to
The weather was mild while we were away, and we intended that
on our return we would release some of the hedgehogs. So what happened. 15
hedgehogs weighed and tagged, then the temperature plummets. We thought about
it. What if we took lots of straw to the release sites, and made nests under
wood piles. Would the hedgehogs stay where we put them, and use the straw for
their hibernation nests. What if they didn't like the nests we chose. Would they
find a site to their liking, and find enough nesting material to build a well
insulated nest before the temperatures dropped again? It all seemed unlikely, so
the hedgehogs are still here. We would prefer that these hedgehogs, now weighing
over 700gm, spent the winter in the wild. But they need help. They need a
hibernation box filled with dry grass or leaves, and this should be tucked under
a hedge or bushes in a sheltered garden. Food could be left for the hedgehogs
for a few nights. The gardens should be away from busy roads, and steep sided
ponds could pose a threat to hedgehogs. Please get in touch if you think you
could provide a hibernating site for one of these hogs.
15th November 2010
On Friday last week, the same day that the grey seal pup was
washed ashore in Helensburgh, an otter was also brought in from just outside the
town. The adult male otter had been seen struggling across the road, and a lady,
realizing he had a problem, parked her car, grabbed the otter, and later brought
him to Hessilhead. The otter had probably been hit by a car. He was partially
paralysed, and was unconscious when he arrived here. He didn't regain
consciousness till 24 hours later, and then became restless. Today there is a
lot of improvement in his condition. Although he still trails one hind leg, the
other legs are working, and he has been eating too. He has settled down, and
today has been sleeping curled up in a box of hay. Tomorrow he may visit the
12th November 2010
It was a wild night, and I expect that when David's phone
rang at 3.30 this morning, he didn't really feel like getting out of bed. When
the police told him about the seal pup, huddled in a shop doorway in Helensburgh,
he said he'd be there asap. The pup had been washed across the main road by a
high tide and strong winds. When the sea retreated, the pup stayed put. That was
just as well. This pup is seriously underweight, with folds of loose skin where
there should be fat. Today she has been on rehydration fluids. David gave her
more fluids before leaving work this evening. I am sure he feels that the
disruption to his sleep was worthwhile. A successful rescue is the best part of
7th November 2010
Another tawny owl was brought in yesterday. This owl has been
ill for a while, with a fungal infection in its mouth. The infection has stopped
the owl from eating properly, resulting in weight loss. So the owl is weak and
really looks miserable. It is getting treatment twice a day, and being hand fed
3 times a day. Within a few days the infection will have cleared, and the owl
should start to feed itself then. Hopefully it will go back to where it was
5th November 2010
Mostly it seems to be hedgehogs, hedgehogs, hedgehogs. Autumn
juvenile hedgehogs are really in trouble now, and almost every day 1, 2 or 3
tiny hogs are brought into care. Some of these hoglets weigh little more than
100gm, a few as much as 350, but still they would have trouble surviving without
help. Initially the hedgehogs receive a lot of care. They are given heat, and
rehydration fluid. They are put on a course of antibiotics, vitamins and wormer,
and after 24 hours they are offered tinned cat food and cat biscuits. For many
that is enough to put them on a road to recovery. They soon learn the Hessilhead
routine:--- cleaned out every morning, given fresh food, bedding and water, and
if the food has been eaten by teatime they are given a second helping. These
hogs steadily gain weight. A few have been struggling for too long before being
rescued. They need more pampering, sometimes further treatment, and may have to
be tempted with a variety of foods including peanuts and insectivorous foods,
worms, biscuit and even banana. It looks like many of them will be in care all
winter, but some may put on enough weight to be released later this year, if we
get a mild spell of weather. There are also the Uist hedgehogs, and some of
these are small too. The hedgehogs take much of our time every day, and are also
depleting our supply of newspapers and fleece bedding. If anyone could collect
papers from friends, and drop them off at Hessilhead, we'd be really grateful.
3rd November 2010
David and volunteer George went to collect a seal pup from
Ayr beach yesterday. It is a grey seal, maybe only 2 to 3 weeks old, and still
with lots of its white baby coat. It is underweight, but doesn't seem to be
injured. Today it started eating fish. His name is Wellington.
On Monday we collected a common seal pup from south of Ayr.
This seal was very poorly, bleeding from its mouth and with breathing
difficulty. Sadly it died last night.
27th October 2010
It isn't unusual for tawny owls to get into trouble at this
time of year. Last week a tawny was brought in with a badly broken wing. We
weren't very hopeful, but when we phoned the vet later in the day there was good
news. The two broken bones had been pinned, and the pins were held in place by
external fixaters, which look a bit like scaffolding on the wing. The owl has to
return to the vet in 4 weeks, when the pins will be removed. It is to be
allowed to exercise as much as possible before that. It is always important to
keep the joints moving.
Another tawny owl was brought in a couple of days ago. This was a victim of
fishing line. The line had got tightly tangled round the owl's flight feathers,
and also round the branch of a tree. The owl was unable to fly away. Tawny owls
specialize in hypochondria, and this big female owl was an expert. She looked
really ill, leaning against the side of her box, head hanging down. The main
problem was with her feathers, and that wouldn't have been causing her any pain.
The flight feathers are bent and twisted, and while they are like that, the owl
will be unable to fly. Tomorrow I will steam the feathers, and I'm fairly sure
they will return to shape. Soon after that the owl should be fit for release.
25th October 2010
There was a bit of a surprise yesterday. We had a call from
New Cumnock, reporting a injured barn owl on the ground in a farmyard. One of
our helpers collected the bird, and we arranged to meet her at Kilmarnock later.
The bird is a nestling, still covered in white down. Barn owls are known to rear
2 clutches some years, but even so, this is a late chick. The owl was quite weak
when we arrived back at Hessilhead, so it was given fluids and put into a cosy
box. What a difference this morning. The owl is feeding herself now, and hissing
when we open the box.
15th October 2010
Last night was colder than it had been, so we were surprised
when 2 bats were delivered in the evening. One was a pipistrelle that had
apparently been in a house for a week. It didn't show any sign of distress, and
should be released soon. The other is a brown long-eared bat, the first we have
seen this year. It was bleeding when it came, and looked quite weak. This evening
it looks brighter. You can see from the pic how it gets its name.
14th October 2010
On Tuesday we collected the 4 remaining cygnets from Maxwell
Park in Glasgow. Several people had called expressing concern at their slow
development. When we arrived only 1 cygnet was on the water. It didn't seem
interested in food, but did eventually come close enough to the bank to be
captured. We couldn't believe how little it weighed. We found the other cygnets
sleeping on a grass area nearby. Two didn't wake as we approached and lifted
them, the last made a half hearted attempt to run away. When we brought the
cygnets back to Hessilhead, we weighed them, 2.2, 2.6, 3.2 and 4.2kg. Cygnets
should be at least 7kg by this time of year. We had to find out what was
wrong.....quickly. Faecal samples were sent off for analysis, and thanks to a
fast response from the Veterinary Investigation Department at Auchencruive
College, the cygnets are now being treated for a heavy infestation of
thorny-headed worms. They are eating well, so we hope they will soon start
A buzzard had a lucky escape earlier this week, when it was
struck by a lorry on the M8 near Airdrie. The truck driver stopped, wrapped the
buzzard in a jacket, and took it to Airdrie Police Office. Our ambulance
happened to be nearby, so the buzzard was soon in care at the wildlife hospital.
It has no fractures, and is now in an aviary, looking good.
3 weeks ago a young roe deer was brought to the centre in the
early hours of the morning, having been found injured on the road near Galston.
The deer was badly concussed, but after a few days began to nibble vegetation,
and later learnt to eat apples and rabbit food. Earlier this week she was fully
recovered, but she is still quite a small deer. If we had taken her back to
where she was found, she may not have met up with her mother, and we feel she
still needs plenty of good feeding to see her through the winter. So we put her
in the large over-wintering enclosure at Hessilhead. This enclosure is mostly
woodland, with an area of grassland at the far end, well away from people. Our 6
hand reared roe deer are already living there. I am sure the new deer will soon
be accepted into their herd.
8th October 2010
More than 40 guillemots have been admitted to Hessilhead
since mid September. They have been in very poor condition, seriously
underweight. They have received lots of treatment and been fed on expensive
whitebait. Even so, only a third have survived, and until a few days ago we
wondered if these survivors would make it back to the sea. Now we are beginning
to think so. For the past 2 days they have been allowed to spend a few hours on
the swan pond. They love it..... diving, splashing, flapping and then preening
their feathers enthusiastically. This is just what is needed now. The guillemots
need to preen a lot to improve their water-proofing. The exercise has made them
hungrier too. Earlier this week some of them had started losing weight, and that
was worrying. This evening I see lots of green spots on their cards. A green
spot indicates weight gain.
7th October 2010
Good news about the otter cubs. The youngest cub, Monty, is
eating well and has gained weight. She is still in the hospital, but it looks as
if it won't be long till she can move in with the other cub. That will be good
for both of them. The older cub, that came from Arran, was suffering from a head
injury. She stumbled and fell a lot during her first few days here, and had a
nasty eye injury too. Now she has made a full recovery. She is living in an
outside enclosure, eating well, and keeping away from people. We are looking
forward to the day when she meets Monty.
Ari the day after her arrival
Ari a week later
29th September 2010
Another otter cab was brought to Hessilhead today. She was
found at Montgreenan, only a few miles from here, and close to where Andy found
a dead lactating female otter on the road last week. So it wasn't surprising
that a cub was found, and given the time span, it isn't surprising that this
little cub is dehydrated and underweight. Today she has been sleeping in a
heated box, and taking rehydration fluids from a bottle. Tomorrow I will offer
her fish, and hope that she will feed herself.
There is good news about the otter that came from Arran last
week. She is behaving normally, fully co-ordinated now, and eating whole trout
27th September 2010
44 hedgehogs were delivered from Benbecula today. This is the
highest number of hogs that have come from the islands this year. So far,
catching has concentrated on low density areas, and only males and non breeding
females have been taken. Now the efforts of trappers have moved to areas with
lots of hogs, so we can expect a few more deliveries in the next few weeks. We
hope that most of these hogs will be over 600gm, and therefore ready for
24th September 2010
It was a big day for the Glasgow Green seal on Monday. Has
been gaining weight steadily, and we decided it was time for him to move to the
big outdoor seal tank. He approved of this decision, and enjoys swimming around
and then hauling out on the upturned fish box. If he continues to grow at this
rate he will be ready for release in a month or so.
At this time of year cygnets start getting into trouble. Some
are becoming adventurous and leaving home to find new places to feed and meet
other swans. Those that are reluctant to leave home are being chased by parents
who think they have spent enough time rearing a family. We have picked up
cygnets from Neilston and Barrhead, Ayr and Clydebank. I guess there will be
many more to come.
Yesterday we had several new arrivals. There is an otter cub
that came from Arran. This cub is about 4 months old, but has a head injury. She
was probably hit by a car. She is receiving veterinary treatment, and there is
some improvement in her co-ordination. She is having trouble eating, as she
can't control her movements very well. So we keep giving her small bits of fish.
Hopefully there will be more improvement tomorrow.
This is also the time of year when young foxes are on the
move. Many of them become road traffic victims. We have a young fox that came in
yesterday. He is eating, but still suffering from concussion. This morning
another RTA cub was brought to the hospital. He was badly injured, and also had
an old leg fracture. he was put to sleep.
The good weather today allowed us to release several birds.
The last swallows and house martins flew, and also a robin that had been a cat
victim. A buzzard was returned to its territory near Stranraer.
20th September 2010
We have just had a badger weekend. On Saturday Andy and I
enjoyed the Scottish Badger Conference. This is always an enjoyable and
informative event, bringing us up to date on badger news, research, behaviour
and sadly badger crime. Last night, just when we thought the work was done for
the day, the phone rang. It was Billy Hughes from East Kilbride. Billy and his
partner Sharon had been worried about a badger that came to their garden every
evening. Recently they had noticed it was injured, often with blood around its
face. Billy had collected our cage trap while we were at the conference. He'd
baited it with peanuts, the badger's favourite food, and at 9pm he called to say
it was in the trap. There was no choice in the matter; we had to go and collect
the badger. He certainly looked a bit of mess, with blood splattered around the
trap. However, it was raining, and a little blood goes along way mixed with
rain. The badger has been examined by the vet today, and the news is not
too bad. He has a small tumour behind his ear, and that had been the source of
the blood. He had also been clipped by a vehicle, resulting in broken teeth. The
damaged teeth have been removed. Crusty, as this badger is called, has just
eaten a hearty supper, and is now sleeping soundly.
17th September 2010
This has been guillemot week. Every day has brought a handful
of underweight juvenile guillemots into care, with a few razorbills too. Most of
the auks have come from the coast, though some were found inland. One guillemot
came from Govanhill and another from Croftamie. All of these birds were in very
poor condition, some weighing less than half the weight they should be at this
time of year. Some were so weak that they'd been battered in the surf. They were
wet, cold and covered in sand. Only a third of the guillemots have survived,
despite having lots of attention. When the birds first arrive they put into
heated boxes, given fluids, antibiotics and vitamins, and the fluid therapy is
repeated every few hours for the first 24 hours. Then we offer the birds
whitebait. Some them are keen to eat. Others need encouragement. The survivors
are gaining weight now. Hopefully that will continue, and we can get them back
to the wild in a couple of of weeks.
11th September 2010
Yesterday Andy and I came back from the Uists, with 24
hedgehogs accompanying us in the campervan. Many of these are already over
600gm, which means they can be released within the next few days. The Uists, as
usual were stunning. We had wonderful weather and saw a variety of wildlife,
including sea eagle, merlins and hen harriers, with excellent views of many
waders such dunlin, sanderling, turnstone, grey plover, and
greenshank. In the Sound of Mull we saw basking sharks.
4th September 2010
At this time of year there are more releases than admissions.
It feels like we are having a clearance sale....everything must go. Only a
handful of young garden birds remain in care, and all but 2 of the tawny chicks
are now living in the wild. There are bare shelves in the hedgehog hospital, and
only 20 young gulls remain in the enclosure. The mallards are all free, though
some of them continue to hang around the centre. This week the last 2 pairs of
young barn owls went to release sites. One pair went to a farm not far from
here, at Burnhouse. The farmer has installed a smart new barn owl box, and
replaced a glass skylight with a wooden hatch that can be opened when it is time
to let the barn owls out. The other pair went to a site near Dalton, in
Dumfriesshire, only a few miles from where they'd been hatched, and then evicted
because an old building was being converted into a house. This is a great
release site. The owls have an old smiddy, and the two windows have been
replaced with wire mesh, allowing the owls to see out. The mesh will be removed
in 2 weeks, allowing the owls to fly off and explore their new territory.
Earlier in the week a peregrine was released. It spent just 4
days in care, and flew away strongly.
Today we released a buzzard, and several sparrowhawks have
recently been nursed back to health. This is sparrowhawk season, when
birds, excited by the chase, crash into windows.
Our fox cubs, as you know, are reared in family sized groups,
with as little human contact as possible. They are released in September, when
cubs reared in the wild are leaving family groups and venturing off on on their
own. Two of our 'families of fox cubs' have been released. We also released an
adult badger this week. This badger, as you may remember, was rescued from a
snare a few weeks ago. He recovered from the cuts around his middle, but had to
stay in care a little longer. This was so a search could be completed, to ensure
that no more snares remained in the area. As you can see, he was keen to be off.
On the 3rd pic you can see where he was snared around his middle.
16th August 2010
Another seal pup came into care today. We had reports of it
lying close to The Esplanade in Greenock, and Karen, our Greenock volunteer,
soon had the pup in the back of her van. It weighed in at a skinny 11kg, though
it does seem to be longer than the seal already in care.
14th August 2010
Regular readers of The Diary will know that I love and hate
the day that we move the young hand reared deer to their big woodland enclosure.
I hate it because I worry. The deer have been reared with as little human
contact as possible. They are not tame. So persuading them into a big wooden
carrying box isn't easy. There is just a possibility that one could be injured.
I love the day because once the deer are released into the enclosure, they are
ecstatic. They run and jump and stop and start. they meet new friends, the
nibble fresh vegetation. Today the moves went really well. We have 8 young
deer, and they have been living in pairs. Each pair was encouraged into the box
with very little trouble. They behaved perfectly while being carried down the
path to the wood, and left the box calmly. When each new pair of fawns was
released, the ones that already moved in came to greet the newcomers. They were
so delighted with the space, the trees, the dense patches of vegetation, with
other deer. They took no notice at all of the small group of human spectators. A
pity really. They would have seen that we were delighted for them too.
13th August 2010
We usually have more raptors in care by now. We have one
juvenile sparrowhawk that hit a window, and a buzzard that came in starving; we
don't know why. The sparrowhawk couldn't stand for a few days, but now it is
making good progress now. It still isn't self feeding. Typical sparrowhawk, they
are always difficult patients. The buzzard was on fluids only for 36 hours, but
now it is eating well and gaining weight. It will be ready for an aviary soon.
11th August 2010
Today we got the 1st common seal pup of the year. That wasn't
very surprising. It's that time of year again. What was surprising is that the
seal pup was found on the slip at Glasgow Green, above the weir on the River
Clyde. Glaswegians will know that seals are often spotted in the river, but how
did a skinny little pup get up the weir? There is no doubt that this pup needs
help. It weighed in at 11.8 kg. It was dehydrated, underweight and has bites
along its flanks. It looks as if it has worms too.
7th August 2010
A couple of days ago we took 2 of the otters to a release
site on Loch Fyne. One of the otters had come from Loch Fyne, almost a year ago.
He had been sharing an enclosure with a little female otter, who had been found
in S Ayrshire when she was barely weaned. We were lucky to find a ready made
enclosure to use as a release pen. It even had a pond, and was only a few yards
from a burn that ran into the loch. It was perfect. The otters seemed to think
so too. They began to explore as soon as we opened the door of their transport
boxes. They loved all the hidey holes; then they discovered the pond. The otters
will be kept in the enclosure for a few days, Then the gate will be opened. Food
will be provided for a few more days.
While Andy and I were away another 3 barn owl chicks were
brought into care. These were disturbed during renovations to an old building,
and we understood they had not been fed for 3 days. Barn owls are protected, and
this sort of disturbance shouldn't happen. No work should have been done to the
building till the young owls fledged. That would have been in 3 or 4 weeks time.
That doesn't seem long to wait to allow a family of barn owls to stay with their
parents. Now we have to find more release sites.
29th July 2010
Fox cubs are becoming adventurous now and getting into
trouble. One young cub was rescued from a goal net in a Newton Mearns garden,
and brought to Hessilhead still wearing part of the net. The experience must
have been very frightening for the cub, and it had struggled so much that the
net had tightened, resulting in a swollen nose and face. We cut the cub free,
treated him for shock and trauma, and sent him home to be released in the
Another Glasgow fox cub decided that a furniture warehouse
was a good place to live. The huge warehouse was filled with beds and sofas, and
lots of big boxes where the cub could hide. The staff were very patient. They
fed the cub for a few nights in one of the big boxes. Then David and volunteer
Kathryn set our live trap in the box, baited with the same kind of food. The fox
cub didn't go in the first night, but the next morning we got a call to say he
was sitting in the trap, not very concerned at all. He has now joined a group of
cubs at Hessilhead.
We were disappointed to hear about another badger that had
been snared, this time near Gretna. The adult badger has wounds round its
middle. They are healing nicely. Hopefully it will be able to return to its
territory, once we hear that the area has been cleared of other snares.
Some of you will remember that two years ago we hand reared a
red deer calf, Dotty. She lives at Culzean Country Park now, with many other
deer. We visited her recently, and yes, she did seem to remember us!
Toni was quickly on the scene last week when two cygnets got
into trouble at Irvine harbour. They were buried by a landslide on the north
bank. One of them was completely out of sight. There is never a shortage of
people to help at Irvine Harbour, and Toni was offered a lift in a rowing boat.
She had to struggle across soft mud to reach the cygnets, and dig them out with
her hands. By the time we arrived on the scene Toni was back at the harbourside,
looking very muddy and bedraggled. One cygnet had swam away with mum, the other
was brought to Hessilhead, cleaned up and released the next day.
Another young barn owl came into care from a surprising
location. The barn owls had nested in derelict flats on the outskirts of
Johnstone. One young owl was found dead near the flats, and another was found
alive, but in poor condition. This youngster is now doing well.
I was left in charge of the young bats while David was on
holiday....quite a responsibility! They are eating mealworms now, though they
still like milk. The all have different characters, and frequently squabble over
The last thing we needed was an intake of 14 more bats, found
in a small outhouse housing a hot tub at a care home near Dalry. Somehow the
bats had come down inside the building, and were trapped. We enjoyed releasing
these bats late one night, and watching dozens of others leave the roost.
8th July 2010
We still have 5 young barn owls in care. We are trying to
find out what has gone wrong with some of the nest sites, and whether parents
are still feeding other chicks. The young owl below is a dark coloured female
Swallow and house martin numbers are building up in the
hospital now. We also have 2 young swifts.
The late starlings are ready for an aviary now, and some
blackbirds and thrushes are ready to move too.
The first hedgehog family is in care. A mum and 3 babies were
found wandering in an Ardrossan garden earlier this week. There didn't seem to
be a problem, apart from them being out in the afternoon. Sadly the lady of the
house didn't want them left there.
The goshawk is still receiving treatment, but is much more
lively now. The kestrel chicks are in a release flight, and the young tawny owls
will be going to release sites soon.
We have the fattest little weasel ever seen. He is young and
very playful. You could watch him for hours, rolling, tumbling, pouncing,
jumping, Oh for some of that energy.
We have almost 100 young gulls now. Most of these are
Lesser black backed gulls that have fallen, or fledged from roof tops. We also
have a small group, 9, of common gulls. These, strangely, are much less common.
Our oystercatcher chick was released today.
Bat numbers are going up too. David has taken 5 youngsters
home for the weekend. Another young pip is coming from Pitlochry tomorrow.
26th June 2010
Apologies for the long silence. It has been busy on phone,
hectic in the hospital and hot. There never seemed time to sit in front of the
computer! So just to bring you up to date, here is news of some of the new
arrivals. We have 32 fox cubs now, all living in small family sized groups, and
all wild enough to be released later in the summer.
We have a new badger cub. This is really good news, as were
worried about the first cub being alone. He really wanted to be friends with
people. The new cub is very small, but we hope to have them together in another
week or so.
We have 7 young roe deer. All are taking the bottle well, and
most of them are nibbling vegetation too.
There are fewer nestlings and fledglings in the hospital,
although the second batch of starlings are arriving now. The tits have all been
released. that is always a relief. The hospital seems quiet without them. All
the corvids, mostly jackdaws and rooks are sharing one of biggest aviaries. Some
of them still beg for food.
We are into the gull chick season. I think we have 40 now,
with more arriving morning, noon and night. Many mallards have been released.
Some late broods still coming into care. Only 1 eider duckling and 1 shelduckling so
The first young kestrel has been joined by a slightly younger
chick. Both looking good and sharing an outdoor flight.
There was an influx of barn owl chicks at the end of last
week. Some were in very poor condition, others we hope to reunite with their
families next week.
The first baby bats are here. That is always time consuming.
When very small they need feeding every 2 hours.
The most unusual patient is a goshawk. This is the first
goshawk that we ever treated at Hessilhead. It is an amazing bird, an adult
female. It is receiving treatment daily, and we hope it will make a full
This time tomorrow Andy and I will be on Tiree. More news
when we get back.
16th June 2010
We have recovered from the Open Day! Those of you who have
experienced the event can probably imagine how much work goes into the
preparation, and this all has to be done while we continue to run a rescue
service and rear the many orphan birds and animals in care. The weather had us
worried on Sunday morning. The bright early morning start was followed by heavy
rain, but at midday the sun shone, and shone all afternoon. It was a great day.
Thank you all for helping, visiting and supporting the event. Takings
amounted to approx £11,500.
22nd May 2010
More of the same this week, plus, plus. More starlings, house
sparrows and blackbirds, and lots more ducklings. Last night a clutch of 9 day
old mallards was rescued from the central reservation of the A77, near Hansel
Village. It was almost dark when they were spotted, and there was no sign of
mum. All have been eating well today. Another female mallard and family were
rescued from gardens in Ayr earlier in the week, and 10 ducklings were rescued
from sunken gardens in Patna.
About 10 days ago, Karen, our Greenock volunteer, rescued a
male swan from the Murdieston Dam. He had been badly beaten by a new pair of
swans that flew in hoping to claim the territory. His mate was sitting on eggs.
The male swan didn't respond to treatment, and sadly was put to sleep. His mate
continued to incubate her eggs, and the invading pair swam around the dam,
threatening her. We knew that as soon as the cygnets hatched, we would have to
rescue the female and the youngsters. Karen checked several times a day, and
noticed two cygnets on Thursday evening. By Friday evening there were 5 cygnets,
and the new male swan was swimming close to her nest, with his wings raised,
threatening. The resident female wouldn't be able to get her cygnets onto the
water. So Karen mounted a successful rescue, and arrived here later rightly
proud and pleased with herself. Mum and cygnets are doing well.
A Hessilhead team was in Gourock on Thursday to rescue
another deer trapped in gardens. The deer was released in scrubland nearby. The
5 deer that we reared last year and overwintered in our large woodland enclosure
have been released. We have seen some of them feeding in the wood and water
The first badger cub of the year was brought in early in the
week. He is a bit of a mystery. He came from Inverness, he walks with a wobble,
and seems very tame. He is on treatment to improve his walking, and maybe
another cub will be found to keep him company. Another 2 fox cubs came on
Tuesday, and today a fox cub was found on the Glennifer Braes road, obviously
having been hit by a car. She(Charlie) was unconscious when she came, but we
can't find any fractures. This evening she had a small feed, but still
sleeps most of the time. Hopefully her treatment will have had more effect by
The 3 new tawny owl chicks were all found sitting in the
middle of busy roads, all in different places. The man who stopped to pick up
one of these youngsters saw a car drive right over the chick, which fortunately
managed to escape injury.
The heron that had fishing hooks removed from its face and
throat was released this evening, and a swan that came from Castle Semple Loch,
also with fishing hooks, was taken back to the loch the same day. A swift, not
injured, but unable to take off from the ground, was launched after being
checked over for injuries. It looked so good soaring high, then dashing after
15th May 2010
What a week. Patients too numerous to mention them all,
ranging from osprey to goosander chicks, from hedgehogs to heron and house
sparrows, more fox cubs, mallards, 3 leverets, another young tawny owl, a
buzzard, a swan family and the first of this year's baby tits. The osprey was
found at Snypes Dam, Neilston, where it was struggling to reach the bank after
catching a fish. It was thought to be tangled in fishing line, and Hesislhead
was called in to help. When David examined the bird there was no line. We think
the osprey had a caught a fish too big to lift, hence the struggle to swim
ashore. The bird was checked over, appeared to be in good health, and flew well
when released. The buzzard was found close to Beith; it was probably hit by a
car, has a droopy wing and sore back, but is making good progress. A fox
cub from Irvine was thought to be a road traffic accident victim too, but we
discovered that its injuries were older and infected. The cub is still receiving
treatment, but we are concerned about its sight.
Another fox cub, admitted with a broken leg, is now coping well with a splint.
Some goosander chicks were surprise admissions, and there are
more mallards too. We were upset to receive a call from Craig Tara Holiday Camp
near Ayr, reporting that the pond, where cygnets had hatched last week, was
being drained. This is a vertical sided pond, and once the water level dropped,
the cygnets couldn't get out of the water. By the time we got the call, 5
cygnets were dead. Two had been rescued by holiday makers. We brought the two
cygnets and mum nad dad back to Hessilhead, and the family settled in one of our
grassy enclosures. Sadly one of the cygnets died during a night of heavy rain.
Maybe this was due to being cold and wet for so long in the pond, maybe it got
wet in our enclosure. So just one cygnet from this family survives. An
unnecessary loss of tiny lives.
Last night we were called to Elderslie Golf Course to rescue
a heron. The bird was tangled in fishing line, and unable to fly. One hook was
lodged in the heron's beak, another treble hook down its throat. We managed to
remove both the hooks at the centre, gave the bird fluids and antibiotics, and
today it is eating fish.
The starling season finally arrived this week, later than
usual. Most of the young birds in care have been removed from roof spaces. They
are noisy, hungry, messy, but fun to rear. It would be better, though, if the
birds could have been left for their to rear.
This evening we were surprised to get a call from someone
with a nest box camera, reporting chicks that hadn't been fed by parents all
day. One arrival one chick was dead, the other two very cold, hardly
moving. I was surprised how quickly these chicks revived in the brooder, and now
they are looking good. They have been joined by a long tailed tit chick,
found on the ground in Annbank with part of the nest lining. No doubt these
young birds are all victims of predation.
8th May 2010
Yesterday we got 2 more clutches of ducklings, one family
from Ayr and the other from Kilbirnie. We also got 3 house sparrow chicks. Their
nest was disturbed when ivy was pulled from a wall. Ivy is a favourite place for
house sparrows to nest, and several other species of garden bird will use it
too. So remember, before cutting back bushes and shrubs or climbers, please
check that there are no occupied nests. Most of these birds raise their chicks
in a couple of weeks, so if nests are occupied, let the parents rear their
chicks, and leave your gardening till the young birds have fledged.
This evening we got 4 Canada goslings. We have rescued Canada
goslings from the Heritage park at East Kilbride several times before. A pair of
swans always nests there, and every year, a pair of Canada geese return to
breed. There is always trouble. As soon as the goslings hatch the male swan
repeatedly attacks them. Two goslings had been killed before the remaining 4
were rescued. So why do the geese always nest there?. Can they not
remember what happened the previous year. Or do they think they'll be winners
this time. I wish they would find another nest site.
6th May 2010
For the past 2 weeks we been getting calls reporting a roe
deer trapped in gardens in Greenock. The deer seemed quite content, browsing
shrubs and not being too upset by people. The gardens were close to busy roads,
so catching the deer was risky. If the deer escaped from the gardens it could
panic and run onto the road. It could cause an accident. Also, netting deer can
be risky. So we decided to wait and see what happened. Presumably if the deer
got into the gardens, it could get itself out. We hoped it would do that when
the roads were quiet during the night. The number of calls from concerned
people increased by the day, so today David and Colin went to see the situation.
Karen, our Greenock volunteer, was there to help. When the team arrived they
reckoned that the deer was in such a position that it could be safely netted.
This was carried out successfully. The deer was sedated, taken to nearby
woodland and released unharmed. Hopefully she will stay away from gardens for a
These are Colin's photos of the rescue
5th May 2010
Last night we had a call from people who had found a duck,
tangled in fishing line, and hanging from a tree. They had cut the duck free,
released her, but unfortunately she'd flown into a fence. They were worried that
she could be injured. Higher up the tree was a hollow. One of the guys went to
investigate, and discovered a nest containing a clutch of eggs. We collected the
duck, a goosander, as we'd expected, and brought her back to the centre. She had
a small wound on her chest, and a cut on her beak caused by fishing line. But
otherwise she was fine. We gave her antibiotics and now she has been released
close to her nest and eggs. She may desert the nest after the trauma of being
tangled and then handled. Then again she may not. Goosanders are fish eating
ducks and have a spiky hairdo. They nest in hollow trees, and sometimes in roof
spaces of buildings. When the ducklings hatch they must jump to the ground.
Another 6 fox cubs came today. Two are bigger than all the
others, wild and nervous. The family of 4 are tiny and look as if they haven't
eaten well for quite a while. Unfortunately the cub came on Sunday has been put
to sleep. He had several fits in his short time here and cried much of the time,
an indication that something hurt.
4th May 2010
Yesterday wasn't exactly a bank HOLIDAY Monday at Hessilhead.
We admitted 36 patients, and gave advice about deer in gardens, foxes under
buildings, and even a hedgehog in Peterborough! The first patients to arrive
were 2 injured hedgehogs, both very poorly. Then came a single duckling from
Ayr. Single mallard ducklings are difficult to rear, whereas a family group are
no trouble at all. We took two of the smallest ducklings from the family of 12,
and put these with the newcomer. That would help it to settle and feed. Later in
the day four more ducklings were found in Ayr, and then another 2. We believe
that these ducklings are from the same clutch, and now they are settled in a
brooder. The 2 older ducklings have returned to their siblings. A young collared
dove, an adult blackbird and 2 baby rabbits followed, then a feral pigeon and a
nestling dunnock. Dunnocks are one of my favourite birds. The young are so easy
to rear, quiet, sensible and easily learning to pick up food for themselves. 3
fox cubs were delivered from the SSPCA centre in Fife, an adult otter from
Tarbert, and 16 hedgehogs from the Uists. The otter is in a bad way, very thin
and with lots of infected bites. Today he has been at the vet's, having all his
wounds cleaned. We thought we had finished for the day when the last feeding
round was completed at 10.30pm. A little while later the phone rang. A fox had
been hit by a car in Pollokshields, Glasgow. It was trying to run, but couldn't
get up. Someone put the fox in his car, and we met him a few miles from the
centre. The vixen has been feeding cubs, so we hope she makes a speedy recovery.
We'd like to get her back to her family.
30th April 2010
The first clutch of ducklings arrived earlier this week. They
came from the Roads Depot in Greenock. We get at least 2 clutches of mallards
from this site every year. The female mallard always finds a secretive place to
lay her eggs, but of course the site isn't at all safe for the ducklings. Staff
at the depot box the ducklings as soon as they are seen in the yard. We collect
them as soon as possible. We wonder if the same mallard uses this site every
year, or have some of her offspring returned there to breed.
More young blackbirds arrived this week too. They are still being hand fed, but we've noticed them turning over the papers in
their cage, a sign that they are beginning to search for food for themselves.
Another young tawny owl was found on the ground in a wood
only a few miles from the centre. He sleeps much of the time, but wakes up at
25th April 2010
Fox cub no 8 arrived today. He is a young cub, 4 - 5 weeks old, and has been cared for by a family from Kelso since they found him
last weekend. You can see from his photo why they were tempted to keep him as a
pet, but they made the decision to give him a life in the wild. He will soon be
introduced to some of our other cubs. Fox cubs play rough games together, they
squabble over food, play tag, climb logs, hide under upturned dog beds and then
fall asleep together in a friendly heap. All this play is teaching them
behaviour that will help them survive in the wild. We visit the foxes as little
as possible, just providing food and water twice a day, and keeping the
enclosures clean. These cubs should grow up as wild any reared in urban areas.
24th April 2010
It has been quite a busy Saturday, with 14 patients admitted,
including 2 swans from Lanark Loch, an adult male sparrowhawk and a nestful of
dippers. The sparrowhawk was found in Union Street, Glasgow. It is underweight,
and looks a bit concussed. I guess that perhaps it was involved in collision a
few days ago, and since then has been on the ground, unable to hunt, hence the
weight loss. I hope it makes a good recovery; adult male sparrowhawks are
Dippers are quite an unusual species for us to get, and
when we do, there has usually been some interference with the nest. They are an
odd species to rear. The chicks never stretch up to beg as do blackbirds, robins
and most other garden birds. Instead they stretch their necks forwards, even
down a bit. This is because dipper nests are domed, often built under bridges,
arches or rock overhangs, and the wide entrance faces down towards the water.
Dippers feed by walking along stream or river beds, completely submerged. It
will be a challenge for us teaching these chicks how to feed.
23rd April 2010
Fox cubs number 6 and 7 were brought in yesterday. Both had
been found alone in Fife, and were brought to Hessilhead by the SSPCA. The older
cub is shy, it is the same size as the cub that was rescued from a chain link
fence last weekend. They two of them are now sharing a shed. The smaller cub is
tiny. She certainly hasn't had a good start in life, but she eats well, is very
content and hopefully she will put on a growth spurt. Natalie christened her
In the hospital the heat pads are filling up with boxes of
baby birds. We have 7 robins; 3 arrived as singles, and today a nest of 4 came
in. Their nest had been disturbed when a hedge was cut down. So remember, birds
are nesting now. Don't fell trees, cut down hedges or clear away lots of
vegetation without being sure that birds aren't nesting there.
18th April 2010
Last night we went into Glasgow to rescue a fox cub. The cub
had stuck its head through some chain link fencing, and couldn't get out again.
The people who called us had heard the cub crying for Mum, but at first they
couldn't find it. The chain link was behind their garden fence. The cub looked
really frightened when we arrived, but Andy soon cut it free and released it.
This was Jani's last rescue. Jani has been volunteering with us for 8 weeks, as
part of her degree course in conservation and wildlife management. (I wish they
had courses like that when I was a student!) Today she returned home to study!
16th April 2010
Andy and I have just spent a few days in the Cairngorms. So
it wasn't far out of our way to collect a small red squirrel that had been found
in a garden in Killin a couple of days ago. She was found under some spruce
trees that grew so closely together that we couldn't tell if there was a drey
there or not. We certainly wouldn't have been able to reach it easily. So little
squirrel is now in a brooder at Hessilhead. She is eating bread and milk, and
looks interested in nuts. We have promised to take her back to Killin when she
is old enough to fend for herself.
Two swans were rescued from Castle Semple Loch while we were
away. Both were victims of fishing tackle. As you see, one had a hook in its
beak, the other had a hook in its neck. At least the swans at Castle Semple are
easy to catch. If you park there you are likely to be surrounded by swans
checking if you have brought them bread. Both the swans have made good
Fox cub number 4 arrived in our absence. He is another little
Glasgow cub, a wee bit shy, but already eating well.
10th April 2010
The otter that arrived last week has settled in well. He is
living in an outdoor enclosure now, and eating well. It is a bit of a mystery
why he is here. He was found in the front porch of a house in Girvan, and when
young otters seek out people, it usually means they have lost their mum and are
starving. That is certainly not the case with this young otter. He is in good
condition with a shiny coat, and makes it perfectly clear that he doesn't like
people getting close. I really wish he was back with his family.
The young tawny owl that came from Lanark last week is
growing leaps and bounds. Tomorrow he will move into a large cage, and we hope
that he will have company soon.
8th April 2010
More signs of spring today. The first arrival this morning
was a tawny owl chick. This chick is too young to be out of the nest. It is too
young to stand, and and lies on its tummy to sleep. It was found on the ground,
near Lanark Loch, and would have been easy prey for a fox or easily injured by
the dogs that regularly use that area. It takes small pieces of food quite
gently from the hand.
The next arrival was a leveret (young brown hare). This
attractive youngster is less than a week old, but it has a cloudy left eye and a
droopy left ear, probably the result of injury. They are not the
easiest animals to rear, so fingers crossed.
Later today Pressie, the grey seal pup, was loaded into a
carrying box and taken to Portencross, our favourite seal release site. We
should have checked the tide times before setting out. The harbour was
completely dry, and the seal box had to be carried a long way to the harbour
mouth. Fortunately we had a good team of enthusiastic volunteers, who didn't
mind the slippery task. Everyone thought it was worth it. The seal swam off with
just one backwards glance over his shoulder. A rewarding end to the day.
7th April 2010
We collected a badger yesterday, that had been found in a
snare. This morning it was taken to the vet, as we could see that there was a
large wound under the front leg, but we couldn't examine it properly without the
badger being anaesthetized. The damage was worse than we had thought, and it
also appeared that the badger had been caught in the snare for several days. The
vets had cleaned the wounds, and begun stitching, but sadly the badger died
during the operation. Obviously this badger had suffered enormous amounts of
pain, stress and fear. This shows that no matter how much legislation is passed
attempting to make the use of snares humane, they are in fact cruel, unselective
devices designed specifically to cause stress, fear and injury. The law requires
snares to be checked once every 24 hours. Clearly this did not happen in this
case. Snares should be banned.
The first of this year's Uist hedgehogs arrived at Hessilhead
today. They are good weights, and should be released into the wild soon.
Fox cub No 3, a small cub that came from Logan, Nr Cumnock,
yesterday, has settled into his heated cage. He is eating tinned food with
6th April 2010
Fox cub No 2 arrived yesterday. He was found on a patio in
the middle of a wet night, crying for his mum. He was taken indoors, dried, and
put out again in the hope that his mum would hear his calls and come to collect
him. The cub cried, but no vixen came. Next morning the cub was brought to the
wildlife hospital. The cub was found by a vet nurse, who knew exactly what to
do, and putting the cub outside, once it was dried, was a good idea. It would
have been a happy ending if mum had returned.
The new cub is the same age as Jordon, and today they were
put into a large cage together. Tonight they are snuggled up close like old
5th April 2010
It was quite a busy Easter weekend, with calls to deal with
roe deer, badgers, a young otter, whooper swans, and there was also the
possibility of a wildcat. The cat had been fighting with domestic cats, and
yesterday forced its way through a locked cat flap. The owners of the house
managed to cage the cat, and then, given its size and markings, they'd wondered
if it could be a Scottish wildcat. They sent photos, and although a big bruiser
of a cat that looked distinctly unchuffed at being caught, it didn't quite tick
all the boxes for a wildcat. There is a possibility that it could be a hybrid
(domestic x wildcat), and this would be interesting, proving the existence of
Scottish Wildcats in that part Argyll. Another interesting call yesterday
reported a badger sleeping in a compost bin!. By the time we arrived in the
garden badger had left, but there was no doubt it had been using the compost bin
regularly. The badger entered by the door at the bottom. It had made a spiral
ramp to the top of the compost, and left its imprint there where it slept. There
was woodland not far away, but a heated bed in a compost bin in a quiet garden
must seem like a good place to sleep.
3rd April 2010
This is a busy time of year in the roe deer calendar. The roe
bucks are cleaning the velvet, (short fur), from their newly grown antlers. This
means they have good fighting equipment again. Our resident roe buck, McDougall,
has removed most of the velvet by rubbing his antlers against branches. A wild
buck has been visiting him, and there has been a bit of sparring through the
fence. McDougall is looking good for an 11 year old buck, but then he has a
Last year's young deer are being chased away from their
parents' territories now. The yearlings may be chased into new unfamiliar areas,
and many of them become road traffic victims. The young bucks have a really hard
time, often being chased from one territory to another by resident dominant
bucks. We often get calls reporting young bucks in gardens in suburban areas,
and we get called out to several RTA victims every week. Yesterday we were
called to a deer lying on the bank of the River Irvine. This deer was in very
poor condition; obviously there had been a problem for a while. Sadly the deer
died overnight, and a pm examination revealed that it had been shot. It must
have had a miserable and painful last few weeks.
Took a few more pics of Jordon today. He is beginning to take
an interest in his surroundings.
1st April 2010
For the past few months we have been trying to find a new
release site for the badger cubs that we reared last year. All our efforts
failed, so today we moved the group of badgers to the big release pen in the
wood. Four of them went into the sett quickly, with no time for photos. Number 5
galloped around a bit before going to ground.
29th March 2010
Andy and I were called out early this morning. A badger had
been spotted in a garden, and we were told that it was trapped in a fenced
patio. When we arrived at the house, which was right in the middle of a small
East Ayrshire town, we were surprised to see several hens and ducks waddling
around the garden. The owner of the property assured us that there were high
walls all round, and absolutely no way in for a short legged badger. The patio
was in a separate area of garden, the only access being over a 6' wall or
through a dense hedge. Andy went over the wall, and his appearance in the patio
seemed to upset the badger somewhat. She panicked, knocked down the flimsy gate,
forced her way through the hedge, scattered the hens, and left the property by
an old gateway behind the henhouse, that was hardly blocked at all with a
pallet. Well, better to find a fit and healthy animal than a sick or injured
one, and we were pleased to see it returning home at high speed. Another hour in
bed would have been good though!
28th March 2010
Andy and I came back from a few days on Deeside, to find that
Jordon the fox cub had grown a lot. He was still drinking milk 4 times a day,
but when I offered him a dish of tinned cat food he thought that was a good
substitute. He had 2 bottles for the next 2 days, then was weaned. While he was
still feeding from a bottle he had a funny habit of putting his hands up. Mel,
despite being so boisterous and playful, showed a maternal side to her nature,
and helped to clean him after each feed.
18th March 2010
Well, guess what? It is spring at Hessilhead. The
first fox cub came into care today. The little cub, eyes closed, probably a week
to 10 days old, was found in a garden in Jordonhill. There was no sign of his
mum, and no other cubs. He is sleeping peacefully in a heated cage, and has had
a small drink of milk. He hasn't been very co-operative about having a photo
taken yet. This is the best we have managed.
16th March 2010
Today we released Buddy the common seal at Portencross. He
spent quite a while swimming around the harbour, exploring the boats and thought
about coming ashore, before swimming out to sea and apparently deciding that was
where he belonged. He seemed quite confident about his return to the sea.
Taste of freedom
More space here than in my tank
More space here than in my tank
David points the way to sea
Hey dog, you coming too?
15th March 2010
The last few days have been fairly quiet, but there is good
news about some of the patients in care. The fox from Kilmacolm has moved from
the hospital to an outside enclosure. He seems much more content there, and his
wounds are healing well.
The sparrowhawk that has been in care for 4 weeks, has at
last begun to feed herself. We are used to sparrowhawks being difficult
patients, that are often reluctant to eat anything other than natural food.
This bird had been offered pigeon and blackbird, but it ignored them. It was
hand fed 3 times every day, then sometimes we'd leave it for a day and a half,
hoping it would get hungry enough to eat. David made a breakthrough last week,
when the sparrowhawk started taking food from the forceps. then it picked up
some of the chopped up food from the dish. The next step was to leave a dish of
chopped food in the cage, and when the bird had eaten that it was replaced by a
complete item of food. Now the bird is self feeding, and behaving much more like
a normal sparrowhawk, ie it panics whenever we go near the cage. So it looks
like this bird will soon be back in the wild.
Good news too about a buzzard that was badly concussed,
then had an operation to remove a deep seated abcess from behind its eye.
The buzzard is an aviary now, flying well, landing well and eating well.
Hopefully it will be back in the wild before the breeding season.
12th March 2010
Two swans were rescued while Andy and I enjoyed a couple of
days away this week. One of them was found at Ardeer Rec, with a fishing hook in
its leg. The other swan, more seriously injured, was rescued from Barshaw park
in Paisley. It had been attacked by a dog.
8th March 2010
On Friday we picked up a fox from Kilmacolm. This fox has
been frequenting gardens, and several people have been feeding it. We heard that
it was limping badly, and asked all the people that were feeding it, if they
could work together, so the fox could be encouraged into a shed. The fox looked
really healthy and was active, but on examination we discovered a large wound
under the leg. It was so bad that I wasn't at all sure it could be treated. Good
news so far. The fox has just returned from the vet. The wound has been cleaned,
and the vet hopes that it will heal, given time. The tricky bit is going to be
applying Dermisol creme every day. I doubt if the fox will like that. He looks a
bit odd, as the end of his tail had been injured and was dead. That has been
amputated, and the new tip of the tail is temporarily hairless.
The fox was just one of the patients we dealt with today. In
the early hours of this morning the police delivered a rta deer from Skelmorlie.
We were grateful for that. It would have taken us over two hours to go and
collect it, whereas it only took 15 minutes to treat the deer for concussion and
settle it down for the night. This morning Andy and Andrea (our Swiss volunteer)
went to rescue a heron that had been seen sulking beside the cycle path for the
last couple of days. This is an adult bird, quite thin, probably as a result of
the prolonged cold weather. This afternoon David, Colin and Andrea went on a
deer rescue. We heard about the young buck yesterday. It was in a garden in
Wishaw, and quite agitated, but the garden was close to a busy road. We
suggested the deer was left alone, and hoped that it would find its way out
overnight. It didn't. Our team quickly caught the deer in a net, sedated it, and
took it to nearby Greenhead Moss Community nature Park. There it was given an antidote to the sedative,
and released successfully. A happy ending to the day.
young roe buck trapped in garden
deer being removed from net
deer carried to Greenhead Moss
deer recovers from the sedative
and runs away
Thank you to Lesley Mark who supplied these
photos, and called us out to rescue the deer from her garden.
4th March 2010
Buzzards seem to have had a better winter than they did last
year. The ones that have come into care have mostly been road traffic victims,
and they have been a good weight. On 15th February we released a buzzard that
had been found on the duel carriageway near Troon. 10 days later it was back,
picked up in almost the same place, concussed again. The bird was a good weight,
which tells us that it has been getting plenty of food since its release.
Perhaps this buzzard doesn't hunt for food. Maybe it picks up road kills. So far
it has been lucky enough to survive these accidents, but we wonder how long that
2nd March 2010
Tawny owls have been getting into all sorts of trouble
recently. We had a call from a mining company at Lugar, reporting 3 tawnies
covered in oil. One of these birds was so weak that it was put to sleep
straightaway. We wiped as much oil as possible from the other two, and next day
they went to the SSPCA's oil bird cleaning unit in Fife. Sadly one of these
didn't survive, but the other came back fit and healthy, and has now been
Then came a report that a tawny owl had been found hanging
from a tree, tangled in fishing line. This was in Dumfries-shire, quite a long
way from here, and it was quite early in the morning. Luckily one of the
Wildlife Crime officers was willing to help, and with help from the local water
bailiff, they reached the owl and cut it free. We removed the rest of the line
and gave the bird a couple of night's rest, then Grace took it back to release
it in its own territory.
Many tawny owls will be incubating eggs now, so it is
important to release them as soon as possible. The following evening there was a
report of a tawny owl hit by a car. This bird was badly concussed, and reluctant
to stand or eat for several days. It is now on the road to recovery, so
hopefully will be back in the wild soon.
16th February 2010
One of our volunteers rescued a tawny owl on Sunday. The bird
was in a field behind a block of flats in Largs. It was being attacked by crows,
and the resident from the flats who called us, said it had been there for
several days. The bird is in fairly good condition, but strangely for a tawny
owl, isn't feeding itself. We think it had probably flown into something, been
concussed and unable to hunt. So it needs some tlc for a while.
Today we released another buzzard. This was the one that had
a torn crop. The crop was stitched and healed well. We released the bird close
to where it had been found. It flew across the field with confidence.
11th February 2010
Two days ago an otter was brought across from Arran. This is
an adult male otter, but emaciated and was very weak. It is covered in bites, so
must have been feeling pretty miserable. Really the otter was so weak we thought
it may not survive. But so far, its good news. The otter is eating well now. He
is eating 4 fat herring every day, and sleeps a lot, which always aids recovery.
The little red squirrel is making good progress, although it
still doesn't have the full use of its back legs.
Someone was brave enough to stop on the M77 today, to pick up
an injured sparrowhawk. The bird must have been in collision, it is concussed
and has an injured eye. At present it is resting in a heated box.
7th February 2010
One of the buzzards was released today. It was collected by
the man who stopped on the dual carriageway to save the bird from further
injury. The bird was concussed and had an injured talon, but has made a good
recovery. I think it would fly from the box as soon as it was opened. We always
like to let people see the release of a bird that they rescued. For most people
this is a once in a lifetime experience.
After the buzzard had been collected, Andy and I went off to
release the kestrel that was found huddled on a doorstep during the cold
weather. What a weight it is now!. I wondered if it would have trouble hovering,
but it had no trouble flying from the release box, gaining height rapidly, and
chasing a magpie out of its territory. Then it perched on a power line and had a
good look around. It seemed like an ideal territory, with a large area of newly
planted trees, and rough grazing. I bet there are plenty of voles living there.
2nd February 2010
Yesterday we admitted an unusual casualty, especially for
this time of year. The red squirrel was found in a garden at Tighnabruaich. It
was hanging from a tree, apparently unable to free itself. It came with a food
box, full of its favourite nuts and pears. It does seem that this squirrel has a
problem with its hind legs. It could be a back or pelvic problem. We are giving
it anti-inflammatory drugs, and if there is no improvement in a few days, the
squirrel will need to be x-rayed. It has settled well in a hospital cage. It
sleeps curled up in a fleece hat, and takes its food to bed so it can eat out of
31st January 2010
Last night we were out late, following a report of a badger
lying on the road near Eaglesham. It took us quite a long time to find this
casualty, as we hadn't been given good directions. Sadly, when it was found, it
was dead. Two nights ago we were out for a fox, also a road casualty. The person
who found this casualty stayed till we arrived to collect. This is always
helpful, and can prevent the animal being hit again by another vehicle. The fox
is quite badly injured, but is receiving veterinary treatment for injured front
feet and concussion. We are not sure yet that it will make a full recovery.
24th January 2010
It looks like being a funny sort of year. For the 1st 3 weeks
everywhere is frozen and covered in snow, and then hedgehogs start coming into
care. Shouldn't they still be fast asleep? One of today's new arrivals is a
small hog, so probably woke up early because it had used up all its stored fat.
The other is a large hog, so there is no obvious reason for it being found
wandering around a garden in the daytime.
Late this afternoon we had a call from a motorist to say he
had picked up a buzzard at the roadside. He was pleased to bring it to the
hospital straightaway, and arrived half an hour later with the buzzard wrapped
in his jacket. The buzzard was quiet, obviously concussed, but more serious was
the tear in its crop. The buzzard's last meal was falling out of this wound. It
needed attention quickly. We cleaned the wound, gave local anaesthetic and
stitched first the wall of the crop and then the outer skin. that looked a lot
better. We gave the bird antibiotics and painkiller, and left it in a box on a
heat pad. I have just been back to the hospital and given the buzzard fluids by
crop tube. I am hopeful that it will make a full recovery.
23rd January 2010
Today Sooty the tawny owl was ready for release. It says a
lot for the people who found the owl that they were keen to come and collect it,
and release it in their garden. Apparently its mate has been calling every
evening, no doubt wondering what happened to its pal. The people have taken a
sensible precaution against this type of accident happening again. they have had
their chimney capped with wire mesh.
19th January 2010
Andy and I were at a meeting in Glasgow today. We returned
home to find a very sooty tawny owl. It had fallen down a chimney in Kilbarchan,
and probably left a room in need of a major clean. It isn't unusual for tawnies
to fall down chimneys. Presumably they are looking for nest sites, and having
got so far down find it difficult to climb back up. By the time the owls are
found in the fireplace, or rescued from the lower part of the chimney, they may
have been trapped for several days. So the first treatment is fluids given by
crop tube, and then saline solution in the eyes. This owl's eyes were closed
tight, probably really sore. So ointment will be given for the next few days. By
the time we had given the owl its second dose of fluids in the evening,
our hands and clothes were black. The owl had already been wiped with a damp
cloth, but it looks as if it will take quite a while to clean it up.
17th January 2010
This weekend we released more wildlife than we admitted. The
snow has almost disappeared, and some of the casualties that we've had in care
were restless to go. Swans were released on Friday at Irvine Harbour, and today
we released woodcock, redwings, a fieldfare and a robin. New patients include an
underweight kestrel found huddled in a doorway at midnight on Saturday, and a
mallard drake. The mallard felt very odd when we picked it up to examine. Its
neck was rigid, the bird very thin. We opened the beak and at the back of the
throat could see dry bread. We carefully worked the bread into the mouth, more
and more of it kept appearing. The mallard must have been so hungry that when it
found food it ate and ate, but without any water. The bird was so stuffed with
bread that it couldn't bend its neck. We removed as much bread as possible, then
gave the bird a bowl of water, and another. Later we gave one slice of bread in
water. It was eaten straightaway. Then another. Now the mallard is eating wild
bird seed soaked in water. It will take quite a while for the duck to regain a
respectable weight, but it doesn't look as if there will be any problem
persuading this casualty to eat.
15th January 2010
Andy and I are just back from Glasgow with a swan. The swan
landed on the M8, which of course could be dangerous for swan and motorists, but
by the time we arrived it had been herded across a wide grass verge, and was
being restrained by 3 police officers. Vehicles were passing safely. The swan is
in great condition despite the difficult weather conditions of recent weeks. It
will be released tomorrow.
14th January 2010
As you know, we try to run a 24 hour rescue service. During
the night, we usually respond to calls about injured animals lying on roads, or
others in dangerous and emergency situations. I could understand why a lady
phoned at 3am this morning. She thought that the fox in her garden was in
terrible pain, 'having babies'. I explained that this wasn't the case, it is far
too early for vixens to give birth, and that what she was hearing was a mating
call, a prelude in fact, to what she thought was happening. Those of you who
live in areas populated by foxes, will know that the calls they make at this
time of year, could easily be mistaken for someone screaming for help. The lady
on the phone wasn't convinced by my explanation. She wanted us to go and remove
the fox. She said it was keeping her awake. That was true. An hour later the
phone rang again. This time it was Andy's turn to speak to the same lady, still
not able to sleep, and still worried about the fox. By now she was worried that
her neighbours wouldn't be able to sleep either. After several minutes on the
phone, explaining again that foxes are really noisy at this time of year, I
could tell that Andy was thinking that this fox was keeping him from sleeping
12th January 2010
This evening we were on our way to a meeting in Glasgow, when
we got a call from our volunteer in Greenock, Karen. She'd had a call from
someone reporting a seal pup in trouble on rocks below The Esplanade. She was on
her way. We had no doubt that Karen would get the seal. She always does. So the
next call from her reported that she was on the way to Hessilhead, and would
leave the pup in a pen in the swan hospital. So when we returned home this
evening we had a stroppy, but very young seal pup to treat. This is another
unweaned pup, about 3 weeks old, and still with some white baby fur. We wonder
why pups are being born so late in the season this winter. Andy brought the pup
to the hospital, where it will be warmer. We gave it rehydration fluids and
antibiotics, and hope that it will be in a better frame of mind by morning.
8th January 2010
Andy and I are just back from an interesting swan rescue in
Ayr. A swan had crash landed on a flat roof overlooking the river. The roof has
a covering of snow, so presumably that confused the swan. The swan was reluctant
to walk, so we have brought it back to the centre for observation. While on the
roof, we had an unusual view of the Auld Kirk in Ayr.
Earlier in the day we admitted another woodcock, a redwing, a
pipistrelle bat, 2 swans, a buzzard and a roe deer. The deer was a very
upsetting and sad case. It had tried to jump a fence, misjudged the height, or
slipped in the snow, and got a foot caught in the top wires of the fence.
Obviously the deer had been hanging there for hours. The blood supply to the
foot was severed, and the foot, literally, frozen. The deer was still alive, but
with a foot missing, would not cope in the wild. It has been put to sleep.
You may find the photos distressing.
On a happier note, pics around
otter enjoying fresh water
Redwing feeding on the lawn
Fieldfare feeding on the lawn
Mel in action
Feeding time at the pond
Feeding time at the pond
7th January 2010
This first week of 2010 will be remembered as woodcock week.
8 woodcock have been admitted in the last few days. That is twice what we'd
normally expect in a year! The problem, of course, is the weather. Woodcock are
having to leave their normal haunts, usually wet woodland, where they are hidden
and well camouflaged. They are being seen in gardens, parks and roadside verges.
They are probing new places, hoping to find soft ground and a supply of worms,
their favourite diet. Most of those brought to us have been caught by cats. Some
have been quite badly injured, but others have only minor scars and a few
missing feathers, and some are still in quite good condition. The difficulty for
us is getting enough food for the birds. Digging enough worms, day and after,
for one woodcock is tedious. Imaging trying to find worms for half a dozen
woodcock, under several inches of snow and frozen ground. We are attempting to
interest the woodcock in mealworms, and also seeds and berries. The definitive
book on the subject says they DO eat berries, but we've never had a woodcock
that has read that book! We also have 2 other waders, an oystercatcher and a
redshank. They are being co-operative and versatile about food.
5th January 2010
It was good to see some of the staff and more volunteers back
this week. Andy and I have enjoyed being more hands on over the festive period,
but we hadn't expected so much freezing weather to slow us down. We were
fortunate in having a new resident volunteer, Jory, who flew in from Canada on
Boxing Day. She is being very tolerant of the lack of water in the caravan
(frozen pipes) and having left temperatures of -30. doesn't have a problem with
Today we admitted a new seal pup. Pressie was found on
Prestwick beach. She is emaciated, but a bigger pup than Bari. She still has
baby fur on her flippers, and a strange blaze of it remains on her face. She has
been given the usual treatment of rehydration fluid, anitbiotics and vitamins,
but still looks rather sad.
Bari is doing well. She is eating small whole herring now,
and showing interest in feeding herself.
Bari and Pressie meet each other
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