Wildlife Rescue Trust
Caring for Scotland's injured and orphaned wildlife  


31st December 2003

Swan flies through bedroom window.

We have rescued swans from a variety of situations, such as the top of a lorry, the bottom of a dry dock, the roof of a factory, but till last night, we had never heard of a swan flying through someone's bedroom window. The very cold weather of recent days means that most ponds and lochs are frozen. I expect the young swan took off in search of water. It was on course for the River Gryffe in Bridge of Weir, but failed to see the bungalow between the trees and the river. When we arrived to collect the casualty, it was sitting beside the bed, somewhat dazed, and the thoughtful owners of the house had covered most of the broken glass with a blanket, thus preventing the cygnet getting more cuts. The swan seems to got off with minor injuries, mainly cuts on the feet and a bruised eye. The owners of the house will have interesting insurance claim!

3rd December 2003


I needed photos for the Sponsor-a-patient scheme today, so I enjoyed walking round the centre seeing various casualties. Skinny Tinny, the seal is eating well now, and no longer skinny. the Helensburgh swan, run over by a taxi, is walking better, the whooper swan still has a slight head tilt, but stomps around the enclosure confidently. The two young deer are shy and difficult to photograph, McDougall, the roe buck, cast his antlers last week, so looks quite babyish. Sweetie Pie, this year's hand reared fox who is too tame for release, has moved in to the big fox enclosure. It must have been an adventure for him, he seems to be enjoying the company and the space. Over 30 hedgehogs are snuggled in jerseys in the hospital, bats snooze the day away, the barbed wire sparrowhawk has started to feed itself, and little otter,still needing a bit of help with eating, is stretched on his back, digesting breakfast of almost 2 herring.

There is still time to sponsor-a-patient for christmas.

30th December 2003


This week we had two night calls for foxes. The first fox had been frightened by dogs, and had struggled away when we arrived. There was no chance of finding it in the tightly packed gardens. the following night we were called by the driver whi hit a fox, just near Sheddans Roundabout, south Glasgow. the fox had limped into a garden, and the family had kept watch till we arrived. the poor fox was obviously badly injured, it couldn't even climb a foot high wall. it died soon after we got it back to the hospital. With these disappointments, it was good to get a much brighter looking fox yesterday. It was another rta, from Edinburgh. She was carrying a leg, and as there appeared to be no fracture there, an x-ray was called for. This was interesting. The x-rray revealed a fracture in the pelvis, as Rosie the vet, suspected. It also showed that the 'good' hind leg had been broken previously. It has healed very badly, with the bone displaced and lots of swelling. yet the fox was walking on that leg, without a limp! I wonder how many foxes get injured, lie up for a few days, and then continue life as before. Life for some town and city foxes is relatively easy, with people putting out food regularly. I suppose the survival rate of injured foxes would be lower if they had to hunt for their food.

We have had so many swans tangled in discarded fishing tackle this year, that I am going to mention everyone. Today's casualty was yet another young swan from Castle Semple Loch. It had swallowed line, but luckily no hook, which means that it will be ready for release in a few days. But if swallowed line goes unnoticed, it is a killer too. I can't explain why fishing related problems have risen dramatically this year. Lets hope next year brings a reduction.

To finish the day, (well I hope it was the last call), people brought a bat that had been found in their dishwasher. No problem with the bat; it will be released on the next mild night.

27th December 2003

Swan Success

Sylvia and Craig went back to Aloch Dam today, and this time managed to corner the swan and catch her. The hook was removed, no damge had been caused, and the swan was released to have a good feed. There was a report of another swan in trouble at Castle Semple Loch. This swan had also swallowed line, but one loop of line had caught beneath her beak, another loop over the upper beak. When the swan swallowed, the line cut into the soft tissue of the beak. She was unable to swallow properly, as the food couldn't pass the line down her throat. Unusually for a swan in trouble, 3AUI gave herself up, by marching across to Andy and demanding bread. We pulled gently on the line, and could feel some movement. Luckily, this time there was no hook. The line came out with a bundle of rather smelly weed and bread tangled through it. After antibiotics the swan was returned to the loch.

It seems to have been all swans and buzzards recently. December Buzzard no 5 was brought in today, a road casualty from the Stepps bypass. Although reluctant to stand, he seems to be sore rather than having anything broken. Hopefully he will soon be up and flying.

26th December 2003

Christmas swans

Yesterday was quiet, with one patient delivered and Andy and I called out to rescue a swan at Milton of Campsie. It was another fishing tackle problem. the female swan of a family group had a fishing hook in her neck. She had swallowed the line, so that every time she stretched her neck to eat or drink, the line pulled tight and stopped her just short of the water surface. It was distessing to watch her, and sadly we failed to catch her. It is nearly always the case that the swan with the problem will be hanging back, out of reach.

Sylvia and Craig, our volunteer swan catchers from Kirkintilloch, went to Aloch Dam today, and had no more success than us, despite Sylvia getting wet and very muddy. They went on to Broadwood Loch, at Cumbernauld, and got hold of a swan which had been reported a few days ago, as having difficulty walking. Of course we could only see that if she was off the water when we were there. The swan has had a broken leg, which has healed badly, and its numbered metal ring is rubbing the bone. We have removed the ring, and will monitor her progress.

23rd December 2003

Another swan, must be fishing tackle!

The swan had line hanging from its beak, and an X-ray showed a hook high in the neck, but too far down to reach without surgery. Luckliy Rosie was on hand to operate immediately. The hook had penetrated the trachea, so was tricky to remove. By evening the swan was standing; it was even hissing when anyone approached. It has been kept on fluids for 48 hours, but today has been allowed to eat. Should be convalescing outside in a day or two.

21st December 2003

Raptor Influx

We have 4 buzzards in the hospital now. The A737 buzzard is making good progress, though still receiving eye drops. The Loch Lomond buzzard has a fracture at the very end of the spine. it is splinted. There is a Barrhill buzzard, a young bird, thin and with a very heavy parasite burden when admitted. Today we collected a buzzard from Wishaw. It has an old carpal injury, has probably lost a small piece of bone, but has managed to maintain its weight, and is flying well. Hopefully all will make it back to the wild. Three kestrels have been admitted in the last few days. One, a very small juvenile male, was found tangled in a fence. One was a road traffic victim, and has a nasty broken wing; the other was also found on the road, has an eye injury and was underweight. The good news is that the Dalmellington buzzard is flying well in the aviary, and will be released before Christmas.

17th December 2003

Seal Rescue

We have been waiting since Friday to rescue the seal which was trapped in Hunterston Nuclear Power Station. Occasioanlly seals are sucked through a 12 foot diameter pipe, with the sea water that is used to cool the plant. We have rescued seals from Hunterston before, and we know that the waiting game is inevitable. The seal had been spotted in the surge tank. To be rescued, it must enter one of the 4 screen tanks. These are approximately 30' square, 40' deep, and most of that space is occupied by a wheel that resembles a huge washing machine drum. The seal can be shut in the screen tank, but the electronic gate takes so long to close, that sometimes the seal swims back to the surge pool. Once the seal is secured in a screen tank, pumping begins. It takes about 4 hours to empty the tank. Then it is a simple matter for a Hessilhead team to climb down to the floor of the tank. Our large carrying box is lowered down by crane, and the seal is encouraged, or sometimes manhandled into the box. The box is then secured in a cargo net, and hoisted back to ground level. We heard this morning that the seal was in a screen tank, and we expected to complete the rescue and be home for lunch. We hadn't allowed for the new, stringent safety regulations. It took nearly 4 hours to complete the risk assessments and paperwork, and less than 15 minutes to rescue the seal! The seal was fit and healthy, and released down the coast at Portencross.

Of course we had been away from the centre for hours. The seals pups and otter cub were hungry, the deer were waiting for their fruit and veg, the hospital patients needed medication. Then there was a buzzard to collect at Loch Lomond. and finally there was a report of a fox in hiding under a luggage bay at Glasgow airport. A quick inspection under the luggage bay revealed a fox's playground. It was only 2' high, but getting on for half an acre of pipes, wires, rubble and exit holes. The fox that staff thought they had trapped there, was probably the one that crossed the road in front of us as we entered the airport.

13th December 2003


The 3 seals we rescued last weekend are doing well. Joyce is fairly well behaved, and lets Andy feed her without too much fuss. The smallest seal, Raggy, is doing well. He is off milk now and taking sprats with a little encouragement. Then there is Sam the Skull, the seal with attitude. I went into the swan hospital this morning. That is where the seals are based just now. Sam was in the passage way, lying on his back, kicking his hind flippers, slapping his front flippers against his flanks, and squirming. It was a full blown tantrum. You could almost here him saying, 'I won't, I hate you', as Andy tried in vain to get the seal the right way up, so he could feed him. Andy won the battle eventually. Tomorrow we hope to move Joyce and Sam to outdoor pools. They are more likely to feed themselves there.

12th December 2003


Yesterday at coffee time, we were discussing seals that we had rescued from the local nuclear power station. Some our staff had been at a diving club meeting, and their instructor works at Hunterston. She had been involved in the last rescue. So it was no surprise that today I got a call from the Power Station. Talking about trapped seals had tempted fate. Another had been spotted in the surge tank. Hessilhead is on standby, ready to move in and rescue the seal as soon as it is contained in one of the screen tanks. I'll keep you informed.

11th December 2003

Peregrine released

The peregrine was restless today, has been eating well. We decided to try the bird in aviary. It flew straight up to the roof, and hung on with its talons, its wing flapping perfectly. So it went straight into a carrying box, was taken close to where it was found, and released. It wasted no time in taking off, and we had really good views of it flying away, circling first and then heading north. Getting birds out so quickly is really rewarding.

9th December 2003


It wasn't surprising to get a calll about an injured buzzard on the A737. Every time we drive that road, several buzzards are seen perched on fence posts or wires. They often fly low across the road. Amanda went to find the bird, but in her absence, someone delivered it to the centre. It looks very bruised, with one eye closed and swollen, but no bones broken. Tonight it is resting in a warm box, feeling very sorry for itself. I guess it might feel even more bruised tomorrow. The person who stopped and picked up the buzzard probably saved its life. Getting an injured animal/bird into care as quickly as possible (safety permitting), is always the best course of action. If it had been left on the road, it probably would have been hit again. Its injuries could have been much worse.

8th December 2003


It was a relief to go into the swan hospital this morning, and find that all 3 seals were still alive. Two of the seals are good strong pups, but both have nasty infections causing discharge from ears and nose. The 3rd pup looked awful last night. Hollow tummy, sunken eyes, lying flat, little response. We gave it warm fluids and anti-biotics and a pain killer, as the dog bites looked particularly sore. We left it under a heat lamp, fingers crossed.

This morning the youngest pup, still with much of its long white coat, looked a little better. There is a long way to go yet, but hears hoping.

The day finished with a peregrine being delivered. A falconer had found the injured bird while flying his own harris hawk. He knew how to handle the peregrine, a small male bird, and transported it well in a box specially made for raptors. The peregrine has shoulder injury, but there doesn't seem to be a fracture. hopefully it will soon be flying again.

7th December 2003

Seals, hogs and more

Did someone mention that we haven't been very busy? Well today started with a swan crashing into a pylon line at Renfrew, and by the time we were home with that, our friends, Joyce and Grahan had found a seal pup on the beach at Dunbar. We made arrangements to meet Joyce and Graham, leaving Pete and Cheryl to hold the fort. but by the time we left for Edinburgh, there were 3 seals to be collected. We arrived home with a laden car, 3 seal pups, a hedgehog, a chaffinch and another woodcock. Did I mention that the temperatues are now below zero! Meanwhile Pete and Cheryl had admitted another hog, a crow and a collared dove. No before Christmas quiet spell this year.

5th December 2003


It hasn't been very busy for the last few days. Another swan with a treble hook in its tongue, a late hedgehog baby, the inevitable pigeon, a crow with a head injury, and a woodcock. It is odd that most of our woodcock come frfom the city. Mostly they come in autumn and early winter, and most are thought to be migrant birds, recently arrived from Europe. Weary from their long flight, they are then easily confused by city lights and tall buildings. Most of ours have flown into buildings, and shoulder injuries are a common problem. The biggest problem with woodcock is that they only eat worms, and like lots of them. We can be sure that the arrival of woodcock will herald a drop in temperatures, making worms more difficult to come by.

2nd December 2003


A small male buzzard was delivered to the Wildlife hospital on Sunday evening. It was very subdued, didn't stand, was underweight. We gave it rehydration fluids, an anti-inflammatory injection, and left it on heat for the night. No change all next day, but hand fed small amounts meat. This afternoon we were discussing the buzzard, wondering why it didn't seem able or willing to stretch its talons. Suddenly there was a commotion in the hospital, and there was the buzzard, standing on the edge its cardboard box, shaking the towel from its head. There doesn't seem to be a leg problem now! The Dalmellington buzzard, that spent several days removing its bandage before accepting defeat, has now had the offending red bandage removed. It spent a few days in a shed, and has now moved to a large aviary. It should be back at Dalmellington for Christmas.

25th November 2003


Hessilhead members can expect a newsletter to drop through their letter box in the next few days. Between treating patients, feeding and cleaning we managed to fold, put in envelopes and stamp over 800 newsletters today. Those who are not yet supporters can get information on our membership scheme, sponsor-a-patient scheme and Chrsitmas sales goods by e-mailing info@hessilhead.org.uk

24th November 2003

Sparrowhawk from Bute

We got a call last night about a sparrowhawk found tangled on a barbed wire fence. The people who found the bird had been afriad to remove the barb for fear of causing more damge, so they had cut the fence, leaving a piece of wire attached to the bird's wing. We couldn't do anything straightaway, as the sparrowhawk was on Bute, and the last ferry had already left. We collected the bird from the ferry this morning, after picking up a fox from Paisley. The sparrowhawk was soon under anaesthetic, undergoing surgery to remove the barb and repair the damage. This evening she was on the road to recovery, eating well.

The fox is in poor condition, suffering from a badly infected wound. She is getting the best of treatment.

23rd November 2003

Good and bad

It seemed a bad start to the day when we found that the rta fox, delivered last night, had died. Then we looked back on the week, and things weren't so bad. We had released a tawny owl which had been in care for 3 weeks. It had been a road casualty too, badly bruised and shaken. We released it where it had been found, and it flew strongly acroos fields to the woods. We had released three swans, 2 fishing tackle victims and one the loser in a territorial dispute. We have a sparrowhawk ready for release today, and the balch-headed gull which came yesterday is desperate to be off. the gull was another fishing tackle victime. It had a hook in the side of its mouth, and was tangled to a bush by yards of line. It was tricky removing the hook, bit it seems no serious damage had been done.

Best of all the little otter cub seems to be doing well. He is eating fish, still with a bit of help, and likes us to vary the menu with trout and salmon, herring and sprats. His coat has grown softer and longer, and he is becoming more active.

18th November 2003


Swans are regular casualties in the winter. On Sunday a cygnet was delivered from Drumpellier Country Park. It had been avoiding capture for more than a week, since it was first noticed that line was protruding from its mouth. No wonder the cygnet was reluctant to eat. A treble hook was embedded in its tongue, and the two upper barbs were rubbinbg the roof of its mouth. It must have been constantly painful. Under local anaestheetic the hook was removed, and after a course of antibiotics the cygnet will return to Drumpellier. Later on Sunday two swans hit wires and crashed on the road near Glasgow Green. Sadly one of them didn't survive; the other seems unharmed. Monday brought another swan call, this time from Castle Semple loch. We soon spooted the miserable loooking adult swan. head down, swimming slowly, no interest in food. We managed to get her as she wass pushed ashore by other hungry swans. She had a very long length of line down her throat, caught under her lower beak. It was gently eased out, along with the food that couldn't be swallowed.

15th November 2003


Andy and I were at the Scottish Badger Conference today. We usally look forward to events such as this, for as well as a good line-up of speakers, there is the chance to catch up with friends that we don't see often. This year we had to force ourselves away from Hessilhead. The reason for this was Friday night's late arrival...an otter cub. I admit to being smitten by otters, and cubs like Tadpole, 6 to 7 weeks old, are adorable. He is eating fish with encouragement, which means that if we push a piece into his mouth, he sucks it initially, then remembers he has teeth, and chews. Between feeds he sleeps on his back, tucked up in a fleese, beneath a heat lamp. He was well cared for in our absence, and I guess he got a few cuddles too! (The badger conference was well worth attending.)

13th November 2003


Today we released a sparrowhawk that had recovered well from a shoulder injury. We simply opened the aviary, so she could go at her own pace. As she had been found in Dunlop, just a few miles from Hessilhead, she will probably return to her own territory. Not long after leaving her aviary door open, we got a call from Galston, reporting an injured kestrel. It turned out to be another sparrowhawk, also a female, and also with a shoulder injury. Hopefully she will recover as quickly as the last one. We have another sparrowhawk ready to go. She will be taken back to her own territory, close to Ayr.

10th November 2003

Whooper swans

Sadly, last week's whooper swan didn't survive. It was a surprise to hear of another whooper swan in trouble yesterday, and even more surprising that when people took a boat onto the water, it was easily caught. Whooper swans don't breed in Britain. They spend the summer months in Iceland, and migrate to Britain in autumn. A flock of them, usually numbering between 100 and 200, spend the winter in the vicinity of Glasgow Airport and Paisley. Yesterday's swan was found on Glenburn reservoir, at the southern edge of Paisley. It was swimming circles, and seems to be suffering from a head injury. It is likely to be a difficult patient, as whooper swans are much wilder, more aggressive and more nervous than mute swans. They rarely eat bread, or for that matter anything else, when first taken into care.

7th November 2003


Last Friday we released 6 of hand reared cygnets, and an adult swan that had been disabled by fishing line. The line had been pulled tight round the swan's leg, and when she first came into care, she could hardly walk. She was almost perfect by the time she was released. The cygnets looked good too. Most of them weighed over 9kg. We still have 3 cygnets, who need to put on more weight, and a few recuperating swans. Towards the end of this week more swans came into care. There is a cygnet from Kilsyth, reported as being unable to walk. It has a collection of fishing tackle in its gizzard. There is another adult swan crippled by fishing line, which was almost completely embedded in its leg. The x-ray shows extensive damage, but now that the line is removed, hopefully there will be some improvement in the swans ability to use its foot. There is also a whooper swan, which is in very poor condition. Whoopers are terrible patients. They are usually very aggressive, but this one cannot put up much of a fight. They are usually reluctant to eat too, not being accustomed to bread as are our mute swans. So this whooper is being tube fed, at least for the weekend. It might be strong enough to join the resident whooper in the enclosure next week. That would help it to settle down and having company would encourage it to eat.

4th November 2003

Little Auk Released

The Little Auk was restless this morning. It had another 2mls of Polyaid, then Andy took it to the coast on his way to Greenock, where he was giving a talk on Hessilhead to the Probus Club. He released the little auk between Largs and Skelmorlie, and reported that it was last seen flying strongly in the direction of Rothesay.

3rd November 2003

Monday mix

We had quite a mixture of patients today. First call came from an East Ayrshire Community Recreation Centre in Kilmarnock. An owl had entered the building during the night. Andy set off straight away and soon had the owl netted. Surprisingly it was a barn owl. As it was uninjured Andy released it immediately. It made for the trees presumably looking forward to quiet day sleep. Then Mary a regular volunteer arrived with a cat victim house sparrow rescued from her rescued cat. Really he should have known better. Just after lunch we had a call from Sommerfields in Clydebank. A bird was under a customer car. She was afraid to drive away in case she crushed it. I persuaded the caller to push the bird out with a sweeping brush and if possible to put it in a box. The next call reported that the bird was ready for collection. What a surprise when our couriers delivered it later. It wasnít a magpie as they thought but a Little Auk. These are small dumpy seabirds about the size of a fledgling blackbird. At this time of year they should be at sea but storms sometimes bring them inland. As we were heading for the coast we took the bird and tried to release but he was reluctant to fly so we brought him back. I have been giving him polyaid high energy liquid food this evening. Andy will try releasing him tomorrow. We were at the coast to collect a bat from Rothesay. It wouldn fly and hasnít eaten for at least 2 days. It enjoyed the polyaid too. We returned from the Scottish Ornithologist Club meeting in Glasgow to find an injured blackbird had been delivered another cat victim. I checked up on Tum-tum while Andy prepared a talk for tomorrow. Rosie our vet anaesthetized Tum-tum today to clean out an abscess which has been bothering him for a while. He seemed sleepy but quite content in his shed.

30th October 2003


Owls numbers are building up in the hospital. This week two more were admitted. One is a barn owl, caught, surprsingly by a goshawk which was being flown at pheasants. This is a young male barn owl, and luckily was taken from the goshawk unharmed. It is getting antibiotics in case of puncture wounds, and after a few days rest and good food, it will be released where it was taken.

Last night we had a call to say an owl was sitting on the pavement near Gateside. It is one of our hand reared tawny owls, released a few weeks ago (Identified by its ring number). It must have been hit by a car, and is slightly concussed. The good news is that the owl is in good condition. It may be one of the owls that still come down for food at night when we whistle them, as it was found only a mile from Hessilhead. Or it may be fending well for itself.

27th October 2003

Bat Release

It was warm enough this evening to release bats. We took them back to their own street, took them from the carrying box and held them in our hands. It didn't take long for the bats to start vibrating, a sure sign that they are ready to fly. We waited another minute, then opened our hands. The bats soon flew off and quickly disappeared in the darkness. There were plenty of insects flying, and hopefully the bats knew another place to roost.

I have been receiving applications for the First Aid for Wildlife Training day, to be held at Hessilhead on Saturday 8th November. places are still available, e-mail info@hessilhead.org.uk for more details.

26th October 2003

Kim and Rebecca

Sunday is usually a good day for volunteers, so there was plenty of help today, even though some of the patients admitted recently are requiring a lot of attention. Many are on treatment, and two owls, a buzzard and several pigeons need hand feeding. This afternoon we had a visit from Kim and Rebecca. These two youngsters organized a toy stall in August, and decided to give the £65 proceeds to Hessilhead. Today they visited to bring the money, and to decide which patients to sponsor. Rebecca chose to sponsor a hedgehog, which she called Custard, and Kim chose Daffy the badger. The girls enjoyed meeting Plop the barn owl, Mr nibbles the ferret and Sweetie Pie the fox. We really appreciate their efforts in raising the money, and hope they will enjoy receiving the photos and reports of the patients soon.

24th October 2003


Andy and I made the most of this wonderful weather with a long hill walk yesterday. We saw hundreds of deer, a pair of golden eagles and a short-eared owl. By 11pm we were sleepy; We groaned when the phone rang. The last thing we needed was a call out. Luckily the people who found the owl on the road said they could deliver it. We would probably have had to go out for a fox or a deer. The owl was pretty bad tempered when it arrived, but by morning it was feeling sore and sorry for itself. Nothing broken though. Hopefully it will be fit for release in time to return to its own territory.

Two swans, which crash landed in Greenock gardens 2 days ago, were returned to Thom St dam today. Their places were soon taken. An adult swan from Barrhead was dispossessed of its territory by an incoming pair, and for 2 days they had kept it in the reed beds. As it couldn't get onto the water, it couldn't take off. It looks very dejected. At last we managed to get hold of an aeroplane wing cygnet at Auchenharvie Golf course. This wing deformity prevents swans from flying, and usually affected cygnets are bullied by their parents. This year, because of the dry weather, the pond is almost dry, and the parents and other siblings have left. So it was a good time to get the cygnet, which will live on Hessilhead quarry pond. We have other aeroplne winged swans there.

21st October 2003


It is a bit late in the season for bats. The two pipistrelles that were admitted today probably thought they had found a good place to hibernate. Then came along the builders and removed the window frame. The damage was done, and the builders had no idea there were bats in the house. So for now the bats are at Hessilhead, but on the next mild evening, we will take them back, and warm them in our hands till they are trembling, ready to fly, They should know other places to spend the winter.

20th October 2003

Garden wildlife in trouble

Gardens offer a refuge for many species of wildlife, yet they present many hazards too. Imagine the surprise of a Bishopbriggs family, when they woke to find a fox tangled in the children's goal net. The fox lay quietly enough when they looked from a distance, but it leaped around wildly when they approached. Worried that the fox might injure itself, they thought it safer to call Hessilhead. Freeing the fox was not difficult, though it was so tightly tangled in the net that it would certainly not have been able to free itself. The net was rather the worse for wear when we had finished cutting the fox free, but when the fox was checked over he was pronounced fit. We released him in a lane at the bottom of the garden earlier this evening.

The colder weather has made it difficult for hedgehogs to find food. Healthy fat hedgehogs will think of hibernating soon, but the late summer babies will be in trouble. Three were picked up today in different gardens, all weighing less than 300 gm. A hedgehog should weigh at least 600gm at this time of year. Those rescued today are snuggled down in heated cages. they will stay at Hessilhead till spring.

It isn't every day you look out to find a swan in your back garden. There was no obvious reason for an adult swan to have landed in a very small Renfrew garden, but it certainly couldn't have taken off from such a confined space.

18th October 2003


Towards the end of last week a lovely female sparrowhawk was brought to the Centre. Unusually it was an adult bird, slate grey back, deep yellow eyes. it is much more common for juveniles to get into trouble. there were no obvious injuries, but the bird was very subdued, probably concussed fron a collision. I hand fed the bird for 3 days, then this morning she was much lively, trying hard to get out of the box. It looked as tho' she was ready for release. As usual, we put jesses on the bird's legs, and fastened these to a long line. It is the way we always test raptors before release. Some can look good in an aviary, but we need to give them a longer flight to tell if they are really flying well. I expected a powerful flight from the sparrowhawk. Instead she barely got off the ground, her left wing unable function, indicating a shoulder injury. What a disappointment. The bird will need at least a week's rest, then we'll repeat the test flight, fingers crossed.

17th October 2003

Diary resumes

There has been a long delay, for a variety of reasons, in writing the diary. I'm not going to try and tell what has been happening, but hopefully this time the diary is here to stay.

Today ha been quiet, till teatime. Then came the call that sounded like a hoax 'There is a weasel in the dishwasher, can you help?' It sounded a bit like the time we had a mink in the heating system of a car, and that took several hours to extract. Hopefully things would go better this time.

We arrived at the cottage to find man of the house fully protected...trouser legs tucked into his socks; his wife was on the worktop! The weasel, it seemed had entered the back door, run along a passage and having been pursued by the family terrier, had taken refuge beneath the dishwasher, or to be more precise, in the mechanism of the dishwasher. To comments such as 'I wouldn't get that close.' and 'mind it doesn't bite your nose,' Andy spent half an hour or so on his back, on the floor, fumbling for the weasel behind the motor. Successful at last, a very irate weasel was removed tail first. It hurried away when released outside, and as we left, we said, as usual, 'keep our number handy, you might need it again.' 'I doubt it' replied man, 'we are moving to Goa next week.' I hope he takes plenty of socks!

8th May 2003

Feeding Foxes

Last weekend I had a call from a lady who regularly feeds foxes in her garden. One vixen, which had been coming for a long time, was unable to close its mouth. Therefore it could not pick up food. We Offered to take our fox trap, but the lady thought she could encourage the fox into a shed. Obviously it would soon get very hungry. Today the lady caught the fox. The problem was a chop bone wedged across the roof of its mouth. It must have been very uncomfortable and most distressing for the fox, but was soon removed with forceps. After a few days on antibiotics the fox will be returned to its favourite garden. It isn't the first time bones have caused problems for foxes and other wildlife, so bones in the bin please.

5th May 2003

Bank Holiday Weekend

A wet weekend brought one more fox cub, lots of blackbirds and two more tawny owl chcicks. The owls were found sodden on a woodland floor. We rescued a mallard with 15 ducklings. No problems with any of them, but the ducklings couldn't fly out of the garden, and mother couldn't squeeze through the fence. In any case, it was a long walk to water, across busy roads. Several single ducklings were handed in too. Luckily they had all been kept warm before being brought to the Centre. That is the secret with ducklings. They must be kept warm and quiet, and definitely not put in a bath full of water. Rearing a single duckling can be difficult, but these 5 have settled down together.

We went to collect 5 blackbird chicks, which turned out to be magpies. They had been rescued when the tree holding their nest was felled. The first nestling starlings were rescued from a building site, but sadly, the first RTA fox cub of the year didn't survive.

This evening we've had an entertaining night out. Andy and I were invited to represent Uist Hedgehog Rescue at a Burns Festival Event. I suppose you will be puzzled by the connection! The proceeds from the first night of Burns(Your Bard, by the way), by Baudrans Theatre Co, are to be donated to the Uist Rescue Fund. So it isn't all cleaning out smelly hedgehogs, there are one or two perks as well!

2nd May 2003

Training Day/Badger

Toni and I didn't see much of outside today. We made an early start in the hospital, getting the feeding and cleaning done before the training course began at 10.30. This was a training course for RSPB staff and volunteers, who often anser phone calls about injured and orphaned birds. We let them see the type of problems we get at this time of year, how we deal them, how we rear young birds, how to handle and transport birds. Importantly, we told them what people often do wrong, so they could advise against this. Every year we get young birds which arrive at Hessilhead drowning. This is because someone has given them a drink, and the water (milk, tea or brandy) has gone down the windpipe. So NEVER give a bird a drink unless you have been shown how to do so.

The training day was frequently interrupted to feed the nestlings, and the day-old moorhen chick which came in last night.

Bill and Christine returned from Edinburgh late afternoon, bringing another badger cub. Daffy, the cub who came last week, has been getting a little bit bored, so we were pleased to hear that another cub had been taken into care. Both were treated at The Edinburgh Vet School, after being found on footpaths cold and wet. We just have to wait for test results for the new cub, Britney, and if all is clear, the two cubs can live together. That will make it easier to return them to the wild.

1st May 2003

Traffic island ducks

Kath is here for 3 weeks. She is doing work experience as part of her Animal Care Course. Just after lunch Andy and Kath responded to an injured deer call. News came that the deer, very badly injured, had been euthanised before they arrived. They were diverted to a duck and duckling problem. The mallard had nested beneath bushes on a traffic island near St George's Underground Station in Glasgow. the ducklings had just hatched, and Mrs mallard was attempting to get them across the road. Needless to say, the family's chances of survival were slim. It didn't take long for Andy and Kath to catch mother duck and round up the ducklings. As usual, they put mother duck in one box, and the ducklings in another. this prevents the ducklings getting trampled if the mother panics. We had a shed ready for the new arrivals. The ducklings were allowed out of their box, mother called, and obediently the ducklings ran to her and soon disappeared beneath her feathers.

30th April 2003

Tawny owl chicks

The two young owls were found snuggled together on the ground. They were taken to a vet yesterday, and brought to Hessilhead this morning. They are very small, and barely 3 weeks old. They certainly shouldn't be out of the nest, and had no chance of survival on the ground. The smaller chick is badly bruised, the older one has a broken wing, which is now bandaged and has a good chance of healing well. Like all tawny owl chicks these youngsters are easy to feed. Tap their beak with food and they grab it and swallow. They only need feeding 3 times a day, which makes them much easier to care for than the blackbirds and finches which are demanding food every half hour. In a week or so they will be feeding themselves.

29th April 2003

Sweetie Pie

Fox cub No 14 arrived today. The other cubs arrived in good condition, but this one is a poor wee soul. He has been in care for two weeks, and fed on something quite unsuitable. The result is hair loss and flaky skin, making him look, I have to say, ugly. To make up for this, volunteers have called him Sweetie Pie. He is feeding well, gaining weight, and hopefully his hair will grow back soon.

28th April 2003

Uist hedgehogs

Andy and I arrived back from a 3 day trip to the Uists today. Needless to say we had a van full of hedgehogs! The trip was interesting, with the long crossing from Oban to South Uist giving good sightings of a variety of seabirds. The Uist Hedgehog Rescue Centre is on Benbecula. A Portakabin is well equipped as a hedgehog holding centre, with veterinary facilities for sick or injured hogs. There is chalet and bunk house accommodation for a team of volunteers, who sleep much of the day and spend the hours of darkness searching for hedgehogs. We joined them for a few hours on Sunday night, but found no hedgehogs. We didn't stay out as long os the others. Our alarm was set for 4.30, as we had to load 44 hogs into travelling boxes, and be at Lochboisdale, and hour away, in time for the 7.30 ferry. Back at Hessilhead, the hogs were all put into cages, with food and water waiting. All arrived safely, and will soon be sent to their release sites. Most of the hogs rescued this year will be coming to Hessilhead.

23rd March 2003

Start of baby season

The diary is a new addition to our web site. It was difficult to know when to start it, but this year's baby season seemed a good beginning.

The first hand reared bird of the season, a mistle thrush. is almost fully grown, feeding well, and ready to move to an aviary. He could do with some company, so hopefully, by the time the fledgling aviaries have been repaired later this week, another young song bird will be in care.

Five baby rabbits came to the Centre after being dug up by a JCB. Although their eyes were still closed,the youngsters were in good condition, and within 2 days had learnt to take milk from a bottle. 5 days later their ears have unfolded, their eyes opened and they are scuttling round their box. It won't be long till they are feeding themselves.

The warm sunny weather of last week brought an unusual casualty to the hospital. The common lizard was found on Irvine sand dunes. It must have been sunning itself soon after waking from hibernation, and somehow got injuries on its head. The reptile has been treated with drops of antibiotics, it is lively and eating mealworms. Hopefully there will be another warm afternoon, when it will be returned to its home range.

We are looking for a release site for a pair of swans which have been ousted from their own territory. If you know any vacant ponds, please get in touch.

Click here for Gay's Diary, 2004