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

GAY'S DIARY, 2004

31st December 2004

End of Year

The year is going out with a flurry of new patients. A hedgehog was the first arrival, followed by a common seal from Greenock. Karen did the seal rescue, and we can be sure that if Karen goes out for a seal, she will get it. This time she had trouble struggling up the slippery slip with a reluctant seal in tow. It certainly needed to come into care. It has the typical hunch backed posture of a seal riddled with lung worms and lung infection. it is on medication now, and dabbling in water, hopefully looking for food it will eat itself.

Next came a swan from Dunure. We persuaded our weekend visitors to collect that on their way here. Not many visitors get away without helping! A feral pigeon, a guillemot with wing injury and a tawny owl followed. We are hoping this is the lot for the year-------but we never know.

Best Wishes for 2005. See you next year.

27th December 2004

Christmas Update

When I intended updating the diary we were busy with seals, swans and more exotic casualties. The week before Christmas brought two seals from Helensburgh. Shandon is doing well, feeding himself. Cracker was in much more serious condition, dehydrated, emaciated and with deep infected wounds. In better spirits now, but still needing a little help to eat. During the week we rescued a great crested grebe from Barassi, a Leach's petrel from Kilwinning, a merlin from Mossblown and foxes from Paisley and Glasgow. Christmas Day patients were delivered, and on a sunny frosty Boxing Day we went to Cumbernauld to pick up a very sad swan. She had several layers of line round her beak and a had swallowed a great tangle of it. once the line was removed, she started to eat.

10th December 2004

Barn Owl

A barn owl was delivered two morning ago. It had collided with a car earlier that day. I examined the owl, a fat, female youngster, and found nothing wrong. Lucky, I thought; it will maybe feel a bit bruised, but should be back in the wild by the end of the week. That night the owl regurgitated a field vole, which was almost completely undigested. It didn't eat. I hand fed the casualty a chick, and left another chick in the box. The owl still hasn't eaten, though it is keeping down food. So it looks like the owl will be here a little longer. We prefer to see birds feeding themselves before returning them to the wild. Hopefully the barn owl will soon be feeling better.

9th December 2004

Deer release

Today it was time to release the young roe buck that got stuck between railings last week. It hapens a lot. A young deer tries to squeeze through a fence that it has passed through easily when younger. or a startled deer tries to make a quick getaway. Head and shoulders get through no problem, then the hips stick. Of course the deer panicks when anyone goes near. The usual method of getting a deer out of railings is to give the deer a sedative. This may take 15 minutes to take effect, and during that time a blanket is kept over the deer's head, to keep it calm. The rest is easy. The deer is lifted off the ground, its head is passed back through the railings, a bit of a shuggle gets the tummy through, and hey presto, the deer is all on one side, the side where it started. Many people don't believe this works until they see it.

Most deer are bruised, and anyway have to be taken into care till the sedative wears off. The little buck had been eating well, and was getting restless in the shed. We drove along Station Rd, Bearsden, where he had been found, and couldn't find a really good release site. Not far away was a golf course, which was ideal. We carried the deer to the edge of the golf course, and administered the antidote to the sedative. A minute later the deer was up, and tottering unsteadily to a clump of trees. A few more minutes and the deer was fully conscious and aware. He bounded off to a more wooded area.

7th December 2004

Talbot's Release

Talbot is the seal pup that we brought back here in the camper van. He was a skinny little thing, found on the beach at Greenock. We cleared the dog's towels from the toilet/shower cubicle, and put Talbot in there. The space is barely 18" square. We weighed Talbot today. Over 35 kg, and looking like he had been inflated with a pump.

We persuaded Talbot to flop onto a blanket, then carried him hammock fashion to the van. At Portencross the procedure was repeated; this time talbot was carried to the water's edge. He was reluctant to take to the sea at first, and when Andy and Bill turned back for the shore, Talbot turned and it seemed he was going with them. On secong thoughts he decided to explore further, and was last seen heading for the end of the pier. He was spending more time under water than afloat, apparently having jolly good fun.

3rd December 2004

what a day

Short staffed today. Andy gone all morning to collect more fish. Expecting a reporter at 10am, call from vet at north side of Glasgow, asking if we could collect a deer quickly, as they had a recovery room full of barking dogs, and the deer was rapidly recovering from a sedative. Gaye set off for the deer, got stuck in traffic, vets on phone to find out her whereabouts, reporter and photographer arrive, take pics, do interview. Meanwhile the outside team continue feeding, and prepare shed for deer. Sarah works her way round the 50 hedgehogs in the hospital, Andy returns just before Gaye gets back. That was lucky, as the deer was standing in Gaye's car, waiting to jump when the back door was opened. Andy, confident as always, scooped up the deer, a young buck, as I put a dark jersey over its head. The deer struggled a little, but Andy held on till reaching the shed. The deer, already called Rudolph, should soon be ready for release. It had got stuck between railings, and is probably feeling bruised and sore from struggling, but it doesn't seem like there is any serious damage.

All that and we still got to Beith for a dental appointment at midday!

2nd December 2004

Raptors

The wintry weather seems to being to having an effect on birds of prey this week. Two kestrels in trouble today. Sadly one was dead on arrival. No sign of injury; probably a young bird not coping in the shorter days that don't allow much time for hinting. The other kestrel is also a youngster, also thin. It had rehydration fluid on arrival, and has now settled in a cage and eaten a chick.

A buzzard was found on the other side of Beith. I guess it was hit by a car, and suffered a fractured ulns. There is also a carpal injury, which could cause more of a problem. Meanwhile the broken wing is strapped, the bird is on antibiotics, and settling in.

Good news today was that the little male sparrowhawk which came a couple of days ago, was flown on a line, and pronounced perfectly fit. It was a stunning bird, with a slate grey back and deep orange lightly striped breast. Its eyes were almost the colour of its breast. By now it will be back in its home range in suburban Hamilton.

29th November 2004

Weigh Day

Early this morning, Bill said casually, that we are using 240 herring a day to feed the seals. So we decided to weigh the biggest seals, thinking they must be ready for release. Talbot weighed in at 35k, so he will probably be ready for off next week. Polar, being a bigger grey seal, needs to weigh 50k before returning to the wild. I am sure he will be happy to eat more fish.

At the other end of the scale, one of our most recent patients is a field vole. It is a youngster, rescued from a cat, but seemingly, so far, none the worse for its ordeal. It eats grass, apple and brown bread.

28th November 2004

New Seal

Andy and I returned late last night from Cheshire, where we attended the British Wildlife Rehabilitation Conference. There were some interesting presentations on hedgehog and seal monitoring after release, rearing orphan badgers, some case histories, and of course time for chatting to colleagues from other centres. That is always the best part of a conference. (That and the chance of a good night's sleep, without the risk of an emergency).

A new seal pup had arrived in our absence. It had been found beached near the Renfrew Ferry Slip. Joe, one of the ferry operators had wrapped the seal in a blanket and taken it to a more accessible place by ferry. It is a coomon seal, so it must be almost 6 months old, but at 15k is pathetically thin. Still, it struggled when we gave it fluids, and now Andy is hand feeding it fish. Already it looks a better shape. It is losing that hump backed shape that always means a seal pup is ill.

21st November 2004

Deer release

It was a dreadful weather, with the freezing rain of the morning, which made walking around the centre a quickly learnt skill, replaced by heavier rain which persisted all day. But we had arranged to release the roe buck which came from Cumbernauld a few weeks ago. He had been hit by a car, suffered head injury and vision problems, but always been lively and eaten well. He had to be sedated to be returned to where he came from. It is safer that way, and less traumatic for teh deer. The problem was going to be getting into the shed to give him the injection, without him hitting the roof. Luckily all went well, and soon the deer was in the back of the car. The rain eased just before his release, but I don't suupose he would have minded. He just wanted to get back into the wild.

15th November 2004

Polar, the grey seal

We rescued Polar from Barassie beach on October 5th this year. He was just days old, and looked really attractive in his thick white baby coat. Now, 6 weeks later, he has lost his white coat and doubled in size. Today it was time to move him from the swan hospital to outdoor accommodation. Poor Polar. For the first few hours in his spacious new run, he looked quite lost and frightened. Polar has spent most of his life in the safe confines of a small swan pen. It must have been scary outside. and it seemed like he was trying to sink into the ground, hoping no-one would see him. This was difficult, as Polar resembles a little barrel. Later in the day I went to see him again. The fish had been eaten, and there he was, flat on his back, sound asleep, perfectly relaxed and comfortable. Hopefully he will enjoy the extra space now.

11th November 2004

Breaks pinned

It has been a week for pins going in and coming out. First Andy took the Paisley cygnet to have the pin removed from its leg, and collected an adult swan that had just had its fractured leg pinned. The cygnet is walking well, and the adult swan enjoys its exercise on the pond. Then Andy went to Livingstone, to collect a kestrel with a pinned wing. It is ready for exercise in an aviary, before the pins are removed in a couple of weeks. Then a tawny owl and a kestrel, both with pinned wings, were delivered from Dundee. Their pins will stay in place till December. Hopefully, when all these birds are fit, they will be returned to where they were found.

1st November 2004

Fox in trouble?

The last few days have been quiet, but it seemed like there may be excitement today when we had a call about a fox trapped on scaffolding. The building site was near Glasgow city centre. The new flats were 4 stories high. The builder who called convinced us that the fox was injured, and was trapped near the top of the scaffold. As soon as we arrived other builders said the fox was always there. They fed it at lunchtime and it raided bins. That certainly seemed to be the case. The fox allowed Andy to approach quite close, then it went down two levels, using the steps, then into the house, out again, all very leisurely. Sometimes it looked over its shoulder at us, very laid back. The surprising thing was that the fox should choose to spend each day in such a busy, noisy place. But then perhaps it is the fox that occasionally makes an appearance on Celtic football ground, which is right next door. Some foxes are comfortable when surrounded by lots of people.

29th October 2004

More Uist Hedgehogs

Another 5 hedgehogs were delivered from the Uists today. That will probably be all for this year, as most hogs will be hibernating soon. We are getting underweight hedgehogs brought in now. As the temperatures drop and food supplies diminish these hungry youngsters are foraging in the day time, often using more energy than they replace with food. Any hog seen out in the daytime now, needs to come into care. With 48 hedgehogs in care now, we will need lots of bedding and newspapers to see them through the winter. Donations of bedding, tinned food and newspapers always welcome.

25th October 2004

Hedgehog study

Kath did work experience with us last year. She is back here now, doing her final year BSc project on some of our hedgehogs. Today she was weighing and labelling the hogs, and over the winter she will monitor their food intake, activity, etc, and see if there is a correlation with temperature, daylight length or weight. We will be interested in the results, as this is the first year for a long time that we are overwintering hedgehogs outside. These are adult hedgehogs from the Uists, but they came too late in the year to be released before winter. All the autumn juveniles will be kept in the hospital as usual.

23rd October 2004

Diary returns

After a long absence, due to me getting a new computer and so losing the web address for adding new entries,(it was on favourites on the old machine)I have found the sheet of paper with the instructions, and returned to regular updates.

Today started with the usual feeding and cleaning, then with a visit from a DEFRA Inspector, who delivered a ring for the osprey we have in care. This bird was found injured in July. Since then its leg has been pinned, it has been treated for bumble foot, and has come to Hessilhead for rehabilitation. Legally, it must be registered with Defra, hence the visit and the ring. The bird has limited use of the talons on the injured foot, and some impairment on the foot affected by bumble foot. Hopefully with excercise in an aviary, there will be more improvement. She will certainly be here for the winter, having missed migration for this year. She is expensive to keep, eating a trout a day!

Next came a cygnet rescue (that time of year), then almost a fox rescue. The fox had been spotted in Rouken Glen Park, which was exceptionally busy on this sunny afternoon. Perhaps the fox had been chased by a dog. For whatever reason, it had wedged itself between the multiple trunks of a tree, which grew out of the top of an overhanging bank, 40' above the river. The rangers had gone to fetch ropes (health and safety), when the fox suddenly decided to jump. It landed amongst vegetation, looked frightened, and tried to hide. Andy crossed the river, moved the fox on, and we were pleased to see it walking without obvious injury. We left it there to recover quietly amongst denser ground cover.

A chinese goose was rescued from the village of Kilbarchan, and hopefully last problem of the day is a bat, found on a train at Glasgow's Queen Street station. It has been put in a box, put on a train and we are just about to collect it at our local station. It is a bad time of year for a bat to have lost its home. Hopefully we can release it from the bat tunnel.

6th October 2004

Woodcock

Some years we get quite a few woodcock from central Glasgow, usually after large numbers of continental birds have arrived. Only one so far this year, and today it was released in our wood, a much better habitat for a bird that requires soft ground to find its food.

Another winter visitor in care is a redwing. It looks like a window crash victim, with one eye closed and poor balance. Unfortunately it has been kept without food for two days, a long time for a bird weighing less than 50gm. I have tube fed it a supplement, and hopefully it will be fit enough to feed itself tomorrow.

17th September 2004

Training Day

I enjoyed today. We had 5 Rangers from Pollok Country Park on a Wildlife Handling and First Aid course. The Rangers are sometimes called out by members of the public who have found an injured animal, and others are taken to their centre. So everyone got the chance to handle several species of bird, from pigeons to kestrels, owls and swans. We examined patients, learnt how to immobilize broken wings, give fluids, and perhaps most important of all, learnt how to make wildlife patients comfortable and safe for travelling. There was time to meet Daffy the Badger, discuss the care of seals and look at the diffrences betwen greys and commons, watch the gannets being fed, and see the inmates of the swan hospital. The Rangers were easy to work with, full of enthusiasm and ideas.

31st March 2004

Uist Hedgehog Rescue

Andy has spent most of today packing the van with equipment for the Uist Hedgehog Rescue. We will be travelling to the islands tomorrow, and setting up the holding centre over the next few days. We may even find some hedgehogs while we are there.

Yesterday's little fox cub is doing fine. After a few unsuccessful attempts to persuade him to drink milk from a bottle, he took matters into his own small paws, and decided to eat tinned cat food from a dish. No little playmates yet.

I expect that when we get from Uists (5th) more baby somethings will have arrived.

30th March 2004

Fox cub

For me today is the first day of spring. It is the day of the first fox cub. The chubby little cub, less than 2 weeks old, was found beside dead siblings. We expected the cub to be in poor shape, but it looks quite healthy. It is tucked up in a pile of bedding; its box on a heat pad. Hopefully it will soon have company.

Another sign of spring is that some of our overwintered hedgehogs have gone to their release sites. They willl be kept in hutches and runs for a few days, while getting used to their new surroundings. The run will then be removed, allowing the hedgehogs to explore. Meanwhile food will be provided every night.

We will need more release sites for hedgehogs, including some which will be coming from the Uists. If you think your garden is suitable, and would like to help give us a call or e-mail for more information.

28th March 2004

Otter cubs seen

This evening we discussed the otter cub situation, and decided that regular patrols were no longer necessary, as there have been no sightings of cubs. Five minutes later the phone rang. The cubs had been seen, chasing frogs, but the report said they seemed very small. We hurried to the loch, but the cubs were gone. Apparently coping alone so far.

26th March 2004

Fledgling season begins

A young mistle thrush was brought in today. It was rescued after being dropped onto a conservatory by a crow. No wonder it is finding it difficult to settle.

Despite regular checks of the Barr Loch and Castle Semple Loch, there have been no signs of orphaned otter cubs. Hopefully they are old enough to fend for themselves.

24th March 2004

Diary back

Andy and I had a couple of days away, and returned to find that another female otter has been killed on the road at Lochwinnoch. She was in milk, but so far there has been no sight nor sound of the cubs. Volunteers from Hessilhead and the RSPB are keeping a lookout.

While the diary has been off line patients have been making good recoveries at the Centre. The Loch Lomond buzzard which had two pins inserted in its broken wing, has now had the pins removed, and is ready for release. The Cumnock sparrowhawk, which had both radius and ulna broken, is now exercising in the aviary. She should be released next week. The sparrowhawk which had pins put in a particularly bad break, has taken a long time to start feeding itself. Today it ate its first chick, and is so lively that soon it will move outside. It often makes a bid for freedom when we clean its cage, and has demonstrated that it can fly well, even with the pins still in. Even the vet is amazed.

21st February 2004

Owls

The first casualty of the day arrived just after midnight. The tawny owl had crashed into the windscreen of a truck, only a few miles from Hessilhead. The driver brought the bird here straight away. The owl was badly concussed, and one leg injured. It got anti-inflammatory drugs, and was settled in a box for the night. Andy had noticed that the bird was ringed, so at a more reasonable time this morning I checked our ringing records. The owl is one of the youngsters we reared last year. It was released in September. So it is good news that the bird is in good condition. It must have learnt to hunt and found itself a territory. These are the results we want to get from our ringing programme. positive evidence that rehabilitation works. It was of course bad luck that the bird hit a vehicle. Not an unusual thing to happen though. We probably get 30 RTA owls a year.

We finished the day by releasing a barn owl. This was another RTA, which had been picked up at the beginning of the week south of Maybole. We released the owl in the farmyard of the farmer who had found the bird. It flew straight into his lambing shed, there was no doubt that it had been there before. Perhaps it will nest in the owl box he has provided.

20th February 2004

Tiniest patient

Margaret arrived this morning with a goldcrest. It was a cat victim. These are difficult patients. Smaller than wrens, the first problem is holding something so small to examine it. The second problem is finding a cage that will hold britain's smallest bird, third is administering minute quantities of drugs, and the final hurdle is persuading the bird to eat. Margaret reported that the bird soundly lively and restless in the box. An examination revealed no problem; wings were fine, there didn't even seem to be any feather damage. So I gave the goldcrest antibiotics, and we decided to set it free. It would certainly eat better in the wild than in care. We released the goldcrest close to a conifer, reckoning that if its flight wasn't perfect, at least it would have a food supply. We needn't have worried. The goldcrest looked at the conifer we had chosen, turned around and took off in the opposite direction, flying strongly to trees some distance away.

The next patient of the day was our largest bird, a swan. This one came from Cumbrae, weak and underweight. We soon spotted its problem. The swan had swallowed fishing line, a loop of line had caught under the beak and was preventing the bird from eating. The swan looked better as soon as the line was gently removed from the oesophagus, along with some decaying food. If the swan starts eating and puts on weight, it can go back to its mate before the breeding season.

19th February 2004

more seal releases, and baby rabbits found

Another spring day, and this time it was the turns of Joyce and Sam to be released. You may remember, that Sam was seal with attitude when he came here. More recently he has been better behaved, though he still liked tearing his pond liner, then sulking when he had no water. Joyce has been a fairly good patient. Joyce was first to go, reluctantly. She swan a few feet from the carrying box, then turned back as if she'd thought better of it. When the box was lifted from the water, Joyce slowly nosed her way along the shore, touching the rocks constantly, like a nervous swimmer holding onto the hand rail. We lowered Sam to the water, expecting that company would give Joyce more confidence. Sam wasn't going to wait around for a 'feartie'. He was off into deeper water, diving, submerging, and before long, porpoising clear of the surface. There was no doubt what Sam thought of the sea, it was FUN. Joyce made a few attempts to scramble up the rocks. We discouraged this, and eventually she swam out of the harbour, and started to explore, still not very far from the shore. Hopefully she will get used to her new surroundings soon.

18th February 2004

Deer rescue

Andy and I were enjoying a leisurely walk along the canal bank in Glasgow when the call came in about the deer. Some men had deliberately set their greyhound on the young roe, and in its attempts to escape the deer had tried to squeeze through metal railings. Head and shoulders went through, hips would not. the dog continued the attack, but luckily a lady had been watching. She was quickly on the scene, the dog called off, and the men disappeared. When Andy and I arrived the police were in attendance, and a ranger from Mugdock park. Alan has been on one of our training courses, and knew that the important thing was to keep the deer calm. The best way to do this is to cover the deer's head, a blanket or jacket will do.

We gave the deer a sedative injection, and waited for her to sleep. Then came the tricky bit...getting her unstuck. This is done by lifting the deer off the ground, lowering her head , and pushing head and shoulders back through the fence. People who haven't seen this technique doubt that it will work, they are usually amazed when suddenly the deer is back on the side of the rails where it started.

We hurried back to the centre, where the deer spent nearly 3 hours in the surgery. The dog bites are deep, and of course the deer is deeply shocked. She certainly isn't in the clear yet, but we are hopeful.

16th February 2004

Seal release

It was a big day for Skinny Tinny, the common seal that has been in care for nearly 6 months. On a glorious day of frost and sunshine, we loaded him into the van, and drove to the coast. We lowered the crate into Portencross harbour, and Skinny was keen to swim off and explore. One wonders what it is like for a seal that has been restricted to a small pool for so long. Is the sea frightening, or is it fun, or is it a food supply?

15th February 2004

In House Badger

Some people surprise me. It isn't unusual for people to call us, demanding we go straight away to remove a bird from their loft or a pigeon from their garden. On Monday last week I had a call from a man who lives south of Dumfries. He wondered if we could help, and went on to tell me that a badger had been living in his house for the past fortnight. Obviously the sort of guy who doesn't make a fuss! We made the two hour journey that afternoon, only to discover that badger had left through the cat flap. We heard that the badger had been around for some weeks. It had been in a neighbours garage, and had often been seen on the caravan site next door. Perhaps it objected to the Yorkshire terriers, who apparently had sniffed it that day.

Today the lady of the house phoned. Badger was back, and barricaded in. We have just got back to Hessilhead, settled badger in a strong pen, and Andy tells me it is eating. Tomorrow we will get a better chance to examine him/her, and try to find out why it has been acting strangely.

14th February 2004

Barn owls

We have had quite a lot of barn owl casualties over the last few months. Hopefully this means their population is increasing. This evening a female bird was brought in from the far end of Beith. She had been found near the railway track, and has a broken wing. It is a carpal fracture, now strapped up, and hopefully will heal well. It would be good to get her back to the wild for the breeding season.

13th February 2004

Update

Andy and I have just got back from Birmingham, where we attended another meeting about the Uist hedgehogs. Arrangements are well under way for another rescue this year. Contact us if you would like to help. There are still things to collect and will be driving jobs to do.

Before leaving for England we released last weekend's merganser. It went happily onto. the reserve at Lochwinnoch. It was a relief that Harvey, the new seal pup, started to feed himself. He probably feels much better having offloaded lots of tapeworms. The kestrel is eating well, but will need more time on antibiotics, and the Paisley fox is ready to go.

8th February 2004

Weekend weightwatchers

After a quiet week there was plenty of wildlife in trouble this weekend. Most of them had been in trouble for a while, and hence had all lost a lot of weight. That is not good for wildlife at this time of year, so in addition to curing the infection or injury, we must feed them up too. There may still be some tough weather to come.

First delivery was a pigeon, followed by a phone call from Jim Gibson of Catrine. Jim usually calls when the swans are in trouble in Catrine, but today a neighbour had found an injured kestrel. Jim had volunteered to bring it to Hessilhead. The kestrel is a last year's youngster, underweight and with bumble infections on both feet. This is unusual. Bumble foot is more comonly associated with birds kept in captivity, and results from bad husbandry. The infection gains entry through the ball of the bird's foot, often in a puncture made by the bird's hind claw. It spreads around the toes and up the leg. The kestrel's bumble foot doesn't seem to be too far advanced, so hopefully the anti-biotics will clear it up. Occasionally the infection has to be removed surgically. We hope this won't be the case this time. Meanwhile the kestrel is eating well, and tolerating its bandaged feet.

Next came a call from Largs Police, reporting a seal on the road between Largs and Wemyss Bay. Now that must have been a new one for motorists. Fortunately a Glasgow couple delayed their journey to keep the seal safely in a lay-by till we arrived on the scene. The seal, which had been lifted onto the road by the high tide, was not too pleased to be rescued. However it needed to come into care, being seriously underweight, coughing badly and excreting worms. With some difficulty, Andy has got it eating fish.

We weren't long back from Largs when a Clyde-Muirshiel landrover came up the drive. An exhausted guillemot had been rescued from the surf at Lunderston bay. No doubt feeling better after travelling in the heat of the landrover, it was keen to escape from its travelling box. Yet another underweight patient.

The last call of Saturday was at 10pm. A fox had been hit by a car in Paisley. A lady would stay with the casualty. The lady had been watching Animal Rescue. She had the fox wrapped in a towel, its head covered to keep it quiet, and confidently lifted into the carrying box. She had done a great job. Keeping an injured wild animal quiet is one of the most important things to do

.

Sunday morning brought a more unusual patient. The merganser had been found tangled in fishing line, and although its tongue is damaged, it has no trouble eating. It should be ready for release in a day or two.

5th February 2004

Otter cubs found

This morning we left home early, after not much sleep, worrying about the orphaned otter cubs. All was quiet around the trap, which Dave had set at 6am. However it was a relief that there was no small carcase on the road. We are concerned that the cubs might follow the scent of the mother, and suffer the same fate. We hadn't been back at the Centre for long, when the phone started ringing, one call after another. A swan was sitting on the road bridge over the River Ayr; Andy went straight away to get her. She has cut feet, from crash landing, and interestingly, is a bird that we rescued as a cygnet, two years ago, from Spiers Wharf in Glasgow.

Andy was just back when we heard that the otter cubs had been seen near the Nature trail at Lochwinnoch. Off we went, and as we walked along the track, we could hear the pitiful, high pitched peeping of lost otter cubs. Alan, a student doing work experience with the RSPB, had stayed to keep an eye on the cubs. Andy grabbed one of the cubs as it headed into a pipe beneath the railway line; the other was hiding behind rocks.

The cubs, named Bubble and Squeak, are curled up together beneath a heat lamp. They have eaten some trout, and are sleeping soundly. No doubt they are exhausted, having spent 36 hours searching for and calling for their Mum. The cubs are between 7 and 8 weeks old. They are far too young to have survived without a Mum; I am surprised they even went into the water, and surprised at how much ground they had covered. When they have grown a bit, they will be introduced to Tadpole.

4th February 2004

Cubs seen

This morning the otter cubs were seen at Lochwinnoch. Reports were that the cubs were small, and calling for their mother. One had disappeared beneath a bridge; the other had been calling from the reed beds. We set our trap close to where the cubs were seen, and having being checking regularly all day. So far nothing has been seen or heard again. But we have one more trip to make this evening. If no cub has been caught, we will spring the trap then, as we wouldn't want a small cub to be in the trap all night. It will be set again early tomorrow morning.

3rd February 2004

Bad News/Good News

Today we decided it was time for our otter cub to have company. We had hoped that another cub would come into care, but it is just over 2 months that he has been at Hessilhead. So without a friend for him here, he may have to go elsewhere. We knew that Secret World, a Rescue Centre in England, had a cub about the same age as Tadpole. Today we phoned Secret World, to discover they'd had a similar problem, and their cub has joined a group of otters in Derbyshire. So it was our intention to phone the Derbyshire Centre this evening, till Marco arrived here at teatime. Marco had a female otter, hit by a car close to the RSPB Centre at Lochwinnoch. Sadly the otter was dead on arrival, and even worse, we could see that she had been feeding young.

Yet this meant a change of plan. We would wait a while before arranging for Tadpole to go to Derbyshire. We may be able to find the orphaned cubs.

31st January 2004

Unusual Visitors

It has been a cold, wet miserable day, but of course, the swans still needed feeding at the quarry pond. There always plenty of ducks there too, including many mallards which have been reared at the Centre. There are tufted ducks, often some goldeneye, sometimes wigeon and goosanders. For the last few days there has been a pair of red-crested pochard. These are unusual ducks to see in Scotland, and no doubt there will be some debate as to whether they are wild or have escaped from a collection. Interestingly, red-crested pochard have recently been seen at Linlithgow Loch and at Lochore Meadows. We may never know where they came from.

30th January 2004

Tawny owl release

We have just got back from releasing the tawny owl which came to Hessilhead last Sunday. Tawny owls are early nesters, so we were keen to return this owl to its territory as soon as possible. We knew it was ready for release, as it had been flying round the hospital this morning. Yet when we arrived at Mearnskirk, the owl was lying face down in the travelling box, pretending to be dead. Tawny owls are renowned for being hypochondriacs, and some of them seem to get travel sick. Even when Andy lifted the owl, it lay in his hands, as if lifeless. Andy gave the owl a shuggle, and reluctantly one eye opened. Then suddenly it was upright, its eyes wide open and its expression clearly exclaiming 'wow', as it took off, heading for the nearest trees. Seeing the owl's delight in being free was worth the disturbed night when it came in at 3.30am.

29th January 2004

Swan hit wires

This morning we had a report of a swan hitting wires. The bird crashed to the ground behind a factory near Trabboch, in South Ayrshire. The bird is extremely bad tempered and is accepting treatment with very bad grace. It has a wing injury and a damaged eye, and a faint smell of singeing. Lucky that it wasn't electrocuted. Before we were back with the swan Amanda and Mary had left to rescue a fox in Glasgow. It is in poor shape, with multiple problems. It is on a drip, but may not survive till morning.

This week's tawny owls are both doing well, and feeding themselves now. The Mearnskirk bird will probably be released at the weekend.

28th January 2004

Another tawny

It was 1 o'clock this morning when we heard about another injured tawny owl. This one had been found on the road at Ardlui, Loch Lomondside. It is a strange case. The bird has an old wing fracture, which has healed quite badly, leaving a triangular shape where it should be straight. The owl is a bit underweight, which may suggest it hasn't been coping well, but it is concussed, which suggests it has been hit by a vehicle. We are treating the concussion, will feed the bird well to gain weight, and will then test its flight.

The dreadful weather forecasts for this week have prevented us releasing some birds. As it happens we seem to have escaped the worst of the snow, so a sparrowhawk, a buzzard and a kestrel will soon be going free.

27th January 2004

Not all Nursing

This has been a paperwork day. As Hessilhead gets busier and bigger, more effort must be put into fundraising, raising awareness and keeping records. Some members have organized fund raising events recently. I sent off a sponsor form to someone running the London marathon, a lady organized a collection of tinned dog and cat food in Asda at Irvine, and another member is giving a talk on Hessilhead next Sunday. I sent some display material to her. It is really helpful when people offer to help in ways such as these.

To finish the day, we released our famous cygnet. This is the one who crashed through a couple's bedroom window, and the story made most of Scotland's newspapers. The cygnet was released at Castle Semple Loch.

25th January 2004

Night call

I was aware of the noise some time before it registered as the phone ringing. I hesitated another second or two, wondering whether Andy was about to leave the warm bed to answer it. No movement, so it was my turn. A lady had found an injured owl on the road at Mearnskirk. She had put it in the car, and driven home to Kilmarnock. I asked, hopefully, if she would to put the bird in a box, and bring it to the hopsital in the morning. She replied that she would rather bring it straightaway, which of course was sensible. It was 3am, by now Andy was awake, and he offered to get up admit the owl. I didn't need much encouragement to return to bed.

The owl, a tawny, is in good condition, which is to be expected at this time of year, the start of the tawny breeding season. It is concussed, but luckily no bones are broken. It has been treated with anti-inflammatory drugs, and will be hand fed today. Hopefully it should be fit to return to its own territory, before another bird has taken over.

A buzzard was brought in this afternoon. it was found on the road too, this time at Shotts. Weightwise, the bird is in good condition, but there is little reflex in its legs, and the prognosis is not good. We will give it a few days before making a decision.

21st January 2004

New Access Road

It was a sad start to the day when we discovered that the cygnet rescued from Springburn Park yesterday, had died in the night. The cygnet was emaciated, and had been suffering from a respiratory infection. We cannot emphasize strongly enough that as soon as a wild bird or animal starts behaving abnormally, it should be reported. Wild creatures try to appear normal for as long as possible, so by the time a problem is noticed, it has probably been affecting the patient for some time. The sooner patients come into care, the more chance they have of surviving.

The window crash cygnet was seen by the eye specialist, who felt that the eye laceration had healed well, though leaving the cygnet with impaired vision in one eye. We do not think it will be much of a handicap in the wild.

A very thin kestrel was found today at the Open Cast Coal Mine in Dalmellington. She seems to have a head injury, which has left a lot of scarring. She certainly seemed to enjoy a good meal.

It has been all go at Hessilhead this week, as our road undergoes a face lift. Tomorrow the tar will be laid, so no more bumpy journeys for injured patients. We won't recognize the place when we return from England on Friday evening.

19th January 2004

Busy start to New Year

With over 50 casualties admitted since the start of the year, it is high time I got back into the habit of writing the diary. There has been a mixture of patients, including garden birds, pigeons and of course more swans. The swans have been crash landings or fishing tackle victims. We have an adult swan from Hogganfield in intensive care. He is suffering from lead poisoning, had his gizzard flushed under general anaesthetic yesterday, and slowly a back log of food is passing through. We hope that he can start eating again tomorrow.

Last weekend Andy and I went for a walk on a stormy beach, and came home with a beached guillemot. He is dreadfully underweight, but eating well. He may be a lucky survivor.

There is a new kestrel with a shoulder injury, and two of the kestrels from December are ready for release. The sparrowhawk from Bute, which had been caught on barbed wire, and had a badly injured wing, is also due for release.

Today the window crash cygnet appeared in most of the tabloid newspapers. He is looking well now, and when he has been checked by an eye specialist on Wednesday, we hope he will be fit for release.

Scottish television came today, to film Skinny Tinny, the common seal we have had in care since August. He weighed in at 6.4 kilos on arrival, and is now a plump 35k. As the presenter said, it is all due to a constant supply of fish suppers, but of course the fish are raw, fresh herring.

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