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

GAY'S DIARY, 2005

31st December 2005

End of year

We finished the year fairly quietly with swans continuing to get into trouble more than other species. In the last week or so we have treated swans for a variety of problems.....hook in windpipe, broken leg, hit trees, roofs etc in fog, and leading a procession of traffic in Paisley! A sparrowhawk was admitted on Boxing day, probably a window casualty with a shoulder problem. A young roe buck, with a really pretty face, got stuck in railings in Maryhill. Next day his skin was bright red; it looked like he had red traffic lights on either side. He has been treated with pain relief, and has settled down well.

Hopefully the hospital is closed now till next year!

All the Best from all at Hessilhead

11th December 2005

Kestrels

We have been commenting on how many kestrels we have been seeing recently, but until this weekend, we hadn't had one in the hospital for a while. Yesterday Mione brought one from Fintry. It had been hit by a car, is concussed and has a broken leg. We splinted the leg and treated the bird with anti-inflammatory drugs. It is taking small bits of food offered from fingers, and today has been standing, which is quite good progress.

This morning we had a call about an owl or sparrowhawk, which fluttered across a garden yesterday afternoon, and was still standing facing the fence. On arrival we found a kestrel, sleeping with its head tucked into its back. It came to life when we disturbed it, but had almost certainly hit a window. It is is bruised all down its left side, but is in really good condition. We are hopeful for a full recovery of this bird too.

8th December 2005

Roe Deer

Yesterday's deer still concussed, but has been standing, and drinking. keep your fingers crossed.

It has been a bad week for buzzards, with 4 injured birds being brought in, none of which were viable. Three had been road traffic accidents, two were blind and one had a broken back, the other buzzard died of starvation soon after arriving here. So it is good news that another buzzard, that was tangled on barbed wire a few weeks ago, is now fighting fit and ready for release.

Some of you may have seen the lovely photos of Fergus the fox in many of yesterday’s papers. Both he and Shelby are very photogenic!

7th December 2005

Roe Deer

Today an injured roe buck was delivered in the back of a police car. The deer is badly concussed, and its new antlers, which have just started to grow after the old ones were cast, have been broken. There was a lot of blood around the head, and a small tear near the tail. However, we are hopeful that it will recover.

4th December 2005

Swans

It has been another swan week. There was a swan at Rozelle that had swallowed a large amount of fishing line, so much that it could no longer feed. There were swans on roads and a swan at Rangers training ground, swans in gardens and 4 swans trapped on an old section of canal in Glasgow. This cut off section of canal is to be cleaned and joined to the main canal, and the old industrial buildings revitalized. Unfortunately, before asking if we could move the swans, the work force have almost finished draining the canal. The swans are now swimming in muddy water 7' below ground level, and there is a century of rubbish around the edges. So far we have caught the 2 cygnets. The adult pair are playing harder to get. Today we heard of an injured whooper swan at Barons Haugh Bird Reserve. As it is usually seen close to the bank of the Clyde, it is likely to be difficult to get too.

30th November 2005

Conference

Andy and I were in Inverness last weekend, enjoying the British Wildlife Rehabilitation Conference. There was a really good mix of talks, varying from seal parasites, to reptiles, herring gulls releases, health and safety and inevitably, avian flu. Of course the socialising is good too, always good to meet with friends who face similar problems in caring for injured wildlife.

The person who gave the presentation on reptiles runs a reptile rescue centre in Lincolnshire. Now isn't that lucky. On his way back down he collected our adders, and I am sure will give them every chance to survive the winter and be returned to the wild.

18th November 2005

Adders

A new species for Hessilhead today. Someone arrived with a large glass tank containing a female adder and 2 babies. They seem to have been in care for a while, so it is probably too cold now to release them this year. We are awaiting expert advice!, and being careful.

17th November 2005

Whooper swans

Andy and I got back from a couple of days hillwalking to find two more swans in care, but, for a change, they are whooper swans. Whooper swans are much more difficult patients than mutes. They are always more aggressive, panicky and reluctnat to eat. One of them is suffering from lead poisoning, the other landed on a pond occupied by a mute family, and was seriously beaten up before getting off the water. It seems to be feeling better today, but hasn't eaten.

Just by coincidence, 9 whooper swasn landed on our quarry pond today. I think the resident whooper swan has gone away with them, but the last time he did that, he came 'home' the following morning. We'll see what happens this time.

15th November 2005

Buzzard

A strange thing happened this evening. Just after 4pm we received a call to say that a buzzard had been hit by a car on the busy A77. It was sitting on the central reservation. Reluctant to attempt a rescue in the rush hour, we waited. An hour later the driver who hit the buzzard called again, saying he had returned, and it was still there. But yes, the traffic was heavy. We got to the site about 6.30, and as we drove past the 2nd pylon, we spotted the buzzard, just where we were told it would be. Traffic still heavy. The police were too busy to assist just then, so we drove the road again at 7.30, and decided the traffic was light enough to chance a rescue. With orange light flashing on the car and wearing a high visiblilty jacket, Andy waited for a lull in the traffic, and strode across the road. As he got close to the buzzard it spread its wings and flew strongly, rising quickly and disappearing into the darkness across the field. Not much wrong there. Luckily it had stayed in one place while stunned, and three and a half hours later had recovered. Apparently no injuries. I don't suppose that will happen often.

14th November 2005

Update

You haven't heard much news for a while. Its not that things haven't been happening, just that it has been a bit repetitive. There have been lots of swans, some of them cygnets that have crash landed, but also adults limping badly for a variety of reasons. There have been lots of juvenile hedgehogs admitted; most have settled down well and have begun to eat their way thro' a winter in care.

There were a few surprises late in October. An RTA water rail was brought in, badly bruised on its left side. It could manage to lean against the side of its box and eat worms and small fish. Deciding it was fit for release was difficult, as whenever we tried to observe it outside, it panicked and ran for cover. It did exactly the same when we released it at Lochwinnoch. but did fly a short distance.

At the same time we had a Leach's petrel, blown inland during stormy weather. When we released it at Stevenson Point, it flew exactly as the last one did. It circled inland, apparently flying strongly, and then headed out to sea.

Last week there was an unusual incident, when a young common seal fell asleep on a concrete piller, only about a foot wide. The seal didn't wake up till the tide was out, by which time it was a 6' drop to shallow water. We played for time, knowing that if we approached the seal, it would jump and possibly hurt itself. It eventually returned safely to the sea at the next high tide.

9th October 2005

progress

Good news. so far on two of the patients that came in a couple of days ago. The swan with head injuries is making progress. He was on the swan hospital pond today, but still has difficulty eating. He seems to be feel better on the water though, and it must be good to have company of other swans. The little deer is doing well. She can walk with her splint, is eating vegetation and rabbit food, and is not to jumpy when we take her treatment. Early days yet for both of them, but hopefully the improvements will continue.

Rescued two swans from a territorial battle today, and released them later at Irvine harbour. We rescued a sparrowhawk from a garden in Kilmaurs. She is very thin and may have a vision problem. She is on heat and fluid therapy till morning. This evening we collected a young gannet from Maidens beach. We thought young gannets would be further south by now, but we heard last week that many have not fledged yet from Ailsa Craig. So there may be more to come after this evenings gales.

7th October 2005

Hectic morning

It all started happening at 8am this morning. The first call about an injured deer was quickly followed by a call about an injured swan in Glasgow. Then another swan crash landed in Dalry. So the routine feeding and cleaning was somewhat delayed while rescued were organized, and patients treated. The deer has a broken leg, but late this afternoon she had come round from the sedative, and was gingerly walking on her splint. She is probably still a bit concussed, as next time I looked in on her she was lying down quietly. Hopefully she will settle well, as her leg will need to be splinted for about 6 weeks. The Glasgow swan has a head injury, the Dalry swan is fighting fit. This evening we returned to Glasgow for a swan that had crash landed in a garden near Jury's Pond. When we arrived on the scene the lady and her neighbours were clapping loudly, not to applaud our arrival, but to keep the local foxes away from the trapped swan. Glasgow foxes really are cheeky enough to come into gardens while people are there, and they may have thought a swan would make a tasty Friday night supper. Last patient of the day, (we hope) is a gannet collected from the Arran ferry.

6th October 2005

Releases here, there and everywhere

What a good week for releases. The Neilston swan family returned to one of the Neilston ponds, and the biggest 3 off our hand reared cygnets were released on the River at Ayr. As usual they were shown around the river by some of the resident adult swans. Crows and jackdaws were released at Hessilhead, and the peregrine was also released here. She flew strongly to the old dead elm tree on the bank at the bottom of the field. two crows followed her there, and within minutes about 30 crows had gathered around her. The local buzzard went to investigate, but unperturbed by all this threatening behaviour, the peregrine flew off across the pond. Four fox cubs were released in 2 locations, and coincidentally, as we arrived at each site, a fox was seen in the area.

Today Andy and I tok two barn owls to a release site in Dumfriesshire. They were put into an old barn, where nest boxes had already been installed. they wil be released from there in a few weeks. We were also keen to investigate possibility of using the site to rehabilitate the short-eared owl currently in care. It couldn't have been more suitable. From the aviary which will be built there, the owl will have extenxive views over the Galloway hills. She will be given a soft release in spring, when other short-eared owls are returning to the hills. Whilst at the site, we were lucky to have good views of merlin hunting.

1st October 2005

Guillemots

We have a dozen guillemots in care now. They are coming in dribs and drabs, rather than en masse as they did last year. One bird was found in Hamilton, and one in Paisley, but most have been found on beaches. The average weight on arrival is 550gm, whereas a healthy guillemot should weigh in excess of 700gm. Most of the birds are gaining weight, and maintaining their water-proofing as they have twice daily swims in the swan hospital pool. All are being given prophylactic treatment against aspergillosis, a fungal infection which commonly affects seabirds under stress and in care. We are hoping that some of the guillemots will be ready for release next week. We have certainly learned a lot from having such large numbers of guillemots last year.

25th September 2005

swan weekend

It looks like the swan season has started again. Yesterday a cygnet crash landed in Bridge of Weir. It didn't have any injuries, but it did have leeches in its eyes. I am sure it must feel better without them.

Today two swans were collected from a Kilbarchan garden. As it happens both swans were ringed, and both had been in care at Hessilhead for quite a long time. they were released earlier this year at Castle Semple Loch, but must have decided to stick together as they explore. They are small swans, but have maintained their weight since being in care, and should be ready for release again soon. Later this afternoon Andy took Amanda and Gillian, two of our resdident volunteers, to rescue two swans in Ayr. These were resident at Northfield Pond, but last week the pond was drained, leaving the swans high (or rather low) and dry. The pond is not big enough for the swans to take off, (they usually take off from the playing fields) and they were unable to climb up the 2' vertical walls. It wasn't difficult to catch the swans, and relocate them on the river at Ayr. I expect they will return when the pond is refilled.

15th September 2005

Underweight season

Most young birds are independent of their parents now, but some will not survive. In the case of the buzzard, brought in two days ago, his poor condition may be a combination of difficulty finding food, and then being hit by a car. We kept the bird on fluids for 24 hours, then he started to feed himself. There is no doubt he will gain weight and be fit enough to return to the wild, but will he learn to hunt more successfully second time round. We will give him a soft release from Hessilhead, so he will know he can return for food. That should help.

With guillemots it is impossible to provide a soft release. The birds coming in now are very much underweight, and some have been blown inland, obviously because they are in such poor condition. By the time these birds are up to weight, we should have a better idea of the scale of the problem. If just a few individuals are affected, it will be worth giving them a second chance. If there is a major shortage of fish, returning these birds to the sea to starve again would hardly be in their best interests.

12th September 2005

foxes

It has been quite a foxy day today. Harry came a made a safety porch on one of our large enclosures, so that Fergus could live there without danger of getting out. Fergus came to Hessilhead about 10 days ago. The young fox had turned up at a barbecue near Dumfries! He had hung around for ciuple of days, and then been taken into care. The lady kept him in her utilty room beofre bringing him to Hessilhead. Fergus is so desperate for human company, that getting into his temporary run without him getting out was becoming difficult. So now Fergus has a lareg new home, and he is sharing it with Bad Waggy, this year's failed fox cub, who seems too tame to be released. We have reared over 20 fox cubs, and Bad Waggy came when very young, so one failure isn't too bad. When I last saw Fergus and Bad Waggy, they didn't seem to have made friends. Waggy was narking from beneath a pile of branches, while Fergus was going round scraping out all the vegetation. We will see what has happened by morning.

This evening we took an adult fox back to Linn Park. It had been picked up a few weeks ago, on the road beside the park, having been hit by a car. There was no doubt that she knew where she was when released, as she went straight to a gap in the fence and stepped through. Two of our fox cubs were released too. They are well grown now, and in excellent condition. Hopefully they will soon find a niche for themselves in Glasgow, somewhere where people will feed them. We hear of lots of people who feed foxes in their gardens, some of them even provide M&S roast chicken!

11th September 2005

Fearn

A wonderful thing happened today. I had just been round the deer enclosure, checking that Brownie was ok. I came back to the house to get her food, and when I looked down the path there was another deer, outside the enclosure. She was talking to Brownie through the fence. I approached the visiting deer, and knew without a doubt, when I got to within 6' of her, that it was Fearn, released 18 months ago, having been hand reared at Hessilhead. She did this last year, started coming back for food when we put the young deer in her old enclosure. She came back all winter, but disappeared when the young ones were released in May this year. It was great to see her, I ran to get Andy, and Emma and Ruth and if she keeps coming I will feed her again all winter. There were certainly tears in my eyes this afternoon.

10th September 2005

Brownie

For the last week or so I have been thinking that it was time to move Brownie to the big deer enclosure. You may remember that Brownie came from Tighnabruich in June. The young deer couldn't stand, and we almost given up hope of her recovering, when one by one, she regained the use of her legs. In order to move her, I had to shut her in the shed, and as she is quite shy, I knew that this would be tricky, and I just had to be patient. As it happened today was the day. I put Brownie's dish of food in the shed as usual, then stpped aside. She came towards the shed, saw me, hesitated, thought about it, came closer, then she walked in the shed and started eating. Slowly I stepped back towards the shed door, then quickly closed it. Now I needed help. We had to lift the big carrier over the fence, persuade her into it, that was the difficult bit, then covered with a blanket, lift the box over the fence again, and carry her to the big enclosure. Brownie was really good in the box. She didn't panic at all, and when released she walked out sedately and started eating. I am always relieved when young deer are moved successfully.

6th September 2005

Rabbits

Just when we thought the baby season was coming to an end, 5 baby rabbits were dug up on a building site in Kilmarnock. They are 2-3 weeks old, chubby liitle things, but at a difficult age to take a bottle. They will need milk, and I daresay there will be some tiresome feeding sessions in the next few days. They should nibble some grass, and hopefully will soon learn to feed.

Today we released a leveret. She is about 8 weeks old, well grown and like all hares, nervous of sudden movements. We carried her to the release site in the cage she was used to, removed the lid and waited. We didn't have to wait long for her to jump from the cage and start eating grass. It was good watching her explore, stop to feed, run and jump and frolic, feed again etc. There is no need for a soft release with hares and rabbits. it is just a case of choose the right habitat and let them go. After all, food is all around them.

5th September 2005

Sparrowhawks

Our sparrowhawk season is late this year. Usually it peaks in mid-August, when juvenile sparrowhawks, learning to hunt for themselves, get it wrong and collide, usually with windows. I don't know whether sparrowhawks bred later this year, or are having accidents later. We have 6 in care, all females, and mostly with right shoulder injuries. They can be difficult patients, often reluctant to feed themselves, and very flappy in cages. So three times a day we are hand feeding 4 sparrowhawks. The other 2 are self feeding and living in indoor flights. When these birds are ready for release, they will be returned to where they came from. We have resident sparrowhawks at Hessilhead, but we don't want an excess of them!.

We have just had a call from a man with a strange problem. He has two fish ponds in his garden, and has just had a visit from an otter. He was wanting advice on how to protect his fish. It is almost certain that the otter will be back, and Andy thinks that electric netting will be the only effective deterent. What a dilemma.

3rd September 2005

Behind the Scenes

Today we had 8 people on our behind the Scenes Day. These days offer an opportunity to get closer to some of our patients, and to learn what goes into running a rescue centre. Today we discussed the porpoise before it was collected for a pm, we met Daffy and visited our badger release site. We ringed the barn owls prior to release, fed the seals, learnt about rearing hedgehogs from 1 week old to moving to a rehabilitation pen, and lots more. Contact us for details of our next course.

31st August 2005

Kingfisher

Not many casualties arrive here without a phone call to tell us they are coming. Tonight two people arrived unexpectedly, and what a surprise when I opened the box and saw a kingfisher. As Emma said, the blue on its back was almost too bright to look at. This is the dispersal season for juvenile kingfishers and they do get into some unusual situations. Two of them had flown into a B&Q store and hit a window. One had died, the one in the box looked bright. However it does have a shoulder injury. It may fly again, but maybe not.

30th August 2005

Otters made friends

Yesterday we opened the tunnel that joins the two enclosures occupied by the otter cubs, Tara and Summer. Shelby was delighted when she peeped into Summer's sleeping box this morning, and two sets of beady eyes peeped back. The otters were snuggled up together.

Andy and I were out for a meal this evening, so when the phone rang at 11.45, we were quite wide awake. We soon had a carrying box in the car, and were heading for Stevenson Point, where a seal pup was reported in trouble. The seal wasn't far from the water, bit it looked quite sad and underweight. Nevertheless it squirmed plenty as Andy carried it up the slip, and wasn't keen to go into the box. We gave the seal fluids when we got it back to the swan hospital, which at this time of year should be called our seal centre.

So now I am drinking hot chocolate, and entering this report not today but tomorrow, if you see what I mean.....

28th August 2005

seal

Sadly the seal with the hernia didn't make it. Good news though is that the tawny owls released 2 nights ago, return for food each evening. Some of them are waiting before we put out their food!

Sometimes the commonest patients provide some interest, like the pink pigeon admitted today. No this isn't a new species, just a variety of the common street hawker frequently found in Paisley, in the vicinity of Ciba's pigment factory. Other pigeons are green and blue.

26th August 2005

seal

The seal from Barassie beach has been a problem. Whenever we tried putting a tube down to give it fluids, a thick liquid came back up the tube. We thought it might have swallowed plastic, so today it went to the vet for x-rays and endoscope examination. The diagnosis is a diaphragmic hernia. It is undergoing surgery this evening.

24th August 2005

Lots of activity at Hessilhead today. 30 young gulls were ringed, boxed and taken to be released at Troon harbour. The release team were lucky to see grey seals, black guillemots and a common tern. The hospital team were busy admitting 14 casualties. These included a merlin and a peregrine. Sadly the merlin had an irreparable wing fracture. the peregrine is more promising. It has a badly infected hock joint, which can be treated with antibiotics. She is a big strong female bird, who has already begun to feed herself. Most of the time she lies down, resting her leg.

We had just opened a tawny owl aviary, to release 5 tawny owls tonight, when we got a call about a seal in trouble on Barassie beach. The lady who called had seen the seal earlier, and managed to pull it back into the sea. Now she had found it beached again, a sure sign that the seal was in trouble. She stayed beside the seal till we arrived, and we were puzzled. the seal was in good condition, really chunky, but its eyes told us it didn't feel well.

21st August 2005

Short-eared owl

We had an unusual patient in today. Short-eared owls are unusual patients anyway, but one that perched on the hand of the person who brought it was quite odd. The people said they found the owl at the roadside 3 weeks ago, and it was tame. They had wanted to keep it as a pet, but of course that is illegal. We will now have to decide if the owl is tame, or if it is imprinted. Not knowing more about its story is making this difficult, but if the owl is imprinted it cannot be released. If it is tame, we may be able to hack it back. We will observe its behaviour over the next few weeks, and hopefully come to a decision. Meantime it is a wonderful opportunity to see such a spendid bird at close quarters. The edge of its facial disc is dazzling white, against a dark background. Hopefully one day it will return to the moorland where it belongs.

20th August 2005

oiled ducks

Andy and two volunteers have just come back from Alexandria, having successfully captured 4 oiled mallards. The job was easier than it might have been, as these ducks have been in the habit of visiting a garden for food. Although oiled they confidently walked across the lawn as usual, and with a little persuasion walked in through the back door of the house, where capture was a certainty. We gave the ducks a lectade and charcoal soluntion, which will hopefully counteract any ill effects of the oil in their guts. They each got antibiotics too, and then resumed eating as if nothing had happened. Tomorrow they will go the SSPCA Wildlife Unit in Fife, where there are good facilities for cleaning oiled birds.

19th August 2005

another otter cub

Andy and I have just had a few days away, finishing the trip at Ullapool where we collected another otter cub. This little female is a bit smaller than Tara, but apparently she is eating well. The journey back was eventful. The first problem was that when Andy put the key in the lock of the side door of the campervan, to load the otter cage easily, it broke! And for reasons that I won't go into, it was the only key we had with us. A call to the AA, promising a locksmith within the hour, resulted in a very helpful mechanic from the local garage. He managed to extract the half of key still stuck in the lock, and with the same pair of fine screwdrivers, he put it in the ignition and got us started. The nearest locksmith was in Inverness, and obviously there could be no stops on the way. At Inverness we had the same puzzled expressions, and the same question, 'Have you got a spare key?'. After more fiddling with screw drivers, the key was recovered and 20 minutes later a new one cut. Problems over, we headed for home. But the problems weren't over. Travelling down the A9, just passing Blair Atholl, our brakes failed. We came to a sudden, juddering hand brake stop at the end of a layby, and called the AA again. The telephonist seemed a bit surprised that we had not only a dog but an otter on board, but we didn't have to wait long for a breakdown truck that brought us all the way home!

12th August 2005

Seals, etc

Two of our sea pups, Scuddie and Milo, are self feeding now. On Monday a thrid seal came into care. Salty is a bit heavier than the first two, he has ulcers on his eyes, and doesn't like the taste of fish. He stubbornly refuses to open his mouth when Andy attempts to force feed him, and if Andy does get food in, he spits it straight back out. Today we resorted to blended fish through a tube. Hopefully we won't have to do this oftem but hopefully, with a full tummy, Salty will feel better, and may become a bit more co-operative.

The last few days have been good for releases. More young gulls were taken to Troon, 3 hand reared common gulls were taken back to Faslane, 12 tawny owls have been released, and tonight we release a hedgehog and a black headed gull at Lochwinnoch. Next to go will be the eider ducks. they look really good.

There was some sad news today when we heard that a peregrine, which was brought to us yesterday, would have to be put to sleep. Sadly, the bird had been 8 days ago, and someone had kept it without seeking attention for the broken wing. Without treatment, the bones had begun to callous out of line, and there was infection in the wing. If we had got the bird 8 days ago, it would probably have made a full recovery and returned to the wild.

11th August 2005

Kingfisher

We have had a kingfisher in care for the last few days. It was a cat victim, not badly injured, but with a few tail feathers missing. For some of our staff/volunteers, this was a first. Most were surprised at the timy size of the bird, and the really dazzling blue stripe along its back. The bird was hand fed small fish while in care, and gradually became more lively and inquisitive. Today it was ready for release, and we selected an attractive area of water on the RSPB Aird meadow bird reserve. As usually happens, we faced the kingfisher towards the release site, sparkling water, overhanging reeds, good population of small fish, what more could a kingfisher want. We don't know, but it flew towards the trees on the horizon, and disappeared above them!. Perhaps it was heading back where it came from.

3rd August 2005

seal pups

There is always plenty to do at this time of year. We must check the young birds and animals regularly, as many of them are ready for release now. Some are released at Hessilhead, which means we can monitor their progress. We must find release sites for others, and take some to the coast. The birds are ringed before release; we must be sure they are flying well and we must check their weights. This is in addition to the routine feeding and cleaning.

Today was especially busy, with 2 calls to collect injured deer before 10am, and two seal pups calls later in the day. One of the deer had its leg caught in a fence, and hopefully will be fine. Sadly the other had died before we arrived. The seal pup from Ayr beach has lots of bites, and is underweight. The pup from Rothesay is even thinner. The pups are getting rehydration fluids for 24 hours. We hope to start them on fish later tomorrow.

2nd August 2005

Porpoise

Years go by without us setting foot on Stevenson beach, and then we are there twice in one week. We were there at 8am this morning, following up a call about a stranded dolphin. In fact it was a porpoise, with a badly damaged fluke. We followed the rescue proceedure.... prop the animal in an upright position, keep it wet, cover with wet towels, keeep blow hole dry, shade from sun, and while we were doing this we were consulting expert vets around the country. Sadly the decision was taken to euthanase the porpoise. It was in good condition, so the fluke injury, which had in fact amputated almost half of the fluke, was the reason for it being beached. We could easily have refloated it, but what was the point of that if it couldn't survive. It was a sad end to the rescue, but the right one.

15th July 2005

Back to Work

Andy and I spent today checking on the new patients which had arrived in our absence, and answering the phone. We are getting more and more calls about young gulls which have come off roofs, but which are still not flying. Most of these youngsters don't have a problem. there parents will continue to feed them. If they are in busy roads in the city centre, or other dangerous locations, we will take them into care. Otherwise we prefer to leave them with their parents. We already have over 120 young gulls in care. Space is limited, and the cost of rearing them considerable. And after all, the parents will do a better job of teaching their offspring to be independent.

The otter cub is doing well. She is living outside now, and eating well. A few more kestrel chicks have come into care; their is a new swan which had a hook removed from its neck, and a new cygnet that had swallowed fishing line. The hot weather has caused several house martin nests to collapse, so hand feeding continues to take a lot of time in the hospital. the baby bats are thriving, and most of the hoglets are self feeding now.

A new roe deer fawn was admitted today. She has some problems, but has already taken a little food. Fingers crossed.

9th July 2005

otter cub

There were lots of ooohs and aahs today when Andy arrived home with an otter cub rescued rescued from Troon Marina. The cub had been seen the night before, swimming around and calling constantly. This morning it scrambled out of the water, exhausted and wet. It is a bit of a mystery. Perhaps 8 or 9 weeks old, the cub is in good condition, but had obviously got into trouble and no mother had responded to its cries for help.

8th July 2005

Otters/cuckoo

We have just returned from feeding the otters at their release site. It must be nearly 3 months now since they were released, but most nights one, two or all of them return for food. We are feeding the otters while the owners of their release site are on holiday, and it has been good to see them occasionally. This evening the smallest of the 3 came trotting up the drive after Andy had put the fish out. it stopped when it saw our car, but after just a moments hesitation it continued towards us, then went down the steps to the feeding station. The volunteers with us could clearly hear it chomping on the fish, and good views too.

Today's most unusual arrival is a cuckoo. It is a young bird which flew into a window at Gourock. It was concussed, but tonight it is perching, which is a good sign. Hopefully it will soon be back in the wild.

4th July 2005

Releases

It has been a good day for releases. 25 young gulls were taken to Troon, and 4 adult gulls, recovered from botulism, were released at Hessilhead. A mum and two baby hedgehogs had their enclosure opened, and an adult male kestrel was returned to Dalmellington. The 2 weasels released a couple of weeks ago still take food from the release site, but the first batch of kestrels released from a secluded aviary seem to have stopped coming back. Several of the young jackdaws released at Hessilhead have found our peanut feeders, and are developing the technique of tipping peanuts out. A cheeky hand reared robin, which has a slightly deformed foot, makes regular visits to the food preparation room where he finds titbits. Mallards are often seen flying from our wildfowl enclosures to the quarry pond, but just as often they are seen flying back!

We returned to the demolition site today, only to discover that the digger had been working again, the remaining walls flattened and much of the rubble scraped and moved around. Not a chance now of finding anything alive.

3rd July 2005

No luck finding more barn owls

The good news is that the barn owl chick has settled in with three other orphan barn owls. It it the oldest of the group, with flight feathers showing through the down. The 3 younger chicks look like large balls of cotton wool!

Another 3 mallard ducklings rescued today, which must bring our total for the year to about 170. Wherever we walk around the centre, we meet young mallards on the paths. These fully grown youngsters have been released, and visit the quarry pond at feeding time. At other times they hang around here looking for hand outs.

2nd July 2005

Barn Owl home demolished

Sorry. The diary has not been updated for longer than I expected, due to an influx of more than 200 Uist hedgehogs, a really busy baby bird season, and a very successful Open Day.

I have been prompted to return this evening by a feeling of despair. We were called out to rescue a barn owl. When we arrived we found that an old barn had been demilshed yesterday, and the person responsible knew that there was a barn owl nest inside. The pile of rubble looked, on a smaller scale, like the scene after an earthquake. A young owl had been spotted under a slab of concrete, and after some digging and heaving a four week old barn owl chick was pulled from the wreckage completely unharmed. It didn't seem possible. Sadly there must have been other chicks in the nest, and possibly swallow and house martin nests too. We gave up searching as it became too dark to see. How sad that someone could deliberately cause such destruction.

22nd June 2005

Children's Activity day

Today we had a small group of children studying mammals. They had a close encounter with Daffy the Badger, looked at footprints and a badger sett, cleaned out fox cubs, then prepared and delivered their food. Then it was time for indoor work in the hospital. There were 9 baby hedgehogs to weigh, weasels and a leveret to see, they watched baby bats feeding, then looked at a skulls and did a mammals quiz.

The next Children's Day will be on 5th August, when we will be looking at ducks, swans etc. Call or e-mail for more details.

A Wildlife Awareness day will be held on 6th August. This will include first aid, transporting the casualty, handling and capture, examination. More details on request.

14th June 2005

Guillemot rescued on way home.

Andy and I were returning from a few days away this morning. Driving past the Aonack Mor road end, north of Fort William, we were surprised to see a guillemot sitting in the middle of the road. We turned the van as soon as possible, by which time two cars had stopped, the drivers looking puzzled to see this sea bird waddling around the traffic island. We wrapped the guillemot, which was very lively, in a towel and stopped at the Corran Ferry slip. Other guillemots were flying up and down the coast. Ours toddled into the water, swam for a while then dived and shook and looked completely at home. Pleased to be back where he belonged.

29th April 2005

Busy Week

The hospital is filling up with babies. A dozen blackbird chicks have been joined by two song thrushes and two mistle thrushes. the original mallard duckling is now half grown, and playing mother to 2 younger ducklings. there is another clutch of orphaned ducklings, and 11 with their mother. Mum had nested in a playground, and there was no way out for her and the little ones. We have 3 young tawny owls, and today the first young finches came into care. They became homeless when their tree was felled. Why don't people know that birds nest at this time of year!

The fox cubs, 10 of them, have moved outside, so the hospital smells a bit fresher! the latest young mammal to arive is a leveret. She is feeding well, but someone had kept her for a week and fed her cow's milk. The only things that grow well on cow's milk are calves, so the leveret is a bit underweight. Hopefully she will catch up now.

The Uist hedgehogs are keeping us really busy. We have already admitted just over 100, and rehomed most of them. We are expecting 60 more tomorrow evening, though our van was held up yesterday, when the ferry was cancelled due to Force 9 gales.

19th April 2005

First Tawny Owl chick

New babies every day now. Last night another blackbird chick, today the first young tawny owl. He is a good chick, weighing 8oz, but at only 3 weeks old is a bit too young to be out of the nest. He is too young to perch, or to attempt to climb a tree to safety. He would have stayed huddled on the ground, and his chances of survival were slim. I am sure he will soon have company, and can look forward to returning to the wild in late summer. By then he will be able to hunt.

17th April 2005

Fox cubs

8 fox cubs in care now. the youngest have only just opened their eyes, the oldest is a chunky 5 weeks, and he has an almost white tail. Several times this week we have had calls from people who have foxes beneath their house, or under garden sheds. Some of the people want the foxes removed, but we won't do that at this time of year. It wouldn't be fair to disturb cubs as young as this. We ask people if they can put up with the disturbance for a few more weeks, then products such as Reynardine, Get Off my Garden or Scoot can be used to deter the foxes. These products smell unpleasant to foxes, and the family will leave. Much better that than separating Mum and cubs, and then having to find a suitable release site.

Uist Hedgehogs

16th April 2005

It is 11.30pm, and we have just unloaded 39 hedgehogs rescued from the cull on the Uists. You should see them, exploring their new surroundings, noses twitching, sampling our food and making nests in old fleeces. Soon they will be moving to release sites in gardens.

Red Squirrels

15th April 2005

We collected two baby red squirrels this evening. The youngsters have had a traumatic 2 days. Yesterday their tree was felled, and one concussed baby found on the ground. This morning its brother was found too. it was lucky he had survived the night without the warmth of a nest and siblings. The squirrels were taken from Kirriemuir to Edinburgh, and hayley, one of our volunteers, collected them there, and brought them to Glasgow. Finally they arrived at Hessilhead, were eager to drink milk from a bottle, and have snuggled together in a woolly hat. They have their eyes open, so it shouldn't be long till they nibble nuts and fruit.

Yesterday three blackbird chicks arrived, still in their nest, after a cat seriously injured their mother. All are feeding well. When their box is opened three beaks open wide, each hoping to get the first mouthful. Chicks soon learn that if they keep begging on begging, there is food for everyone. There are some advantages to being reared at Hessilhead!

12th April 2005

Baby update

The litter of 6 baby rabbits that arrived while I was on the Uists is doing really well. The volunteers took turns to feed them three times each day. Now they are eating rabbit mix, grass and vegetables, and bottle are reduced to morning and night. Soon they will be down to one milk feed, and ready for a move to outside.

Fox cubs are doing well. Luke the oldest cub feeds himself, and doesn't like milk. The two mddle cubs are at an inbetween stage. Sometimes they guzzle all their milk, but sometimes they prefer to eat meat. the two smallest cubs, found really cold and wet in a wood last week, are thriving. They were always fat little cubs, and judging by the way they eat, they intend to stay that way. Soon they will learn to eat meat too.

8th April 2005

Raptors released

Yesterday Helen took a buzzard back to Dalry. it had been found at the roadside three weeks ago, had always beena restless patient, and was pleased to be back in the wild. Today we released the peregrine, after flying it on a line to make sure it flew well. It was a treat to see it fly away powerfully, slowly climbing and circling. It was a very good weight, having been eating lots while in care. That should give it a day or two to get used to hunting.

5th April 2005

Uist Hedgehog Rescue

Andy and I have been away in the Uists for a few days. We took the equipment for this year's hedgehog rescue, and enjoyed some time exploring the islands. we were lucky to see golden eagles, hen harriers and short-eared owls, as well as several species of wader----all in the wild and looking fit and healthy! We found one hedgehog on the road at night, and brought it back with five others. All are now settled in the hospital while we find them release sites.

26th March 2005

more fox cubs

It isn't often that wildlife comes to order. One of the first calls today reported 3 orphan fox cubs. They had been in care since yesterday lunchtime, having been found above ground by a Scottie dog. A lot of disturbance had taken place in the garden, and maybe the vixen would have moved the cubs. It was too late now to find out, and at only a few days old, these cubs need to be kept warm. It wouldn't be possible to leave them for long to see if their mother returned. it was good news for Guinness, the cub already in care. Now she has 2 sisters and a brother.

25th March 2005

test flights

It was a day for checking birds and a bat for release today. First there was the barn owl that was brought in late last Friday night. It is eating well now, and is really quite bad tempered. She flew well, but needs just a few more days to get stronger. The tawny owl that came in 2 days ago seems to have fully recovered from his accident. The person who found him is willing to come and release him close to where he was found, so he should be back in the wild soon. The final test flight was for a bat. The pipistrelle had been found by workman, and flicked to the ground. Fortunately someone was watching, and took the bat into care. This bat sleeps really soundly, and needs to be warmed up in the hand before it wakens, either to feed or fly. Slowly it comes to life, stretching and yawning. When it is almost ready for take off it starts to vibrate, and when released in the bat tunnel it flew perfectly. It will be collected tomorrow, and returned Dundee.

23rd March 2005

fox cub

Andy and I got back from a 2 day break to find the first fox cub of the season happily snuggled up in a cosy fleece on a heat pad. She had a full tummy and seemed perfectly content. Sadly the fox family had been accidentally disturbed. Mum had come back for 2 cubs, but this little one was left. Luckily someone cared enough to take her in, then drove her 35 miles to Hessilhead. Hopefully it won't be too long now till another cub comes into care. Once the cub's eyes are open she will become more active and playful. She will need a little playmate then.

20th March 2005

Late night call

It could have ben worse. Calls at 1.30 am are not nearly so bad as those at 3 or 4 am. The call was from the Police asking if we could help with a swan on the road at Bonhill. The 40 minute drive took nearly an hour due to fog, but the Police had kindly stayed with the cygnet, keeping it on the grass verge, out of danger. The cygnet had apparently hit wires earlier in the day, and had a severely skinned and bloody beak. There is some swelling in the neck too, so it will stay at Hessilhead for a while.

The morning brought a variety of patients, including a treecreeper which had been caught by a cat. It is a perky little bird, that started eating mealworms straight away. A hedgehog with a hind leg missing came next, no sign of a wound, but the hog looks like it has lost a lot of condition in hibernation. It really seemed to enjoy its rehydration fluid. A herring gull, a collared with canker and a blue tit completed the day's intake. Outside there were lesser black backed gulls back on the aviaries. I haven't seen a ring yet, but we are fairly sure that one of them is the same gull that took up residence here last year, and terrorised volunteers when they went near the young gull enclosure. Could be an entertaining summer!

19th March 2005

Late Night Arrival

A barn owl was brought in last night. It had been found on the road, almost certainly having ben hit by a car, and the people who picked it up were pleased to find somewhere prepared to treat the casualty straightaway. They had drawn a blank with vets and other organisations.

The owl looked dreadful. Blood was trickling from its mouth, and the bird, though standing, was motionless. We quickly gave it antibiotics, put it in a box on a heat pad, and left it alone. It was still alive at midnight, but no change.

This morning there was still blood, but not so much. I gave the bird fluids. At lunchtime the owl looked brighter, and at teatime I hand fed it. There was no more bleeding, what a relief.

The odd thing about this owl was that it appeared to have been eating frogs before becoming an RTA victim. It's face was covered in masses of small black eggs.....frog eggs before they had been exposed to water and swelled to form the spawn. We didn't try to clean the owl's face last night, but today the eggs had dried, and were easily removed.

Today someone wanted us to remove the frog spawn from his garden pond! Isn't that what garden ponds are for?

16th March 2005

RELEASES

So far, this week has been good for releases. First a herring gull flew; he had been in care for 3 months, recovering from a shoulder injury. Saturday's common gull was released today. He came in with a fishing hook down his throat, and the barbs had come out through the skin. He still has dissolvable stitches, but was very restless in care. Two blackbirds were released back in their own territories, and a barn owl was taken back to the far side of Beith. She was a lovely adult female in good condition. Hopefully her mate has hung around while her broken wing healed. Today a young swan was released on Castle Semple Loch. Soon it will be mugging visitors for bread!

5th March 2005

Late night/early morning

Yesterday was quiet till teatime, then there was a shag needing help in Catrine, and injured kestrel in kilmarnock, and the report of a swan unable to walk in Drybridge. Looking for the swan was a mini adventure, through a tunnel, over a footbridge, down a ladder and across a muddy field, with the light of a fading torch which hadn't been charged. And no swan to be seen. Finally the man who reported the swan appeared out of the darkness, and he couldn't see the swan either. He said it was last seen struggling towards the river, and must have made it there before we arrived. We agreed to return in daylight next morning.

By the time we had returned home, finished the feeding and treated new patients it was late. I had been in bed 10 minutes when the phone rang at 1am. An injured deer was in custody in a Glasgow Police Office. When we arrived at the office, the police said they had just taken another call, about another injured deer, not far away. We went there first, but the deer was dead, apparently having been dragged along beneath a car. So we collected the fist deer, which has a broken leg, and drove home slowly. We splinted the leg, prepared a shed, gave antibiotics and treatment for shock, and enjoyed a hot chocolate before heading for bed....again.

3rd March 2005

Buzzard & Peregrine

The buzzard is hanging on. He has been on fluids for 24 hours, and just had his first small meal of meat. He is weak, lies down most of the time and puts up no resistence when handled. Fingers crossed.

Today was busy. First to arrive was a weasel, courtesy of someone's cat. Then came a roe deer, courtesy of someone's dog. The deer was chased into a fence at Eglinton Country Park. It has serious neck injuries, similar to whiplash, and is badly concussed. We have managed to get her to drink some rehydration fluid.

The excitement of the day was the arrival of what had been described as a small bird of prey. A farmer had put it in a box, and one of our helpers drove it to the Centre. When she arrived, Moine explained that during the journey the bird had tried to get out of the box. Instinctively she had reached over to push down the lid, and a large talon grabbed her. So she drove the final miles with talons in her hand. 'That would be a bit uncomfortable,' I said, expecting the box to contain a kestrel. Imagine my surprise when I opened the box, lifted the towel and saw the heavily moustached head of a peregrine falcon. It must have been agony for Moine with its talons in her hand. Peregrines just don't come with a gentle grip! The falcon has a fractured wing, but we are hoping for a full recovery.

2nd March 2005

Variety

The last couple of days have brought in a mixed bag of patients. There is swan, ring number 3BLS, who was staggered out of the water at Broadwood Loch, unable to use one of her legs. The vets are puzzled, as there is no sign of injury on an x-ray, but muscle wastage indicates that the problem has been affecting the swan for a while. She is back at Hessilhead now, taking gentle excercise on the pond, and stoically taking her medicine. A kestrel, a jackdaw and a guillemot came from the vets at the same time. You would wonder how a guillemot got to Falkirk! The kestrel has its wing pinned, the jackdaw's carpal fracture has healed well. Like all jackdaws this one is a character, and constantly hammers the back of its cage. If we don't move it out to an aviary tomorrow it will probably escape. It sounds like Bob the Bullder is at work in the hospital.

A young herring gull with an elbow injury came from a vet at the east end of Glasgow, and a young pigeon from a vet at the west end. A hedgehog was found in a Bridge of Weir garden this morning. it was a hard frost, so if the hedgehog woke last night and went walk about, it would certainly have got cold and probably found no food. Or it may have been disturbed from its hiberantion nest. Either way, it seems content to be curled up on aheat pad.

This evening a buzzard was handed in to Renfrew Police Office. The bird is seriously underweight, and has a foot infection. We have given it rehydration fluid by crop tube, a vitamin injection and left it on heat pad. I will be going to check on its progress soon.

21st February 2005

Poisoned bird recovers

As soon as I got up this morning I checked the buzzard. There was no change, which was a surprise. We hadn't expected her to survive the night! We gave her more fluids and vitamins, and when I took her from the box at lunchtime, she managed to stand. It was a wobbly stand, and when she tried to scratch herself under the beak, she toppled over. Still, it was promising.

By teatime the buzzard's box was dancing on the heatpad. It was difficult getting hold of the bird without her escaping from the box, and after only a few minutes in a cage I had to return her to the box. In the cage she was going frantic, desperate to be free. She was likely to damage feathers if I left her there. What an amazing recovery. This evening I hand fed her, twice, and tomorrow she will be released. Hopefully she won't find any more poison. (Tests are being carried out to try and identify a poison, and relevant authorities have been notified of the incident)

This evening's casualty was yet another swan. This one had grand ideas. It was found wandering up the drive to Turnberry Hotel, and we collected it from their linen room. It has an eye injury and swollen head, which may explain its aggressive behaviour. Given the chance, its grabs trouser legs and shakes. Or perhaps it is trying to point out that Turnberry was more upmarket than Hessilhead. But wait till it sees out indoor swan pond tomorrow!

20th February 2005

Poisoning

It wasn't a good end to the day. We were called out to collect a buzzard, which is in a collapsed state, and we believe, suffering from poisoning. This bird was lying in a field, next to a dead buzzard, which had been partly eaten. We don't hold out much hope for the live buzzard. We removed the food from its crop, flushed it out with water, and then gave her some rehydration fluids. As soon as we let go of head, it flops down. When we put the bird in a box she collapses. Even her eyes are closed all the time. We have left her on a heat pad, and will give her more fluids before bed time, if she lasts that long. What a waste of such handsome birds.

12th February 2005

Swans again, and how to help a deer.

It was a busy Saturday, which is par for the course when we are short of help. First to arrive was an MOD landrover, with an injured buzzard in the back. The next problem was a cygnet holding up traffic in Renfrew, follwed by a very sick fox in Clydebank, and a pigeon in Paisley. There was an afternoon lull, and late on we decided to release 2 swans at Castle Semple Loch. On the way home we got a call Strathclyde Fire Brigade 'Could we help with a swan stuck up a tree?' By the time we arrived in Dennistoun the swan was wearing a fireman's sweater, and was tucked up in the fire engine. Andy was disappointed. Still a little boy at heart, he was expecting to get up on the turn table ladder! Before leaving we noticed another swan trapped in the nearby school playing field. It was trying to get thro' the fence, back to the pond in Alexandra Park. As a small consolation the Firemen put ladders over the high fence, and Andy got to go and rescue the swan.

We were 5 miles from home when we got a call to say a young deer had been hit by a car in Gateside. We were shocked when we arrived to find the deer lying in the road, and no-one had stopped with their car parked in front the it,hazards flashing, to prevent it from being hit again. This could also prevent an accident, as some people would automatically swerve when they saw a deer in the road. If you find an injured animal, please stay with it till help comes. If you put a jersey or jacket over a deer's head, it will keep it calm and reduce stress. Sadly the deer was too badly injured to save.

5th February 2005

Territorial swans

More signs of spring today, in the form of fighting swans. First to arrive was a hefty male swan, rescued from the canal in Glasgow, having been attacked by the resident pair of swans. They had been trying to drown him, by each taking a turn at sitting on him and holding his head underwater. In his effort to escape up the canal bank he has broken toes and torn claws. He looked really dejected when he arrived here, but has cheered a up a bit with company in the swan hospital. We wonder how such a heavy swan had such a hard time.

This afternoon it was the turn of some Paisley cygnets to bear the brunt of attacks by their parents. One flew off the canal, landed on the path, and was trying to get back thro the railings. That would have resulted in another attack, so we took it away and released it at Castle Semple Loch. The remaining cygnet was being bullied by dad, being chased rapidly up and down the length of the old section of canal, which the parents want back to themselves for the breeding season. We tried to attract the cygnet with bread, but he was so upset he wasn't interested in food. It must be really confusing for cygnets that have been protected by their parents for so long, to suddenly find themselves being hastled this way. There may well be more calls tomorrow about this cygnet.

The third swan of the day came from Hogganfield loch. Not a territrial dispute this time, just a swan in poor condition, wet feathers and sore feet.

4th February 2005

unusual find in a garden

When the people phoned they said there was a duck in their garden, and we wondered if this was the start of the silly mallard season. When the casualty arrived we were surprised to see a goosander, and even more surprised to find it tangled in fishing line. the line had cut into the bird's wings, and flying would have been impossible. So it is a mystery how the goosander came to be in a garden away from water. Lucky it was found though, it could have been on the fox menu tonight.

Have a look at this week's My Weekly, for some lovely photos of last spring's orphan birds and animals at Hessilhead.

2nd February 2005

Dolphins

Andy and I decided to have a break today, and headed for Culzean Country Park. It was a perfect spring day, with birds in full song, reminding us that our busy season won't be long in coming. We were just about to leave the park, when Bill phoned. He'd had a call from the Coastguards, reporting two stranded dolphins at Girvan. We were heading for Girvan anyway, but went a bit quicker than usual! We arrived at the scene just in time to see the local vet up to his waist in water, pushing the smaller dolphin into deeper water. There seemed to be no reason for the mother and youngster to strand on a steeply sloping beach. They seemed disorientated for a while, swimming in tight circles. They stayed afloat for a surprisingly long time, but eventually the two headed out to see, and no more reports of them is good news. We would have liked a closer view of the pair, but we were pleased to see them back in the sea.

31st January 2005

swan on roof

It isn't the first time we've had to rescue a swan from the roof of a building. This time the swan had crash landed on Aldi's roof in Saltcoats. No doubt it was heading for the boating pond. Luckily the roof sloped gently, and with an injured leg, the swan was reluctant to move. With help from the guy who called us out, Andy soon had the swan captured and on its way back to Hessilhead.

29th January 2005

Training Day

Today we enjoyed a good First Aid for Wildlife training Day, with the 7 delegates getting experience of handling raptors, swans, gulls and pigeons. All were shown how to examine patients and recognize some common problems. most importantly, all learnt to how to make injured wildlife comfortable, and how transport it without causing more harm and stress.

The highlight of the afternoon session was seeing a buzzard fitted with a BTO numbered ring, and then flying off to freedom. We tested a sparrowhawk's flight, by flying her on a long line, and she flew well too. When she has put on a bit more weight, she will be released.

The good weather during the week allowed more releases. Two foxes, a merlin, more swans and another seal were pleased to go free.

We rescued a swan from the M8, another from the new Ardrossan by-pass and a cygnet from Loch lomond. This bird was really ill. It had swallowed line that was caught round its tongue, and whenever the cygnet tried to swallow, the line cut into its flesh. There was infection, and the bird was really thin. It was put on a drip at the vets, and later the line was removed successfully. It will be quite a while before this cygnet is fit. Yesterday we rescued a young whooper swan. It had collided with overhead wires, injured its back and suffered some burns. Whooper swans are more difficult patients than mutes. they are more nervous, and reluctant to eat in care. This bird feeds while on the pond. Once it is well enough to go outside, it can share an enclosure with our resident whooper swan. He always makes other whoopers feel better.

24th January 2005

Barn Owl Hitches a Lift

Julie, a vet, was travelling home with her sister in the early hours of Saturday morning, when she spotted an owl stretched across the front of roof rack on another car. At first Julie thought it was a sick trophy of some hunting guys. As she got closer, she realized the owl was alive. Julie managed to alert the driver, who was surprised to see his ususual passenger. Julie retrieved the owl, and put it by the heater in her car. With the night temperature below zero, it was a wonder the owl hadn't frozen to death. Next day Julie gave the owl fluids and treatment for shock, and later brought it to Hessilhead. The owl still looked a bit shocked by its ordeal, but was well enough to feed itself that night. Amazingly it has no injuries, and will soon be ready for release. The driver had travelled from Dumbarton to Dennistoun. A barn owl is most likely to have been hunting in the fairtly open area near the whisky bond. We will release her there, and hopefully she will be close enough to home to find her way back.

23rd January 2005

Seal Away

At last a good day for releases. 2 black headed gulls, 2 swans, a common seal and a shag released in fine calm weather. More patients are ready to go, so hopefully, over the next few days, we will be heading in various directions to return birds and animals to their home range. It is a bit of a problem in winter, that most casualties are adults, and as it is our policy to return territorial species to their own patch, a considerable amount of time is spent travelling. As some of the casualties are nocturnal, this can involve a fair bit of evening work.

21st January 2005

Spring

The first sign of spring arrived yesterday, in the form of a shag in amazing breeding plumage. The bird has glossy, deep emerald feathers, bright yellow patches around its face, a punky crest atop its head and startling green eyes, like jewels. Under the beak is a patch of skin, black with tiny yellow spots. We think the bird was a victim of the stormy weather, and on arrival had a very sore leg. The foot was hot, the leg hung limply, and the bird reluctant to stand. After 24 hours on anti-inflammatory treatment, the bird looks much brighter, was standing a while ago, and eating. Hopefully it will soon be back in the wild to impress a mate.

Another shag was brought in today. This is a younger bird, with browner plumage, underweight but lively. The prolonged stormy weather has no doubt made it difficult for some sea birds to feed.

We are runnning a training course on First Aid for Injured Wildlife, on Saturday 29th January. Topics covered include transporting a casualty, giving fluids, examining a casualty, handling swans and care of hedgehogs. Contact Hessilhead for more details.

19th January 2005

Swans

Whatever the weather, there is never a shortage of swans getting into trouble. This weekend brought a cygnet that flew into the side of a building, an adult swan that landed on a bridge in Dumbarton, and another cygnet tangled in line and with a fishing hook down its throat. The swan that landed on the bridge was really unlucky. The bridge is closed for repairs, and the swan landed on metal re-inforcing spikes. It tore the web of its foot badly, and a spike punctured the shoulder. Although still on antibiotics, the swan is making a good recovery. The 2nd cygnet was from the Barrhead dams. It was so hungry that when we arrived, it rushed to us for food, which of course made it easy to catch. We removed the line from round its head and beak, but the hook, which we could just see glistening behind the tongue, was beyond our reach. So that entailed a visit to the Vet, an anaesthetic and the hook was successfully removed. The cygnet didn't eat that night, but is looking much better today. Hopefully it will soon be putting on weight.

17th January 2005

stormy weather holds up releases

I had been hoping to tell you that we'd been down to the coast on a lovely sunny, frosty day, and two seals had swum happily away. Instead we have been cutting up fallen trees, clearing snow, plodding through mud, and watching the seals grow fatter by the day. Charlie looks like he has been inflated and is ready to burst. He will certainly have plenty of fat reserves when he eventually gets released. Shandon and Cracker, the two grey seal pups have now started feeding themselves, but it will be few weeks till they are ready to go.

More patients are in the queue of casualties waiting for good weather so they can return to the wild. These include a merlin, a sparrowhawk, a shag, a heron, a buzzard, gulls and a Milngavie fox.

7th January 2005

Good day, bad day

Yesterday was great. First to be released was the robin that was admitted, appropriately, on Christmas day. He looked bad when he came, unable to stand, droopy and sad. He flew away in high spirits, pleased to be free. Then two swans were released at Castle Semple Loch. One has had its leg pinned, and it walked with barely a limp. The other came in as a more routine crash landing; but whatever the reason for a patient's stay, it is always a thrill to see them go. At Castle Semple swans hang around the car park, waiting for food. So newly released swans soon feel at home. Later in the day Andy returned a swan to Broadwood at Cumbernauld. That was the swan with lots of line round its beak and down its throat. It had gained weight at Hessilhead, and was looking good.

Today wasn't so good. When we re-examined the cormorant that came in a few days ago, we found a fractured femur. Today the vet discovered it had been shot, probably about two weeks ago. The bone was shattered and the broken ends badly displaced. It couldn't be pinned, and there was also much necrotic tissue. It is always sad when a patient has to be euthanased, but much more so when the injury wasn't the result of an accident, but had been done deliberately by man.

4th January 2005

Swans

We didn't think we would get far into the year without our first swan patients. This morning we collected a cygnet from Auchenharvie Golf course. It was being kept off the water by an adult pair of swans, and with blood in its beak, may have been attacked, or crash landed in last night's gales. Locals who feed the swans were worried about its safety, as another cygnet was found dead there this morning. Rumour has it that this bird was killed by the dominant pair. We'll see what the post mortem reveals.

The next swan came from Airdrie, with serious burns on its face and beak. We have seen burns such as these over the past two years. Some swans have them on the upper surface of their feet as well. The cause is a mystery. The feathers of the bird are never damaged, and if the swan has walked through some caustic substance the burns should be on the under side of the feet. If anyone has any ideas we'd be pleased to hear them.

3rd January 2005

Sea Birds

With a windy start to the year, it isn't surprising that some seabirds have been found in trouble. First to arrive was a little auk. We rarely see these small dumpy birds, and often, the ones blown inland are underweight. This is the case with this little auk. A razorbill is underweight too, but eating well, and then came a call from a Barrhead, reporting a big black bird that eats fish. The cormorant was crouched under a hedge on the main road garden. It didn't want to be caught, but with its right leg not working, it was easily cornered. We can't feel a fracture, so hopefully with rest the leg will heal. Like most cormorants this one has an attitude problem, and can lash out with its hooked beak remarkably quickly. You need your wits about you when handling cormorants!

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