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

GAY'S DIARY, 2008

30th December 2008

Andy and I have enjoyed working more closely with the patients while our staff have hopefully been enjoying the festivities. We have had plenty of help from our dedicated volunteers and Karen, our new centre manager has been working too. We appreciate this help; it has allowed us to spend more time with our new puppy, Mel.

We have had new arrivals every day over the holiday season; some of course take up more time than others. Two days before Christmas Sara called. Sara is one of our trustees, and I expect that the last thing she needed when on her way to Sainsbury's for her big Christmas shop, was to find an injured roe deer on Loch Lomondside. Sara got help to lift the injured deer into the back of her vehicle, and drove straight to Hessilhead. The deer didn't look good, bleeding from its mouth and badly concussed, it was barely conscious. We didn't hold out much hope. Today the deer panicked when we opened the shed door. That is always a good sign. Over the past few days it has been eating well, and we expect it will be released early next week.

Christmas Day brought a surprise patient from Beith. The little otter cub was curled up in an old tyre beside a track used frequently by dog walkers. The cub was much too small to be out of the holt; the usual reason for this is that Mum has gone missing, and the hungry cub has followed her scent, desperate for food. The cub must have run out of energy, and now it was really cold too. We hurried back to the centre and put the cub in a heated cage. We soon discovered that this cub has attitude, sharp teeth and doesn't like fish. With several punctured fingers, I have now called a truce. The cub is drinking milk from a bottle, and only gets angry when the bottle is empty. I leave fish with the otter every night, hoping it will realize that otters eat fish. So far no luck. I'll have to try hand feeding it again in a day or two. Fingers beware!

On Boxing Day a family arrived with a tawny owl that they had found hanging from a barbed wire fence. The owl looked awful, lying in an open box. it could have been dying. We made the owl comfortable on a heat pad, after giving it painkillers and anti-inflammatory drugs. Later examination revealed a badly strained shoulder, and a lot of tissue damage to the wing equivalent of our forearm. The owl made a remarkable recovery from the trauma. From night 2 it was feeding itself, and chewed its way out of the cardboard box. The owl is really fit and strong, but we are still not sure whether the wing will recover fully. An owl that cannot fly perfectly cannot return to the wild.

11th December 2008

A couple of days ago Gareth and Lisa from Shanwell were back. This time they had a whooper swan with an injured wing. Whooper swans are a totally different patient to our resident mute swans, that frequently literally eat out of our hands. Whooper swans are wild and stroppy. They are difficult to feed in captivity. For two days the swan has been confined to a shed, where it has hardly eaten anything. Today we moved it to the wildfowl enclosure. Here it has company of mute swans, and will hopefully join them at feeding time. The swan certainly looks more relaxed than it did in the shed, but I guess it might be a different story when it is time for antibiotics tomorrow, and we have to catch it!

10th December 2008

A few days ago we got two more pipistrelle bats that had been disturbed in a roost. This posed a problem for us. These bats would have been hibernating in these sub zero temperatures, and it was a bit difficult knowing whether to warm the bats, and feed them, or keep them cool, and hope they would hibernate in care. We decided it would be best to give them rehydration fluids , then decide. They are quite active, so they are in the heated hospital, and are being fed each day for the time being. This evening we admitted another bat. This is a long-eared bat that was found lying on frozen ground outside a farmhouse. Presumably there is a roost in the roof space, and for some reason the bat came out. No wonder it was found moribund. It had little hope of surviving without being rescued.

Photos of long eared bat roosting and waking up, ears extended

waking up, ears extended

9th December 2008

A week ago we arranged to release seals today, weather permitting. The weather couldn't have been better. It has been a bright sunny day with just a light wind, although at Portencross that wind went straight through fleece jackets. Two seals were taken on the first trip, and set off to sea with barely a backward glance. We made another trip with the Renfrew seal, as he was also up to weight, and we wouldn't get a better day for him to go. This seal set off riding the waves. How do they know how to do that when they haven't been in the sea since they got into trouble as small pups several months ago? He swam a little way out, then came back. It seemed he wanted to play the waves again.


What is going on today?

Wow, look at all this water!

Freedom

Are you sure I'll be ok

The release was filmed by a team from Advocates for Animals. It will be used in the campaign for better legal protection for seals. For more information see their web site www.lookoutforseals.org

8th December 2008

This morning one of our buzzards was collected for release. It came from Crocketford, near Dumfries, a week ago. The bird had flown straight through a bedroom window. That was bad enough, but when the house owners went up to see what had caused the breaking glass, they found not only the buzzard, but also the rat it had been carrying. This bird was in good condition, just a little concussed and confused. It was good that Emma, an SSPCA ambulance driver, could collect the bird and take it back to its own patch. Hopefully it will avoid windows in future.

5th December 2008

I had a call this morning from Gareth, who runs Shanwell Wildlife Rescue, based in Dundee. He was wondering if he could bring a grey seal pup to Hessilhead. The volunteers at Shanwell do a great job covering a wide area of Tayside and Perthshire, rescuing a wide range of wildlife. However, their facilities for keeping long term patients are limited, hence the call for help. Gareth and Lisa arrived mid-afternoon. They had already given the pup fluids, and treated the wounds on his back and flippers. He needed more fluids when he got here, and we gave him antibiotics and wormer too, as he has a nasal discharge. Hopefully the pup, named Dundee, will soon respond to treatment. he is our first grey seal pup this year

4th December 2008

Karen, our volunteer in Greenock, never fails to carry out a successful rescue. I'd a call this evening about a seal pup on the slip at The Royal Gourock Yacht Club. The person calling said the pup had been there for 4 days. It was odd that we hadn't been told about this seal before, but if it had been there all that time, it certainly had a problem. Karen was keen to go, although it was dark, and the pup was said to be close to the water. I wasn't surprised to get a call an hour later, from a jubilant Karen, saying the pup was in her van. There was a slight problem. On her way to the rescue, Karen had stopped for fuel. In her excitement she'd put unleaded petrol in her diesel van. Her car spluttered to Gourock, and after completing the rescue she topped it up with diesel. Rather surprisingly, she arrived here safely, and the van got her back to Greenock too! The seal is a common seal pup, suffering from lungworm and associated infection. It has been given fluids, wormer and antibiotics. Hopefully we will see an improvement by morning.

2nd December 2008

This morning Andy and I went out for an injured swan. It was on the boating pond at Craig Tara Holiday Village, near Ayr. The swans were at the opposite end of the pond to where we parked, but there was no mistaking the injured bird. Its head, neck and back were completely covered in blood. Despite its appearance, the swan came walking towards us for bread, and we soon had it in the swan bag in the back of the car. It seems to have been bitten by a dog, and although there are puncture wounds on its neck, the injuries are not as extensive as we had feared. Already the swan is cleaning itself up be swimming and bathing on the swan hospital pool.


In the afternoon there was another swan rescue. A swan had landed on the roof of the Rivergate Shopping Centre in Irvine, and had been spotted by residents of the nearby high rise flats. We have rescued swans from this roof before. The roof comprises a series of ridges, and a swan in the dip between the ridges is unable to spread its wings enough for take off. Neither can it climb up the ridge. This particular swan was quite obliging, and came walking towards Andy. Its cut leg will soon heal, and we'll release it on the river where the swans are fed by many people every day.

30th November 2008

We were a bit puzzled today when we received a call about an injured hawk trapped in a gully. I asked if anyone could catch the bird, but a second call indicated that this would be impossible. It was a great day for an outing, so Andy and I set off for Stair to assess the situation. We could see the problem. The buzzard was on a branch at the bottom of a disused lade. The sides of the lade were vertical, smooth concrete and about 8'deep. There was some water in the bottom of the lade, and an unknown depth of mud. Reaching the top of the lade involved scrambling down a steep bank, with little vegetation and loose soil and frost. Both ends of the lade were closed, but the section where the bird was trapped was about 80 yards long. Then it went under the road and continued for another 200 yards or so. So assuming the bird could not fly, if someone went into the lade, and didn't sink, it would be possible to catch the bird, Andy slithered down the bank, and lowered himself into the lade. He then decided he'd like the long pole, that was in the van, the van key was in his pocket. So it was my turn to slither down the bank to collect the key. Key in pocket, I tried to retrace my steps. Impossible. I kept slipping down the bank, and if I missed the tree at the bottom, I'd be in the lade too. The two men who called us out came to my rescue and hauled me up the bank. Andy felt more confident with the pole, but soon discovered that the ankle deep water went over the top of his wellies! The buzzard made a feeble effort to escape, then tried to hide in a rhododendron bush. Andy didn't even net the bird. He lifted it from the branch, then used the net to pass the bird to the team on the bank. Then came the real problem. How was Andy going to get out of the lade. When standing on tiptoe, his finger tips just reached the top of the concrete. There was no-one in at the 3 nearby cottages, where I'd hoped to borrow a ladder. Eventually Andy found a crack in the concrete, close to a flimsy bush on the bank. With much huffing and puffing, he hoisted himself up, till he was within reach of helping hands from above. Whew!. I thought we were going to have to call for help!

28th November 2008

By the time I was giving the deer their late afternoon feed today, it was already frosty, so the last thing we expected this evening was a call about a bat. This particular bat was flying around the restaurant at the Uplawmoor Hotel. I gathered that customers and staff were not amused. Of course, in the heat of the restaurant, the bat was very active, swooping over heads and around the Christmas tree. Andy and Leianne went to the rescue. It didn't take them long to corner the bat among some tinsel. The bat is an adult pipistrelle, and looks as if it is good condition for the winter. We can't release it during this cold spell of weather, but as soon as we get a mild evening, we will take the bat back to Uplawmoor.

25th November 2008

It didn't come as surprise when someone phoned a couple of days ago, saying they had picked up two injured birds, that they thought must have escaped from an aviary. A dozen or so of the birds had been feeding outside their office all day, eating berries. We knew straightaway that these would be waxwings. Hundreds of these migrants have arrived in Glasgow during the last couple of weeks, having flown all the way from Russia. They feed mainly on berries, especially berries on ornamental trees planted in parks and gardens. They allow people to approach quite closely, and they look very exotic. It isn't surprising people that people think these birds are escapees.

20th November 2008

We have admitted lots of buzzards recently, but today it was the turn of a sparrowhawk to get into trouble. It is a lovely adult female bird, with dark orange eyes, and was found in a garden in Ayr. I expect the bird had collided with a window while in pursuit of prey. She is slightly concussed, has a left shoulder injury, and I'm sure feels fairly sore all over. For the short term the sparrowhawk will stay in a cardboard pet carrier. Sparrowhawks are nervous restless birds, and in a cage they fly against the bars, often damaging their face or feathers. On admission the bird was given rehydration fluid, and a little while ago she was hand fed a chick. Maybe she will she one of the few sparrowhawks that learnt to feed themselves quickly. Some of them are reluctant to feed while in care.

17th November 2008

Today was special. The little red squirrel that has been in care for the last month, has gone home. The squirrel had a nasty leg infection, that required several visits to the vet and a minor operation before it healed properly. In fact it hasn't healed 100%, but the squirrel dashes round its cage with ease, and we hope it will have no trouble coping in the wild. The squirrel has returned to its own garden on the Isle of Arran, where it, and 10 other squirrels are regularly seen at the peanut feeders.

15th November 2008

Although hedgehogs are winning the most numerous casualty award, buzzards are coming in fast too. Most of these are road traffic victims, and fortunately, most of the recent arrivals have had minor injuries and made good recoveries. Today we released the Hessilhead reared buzzard. The Bishopton buzzard was released last week, and tomorrow a lovely big bird will be released close to the papermill near Irvine. I expect it hunts rabbits at the roadside, and that may get it into trouble again.

12th November 2008

Without a doubt, hedgehogs have been the most numerous patients recently. Most of the arrivals have been autumn juveniles, that are too small to hibernate successfully. They are usually found wandering in the daytime, and this tells people they may have a problem. they certainly do. The average weight of recent arrivals is about 250gm. to hibernate, a hedgehog should weigh 600gm. So these youngsters have a lot of feeding and growing to do. It looks as if our hedgehog hospital will be a busy place this winter.

5th November 2008

We are never surprised to get a call about a woodcock in the autumn. The call usually coincides with the arrival of European migrants, and what surprises most people is that most of our woodcock come from Glasgow. We think they must get confused by bright lights. The woodcock that came in today has an eye injury, and is a bit subdued. It was given fluids as it didn't seem likely to eat. Hopefully it will start eating tomorrow. The trouble with woodcock is that the only food we can ever persuade them to eat is earthworms. They eat an awful lot of earthworms. Digging will commence tomorrow morning!

There was a surprise in store this evening, when Leianne met someone coming along our drive, with a tawny owl perched on the front passenger seat of his car. He had lifted the owl from the middle of the road, barely half a mile from the centre. Not surprisingly, this owl was ringed, and we soon discovered that it was one of the young birds reared and released this year. The good news is that the bird is in really good condition. Bad news that it was clipped by a car, but no bones broken.

3rd November 2008

This evening we were on our way to a meeting of the Scottish Ornithologists Club in Glasgow, when we received a call from a lady in Kilbarchan, telling us there was a goose on her doorstep. She lived in the village, and we assumed that the bird would be a domestic goose that had wandered away from home, not too far away. We said we'd collect it on our way home. Leianne went into the house to collect the visitor from the back door, and we were surprised to see her returning carrying a Canada goose. Presumably the goose had collided with overhead wires, and tumbled onto the lady's step. it must have been at least confused, perhaps a little concussed, as it had been there for several hours. We arrived back at Hessilhead, with the goose still sitting on Leianne's lap. Although it can stand, it seems reluctant to do so. This is another indication of a crash landing.

29th October 2008

Yesterday we had an unusual call, reporting a tawny owl caught in a Larsen Trap. Andy and I went to rescue the bird, which looked really miserable. Although the people who found the owl had opened the trap and moved away, the owl hadn't left. This was a sure sign that the bird was cold and stressed. A quick examination indicated no serious problems, but we decided to take the owl back to the centre, as it didn't look up to coping on its own. Larsen traps can be used legally for trapping crows and magpies. A decoy bird is kept in one compartment of the trap, and the other compartment is set to catch visiting birds. The intention would not have been to catch an owl; that was accidental. However, I bet the owl had suffered a miserable night, being scolded constantly by two magpies. By this afternoon the owl was bright and active. It had eaten, and we decided that it should be returned to the wild as soon as possible. It flew strongly from the carrying box. Hopefully it knows all about Larsen traps now, and will keep its distance.

24th October 2008

We had a call from an SSPCA Inspector today, asking if she could bring an injured buzzard to the hospital. Of course that wasn't a problem, but what a surprise it was to discover that the young bird was wearing a BTO ring, and it was one of the young buzzards that we had reared at Hessilhead earlier this year. You may remember that the youngsters were dumped in a black bag at the Vet surgery in Maybole. We had no idea where they came from, though we guessed that someone had felled their tree. We released the youngsters from Hessilhead in August, and now this bird was back. It had been picked up in a garden outside Mauchline, so it had travelled quite a distance. It is a fairly good weight, so has been faring well, and has probably been battered in the storms of the last two days. There are no serious injuries, and this evening the bird is eating well in the hospital cage. Hopefully it will be soon be off on its own again.

21st October 2008

You can probably imagine our disappointment today, when a lady called to inform us that a fox was caught in a snare near Kilwinning. We went straightaway, and found a very distressed and muddy fox struggling to escape from a snare that was attached to a fence wire. The snare was set beside a ditch, so as the fox struggled, it had made mud, and when Andy lifted the animal muddy water poured from its fur. We soon had the snare off the fox, and the fox into a carrying box. Its mouth is damaged from where it has been chewing at the snare, but fortunately there are no other injuries. We will keep the fox for a couple of days. It will clean itself up and hopefully the swelling on its gums will subside. We must release it in the woods where it was found. Hopefully there are no more snares there.

19th October 2008

We've just had a busy weekend, that started with the arrival of an injured tawny owl late on Friday evening. The owl looked fairly concussed, but a quick examination indicated that no bones were broken. The owl was treated with anti-inflammatory drugs, made comfortable in a cardboard box, and left on a heat pad overnight. On Saturday morning the owl still looked a bit groggy, but there has been some improvement now, and we are hopeful of a complete recovery. On Saturday morning patients were queuing up for treatment. There were two swans from Hoganfield Loch in Glasgow, one with a tumour, the other too weak to stand. Three hedgehogs, two of them very small, late autumn babies, and an older hog with front leg injuries. A guillemot was found on Irvine beach, a pigeon came with an old wing injury, and a barn owl, another RTA, came from Dunoon. This owl sadly was in a really bad state, with one wing almost severed. The only option for that bird was euthanasia. During the day 11 Uist hedgehogs went off to their release sites, and a tawny owl was collected by the people who found it. They were delighted that the owl had made a good recovery from a fractured leg, and were pleased to take it back to St John's Town of Dalry. At lunchtime Andy and John went to the assistance of a swan on Kilbirnie Loch. Someone had noticed the swan having trouble swallowing. Andy discovered a common problem. The swan had swallowed fishing line, and a loop of line had caught under the beak, preventing the tangle of line down the throat from being swallowed completely. Andy was able to put pressure on the line, feel a little movement, that told him there wasn't a hook, then pull a little harder. A great tangle of line and food was pulled from the bird. It must have felt a whole lot better then, and went off to feed straightaway.

When Karen left after her day of volunteering, she took a barn owl that had been found not too far from where she lives. The owl had been found on the road a few weeks ago, and had a shoulder injury. We had given the owl a test flight, and knew that it had fully recovered. Karen met the finder, and the owl was released close to where it was found. I bet that seeing the owl fly free was a memorable sight.

We finished the afternoon feeding and thought that was it for the day. Then the phone rang. Someone had moved a deer off the Stockiemuir Road in Glasgow. He would stay with the deer till we arrived. So off we went, with blankets and a sedative for the deer.

The man with the deer couldn't believe that a driver had hit the animal and then driven away, nor that other people were driving past it!

Today has been quieter, with only 7 new patients. Would you believe that one of them, a hedgehog, came from St John's town Of Dalry. That is a long way from us, yet it has featured twice in 2 days! We had hoped to release more hedgehogs this evening, but the weather has turned very wet and windy. We've decided to put that off till the weather improves.

16th October 2008

It is a week for unusual patients. Today we had a call reporting a small seabird found on the beach at Fairlie. The bird was tangled in thread, and tangled in the same thread was a dead bird of the same species. It was lucky that one bird had managed to get ashore. I was a bit puzzled when I saw a grey and white head with a black beak peeping from the box. I had to take the bird from the towel to identify it as a black guillemot in winter plumage, so not black at all. The giveaway was its bright red feet, and the large white wing patches. The guillemot's leg and wing, where the thread had been pulled tight, are very swollen The bird is very lively though, and we hope that it will soon be back at sea.

13th October 2008

The roe deer is recovering slowly from concussion. She can stand on her own now, drinks from a bowl and eats slices of apple that we slip into her mouth. Her eye is still sore and swollen, but we think she will make a full recovery.

A red squirrel was brought across from Arran today. She has an abcess on her hind leg, probably the result of being bitten. She will be treated with antibiotics and hopefully will be fit to return to Arran sometime next week.

12th October 2008

The long-eared owl was really restless when I moved it to an indoor flight yesterday, so early this evening we took it back to Crosshill, a village not far from Maybole. The owl was out of the box straightaway. It flew along the river then up into trees. The owl had been found lying on the road a few days earlier. It had certainly recovered well from its accident.

11th October 2008

Andy and I were away for a few days this week, so we've spent today getting ourselves acquainted with new arrivals. In the hospital there are more juvenile hedgehogs. Most of them were found out in the daytime, trying to find food that will help them to put on weight for the winter. There isn't much food available now, and most of these hedgehogs would die if they were not brought into care. Even in a heated cage some of them struggle to survive. They have been so long without sufficient food, and for much of the time they have been cold and wet. So all these juvenile hedgehogs are pampered. They are treated with antibiotics and vitamins, they are kept on heat pads till they weigh over 250 gms, and are offered a wide variety of food to tempt them to eat. It looks as if the next few months might be busy with over-wintering hedgehogs. We were pleased to see that most of the Uist hedgehogs that weighed over 600 gms had been released in our absence. There is no point in keeping these healthy hogs. They need to be released in time to make nests for hibernation. A young gannet had arrived yesterday. It seems strong and stroppy, so should be heading back to the sea soon. Other newcomers include a long-eared owl, a badly concussed roe deer and a guillemot.

5th October 2008

Andy had an unusual rescue today. We had a call from Saltcoats, reporting a squirrel trying to climb the sea wall. The squirrel had been in the sea and its feet were bleeding. Andy encouraged the squirrel up the wall, whereupon it ran off quickly. We wondered why the squirrel was there. The area around the harbour isn't really squirrel country. Surely someone hadn't trapped the squirrel then tipped it into the sea as a convenient means of disposal. On other occasions we have had calls from people who have used humane traps to catch squirrels in their loft, then wondered how to get rid of them. I wonder why these traps are described as 'humane'.

4th October 2008

We have had a few barn owl casualties recently. There have been road traffic casualties, a youngster found tangled on a barbed wire fence, and an oiled bird. I washed the oiled bird today, a bit of a worrying experience. Barn owls don't look all that tough, there isn't very much of them under their soft white body feathers, and I wondered how it would take to a wash and blow dry. The owl looked pretty miserable while the washing was in progress, but its feathers dried quickly in the gentle heat of a hair drier. I returned the owl to its cage with an electric radiator on high, and soon the owl was preening and looking relaxing. It isn't pristine clean yet, so I guess another wash will be required.

2nd October 2008

Andy and I are just back from Stevenston Point, where it was pretty wild and windy. It was a good trip though. We released the Red Throated Diver that was brought to Hessilhead last night. The diver was found sitting in the middle of the road at Fenwick. It must have made that classic mistake of landing on a wet road, thinking it was water. The person who found the diver said that it was really lucky. As he drove around a bend there was the bird, sitting in the road. It was sensible of them to stop and lift the bird. as it would have probably been impossible for the diver to take off from land. Divers' legs are right at the rear end of their body, designed for maximum propulsion, not for walking or taking off. Before heading off to the coast, we gave the diver a swim in a our seal shed. It looked 100% fit on the water, diving straightaway. It has been a real privilege to handle such a special bird. Certainly a day to remember.

29th September 2008

There has been an influx of fishing tackle casualties recently. First to come was a well grown cygnet, that had a length of line hanging from its mouth. Someone noticed that the cygnet had difficulty swallowing. A large tangled mass of line was pulled from the cygnets throat, but still a couple of strands of line remained, and when pressure was put on these, there was resistance. Luckily Andy arrived home then. He is the expert with this problem, and seems to know instinctively if there is a hook in the throat or not. Obviously, if there is a hook, it isn't wise to pull the line. But if the line has been down the throat for days, it does take quite a lot of pressure to remove it. Gently Andy pulled the line; nothing happened for minutes, then a swelling appeared half way down the neck, and as Andy maintained the pressure the swelling rose up the neck. Another ball of line and food emerged, much to the relief of the cygnet. A swan from Eglinton park was caught and had hooks removed from her leg, and a shag was brought up from Troon, tangled in hooks and line. three hooks were caught on its wings and legs.

23rd September 2008

The hand reared bats have left the tunnel now, and some juveniles that came have now moved into the tunnel prior to release. We had a more unusual bat visitor recently. This was a Natterer's bat, found in a factory complex at Dalry. It looked a bit sad when it first came in, but within a few days it was eating well and then we gave it a test flight in the hospital. It was much larger than the pipistrelles, and flew really well. David enjoyed releasing the bat close to where it came from, and managed to track it with his bat detector.

20th September 2008

During the last 2 weeks, we have been busy releasing the last of the summer's hand reared birds, and all of the fox cubs have gone too. The fox cubs cubs were released in suburban areas, as that is where all of them came from. They are released at night, and often we se resident foxes foraging in gardens, waste ground and shrubberies. This is an indication to us that we have chosen a good area. Our foxes will follow the resident ones, and will soon discover where food can be found, and where people are leaving food for them in gardens.

Blackbirds and robins where among the last garden birds to be released, but as usual, the last small birds to go were house martins. We had reared a lot; they came mainly because their nests had collapsed in spells of rainy weather. They are time consuming to rear, but they do eat quite large helpings of mince, supplemented with mealworms. All were released at house martin colonies, so straightaway 'our' hand reared birds had adults and more experienced youngsters to follow. They have time to practice flying and feeding before heading off to Africa for the winter.

The hand reared kestrels and some of the tawny owls were released at Hessilhead. Then came the birds that had been hunting for themselves, kestrels, buzzards and sparrowhawks, all taken back to where they came from.

11th August 2008

Like other parts of the country we've had our share of heavy rain recently. Yesterday brought the first casualty from the floods. The otter cub was noticed on the banks of the River Ayr, close to the town centre. It was squeaking loudly, which attracted attention, and trying to scramble from the water. The Fire and Rescue Service were soon on hand to help the cub, and by the time we arrived at the Fire Station, the cub had rubbed itself dry in a dustbin lined with shredded paper. He is eating well, but we feel quite sad that we don't know where he came from. He must have slipped into the water, and been carried downstream. If only we knew where his mum lived, we could take the cub back.

9th August 2008

I have been away quite a bit recently, enjoying some fantastic weather in the Highlands. There was lots of wildlife, amazing scenery and hardly any people. We walked, we relaxed and we watched porpoises, otters, sea eagles, red deer, divers and lots of sea birds.

Back at Hessilhead many of the patients are growing up. The shelducks, the kestrels and two young buzzards have been released. Two batches of young gulls have been taken to Troon harbour, though another 50 or so are still eating lots and messing lots. They do take quite a lot of time to care for properly. The young bats are feeding themselves now, and late at night we see them exercising in their tank. Soon they will move to the bat tunnel, prior to release. Some tawny owls have moved to a release aviary, but several young barn owls have recently come into care. The weasels have gone, and we heard that they often return to their pen for food. Finches, sparrows, robins and dunnocks have been released too.

We have a long eared bat in care. It was rescued from a fly paper, and is still a bit sticky on its back.

We have 4 common seal pups. Two of them came from Arran, one from Prestwick and one from Culzean. The Culzean pup had fishing hooks in its mouth and flippers, was tangled in line and lucky to be found before it drowned. The other pups must have been separated from their mums and were underweight when they came here. Two of the pups are eating well now, the other two have be tube fed with blended fish, but hopefully they'll learn to eat whole fish soon.

Photos of the Prestwick seal Brodie from Brodick Dustin from Culzean Arran no 2

6th July 2008

It is still busy at the Wildlife Rescue Centre, We admit between 10 and 20 patients most days; many of the youngsters are growing up, feeding themselves and becoming independent. In the hospital there are fewer baby birds to hand feed. Most of the finches, blackbirds, dunnocks, robins and tits have moved outside, though I dare say there will be a few latecomers. House martins and swallows are occupying the heat pads. Most came from nests that collapsed during the heavy rain of the last week or two. Some of them were close to fledgling when they got into trouble, and have already been released.

Photos of a blackcap recently released.

We are into the baby bat season. Rearing bats is time consuming, with those less than two weeks old requiring feeds every 2 hours. 12 came from one abandoned roost in Fife, and others have fallen from roosts and been found in the living space of houses. David and Shelby have been taking the bats home in the evenings and at weekends. This has saved a lot of time in the hospital. This evening I'll need to do a few bat feeds though. Another 7 bats have just arrived.

We have also taken in a several young raptors. There are 7 kestrels and 2 young buzzards. The buzzards were left in a black bin bag at a vet surgery in Maybole. I guess we'll never know what happened to their nest. There is also a young barn owl, still white and fluffy, that fell from a nest that was difficult to access.

It is the height of the young gull season. Some have been only a day or so old when brought to the Centre. They had fallen from rooftop nests. Most of those coming in now are well grown, and some will be flying in another two weeks. At this time of year we get a lot of calls from people wanting us to take away gull chicks, because they don't like the adult gulls coming down to feed their chicks, or swooping at people to protect their offspring. We already have 75 young gulls in care. The last thing we want to do is take healthy young chicks from their parents. If people don't like gull chicks in their garden, they should take steps to prevent the gulls nesting on their roof before the start of the breeding season.

Recent releases have included the Canada geese that we reared this year. Also a leveret and several rabbits. The stoats and weasels are living outside now, soon to be released. Many young mallards have flown from our enclosure to the quarry pond, but fly back for visits. The duck that nested beside our seal tank is back on the lawn every day with her 11 ducklings. Most of the hand reared crows, rooks, jackdaws and magpies have also been released, though many of them are still returning regularly for food.

Photos of the Canada geese studying their new home.

18th June 2008

An early call today saw Andy and I heading to the south side of Glasgow, where a family of swans, 2 adults and 5 small cygnets, were camped out in someone's garden. We discovered they belonged on a dam the other side of the motorway. They left the dam via a burn, then walked along the tunnel under the M77. It was a long walk for such small cygnets, and not a safe place to be. We have arranged for a barrier to be built across the tunnel entrance, so the family can still safely feed in the burn, then return to the dam.

There was sad news later today. The deer fawn that was injured in the fire looked very sad this morning, and has since died. Poor little thing. If only people would think of the consequences before setting fire to grassland for 'a laugh'.

Two female mallards with ducklings in tow were released from Hessilhead today. We also opened aviaries for magpies and greenfinches. The Canada goslings are growing well, and seem to be intrigued by their new neighbours, a duck and ducklings rescued from the Caledonia University campus.

17th June 2008

A TV crew from Animal 24/7 have just spent another 2 days at Hessilhead. They were keen to film the 2 otter cubs, Yorkie and Brook, especially as Brook had already been filmed when he was in care at Secret World in Somerset. The otters are secretive and nocturnal now, but with patience and tempting bits of fish, they were captured on film, playing in their pool and snuffling around their enclosure. I didn't think the stoats would co-operate at all, but when they were moved to their new enclosure, they were keen to explore the branches, logs and leaf litter. They should be stars. I checked the stoats sleeping box today, just to make sure they were ok. An angry hiss made me jump back. I was certainly not invited to the house warming party. Also featured for the programme was Sausage, the little weasel that we have hand reared. He opened his eyes yesterday, just in time to look his best. By coincidence another weasel was found yesterday. It had been left on a path for nearly 2 hours, and was really cold when he came to Hessilhead. He spent the night under a heater, drank warm fluids, and looks fine today. So sausage will soon have a friend, and arrangements are to made for him to return to the area where he was found. The new weasel will be released with him.

15th June 2008

It has been a busy weekend of feeding, cleaning and moving birds to aviaries. The last thing we needed was a late call on Sunday evening. It was certainly an emergency. There has been a big grass fire on the hill behind Greenock, and the firemen have rescued two roe deer fawns. One of them is singed, both were distressed. Our volunteer in Greenock was soon on the case. The fawns were checked by a vet in Greenock, then two of Karen's helpers brought the fawns to Hessilhead. We have given them fluids, rescue remedy, and settled them in a cage for the night. One fawn has lost his outer coat, his eyelashes, and has a burn on his nose. He is certainly giving us cause for concern, but fingers crossed.

14th June 2008

Today's patients included a female hedgehog with 3 new born babies. The family had been disturbed while people were clearing up their garden, and before they spotted the hoglets, they had completely destroyed the nest. So please take care while gardening. Hedgehogs often built nests under low bushes, pampas grass, sedges, grasses and decking. It looks as if this female will rear her babies despite the disturbance, but this isn't always the case. Sometimes we have to hand rear abandoned babies, and sometimes female hedgehogs eat their young because of the disturbance. It would be much better if an untidy corner could be left in a garden, and the hedgehog rear her family there.

A roe fawn that came in earlier in the week, after being in collision with a motorbike, has moved out of the hospital now. She drinks milk from a bowl and eats lots of vegetation. 4 more fox cubs came this week too. They are all doing well, sharing an enclosure.

10th June 2008

It is a pity we can't stop patients coming for a few days around the Open Day. We have been really busy recently, with lots of orphan nestlings and fledglings, that demand huge amounts of time. Today there was a deer rescue too. David and Leianne went to the Diageo complex at Braehead. A young buck had wandered in through the main entrance, and had spent 24 hours pacing up and down the fence, trying to find a way out. It was unlikely he would find the gate again. Our team soon had the deer netted, and he was released in woodland away from the busy roads. This evening we released the last of the winter's seal pups, Honey. She had attained her target weight and was keen to go. As soon as she left the carrying box she was heading off to sea. she diverted to the pier at Portencross, perhaps curious to see what the anglers were catching.

9th June 2008

We are all feeling tired but very satisfied with ourselves today. Our Open Day yesterday was a great success. More than 1500 people attended, enjoyed the guided tours, chanced their luck on the games and bargained at the bric a brac stall. If you missed it, make sure you come next year. It will be held on the 2nd Sunday in June.

Photo of Phil Cunningham, our patron, enjoying the Open day.

OPEN DAY 8TH JUNE

WE ARE ALL BUSY GETTING READY FOR OUR OPEN DAY. IT IS GOING TO BE GREAT DAY. SEE YOU THERE.

7th June 2008

I apologise for the lack of news recently. It isn't that nothing has been happening. Quite the opposite. there has been so much happening I haven't had time to sit at the computer. We admitted 580 patients in May.

So here is a quick update on some our patients.

The best day was when we moved 46 hand reared starlings out of the hospital. Starlings are characters, but also noisy, greedy and messy. the peace in the hospital was wonderful. Yesterday we opened the starling's aviary. they got excited about that, chattering among themselves and moving closer to the open hatch. It seemed like they were saying ' Go on, you go first' . Later in the day there were starlings zooming all around the centre. We all felt proud!

The hospital didn't stay quiet for long. There are blackbird and thrush chicks, lots of blue tits and great tits, a nestful of goldfinches, greenfinches, and even two cockatiel chicks.....no, they weren't found in the wild. Jackdaw chicks are making even more noise than the starlings did.

Most of the mallard ducklings are quite big now. there is a clutch of 3 smaller ones, and they have a little eider friend. We also have 5 shelducklings.

A few mammals have been coming in too. There are two stoats, both of them narky and independent. I don't think they will have a problem returning to the wild. A little weasel is much more gentle. He still has his eyes closed, is about 4" long, takes milk from a bottle and nibbles meat. We call him Sausage.

The roe fawn that came into care last month has been joined by a really tiny fawn. I think she thinks the older fawn is her Mum. More unusual for us is a Red Deer calf. She was found beside her dead Mum at the roadside. No prizes for guessing how she came to be called Dotty.

The last of the Uist Hedgehogs were delivered to us last Saturday. That made a total of 204 for this spring. Most of them have already been relocated.

18th May 2008

We have had a wide range of patients today, including 2 roe deer,( one a RTA and the other bitten by a dog) 2 fox cubs from different places, 3 swans, several starlings, a hedgehog, and two magpie chicks, still in their nest, though their tree had been felled. Two of todays patients have already been released. First was a swift, found on the ground with a cat nearby. The swift wasn't injured, and must have collided with something that brought it down. Once on the ground a swift cannot take off, owing to its very short legs and very long wings. The cat must have just been passing when it spotted the swift. As a precaution we gave the swift antibiotics, then it it into the field for take off. There was no wind, so Andy threw the swift, and straightaway it started flapping. Soon it was darting after insects. It was good to see it, steadily climbing higher and looking so much better in the air than in a cardboard box!

Late this morning a collared dove was brought to the hospital. It had managed to get into a squirrel proof nut feeder, and while it was being removed its wing was damaged. In fact the damage looked worse than it was. We cleaned the wound, and gave antibiotics, and after a while tested the bird in an aviary. She flew perfectly, and later was returned to the garden and her mate.

17th May 2008

Today started well. We gave the female woodpecker, that was brought to us yesterday morning, a test flight in an aviary. She flew strongly, and although her eye was still sore, we decided it would be best if she was released close to where she was found. The bird almost certainly had a nest, probably with young now, and would be really stressed if we kept her any longer. We phoned Mr Dempster, who had found the bird on the road, and he was delighted to come and collect her. Hopefully by now the woodpecker is back with her family.

15th May 2008

It has been hectic here for the last 10 days, with 10 - 20 patients admitted each day. There have been several nests of starling chicks. Most have been removed from the roof space of houses, because people didn't like the noise of chicks being fed early in the morning. One nest, containing 4 hungry chicks, was found in a skip just before the contents were to be crushed. There are quite a few blackbird, song thrush and robin chicks, mostly cat victims, and we have 3 mistle thrush chicks, all doing well. It is always the case that most of our mistle thrush casualties come from the the city centre.

There have been more fox cubs. Most are living outside now, in family sized groups. One is a cheeky cub that must have been in care before it came here. Hopefully it will learn that it is a fox, and shouldn't be friendly with people.

The 1st roe fawn came really early this year. She is a sturdy fawn that soon learnt to feed from a bottle. Sadly the next fawn to arrive didn't survive.

We are still getting hedgehogs from the Uists, and also quite a few casualties locally. One recent casualty had a condition peculiar to hedgehogs, known as pop off syndrome. She had been tangled in string and caught on a fence, and in struggling to free herself, her coat of spines had slid up over the hips (popped off). Andy got her to relax and her skin returned to its proper place. Her strained leg has recovered too.

We haven't has so many ducklings this week, but 5 Canada Goslings were brought in after 2 of their siblings were killed by a breeding pair of swans sharing their loch.

Several more tawny owl chicks are in care, all doing well. An adult kestrel, brought in suffering from concussion, is ready for release, and an adult tawny is ready to go too.

Last Wednesday Andy and I made a hurried day trip to Yorkshire to collect another otter cub. This cub has been in care at Secret World in Somerset, but has come to join Yorkie, the Yorkshire cub. They are now in adjacent enclosures, getting to know each other. Soon they will be move to a larger enclosure with pond, but we must wait a while. When we went to prepare the enclosure we found a dunnock's nest with 2 chicks.

As soon as they fledge the otters can move in.

The older otter that came from Ayr is eating well and gaining weight, but she is still very steady with people, and still under assessment.

This is the busiest time of year for rta deer casualties. Sadly many of them are badly injured, and must be euthanazed, but not all. Last week one was in care for a few days, made a full recovery and was released close to where he'd been found. Last night we rescued another from the dual carriageway close to Kilwinning. He is looking quite bright this morning.

Today we hope to move some of the older hand reared birds to aviaries. The greenfinches and robins look really good, and the thrushes too. Their place in the hospital will soon be taken by new arrivals.

4th May 2008

It isn't a pteradactyl chick, it is a young magpie. The first of the year, found on the ground this weekend, and apparently none the worse for its fall.

The first weekend in May used to be the start of our young tawny owl season, though this year several chicks arrived earlier. Nevertheless, we have had two young owls brought into care, and given advice about another. Some organizations say that young tawny owls found on the ground should be left alone for their parents to rear. We don't believe it is quite as simple as that, and in order to find out more about the situation we will ask lots of questions. Today a lady called about a chick she had found in a wood. it was a fairly quiet place, so children and dogs were not likely to be a problem, though she said there were foxes in the area. The owlet, she said was about the size of a small coconut. A bit small, I thought, to be out of the nest. I asked the lady to put the owl on a branch, to see if it could perch and stay there. It fell to the ground, and we decided it would be best to see the chick. The chick is here now, and it is a nestling, not a fledgling, so it should still be in the nest. It spends a lot of time lying down; it wouldn't have perched successfully, and is unlikely to have survived if left in the wild.

The second owl to arrive is even smaller. It was found at the base of a tree. It had probably fallen from a nest there, and has a fractured leg. So there is no doubt that this chick needs help.

Today 10 ducklings were rescued from the Whyte & Mackay building in Glasgow. This is an annual event. The female mallard nests on a terrace garden, and when the ducklings hatch there is no way for mother to get them to water unless the ducklings jump to the ground, landing on a busy Glasgow street. The staff in the building are used to this event, and have a duckling rescue box ready for when the ducklings hatch. They catch the ducklings, keep them warm and safe in the box, and we collect them and bring them back to the centre. Now they are in a brooder, dabbling in a shallow dish of water, learning to feed themselves.

1st May 2008

We had the first call of the year about nesting starlings today. Usually, we won't remove starlings from the their nest, especially if the reason for wanting them removed is that people don't like hearing the chicks being fed at 5am. That is precisely why we won't remove them. Hand rearing starlings isn't easy. It involves early starts and feeds every half hour till dusk. Anyway chicks do better with their parents. House holders need to be patient. Within two weeks of a complaint the chicks will have fledged. Then the entrance hole should be blocked, so the starlings cannot nest there again next year. Today's case was different. The starlings had built a nest, a very substantial nest, in a cupboard directly above a bed in a fairly small bedroom. At the foot of the bed was the baby's cot. The starlings had accessed the cupboard via the hole that for the central heating pipe. The people in the house didn't really want to separate the chicks from their parents, but it really wasn't a healthy situation. So the chicks are at Hessilhead, only a few days old, but feeding well.

30th April 2008

It has been a day of rescues. The first call from a sheltered housing complex, Bonnie Leslie Court, in Stevenston. Some of the residents had been watching 2 fox cubs for the last few days . They were living on a small grassy bank in the burn that runs beside the unit, and because it was raining heavily today, they were concerned that the cubs may get washed away. We spotted one of the cubs almost straightaway. It was sleeping in the grass, which was unusual on such a wet day. We could see that the cubs must have fallen off the wall on the far bank of the burn, and although their mother may have been taking food to them, there was no way the cubs would get back up the wall for weeks. Andy went round the waste ground over the burn, and tried to sneak up on the sleeping cub. He was quite close before the cub heard him, and I was horrified when the startled cub jumped into the burn to escape. It ran up the burn, fortunately keeping to the shallower parts, crossed a small island, splashed through water again, then climbed onto another grassy bank beside the wall. Gaynor and I lost site of the cub then, and hoped that it wouldn't follow the burn under the road. Andy slithered his way across slippery stones, and found the cub trying to hide in long grass. He didn't even have a net, but the cub lay shivering, and he picked it up without any trouble. Sadly we found its sibling dead.


The cub sleeping on the bank

Andy carrying the cub to safety

Bonnie drying out at Hessilhead

We arrived back at Hessilhead at the same time as Leianne and Katrine. They had been to Paisley, where a mallard duck with 13 ducklings had been found in a garden in a built area, a long way from water. It was unlikely that the duck would successfully lead her ducklings to water, as that would involve crossing busy roads. We will keep them together at the centre for a couple of weeks, till the ducklings are bigger and have a better chance of surviving in the wild. Then the family will be released together.

53 Uist hedgehogs were delivered late this afternoon, then Shelby went to get a swan from Castle Semple Loch. She was soon back with a swan with a very sore leg. It will be taken to the vet tomorrow.

29th April 2008

A fulmar was found on the road on the island of Great Cumbrae today. It was taken to the Marine Biology Lab there, boxed and put on the ferry to Largs, and one of our couriers brought the bird to Hessilhead. A fulmar is an unusual patient for this time of year. The bird is in quite good condition, both weight wise and feather wise, but looks like it might have had line around its legs. It may be a breeding bird, so we hope it will make a quick recovery and return to the coast.

28th April 2008

A couple of weeks ago we had problem with gulls getting caught in a net over a building near Prestwick airport. The net is there to stop gulls nesting on the roof of the building, and that is perfectly understandable. We kept getting calls to say that gulls were trapped in the net; one gull died after hanging for hours, and we can't reach the gulls, as the building is 4 stories high. We reported the problem to the owners of the building, and to the pest control company that had erected the net. We thought the problem had been solved, till today. Two more gulls were trapped in the net. Late this afternoon they were rescued, but both gulls have damaged legs, this evening they are unable to stand and needless to say, are very stressed. One of the gulls arrived with net still wrapped around it, and that explained the problem. Instead of a 1" net being used, a 3" net has been stretched over the roof. This is no use, as when the gulls land on the net, their legs go through, their wings get tangled, and sometimes heads get caught. We have again reported the problem, and hope that a 1" net will replace the 3" one that is trapping birds and causing them to suffer.

27th April 2008

The busy spell continued over the weekend, with several lots of nesltings now being reared. First came a nest of greenfinches, found after a tree had been felled. The a family of robins. Their nest had been built in an old exhaust tube (robins are renowned for using unusual nest sites), but had been found by children who taken some of the chicks away. Fortunately this was discovered by the mother of one of the children. She gathered the chicks together, returned them to their nest, and called us for help. The robin family are feeding well, and they are sharing their new woolly hat nest with a younger house sparrow chick. The sparrow is younger than the robins, but is often the first to beg when we open their box.

25th April 2008

Andy and I came back from a 5 day trip this evening. It was supposed to be a break before the busy season really got underway, but there was something wrong with our timing! Our dedicated staff had been run off their feet the whole time we were away, and had dealt with 75 new patients, several of which they had been out to rescue.

Among the new arrivals is an adult weasel, that was sent here by the vets in Cumnock. Apparently she was very lethargic when she arrived; some heat, TLC and food seem to have done her good. She is now racing around her cage, and looks like she will soon be ready for release. A sparrowhawk was rescued and made a very fast recovery, It was released the following day. An otter was difficult for Shelby and Leianne to catch. It was found in the middle of Ayr, and was hiding under cars. At one time it was balancing on the exhaust of our ambulance, but eventually they had it caught, boxed and back at Hessilhead. She is a young adult female, very thin but eating well. 2 more fox cubs joined the 3 in care, and 2 more leverets came. That was sad. They had been born in a garden, a garden where hares were unwelcome, and we were asked to take them on. Reluctantly the staff had agreed, knowing that really they would be better with their Mum, but that the gardeners were not going to allow them to stay.

The first 20 mallard ducklings were rescued, more baby rabbits, an adult tawny owl, 33 hedgehogs from the Uists, a buzzard and a long eared owl chick. The owl was unfortunate too. Its nest was in a badly blown shelter belt that was being clear felled. I don't suppose the trees had been checked for nests, and the first anyone knew of the family was a single owlet spotted on the ground. There had probably been other chicks, but they weren't found. At least this one wasn't injured, has a good appetite and is very inquisitive.

These pics are just to show you how relaxed the resident birds are at Hessilhead!

19th April 2008

It feels more like spring in the hospital today. The first leveret of the year was delivered last night. She is less than a week old and is in good condition. She even had a full tummy of milk. Next came a family of 3 young blackbirds. They were all chased out of their nest by a cat, one of them has bites and crushing injuries. At their last feed of the evening, half an hour ago, all were begging for food and eating well. Other arrivals included another tawny owl chick, and a young collared dove, also dropped from a tree by a cat. We admitted 2 swans today too. The first one was rescued from Irvine harbour by a our volunteers Paul and Toni. It has a serious head injury, possibly caused by dog bites, and is a swan we know, ring number 3BIP. This swan must be accident prone; she has been here several times before. This evening Andy and I went to Loch Lomond for another swan. At first it looked like we wouldn't lucky. The people who called us had fed the swan almost a loaf of bread in their efforts to keep it close to the bank. This had worked, but when we arrived the swan wasn't hungry. We only got it because she chased the geese that were eating the bread we hoping to tempt her with. I bet she feels better now though. We have removed a treble hook from her leg.

17th April 2008

Andy and I were out this evening releasing hedgehogs, when we received a call about an injured bird of prey. A farmer had seen the bird being attacked by crows, and he had managed to get it into his car. We arranged to meet and collect the bird, which is a handsome female peregrine. She is underweight, and has an old injury to the end of her wing, and another on the back of her leg. Perhaps these two injuries made it difficult for her to hunt successfully, and brought her down in condition. The strange thing is, that when we collected the peregrine, she had a full crop of food. Peregrines rarely eat any food unless they have caught it themselves, but I guess this bird must have found something tasty. She has settled in a hospital cage now, and will move to aviary in a few days. Hopefully we will return her to where she was found.

15th April 2008

It is cold and wintry at nights, although during the daytime, when the sun shines, it can be quite warm, The frosty nights and chilly days seem to be holding back the breeding season, and perhaps some of the youngsters that have been in trouble, havn't survived in the cold long enough to be found and rescued. Nevertheless, patients arrive every day. Here are the stories of some recent casualties.

Castle Semple Swan Reported as having a problem with fishing tackle. David went to check on his way home from work, and was soon back with a large male swan, with the biggest fishing hook we've ever seen embedded in its leg. Apparently these big hooks are for catching pike. The hook was removed, the swan given antibiotics for 3 days, then it was taken back to Castle Semple Loch.

Fox Cub no 2 Her eyes were just opening, she had been found in a school playground, she was small and weak. I was surprised when she showed an interest in tinned food later that evening, and before long she was feeding herself. Unfortunately this little cub has taken several fits. they occur less often now, and are less severe, so hopefully she will grow out of them.

Greedy Heron This bird in breeding plumage thought it handed lucky when it spotted some large fish in a garden pond. Unfortunately it didn't see the fine strands of line across the pond, designed to keep herons out. The bird got well and truly tangled, had to be cut free, and some abrasions on its wing. It soon recovered from the ordeal, and was released 2 days later, hopefully to resume rearing chicks.

Uist Hedgehogs A batch of 33 hedgehogs were delivered. We had hoped to get most of them out pretty quickly, but the day after their arrival we noticed that many of them were coughing. This is a sign of lungworm, with an associated infection. The hogs need treatment for 5 days, by which time most have recovered and can be released.

Seal releases 4 more seals have been released this week. That cuts down our work load and our feeding costs too. Each seal has been eating approximately 50 herring every day.

Blackbird fledgling The 1st young blackbird, a cat victim, is eating well and has moved into a cage. It will soon to learn to pick up food for itself.

6th April 2008

It hasn't been a good weekend, with a buzzard, a swan and a barn owl coming in badly injured, beyond repair, and needing to be euthanased. This afternoon things got better. Andy collected the first fox cub of the year from Nicky, an SSPCA Inspector. The little cub, about 3 weeks old, has been hiding in the back of a washing machine for the last 3 days. His name is Daz. He has settled down in the hospital, eaten some tinned food, and is snuggled up with a cuddly soft toy.

The next call was from the Police, asking if we could collect a roe deer that had been hit by a car. It is badly concussed, but there seem to be no bones broken. Of course there could be internal injuries, but it does seem hopeful. It has been treated with antibiotics and anti-inflammatory drugs, and is lying quietly in a shed deeply bedded with straw.

4th April 2008

Andy and I have just had a couple of days away. We arrived back at Hessilhead just after the first batch of 20 Uist hedgehogs had arrived. There isn't space for them in the hedgehog hospital, which is full of the 50 odd hedgehogs we have over-wintered. The weather is warmer today, so hopefully we will start releasing these young hogs soon. The Uist hogs will be easier to release. They are mostly adult hedgehogs, that have survived hibernation on their own, and know quite a bit about foraging and nest building. We will release them in gardens with plenty of cover, and areas of grass where they will find most of their food. Anyone interested in releasing hedgehogs in their garden, either hand reared youngsters that need a pampered release, or Uist hedgehogs, that will be more independent, please get in touch with us.

27th March 2008

I'm feeling a bit sleepy this evening after last night's rescue. Fortunately we didn't have far to go. The fox had been found near Darnley, but someone had taken him home to Neilston. The fox was unconscious when we brought him back to Hessilhead at 1.30 am, so we gave him anti-inflammatory treatment and left him in the carrying box beside the heater. He was still unconscious this morning, but by late afternoon he was moving around, and earlier this evening I persuaded him to have a drink of lectade. Although he stands and turns around, he isn't aware of his surroundings. A lot of improvement is needed, but we are hopeful that he could make a full recovery.

25th March 2008

We released two grey seals today, Paddy and Sam, and the release was filmed for Animal24/7. It was predictable that Paddy, always the confident one, would be straight out of his carrying box and off exploring. Sam was hesitant to leave the box, and then he was hesitant to leave the safety of the harbour. He spent more than an hour exploring the shallows, sometimes we thought he would come ashore, and the first time he ventured a little way out, something spooked him and came back like a bullet. The harbour was drying out as the tide ebbed, and tired of waiting, the film crew left. They wouldn't have been back at their car when Sam decided the time was right to leave. He left by following the far wall, finally swimming confidently out to sea. The two seals had been good friends, interacting frequently, so we hope they met up again soon.


Paddy's release

Paddy sets sail

Sam in the shallows

Farewell seals!

24th March 2008

Andy and I returned from the sunny Uists to a cold, windy but mainly sunny Easter weekend. A variety of patients came into care, including 5 young rabbits dug from their burrow by a dog, a tawny owl, hit by a car late on Saturday night, and 3 barn owl casualties. One of the barn owls made a quick recovery, and as she had a well developed brood patch, she was released close to where she was found two days later. Another female barn owl was found at the roadside today, lying in a puddle. She has been rehydrated, had a small feed, and is enjoying the comfort of a box on a heat pad. Barn owl number 3 was taken straight to our vet, and we expect an update on her condition tomorrow. Several pigeons came into care, one of them with lots of thread tangled round her feet. It took quite a while to remove the thread, that had cut deeply into her flesh. A herring gull that had a hook embedded in the side of its mouth appeared to be asking for help when it refused to move from someone's front door. We removed the hook and the gull is eating again. Today we were called out to remove two swans that had misjudged their flight into Irvine harbour, and landed in the back garden of a house across the road. They were trying to get into the kitchen, as if they knew that was the way to the river. We were really surprised to get a call about a seal pup. Young grey seals in the wild should weigh over 50 kilos now, but this little fellow weighs only 18k. He was found on the beach at Dunure, feeling too weak to care about the crowd of people around him. Two foxes and a badly injured buzzard were also admitted, but didn't survive, and we released a kestrel and a heron.

16th March 2008

The weather was great today. It felt like spring and was really warm this afternoon. The first spring casualties arrived too. Three baby rabbits were dug from their burrow by a dog. The owner of the dog brought the rabbits here straightaway. She had them in a box full of hay, but the babies were lying on top of the hay, and were very cold. We gradually warmed them by putting their box on a heat pad, and I have just given them their first feed from a bottle. They all drank enthusiastically, so I hope they will thrive. Remember though, that if you come across some orphaned youngsters, their first requirement is heat. Put them in a box with cosy bedding, cover them with some of the bedding and put the box on a heat pad, next to a radiator or on a hot water bottle. Many baby birds and mammals cannot keep themselves warm, and certainly can't warm themselves up. They will probably get chilled in a room that you find comfortable. Keeping youngsters warm before they arrive here will increase their chances of survival.

Andy and I are heading for the Uists tomorrow, to finalise arrangements for this year's hedgehog relocation. We hope to enjoy some walking and wildlife watching too.

14th March 2008

At last, a day without wind and rain. We took the opportunity to release a chaffinch and a blackbird at Hessilhead. The chaffinch didn't look promising when it went into the aviary a few weeks ago, but it flew strongly when released close to our bird feeders. The blackbird has spent most of its time hiding in the conifer in the aviary, so we left the release hatch open, and it can leave when it is ready. Two kestrels were released too. The male kestrel returned to its own patch at West Kilbride, and the female was released close to where she was found just outside Dalry. I wasn't there, but I'm told they both flew well.


male kestrel

female kestrel

I thought you would like to see a photo of the otter cub, Yorkie. He is doing well, eating lots of fish with a preference for salmon and trout. He doesn't like people, which is a good thing. When we take his food or clean out the shed, he stays in the sleeping box. If we happen to get too close he snarls, so no-one will be tempted to pet him!

10th March 2008

After a quiet week it turned out to be a fairly busy weekend. First to arrive was a tawny owl, picked up by Kirkintilloch Police during their night shift. It is probably the fattest tawny owl ever to come into our care. It was certainly in good condition for the breeding season. Unfortunately, when hit by a car, it has fractured the tip of its right wing. The wing is strapped up now, and we hope the owl will make a full recovery.

On Sunday morning we had to ask the Fire and Rescue Service to help rescue a gull that was hanging from a television aerial. As usual they turned this request into an exercise, and soon had the bird down. It has a strained wing, but should recover.

Sunday afternoon saw us heading to Biggar in South Lanarkshire. This is a long run for us, taking more than an hour to get there, but it did sounded like the 3 swans needed help. Last year, two pairs of swans had nested on the island in a small pond at a caravan site. Despite constant bickering, both pairs of swans had reared young, and the cygnets of one pair had flown away. The female of the other pair was killed when she collided with overhead wires, and since then, the dominant pair had kept her mate and 2 cygnets of the water. They were getting plenty of food from local people, but seemed to be trapped in a small area, that didn't give them enough space to take off and leave. We soon had the 3 swans in bags and in the back of the car, and released them with the flock of swans on Lanark Loch. They seemed pleased to have access to water again, and when we left all were thoroughly enjoying a bathe and preen. On the way home we collected an unusual adult male blackbird. It has white patches at the sides of its neck, a partial albino. Unfortunately it has a vision problem, and we doubt if there will be any improvement.

6th March 2008

Andy and I had arranged to drive down to Gretna yesterday. We were to meet up with a lady who runs a wildlife rehab centre in North Yorkshire, and collect a young otter cub from her. Although the cub was doing well with Jean, she doesn't have the facilities to care for it long term. We didn't go, as Meg, our black and white spaniel, has been really ill this week, and was still hospitalized at the Vet's. John, one of our volunteers, and a real otter enthusiast, offered to do the trip instead. So the otter, little Yorkie, is now at Hessilhead, settling in and eating well. We hope another cub will turn up soon. Otters love to play and he would enjoy some company when he's a bit older. (Meg is home from the Vet now, and on the mend).

28th February 2008

plastic

This week the media has highlighted the damage that discarded plastic bags cause to wildlife. ....and there was an example on our own doorstep. We were called out to rescue a shag that had thick polythene tightly wrapped around its body. It was Tuesday, another stormy day, and the shag was standing on one of the pontoons at Ardrossan Harbour. We feared there was little hope of us catching bird; it was so close to the water we knew that it would jump in when we got close.

Andy crawled along the pontoon, inching the net forwards. He was almost there when the shag jumped in, and there was nothing more we could do that day. We expected the bird to come out again, and people working at the marina, as well as the lady who had called us out, promised to call when the bird was seen again. So far we haven't heard anything. We doubt if the bird could have removed the plastic itself. The shag can still swim, but it probably won't dive and chase fish very successfully. Perhaps another unlucky victim of our throw away society.

25th February 2008

It has been wet and windy today, certainly not the sort of day we'd expect to collect our first young tawny owl of the year. The owlet was found in Coatbridge, on the ground, and taken to the local vet, who happens to be an experienced birder too. The youngster was unlikely to survive if put back out in this weather, although later in the year we may have thought that this was a good option. The chick is eating well, and we'll keep our fingers crossed that another youngster will come our way soon. Young tawnies always do better with company.

22nd February 2008

Andy and I have just had a few days away. On Tuesday we were at the Scottish Police Wildlife Crime Conference. This is always an informative and enjoyable day, with the chance to meet up with colleagues and acquaintances. We enjoyed a couple of days walking in central Perthshire, then returned home to hear the disappointing news that snares had not been banned. New regulations will be put in place, governing their use, but this will not stop the suffering experienced by every animal caught in one of these cruel and indiscriminate traps.

16th February 2008

Good news today. The egg bound heron was released on the football pitches, just outside Dean Castle Country Park. We chose to release her there in case she didn't fly properly. Herons are such big birds that it is hard to be sure they are ready for release, even in our biggest aviaries. In a wide open space we would stand a good chance of recovering her if she didn't do well. We needn't have worried. The heron went up and up, circled over the trees and then made a beeline into the park, presumably heading back to her nest.

14th February 2008

We have been working without our hospital for the last 3 weeks, as it is being completely refurbished. We have been managing well, with extra patients in the hedgehog hospital, some in the surgery, others in the mammal room, and some in cages in sheds. The last thing we really needed when we are short of space was a heron, and now we have not one, but two herons. Herons are difficult patients, that rarely feed themselves when they first come into care. So they usually have to be hand fed, but that isn't the end of it. After a feed, a heron must not be disturbed for at least 2 hours. If it is disturbed, it will probably regurgitate its last meal. After 2 hours, and the meal should be beyond the point of no return. Regurgitating food is a useful trick for herons in the wild, If disturbed, up comes dinner, and the heron is lighter for making a quick getaway. It doesn't make caring for an emaciated heron easy! Heron number one is enjoying the luxury of our heated large cabin. Talk about private health care! The second heron arrival spent a day there too, but she has moved to a shed now. We were quite puzzled why she had been picked up, lying in a field, unable to fly. She is fat and strong and apparently fit. Today we got the answer. A deep blue heron's egg lay in the corner of her shed, and the heron is much more lively. So we think the heron was egg bound. She will be released close to where she was found.

13th February 2008

It is always a good day when a patient is ready for release. Today it was time to take last week's roe deer back to Irvine. I didn't go, but I heard that it went off well, and that the release team watched it for while with the spotlight.

Earlier today, David and Leianne went to rescue an owl that was trapped in a pipe in a builders yard in Dalry. The owl was wearing jesses, which told us it was an escaped bird. As it happened the owner had phoned us a few days ago, reporting the missing bird, and leaving his phone number. He soon came round to collect his pet barn owl.

9th February 2008

The first patient of today was a kestrel, brought from Lapwing Lodge, the Scout centre on Gleniffer Braes. The kestrel had been found in a water butt, but by the time it arrived here it was almost dry. I left it in a box in the surgery, and when I returned later to check on it, I found it sitting on the X-ray light box! The bird is underweight, so will be kept here for a few days . Already it is eating well, so we expect it will soon be returned to Scout HQ. The next call was about an injured heron in South Ayrshire. It had already been taken into care, and offered some tuna. We said we'd collect it later in the day. Things don't often work out in our favour, but as it happened, we had two birds ready to release in S Ayrshire. A buzzard from Barrhill had been treated by Girvan vet Alan Jeans, and then recuperated at Hessilhead till its fractured leg healed. We met the man who found the bird, and he took us to the exact spot where it was found. As soon as we opened the box the buzzard was off, flying well and landing on a tree at the edge of the wood. Another buzzard flew across to join it. We then collected the heron at Pinmore, and left a tawny owl to be released after dark. We arrived back at the centre to admit a barn owl that had been tangled on barbed wire. The wing isn't badly damaged, but the feathers are a bit of a mess. Hopefully we can sort them out so the bird can return to the wild without spending months in captivity waiting to moult. On examination we discovered that the heron had a large tear near the top of its leg, and was terribly underweight and dehydrated. It was stitched up, given antibiotics and fluids, and left on a heat pad for the night. Still the evening wasn't finished. A chaffinch was delivered from Dalry, possibly a window victim, and a very sick white dove was brought from Balloch. The last call of the evening was to say that the Pinmore tawny owl had been successfully released.

7th February 2008

David and I spent most of today filming with Truenorth Productions, making a TV programme for Animal Rescue Squad. We released a kestrel and a buzzard, which both flew really well. Look out for the TV programme soon.

6th February 2008

There have been some disappointments over the last few days. On Monday Shelby collected a seal pup from the Rangers at Culzean Castle. It was taken to the vets the next day, and they phoned later to say that, sadly, it had been put to sleep. The damage to its leg and flipper was too old to repair. Early this morning Andy and I went into Glasgow to rescue a fox. The poor thing had tried to jump a picket gate, but a hind leg had slipped between the pickets, and when we arrived, the fox was hanging by a shattered hind leg. It could have been there for hours, and was so tightly jammed that it took us a while to free the injured limb. The leg was too badly damaged to save, so the fox was PTS.

On a happier note the RTA roe deer that Andy and Leianne collected last night is looking brighter this afternoon. It has even eaten a little food.

Shelby and Leianne went on a swan rescue today. They returned wet and bedraggled, but triumphant. A cygnet had been chased into a channel off the main pond at Ardeer Rec, presumably by parents who are thinking of nesting soon, and wanting the territory to themselves. They wouldn't let their cygnet back onto the pond, and it couldn't take off, or even get out of the water, from the channel. Judging from the state of Shelby and Leianne, the cygnet wasn't too keen on being rescued!

3rd February 2008

Busy Sunday

The first patient of the day was a surprise, a fulmar found in a garden pond in Kilwinning. The fulmar is underweight, and was given rehydration fluids twice today. Now it is resting cosily on a heat pad. Next came a kestrel, found unable to fly in West Kilbride. This lovely male bird has a carpal injury. It will be going to the Vet tomorrow. We went to Renfrew this afternoon, well prepared to rescue a young swan, that was reported to be bleeding badly, and was staying on the island in the pond at Robertson park. Andy didn't really need the survival suit, for as it happened, the pond had been partly drained, and the water didn't reach the top of his wellies!. We didn't need the ropes either, as the cynget didn't try to escape. Neither was the cygnet as badly injured as had been thought. All the blood was coming from damaged toe nails. They always bleed a lot. Nevertheless it was a well to bring the cygnet into care. It was certainly quite subdued when rescued. We were half way back to the centre when we received a call about an injured deer. It had been moved off the road near Irvine, but no-one had stayed with the casualty. Sadly when we arrived the deer was dead. We got back to Hessilhead to find that an SSPCA Inspector was here, delivering an injured swan. This is one of the swans from Saltcoats, that has regularly been crossing the road from the Auchenharvie Golf Course to the School. One of them was sure to be injured sooner or later. Fortunately this swan has only a minor injury. Let's hope the swans go elsewhere soon.

28th January 2008

We have spent much the of time during the last few days taking everything out the main hospital building, which is to be completely refurbished over the next few weeks. Patients have been moved to the hedgehog hospital, the mammal room and the surgery. It will take a bit of getting used to, but at least we are not too busy at this time of year. By the time our busy season arrives the hospital should look like new.

We had just about finished the removal work when we received a call about a stranded seal pup at Saltcoats. Andy and Leianne were soon back with a rather chubby, lovely pale pup, still with some of its baby white coat. It had attracted quite a crowd of admirers on the beach......and they had decided to call the pup Sandra.

There was another trip to the 3 towns early in the evening. This was to release the fox that had been found in a bathroom. It went off at top speed, obviously pleased to be free.

24th January 2008

Andy and I have just been away for a few days, enjoying the snow in Central Perthshire. Apparently it has been pretty hectic here, with swan calls several times a day. One swan was quite badly injured when the Renfrew Ferry crushed its foot. Good news from the vet though. The swan will be ready to come home tomorrow.

David and Leianne were on a seal rescue when we arrived home. They came back with one of the skinniest seals we have ever seen. It looks awful. As well as being underweight, people had been pouring sea water over the seal to keep it cool! It hasn't stopped shivering yet, but we are warming it up slowly.

19th January 2008

Fox in Bathroom!

We are used to strange requests at Hessilhead, but this was the first time we'd been asked to remove a fox from a bathroom. the owners of the house often left their back door open in the evenings, so their dogs had access to the garden. Sometimes a fox wanders into the kitchen. This time the fox went further, but then became frightened. It took refige in the bathroom, and even though doors had been left open, it hadn't left. Johnny and Leianne went to the rescue. They found the fox draped across the wash hand basin taps. leianne soon had the fox by the scruff, and into the carrying box, and decided to bring it back to the centre to be examined. This was just as well. The fox has a deep scratch beneath its eye, and some cloudiness in the eye itself. It will benefit from antibiotics for a few days before returning back to its territory. It is a big dog fox, and as this is the foxes' mating season, I'm sure it will be keen to get back into the wild.

18th January 2008

Dudley the seal

Good news today, Dudley has started to feed himself. It is always a relief when this happens, for the staff and for the seal. The staff would rather not force an animal to eat, and the seal must enjoy food better when it isn't being pushed down its throat. We expect that Dudley will start to gain weight more quickly now, and soon he'll move to an enclosure with a pool.

17th January 2008

This morning a deer jumped in front of a lorry near the Dalry Inn. The lorry driver stopped, knocked at a nearby house to ask for help, and the owner of the house brought the deer here. We nearly always have to collect deer ourselves. The deer was concussed and shaken, but by tea time he was standing, favouring his sore leg, but it isn't broken. Now we must persuade him to eat.

16th January 2008

Buzzards

You have probably noticed, that over the past few years there has been an explosion in the buzzard population, and whereas ten years ago, you would expect to see buzzards in rural areas, now they are common in suburbia and along busy roads. Last week David rescued a buzzard from the Kilbarchan slip road onto the B737. The bird has been hanging around there for weeks. It must have been clipped by a car recently, as it has a shoulder injury and has lost some weight. It won't take long to regain the weight; the bird starting eating straightaway, and has now moved to an aviary, where it can get restricted exercise. Hopefully it soon be ready for release. Today Andy & I collected another buzzard from a farm not far from Lochwinnoch. The owner of the farm said the buzzard had been unable to fly since the storms last week, and he supposed it was injured when the tree holding a buzzard nest was blown down. This is not the case. The bird has a feather problem. This is a long standing problem, resulting from insufficient food when a chick. The feathers are weak, most of the tail feathers are broken, and the flight feathers are tatty and abraided. When the feathers are wet, it is impossible for the bird to gain any height, so it has been walking around the ground, eating earthworms, but is in surprisingly good condition, weightwise. The buzzard is now in an aviary, but will probably have to stay at Hessilhead till it moults out its old feathers and grows in new ones. This won't happen till late summer, and that is a long time for a bird to be in care.

14th January 2008

Anti-Snaring Campaign

Andy and I went to Edinburgh today, to preview the cinema advertisement for the campaign to ban snaring in Scotland. There is no doubt at all that snaring is cruel and indiscriminate. If you haven't already registered your vote to ban these awful devices, please visit www.bansnares.com and do so.

13th January 2008

We finished today with a deer release. The adult roe doe was brought to the centre in December, by Karen, our reliable Greenock volunteer. Someone had knocked on her door early in the morning, to tell her about the road casualty, lying on Clune Brae, Port Glasgow. Karen was soon dressed and hurrying to the scene, and she arrived here later that morning with a concussed deer in her van. The doe made a slow recovery, responding to anti-inflammatory drugs, then being hand fed, and after about ten days feeding herself. There would be a day when the deer was jumpy, panicking when we took her food, but the next day she would be quiet again, obviously not quite ready for release.

For the last 3 days there has been no doubt that the doe was ready for release. When we took vegetation or vegetables she was trying to get out of the back of the shed. So this evening she was sedated for travelling, taken close to where she was found, given the antidote and watched for a few minutes till she came round, recognised her surroundings, and toddled off to resume life in the wild. Hopefully she will be more careful when crossing the road.

Other casualties taken into care today included a kestrel, a jackdaw, 2 swans and 3 pigeons. There will be trip to the vet tomorrow with some of these patients.

11th January 2008

Tawny Owl

The tawny owl was found being attacked by crows on the cycle track south of Ayr. The person who found the owl took it home, then phoned Hessilhead for advice. He kept the owl warm and in the dark, till he could bring it to the centre later in the morning. We have never seen anything quite like this owl. It has a massive infection inside its mouth, that prevents the mouth from closing. The owls eyes were tightly closed, and there are swellings beneath them. Perhaps this is part of the same infection. We have cleared away some of the necrotic tissue, cleaned the eyes and opened them, and put the owl on antibiotics. We are not sure yet whether the owl will make a full recovery, fingers crossed.

10th January 2008

It seems like the quiet season is over. The first call today was about a guillemot that had been handed in to the Marine Reserch Lab at Millport. The bird was put on the ferry to Largs and we collected it from there. Its a little underweight and perhaps went ashore to escape the storm of yesterday. A short eared owl was delivered, but its wing injury was far too bad for the bird to ever fly again. Sadly it was put to sleep. An injured fox wasn't a survivor either, but a buzzard picked up from the roadside, wet and bedraggled, was looking much brighter by tea time, and a wet limping swan from Ayr looked happier once it had dried off and eaten., Two hedgehogs, delivered earlier this week, are doing very well. It is a bad time of year to get in underweight hedgehogs, so we are pleased that these two youngsters are gaining weight.

7th January 2008

Dudley the seal pup

Andy and I were pleased to see all the staff back today. They'd all had a good holiday, which they thoroughly deserved, as they willingly work lots of extra time throughout the year. Having them back us a chance to catch up with paperwork and phone calls, but by mid afternoon we'd had enough of inside, and were keen to respond to a report of an injured seal pup lying on the beach at Fairlie. The seal was 200 yards along the beach, lying sleeping not far from the sea wall. It obviously had a problem, but certainly came to life as soon as Andy grabbed it. In fact it squirmed its way out of the blanket that we usually use for carrying seal pups. I'd to fetch the carrying box to get the pup back to the car.

The seal is emaciated and has nasty bites around his hind legs and tail. He is getting rehydration fluids for 24 hours, antibiotics and wormer. He doesn't really seem to appreciate the care.

6th January 2008

The year got off to a quiet start as far as new patients are concerned, though there has been plenty to do at the centre over the holiday time. The 6 grey seal pups are almost a day's work in themselves, thawing fish, delivering the food and then of course cleaning out the seal pools. We are pleased with the seals' progress. All are self feeding and gaining weight. We have 6 young roe deer that are being over-wintered, an adult female roe deer who survived a road traffic accident, and McDougall, our resident roe buck. The deer eat rabbit food, carrots, turnip and apples, and every day 30lb of vegetables has to be chopped for them. Other casualties currently in care include 40 hedgehogs, 5 buzzards, 5 tawny owls, 3 barn owls, 10 swans and a variety of small garden birds.

1st January 2008

2007 came to a busy end, with several patients coming into care last night. Saltcoats Police arrived early in the evening with a swan they had removed from the taxi rank at the station. With a drooping slightly bleeding wing, it had probably been bumped by a vehicle, though why it was there in the first place we don't know. Then came an injured common gull, followed by a pouter pigeon. These brought the total of casualties for 2007 to 3332.

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