GAY'S DIARY, 2009
31st December 2009
We have finished the year with a busy day. 6 casualties admitted, 2 hedgehogs, 2 woodcock, a roe deer and a buzzard.
Hopefully that is all for 2009.
The centre is a hive of activity with large numbers of
wild birds coming in for food. New additions to the regular visitors include
fieldfare and redwing, and a single brambling. Two buzzards have been hanging
around, and we've put food out for them too.
30th December 2009
The seal pup was spotted mid morning on Irvine beach, close
to Barassie. I asked the people who called if they'd stay with the seal, and
prevent anyone chasing it into the sea. Luckily they lived close enough to the
beach to take turns waiting in the cold, with mugs of coffee to help keep them
warm. The seal pup was sheltering behind a log, and is even more emaciated than
we'd thought. It still has some of its baby white coat around its flippers,
which means it is probably around 3 weeks old. Grey seal pups are fed a very
rich milk by their mothers, and treble their birth weight in 3 weeks. So the pup
should weigh about 40kg, but weighs only 12kg. She will need a lot of attention
and good feeding.
on the beach
in sleeping bag in ambulance
29th December 2009
In addition to keeping all the inmates fed and watered, we
have spent quite a bit of the past week rescuing swans. Most of these have been
road rescues, probably as a result of the freezing weather. When ponds and lochs
freeze, sensible swans move to the coast; others get confused and land on frozen
roads. Some of the swans have been in good condition, others have been seriously
underweight. The swan that we picked up on Christmas day was frozen to the road.
Today we were called to Stevenson beach, where a small seal
pup had been found well above the high tide line. We went straightaway, only to
be disappointed when we met 4 men, stopped them to ask if they'd seen the seal,
and they proudly told us they'd chased it into the sea. One of the men had video
on his phone, and it was clear to us that this pup needed help, quickly. It is
very young, obviously separated from its mother, and will not survive if it
isn't rescued. We walked the length of the beach, with the man who called us
about the seal, but there was no sign of it. It will almost certainly come
ashore again, and will be driven up the beach as it tries to keep ahead of the
water. The man who found the seal will check Stevenson beach tomorrow morning,
but it could come out on Irvine or Saltcoats beach. Fingers crossed that someone
will give us a call.
24th December 2009
MERRY CHRISTMAS, EVERYONE
It slows us down a bit when everything is frozen and water
dishes have to be thawed, but Hessilhead is a magical place to be in weather
like this. I thought you'd like to share it with us.
early morning snow
an amazing sunrise
chilly outside the hog hospital
Lost the ball; a lime will do
feeding time at the pond
but most of the pond is frozen
a recently released whooper swan
a mallard/red crested pochard hybrid
the one eyed swan loves noodles
the walk home
6th December 2009
Last Saturday we had a call from a tree surgery squad. They
had just felled a big chestnut tree, and were horrified to see some small bats
crawling on the ground. As they watched others crawled out of sight into a
hollow branch. This was an unfortunate accident. The tree had been checked by an
expert, who'd said no bats were there. I suppose you can't always be sure. Even
if the tree is checked with an endoscope, pipistrelle bats are very small, and
could easily be missed, and a bat detector wouldn't pick up hibernating bats.
The workman brought 5 bats to Hessilhead, and next day the site was checked by a
bat worker. No other bats were found, so probably the bats that had been seen
disappearing into the hollow, had left that night for a safer roost. Early this
evening we took the 5 bats to the site and released them. They have been eating
well all week, and all felt chunky. It was fairly mild this evening, so it
seemed a good time for them to return to the wild. They all flew off soon after
we opened their tank. Hopefully they knew somewhere that would make a good
one of the bats at Hessilhead before release
4th December 2009
Buddy the seal is gaining weight fast. The trouble with
feeding herring is that the water in the pool gets very fatty, and sometimes a
layer of fat covers the seal. Today the pool was cleaned, and so was Buddy. He
has an infection in one eye, so while the pool was empty we took the opportunity
to put ointment in the eye. Quite a tricky operation, as you see.
3rd December 2009
Today I took photos of two of our resident foxes, Fergus and
Bad Waggy. I thought you'd like to see them.
Fergus & Bad Waggy
24th November 2009
Late last Saturday afternoon we were called to rescue a roe
deer that had been attacked by a deer hound. When we arrived at the farm, not
far from Beith, we didn't hold out much hope for the survival of the deer. It
was treated and left in a well bedded shed, and we were rather surprised to see
it looking bright next morning. Later that day it was standing, though very
panicky. It almost hit the roof when we peeped round the door. Today we decided
to release the deer. It was taken back to where it came from, because this is
the area the deer knows, and where it will do best. The dog attack was
accidental, but hopefully that particular deer hound will never be allowed to
run free in the countryside again. It would be difficult to find even a small
wood in this area that doesn't have resident roe deer. Most deer attacked by
dogs don't survive.
23rd November 2009
We have had a couple of young whooper swans in the centre
recently. The first to come crash landed in a Kilwinning garden, and soon
recovered from a grazed wing. We always try to reunite whooper swans with their
family, but we had no idea where the family of this young bird had gone. It
could have clipped wires while on migration. So we opted to release him on the
quarry pond. He stayed there for a few days; then disappeared. Hopefully he has
met up with other whooper swans. The second young whooper was picked up at
Glasgow airport. Those of you who live locally will know that a flock of whooper
swans, often more the 100, spend the winter in fields between Inchinnan and the
airport. When this bird was ready to go we found some of that flock on the
flooded Black Cart at Yonderton. The youngster flew to join them, and will
hopefully take care to land on the outside of the airfield perimeter fence in
future. As you can see from this photo, whooper swans have attitude. They don't
take to being in care as well as easy going mute swans.
22nd November 2009
Today didn't start well. Andy made an early morning trip into
Glasgow to collect an injured fox. Sadly it was an old fox with several serious
injuries. it was put to sleep. While Andy was away some people brought in an
injured snipe. This had a badly injured wing, that was not repairable. This
afternoon things improved. A tawny owl was collected by the people who had found
it flying round their living room, after it had fallen down their chimney. The
owl was rather sooty and dehydrated, as it had probably been stuck in the
chimney for several days. We cleaned the soot from its eyes, gave it antibiotics
and rehydration fluids, and next day it began feeding itself. It is a fit
healthy bird that should do well when released into the garden of the house with
the chimney. Tawny owls are quite territorial at his time of year. You may have
heard them calling in your area. I wonder if this bird's mate will be pleased to
see it back tonight, or will it want an explanation of where it has been !
16th November 2009
Today I have some really exciting news. A robin came into the
hospital this morning. It was a ringed bird, so we caught it and checked the
ring number. We could hardly believe that this is a bird that we hand reared and
released in 2006. Three years is a good age for any robin. It is excellent
for a hand reared bird, and reminds us that all the effort and long hours
required to rear nestlings can be well worthwhile.
13th November 2009
This week we have been washing swans. The swans in question
have pink feather syndrome, and came from Richmond Park in Glasgow. The pinkness
is caused by a bacterial/fungal/algal growth, and is almost certainly linked to
large amounts of bread in the water. Affected swans lose their waterproofing.
This causes them to roost out of the water, making them vulnerable to predation
by foxes. We were pleasantly surprised that the pinkness washed off fairly
easily with green washing up liquid. We used a tooth brush to work this into the
feathers, and then showered each bird for about 20 minutes, taking care to
remove all the detergent. Washed swans were put under a heat lamp, where they
preened enthusiastically till dry. They now have free access to the pond in the
swan hospital. They alternately bathe and preen, and have almost recovered their
I've included this photo of a jackdaw, taken just before it
was released, as I think it shows the beauty of a bird we take for granted.
28th October 2009
Today we released a roe deer. This was the second roe deer to
be released in the last 3 weeks. The 1st deer had been hit by a car, was very
badly concussed when it came here, but had no broken bones. These are the deer
that give the best results. They are kept in subdued lighting, given
anti-inflammatory and antibiotic treatment, and disturbance is kept to a
minimum. Some of these deer need encouragement to eat at the beginning of their
stay with us. Later, when they are eating well, they are fed twice a day and
their condition assessed every few days. The deer from Cow Glen Golf Club made a
steady recovery, and it was a delight to see her running free when she was
released. The driver of the car involved in the accident was also thrilled to
see her go. The deer we released today was a young buck. Three weeks ago it was
found wedged between a wall and a fence, with its front legs down a steep drop.
In its efforts to free itself it had torn the skin around its hips. The wounds
were stitched, and the deer settled well. It was soon eating natural vegetation,
and later learnt to eat rabbit food and chopped apples. We released it from the
garden where it was found, which gave it access to woodland. I am sure that by
now it will be reunited with its family.
Yesterday we released the last of this year's young gannets.
They will be a bit behind other young gannets heading south, but hopefully they
will catch up and enjoy the next couple of years in warmer waters off the coast
of Iberia or N Africa.
The last young heron to be released at Hessilhead is
still hanging around the centre, usually waiting to see if the seals or otters
have left any fish.
Here he is standing on one of the otter enclosures.
Buddy the young seal has at last learnt to feed himself. Now
he should put on weight more quickly.
Last Friday evening we released a female barn owl that had
been in care for a couple of weeks. The owl had been found tangled in fishing
line, and hanging from a tree. It had a badly strained wing. We released the owl
close to where it was found. It flew across the field towards farm buildings,
and almost at once we heard another owl calling. Hopefully the owl was
back with her mate.
On the way home we released several Uist hedgehogs.
You may have noticed a lot of dead foxes on the roads recently. This often
happens at this time of year, when youngsters are moving into new territories.
Some are not so badly injured, and come into care. This fox from Giffnock was
found by really caring people. By the time we arrived to collect the fox, at
about midnight, she had been given a hot water bottle, covered with a blanket,
and traffic cones were protecting her from passing traffic. For a few days she
didn't eat, and didn't know what was happening. Now she is ready for release.
4th October 2009
Andy and I were away last week, enjoying some glorious
weather and great bird watching on North Uist. As you can see, we found the
perfect place to park campervan. Mel thought it was great too.
We brought back 37 hedgehogs removed from Benbecula. Most of
them are a good weight, and will be released soon.
Two unusual casualties came to the centre just before we went
away. First there was a barn owl. We treat quite a few barn owls every year, but
this was a youngster, maybe 3 - 4 weeks old. It is late in the year for such a
young chick. The owlet was in really poor condition; was put into a brooder and
given s-c fluids. It wasn't very encouraging that its sibling had been found
dead. For some reason the parents have disappeared from the nest site. Next
morning we were encouraged to see the chick standing up. We gave it more fluids,
then hand feeds of chopped up meat. Now she is looking quite grown up. She
has moulted most of her baby down, and has already made a test flight round the
Late on Sunday evening came the next surprise. One of our
members had been in Yorkshire for the weekend. He phoned to say he had
found an owl, would it be alright for him to bring it. We were surprised when we
opened the box to see a little owl. Little owls don't live locally, but of
course they are common in Yorkshire. When the owl recovers it will be heading
back down south.
When we returned to the centre on Friday, we were really
pleased to hear that Torrie, the otter cub, has started feeding himself. He is
being a bit fussy though. He will only eat trout or salmon!
25th September 2009
The very small otter cub from Callander is making good
progress. This morning he weighed 700gm; he eats quite a lot of fish now, and
yesterday picked up strips of trout from my hand. Up till then the fish had to
be put into his mouth, he sucks it first, then chews and swallows. He still
likes his bottle, and we will continue with milk feeds for at least another
week. He is taking more notice of things around him, and is getting quite active
in his cage. Pleased with his progress, we decided to name him, Torrie.
Torrie isn't very co-operative yet about having pics taken, but here a few of
the best, lots have been deleted!
24th September 2009
Do you remember the badger that came to Hessilhead a few
weeks ago? She was unconsciousness for nearly a week. We fed her by syringe,
just fluids at first, and then AD diet. As she became more active she managed to
feed herself, then became strong enough to move outside. This evening we
released her. We took her to a quiet lane, quite close to where she had been
found on a busier road. We opened the box and waited. The box moved, the badger
shuffled, then silence. Then the box rocked again. We waited, silently. Ages
seemed to pass, then Andy moved towards the box. There was a dark streak as
badger dashed from the box and disappeared under the hedge, and another blur as
she dashed across the field. Nothing wrong with badger now!
24th September 2009
A window casualty sparrowhawk was brought to Hessilhead last
week. There is nothing unusual about that, except that this bird was wearing 2
rings. One was a numbered BTO ring, the other a pit ring. Pit rings contain a
microchip. The numbered rings can only be read if the bird is caught or found
dead. is caught. Pit rings can be read with a scanner, and so breeding birds can
be recorded at nest sites. The sparrowhawk in care is a young female, that was
ringed at a nest near Newmilns, and subsequently hit a window in Kilmarnock. It
will be released next weekend.
Two weeks ago I opened the hatch in one of our tawny owl
aviaries. I was surprised that the owls are still there, as tawny owls, even
youngsters, don't usually waste any time heading for the trees. We decided to
check some of the pellets in the aviary, and guess what. The pellets contain the
remains of day old chicks, the food that I put in the aviary every day, and also
the remains of field voles. The owls can only be catching voles by leaving the
aviary at night. So they must go for a little adventure after dark, but return
to the safety of the aviary before first light. This is good news for us; it
proves that hand reared tawny owls can learn to hunt for themselves. We don't
mind them returning for a daytime roost, but I expect they will eventually leave
for a life in the wild.
23rd September 2009
44 Uist hedgehogs arrived here this evening. Most of
the animals are a good weight, and should be ready for release by the weekend.
There are a few young ones too, that have been put into heated cages in the main
22nd September 2009
We got a call from Ardeer today, asking if we could recue a
roe buck that had fallen down a shaft into a drainage system. Off we went with
ladders, ropes etc. We were taken to the shaft, and looked down on the adult roe
buck, that was sitting looking up at us. This could be tricky. As you know, roe
bucks have sharp pointed antlers, that could inflict a lot of damage. Andy
slowly slid the ladder into the shaft. The deer stood up, but didn't look too
frightened. Andy slowly made his way down the ladder, till he was level with the
deer's head. Her grabbed the antlers, and at that pint the deer started to
struggle. Andy then did his best ever rescue. He climbed backwards up the
ladder, bringing the buck up with him. It seemed as if the deer suddenly
realized that he was being helped out of his predicament, and reached for the
rim of the shaft with his front feet. You will have to imagine the fantastic
picture of Andy and the deer emerging from the shaft side by side, as we weren't
allowed to take a camera on site!
20th September 2009
It has been a typical weekend for this time of year. The
centre is quieter now, with most of the youngsters that were hand reared over
the summer, out and fending for themselves. The last few swallows were released
today, and this evening Andy took 4 more fox cubs to a release sites on the
south side of Glasgow. While Andy was out, I took a call from the police, asking
if we could help with a deer that had been injured on the road. As luck would
have it, that was on the south side of Glasgow too. So Andy returned a while
ago, minus the fox cubs but with a roe deer. The deer is badly concussed, but no
bones broken. It has been settled in a shed for the night.
Other arrivals this weekend included a buzzard, that was
brought from Livingstone. The lady who brought this buzzard had been on a raptor
first aid course, and she put this training to good use. The buzzard had been
given fluids by crop tube, and was well packed for travelling. It is
underweight, but not critically so, and has a slight back injury. Today it has
been feeding itself, so is strong enough to tear at food, but when I approach
its cage it crouches down. I think this bird will recover with time. Andy and
Chantal collected a swan that had crashed into a roof in Irvine, and then
toppled down into the garden. Obviously the swan is rather battered and bruised,
but it certainly didn't like being in a cage in the hospital. It has moved to
the swan hospital now, but can't stand yet.
Several autumn juvenile hedgehogs came this weekend. This is
quite early in the year for these little hogs to be getting into trouble, but
some of them are needing lots of attention. Anyone finding a small hedgehog at
this time of year, should put the animal in a cardboard box with cosy bedding,
and either put the box beside a heat source, or put a hot water bottle in the
box. It is better not to give these young hogs food, but certainly offer them a
drink of warm water. These hogs need to come into care as quickly as possible.
They need a variety of treatment, including antibiotics, wormer, fluids and
A greenfinch was brought in by one of our regular couriers,
Eric. The bird had crashed into his window, but he suspected it maight also be
suffering from trichomonasis. This is an infection that we have often seen in
pigeons and doves, but was only recorded in finches a few years ago. Sadly,
affected finches don't usually survive.
On Saturday evening a badger was brought to Hessilhead from
Tarbert, Argyll. The animal was unconscious on arrival, and doesn't look very
much better today.
10th September 2009
Remember the tiny otter that came into care 3 weeks ago?
Well, he certainly caused us problems. He didn't gain weight on the first milk
substitute we gave him, and the next milk that was recommended made him scour,
so that he was in danger of becoming dehydrated. As Andy and I were
away for a week, Leianne put in a lot of hours to keep him well fed, and worried
about him too. After 10 days we changed his diet. It took a while for us to be
sure that this suited him, but now he is looking well, is gaining weight, has a
longer coat, has opened his eyes and is becoming a character. He certainly
doesn't like posing for the camera, but this pic will give you an idea of his
Fyn the otter is living outside now. He has become quite
grumpy and snappy, always a good sign. In the daytime he likes to
hide beneath a log.
31st August 2009
The wet weather has kept patient numbers down, and has also
meant postponing some releases. On the the occasional dry day we have taken the
chance to release more house martins and swallows. it has been great to see them
fly off to join the mixed flocks feeding over the field behind the centre. A
sparrowhawk was taken back to Cardross to be released, as was a pipistrelle bat.
A buzzard made a fast recovery and was released too, and the people who found a
barn owl near Milton of Campsie, were pleased to collect the bird, and release
it in its own territory.
The rta badger is now outside, and well on the way to
release, and as soon as we have a settled spell of weather, our hand reared
foxes will be heading for freedom.
19th August 2009
The badger that came in on Saturday is making steady
progress. Although not completely conscious she moves around her cage a lot, and
is now taking food, with enthusiasm, from a syringe.
At lunchtime today we moved 4 of the young deer to the big
woodland over-wintering enclosure. It was a dull miserable day, so photos not
too good. The deer thought it was wonderful, eating tasty new vegetation
straight away, and then bounding around the enclosure together.
One of today's new arrivals is going to be a real challenge.
This latest otter cub is between 2 and 3 weeks old. He weighs 414 gm, his eyes
are closed, and his short smooth coat is still greyish rather than brown. Like
many of the casualties that come our way, his is a sad story. While people were
walking their dogs in the Trossachs, an otter came towards them, stopped,
startled, dropped something, and ran away. She had dropped the cub. The people
left the cub on the path. Two hours later, in heavy rain, it was still there. I
think they did the right thing to take it into care then. Let's all hope we can
rear this youngster.
17th August 2009
A busy weekend brought in a variety of patients, and we also
did a hedgehog training day, attended by 9 enthusiasts. With lots of young
hedgehogs in care now, there were plenty of patients to see, feed, weigh and
On Sunday we had a work party making new steps to the bat
The first casualty of the weekend was a badger, picked up on
the road at Stewarton. The animal arrived here in the front of a car,
unconscious. It has been treated with anti-inflammatory drugs, given fluids and
anti-biotics, but three days later remains unconscious. We are still quite
hopeful of a full recovery. There appear to be no broken bones, and the badger
is moving around much more now than on Saturday.
On Saturday evening another seal pup came from Arran.
and a juvenile great black backed gull came in from Greenock.
The bird has a back injury, but with good reflexes we hope it will recover. These birds are BIG, even this youngster.
14th August 2009
A barn owl was the first patient to arrive today. This poor
bird had been stuck down a chimney for a few days. It was dirty, very thin, and
not too pleased. We cleaned its eyes, nose and mouth, and after giving fluids
gave the owl food. It didn't take long for the owl to eat, so hopefully it will
soon be ready for release.
Barn owl in threatening posture
12th August 2009
Yesterday evening Andy and I picked up a swan from Doonfoot.
It had fishing hook in its leg, and was trailing a lot of line and a float. We
brought the swan back to the hospital, removed the hook under local anaesthetic,
and gave antibiotics. Today the swan was returned to her family.
The swans at Doonfoot are interesting. Last year we brought a
female and 2 cygnets here. The female's mate had died (or disappeared,) and when
the cygnets hatched they were attacked by another pair of swans at
Doonfoot, that also had cygnets. This year we had reports of a swan sitting on
eggs a little way up the river, and this swan didn't appear to have a mate.
Another pair of swans had a territory at the mouth of the river. Now there is an
unusual situation. There are two female swans at Doonfoot, both with cygnets,
and one male swan. All appear to be living happily together.
11th August 2009
It isn't often that a juvenile lesser black backed gull
becomes the star patient of the week. We have over 60 of them in an aviary, and
a few others dotted around the centre. But it was noticed that 'star of the
week' had a worm in his eye. The worm was alive and quite mobile, and we could
only imagine that the sensation of it moving around inside the eye ball was
unpleasant, to say the least. I sent photos of the eye, showing the worm, to Tom
Pennycott, a vet pathologist who helps us a lot. He identified it as a fluke,
cyathostomes. These parasites usually live in the sinuses of gulls; this was
wayward fluke that got lost. The next person to help was our vet, Alastair
Lawrie. He skillfully removed the fluke, and the gull is back at the hospital.
It has been on antibiotics and eye drops 4 times a day, and
it looks great. I think it will be released with the next batch of young gulls
that are ready to go.
You can see the 'worm' diagonally across the top of the eye
The first common seal pup of the year was brought across from
Arran a few days ago. It has nasty wounds on his flippers and infected bites
on his back.
8th August 2009
Today one of the SSPCA Inspectors brought in an otter. The
animal was emaciated, and had been hanging around Port Patrick harbour for
several days. On examination, we found that this was an old animal with very
worn teeth. This explained why it was so thin, the otter hadn't been able to
catch food. The otter was quietly put to sleep. Its suffering ended.
4th August 2009
This evening we were called to Irvine, where there was a
disturbance between 2 neighbouring families of swans. The swan family from the
Rivergate had gone over the weir, into the territory of the harbour swans. The
harbour swans have 3 big cygnets. The Rivergate swans have 3 young cygnets, only
2 weeks old. By the time we arrived at the battle scene local people had managed
to rescue the 3 small cygnets as the harbour swans had been trying to
drown them. The harbour swans had then attacked the parents of the rescued
cygnets, and these 2 swans were now against the sluice gate, with water pouring
down on them. They were out of our reach, and the harbour swans were keeping
guard. We called Fire and Rescue, and within minutes help was on hand. A fireman
got a rope round one of the swans, and it was pulled to safety, very wet, but
otherwise unharmed. This caused its mate to make a break for freedom, but the
harbour male followed it, grabbed it by the neck and for a minute or two, seemed
certain to drown it. Eventually the Rivergate male broke free, but he was unable
to walk up the weir to escape, and wasn't getting a chance to take off. He tried
hiding amongst some rocks, but was attacked again, then swam down the river and
walked up the slip, where he almost jumped into Andy's arms. Now the family has
been reunited at Hessilhead. We haven't decided yet where to release them.
3rd August 2009
This morning we were called to the rescue of 2 cygnets at
Ardeer Rec, Stevenston. They were tangled in the same length of fishing line,
and lots of weed had got caught round the line and floats. When one cygnet swam
it towed the other behind it. It didn't take long to entice the family to the
bank with bread, and when one of the cygnets came in reach Leianne grabbed it,
pulling the other ashore too. Fortunately there was no serious damage, although
the line was tight round one cygnet's leg. They were soon released and back with
their family. The other 7 cygnets had been watching from a safe distance; the
parents were watching from just off shore.
Early this evening we got a call about an otter cub that had
been found on the road at Dalmally. Arrangements were made for us to collect the
cub at the Western Ferries terminal at Dunoon. He is a tiny cub, but fiesty, and
really enjoys his 4 meals a day.
Mally the otter cub
30th July 2009
Many of the hand reared young birds have been released now,
though some late in the season arrivals are still demanding regular feeds in the
hospital. The first batch of young gulls was released yesterday, and an
oystercatcher was taken to the coast this morning. The ringed plover chicks are
looking very smart, and will be moving outdoors tomorrow. We still have some
mallard ducklings, and of course the cygnets. They will be here for quite a
while yet. Most of the corvids are released now, though many are returning for
food. We still have some blackbirds and thrushes, and the last starlings that
were released are often seen around the paths and lawns at the centre, behaving
just like wild reared starlings.
There have been some interesting new arrivals this week. On
Saturday a young cuckoo was found near Carradale on the Mull of Kintyre. It was
put on the ferry to Arran, where it was met by the Arran Ranger Service. They
transported the bird acrss Arran, and put it on the ferry to Ardrossan, where
it was met by Andy. There was some concern that this bird had been caught by a cat,
and it certainly had a few tail feathers missing. It had antibiotics, and a few
days rest with regular feeds of mince and mealworms. It is time for cuckoos to
migrate now, so we thought it best that it should be back in the wild as soon as
possible. Hopefully it is now heading south on its way to Africa.
Late on Monday evening we had a call about a young deer,
tangled in a children's goal net in a Greenock garden. When we arrived the deer
was dragging the goal frame around with it. We soon had the deer cut free, but
it was in a garden in a housing scheme. We couldn't release the deer there, so
it is back at Hessilhead. Although quite stressed when we released it, the deer
has settled in well, and eats a big pile of wild vegetation every day.
On Wednesday we received a call from the shores of Loch Fyne.
People had found an otter cub, and wanted advice. They put the cub in a cage,
and left it on the beach for more than an hour, while they watched, hidden, some
distance away. The cub called, but mother didn't arrive. The little cub was
taken to the vet at Dunoon, given emergency treatment, then sent on the ferry to
Gourock, where it was met by one of staff, Chris. The cub seemed very gentle and
subdued at first, but when Leianne was putting fish into the cage later, it bit
her finger!. a sure sign that the cub was feeling better.
Also on Wednesday a nest of pied wagtail chicks was brought
to the hospital. they were brought by transport firm, Malcolms, after they'd
been discovered in the engine of a truck. They are quite well grown and always
hungry. They even beg to one another in the hope of getting fed.
Yesterday morning we had a call about an injured 'kestrel' in
Kilmarnock. When the bird arrived it was a very bad tempered peregrine falcon.
It has a right shoulder injury, and will be x-rayed at the vet's tomorrow.
rarely have we had a bird that looks so angry!
Later yesterday we had another surprise arrival. This was a
little grebe, found on the ground at the Glen Park in Paisley. Apparently a cat
was stalking nearby, which may explain the missing tail feathers ( and little
grebes don't have much of a tail to start with). In case the bird had been
catted, it was given antibiotics, and then allowed to swim on our swan pool
today. It was a thrill to watch this little grebe diving and swimming
underwater. They are perfectly designed for catching fish, but it was easy to
see why they have such difficulty getting around on land.
Our main hospital is beginning to look like a hedgehog
nursery. Most of the hoglets are feeding themselves now, and gaining weight, so
soon they will be moved the hedgehog hospital. The 3 little hogs that came
yesterday will be bottle fed for a couple of weeks. As you can see they like
Three oiled eider ducklings came in today, following the oil
spill at Faslane yesterday. They have been stablized for the night, and will
hopefully go for cleaning tomorrow.
And here is Mel, thinking it must be time for a coffee break!
17th July 2009
This week we've been rescuing casualties from difficult or
strange situations. On Monday we took in 21 young pigeons that had been removed
from a derelict building before the doors and windows were boarded up.
Unfortunately the person who 'rescued' them put them under a wrought iron gate
in a narrow passage. He thought they'd be safe there. Later that day 4 mallard
ducklings walked into a barber's shop in Neilston Road, Paisley. Mum had
apparently gone off with the rest of her clutch.
On Tuesday morning we received a call that a large number of
bats had been found in a disused office in Kilbirnie. Sadly 14 of the bats were
dead. David gave the survivors rehydration fluid from a fine paint brush. This
was repeated throughout the day, and then mealworms were offered to the bats. We
made sure that the pipe that allowed the bats to access the room was closed off,
and on Thursday night released the bats outside their roost. We counted over 70
bats leaving the roost and watched them foraging over trees. I even managed to
get a couple of photos of them in flight.
the rescued bats
bat leaving roost
young bat climbing back to roost and adult flying past
Later on Tuesday we received a call about a young deer
trapped in a deep shaft at Ardeer. It was a miracle that this deer was found.
The entrance to the shaft was overgrown, and few people pass that way. The deer
just happened to call as a birdwatcher walked nearby, and he went to
investigate. We'd to carry the rescue equipment a mile. A ladder was put down
the shaft, which was about 10' deep and 2 feet square. Leianne climbed down,
which of course made the deer panic. Leianne soon had the deer in a bag, and
climbed back up the ladder. We'd hoped the release the deer straightaway, as she
would almost certainly have met up with her mother. However she has a nasty gash
on her leg and required veterinary treatment. She is now living in one of our
'quiet' sheds, and will eventually join our other hand reared deer.
entrance to shaft
Leianne goes down
grapples with the deer
the deer sees daylight
recuperating at Hessilhead
On Thursday we got a call from Kilmarnock, from a lady who
had abandoned her house after a sparrowhawk had flown in. David went to the
rescue, caught the sparrowhawk and let it go, and then caught a starling in the
kitchen of the house. The sparrowhawk must have chased the young bird, which
panicked and flew into the house, and the predator followed.
Today another young deer got in trouble. It tried to jump a
fence, but got a hind leg caught in the wire. It is now at Hessilhead,
standing but with a very sore leg.
3rd July 2009
When I made the last entry in the diary, I commented that
we'd had a busy weekend, with over 50 patients admitted in the 2 days. Yesterday
we had 43 patients admitted. These included more starlings and blackbirds,
another clutch of mallard ducklings, more gull chicks, the first young
kestrel of the season (it has a broken leg, that we hope will heal), 4 ringed
plover chicks, a quail and another baby bat.
David, our batman, is rearing the baby bats. He has just put
them into travelling boxes and taken them home for the weekend. When the bats
are less than 2 weeks they are very demanding, requiring milk feeds every 2
hours. We feed a milk substitute, esbilac, from a fine paint brush. It
requires a lot of patience. If you'd like to meet our young bats and then join
in a bat walk, contact us for details of dates.
bat leaving roost
bat leaving roost
Wader chicks can be tricky to rear, as they need live food,
but the oystercatcher and ringed plovers are eating well. They have been given
mealworms and earthworms, but they are eating chick crumbs too. The 4 ringed
plovers were found by children, but I guess they found them on a stony beach,
and 'stole' them from their parents. One of the chicks is older than the others,
who think it is their mum.
young kestrel with fractured leg
collared dove recovering from head injuries
young starling demanding food
young hedgehog learns to lap milk from bowl
SHEEP SHEARING AT HESSILHEAD. EWEY FEELS MUCH
BETTER WITHOUT THAT THICK WOOLLY COAT
and for those of you who haven't seen Mel
recently, here she is enjoying a few days on Mull
22nd June 2009
We've just had a busy weekend, over 50 new patients admitted.
We now have 4 cygnets, all from Greenock, but possibly from different families.
The first 3 came after adult swans tried to drown them. Presumably this followed
a territorial dispute, and the winners were not the parents of the young. They
were joined today by a cygnet rescued from a dog.
2 mallard ducklings came early today, rescued by firemen,
from a drain in a shopping complex in Hamilton. They seem none the worse for
their ordeal. They have been joined by 8 ducklings from Ayr. Their mother
abandoned them in a busy road.
A new roe deer fawn is taking his bottle well in the
hospital. Soon he will move outside.
6 baby rabbits came today. They were found in a garden , no
other explanation, and as you can see they are very nervous and trying to hide.
Blackbird chicks are still coming in, and there have been a
few young song thrushes recently. There are a few young starlings, probably from
replacement broods, and now it is time for swallows and house martins too. Four
house martin chicks came yesterday, after their nest collapsed following a heavy
shower. At last we have a few finches. 2 chaffinches are feeding themselves now,
and a greenfinch is being hand fed. Other arrivals this weekend included 2 bats,
one hanging from a tree on a fishing hook, an rta tawny owl, a gannet, 2 great
spotted woodpeckers, and a roe deer, another road casualty, from Dumbarton.
house martin chick
This evening, while I was bottle feeding a leveret in the
hospital, I looked out of the window and there, in what had been our cabbage
patch, was the hand reared leveret that we released a few weeks ago. We took her
through the wood and into a field to release her, and find it amazing that she
has returned and taken up residence in the overgrown garden behind the hospital.
She sleeps just feet away from where she was reared. The pics were taken through
the hospital window, so as not to disturb her, but you can see that she looks
quite grown up now.
20th June 2009
The first part of the week wasn't busy, and we took advantage
of some sunshine on Tuesday to release the the first of blue tits, great tits
and great spotted woodpeckers. We also moved some jackdaws out of the
hospital. What a difference that made. It was much quieter without their
constant demands for food. We wouldn't really mind them calling for food when
they are hungry, but they call every time some movement catches their attention.
Some of them even begged to each other in the cage, and they do it all at a
level of decibels that hurts!
We had a surprise patient earlier this week. It was another
young raven, found in a car park in the Trossachs. This bird is remarkably tame
and we are wondering if someone has reared and released it. The people who found
the bird left it for several days, but It looked quite weak when they picked it
up last Sunday. Their tlc has worked wonders. Fechan is now bouncing around an
aviary, and we hope that as he spends time with the raven already in care, he
will learn to be a raven and lose interest in people.
15th June 2009
Yesterday was our Open Day. We were so lucky. After 2 weeks
of sunshine we hardly dared to hope for another sunny day. The forecast didn't
help. Thunderstorms were promised. When went to bed after 1am in the morning,
the sky was clear. We hoped. It was sunny by 7am and it stayed like that all
day. Crowds came, enjoyed the tours, played the games and searched for bargains
on the bric a brac. We all had a really good day, and it was profitable too.
Some of our volunteers took a long time to get home, because of flash flooding
following heavy rain. Hessilhead missed it all.
10th June 2009
Yesterday we released the osprey, close to where it had been
found on the Lake of Menteith. You'll remember that the osprey was in really
poor condition when it came here. For the first couple of days we doubted it if
would survive, never mind be released. Once the bird began to feed itself
it made steady progress, and for the past ten days has been living in one of
largest aviaries. As far as we could tell it was flying well, even hovering
above the perch before landing. We had sprayed it too, to encourage preening. We
had dome al we could for this bird. Quite a crowd gathered to see the release.
There was the water bailiff who'd found the osprey, and taken it from the net.
There were rangers from the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park, who had
brought the bird to Hessilhead, and Dave and Katie, who had ringed the osprey as
a chick in 2005. It was a little nerve wracking for us. Until the bird is
released and flies, we cannot be 100% sure it is as fit as we think. All went
well, though the bird at first seemed reluctant to leave its box. With a little
encouragement from Andy it flew high, across the loch. We watched it circling
over the distant hills, then an osprey flew back towards us, the same bird, we
4th June 2009
It is pretty busy in the hospital now. Today Leianne counted
over 60 baby birds begging for food in the nestling section of the hospital. In the
cages there are fledglings, some of them beginning to feed themselves, though
still being hand fed, less frequently than the younger birds.
Great tit chicks, in the brooder
3rd June 209
Last Sunday we had a call from one of the visitor centres on
Loch Lomond. They had a red breasted merganser, tangled in fishing line, and
with a hook through its eye. That didn't sound good. One of our regular
couriers, Ali, and her mum, Elspeth, were willing to help. They brought the
casualty to Hessilhead. It looked, at first, as bad as we had thought. But when
Andy began to remove the hook, we found that it had gone through both the upper
and lower eye lids. Unbelievably, the eye was not damaged, though there was a
lot of tissue damage, and I'm sure the bird must have been uncomfortable.
The merganser spent the night in the hospital, on pain killers and antibiotics,
and next day moved to the pool in the seal shed. It soon began diving for the
whitebait we had thrown into the water, and we decided that it should return to
its own environment as soon as possible. Today Ali and Elspeth collected the
merganser. They were thrilled to release it on Loch Lomond, and sent us these
Before the hook was removed
Before the hook was removed
The merganser recuperating at Hessilhead
The merganser recuperating at Hessilhead
The red breasted merganser released on Loch Lomond
The red breasted merganser released on Loch Lomond
28th May 2009
New arrivals this week include a young raven, found in a West
Kilbride garden. It was one of 4 birds described as young ravens that day; the
others all shrunk into crows before they arrived here! We have 2 roe deer fawns,
one found at the roadside in Bearsden, Glasgow, the other from Inverness. The
Bearsden fawn has been reluctant to take milk from a bottle, but today it has
begun feeding well, which means that the 2 fawns will move to an enclosure
The raven has settled in an aviary
The Inverness fawn
The Inverness fawn, with the shyer Bearsden fawn in the background
22nd May 2009
Today was the kind of weather that you expect at this time of
year. It was just what we needed, as the first leveret to be reared this year
was ready to go. She was getting too big for her hospital cage, but we've learnt
from experience that it isn't a good idea to move young hares to a half way
They may panic and injure themselves. The leveret has been eating lots of grass
and other vegetation, though she liked her rabbit mix too. She will have to
make do without that now.
21st May 2009
Some of our youngsters are ready for release. Today 2
mallards and their ducklings were released on Kilbirnie Loch. Each family set
off in a different direction, closely followed by obedient ducklings. It always
amazes me that mallard ducklings do exactly what their mother tells them.
We checked out tawny owl nest box today, and found two
healthy chicks about 3 weeks old. More tawny owls have been arriving at the
centre. All have company now, are self feeding, and will grow up wild.
2 tawny chicks in the nest box
2 tawny chicks in the hospital
Thanks to a grant from the St Andrew Animal Fund,
we have 2 new high tech brooders in the hospital. They are ideal for small
injured birds that arrive cold and in shock, and great for nestlings being hand
20th May 2009
Good news about the osprey. It is making good progress,
standing now, and tearing up fish for itself. It is ready to move out to a shed.
18th May 2009
It feels more like spring now, with a wider variety of
youngsters in the hospital.
Young heron from Arran
2 more leverets have arrived
Fox cubs are becoming more wary
16th May 2009
It was a surprise when we took a call from Loch
Lomond and Trossachs National Park today, asking if we could take in an osprey.
The bird looks awful, is unable to stand, has been tangled in netting and
struggling to get free. It has been treated with anti-inflammatory drugs, and
has been hand fed. Fingers crossed
12th May 2009
Last weeks wet and windy weather slowed down the intake of
young birds. The storms brought in some young rooks. They were almost fledged,
but had been blown from nests and branches, and are just too old to beg for
food. They don't like being force fed either, so there is lots of noise and
tantrums. A few new young blackbirds are much better behaved, and the 2 young
mistle thrushes are perfectly mannered. Starlings are coming in now, but by this
time last year, the hospital was much busier with nestling birds. We have one
little robin chick..............how about this for a hairdo?
4th May 2009
It has been a cold, wet and busy Bank Holiday Monday. The day
started with a duckling rescue at Hessilhead. When Leianne went to feed the goat
kid she heard ducklings calling, and spotted them beside the seal enclosure. One
of the mallards that often waddles around the centre had nested under some
sheets of weldmesh that leaned against the fence. It must have seemed a good
nest site, safe from marauding crows and magpies. The ducklings must have
hatched in the night, and for some reason some of them tried to climb the sheets
of mesh. Three of them had got trapped and died, others were climbing the mesh
as we watched. We rounded up Mum and the remaining 9 ducklings, and she soon
settled in the shed...the ducklings will be safer in care till they are a bit
older. Later another duck with 9 ducklings was brought into care. A deer was
rescued from the grounds of a care home in Castlemilk. Deer often enter gardens
through a gate, and then try to escape through the fence. This deer had been
trapped for hours; it was caught, sedated, and released in woodland close by.
Another deer was picked up from the central reservation of the A726. Sadly its 2
back legs were shattered. Other arrivals today included a hedgehog, 2
gulls, a crow and a jackdaw, and the biggest surprise of all, a young weasel.
When I heard a young weasel was on its way here, I thought it must be really
small, probably naked with eyes still closed. In fact this youngster is 7 or 8
weeks old. It feeds itself and is very active, although it was picked up for
dead on a path this morning. With spring apparently on hold, it seems odd that a
weasel should have been born so early in the year.
2nd May 2009
Andy and Stephen went on an unusual rescue today. A call from
a fishery had reported a tawny owl, trapped beneath the netting over their
nursery pools. Apparently the tawny owl was perched on a post, approximately 8'
high. It didn't take them long to net the owl, which they released straightaway.
At this time of year tawny owls will be feeding well grown young. It was
important that this bird return to its family asap.
1st May 2009
Andy took Danielle and Cuan, 2 of our work experience
students, on a duckling rescue last night. It turned into an epic affair. By the
time they arrived at the garden in Alloway, the lady who called had tried to
barricade the duck and ducklings in. They didn't like this, and had scattered
over several gardens. Eventually, after scrambling through hedges and over
fences, mother duck and 12 ducklings were safely boxed. But one duckling was
missing. The rescue team had heard it calling, but all went quiet. Sadly they
had to leave without it. This morning the lady from Alloway phoned. After dark
last night, her security light came on, and there in her garden was the
missing duckling. Now it is snuggled happily under mum, with all its siblings.
29th April 2009
And another young badger was brought in today. We heard about
this cub last night. It has been following people on a farm near Lockerbie for
the past few days. We suggested the lady who called us walked it into an
outhouse; in fact she walked it into her kitchen! As far as we are concerned,
there is never any doubt that a young animal behaving like this should come into
care. It often means something has happened to Mum, and the hungry cub is
desperate for help. This cub, known as Broch ( Leianne's influence, it's welsh
for badger), has a swollen, probably infected leg, and infection in its ear too.
Now it is on antibiotics.
24th April 2009
Andy and I are just back from a trip to Yorkshire. We took
the two English otters to Jean Thorpe, of Ryedale Rehabilitation. Jean has
arranged a release site on land managed by English Nature on the Lower Derwent
valley, and not too far from where one of the otters was found. Jean was really
excited about the release project. The otters will be kept in an electric fenced
enclosure for a week or so, and after release, food will still be provided till
the young otters catch enough food for themselves. After handing over the
otters, we spent a few days in the North York Moors. It was wonderful. Sunshine
all day every day.
There are a few new arrivals in the hospital. Another badger
cub, a female, and smaller than BB (baby badger) has been christened LBB
(little baby badger). She is taking milk from a bottle, but soon should be
eating from a dish. There are more fox cubs, including a litter of three cubs in
poor condition, and several fledgling blackbirds.
LBB, little baby badger
16th April 2009
The first ducklings of the season arrived today. First came 2
little orphans from the Royal Alexandra Hospital in Paisley. They had fallen
down a drain, but luckily their high pitched squeaks were heard by maintenance
staff. They fished out the fluffy youngsters unharmed. Now they are under a heat
lamp, having eaten a supper of chopped worms.
Soon afterwards Leianne and Joana arrived back from
Helensburgh, with a female mallard and 12 ducklings. The duck had nested in a
garden as she did last year. The garden was close to shore, but really, the
shore at Helensburgh isn't a good place for ducklings to be. Last year's brood
were all taken by gulls, and the people who lived nearby were anxious that this
shouldn't happen again. The family will stay at Hessilhead till the ducklings
are about 3 weeks old. They will be much bigger, more active and stand a better
of chance of surviving then when they are released. This evening they have
settled into a shed. When they were let out of the carrying boxes Mum called the
ducklings to her, and soon they had disappeared into her feathers.
Andy couldn't resist going out with camera just before dark.
12th April 2009
Two more orphans were brought to Hessilhead today. The little
badger cub is 7 or 8 eight weeks old. He was found in a field, all alone. The
fox cub is little more than a week old, found on a pavement in Edinburgh. The
fox cub is covered in tiny ticks. you can see them on her face in the photo.
10th April 2009
We had a couple of surprises today. First was a call about a
badger. This one, another adult badger, was found in a new housing scheme in
Lanark, apparently wandering around in circles. Sadly it is an old badger, with
multiple problems, including poor and missing teeth, weight loss, tumours and
overgrown claws, indicating a long term problem and that the badger hasn't been
foraging normally. The answer for this one was to be put to sleep.
Then came a call from Newton Stewart. A lady had been walking
her dog, a normally very reliable retriever. Today it disgraced itself grabbing
a goat kid. The goat kid screamed, which made the rest of the herd disappear
over the hill. The dog dropped the kid, which ran into the loch, and the
dog's owner had to go into the loch to retrieve the drowning kid. Hilary the
wild goat kid is at Hessilhead now. She is probably a month or 6 weeks old, has
a wound on her side, but is already nibbling vegetation.
9th April 2009
Andy and Michelle came back from a rescue very pleased with
the outcome. They responded to call from Cessnock in Glasgow, reporting a fox
trapped in the yard of a basement. They borrowed a ladder and climbed down to
the fox, that was looking quite dishevelled and exhausted. They soon had hold of
the fox and discovered she was vixen feeding cubs. The best thing was to release
her so she could return to her family as quickly as possible. Releasing her at
the entrance to the basement may have resulted in her running along the pavement
to the busy road nearby. So they took the fox round the back of the building
where a quiet lane gave access to the gardens. The fox ran away, and Michelle
will have a good story to tell when she returns to her animal care college in
8th April 2009
We have had some unexpected patients this week. On Monday
morning a fox was brought to the hospital. It arrived wearing a harness and
lead. Apparently it had been taking food by hand from the people who brought it.
They thought it was surprisingly tame, but we suspect that it is ill or
concussed. The fox is certainly underweight, and was quite badly dehydrated. Now
it is eating and becoming much more lively.
Today brought a mixture of patients. Chris arrived at work
carrying a small box containing a bat that had been found at the sports centre
where her partner works. The bat was found in a room that had been closed for
several days, and was very slow and lethargic. Chris knew that the bat needed
fluids, and had given it several small drinks last night. then it ate some bits
of chopped earthworm. The surprising thing was that this is a daubenton's bat, a
species that doesn't frequent buildings as much as pipistrelles or brown long
As expected a delivery of 37 hedgehogs arrived early this
evening. This is the first batch of Uist hogs to be relocated this year. We had
spent a lot of time over the weekend sending our overwintered hedgehogs off to
release sites. This left plenty of space for the new arrivals. They soon settled
into their cages and started eating. Most of them are really good weights for
hedgehogs that have come through hibernation. They will soon be off into the
While the hedgehogs were being unloaded Andy and Lucy were in
Glasgow, rescuing a badger that had been found in a storm porch. This is a bit
of mystery patient. The badger isn't badly injured, though there are some old
wounds, but it was in an area quite a distance from known badger setts. At this
time of year badgers sometimes move quite a distance. Maybe it was looking for a
7th April 2009
I thought you might like to see how much the young tawny owls
have grown in a week at Hessilhead.
2nd April 2009
The first tawny owl chicks of the year arrived at Hessilhead
this week. They were found in Roukenglen Park (hence their names, Rouk and
Glen), on the ground, and with a mouse beside them. This suggested they had
fallen from a nest, perhaps due to the winds of the last few days, and their
parents knew they were there. It was sad to think that a parent owl may have
left a chick for the youngsters, but they are far too small to be out of the
nest, and had no chance of surviving on the ground in a park that is used
regularly by dog walkers. Of course the other possibility is that the mouse fell
from the nest with the owlets. Maybe the parents hadn't left it beside them on
The owls are being hand fed; they are too young yet to tear
up food for themselves. They spend most of the day snuggled together in a box.
Mel finds it very boring when I'm working on the computer,
but a little yoga helps to pass the time!
30th March 2009
Those of you who read the diary regularly will know that we
have had rather a lot of otter cubs this winter. On Friday an adolescent otter
was brought in. He was found on Ayr beach, dreadfully thin and unable to walk
properly. When Andy and I arrived home he had already drunk 2 bowls of
rehydration fluid, and was half way through a bowl of water. Later that night we
gave him a very small fish, and the following day he was given several small
feeds of fish. He began to show more interest in his surroundings. The vet's
diagnosis is damage to a radial nerve. This will have prevented him from getting
around properly, and explains his poor condition. Hopefully with rest he will
make a full recovery.
Today we got the first phone call at 6.30. It was Ayr police,
telling us they had an injured otter in the dog kennel at the police office. It
was unbelievable. Two otters from Ayr in 4 days. Today's otter is a big male. He
has a badly damaged leg and foot, two broken canines and bites all over his
body. He is still with the vet, his injuries are being treated, and we'll
hope that he too will make a full recovery.
28th March 2009
Andy and I came back from England last night, to find another
fox cub in the hospital. This one is about the size that Ginger was when he
arrived. He is feeding himself and seems quite content. Another cub was brought
in this morning. This little soul, eyes just opened, was found on a Glasgow
pavement at 6am this morning. It was icy cold. The family who found her did all
the right things. They made the cub a cosy nest in towels, and put this in a
cardboard box on a hot water bottle. They felt the cub's tummy, and it felt
round and full, so they decided not to feed the cub. At 9am they called us for
advice, having been told by other organizations to put the cub back where they
found her. We asked them to bring the cub to the hospital, and they did this
willingly, only too pleased to know that their cub would get the best care. They
called her Furbie.
Cub number 2 from Linwood
17th March 2009
Today was one of those days that make you think that spring
is just around the corner. Thinking of spring makes us think of releasing
hedgehogs, and with over 70 hedgehogs in care, we must find some new release
sites. So Andy and I spent today in S Lanarkshire, checking out some woodland
and garden locations that people have offered as hedgehog homes. All of the
sites were good, with plenty of ground cover and access to short grass where the
hedgehogs will feed. Andy is making notes now, but we should have locations for
at least 20 hedgehogs. Lets hope the weather remains mild.
On our way to the hedgehog sites we released a sparrowhawk
that was brought in about 10 days ago. She was found near some woodland walks at
Lesmahagow, probably having been clipped by a car. Although badly concussed when
she first came in, she made a full recovery and flew off over the hedge, as
13th March 2009
Today is the first day of spring at Hessilhead. We decided it
must be so, as the first fox cub was brought in to the hospital this morning.
The cub was found yesterday, on a building site near Holytown, Lanarkshire. It
is thought that after being disturbed the vixen moved the other cubs to safety.
As you can see, Ginger is a really chubby, healthy looking cub, and it is very
tiring work being a fox cub!
28th February 2009
A good day today. 11 of the swans that were oiled at Irvine 3
weeks ago were ready for release. They came back from Middlebank yesterday, all
looking clean and healthy; their only visible problem being that most of them
have lost neck feathers. These will grow in quite quickly. There was no doubt
that the swans were pleased to be back on their own patch. First of all they all
had a good bath, then came out of the water to preen. then it was play time.
They swans flew around, checking out their old haunts, meeting other swans,
head bobbing greetings, rearing out of the water, stretching and flapping
wings. They looked so full of life.
27th February 2009
Andy and I have been looking forward to today all week. Our
friends Les and Sue Stocker from St Tiggywinkles wildlife hospital were due to
visit. They were bringing an otter cub that was found beside the river Gt Ouse
in Bedfordshire a few weeks ago. Otters, and therefore orphaned cubs, are not so
widespread in parts of England as they are in most of Scotland. So this little
cub was alone, and as you know, otter cubs do better with company. Les and Sue
have devoted their lives to caring for wildlife, so thought nothing of making
the journey to Hessilhead to give this little cub a good chance of returning to
the wild. It was really good to see them; we always have plenty to talk about
and wish we could meet up more often.
The English otter has joined Nicholas and Rosa in their
outdoor run. Salen, from Mull and Jarg from S Ayrshire are still in the
hospital, but sharing a cage now.
Salen, the smallest of our cubs, from Mull
20th February 2009
Waders are not very frequent patients at Hessilhead. I assume
this is not because they do not get injured , but more that they occupy habitats
rarely frequented by people, We were surprised, therefore, that 3 waders, were
brought to Hessilhead today. They were woodcock, redshank and dunlin. The
redshank, unusually, was found in a garden in Troon. It has a head injury and
should make a full recovery.
16th February 2009
There was a surprise waiting for us in the hospital this
morning. One of the bats that we've overwintered had given birth. The baby
spends most of its time clinging to Mum, but as far as we can see, is doing
well. Of course bats shouldn't give birth at this time of year, but they
shouldn't be awake all winter either. The female bat is one that was removed
from its roost, illegally. We weren't sure how to treat these bats, but opted to
keep them reasonably warm in the hospital, and offer them food every day. The
bats would have been pregnant, but normally the embryos wouldn't have developed
till spring, and the young would be born in May or June. We created an early
spring, resulting in an early out of season birth.
14th February 2009
A few days ago two of the otter cubs, Nicholas and Rosa, were
moved into an outdoor enclosure. They were taken out in separate pet carriers,
but a larger sleeping box had been prepared with plenty of bedding. When Leianne
checked on them later in the day, Rosa had moved into Nicholas' box. That is
Rosa in the foreground. Later that day Leianne got a nice shot of Storm, the
otter that was washed down the river Ayr late last summer.
Nicholas and Rosa have now moved into the more luxurious
sleeping box. We were a bit worried about moving them out of the hospital when
the weather was so cold. They don't seem to mind, and obviously spend much of
each night playing in their water bowl, so that by morning their shed is wet all
13th February 2009
Taday we met Wriggly, the grey seal pup that was admitted in
our absence. This was another successful rescue for Karen, our Greenock
volunteer, and it is the biggest seal pup she has ever had in the boot of her
car. The pup weighs 22 kilos, which is underweight for this time of year, but
nevertheless, quite a bit of seal. Everyone at Hessilhead is relieved that the
seal is self feeding. It has been wormed, and is getting rid of lots of
tapeworms. Hopefully it will soon be gaining weight.
12th February 2009
Andy and I have just had a couple of days away, but not
exactly away from wildlife rescue. We had only been gone an hour or so
yesterday, when we found a buzzard standing in the middle of the road to the
Trossachs. Of course we stopped and picked the bird up, wrapped it in a towel
and put it in the shower cubicle of the campervan. Later we acquired a box from
the shop in Aberfoyle. In contrast to many of the buzzards that we have treated
recently, this one is in really good condition, and had a full crop of food.
Perhaps that was a contributory factor in colliding with a vehicle. It was
probably just too full to make a fast escape. The buzzard was very quiet
yesterday, concussed, and with a bruised wing. Today it is looking brighter, and
now in a cage at Hessilhead, it is eating well. We will look forward to
releasing this bird back where we found it. Its mate watched the rescue from a
10th February 2009
Today was a big day for Dotty, the young red deer calf that
we reared last year. We had arranged a few weeks ago that she would join the
herd of red deer at Culzean Country Park, as she has outgrown her enclosure at
Hessilhead, and become quite playful. Playing for Dotty involves standing on her
hind legs, and boxing people in the enclosure. This can be quite alarming if she
takes you by surprise. It was a worrying day for me, as Dotty had to be
sedated for the journey to Culzean. This was done under veterinary advice, but
even so, there is a risk that something will go wrong.
Once Dotty was sedated, she was carried to the ambulance, and
we set off for Culzean straightaway. There was not a sound on the way there.
This was good, indicating that she was sleeping soundly. But was she alright?
We met Ian, an old friend of ours who looks after the deer at
Culzean, at the top gate of the deer park. We opened the ambulance door,
relieved to see Dotty breathing, but still asleep. That didn't last long. She
woke as soon as Andy and Ian lifted her, but they managed to get the antidote
into her before she broke free. We watched Dotty for a while, still a bit wobbly
and confused, then went for walk down to the beach.
On our return we found Dotty at the bottom of the enclosure,
near the car park, wide awake now, and with two white red deer hinds.
Occasionally they chased Dotty, but she was feeding and playing with them,
apparently content. She certainly has a lovely place to live, and hopefully it
won't be too long till she is fully accepted into teh herd.
Dotty saying farewell to Mel and a getting goodbye scratch from Andy
8th February 2009
The otter cub from Mull is feeding himself now, and still
enjoying the comfort of a heated cage. He has been easy enough to handle, not
like Nicholas, the Christmas day cub, but he is also quite independent.
The snowy weather seems to have slowed down the intake of
patients recently. There were swans of course. One came from Renfrew Ferry, a
sad looking swan came from Richmond Park in Glasgow, and there was a road rescue
cygnet from Erskine. The Richmond Park swan is eating now and looking much
brighter. Yesterday morning we didn't hold out much hope for its survival. This
afternoon a kestrel was brought in from Priestland. It had been found on
someone's windowsill, watching the family eat Sunday lunch. The bird is
seriously underweight, and wouldn't have survived without treatment. Why it was
on the window ledge we don't know!
Some of our swans on the quarry pond
4th February 2009
Andy and I had an early start today. We had to meet a ferry
at 09.45 in Oban, and that meant leaving home at 7am. We were hoping that an
otter cub would be on the ferry, but we'd to leave home before we could confirm
that. The cub had been found last night, near Salen on the Isle of Mull. The
person who found the baby otter had heard it calling all day, and there had been
no sight of the cub's Mum. The man had no fish nor medical equipment, but he
said he would keep the cub warm overnight, and put it on the ferry this morning.
It was a lovely drive as far as Crianlarich, with the early morning sun casting
a pink tinge on the snow covered hills, but snow set in after that, and just got
heavier. The otter cub was smaller than we had expected, and quite cold, so we
placed its box beside the heater, and headed for home straightaway. When we
arrived at Hessilhead we gave the cub fluids from a baby's bottle, and a drink
of milk later. He is sleeping soundly now in a heated cage.
29th January 2009
We were back at Irvine twice today, with volunteers from
Shanwell Wildlife Rescue in Dundee. They brought a water rescue team with a
boat. We have now rescued 24 swans, 4 eider, a shag and a merganser. Sadly we
found 3 dead eider and a dead shag today. There is still a lot of oil in the
river. No doubt more birds will be contaminated yet.
There was good news today from Middlebank, the SSPCA centre
where the birds are being cleaned. The oil is washing off fairly easily, and
once cleaned, the birds are looking good. The first eider cleaned yesterday is
ready for release. The swans will eventually be returned to Irvine Harbour, but
of course that will not be until all trace of oil has disappeared. We will keep
the swans at Hessilhead till that time.
A shag, an eider drake and a
merganser, ready for transporting to Middlebank. The pillow case jackets prevent
them preening and ingesting more oil.
28th January 2009
I expect you heard about yesterday's train derailment at
Stewarton. We didn't expect there to be any repercussions for wildlife, but a
phone call at 6am this morning made us realize that was not the case. A swan was
reported to be oiled at the Rivergate, Irvine, and when we had rescued that
swan, we went to check the harbour. The smell of diesel was awful, and lots of
swans were on the bank, frantically trying to clean their contaminated feathers.
We got 5 swans that first trip, 9 swans, a goose and an eider the second trip,
and 4 swans, 2 eiders, a shag and a red breasted merganser in the afternoon. All
have been given activated charcoal, which will absorb some if the ingested oil.
Most have already been taken to Middlebank, the SSPCA wildlife centre in Fife,
that has good oiled bird cleaning facilities. We will be back at Irvine
tomorrow, hoping to collect more of oiled birds, but the longer it is before
they are rescued, the less likely they are to survive.
Waiting to be rescued
On its way to Hessilhead
Shelby on the slippery rocks
Under a heatlamp
Swan being given charcoal
27th January 2009
Early yesterday evening we got a call about an injured owl.
It was sitting at the roadside, at a crossroads on the A736, only a few miles
from Hessilhead. As we drove there we kept our fingers crossed that the owl
hadn't been flattened by another vehicle. We found it easily, a barn owl,
standing motionless right on the corner. When I lifted it there was no movement.
The owl was clearly in shock. We soon had it back at the centre, gave it
anti-inflammatory treatment, cleaned its bleeding eye, and put it in a heated
box. This owl was fortunate that we were able to respond to the call so quickly.
We would usually recommend that small wildlife casualties be moved to safety as
soon as possible. It would be so easy for them to be involved in another
26th January 2009
It couldn't have been a nicer day for releasing a seal. It
was calm and relatively mild, and we knew that Dundee was ready to go. He
weighed in at 46.5 kilos last week
They've drained my tank
So this is my new home
I'll give it a go
It's deeper than my old tank
Bye, and thanks for all that fish
and Mel came too
25th January 2009
January is always a busy month for swan rescues. Some are
swans in poor condition unable to cope with the cold weather. Others have been
involved in territorial disputes, some have been injured when landing on roads,
some have been trapped, others have injuries caused by hooks and line and a few
have been attacked by dogs. Today we admitted a swan from Victoria park in
Glasgow. There are 30 or so swans on the ponds there, but this individual spent
most of its time off the water, and was bullied if it did try to swim. One of
the park keepers had befriended the swan, and made sure it always got food. He
realized it needed treatment though. Its feathers are in very poor condition,
stained pink with the mould that grows on surplus bread given to swans at sites
like this, and not waterproof. This swan will be a long term patient. The good
thing about dealing with so many swans, is that most weeks we have swans ready
for release. Most of these are released into non breeding flocks, such as
Hoganfield Loch in Glasgow, or the Auld Brig on the river at Ayr. Last week
Shelby and two volunteers took a territorial swan back to Greenock. The swan had
recovered from a torn wing sustained when it crashed into a fence. The swan's
mate was on the dam when our team arrived, and at first showed signs of
aggression. Once our swan was out of the bag the two swans swam towards each
other, and soon started bobbing heads, displaying and renewing their pair bond.
This is one of the delights of wildlife rescue.
22nd January 2009
Last night I was in bed earlier than usual, relieved that I
didn't have to blend fish for an ungrateful otter cub. At fifteen minutes past
midnight the phone rang. A fox was in Charlie Smith's pub in Largs, refusing to
leave even though it was well past closing time. I thought I was dreaming!
but no such luck. Andy and I arrived at the pub, which is on the busy corner
just across the road from the ferry terminal. The fox had the run of the lounge
bar, and although it had been taking food from the barmaid's hand, it wasn't too
keen on being caught. After a few circuits across tables and under chairs we
netted the fox, and soon had him in the carrying box. There didn't seem to be
anything wrong at all. So now we have a problem. Why was this fox in Largs Main
Street, apparently hungry, determined to go inside and reluctant to leave.
Could someone be on holiday, someone who has been feeding the fox? He certainly
seems quite confident with people, though not exactly tame. The busy main street
doesn't seem like a good location to release the fox, Yet if we release him in
the hills, but he has been depending on handouts in the town, he may not do
well. We are still considering the options.
21st January 2009
Yesterday morning we had a surprise phone call from Rosemary
Green. Rosemary and husband Jim were involved in otter surveys and
rehabilitation for many years. They took most of the cubs found in Scotland, and
several from Ireland too. They pioneered radio tracking otter cubs after
release. They still do survey work, and they farm in South Ayrshire. On Monday
evening they were surprised to hear the high pitched call of a lost otter cub,
just outside their house. They took the cub in, and syringe fed it a mixture of
lamb milk and blended fish. They were tempted to rear the cub, and release it
from the rehabilitation pens still on their ground. Of course they knew that the
cub would do better with company, hence the phone call. So we met Jim today, and
he handed over one of the prettiest, most gentle cubs we've seen, female,
naturally. She has already started eating fish, and guess what, Nicholas ate
fish last night too. The 3 cubs should soon be together.
19th January 2009
We thought we had finished for the day when we took a call from one of our
member/couriers, Maureen. Maureen had picked up a fox casualty that she found
lying unconscious on the road in Bearsden. She lay it in the passenger foot well
of her car, away from her 3 dogs in the back. A few miles down the road the fox
made a rapid recovery. It jumped onto the dash board, ran from side to side,
then made for cover in the driver's footwell, making driving impossible. Maureen
abandoned her car, and called for assistance. Goodness knows what her dogs were
thinking! Andy went to Maureen's rescue, and returned to Hessilhead with the
biggest fox we have ever seen. There doesn't seem to be much wrong with the fox
now. Hopefully it will soon be back in the wild.
18th January 2009
David and Donna called in this afternoon. David is our site manager, and
Donna, his girlfriend used to work here too. They are members of Ayr Dog
Training Club, and brought a cheque for £500, a donation from the Club. We
really appreciate support like this, which helps us build new facilities, as
well as provide veterinary care and food for many casualties. Donna was pleased
to visit her old friend Fergus (fox), and Dotty ( red deer) was keen to get to
16th January 2009
This morning Emma, an ambulance driver for the SSPCA, dropped
off a swan that had swallowed fishing line. It is often possible to remove the
line by applying gentle pressure, but this time Andy felt a lot of resistance,
and located a treble hook just out of reach. So Andy went off to the Vet's with
the swan, that would have to be anaesthetized so the hook could be removed
surgically. Andy hadn't been gone long when I took a call from Karen, our
volunteer in Greenock. I could hear Karen's teeth chattering down the phone as
she told me that in order to rescue a cormorant, she had been in Murdieston Dam.
The cormorant was hanging from a branch, over the water, with a very large
fishing hook through its wing. In the hospital we gave the cormorant a shot of
local anaesthetic, then cut and removed the hook. The bird's wing is badly
strained and abraided, and it will need antibiotics too. Karen tells me that
there are more hooks and yards of line hanging from branches. She will return
over the weekend to collect it.
13th January 2009
We took advantage of today's good weather to release more
patients. First to go was the buzzard that I had picked up at Hessilhead just
before New Year. We had been feeding 2 free flying buzzards, or so we thought,
during the frosty weather. We assumed they were birds we had released. Then I
found a buzzard trapped under bushes between the fox enclosure and the buzzard
aviary. It had been trying to reach the food from the captive buzzards. I was
surprised that this bird wasn't ringed. That meant it wasn't a bird we had
released. The buzzard had a foot infection, which could easily lead to a painful
condition known as bumblefoot. We put it on antibiotics straightaway, and the
infection cleared up quickly. Today it flew off strongly into its favourite
tree. The day after I rescued this buzzard, there were still two buzzards on the
aviary roof, waiting for food. So we had been feeding 3, not 2 buzzards! Later
today David took a buzzard back to Dalrymple, and released 3 swans on the river
at Ayr. David was pleased with the buzzard release. It is always great to see a
bird fly off, having recovered from a broken wing.
One of today's new arrivals is an otter cub, found by staff
at a care home in Glen Rosa, on Arran. The cub was alone and calling for Mum. It
is a little female, and I'm pleased to say, started eating fish straightaway.
Nicholas, the Christmas day otter, is still refusing to eat whole fish. He takes
blended fish and milk from a bottle, with occasional chunks of finger and thumb.
Hopefully Rosa will teach him to eat!
11th January 2009
Meet Mel, the new Hessilhead puppy, getting up to mischief in
9th January 2009
Andy and I were on our way to Clydebank yesterday morning, to
look for an injured fox near the canal. A call from base reported a trapped
squirrel, could we deal with that too? We found the fox easily enough, but the
lady hadn't said that it was inside an 8' high enclosure, topped with barbed
wire. Fortunately some of the chain netting had been broken and patched before,
and we found a loose bit that Andy managed to squeeze through. Getting the fox
out through the same gap was a bit more tricky; it was badly injured, and we
didn't want to cause it any more distress. Carefully I took the fox from Andy,
and laid it on blankets in the transport box. The Vet in Clydebank kindly put it
The squirrel rescue had a happy ending, The greedy squirrel
had climbed into the open top end of a cylindrical peanut feeder, presumably to
reach nuts at the bottom. Like many of us after Christmas, the squirrel
discovered that its hips couldn't squeeze into the same space as its head
and shoulders, and it became firmly wedged in the feeder. When we arrived the
owners of the garden had taken down the feeder, cut the bottom off, and then put
squirrel and feeder into a cat carrier. There was quite a lot of blood, and they
thought the squirrel could be badly injured. The poor squirrel had its head
peeping out of the bottom of the cylinder. Its hind legs hung out of the top,
The squirrel couldn't move at all, it was as if it was squeezed into a straight
jacket. And I didn't have a camera!
Andy managed to cut the heavy metal rim from the top of
the feeder, but still the squirrel couldn't move. Then we cut the mesh up the
length of the feeder. Still holding the squirrel tightly, Andy went outside. He
opened up the mesh tube, and the squirrel scuttled to the bottom of the garden
and soon took refuge in a tree. All the blood had come from a broken toe nail.
There was no serious injury, and the squirrel would soon clean itself up. I
wonder if it stays away from peanut feeders now?
8th January 2009
Today the Boxing Day owl was released. Karen took it to
Dunlop on her way home from work. She met the family who found and removed the
owl from the barbed wire fence, and together they went to the wood. The owl flew
from the box as soon as it was opened, straight into a nearby tree. Another
wildlife casualty back in its own territory.
6th January 2009
Today began with a mixture of excitement and apprehension.
The roe deer that Sara brought in before Christmas was ready for release, hence
the excitement. To be transported back to Loch Lomondside, it would have to be
sedated, and that is always a little bit worrying. It would be dreadful if
something went wrong at this late stage.
When we arrived at the release site the deer was still
unconscious, good news, as it had to be carried across some rough ground. The
deer was given the antidote, and we waited. Andy rubbed the injection site,
helping to circulate the drug. Nothing happened. We all began to fidget. I
walked back to the car, maybe thirty yards, to check that the pup was behaving
herself. When I turned round the deer had gone. Apparently it lifted its head,
stood up, and walked away, all in one movement. We watched as it made its way
uphill, disappearing in dips then crossing open ground, we lost of it behind
bushes, then there it was again, gathering speed, on familiar territory, finally
bounding out of sight. A happy ending for a Christmas week casualty.
2nd January 2009
Good news today. We moved the Boxing day
tawny owl from the hospital to a shed. Remember the owl's wing was badly damaged
by barbed wire, and we were not sure if it would make a full recovery. We were
surprised to see the owl flying well, though there is still a lot of scar
tissue. We will give the owl a few days to exercise in the flight, then it
should be ready to return to its territory. I am sure this is a territory
holding bird as it is such a good weight and very strong. It won't be long now
till tawny owls are laying. Hopefully this bird will be back in the wild in time
for the breeding season.
Click here for Gay's Diary, 2008 Click here for Gay's Diary, 2010