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


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

in the hospital

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


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

gulls circle

rooks wait

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 winter roost.

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 water proofing.

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 hospital.

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 hospital.

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 heat.

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 progress.

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 examine.

On Sunday we had a work party making new steps to the bat hospital.

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 their food.

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


being released

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

climbs out

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.

ringed plovers

young oystercatcher

young kestrel with fractured leg

collared dove recovering from head injuries

young starling demanding food

young hedgehog learns to lap milk from bowl


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.

mallard ducklings

house martin chick


song thrush


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 think.

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

jackdaw chicks

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 photos.

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 together.

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 house. 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 reared.

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 Yorkshire.

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 eared bats.

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 wild.

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 new home.

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 ground.

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 sparrowhawks do!

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 over!

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 roadside tree.

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 accident.

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 know Donna.

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 the hospital

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 to sleep.

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.

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