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


31st December 2010

Before the end of 2010 I'd like to say thank you for all your support and encouragement during the year. We need help from so many people with such a wide range of skills. Hessilhead wouldn't run without you all.


See you in 2011

30th December 2010

The last week of the year has been a busy one, and with all the staff on holiday Andy and I haven't had much spare time. Thank you to all the volunteers who have been in to help.

Today, being much milder, we moved some of the bigger hedgehogs to outdoor accommodation. That means they are one step closer to release, but when that happens depends on the weather. The smaller hedgehogs have moved to bigger cages, and most of them are now using sleeping boxes. They are all gaining weight. We admitted a few more hedgehogs this week. There is a tiny tot for this time of year; he weighed just 248 gm. One poor hedgehog had to be moved when a garden shed was demolished. He seemed to be in a deep sleep when he was brought in, but has woken now, and is enjoying daily feeds.

More swans were admitted, but all have now moved into outdoor pens. One was a small cygnet, weighing only 4.2 kg. It was sitting at the roundabout at the Kilbarchan slip road onto the A737. We've no idea how he got there. Fortunately he was more interested in eating grass than walking onto the road.

Other casualties of Christmas week have included a greylag goose, now released, a yellowhammer, a mallard, a woodcock, 2 buzzards, and a road traffic accident roe deer. We have released other buzzards, a tawny owl, wood pigeons, a kestrel and a moorhen.

26th December 2010

The young children of a family in Greenock had an unexpected surprise on Christmas morning, when they found an owl in their living room. Not who they had been hoping would come down the chimney! Our Greenock volunteer Karen was soon there, net in hand, to catch the intruder. The tawny owl (named Santa, what else?) is now in the hospital. He should be ready for release later in the week.

On Christmas eve Andy and I were called to Knightswood Park in Glasgow, where swans were reported frozen to the ice. Indeed they were. There are about 30 swans on the pond, and a large number of ducks, and their activity has prevented an area of water from freezing. You would think that was good news, but when the swans leave the water they find themselves skidding on thick, smooth ice on the paths. They sit down, and quickly their feathers freeze to the ice. This has obviously been happening a lot, as there are several patches of swan body feathers, some the size of my hand, protruding from the ice. I hope this doesn't lead to problems later. Swans without a complete covering of feathers are likely to get cold and wet. A fox was on the opposite side of the open water. He wasn't at all bothered about us being there. No doubt he was on the lookout for an easy meal.

24th December 2010

It looks like being a busy Christmas at Hessilhead. We still have lots of hedgehogs, and hardly any of them have hibernated yet. This week several swans have been brought in. Most of them were frozen to ice. There have been a couple of tawny owls and two more buzzards too.

The centre looks lovely with thick layers of hoar frost everywhere. It has been difficult keeping water running, and of course ice in the water dishes has to be thawed out each morning. Personally I love this weather. It is a delight to be out and about.

Here's hoping you all have the Christmas of your dreams.

13th December 2010

It was the perfect day for releasing Clyde the seal. He was weighed late this morning, 34.5 kg, and straightaway his carrying box was loaded into the ambulance, and we all went off to Portencross to see him go. The tide was well in, so Clyde had plenty of opportunity to explore the harbour before heading off to sea. He returned once, swam around in front of us, and then swam directly to the end of the pier. Hopefully he'll catch his own fish without too much trouble.

8th  December 2010

Clyde the seal pup isn’t very impressed with the freezing temperatures.

Mallards marching across the ice at feeding time.

7th December 2010

Only 1 patient made it to Hessilhead today. The tawny owl flew into a window in Lochwinnoch early this morning. The people in the house picked up the owl that was being attacked by crows and jackdaws, and put in into a large cardboard box. Before they could bring the owl to Hessilhead, they had to retrieve their car that was abandoned in snow yesterday. We walked out to the start of our drive to meet them, but they came prepared. They had a sledge so they could tow the owl into the centre. This evening the owl seems quite lively, and it is fat, in really good condition. We will check his vision and make sure that it flies well in an aviary, but it looks like it will soon be going home.

The buzzard that was stranded at Kilmarnock Police Station yesterday is halfway here. The mother of one of our staff collected it earlier today. Leanne took buzzard food home with her, so by now it will be well fed, and tomorrow she will bring it into work.

6th December 2010

It is December, the temperatures have been below zero all week, and most of our catchment area is under snow. So why are we still getting calls about hedgehogs? We'd have hoped that all the autumn juveniles were in care now, and healthy up to weight hedgehogs would have hibernated. Over the weekend 4 more hedgehogs were taken into care, and we had calls about several others. We can't arrange transport for long distance casualties because of the weather, but we have given instructions to people willing to help these hogs till the weather improves.

It was quite a varied weekend, with patients including kestrel and tawny owl, a roe deer involved in a motorway accident, a cygnet that landed at a riding school and a mallard that looks in perfect condition, but was easily caught. Today we are snowed in. There is a buzzard waiting to be collected at Kilmarnock Police Office. Hopefully we'll be able to get out tomorrow.

1st December 2010

December got off to a busy start today. Early this morning we had a call from Howwood Primary School, reporting a young deer trapped in the school playground. This isn’t an unusual situation, but one that must be dealt with promptly. When deer are trapped in fenced areas, they panic, repeatedly hit the fence, and may injure themselves as they try to escape. David and Andy went to the rescue. When they arrived the deer had become trapped in the railings. That made the situation easier to deal with. They gently eased the deer, backwards, from the railings, and released him straightaway in nearby fields. They said he wasted no time at all running away.

This afternoon Andy and I collected a fox from a garden in Troon. The fox appeared there this morning, limping, but also very tame. It followed Roger into the garage for a handful of cat biscuits. It has a swollen hind leg, which may be very sore, but even so, its tameness seems odd. Late this afternoon Andy and I were out again to rescue a cygnet in Paisley. This young swan had been walking around a housing estate all day, unable to find a way out. It is probable that this swan had been confused by the snowy road, and thought it was water. (Swans are easily confused!). If it walked out of the housing estate, it would have been on a busy road. Now it is safe at Hessilhead.

On the way home we detoured to collect 2 gulls, and then an oystercatcher from Ayr. So we were out for a while. We were surprised, on returning home, to find the new fox curled up in the dog’s bed, beside the radiator. It had rattled the door of its cage loose, and found the cosiest place in the kitchen. Something makes us think that this fox is used to people!

30th November 2010

Last night we had a call from George Russell, who lives in Gatehead, Kilmarnock. He had heard a car brake and swerve outside his house, and looking from the window, had seen an unusual bird sitting in the road. George put the bird in a large box, and phoned to see if he could bring it to Hessilhead.

We were surprised to find a juvenile Great Northern Diver in the box. What on earth was it doing on a road in Kilmarnock. These magnificent birds breed in North America, Iceland and Greenland, and spend the winter around our shores. The bird wasn’t injured, and had a good feed of small fish this morning. It even gave a brief performance of its haunting yodelling call. This afternoon we released the diver at Irvine. It swam away, diving, flapping, preening and shaking, apparently pleased to be back on the sea.

27th November 2010

We could do with more volunteers like Kirsty. Last night, at 10pm, just as we were about to take our meal from the oven, the phone rang. The caller reported a swan walking along Canniesburn Road in Glasgow. Could we help? We asked if the swan could be walked into a garden, and the gate closed. This would ensure that the swan was there when we arrived, (swans are unable to fly without a long take off run), it would keep it safe, and we also hoped we’d have time to eat supper before heading into Glasgow. The next call was from Kirsty. She had been driving along Canniesburn Road and seen the swan. Without any hesitation she’d picked it up, and her husband was willing to drive to Hessilhead, while Kirsty held the swan on her lap. What a star. If anyone wants to learn how to pick up swans, or other wildlife, safely, please give us a call. We are pleased to run training courses.

25th November 2010

Andy and I spent a few days in Cheshire over the weekend. We attended the British Wildlife Rehabilitation Council conference in Cheshire, visited relatives and had a couple of good days walking. The conference was very good. It is always a pleasure to meet up with other rehabbers, and the talks were informative and stimulating. It is encouraging that lots of research is going into wildlife rehabilitation. There is so much that we all still have to learn.

The weather was mild while we were away, and we intended that on our return we would release some of the hedgehogs. So what happened. 15 hedgehogs weighed and tagged, then the temperature plummets. We thought about it. What if we took lots of straw to the release sites, and made nests under wood piles. Would the hedgehogs stay where we put them, and use the straw for their hibernation nests. What if they didn't like the nests we chose. Would they find a site to their liking, and find enough nesting material to build a well insulated nest before the temperatures dropped again? It all seemed unlikely, so the hedgehogs are still here. We would prefer that these hedgehogs, now weighing over 700gm, spent the winter in the wild. But they need help. They need a hibernation box filled with dry grass or leaves, and this should be tucked under a hedge or bushes in a sheltered garden. Food could be left for the hedgehogs for a few nights. The gardens should be away from busy roads, and steep sided ponds could pose a threat to hedgehogs. Please get in touch if you think you could provide a hibernating site for one of these hogs.

15th November 2010

On Friday last week, the same day that the grey seal pup was washed ashore in Helensburgh, an otter was also brought in from just outside the town. The adult male otter had been seen struggling across the road, and a lady, realizing he had a problem, parked her car, grabbed the otter, and later brought him to Hessilhead. The otter had probably been hit by a car. He was partially paralysed, and was unconscious when he arrived here. He didn't regain consciousness till 24 hours later, and then became restless. Today there is a lot of improvement in his condition. Although he still trails one hind leg, the other legs are working, and he has been eating too. He has settled down, and today has been sleeping curled up in a box of hay. Tomorrow he may visit the vet.

12th November 2010

It was a wild night, and I expect that when David's phone rang at 3.30 this morning, he didn't really feel like getting out of bed. When the police told him about the seal pup, huddled in a shop doorway in Helensburgh, he said he'd be there asap. The pup had been washed across the main road by a high tide and strong winds. When the sea retreated, the pup stayed put. That was just as well. This pup is seriously underweight, with folds of loose skin where there should be fat. Today she has been on rehydration fluids. David gave her more fluids before leaving work this evening. I am sure he feels that the disruption to his sleep was worthwhile. A successful rescue is the best part of the job.

7th November 2010

Another tawny owl was brought in yesterday. This owl has been ill for a while, with a fungal infection in its mouth. The infection has stopped the owl from eating properly, resulting in weight loss. So the owl is weak and really looks miserable. It is getting treatment twice a day, and being hand fed 3 times a day. Within a few days the infection will have cleared, and the owl should start to feed itself then. Hopefully it will go back to where it was found.

5th November 2010

Mostly it seems to be hedgehogs, hedgehogs, hedgehogs. Autumn juvenile hedgehogs are really in trouble now, and almost every day 1, 2 or 3 tiny hogs are brought into care. Some of these hoglets weigh little more than 100gm, a few as much as 350, but still they would have trouble surviving without help. Initially the hedgehogs receive a lot of care. They are given heat, and rehydration fluid. They are put on a course of antibiotics, vitamins and wormer, and after 24 hours they are offered tinned cat food and cat biscuits. For many that is enough to put them on a road to recovery. They soon learn the Hessilhead routine:--- cleaned out every morning, given fresh food, bedding and water, and if the food has been eaten by teatime they are given a second helping. These hogs steadily gain weight. A few have been struggling for too long before being rescued. They need more pampering, sometimes further treatment, and may have to be tempted with a variety of foods including peanuts and insectivorous foods, worms, biscuit and even banana. It looks like many of them will be in care all winter, but some may put on enough weight to be released later this year, if we get a mild spell of weather. There are also the Uist hedgehogs, and some of these are small too. The hedgehogs take much of our time every day, and are also depleting our supply of newspapers and fleece bedding. If anyone could collect papers from friends, and drop them off at Hessilhead, we'd be really grateful.

3rd November 2010

David and volunteer George went to collect a seal pup from Ayr beach yesterday. It is a grey seal, maybe only 2 to 3 weeks old, and still with lots of its white baby coat. It is underweight, but doesn't seem to be injured. Today it started eating fish. His name is Wellington.

On Monday we collected a common seal pup from south of Ayr. This seal was very poorly, bleeding from its mouth and with breathing difficulty. Sadly it died last night.

27th October 2010

It isn't unusual for tawny owls to get into trouble at this time of year. Last week a tawny was brought in with a badly broken wing. We weren't very hopeful, but when we phoned the vet later in the day there was good news. The two broken bones had been pinned, and the pins were held in place by external fixaters, which look a bit like scaffolding on the wing. The owl has to return to the vet in 4 weeks, when the pins will be removed. It is to be allowed to exercise as much as possible before that. It is always important to keep the joints moving.

Another tawny owl was brought in a couple of days ago. This was a victim of fishing line. The line had got tightly tangled round the owl's flight feathers, and also round the branch of a tree. The owl was unable to fly away. Tawny owls specialize in hypochondria, and this big female owl was an expert. She looked really ill, leaning against the side of her box, head hanging down. The main problem was with her feathers, and that wouldn't have been causing her any pain. The flight feathers are bent and twisted, and while they are like that, the owl will be unable to fly. Tomorrow I will steam the feathers, and I'm fairly sure they will return to shape. Soon after that the owl should be fit for release.

25th October 2010

There was a bit of a surprise yesterday. We had a call from New Cumnock, reporting a injured barn owl on the ground in a farmyard. One of our helpers collected the bird, and we arranged to meet her at Kilmarnock later. The bird is a nestling, still covered in white down. Barn owls are known to rear 2 clutches some years, but even so, this is a late chick. The owl was quite weak when we arrived back at Hessilhead, so it was given fluids and put into a cosy box. What a difference this morning. The owl is feeding herself now, and hissing when we open the box.

15th October 2010

Last night was colder than it had been, so we were surprised when 2 bats were delivered in the evening. One was a pipistrelle that had apparently been in a house for a week. It didn't show any sign of distress, and should be released soon. The other is a brown long-eared bat, the first we have seen this year. It was bleeding when it came, and looked quite weak. This evening it looks brighter. You can see from the pic how it gets its name.

14th October 2010

On Tuesday we collected the 4 remaining cygnets from Maxwell Park in Glasgow. Several people had called expressing concern at their slow development. When we arrived only 1 cygnet was on the water. It didn't seem interested in food, but did eventually come close enough to the bank to be captured. We couldn't believe how little it weighed. We found the other cygnets sleeping on a grass area nearby. Two didn't wake as we approached and lifted them, the last made a half hearted attempt to run away. When we brought the cygnets back to Hessilhead, we weighed them, 2.2, 2.6, 3.2 and 4.2kg. Cygnets should be at least 7kg by this time of year. We had to find out what was wrong.....quickly. Faecal samples were sent off for analysis, and thanks to a fast response from the Veterinary Investigation Department at Auchencruive College, the cygnets are now being treated for a heavy infestation of thorny-headed worms. They are eating well, so we hope they will soon start gaining weight.

A buzzard had a lucky escape earlier this week, when it was struck by a lorry on the M8 near Airdrie. The truck driver stopped, wrapped the buzzard in a jacket, and took it to Airdrie Police Office. Our ambulance happened to be nearby, so the buzzard was soon in care at the wildlife hospital. It has no fractures, and is now in an aviary, looking good.

3 weeks ago a young roe deer was brought to the centre in the early hours of the morning, having been found injured on the road near Galston. The deer was badly concussed, but after a few days began to nibble vegetation, and later learnt to eat apples and rabbit food. Earlier this week she was fully recovered, but she is still quite a small deer. If we had taken her back to where she was found, she may not have met up with her mother, and we feel she still needs plenty of good feeding to see her through the winter. So we put her in the large over-wintering enclosure at Hessilhead. This enclosure is mostly woodland, with an area of grassland at the far end, well away from people. Our 6 hand reared roe deer are already living there. I am sure the new deer will soon be accepted into their herd.

8th October 2010

More than 40 guillemots have been admitted to Hessilhead since mid September. They have been in very poor condition, seriously underweight. They have received lots of treatment and been fed on expensive whitebait. Even so, only a third have survived, and until a few days ago we wondered if these survivors would make it back to the sea. Now we are beginning to think so. For the past 2 days they have been allowed to spend a few hours on the swan pond. They love it..... diving, splashing, flapping and then preening their feathers enthusiastically. This is just what is needed now. The guillemots need to preen a lot to improve their water-proofing. The exercise has made them hungrier too. Earlier this week some of them had started losing weight, and that was worrying. This evening I see lots of green spots on their cards. A green spot indicates weight gain.

7th October 2010

Good news about the otter cubs. The youngest cub, Monty, is eating well and has gained weight. She is still in the hospital, but it looks as if it won't be long till she can move in with the other cub. That will be good for both of them. The older cub, that came from Arran, was suffering from a head injury. She stumbled and fell a lot during her first few days here, and had a nasty eye injury too. Now she has made a full recovery. She is living in an outside enclosure, eating well, and keeping away from people. We are looking forward to the day when she meets Monty.

Ari the day after her arrival

Ari a week later

29th September 2010

Another otter cab was brought to Hessilhead today. She was found at Montgreenan, only a few miles from here, and close to where Andy found a dead lactating female otter on the road last week. So it wasn't surprising that a cub was found, and given the time span, it isn't surprising that this little cub is dehydrated and underweight. Today she has been sleeping in a heated box, and taking rehydration fluids from a bottle. Tomorrow I will offer her fish, and hope that she will feed herself.

There is good news about the otter that came from Arran last week. She is behaving normally, fully co-ordinated now, and eating whole trout or herring.

27th September 2010

44 hedgehogs were delivered from Benbecula today. This is the highest number of hogs that have come from the islands this year. So far, catching has concentrated on low density areas, and only males and non breeding females have been taken. Now the efforts of trappers have moved to areas with lots of hogs, so we can expect a few more deliveries in the next few weeks. We hope that most of these hogs will be over 600gm, and therefore ready for release.

24th September 2010

It was a big day for the Glasgow Green seal on Monday. Has been gaining weight steadily, and we decided it was time for him to move to the big outdoor seal tank. He approved of this decision, and enjoys swimming around and then hauling out on the upturned fish box. If he continues to grow at this rate he will be ready for release in a month or so.

At this time of year cygnets start getting into trouble. Some are becoming adventurous and leaving home to find new places to feed and meet other swans. Those that are reluctant to leave home are being chased by parents who think they have spent enough time rearing a family. We have picked up cygnets from Neilston and Barrhead, Ayr and Clydebank. I guess there will be many more to come.

Yesterday we had several new arrivals. There is an otter cub that came from Arran. This cub is about 4 months old, but has a head injury. She was probably hit by a car. She is receiving veterinary treatment, and there is some improvement in her co-ordination. She is having trouble eating, as she can't control her movements very well. So we keep giving her small bits of fish. Hopefully there will be more improvement tomorrow.

This is also the time of year when young foxes are on the move. Many of them become road traffic victims. We have a young fox that came in yesterday. He is eating, but still suffering from concussion. This morning another RTA cub was brought to the hospital. He was badly injured, and also had an old leg fracture. he was put to sleep.

The good weather today allowed us to release several birds. The last swallows and house martins flew, and also a robin that had been a cat victim. A buzzard was returned to its territory near Stranraer.

20th September 2010

We have just had a badger weekend. On Saturday Andy and I enjoyed the Scottish Badger Conference. This is always an enjoyable and informative event, bringing us up to date on badger news, research, behaviour and sadly badger crime. Last night, just when we thought the work was done for the day, the phone rang. It was Billy Hughes from East Kilbride. Billy and his partner Sharon had been worried about a badger that came to their garden every evening. Recently they had noticed it was injured, often with blood around its face. Billy had collected our cage trap while we were at the conference. He'd baited it with peanuts, the badger's favourite food, and at 9pm he called to say it was in the trap. There was no choice in the matter; we had to go and collect the badger. He certainly looked a bit of mess, with blood splattered around the trap. However, it was raining, and a little blood goes along way mixed with rain. The badger has been examined by the vet today, and the news is not too bad. He has a small tumour behind his ear, and that had been the source of the blood. He had also been clipped by a vehicle, resulting in broken teeth. The damaged teeth have been removed. Crusty, as this badger is called, has just eaten a hearty supper, and is now sleeping soundly.

17th September 2010

This has been guillemot week. Every day has brought a handful of underweight juvenile guillemots into care, with a few razorbills too. Most of the auks have come from the coast, though some were found inland. One guillemot came from Govanhill and another from Croftamie. All of these birds were in very poor condition, some weighing less than half the weight they should be at this time of year. Some were so weak that they'd been battered in the surf. They were wet, cold and covered in sand. Only a third of the guillemots have survived, despite having lots of attention. When the birds first arrive they put into heated boxes, given fluids, antibiotics and vitamins, and the fluid therapy is repeated every few hours for the first 24 hours. Then we offer the birds whitebait. Some them are keen to eat. Others need encouragement. The survivors are gaining weight now. Hopefully that will continue, and we can get them back to the wild in a couple of of weeks.

11th September 2010

Yesterday Andy and I came back from the Uists, with 24 hedgehogs accompanying us in the campervan. Many of these are already over 600gm, which means they can be released within the next few days. The Uists, as usual were stunning. We had wonderful weather and saw a variety of wildlife, including sea eagle, merlins and hen harriers, with excellent views of many waders such dunlin, sanderling, turnstone, grey plover, and greenshank. In the Sound of Mull we saw basking sharks.

4th September 2010

At this time of year there are more releases than admissions. It feels like we are having a clearance sale....everything must go. Only a handful of young garden birds remain in care, and all but 2 of the tawny chicks are now living in the wild. There are bare shelves in the hedgehog hospital, and only 20 young gulls remain in the enclosure. The mallards are all free, though some of them continue to hang around the centre. This week the last 2 pairs of young barn owls went to release sites. One pair went to a farm not far from here, at Burnhouse. The farmer has installed a smart new barn owl box, and replaced a glass skylight with a wooden hatch that can be opened when it is time to let the barn owls out. The other pair went to a site near Dalton, in Dumfriesshire, only a few miles from where they'd been hatched, and then evicted because an old building was being converted into a house. This is a great release site. The owls have an old smiddy, and the two windows have been replaced with wire mesh, allowing the owls to see out. The mesh will be removed in 2 weeks, allowing the owls to fly off and explore their new territory.

Earlier in the week a peregrine was released. It spent just 4 days in care, and flew away strongly.

Today we released a buzzard, and several sparrowhawks have recently been nursed back to health. This is sparrowhawk season, when birds, excited by the chase, crash into windows.

Our fox cubs, as you know, are reared in family sized groups, with as little human contact as possible. They are released in September, when cubs reared in the wild are leaving family groups and venturing off on on their own. Two of our 'families of fox cubs' have been released. We also released an adult badger this week. This badger, as you may remember, was rescued from a snare a few weeks ago. He recovered from the cuts around his middle, but had to stay in care a little longer. This was so a search could be completed, to ensure that no more snares remained in the area. As you can see, he was keen to be off. On the 3rd pic you can see where he was snared around his middle.

16th August 2010

Another seal pup came into care today. We had reports of it lying close to The Esplanade in Greenock, and Karen, our Greenock volunteer, soon had the pup in the back of her van. It weighed in at a skinny 11kg, though it does seem to be longer than the seal already in care.

14th August 2010

Regular readers of The Diary will know that I love and hate the day that we move the young hand reared deer to their big woodland enclosure. I hate it because I worry. The deer have been reared with as little human contact as possible. They are not tame. So persuading them into a big wooden carrying box isn't easy. There is just a possibility that one could be injured. I love the day because once the deer are released into the enclosure, they are ecstatic. They run and jump and stop and start. they meet new friends, the nibble fresh vegetation. Today the moves went really well. We have 8 young deer, and they have been living in pairs. Each pair was encouraged into the box with very little trouble. They behaved perfectly while being carried down the path to the wood, and left the box calmly. When each new pair of fawns was released, the ones that already moved in came to greet the newcomers. They were so delighted with the space, the trees, the dense patches of vegetation, with other deer. They took no notice at all of the small group of human spectators. A pity really. They would have seen that we were delighted for them too.

13th August 2010

We usually have more raptors in care by now. We have one juvenile sparrowhawk that hit a window, and a buzzard that came in starving; we don't know why. The sparrowhawk couldn't stand for a few days, but now it is making good progress now. It still isn't self feeding. Typical sparrowhawk, they are always difficult patients. The buzzard was on fluids only for 36 hours, but now it is eating well and gaining weight. It will be ready for an aviary soon.

11th August 2010

Today we got the 1st common seal pup of the year. That wasn't very surprising. It's that time of year again. What was surprising is that the seal pup was found on the slip at Glasgow Green, above the weir on the River Clyde. Glaswegians will know that seals are often spotted in the river, but how did a skinny little pup get up the weir? There is no doubt that this pup needs help. It weighed in at 11.8 kg. It was dehydrated, underweight and has bites along its flanks. It looks as if it has worms too.

7th August 2010

A couple of days ago we took 2 of the otters to a release site on Loch Fyne. One of the otters had come from Loch Fyne, almost a year ago. He had been sharing an enclosure with a little female otter, who had been found in S Ayrshire when she was barely weaned. We were lucky to find a ready made enclosure to use as a release pen. It even had a pond, and was only a few yards from a burn that ran into the loch. It was perfect. The otters seemed to think so too. They began to explore as soon as we opened the door of their transport boxes. They loved all the hidey holes; then they discovered the pond. The otters will be kept in the enclosure for a few days, Then the gate will be opened. Food will be provided for a few more days.

While Andy and I were away another 3 barn owl chicks were brought into care. These were disturbed during renovations to an old building, and we understood they had not been fed for 3 days. Barn owls are protected, and this sort of disturbance shouldn't happen. No work should have been done to the building till the young owls fledged. That would have been in 3 or 4 weeks time. That doesn't seem long to wait to allow a family of barn owls to stay with their parents. Now we have to find more release sites.

29th July 2010

Fox cubs are becoming adventurous now and getting into trouble. One young cub was rescued from a goal net in a Newton Mearns garden, and brought to Hessilhead still wearing part of the net. The experience must have been very frightening for the cub, and it had struggled so much that the net had tightened, resulting in a swollen nose and face. We cut the cub free, treated him for shock and trauma, and sent him home to be released in the evening.

Another Glasgow fox cub decided that a furniture warehouse was a good place to live. The huge warehouse was filled with beds and sofas, and lots of big boxes where the cub could hide. The staff were very patient. They fed the cub for a few nights in one of the big boxes. Then David and volunteer Kathryn set our live trap in the box, baited with the same kind of food. The fox cub didn't go in the first night, but the next morning we got a call to say he was sitting in the trap, not very concerned at all. He has now joined a group of cubs at Hessilhead.

We were disappointed to hear about another badger that had been snared, this time near Gretna. The adult badger has wounds round its middle. They are healing nicely. Hopefully it will be able to return to its territory, once we hear that the area has been cleared of other snares.

Some of you will remember that two years ago we hand reared a red deer calf, Dotty. She lives at Culzean Country Park now, with many other deer. We visited her recently, and yes, she did seem to remember us!

Toni was quickly on the scene last week when two cygnets got into trouble at Irvine harbour. They were buried by a landslide on the north bank. One of them was completely out of sight. There is never a shortage of people to help at Irvine Harbour, and Toni was offered a lift in a rowing boat. She had to struggle across soft mud to reach the cygnets, and dig them out with her hands. By the time we arrived on the scene Toni was back at the harbourside, looking very muddy and bedraggled. One cygnet had swam away with mum, the other was brought to Hessilhead, cleaned up and released the next day.

Another young barn owl came into care from a surprising location. The barn owls had nested in derelict flats on the outskirts of Johnstone. One young owl was found dead near the flats, and another was found alive, but in poor condition. This youngster is now doing well.

I was left in charge of the young bats while David was on holiday....quite a responsibility! They are eating mealworms now, though they still like milk. The all have different characters, and frequently squabble over food.

The last thing we needed was an intake of 14 more bats, found in a small outhouse housing a hot tub at a care home near Dalry. Somehow the bats had come down inside the building, and were trapped. We enjoyed releasing these bats late one night, and watching dozens of others leave the roost.

8th July 2010

We still have 5 young barn owls in care. We are trying to find out what has gone wrong with some of the nest sites, and whether parents are still feeding other chicks. The young owl below is a dark coloured female from Auchinleck.

Swallow and house martin numbers are building up in the hospital now. We also have 2 young swifts.

The late starlings are ready for an aviary now, and some blackbirds and thrushes are ready to move too.

The first hedgehog family is in care. A mum and 3 babies were found wandering in an Ardrossan garden earlier this week. There didn't seem to be a problem, apart from them being out in the afternoon. Sadly the lady of the house didn't want them left there.

The goshawk is still receiving treatment, but is much more lively now. The kestrel chicks are in a release flight, and the young tawny owls will be going to release sites soon.

We have the fattest little weasel ever seen. He is young and very playful. You could watch him for hours, rolling, tumbling, pouncing, jumping, Oh for some of that energy.

We have almost 100 young gulls now. Most of these are Lesser black backed gulls that have fallen, or fledged from roof tops. We also have a small group, 9, of common gulls. These, strangely, are much less common. Our oystercatcher chick was released today.

Bat numbers are going up too. David has taken 5 youngsters home for the weekend. Another young pip is coming from Pitlochry tomorrow.

26th June 2010

Apologies for the long silence. It has been busy on phone, hectic in the hospital and hot. There never seemed time to sit in front of the computer! So just to bring you up to date, here is news of some of the new arrivals. We have 32 fox cubs now, all living in small family sized groups, and all wild enough to be released later in the summer.

We have a new badger cub. This is really good news, as were worried about the first cub being alone. He really wanted to be friends with people. The new cub is very small, but we hope to have them together in another week or so.

We have 7 young roe deer. All are taking the bottle well, and most of them are nibbling vegetation too.

There are fewer nestlings and fledglings in the hospital, although the second batch of starlings are arriving now. The tits have all been released. that is always a relief. The hospital seems quiet without them. All the corvids, mostly jackdaws and rooks are sharing one of biggest aviaries. Some of them still beg for food.

We are into the gull chick season. I think we have 40 now, with more arriving morning, noon and night. Many mallards have been released. Some late broods still coming into care. Only 1 eider duckling and 1 shelduckling so far.

The first young kestrel has been joined by a slightly younger chick. Both looking good and sharing an outdoor flight.

There was an influx of barn owl chicks at the end of last week. Some were in very poor condition, others we hope to reunite with their families next week.

The first baby bats are here. That is always time consuming. When very small they need feeding every 2 hours.

The most unusual patient is a goshawk. This is the first goshawk that we ever treated at Hessilhead. It is an amazing bird, an adult female. It is receiving treatment daily, and we hope it will make a full recovery.

This time tomorrow Andy and I will be on Tiree. More news when we get back.

16th June 2010

We have recovered from the Open Day! Those of you who have experienced the event can probably imagine how much work goes into the preparation, and this all has to be done while we continue to run a rescue service and rear the many orphan birds and animals in care. The weather had us worried on Sunday morning. The bright early morning start was followed by heavy rain, but at midday the sun shone, and shone all afternoon. It was a great day. Thank you all for helping, visiting and supporting the event. Takings amounted to approx £11,500.

22nd May 2010

More of the same this week, plus, plus. More starlings, house sparrows and blackbirds, and lots more ducklings. Last night a clutch of 9 day old mallards was rescued from the central reservation of the A77, near Hansel Village. It was almost dark when they were spotted, and there was no sign of mum. All have been eating well today. Another female mallard and family were rescued from gardens in Ayr earlier in the week, and 10 ducklings were rescued from sunken gardens in Patna.

About 10 days ago, Karen, our Greenock volunteer, rescued a male swan from the Murdieston Dam. He had been badly beaten by a new pair of swans that flew in hoping to claim the territory. His mate was sitting on eggs. The male swan didn't respond to treatment, and sadly was put to sleep. His mate continued to incubate her eggs, and the invading pair swam around the dam, threatening her. We knew that as soon as the cygnets hatched, we would have to rescue the female and the youngsters. Karen checked several times a day, and noticed two cygnets on Thursday evening. By Friday evening there were 5 cygnets, and the new male swan was swimming close to her nest, with his wings raised, threatening. The resident female wouldn't be able to get her cygnets onto the water. So Karen mounted a successful rescue, and arrived here later rightly proud and pleased with herself. Mum and cygnets are doing well.

A Hessilhead team was in Gourock on Thursday to rescue another deer trapped in gardens. The deer was released in scrubland nearby. The 5 deer that we reared last year and overwintered in our large woodland enclosure have been released. We have seen some of them feeding in the wood and water meadow.

The first badger cub of the year was brought in early in the week. He is a bit of a mystery. He came from Inverness, he walks with a wobble, and seems very tame. He is on treatment to improve his walking, and maybe another cub will be found to keep him company. Another 2 fox cubs came on Tuesday, and today a fox cub was found on the Glennifer Braes road, obviously having been hit by a car. She(Charlie) was unconscious when she came, but we can't find any fractures. This evening she had a small feed, but still  sleeps most of the time. Hopefully her treatment will have had more effect by morning.

The 3 new tawny owl chicks were all found sitting in the middle of busy roads, all in different places. The man who stopped to pick up one of these youngsters saw a car drive right over the chick, which fortunately managed to escape injury.

The heron that had fishing hooks removed from its face and throat was released this evening, and a swan that came from Castle Semple Loch, also with fishing hooks, was taken back to the loch the same day. A swift, not injured, but unable to take off from the ground, was launched after being checked over for injuries. It looked so good soaring high, then dashing after insects.

15th May 2010

What a week. Patients too numerous to mention them all, ranging from osprey to goosander chicks, from hedgehogs to heron and house sparrows, more fox cubs, mallards, 3 leverets, another young tawny owl, a buzzard, a swan family and the first of this year's baby tits. The osprey was found at Snypes Dam, Neilston, where it was struggling to reach the bank after catching a fish. It was thought to be tangled in fishing line, and Hesislhead was called in to help. When David examined the bird there was no line. We think the osprey had a caught a fish too big to lift, hence the struggle to swim ashore. The bird was checked over, appeared to be in good health, and flew well when released. The buzzard was found close to Beith; it was probably hit by a car, has a droopy wing and sore back, but is making good progress. A fox cub from Irvine was thought to be a road traffic accident victim too, but we discovered that its injuries were older and infected. The cub is still receiving treatment, but we are concerned about its sight.

Another fox cub, admitted with a broken leg, is now coping well with a splint.

Some goosander chicks were surprise admissions, and there are more mallards too. We were upset to receive a call from Craig Tara Holiday Camp near Ayr, reporting that the pond, where cygnets had hatched last week, was being drained. This is a vertical sided pond, and once the water level dropped, the cygnets couldn't get out of the water. By the time we got the call, 5 cygnets were dead. Two had been rescued by holiday makers. We brought the two cygnets and mum nad dad back to Hessilhead, and the family settled in one of our grassy enclosures. Sadly one of the cygnets died during a night of heavy rain. Maybe this was due to being cold and wet for so long in the pond, maybe it got wet in our enclosure. So just one cygnet from this family survives. An unnecessary loss of tiny lives.

Last night we were called to Elderslie Golf Course to rescue a heron. The bird was tangled in fishing line, and unable to fly. One hook was lodged in the heron's beak, another treble hook down its throat. We managed to remove both the hooks at the centre, gave the bird fluids and antibiotics, and today it is eating fish.

The starling season finally arrived this week, later than usual. Most of the young birds in care have been removed from roof spaces. They are noisy, hungry, messy, but fun to rear. It would be better, though, if the birds could have been left for their to rear.

This evening we were surprised to get a call from someone with a nest box camera, reporting chicks that hadn't been fed by parents all day. One arrival one chick was dead, the other two very cold, hardly moving. I was surprised how quickly these chicks revived in the brooder, and now they are looking good. They have been joined by a long tailed tit chick, found on the ground in Annbank with part of the nest lining. No doubt these young birds are all victims of predation.

8th May 2010

Yesterday we got 2 more clutches of ducklings, one family from Ayr and the other from Kilbirnie. We also got 3 house sparrow chicks. Their nest was disturbed when ivy was pulled from a wall. Ivy is a favourite place for house sparrows to nest, and several other species of garden bird will use it too. So remember, before cutting back bushes and shrubs or climbers, please check that there are no occupied nests. Most of these birds raise their chicks in a couple of weeks, so if nests are occupied, let the parents rear their chicks, and leave your gardening till the young birds have fledged.

This evening we got 4 Canada goslings. We have rescued Canada goslings from the Heritage park at East Kilbride several times before. A pair of swans always nests there, and every year, a pair of Canada geese return to breed. There is always trouble. As soon as the goslings hatch the male swan repeatedly attacks them. Two goslings had been killed before the remaining 4 were rescued. So why do the geese always nest there?. Can they not remember what happened the previous year. Or do they think they'll be winners this time. I wish they would find another nest site.

6th May 2010

For the past 2 weeks we been getting calls reporting a roe deer trapped in gardens in Greenock. The deer seemed quite content, browsing shrubs and not being too upset by people. The gardens were close to busy roads, so catching the deer was risky. If the deer escaped from the gardens it could panic and run onto the road. It could cause an accident. Also, netting deer can be risky. So we decided to wait and see what happened. Presumably if the deer got into the gardens, it could get itself out. We hoped it would do that when the roads were quiet during the night. The number of calls from concerned people increased by the day, so today David and Colin went to see the situation. Karen, our Greenock volunteer, was there to help. When the team arrived they reckoned that the deer was in such a position that it could be safely netted. This was carried out successfully. The deer was sedated, taken to nearby woodland and released unharmed. Hopefully she will stay away from gardens for a while.

These are Colin's photos of the rescue

5th May 2010

Last night we had a call from people who had found a duck, tangled in fishing line, and hanging from a tree. They had cut the duck free, released her, but unfortunately she'd flown into a fence. They were worried that she could be injured. Higher up the tree was a hollow. One of the guys went to investigate, and discovered a nest containing a clutch of eggs. We collected the duck, a goosander, as we'd expected, and brought her back to the centre. She had a small wound on her chest, and a cut on her beak caused by fishing line. But otherwise she was fine. We gave her antibiotics and now she has been released close to her nest and eggs. She may desert the nest after the trauma of being tangled and then handled. Then again she may not. Goosanders are fish eating ducks and have a spiky hairdo. They nest in hollow trees, and sometimes in roof spaces of buildings. When the ducklings hatch they must jump to the ground.

Another 6 fox cubs came today. Two are bigger than all the others, wild and nervous. The family of 4 are tiny and look as if they haven't eaten well for quite a while. Unfortunately the cub came on Sunday has been put to sleep. He had several fits in his short time here and cried much of the time, an indication that something hurt.

4th May 2010

Yesterday wasn't exactly a bank HOLIDAY Monday at Hessilhead. We admitted 36 patients, and gave advice about deer in gardens, foxes under buildings, and even a hedgehog in Peterborough! The first patients to arrive were 2 injured hedgehogs, both very poorly. Then came a single duckling from Ayr. Single mallard ducklings are difficult to rear, whereas a family group are no trouble at all. We took two of the smallest ducklings from the family of 12, and put these with the newcomer. That would help it to settle and feed. Later in the day four more ducklings were found in Ayr, and then another 2. We believe that these ducklings are from the same clutch, and now they are settled in a brooder. The 2 older ducklings have returned to their siblings. A young collared dove, an adult blackbird and 2 baby rabbits followed, then a feral pigeon and a nestling dunnock. Dunnocks are one of my favourite birds. The young are so easy to rear, quiet, sensible and easily learning to pick up food for themselves. 3 fox cubs were delivered from the SSPCA centre in Fife, an adult otter from Tarbert, and 16 hedgehogs from the Uists. The otter is in a bad way, very thin and with lots of infected bites. Today he has been at the vet's, having all his wounds cleaned. We thought we had finished for the day when the last feeding round was completed at 10.30pm. A little while later the phone rang. A fox had been hit by a car in Pollokshields, Glasgow. It was trying to run, but couldn't get up. Someone put the fox in his car, and we met him a few miles from the centre. The vixen has been feeding cubs, so we hope she makes a speedy recovery. We'd like to get her back to her family.

30th April 2010

The first clutch of ducklings arrived earlier this week. They came from the Roads Depot in Greenock. We get at least 2 clutches of mallards from this site every year. The female mallard always finds a secretive place to lay her eggs, but of course the site isn't at all safe for the ducklings. Staff at the depot box the ducklings as soon as they are seen in the yard. We collect them as soon as possible. We wonder if the same mallard uses this site every year, or have some of her offspring returned there to breed.

More young blackbirds arrived this week too. They are still being hand fed, but we've noticed them turning over the papers in their cage, a sign that they are beginning to search for food for themselves.

Another young tawny owl was found on the ground in a wood only a few miles from the centre. He sleeps much of the time, but wakes up at feeding time.

25th April 2010

Fox cub no 8 arrived today. He is a young cub, 4 - 5 weeks old, and has been cared for by a family from Kelso since they found him last weekend. You can see from his photo why they were tempted to keep him as a pet, but they made the decision to give him a life in the wild. He will soon be introduced to some of our other cubs. Fox cubs play rough games together, they squabble over food, play tag, climb logs, hide under upturned dog beds and then fall asleep together in a friendly heap. All this play is teaching them behaviour that will help them survive in the wild. We visit the foxes as little as possible, just providing food and water twice a day, and keeping the enclosures clean. These cubs should grow up as wild any reared in urban areas.

24th April 2010

It has been quite a busy Saturday, with 14 patients admitted, including 2 swans from Lanark Loch, an adult male sparrowhawk and a nestful of dippers. The sparrowhawk was found in Union Street, Glasgow. It is underweight, and looks a bit concussed. I guess that perhaps it was involved in collision a few days ago, and since then has been on the ground, unable to hunt, hence the weight loss. I hope it makes a good recovery; adult male sparrowhawks are stunning birds.

Dippers are quite an unusual species for us to get, and when we do, there has usually been some interference with the nest. They are an odd species to rear. The chicks never stretch up to beg as do blackbirds, robins and most other garden birds. Instead they stretch their necks forwards, even down a bit. This is because dipper nests are domed, often built under bridges, arches or rock overhangs, and the wide entrance faces down towards the water. Dippers feed by walking along stream or river beds, completely submerged. It will be a challenge for us teaching these chicks how to feed.

23rd April 2010

Fox cubs number 6 and 7 were brought in yesterday. Both had been found alone in Fife, and were brought to Hessilhead by the SSPCA. The older cub is shy, it is the same size as the cub that was rescued from a chain link fence last weekend. They two of them are now sharing a shed. The smaller cub is tiny. She certainly hasn't had a good start in life, but she eats well, is very content and hopefully she will put on a growth spurt. Natalie christened her Pippin.

In the hospital the heat pads are filling up with boxes of baby birds. We have 7 robins; 3 arrived as singles, and today a nest of 4 came in. Their nest had been disturbed when a hedge was cut down. So remember, birds are nesting now. Don't fell trees, cut down hedges or clear away lots of vegetation without being sure that birds aren't nesting there.

18th April 2010

Last night we went into Glasgow to rescue a fox cub. The cub had stuck its head through some chain link fencing, and couldn't get out again. The people who called us had heard the cub crying for Mum, but at first they couldn't find it. The chain link was behind their garden fence. The cub looked really frightened when we arrived, but Andy soon cut it free and released it. This was Jani's last rescue. Jani has been volunteering with us for 8 weeks, as part of her degree course in conservation and wildlife management. (I wish they had courses like that when I was a student!) Today she returned home to study!

16th  April 2010

Andy and I have just spent a few days in the Cairngorms. So it wasn't far out of our way to collect a small red squirrel that had been found in a garden in Killin a couple of days ago. She was found under some spruce trees that grew so closely together that we couldn't tell if there was a drey there or not. We certainly wouldn't have been able to reach it easily. So little squirrel is now in a brooder at Hessilhead. She is eating bread and milk, and looks interested in nuts. We have promised to take her back to Killin when she is old enough to fend for herself.

Two swans were rescued from Castle Semple Loch while we were away. Both were victims of fishing tackle. As you see, one had a hook in its beak, the other had a hook in its neck. At least the swans at Castle Semple are easy to catch. If you park there you are likely to be surrounded by swans checking if you have brought them bread. Both the swans have made good recoveries.

Fox cub number 4 arrived in our absence. He is another little Glasgow cub, a wee bit shy, but already eating well.

10th April 2010

The otter that arrived last week has settled in well. He is living in an outdoor enclosure now, and eating well. It is a bit of a mystery why he is here. He was found in the front porch of a house in Girvan, and when young otters seek out people, it usually means they have lost their mum and are starving. That is certainly not the case with this young otter. He is in good condition with a shiny coat, and makes it perfectly clear that he doesn't like people getting close. I really wish he was back with his family.

The young tawny owl that came from Lanark last week is growing leaps and bounds. Tomorrow he will move into a large cage, and we hope that he will have company soon.

8th April 2010

More signs of spring today. The first arrival this morning was a tawny owl chick. This chick is too young to be out of the nest. It is too young to stand, and and lies on its tummy to sleep. It was found on the ground, near Lanark Loch, and would have been easy prey for a fox or easily injured by the dogs that regularly use that area. It takes small pieces of food quite gently from the hand.

The next arrival was a leveret (young brown hare). This attractive youngster is less than a week old, but it has a cloudy left eye and a droopy left ear, probably the result of injury. They are not the easiest animals to rear, so fingers crossed.

Later today Pressie, the grey seal pup, was loaded into a carrying box and taken to Portencross, our favourite seal release site. We should have checked the tide times before setting out. The harbour was completely dry, and the seal box had to be carried a long way to the harbour mouth. Fortunately we had a good team of enthusiastic volunteers, who didn't mind the slippery task. Everyone thought it was worth it. The seal swam off with just one backwards glance over his shoulder. A rewarding end to the day.

7th April 2010

We collected a badger yesterday, that had been found in a snare. This morning it was taken to the vet, as we could see that there was a large wound under the front leg, but we couldn't examine it properly without the badger being anaesthetized. The damage was worse than we had thought, and it also appeared that the badger had been caught in the snare for several days. The vets had cleaned the wounds, and begun stitching, but sadly the badger died during the operation. Obviously this badger had suffered enormous amounts of pain, stress and fear. This shows that no matter how much legislation is passed attempting to make the use of snares humane, they are in fact cruel, unselective devices designed specifically to cause stress, fear and injury. The law requires snares to be checked once every 24 hours. Clearly this did not happen in this case. Snares should be banned.

The first of this year's Uist hedgehogs arrived at Hessilhead today. They are good weights, and should be released into the wild soon.

Fox cub No 3, a small cub that came from Logan, Nr Cumnock, yesterday, has settled into his heated cage. He is eating tinned food with enthusiasm.

6th April 2010

Fox cub No 2 arrived yesterday. He was found on a patio in the middle of a wet night, crying for his mum. He was taken indoors, dried, and put out again in the hope that his mum would hear his calls and come to collect him. The cub cried, but no vixen came. Next morning the cub was brought to the wildlife hospital. The cub was found by a vet nurse, who knew exactly what to do, and putting the cub outside, once it was dried, was a good idea. It would have been a happy ending if mum had returned.

The new cub is the same age as Jordon, and today they were put into a large cage together. Tonight they are snuggled up close like old friends.

5th April 2010

It was quite a busy Easter weekend, with calls to deal with roe deer, badgers, a young otter, whooper swans, and there was also the possibility of a wildcat. The cat had been fighting with domestic cats, and yesterday forced its way through a locked cat flap. The owners of the house managed to cage the cat, and then, given its size and markings, they'd wondered if it could be a Scottish wildcat. They sent photos, and although a big bruiser of a cat that looked distinctly unchuffed at being caught, it didn't quite tick all the boxes for a wildcat. There is a possibility that it could be a hybrid (domestic x wildcat), and this would be interesting, proving the existence of Scottish Wildcats in that part Argyll. Another interesting call yesterday reported a badger sleeping in a compost bin!. By the time we arrived in the garden badger had left, but there was no doubt it had been using the compost bin regularly. The badger entered by the door at the bottom. It had made a spiral ramp to the top of the compost, and left its imprint there where it slept. There was woodland not far away, but a heated bed in a compost bin in a quiet garden must seem like a good place to sleep.

3rd April 2010

This is a busy time of year in the roe deer calendar. The roe bucks are cleaning the velvet, (short fur), from their newly grown antlers. This means they have good fighting equipment again. Our resident roe buck, McDougall, has removed most of the velvet by rubbing his antlers against branches. A wild buck has been visiting him, and there has been a bit of sparring through the fence. McDougall is looking good for an 11 year old buck, but then he has a pampered life.

Last year's young deer are being chased away from their parents' territories now. The yearlings may be chased into new unfamiliar areas, and many of them become road traffic victims. The young bucks have a really hard time, often being chased from one territory to another by resident dominant bucks. We often get calls reporting young bucks in gardens in suburban areas, and we get called out to several RTA victims every week. Yesterday we were called to a deer lying on the bank of the River Irvine. This deer was in very poor condition; obviously there had been a problem for a while. Sadly the deer died overnight, and a pm examination revealed that it had been shot. It must have had a miserable and painful last few weeks.

Took a few more pics of Jordon today. He is beginning to take an interest in his surroundings.

1st April 2010

For the past few months we have been trying to find a new release site for the badger cubs that we reared last year. All our efforts failed, so today we moved the group of badgers to the big release pen in the wood. Four of them went into the sett quickly, with no time for photos. Number 5 galloped around a bit before going to ground.

29th March 2010

Andy and I were called out early this morning. A badger had been spotted in a garden, and we were told that it was trapped in a fenced patio. When we arrived at the house, which was right in the middle of a small East Ayrshire town, we were surprised to see several hens and ducks waddling around the garden. The owner of the property assured us that there were high walls all round, and absolutely no way in for a short legged badger. The patio was in a separate area of garden, the only access being over a 6' wall or through a dense hedge. Andy went over the wall, and his appearance in the patio seemed to upset the badger somewhat. She panicked, knocked down the flimsy gate, forced her way through the hedge, scattered the hens, and left the property by an old gateway behind the henhouse, that was hardly blocked at all with a pallet. Well, better to find a fit and healthy animal than a sick or injured one, and we were pleased to see it returning home at high speed. Another hour in bed would have been good though!

28th  March 2010

Andy and I came back from a few days on Deeside, to find that Jordon the fox cub had grown a lot. He was still drinking milk 4 times a day, but when I offered him a dish of tinned cat food he thought that was a good substitute. He had 2 bottles for the next 2 days, then was weaned. While he was still feeding from a bottle he had a funny habit of putting his hands up. Mel, despite being so boisterous and playful, showed a maternal side to her nature, and helped to clean him after each feed.

18th March 2010

Well, guess what? It is spring at Hessilhead. The first fox cub came into care today. The little cub, eyes closed, probably a week to 10 days old, was found in a garden in Jordonhill. There was no sign of his mum, and no other cubs. He is sleeping peacefully in a heated cage, and has had a small drink of milk. He hasn't been very co-operative about having a photo taken yet. This is the best we have managed.

16th March 2010

Today we released Buddy the common seal at Portencross. He spent quite a while swimming around the harbour, exploring the boats and thought about coming ashore, before swimming out to sea and apparently deciding that was where he belonged. He seemed quite confident about his return to the sea.

Taste of freedom

More space here than in my tank

More space here than in my tank

and boats


David points the way to sea

what me?

Hey dog, you coming too?

Not likely!

15th March 2010

The last few days have been fairly quiet, but there is good news about some of the patients in care. The fox from Kilmacolm has moved from the hospital to an outside enclosure. He seems much more content there, and his wounds are healing well.

The sparrowhawk that has been in care for 4 weeks, has at last begun to feed herself. We are used to sparrowhawks being difficult patients, that are often reluctant to eat anything other than natural food.  This bird had been offered pigeon and blackbird, but it ignored them. It was hand fed 3 times every day, then sometimes we'd leave it for a day and a half, hoping it would get hungry enough to eat. David made a breakthrough last week, when the sparrowhawk started taking food from the forceps. then it picked up some of the chopped up food from the dish. The next step was to leave a dish of chopped food in the cage, and when the bird had eaten that it was replaced by a complete item of food. Now the bird is self feeding, and behaving much more like a normal sparrowhawk, ie it panics whenever we go near the cage. So it looks like this bird will soon be back in the wild.

Good news too about a buzzard that was badly concussed, then had an operation to remove a deep seated abcess from behind its eye. The buzzard is an aviary now, flying well, landing well and eating well. Hopefully it will be back in the wild before the breeding season.

12th March 2010

Two swans were rescued while Andy and I enjoyed a couple of days away this week. One of them was found at Ardeer Rec, with a fishing hook in its leg. The other swan, more seriously injured, was rescued from Barshaw park in Paisley. It had been attacked by a dog.

8th March 2010

On Friday we picked up a fox from Kilmacolm. This fox has been frequenting gardens, and several people have been feeding it. We heard that it was limping badly, and asked all the people that were feeding it, if they could work together, so the fox could be encouraged into a shed. The fox looked really healthy and was active, but on examination we discovered a large wound under the leg. It was so bad that I wasn't at all sure it could be treated. Good news so far. The fox has just returned from the vet. The wound has been cleaned, and the vet hopes that it will heal, given time. The tricky bit is going to be applying Dermisol creme every day. I doubt if the fox will like that. He looks a bit odd, as the end of his tail had been injured and was dead. That has been amputated, and the new tip of the tail is temporarily hairless.

The fox was just one of the patients we dealt with today. In the early hours of this morning the police delivered a rta deer from Skelmorlie. We were grateful for that. It would have taken us over two hours to go and collect it, whereas it only took 15 minutes to treat the deer for concussion and settle it down for the night. This morning Andy and Andrea (our Swiss volunteer) went to rescue a heron that had been seen sulking beside the cycle path for the last couple of days. This is an adult bird, quite thin, probably as a result of the prolonged cold weather. This afternoon David, Colin and Andrea went on a deer rescue. We heard about the young buck yesterday. It was in a garden in Wishaw, and quite agitated, but the garden was close to a busy road. We suggested the deer was left alone, and hoped that it would find its way out overnight. It didn't. Our team quickly caught the deer in a net, sedated it, and took it to nearby Greenhead Moss Community nature Park. There it was given an antidote to the sedative, and released successfully. A happy ending to the day.

young roe buck trapped in garden

deer being removed from net

deer carried to Greenhead Moss

deer recovers from the sedative

and runs away

Thank you to Lesley Mark who supplied these photos, and called us out to rescue the deer from her garden.

4th March 2010

Buzzards seem to have had a better winter than they did last year. The ones that have come into care have mostly been road traffic victims, and they have been a good weight. On 15th February we released a buzzard that had been found on the duel carriageway near Troon. 10 days later it was back, picked up in almost the same place, concussed again. The bird was a good weight, which tells us that it has been getting plenty of food since its release. Perhaps this buzzard doesn't hunt for food. Maybe it picks up road kills. So far it has been lucky enough to survive these accidents, but we wonder how long that will last.

2nd March 2010

Tawny owls have been getting into all sorts of trouble recently. We had a call from a mining company at Lugar, reporting 3 tawnies covered in oil. One of these birds was so weak that it was put to sleep straightaway. We wiped as much oil as possible from the other two, and next day they went to the SSPCA's oil bird cleaning unit in Fife. Sadly one of these didn't survive, but the other came back fit and healthy, and has now been released.

Then came a report that a tawny owl had been found hanging from a tree, tangled in fishing line. This was in Dumfries-shire, quite a long way from here, and it was quite early in the morning. Luckily one of the Wildlife Crime officers was willing to help, and with help from the local water bailiff, they reached the owl and cut it free. We removed the rest of the line and gave the bird a couple of night's rest, then Grace took it back to release it in its own territory.

Many tawny owls will be incubating eggs now, so it is important to release them as soon as possible. The following evening there was a report of a tawny owl hit by a car. This bird was badly concussed, and reluctant to stand or eat for several days. It is now on the road to recovery, so hopefully will be back in the wild soon.

16th February 2010

One of our volunteers rescued a tawny owl on Sunday. The bird was in a field behind a block of flats in Largs. It was being attacked by crows, and the resident from the flats who called us, said it had been there for several days. The bird is in fairly good condition, but strangely for a tawny owl, isn't feeding itself. We think it had probably flown into something, been concussed and unable to hunt. So it needs some tlc for a while.

Today we released another buzzard. This was the one that had a torn crop. The crop was stitched and healed well. We released the bird close to where it had been found. It flew across the field with confidence.

11th February 2010

Two days ago an otter was brought across from Arran. This is an adult male otter, but emaciated and was very weak. It is covered in bites, so must have been feeling pretty miserable. Really the otter was so weak we thought it may not survive. But so far, its good news. The otter is eating well now. He is eating 4 fat herring every day, and sleeps a lot, which always aids recovery.

The little red squirrel is making good progress, although it still doesn't have the full use of its back legs.

Someone was brave enough to stop on the M77 today, to pick up an injured sparrowhawk. The bird must have been in collision, it is concussed and has an injured eye. At present it is resting in a heated box.

7th February 2010

One of the buzzards was released today. It was collected by the man who stopped on the dual carriageway to save the bird from further injury. The bird was concussed and had an injured talon, but has made a good recovery. I think it would fly from the box as soon as it was opened. We always like to let people see the release of a bird that they rescued. For most people this is a once in a lifetime experience.

After the buzzard had been collected, Andy and I went off to release the kestrel that was found huddled on a doorstep during the cold weather. What a weight it is now!. I wondered if it would have trouble hovering, but it had no trouble flying from the release box, gaining height rapidly, and chasing a magpie out of its territory. Then it perched on a power line and had a good look around. It seemed like an ideal territory, with a large area of newly planted trees, and rough grazing. I bet there are plenty of voles living there.

2nd February 2010

Yesterday we admitted an unusual casualty, especially for this time of year. The red squirrel was found in a garden at Tighnabruaich. It was hanging from a tree, apparently unable to free itself. It came with a food box, full of its favourite nuts and pears. It does seem that this squirrel has a problem with its hind legs. It could be a back or pelvic problem. We are giving it anti-inflammatory drugs, and if there is no improvement in a few days, the squirrel will need to be x-rayed. It has settled well in a hospital cage. It sleeps curled up in a fleece hat, and takes its food to bed so it can eat out of sight.

31st January 2010

Last night we were out late, following a report of a badger lying on the road near Eaglesham. It took us quite a long time to find this casualty, as we hadn't been given good directions. Sadly, when it was found, it was dead. Two nights ago we were out for a fox, also a road casualty. The person who found this casualty stayed till we arrived to collect. This is always helpful, and can prevent the animal being hit again by another vehicle. The fox is quite badly injured, but is receiving veterinary treatment for injured front feet and concussion. We are not sure yet that it will make a full recovery.

24th January 2010

It looks like being a funny sort of year. For the 1st 3 weeks everywhere is frozen and covered in snow, and then hedgehogs start coming into care. Shouldn't they still be fast asleep? One of today's new arrivals is a small hog, so probably woke up early because it had used up all its stored fat. The other is a large hog, so there is no obvious reason for it being found wandering around a garden in the daytime.

Late this afternoon we had a call from a motorist to say he had picked up a buzzard at the roadside. He was pleased to bring it to the hospital straightaway, and arrived half an hour later with the buzzard wrapped in his jacket. The buzzard was quiet, obviously concussed, but more serious was the tear in its crop. The buzzard's last meal was falling out of this wound. It needed attention quickly. We cleaned the wound, gave local anaesthetic and stitched first the wall of the crop and then the outer skin. that looked a lot better. We gave the bird antibiotics and painkiller, and left it in a box on a heat pad. I have just been back to the hospital and given the buzzard fluids by crop tube. I am hopeful that it will make a full recovery.

23rd January 2010

Today Sooty the tawny owl was ready for release. It says a lot for the people who found the owl that they were keen to come and collect it, and release it in their garden. Apparently its mate has been calling every evening, no doubt wondering what happened to its pal. The people have taken a sensible precaution against this type of accident happening again. they have had their chimney capped with wire mesh.

19th January 2010

Andy and I were at a meeting in Glasgow today. We returned home to find a very sooty tawny owl. It had fallen down a chimney in Kilbarchan, and probably left a room in need of a major clean. It isn't unusual for tawnies to fall down chimneys. Presumably they are looking for nest sites, and having got so far down find it difficult to climb back up. By the time the owls are found in the fireplace, or rescued from the lower part of the chimney, they may have been trapped for several days. So the first treatment is fluids given by crop tube, and then saline solution in the eyes. This owl's eyes were closed tight, probably really sore. So ointment will be given for the next few days. By the time we had given the owl its second dose of fluids in the evening, our hands and clothes were black. The owl had already been wiped with a damp cloth, but it looks as if it will take quite a while to clean it up.

17th January 2010

This weekend we released more wildlife than we admitted. The snow has almost disappeared, and some of the casualties that we've had in care were restless to go. Swans were released on Friday at Irvine Harbour, and today we released woodcock, redwings, a fieldfare and a robin. New patients include an underweight kestrel found huddled in a doorway at midnight on Saturday, and a mallard drake. The mallard felt very odd when we picked it up to examine. Its neck was rigid, the bird very thin. We opened the beak and at the back of the throat could see dry bread. We carefully worked the bread into the mouth, more and more of it kept appearing. The mallard must have been so hungry that when it found food it ate and ate, but without any water. The bird was so stuffed with bread that it couldn't bend its neck. We removed as much bread as possible, then gave the bird a bowl of water, and another. Later we gave one slice of bread in water. It was eaten straightaway. Then another. Now the mallard is eating wild bird seed soaked in water. It will take quite a while for the duck to regain a respectable weight, but it doesn't look as if there will be any problem persuading this casualty to eat.

15th January 2010

Andy and I are just back from Glasgow with a swan. The swan landed on the M8, which of course could be dangerous for swan and motorists, but by the time we arrived it had been herded across a wide grass verge, and was being restrained by 3 police officers. Vehicles were passing safely. The swan is in great condition despite the difficult weather conditions of recent weeks. It will be released tomorrow.

14th  January 2010

As you know, we try to run a 24 hour rescue service. During the night, we usually respond to calls about injured animals lying on roads, or others in dangerous and emergency situations. I could understand why a lady phoned at 3am this morning. She thought that the fox in her garden was in terrible pain, 'having babies'. I explained that this wasn't the case, it is far too early for vixens to give birth, and that what she was hearing was a mating call, a prelude in fact, to what she thought was happening. Those of you who live in areas populated by foxes, will know that the calls they make at this time of year, could easily be mistaken for someone screaming for help. The lady on the phone wasn't convinced by my explanation. She wanted us to go and remove the fox. She said it was keeping her awake. That was true. An hour later the phone rang again. This time it was Andy's turn to speak to the same lady, still not able to sleep, and still worried about the fox. By now she was worried that her neighbours wouldn't be able to sleep either. After several minutes on the phone, explaining again that foxes are really noisy at this time of year, I could tell that Andy was thinking that this fox was keeping him from sleeping too!

12th January 2010

This evening we were on our way to a meeting in Glasgow, when we got a call from our volunteer in Greenock, Karen. She'd had a call from someone reporting a seal pup in trouble on rocks below The Esplanade. She was on her way. We had no doubt that Karen would get the seal. She always does. So the next call from her reported that she was on the way to Hessilhead, and would leave the pup in a pen in the swan hospital. So when we returned home this evening we had a stroppy, but very young seal pup to treat. This is another unweaned pup, about 3 weeks old, and still with some white baby fur. We wonder why pups are being born so late in the season this winter. Andy brought the pup to the hospital, where it will be warmer. We gave it rehydration fluids and antibiotics, and hope that it will be in a better frame of mind by morning.

8th January 2010

Andy and I are just back from an interesting swan rescue in Ayr. A swan had crash landed on a flat roof overlooking the river. The roof has a covering of snow, so presumably that confused the swan. The swan was reluctant to walk, so we have brought it back to the centre for observation. While on the roof, we had an unusual view of the Auld Kirk in Ayr.

Earlier in the day we admitted another woodcock, a redwing, a pipistrelle bat, 2 swans, a buzzard and a roe deer. The deer was a very upsetting and sad case. It had tried to jump a fence, misjudged the height, or slipped in the snow, and got a foot caught in the top wires of the fence. Obviously the deer had been hanging there for hours. The blood supply to the foot was severed, and the foot, literally, frozen. The deer was still alive, but with a foot missing, would not cope in the wild. It has been put to sleep. You may find the photos distressing.

On a happier note, pics around Hessilhead

otter enjoying fresh water

Redwing feeding on the lawn

Fieldfare feeding on the lawn

Mel in action

Feeding time at the pond

Feeding time at the pond

7th  January 2010

This first week of 2010 will be remembered as woodcock week. 8 woodcock have been admitted in the last few days. That is twice what we'd normally expect in a year! The problem, of course, is the weather. Woodcock are having to leave their normal haunts, usually wet woodland, where they are hidden and well camouflaged. They are being seen in gardens, parks and roadside verges. They are probing new places, hoping to find soft ground and a supply of worms, their favourite diet. Most of those brought to us have been caught by cats. Some have been quite badly injured, but others have only minor scars and a few missing feathers, and some are still in quite good condition. The difficulty for us is getting enough food for the birds. Digging enough worms, day and after, for one woodcock is tedious. Imaging trying to find worms for half a dozen woodcock, under several inches of snow and frozen ground. We are attempting to interest the woodcock in mealworms, and also seeds and berries. The definitive book on the subject says they DO eat berries, but we've never had a woodcock that has read that book! We also have 2 other waders, an oystercatcher and a redshank. They are being co-operative and versatile about food.



5th January 2010

It was good to see some of the staff and more volunteers back this week. Andy and I have enjoyed being more hands on over the festive period, but we hadn't expected so much freezing weather to slow us down. We were fortunate in having a new resident volunteer, Jory, who flew in from Canada on Boxing Day. She is being very tolerant of the lack of water in the caravan (frozen pipes) and having left temperatures of -30. doesn't have a problem with our weather.

Today we admitted a new seal pup. Pressie was found on Prestwick beach. She is emaciated, but a bigger pup than Bari. She still has baby fur on her flippers, and a strange blaze of it remains on her face. She has been given the usual treatment of rehydration fluid, anitbiotics and vitamins, but still looks rather sad.

Bari is doing well. She is eating small whole herring now, and showing interest in feeding herself.

Bari and Pressie meet each other

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