GAY'S DIARY, 2011
Best wishes to everyone for an enjoyable 2012
Thank you to everyone who has helped and supported
us during 2011. Almost 3000 wildlife casualties have
been rescued with your assistance.
variety of patients have come into care during the
last few days of 2011. These have included well
grown cygnets, nestling pigeons, a small hedgehog, a
black headed gull, a heron and most unusual for us,
a jay. The jay was found in a puddle,
semi-conscious, at Twechar. It was cared for by
Sylvia, one of our longest serving volunteers. The
bird made a remarkable recovery, and although it had
a brief stay at Hessilhead, it has now been
released. Like all jays, this was a nervous patient,
terrified of people and stressed while in a cage. I
am sure that it flew away strongly, pleased to be
and Mel, looking forward to a fun new
year. 'Thanks to everyone who threw a ball for me in
Not everyone gets a seal pup for
Christmas! You couldn't help but fall in love with
this one. Mistletoe is less than a week old and has
had a hard time. She was being smashed against rocks
when she was rescued from Prestwick beach on
Christmas day, and also has bites, including a nasty
one on top of her head. She has spent the last 24
hours under a heat lamp, been given fluids, wormer
and antibiotics, and seems to think that life has
taken a turn for the better.
and it wouldn't have been
Christmas without a swan rescue!. X6668 was walking
along the middle of the dual carriageway near
Eglinton Country Park at lunchtime yesterday.
Drivers were slowing down and swerving, and the swan
seemed quite unconcerned. He has a bit of a limp,
but nothing serious. He should be back in the wild
for New Year.
Merry Christmas to all our friends and supporters
hasn't exactly been a run down to Christmas. The
daily intake of patients has increased through the
week. New arrivals include a 3 week old seal pup,
this one from Spey Bay, a tawny owl from Lockerbie,
a kestrel from Fenwick, a starling that was swinging
from the top of a tree, with plastic thread around
one leg. Several more hedgehogs have come into care,
and a few swans too. At the small end of the scale
there are bullfinches and a new pipistrelle bat.
Back in the wild is a fox that was caught in a fence
near Straiton, a shag, victim of the hurricane, a
blackbird and starling, and more swans. We are
hoping for a quiet day tomorrow......but who knows!
The highlight of
this week was releasing the first grey seal of the
winter. When he weighed in at 47.5 kg on Monday, we
were delighted. Then we recalled the forecast for
stormy weather all week, and it looked like he would
have to stay for a while longer. Fortunately the
weather settled, and Thursday was a perfect calm
day. One seal gone, 5 still in care.
Other casualties of the week
included a fox from Straiton, making a good
recovery, a barn owl from Girvan, also doing well, a
cygnet from Bowling and a couple of hedgehogs. Three
swans and a black headed gull were released today.
13th December 2011
Last week's storms brought quite
a few casualties to Hessilhead. A seal pup was
brought from Montrose. This is quite a hefty pup,
but was bleeding from the mouth when found. It is
probably because of his sore mouth that he has been
reluctant to feed. The past 2 days he has been hand
fed, but today he has begun chewing fish himself. On
Sunday evening a small pup was brought down from
Stornoway. This little pup had been in care for
several days, but owing to the ferry disruption it
couldn't leave Lewis till today. Then late on Monday
evening another small pup was brought across from
Newcastle! Tammy from Stornoway is self
feeding, though she makes quite a mess; Geordie is
being hand fed, but I'm told she is very
Our oldest seal was weighed
today.....47.5 kg. That means he is ready for
release, but with more stormy weather forecast he
may be here for another week.
We expected seabirds to be
in trouble, but only 2 shags were found the day
after the hurricane. Both these birds, one adult and
one juvenile, are underweight, but they are feeding
well. They have been wormed, so will hopefully gain
Then came the unexpected. A
strange bird was reported in trouble on the shore of
Strathclyde Loch on Saturday morning. One of the
rangers collected the bird, identified it as a skua,
and word soon spread among the local birders. When
the skua arrived at Hessilhead it was weak and
dehydrated, and its feathers are not in very good
condition. It didn't look good. We were surprised
how quickly it responded to fluid therapy, appearing
much brighter by late afternoon. In the evening it
greedily ate some fish. During the course of
Saturday and Sunday photos were studied,
measurements taken, experts consulted and the bird
declared to be a pomerine skua. These are not
British breeding birds. Pomerine skuas breed on the
tundra, where they eat lemmings, and most of them
spend the winter off the coast of West Africa. So in
Britain they are seen on passage in spring and
autumn. In flight they are easily identified by the
spoon shaped tail streamers. Andy and I were
fortunate to see one last year from the Uig to
Lochmaddy ferry. In our bird these tail streamers
have broken off, hence the ID dilemma. It is a particularly late record
for a skua of any kind, and the
bird may still be at this latitude because of its
poor condition. It has been wormed and treated
with antibiotics, and today it has been bathing.
Hopefully the skua will gain weight quickly, but its
feather condition will decide when it is time for
A buzzard seems set to
recover after looking really poorly all weekend. He
was underweight. weak and has most of the
primaries from one wing broken. We also had concerns
about his vision. Today he is perched on a block in
his cage, wings spread and threatening. He is
watching as we pass, and has started to feed
himself. Of course it will be some time before this
buzzard moults and grows new feathers; this would
mean it spending a long time in care. An alternative
would be to imp new feathers onto the wing. This
involves taking the equivalent flight feathers from
a dead buzzard, and stitching them onto the broken
shafts. This could get our bird back to the wild
much more quickly.
On Sunday morning Andy rescued a
roe deer from Sundrum. The young buck has cuts on
its legs, probably having been caught in a fence. It
was very unsteady for 24 hours, but has settled down
now and is eating. We are quite hopeful for this
It hasn't been a busy week, but
there have been enough patients coming in and
requiring veterinary attention to keep us busy. Last
weekend a short eared owl was brought up from
Drummore, near Stranraer. It had a dislocated elbow.
This is a nasty injury for birds, but the owl has
been to vet, been x-rayed, had the bones manipulated
into place, and is now receiving physiotherapy.
A barn owl has moved from the
hospital to an outdoor flight, and is flying better
than I expected. We have a kestrel, wing still
strapped up, several new swans, including one that
has had its fractured leg pinned. It is walking
around in the swan hospital with its external
fixators doing a great job. The vet is really
pleased with her progress. This afternoon another
barn was brought in from a farm not far from here.
It was found in a hay shed that hasn't been visited
for a few weeks. Somehow it got its leg tangled in
the twine of a straw bale, and in its efforts to get
free had got straw tightly wound around its leg too.
The bird is very thin and weak, but is looking
better since spending some time in a heated cage and
having had fluids by tube.
Over the past 2 weeks we have
taken in 5 lovely lop-eared rabbits that were
apparently dumped on Ardrossan North Shore. They had
been well cared for and are friendly, and they
particularly like each other's company. So if anyone
could offer a home to 2 or more rabbits, please get
28th November 2011
Last weekend was great for
releases. It was good to see the badger go, the one
that had been trapped in the ice pit. The people who
called us out came too. They were able to show us
the exact location of the badger sett, so the badger
was released close to home. 3 foxes, 16 hedgehogs
and a tawny owl were released too. The tawny owl had
fallen down a chimney, and from what I hear had made
a bit of a mess in the room where it landed.
Hopefully the people have taken our advice and
capped the chimney now.
This week Andy and I spent a few
days in Lincolnshire. We went to see the seals at
Donna Nook, and it was well worth the journey.
Apparently there were 1112 seal pups there last
week, though I didn't count them! The breeding
population of grey seals there is increasing year by
year. We can recommend a visit.
14th November 2011
We had a really busy weekend, and
6 more patients were brought in today.
On Saturday a seal pup was
delivered from Caithness. It was a long way for it
to travel, but apparently the weather has been
pretty stormy in the far north east of Scotland, and
the seal centres on the east coast are full. The
seal was none the worse for its journey, and is now
taking fish without too much trouble. A cygnet came
from Greenock. It was being bullied by Mum and Dad,
but will soon be released with a non breeding flock.
In the evening we released 2 swans and 2 hedgehogs.
A juvenile hedgehog had been admitted earlier in the
Sunday was hectic. An otter was
delivered from Arran. It was a large male otter,
found on the road, with a suspected back injury. It
was scheduled to go to the vet today, and we were
surprised and sad to find it had died overnight.
Another seal pup was delivered, this time from
Nairn. This pup is barely 3 weeks old, and still had
its white baby coat. It has been rehydrated, and is
now eating large sardines willingly.
On Sunday afternoon Andy was
called out to rescue a badger. The badger had fallen
into an ice pit in the grounds of a mansion house in
East Ayrshire. There was a tunnel entrance, and then
a smooth sided circular pit 15 feet deep. This has a
domed roof, so light levels were low at the bottom
of the pit. At the bottom of the pit were lots of
boulders, rubble and other debris. When Andy arrived
the badger was out of sight, beneath boulders. It is
amazing that anyone saw it there. Andy went down
ladders, moved boulders, retrieved badger and put
her in a carrying box, all in semi-darkness. He
couldn't examine the animal till he returned to
Hessilhead. We were delighted to see that she could
run around an enclosure ....no broken legs! She will
be returned to her territory when she has regained
some weight, and we have made sure that the wire
grill covering the entrance to the pit has been
repaired. While at the bottom of the pit Andy found
a badger skull, so a previous casualty hadn't been
A swan came in from Ardrossan, a
road rescue, and another young hedgehog came in,
this one weighing less than 300gm. There is no doubt
that it will be here till spring.
This morning we took another call
from British Divers Marine Life Rescue.
Another seal pup had been rescued at Lybster, did we
have space for this pup too? It was delivered
late this afternoon, while Andy and I were out
collecting a tawny owl that was found at the bottom
of a dustbin containing a few inches of water. The
seal pup has settled in and the tawny owl has dried
out. Another swan was delivered.
9th November 2011
Today we were called to Asda in
Irvine. A swan was trapped on the flat roof of the
building, unable to take off because of the 4'
wall surrounding the roof. Apparently it had been
there since Monday, perhaps even longer. It was an
easy rescue, with steps up to the roof, and a hungry
swan that couldn't go anywhere. We soon had it
bagged on its way back to Hessilhead. As you'd
expect, the swan was thirsty, but none the worse for
and photos of the otter cub that
came from Langholm a couple of weeks ago.
I hope you are remembering that Friday night is
Quiz Night. Our fund raising evening will take place
in the Outdoor Bowling Hall, Kilmeny Terrace,
Ardrossan, at 7.30. Teams of up to 5 welcome.
8th November 2011
Toni was at Irvine harbour early
yesterday. She spotted a swan with fishing line
dangling from its neck, encouraged it over forfood
and managed to catch it. It was fairly easy to
remove the hook that was embedded in the front of
the neck, but we were concerned about a hard
swelling on the back of the neck. Today the swan was
taken to the vet for x-rays and treatment. I have
just heard that the lump was a decaying fishing
hook, one that had been there for some time. There
is some infection associated with this, but of more
concern is the calcification on the vertebra. This
will be permanent, and might affect movement in the
Another patient that came in
yesterday was a woodcock. This bird was found in
Kilmarnock, and some feather damage and bruising
suggested collision. At this time of year many
continental woodcock arrive in the UK, and most
years a few will come into care. They are mostly
collision cases. Perhaps they are confused by city
lights. When we returned home from a meeting last
night and went into the hospital, the woodcock
exploded from the box. It had clearly recovered.
This morning we released him in our wood, and he
posed just long enough for a pic.
During the bright weather I took
some photos of the young deer that are spending the
winter in our woodland enclosure.
and some of the badgers too
6th November 2011
We are just back from releasing a
roe buck in Linwood. We rescued it a week ago, after
it had been hit by a car on the main road just off
the A737. The animal was concussed and bruised, and
that first evening we were concerned that there
might be a back injury. It was treated with
anti-inflammatory drugs and antibiotics, and by late
the following day the buck was able to stand, albeit
a bit wobbly. during the wekk the buck improved, and
by friday he was doing high jumps when we opened the
shed door. He has been drinking, but only eating a
little vegetation. It was bit tricky giving him the
injection to sedate him for travelling, but we
managed this without him getting too distressed.
That meant he soon lost consciousness. We lifted him
into the back of the car, drove to Linwood, and gave
him the antidote to the sedative. We released him in
a field a little further away from the roads, but if
he was in the habit of crossing the road before the
accident, he will probably continue to do so.
Hopefully he'll be a bit more careful.
Now we are waiting for Colin to
arrive with 16 hedgehogs from the Uists. This will
be the last batch this year. We understand that most
of them are heavy enough for release, so we are
hoping that this frost won't last too long.
30th October 2011
A few days ago an otter cub was
spotted in the park in Langholm. The cub didn't seem
to be frightened of people, in fact it was following
children who were playing there. Sometimes the cub
would stop, lie down and call, a high pitched
whistle. There was no doubt that this little cub had
lost its mum, and was very hungry. The cub is
doing well now, eating trout, salmon and day old
chicks. She is more independent than when she
arrived, preferring not to be handled at all or even
seen very much. When she is older she will join the
male cub that is doing well in an outdoor pen.
Getting two orphan otter close together is not
exactly fortunate, but it is good that they will
grow up together.
Last week a cygnet was brought in
from Castle Semple Loch. It has an injury to the end
of its beak, which looks rather as if it has been
attacked by a large mammal. It could have been an
Two weeks ago a farmer came in
with a buzzard that he'd found on the road. By the
time the bird arrived here, it was quite lively, but
apparently it was easily picked up an hour earlier.
The buzzard was ready for release the following day,
and as usual, it was taken back to where it was
found. The buzzard was ringed, and a quick look
through our records told us that it had been reared
at Hessilhead in 2008.
A couple of days ago we were
called out to rescue an owl that had been found on
the road, only a few miles from Hessilhead. When we
arrived the bird had scuttled into a bush, but it
was easily retrieved. The owl, a tawny, was
concussed, and has a sore left wing. It was ringed
too.......a youngster that we reared and released in
2010. These are good news stories, telling us that
our birds are surviving after release.
The grey seal pup is self feeding
now, and chomping his way through 15 or so herring
every day. I thought you'd like to see him now.
14th October 2011
Our first grey seal pup of the
year was found today on Prestwick Beach. He still
has some white coat, indicating that he should still
be at the breeding colony, and still being fed by
mum. However, he is a reasonably good weight, 14kg,
which probably means that he hasn't been away from
mum for too long. He does have quite a lot of bites,
requiring antibiotic treatment, and we will worm him
too. He will be get fluids only for 24 hours, then
fingers crossed, he will eat fish.
Other patients of the day
included a tawny owl (broken wing, still with the
vet), a badly injured buzzard (broken leg and
compound wing fracture), a pheasant, also hit by a
car and a sparrowhawk that was found on the road.
13th October 2011
Glendrick Roost, a domestic animal rescue service
based near Fintry. She often gets calls about
injured and orphaned wildlife, and is always willing
to collect these and bring them to Hessilhead, no
matter how late at night that may be! On Monday
Mione was here with a cygnet that had been found
earlier on the West Highland Way. It is a little
scrap of a thing, weighing only 4kg, so it is
difficult to know how it came to be on Scotland's
most popular long distance walk. In common with many
of the hikers, it does have a swollen inflamed
ankle, and hobbles around with a limp. We gave the
cygnet fluids, vitamins, antibiotics and
wormer, and it spent the first night in a heated
cage. Now it goes for a swim on the indoor pool each
day, but returns to the hospital at night. Last
night Mione was back with a hedgehog. This is a big
hedgehog, in contrast to the many autumn juveniles
that are coming in now. The hedgehog was rescued
from a rat trap (that is the trouble with traps,
they are all indiscriminate). It has a dislocation
of the front left leg, but we've just heard good
from the vet. The dislocated bones have been put
back in place, under general anaesthetic. Bandages
will help stabilize the injury, and hopefully in not
much more than a week, hedgehog will be able to go
home. We will make sure all the rat traps are
8th October 2011
, It has been quite a busy week
at Hessilhead, with a mix of patients. Two swans
were rescued from roads. One had been hit by a van,
but looks set to make a full recovery, the other had
crash landed, no harm done except grazed feet. A
cygnet got into a pickle when it landed on the lawns
at Glen Park in Paisley. It could probably have
taken off from there, but was chased by dogs and
headed for the steep, gorse covered slope heading up
to The Braes. By the time we arrived at the scene
and cygnet, and the ranger who was keeping track of
it, had disappeared from sight. Occasional shouts
from Margeret led us up the slope, through bogs,
under bushes, over a fence, and following a zigzag
course round dense gorse. At last we found the
cygnet, exhausted. It was an achievement for it to
have travelled so far across rough terrain. Swans
are not the best walkers even on flat land!
A scaup was an unusual visitor.
These ducks are similar to tufted ducks, but more of
a designer version. This drake was certainly
handsome, with a grey filgree back, white sides and
rich black velvety head. He had probably recently
migrated from his arctic breeding grounds, and crash
landed on a road in Stevenston. That wasn't too
surprising. A flock, sometimes numbering around 100,
spend much of the winter on the Sandilands pond and
on the sea nearby. We released this drake on the
A few more hedgehogs were brought
into care, but even more were released! One jumbo
hedgehog weighed 1700 gm, only a little more than
when he came in a couple of weeks ago. At the other
end of the scale, juveniles are still being found,
some weighing as little as 100gms.
A guillemot was brought down from
Arrochar. It has an eye injury, but otherwise is
doing well, and should be back on the sea soon.
A sparrowhawk is also making good progress, and a
pipistrelle bat found in a Glasgow house, has been
released. A Daubenton's bat is also in care. This is
much bigger than a pip, dark grey on its back and
dirty white underneath. It feeds well and is active,
but bruised wings mean that it can't fly well enough
for release yet. Hopefully it will be fit to go
before hibernation time.
it was sunny, and that in itself is worthy of note
after a dismal week of heavy rain. Then 10 whooper
swans arrived. They circled the quarry pond several
times, honking and whooping, and gliding down.
Then they landed. They are among the first whooper
swans to be seen in this area this autumn. We felt
privileged that they chose to visit us here.
30th September 2011
I am ashamed to
have to report this incident. Not that I have done
anything wrong, and neither has anyone else at
Hessilhead. But someone (another human being) left a
snare set. The snare was frayed, so it was no longer
a free running snare. When the snared animal
struggled, the snare got tighter and tighter. The
snared animal was an otter. It struggled so much
that it broke the snare, and could escape from where
it was trapped. But it couldn't escape from the wire
around its body. The wire cut deep into the flesh,
flies laid eggs and maggots 10mm long were found in
the wound. The otter was found alive, but it died
the following day at Hessilhead. The pm examination
showed that it died from internal bleeding. The
bleeding came from ulcers in the stomach, ulcers
that were caused by stress. The stress was caused by
the horrific wound that encircled the neck and
shoulder. This otter suffered the most painful,
tortured death. I cannot begin to understand how any
person, anywhere, ever, could inflict such
26th September 2011
31 hedgehogs were delivered from
the Uists today. This includes a mum with 5 babies,
and a few autumn juveniles that may be in care for
the winter. Others are hogs weighing over 600gm, so
they will all be ready for release soon.
23 September 2011
It is a bit late in the year for
baby hedgehogs, but we have 2 mums with babies in
the hospital. It doesn't look very comfortable
having spiky siblings!
All the gannets are released now,
and most of the fox cubs too. This evening we took
out quite a few hedgehogs. The hand reared ones have
done very well. The 8 released this evening were all
The otter cub is feeding very
well, and has moved to outdoor accommodation. It can
be upsetting for young animals when they move from a
cage where they feel at home to somewhere much
bigger and strange. To make the move less stressful
for the cub, his favourite cosy fleece went too.
19th September 2011
gannets have been
found during the last few days, 3 of
them in Kilmacolm! Guillemots are coming in too, and
like of those of the last few years, they are
Several tawny owl casualties have
come in recently. One was found with fishing line
tangled around its wing, and the bird was hanging
from a tree. Although there was muscle damage, the
bird has recovered in is ready for release. A rta
owl came from Muirshiel Country Park. It was pretty
unlucky to get hit by a car there. It will also be
released soon. Tawny owl number 3 came from
Castle Douglas. It was found on the
road late at night, and brought to Hessilhead the
following morning. At first there seemed to be no
injuries, but a close examination revealed that both
lower mandibles were fractured just behind the
sheath. It was really disappointing to discover
this. The bird was taken to our bird vet the
following day, and we were delighted to have it back
a few days later, with a good chance of it making a
full recovery and returning to the wild.
A barn owl found hanging in a
fence by its neck has also recovered well. It didn't
look hopeful when it was found.
15th September 2011
The tail end of
Katia has kept us busy over the last few days. It
soon became apparent that gannets were having a
tough time, with birds exhausted on beaches, and
others blown inland and found in gardens. It was
surprising that both adult and juvenile birds were
in trouble. People familiar with dazzling white
adult birds are sometimes puzzled by the dark grey,
white flecked youngsters.
It was a surprise when a bird was
delivered from Kilmarnock, to find that it was a
manx shearwater. These birds never venture from the
sea. It was released yesterday from Saltcoats pier.
Yesterday an otter cub was
brought to us from Morven. The youngster was spotted
crossing a road, very slowly, clearly unwell. The
people who found the cub took it to the local
wildlife man, Matt Wilson, and Matt gave us a call,
asking if we could take it. He said the cub was cold
and weak, but fortunately the people who found the
cub were travelling to Glasgow. By the time the cub
arrived at Hessilhead, it was warm and cosy, but
dehydrated. It took lifeaid from a baby's bottle,
and later in the evening ate a little fish. I was
surprised, when I looked into its cage this morning,
to see that the otter had eaten all the fish we'd
left with it overnight. It has now become quite
narky....that is what we like to see in our
youngsters. We are quite sure that this cub had been
without its mum for a few days. No doubt she met
with an accident.
Jackie, one of the Glasgow
Countryside rangers, helped us out today by rescuing
a swan from Maxwell Park. The swan has been bullied
for the past few days. It was kept off the water by
a strong male swan, and we wondered why it hadn't
flown away. When I examined the swan the reason was
clear. This is a late moulting swan. Its flight
feathers are only half grown, so for the time being
it is flightless. It will stay at Hessilhead to
complete the moult.
There have been a lot of releases
this week. An adult rta fox went back home to
Glasgow, and 2 of our groups of hand reared cubs are
now living free. More of the young gulls were
released at Troon harbour, a hand reared leveret
went off at high speed, a tawny owl was returned to
Ayr, 4 bats were released where they had been found
in trouble recently, and some hand reared bats were
released from our bat tunnel. 5 of our hand reared
roe fawns were moved to the big woodland enclosure
where they will spend the winter. As usual, most of
the fawns were reluctant to enter the carrying box,
but once the box was opened in the enclosure, they
left quietly, taking time to observe their new
surroundings. Only when all the fawns were in the
wood did they begin racing around, chasing each
other, jumping , stopping, starting and suddenly
changing direction. Already they have learnt where
they food is placed twice a day, and I see them
watching through the vegetation, ready to move in
when I leave. Of course squirrels and rabbits have
discovered this new source of food too! We kept one
of the fawns back for a week or two. She had
infected joints when she came here, and for a while
she felt so poorly that she didn't eat well. I think
that another couple of weeks on milk will help her,
but I am delighted with the progress she has made
since her treatment. I look forward to moving her to
the wood too.
This morning a barn owl was
brought to the centre. It had been found trapped in
a fence, hanging by its head. It obviously has a
very sore neck, but now it has been given pain
killers and anti-inflammatory treatment. She is
unlikely to feed herself tonight, so we've given her
a small feed by hand. Apparently this owl was lucky
to be found. She was trapped in area where few
Later today Kirsten collected a
common seal pup from Ballantrae. It is a skinny
little thing, with a badly injured hind flipper. It
will need a lot of tlc before it is ready to return
to the wild.
Yesterday Andy and I
returned from S Uist with 22 hedgehogs. About half
of them are ready to go, though some of the females
have pieces of velcro glued to their backs. these
hold radio transmitters in place, but before the
hogs can be released, this velcro must be removed.
Some unco-operative hogs have to be sedated while
this is done. it is quite a tricky job, as the glue
is close to the animal's skin. The remainder are
younger hogs that need to put on some weight before
hibernation. We already have about 30 hand reared
hogs in care, so it is busy in the hedgehog hospital
20th August 2011
There were lots of
disappointments this week. We went to Culzean to
collect a seal pup but it had died when we arrived.
A very poorly old badger was brought in the next
day; it was put to sleep. Two sparrowhawks came with
badly broken wings, and today a peregrine, found on
a road, had the worst wing fractures we've ever
seen. A roe deer made no progress, and was also put
to sleep. Of course, we shouldn't look at these as
failures. Each of these casualties was treated with
care and sympathy. Being able to end their suffering
and fear with a single injection was a blessing that
they may never had had, if people hadn't stopped to
help them. And I believe that we helped them too;
they were treated with dignity and respect.
Looking around the centre this
evening, I realized it is far from doom and gloom.
There are young mallards everywhere I look, waddling
around, dabbling in puddles, gobbling up worms,
enjoying the sun. They were all reared at Hessilhead
this year. There are magpies and jackdaws, robins
and blackbirds foraging on the lawn, and a hand
reared great tit still flies into the hospital,
helps itself to mealworms, and flies out again. We
have hand reared bats in the bat tunnel, and tonight
one of them was seen flying length of the tunnel,
before swooping quickly into a bat box. It is great
to see youngsters showing natural behaviour. We have
a tawny owl ready for release. it was found trapped
amongst timber as a lorry was being unloaded at a
coal mine in East Ayrshire. We don't know where the
owl came from, but tomorrow, as Andy and I head
north for a trip to the Uists, we will release it
close to conifer woodland. Another owl moved from
the hospital today; it needs a bit of flying
practice before being returned to Ayr. Two
sparrowhawks, both window casualties, are making
good progress, and two oystercatchers are devouring
worms as fast as we can dig for them. A kestrel is
now using the foot that was broken, and the little
red squirrel is looking quite grown up. She will be
returning to Dunoon in a couple of weeks. Wood
pigeons and collared doves, hedgehogs, swallows and
house martins, young gulls, swans and field voles
are among other patients that are thriving. Thanks
to the people who found them, who gave up some time
to stop and help, often changing plans to bring
these casualties to Hessilhead, these birds and
animals will have a secong chance of enjoying life
in the wild.
4th August 2011
The first batch of young
gulls was released today. It was
quite blustery at Troon harbour, but once the gulls
had found the nerve to fly, they were soon enjoying
themselves and showing off. The release was one of
the highlights of Gina's work experience at
Hessilhead, and she enjoyed seeing the seals in the
19th July 2011
It has been another week of
releases. The highlight was releasing the eider
ducks today. Remember, most of these ducks arrived
here as eggs. We hatched them, reared them, enjoyed
watching them grow, and today we took them down to
the coast. The ducks waddled into the water,
bathed and dived and splashed, then came out to
preen. For some reason, they then split into two
groups. One group swam out of the little harbour at
Portencross, and headed north along the coast. The
other group seemed reluctant to follow, but with a
little encouragement they crossed a narrow spit of
land, took to the water and were last seen heading
for Arran. Rearing the eiders was an interesting
project, and we learnt lots about them. Most of all
we loved their conversation. They communicated all
the time with eider whoops and head bobs.
Rearing the eiders
was expensive. We spent approximately £600 on
seafood, £200 on medication to prevent a fungal
infection of the lungs, they guzzled their way
through 10 bags of chick crumbs, not to mention the
electricity to hatch them and keep small ducklings
14th July 2011
On Monday Andy and I took two
badgers to be released near Dumfries. The one from
north of Dumfries was rescued from a snare at the
end of May. He was cut, but not too badly, and made
a full recovery. We had to wait for the area to be
checked for snares before we felt it safe to release
him. The man who found this badger took us to the
location, and as we carried the transport box across
the field, there was no doubt that badger recognized
home. He was scratching desperately to get out of
the box, and when the door was opened he hurried
away along a badger path. We watched him snuffling
among the vegetation.
Badger number 2 came from Colvend.
He was lifted off the road late at night, and
arrived at Hessilhead in the middle of our Open Day.
Fortunately for badger, our vet was on hand. He was
part of the musical entertainment. The badger was
fairly battered and bruised, but made steady
progress. Again we met the people who rescued him,
and they were delighted to see him leap from the
box, and race across the field to nearby scrub.
We stayed in the Colvend area for
three lovely sunny days. It is well worth a visit.
9th July 2011
There has been quite a change at
Hessilhead in the past 3 weeks. Many of the hand
reared garden birds have been released, and most of
the mallard ducklings are now living at the quarry
pond. The greylag gosling roams free, often
returning to the centre, and the Canada goslings are
also at the quarry pond. Our eider ducklings have
moved to a bigger enclosure with a larger pond. They
love it, spending hours paddling water and
splashing. They look smart with adult feathers now
replacing their baby down. We hope to release most
of them next week.
On Thursday we released a roe
buck that came into care just before our Open Day.
He has an old fracture to a leg, but his main
problem was a huge abcess on his side. He had the
abcess drained, 2 weeks of antibiotics and bunches
of tasty leaves to eat every day. We returned him to
Lochgoilhead, and he looked good when he went off at
high speed. We still have a year old buck in care
that will hopefully be released in a few days.
The young deer are all paired up
now, and living in sheds with outdoor runs. One
small fawn that came into care while Andy and I were
enjoying a break on Coll, was very difficult
to feed. A German volunteer, Anna, was in charge of
the deer during our absence, and I guess this
youngster caused Anna many sleepless nights. She
persevered, and now the fawn is thriving, though it
will only drink from one soft teat. We take great
care of that teat!
We have 1 young kestrel in care,
and 2 rta buzzards were brought to Hessilhead during
the week. They seem set to make full recoveries.
This week we also admitted the first barn owl chick
of the year. As you can see from the photo, it is
much too young to be out of the nest. He appears to
be made of cotton wool!
The young gull season was
a bit late this year, but we now have approx 40 in
care. Most of these are from Greenock, Kilmarnock
and Ayr. The chicks have fallen from nests on the
roofs of buildings, and landed in busy places where
it would be difficult for parents to feed them
regularly. Gull chicks in gardens or on quite roads
are usually ok to be left.
It was pleasure to release a
leveret yesterday. We took her a couple of miles
from Hessilhead, to an area of pasture adjoining
newly planted woodland. So there was a variety of
grass and other plants for food, and lots of shelter
too. Of course she looked much smaller in the field
than she did in a cage, but she hopped away
confidently. It was certainly time for her to be
Two hand reared weasels
are now living in an outdoor enclosure. We enjoyed
making them a habitat, with hollow logs. hidey holes
and branches to climb. They enjoy exploring, but
now, when we are nearby, they hide. That means they
will soon be ready to go.
The hospital is busy with young
hedgehogs. Some are weaned now, others are taking
milk from a dish, but the youngest one, that arrived
when just 1 day old, is quite demanding. At first he
was being fed every 2 hours, with 2 feeds during the
night. Now he has grown a bit and is eating well,
and feeds can be 4 hours apart. That was quite a
relief, till the baby bats came. One of them is no
bigger than my thumb nail, the other a size larger.
They feed well on milk from a paintbrush, but they
do like to be topped up every 2 hours or so.
This morning we had a sad rescue,
following a call from Lochwinnoch reporting a bird
trapped in netting around a tv aerial. Fire & Rescue
came to help, and they soon had the jackdaw cut
free. Sadly both legs were badly broken, telling us
just how much this bird had been struggling to get
free. So please, if you do fell the need to stop
birds perching on aerials or chimney pots, use
something that will not injure the birds.
16th June 2011
thanks to everyone who came to our Open Day. We were
lucky with the weather, and the day was a great
A variety of casualties
have come to Hessilhead this week, and lots of hand
reared birds have been released. Most
young birds become independent quite soon after
release, and they stay well away from people. Great
tits are always more inquisitive. They join us at
coffee time at the picnic table, constantly
demanding food. Strangely, when we bring out food,
one mouthful seems to satisfy each bird. So they are
not really hungry. They beg through habit. This
year, one particular great tit, seemed determined to
get to know Andy better.
A swan was brought from Castle
Semple Loch, a treble hook wedged in the corner of
its beak. It didn't take long to remove the hook,
under local anaesthetic, and give antibiotics. A
much happier swan was returned to the loch.
Today a swan was rescued from
Irvine harbour. it had a hook in its neck.
Our eider ducklings are enjoying
their new enclosure, that has been converted into a
mini rocky beach.
and finally for today. I thought
you might like to guess the identity of our latest
11th June 2011
It has been
another busy week at Hessilhead,
with 12 or more new patients
arriving every day. It was good that the weather
improved. That allowed us to move birds from the
hospital, and release two families of great tits.
Today we've had lots of extra help, and we are all
set for the Open Day tomorrow. We took time out to
watch this cygnet, riding on mum's back and learning
how to be a swan.
4th June 2011
We have had 123 new patients
since I updated the diary a week ago. Given that
many of the ones in care were young birds demanding
feeds every half hour or so, and many of the new
intake are the same, you can imagine that we have
had a hectic week. The good thing about rearing
young birds is that they grow up quickly. Some of
the crows and magpies are in outdoor flights now.
They are still hand fed, but less often, and they
are beginning to pick up food for themselves. We
have released ducklings, blackbirds and dunnocks,
and robins and house sparrows are living in aviaries
now, preparing for life in the wild. The goslings
have moved to a grassy enclosure, and almost doubled
The blue tits and great tits in
the hospital are looking good; the coal tits are not
so keen to feed themselves, but we will order mini
mealworms on Monday. They may find them easier to
We have 3 baby roe deer in the
hospital. Two of them came from Carluke, one picked
up in the morning beside a road, the other later in
the day, also beside a road. We assume they are
siblings, and that something must have happened to
their mum. The other deer came from Inverness. On
Monday we rescued a year old deer from beside the
A737 at Linwood. She was very badly concussed, and
took only fluids for two days. Last night she was
released, fully recovered We have also released
hedgehogs and gannets.
Karen, our Greenock volunteer,
likes dramatic rescues. Yesterday she commandeered a
boat, and was out on the Clyde rescuing a family of
swans. The male swan was tangled in fishing line,
and as he dragged the line behind him, the cygnets
became tangled too. When we got the call about this
problem, one cygnet had already drowned. Karen was
time to rescue the others.
Today one of our volunteers,
Kirsty, had the pleasure of releasing a kingfisher.
The bird came into care yesterday, after being found
on the ground, stunned. She was very quiet
yesterday, but we managed to feed her tiny strips of
fish. Today she much more lively, and we let her fly
in an aviary, to check that she could fly and
co-ordinate well. Kirsty reported that the
kingfisher was chased by a magpie soon after being
released. The kingfisher landed on the canal, but
managed to take off from the water and escape
capture. I hope that by now she is back feeding her
21 of our eider eggs have hatched
now, so with the 10 eider ducklings that we rescued
during the storm, we have quite flock. The ducklings
go outside on dry days, but return to their brooders
at night. We are rearing them on chick crumbs, but
every day they have a dish of prawns or mussels.
That causes quite a lot of excitement!
29th May 2011
Preparations are well underway
for our Open Day on June 12th. We would welcome any
donations of bric a brac, books, plants, bottles,
children's prizes, and nearer the time, cakes, home
made sweets and jams. Any help with preparations
would also be appreciated. Give us a call or drop in
and ask for a job! Please feel free to download our
poster and put up in vets, libraries, community
centres and pet shops.
28th May 2011
This was the day we have been
looking forward to since 2nd January. That was the
day we rescued the fox from the snare, and you will
remember that he was very badly injured. This
evening he was released, fit and healthy. He was a
good patient throughout his long period of recovery,
and showed his delight at being free with a 'spring
lamb leap' in the air, before running along a path
to a woodland.
Bad news though for the badger
that was admitted to the hospital today. He was
found in a snare near Lockerbie. I don't suppose he
is very impressed with all these new rules and
regulations that are going to make the use of snares
humane!!! The last Scottish Parliament let him down
Even busier. More eider eggs have
hatched, and we have the first gull chick in too. We
have a baby weasel, some rabbits and the 1st 2 roe
fawns of the year. Good news in the young bird
department. Many of the starlings are self feeding
now, also the great tits, robins and even some of
the crows and rooks are beginning to play with the
food in their dishes. We have an adult weasel ready
for release, also a sparrowhawk. The oldest tawny
chicks have moved to an aviary, and all the fox cubs
are outside now, living in family sized groups. The
weather is causing problems. Our lawn is like a wet
sponge, and we can't put the ducklings out in their
day runs. Hopefully there will be a change
26th May 2011
Well you should see the hospital
now!. The storms of Monday and Tuesday have filled
the hospital to capacity. We admitted 34 casualties
on Monday, including lots of nestling crows and
magpies blown out of trees in their nests. We also
rescued 10 eider ducklings that were being blown
along Saltcoats seafront. They were tumbling head
over heels past the band stand. A couple of late
tawny chicks got into trouble, and another clutch of
mallard ducklings. Some tit boxes were blown down,
so the hand feeding round in the hospital is an all
day affair now, starting at 7.30am and often going
on till 11pm. Our phone line was down for 3 days,
but even on a hectic day at Hessilhead, there is
always something to make us smile. We liked this
crow that came with an internet connection built
into its nest.
and I came back from the Uists on Friday, just
in time to miss seeing or being able to help with
the pilot whales that seemed to be in danger of
stranding. Today it seems they are out of danger. We
brought back 9 hedgehogs, and the hospital is busier
than when we left, with nests full of great tits and
coal tits as well more starlings and ducklings.
A couple of weeks ago
we were asked if we would incubate some eider eggs.
This seems to be carrying wildlife rehab a tad too
far, but the nests had to be moved in order to
complete a new security fence at Faslane MOD base.
We agreed to help,
a license was granted, we
borrowed an incubator and the eggs were transported
to Hessilhead in insulated boxes. To our delight 5
eggs have hatched so far, and more are beginning to chip.
The fluffy ducklings have been moved to brooders,
and we borrowed a couple of mallard ducklings that
were already feeding well, to teach the little
eiders how to feed. So all is going well so far, and
we are hoping that the remaining 25 eggs will hatch.
8th May 2011
best thing that happened this week was getting
another badger cub as company for our Minnie Badger.
The little male badger is smaller, and 2 or 3 weeks
younger than Minnie, and was hand reared at
Middlebank SSPCA centre. We put the new cub's
carrying box in Minnie's run, and opened the door.
Minnie went to investigate straight away, no longer
interested in me. She was so excited to see another
badger that she started jumping up and down, and
then leaping from side to side, inviting the new cub
to play. It wasn't long before the two of them were
tumbling and rolling over. It was such a delight to
see them playing together. There is no more fadiness
with food with now. Having some competition has made
cubs gobble up everything that is offered.
We had one more fox
cub this week, lots more mallard ducklings and a
single oystercatcher chick that fell off a roof. We
had a young pine marten, found at Mugdock Country
Park. It was very weak, starving, dehydrated, and
probably blind. It survived for just over 24 hours.
Two young barn owls
were moved to a release site at Symington in S
Lanarkshire. They have spacious accommodation in the
loft of an old barn, and we put a nest box on the
rafters, hoping they will stay to breed.
The 7 young roe deer
that we over-wintered were released this week. I am
sure they are enjoying the lush spring vegetation.
We have caught glimpses of them, but they have
disappeared fast among shrubs and bushes.
Encouraging natural behaviour.
The holiday weekend
hasn't been as busy as we'd have expected with such
good weather. Saturday brought the first gosling of
the year, a greylag found on its own in Kilmacolm.
This little fellow was very restless till a single
mallard duckling arrived later in the day. On Sunday
6 more day old mallards were brought in for rearing.
The gosling seems content with his alternative
family, and the mallards seem to think he might be
Blackbirds are far
outnumbering any other young birds. Their breeding
season must have got off to an early start. We have
a nestling magpie, and several dunnocks.
Two more pigeon
chicks were admitted after being removed from their
nest on top of a water tank in a loft!
On Saturday a
nestling tawny owl was found beneath a tree at
Loudonhill. Although the people who found the owl
could see the nest it was much too high to reach. We
wondered if the owlet should come into care. It
sounded small, and the people said that when they
found the chick, it was lying down. That made it
sound young, too young to be out of the nest. The
decision was right. This young owl is barely 3 weeks
old, and had no chance of surviving on the ground.
Another fox cub came
into care on Saturday. It had been found on the
road, presumably having been clipped by a car. It
has head injuries, and we are worried about its
vision. The next pic shows last week's fox cub that
has a fractured palate. This is the 'before' pic,
and in a week or two I hope you will see the
'look at me know' photo. The cub is now lapping
sloppy food and shredding the newspapers in its
We are also rearing 3
field voles, that were found after their mother was
killed by a dog.
This, sadly, is the
season when we take lots of calls reporting deer
injured in road traffic accidents. We respond to as
many calls as possible, but cannot always go out in
the middle of the night, or travel for more than an
hour to reach a deer. We need some sleep so we can
work following day.
29th April 2011
There has been a variety of new
arrivals in the past few days. We rescued a duck and
12 ducklings from a cemetery in Kilmarnock. The
ducklings couldn't get over a wall, and then there
would have been a busy road to cross. We will keep
the family here for 2 or 3 weeks. By that time the
ducklings will have a better chance of surviving.
A swan was rescued from
Houstonhead Dam in Bridge of Weir. It is always the
same problem with swans there...fishing tackle. This
swan had swallowed a great length of line, but a
loop of it had got caught under the bird's chin.
This stopped it from swallowing the line completely,
and also from swallowing any food. There was also a
hook in the swan's foot. We removed the line and the
hook, gave antibiotics, and today the swan was
returned to the loch.
An injured fox cub was found in
the car park of a Glasgow Police Office. The cub was
very poorly, with a broken palate, infected eyes,
and suffering from dehydration. After 30 hours in
care it is much stronger, and enjoys its feeds of
liquid food, given with a syringe. It has a long way
to go to make a full recovery, but now it is getting
the best treatment.
7 Uist hedgehogs were delivered
this week. All were heavy hedgehogs, impatient to be
back in the wild. 5 have been released and the other
2 will be going out this weekend. We
released an otter and a buzzard this week, and the
first of this year's blackbirds are ready to go.
26th April 2011
We have 11 fox cubs in care now. Some of them
have been paired up and moved outside, pics below.
The 2 smallest cubs are together too. They snuggled
up as soon as they were introduced. It must seem
much more normal to have company.
Minnie Badger is living outside now, and
looking quite grown up.
The good weather has meant that
cats are out and about, so the hospital is filling
up with fledglings. We have several blackbird chicks
in care, two of them still naked. There are two
dunnocks, an adult blue tit and more nestling
The first young tawny of the year
arrived today. We expected the first owl to be a
nestling, but this is a fledgling that should have
been flying. It has an injured wing, that should
heal quite quickly. It is underweight, but has eaten
lots of food today.
17th April 2011
Yesterday was unusually quiet for a Saturday,
with only one patient admitted, a pigeon. Today was
quite the opposite, with patients arriving
throughout the day. The first call came before 8
this morning, asking for help to rescue an eagle
owl, that was trapped on the roof of a house in Kilmacolm. The eagle owl was wearing jesses, and
these leather straps had become tangled around the
TV aerial. Of course this was not a wild bird; we
knew that it must be an escaped pet, but
nevertheless it needed help, quickly. Fire and
Rescue agreed to attend, and when Andy left the
house I assumed he'd be on the ground, with the
firemen on the roof. When Andy returned with the
eagle owl, he was pleased with himself, telling us
that he'd been up to the chimney to get the bird. I
didn't ask for any more details! We were able
to track down the owner of the bird, that had
apparently been on the run for 6 weeks. It was
collected late this afternoon.
Late this morning
a red squirrel was brought from Arran. She is 5-6
weeks old, her eyes are open but she looks very
babyish. She has been feeding well from a bottle,
and will probably start nibbling nuts and fruit
A jackdaw was brought in from
Kilwinning, but after laying an egg it seemed fine.
We think the bird must have been egg bound. It
had a rest, a drink and some food, and was then
released. Hopefully it is now back at the nest with
Other patients of the day
included a young blackbird, a collared dove, 2
pigeons, and 2 grey squirrels. We released a field
vole that was in care for a few days.
The youngest fox cub is opening
her eyes today
and we have a tree nesting mallard at the centre
Quite a lot has happened in the
last two days. On Wednesday evening there was a call
to rescue a swan from Irvine. It had flown into a
wall at the Rivergate centre, which spans the river.
The swan isn't badly injured, has now recovered from
shock and concussion, and should be released in the
next few days. A young grey squirrel was delivered
the same evening. It has its eyes open, and started
to eat bread and milk today. Like most young
squirrels, its table manners are far from perfect,
and it sucks the milk up noisily, and almost does
hand stands in the bowl. Then one of our supporters
delivered a pigeon that had been left injured when a
sparrowhawk was disturbed. It had a nasty tear in
its neck that needed stitching.
Yesterday Andy and I went to
Symington, S Lanarkshire, to check out a new barn
owl release site. It is excellent. A fox was brought
in from the SSPCA. This cub is much bigger than any
we have in care. It has settled well in an outdoor
enclosure. Late in the evening we released the
badger that had been injured on the road near Irvine
a few weeks ago. It was lovely to see it trot away
down the field, following a familiar badger track.
More hedgehogs have been released
in the past 2 days. Still 12 to go. Today the first
clutch of ducklings came into care. They were found
at the Roads Depot in Greenock. We get ducklings
from this yard every year. The female mallard finds
a secluded place to nest, but can't find a way out
for the ducklings when they hatch. The 12 fluffy
brown and yellow day old youngsters are snuggled
under a heat lamp, and have already started eating.
Two swans and a field vole were also rescued in
13th April 2011
In the hospital it is beginning to look more like
spring. Fox cub no 2 came 6 days ago. Less than a
week old then, she was the shape of a sausage and
nearly all black. She took to the bottle straight
away, and has grown quite a lot. Her eyes are not
open yet, but she is mobile, crawling around her
Fox cub no 3 came from Sunderland
on Sunday. She was found alone and taken to a cat
rescue centre at South Shields. The lady there has a
lot of experience rearing kittens, and has done a
good job of rearing the cub. Now the cub needs
company, and soon she will be introduced to our cub
Fox cub No 4 was found in
Clydebank late on Tuesday evening. She was brought
here on Wednesday morning, and we suspected right
away that there was something seriously wrong. We
soon discovered that this cub couldn't see, and also
had a brain problem. This morning she had a fit, and
we know from experience that any cub that has one
fit goes on to have more, and at more frequent
intervals. The decision to put her to sleep
Minnie Badger has being growing a
lot. She had an upset tummy for a few days, but that
didn't stop her gaining weight. She enjoys a romp
around the hospital in the evenings, playing with a
variety of toys, but preferring to follow her 'mum'.
She eats some grown up foods now, mainly mince and
day old chicks, but the mince she will only eat from
my hand. She hasn't a clue about eating from a dish.
We hope it won't be long till she is eating all that
is offered. Then she will be able to move from the
hospital to more spacious accommodation.
We are bottle feeding a baby
rabbit and a leveret. Both doing well so far. We
also have 3 older rabbits. All of these were cat
victims. They are eating grass and rabbit food.
We have the first two casualties
of tree felling for the year. The 2 young wood
pigeons are being reared on a parrot rearing food.
They are doing well, but would have been better with
their parents. Please remember, it is too late now
to cut back dense bushes or fell trees. Many species
of birds already have young in their nests.
5th April 2011
The first of this year's fox cubs came today. The
little dog fox was found at Glasgow Green, wandering
alone on a wet morning, whimpering. It was taken
into care by George Parsonage, (Glasgow Humane
Society) who made the cub comfortable in a heated
box, and called Hessilhead for help. The cub has his
eyes open, so is probably just over 2 weeks old. He
has a long, dark ,shaggy coat, isn't thin, but seems
to be a bit on the small side. I gave him 2 feeds of
lifeaid this afternoon and evening, and later I
offered him a small helping of tinned cat food. He
may be small, but he knew what to do with that! Now
he is settled in his heated cage, sound asleep.
31st March 2011
Ok, so it was me that mentioned orphan birds. Now
the first 2 blackbird chicks are in care, and what a
job we had to get one of them out from behind a
cooker in a kitchen in Kilmarnock. The chicks
hatched in a small garden, occupied by a small dog,
and seem to have had an eventful couple of days.
Finally one of the chicks was caught by the dog, and
retrieved by the dog's owner. The other chick flew
in through the open back door, through the dining
room, and into a cupboard. That gave access to the
back of the dishwasher, and then the cooker. With
the aid of a torch and feather duster, with Andy
folded into a unlikely position in the cupboard, and
the householder lying on his back across the
kitchen, with an arm under the cooker, blocking
access to the back of more cupboards, the chick was
brought out to safety. The people in the house were
very concerned about this bird, and would have
removed any of the fittings to save its life. So now
we are into the season of regular half hour feeds. I
am also feeding a young rabbit, that was caught by a
dog and had badly torn skin. The skin has been
stitched, and the rabbit is taking milk from a
bottle. Not out of the woods yet though.
29th March 2011
Well, you should see Minnie
Badger now. When we came back from a few days away
last week, I couldn't believe how much the cub had
grown. Foster mum Toni had done a good job. The
cub's coat was longer, her ears were tufty, and she
had black hair on her tummy. Today we moved the cub
into a large hospital cage. There is a cardboard
sleeping box, lined with fleece bedding, and with a
doorway cut in the side. It took Minnie no time at
all to find the doorway, and after every feed or
playtime, she totters back into the box to sleep.
I'm always amazed at the competence of baby
Minnie weighs more than 1300gm
now. Her eyes are wide open, she is much more
active, and is beginning to eat solid food. Before
every bottle feed I give her a small nugget of
mince. She really likes this, though she is not yet
able to eat from a bowl. She is too wobbly on her
legs to keep still.
We had expected to have more
babies in care by now, but so far we haven't had
calls about fox cubs or orphan birds. We have had a
variety of patients, including a jackdaw with an eye
infection, a weak buzzard that was found tangled on
a fence, and a magpie that must have been involved
in collision. The magpie will be released in a
couple of days.
Yesterday we collected an injured
badger from Forth in S Lanarkshire. We got the call
late the night before, when we were reluctant to
travel for more than an hour to collect the patient.
The badger was in an almost completely enclosed yard
behind a house. Andy gave the householders
directions for guiding the badger into a
wheelie bin (what, a wheelie bin!. Well wheelie bins
happen to make safe, secure containers for injured
badgers. If bedding is added, the badger will be
comfortable there for a few hours). The badger has
territorial bites around its rump, but it isn't an
old badger, which is usually the case with these
injuries. It is being treated with antibiotics, and
we'll continue to assess its progress and chances of
20th March 2011
that many of you are keen to
have a progress report on the little badger, because
some of you have been asking. Here are some more
photos. You can see that she has grown a lot, and
her coat is just like that of an older badger. She
has more than doubled her weight since she came
has still taken up much of my time, and this
afternoon another little orphan arrived. The new
arrival is a leveret, less than a week old, and
found sheltering beneath a plank of wood close to
stables. This evening I gave her a drink of
rehydration fluid. She took some, without much
enthusiasm. Hopefully she will be more interested in
milk in the morning.
I thought you’d like to see some
photos of the little badger cub. After 2 days of
reluctant feeding, she started to take the bottle
well, and has steadily gained weight. She has grown
more hair, and over this weekend her eyes opened.
She looks an exact replica of an adult badger, hence
her name, Mini-badger. She is quite active now, but
I think she will be getting bottle feeds for a while
yet. She waddles around her cage and tunnels beneath
the bedding, but is very unco-ordinated. She weighed
455gm when she came here. Two days ago she weighed
11th March 2011
Last weekend we rescued a pair of
swans from Old Kilpatrick. Both were fairly heavily
oiled, though there was no sign of oil pollution
where they were found. We are grateful to staff at
the SSPCA Wildlife Centre in Fife for cleaning these
swans. They have much better facilities there for
washing birds than we have at Hessilhead. Today the
swans came back gleaming, ready for release.
We also collected the peregrine
from the vet. The young bird was found injured a
couple of weeks ago. He had a wing injury, and his
elbow kept dislocating. This is usually a difficult
injury to fix, but Alastair has used external
fixators to keep the joint intact. The bird has to
go back in 2 weeks. There is no guarantee that the
bird will make a full recovery, but at least it is
in with a chance.
3rd March 2011
Late on Sunday evening we had a call about an injured badger. It had been hit by a car, and presumably left for dead on the road between Irvine and Gailes. Another motorist stopped, pulled the badger off the road, and called his sister, asking her to get help. The sister and mother went to the scene, and covered the badger with a blanket. They said it looked very badly injured, and we set off straight away. When we arrived the blanket was still at the roadside. The badger had done a runner, down a gully, under a hedge, and was somewhere in an acre of waste ground that was mostly hawthorn, bramble and other impenetrable vegetation. The lady was searching with the torch of a mobile phone, and we weren’t much better equipped, having only Andy’s head torch. At last Andy spotted the badger, but he couldn’t get to it quickly, and it disappeared again. Strangely, just a few minutes later, it crawled right up to him. Getting the carrying box through the hedge was the next problem, but after some struggling, torn trousers and scratched hands, the badger was safely in the box, and the box was manoeuvred through the hedge.
The badger had been hit on the head. There was a wound and he was unconscious when we brought him back to the centre. He has had a few broken teeth removed, and is much more alert now. He has been feeding himself for the past 2 nights. Prognosis hopeful.
The following evening we collected the youngest badger cub we have ever had at Hessilhead. She is about two weeks old, grey where adult badgers are black, except for the insides her ears that are inky black. She has the cutest little nose that looks like a plastic afterthought. The cub was dropped at her owner's feet by a terrier, the family pet that lives on the farm. We don’t know if the badger cub was out of the sett, or whether the terrier ventured down the hole, a thing it had never done before. We will never know.
The cub is living in a cage with overhead heat. For 2 days she took just small milk feeds, but today she has found her appetite, and is feeding with more enthusiasm. She is quite noisy and quite active, though it will be 2 to 3 weeks before she opens her eyes. I didn’t expect to be doing early morning and late night feeds so early in the year! I never thought we’d we have a badger cub so small.
15th February 2011
A buzzard was released at Montgreenan today. As soon as we opened the box the bird began calling, and its mate replied from nearby trees. They circled together over their territory.
Another buzzard that came in at the weekend has been on fluids and small hand feeds for 3 days. Today it began to feed itself and is looking much stronger. A male sparrowhawk was brought in this evening. It has a long skin tear down one side; it could have been done on barbed wire. This will be a difficult wound to stitch, and may restrict leg movement. The bird will go to the vet tomorrow.
13th February 2011
We had an early start on Saturday morning when someone called to say he’d found an injured badger on the road and he had already put it into the boot of his car! Andy met the rescuer at a Burger King car park. By this time the concussed badger was coming round, and I understand it took a little exercise in the (fortunately deserted) car park before being safely shut in a carrying box! Although one leg is badly cut, an x-ray showed no broken bones. The skin tear was stapled, and now badger seems to be feeling better. He is eating everything we give him.
Yesterday we went to the pond at Ardeer after several calls reported swans fighting. We knew that the male of the resident pair had died 3 weeks ago, leaving a female and 9 well grown cygnets. The callers told us that a new pair of swans had arrived, and they were constantly chasing the female. When we arrived the situation was even worse. Two pairs of swans were fighting over the territory, and between fighting with each other, both pairs attacked the female and her cygnets. We caught the bereaved female first, then watched to see what happened. One pair of swans was obviously stronger than the other pair. The weaker pair kept leaving the water. So we got hold of them too, and also a cygnet that was having a hard time. All will be released at Irvine harbour. No doubt the new resident pair of swans will chase away all the cygnets. They would have been chased by their parents soon, its all part of cygnet growing up. Unless we hear that any are in real danger, we’ll leave them to fly away on their own.
12th February 2011
This week we had a call out for another snared fox. David and Colin went to the location, and found one fox snared, very much alive, and obviously terrified. It was released from the snare and set free. Sadly they found another fox that must have suffered an appalling death. It was snared around its neck, had jumped the fence to which the snare was attached, and strangled. Hopefully it didn’t suffer for too long. This incident is now being investigated by the wildlife crime police.
I know the pics are awful, but people need to see this suffering and then take action. If you haven’t already written to your MSPs regarding snaring, please do so now. Go to www.Onekind.org and you can e-mail a letter, with your own comments added, with just a few clicks. It couldn’t be easier.
Good news for a fulmar that had been in care for a few weeks. Today it was released from Largs, looking fit and healthy. A buzzard is ready for release this weekend too.
30th January 2011
Swans, swans and more swans. We have rescued swans every day since the last update. They have come in with many different problems, including lead poisoning, crash landings, back and leg injuries, general debility and weakness. This morning David waded out to the island in Alexandra Park Pond, to rescue a swan that was tangled in fishing line, and firmly attached to a bush. The swan would not have freed itself, but fortunately we heard about it before any damage was done. The underweight, lethargic swans are more of a worry, and some have not responded to treatment. It is possible that they are now suffering from the prolonged period of low temperatures, and the effects of stress resulting from large numbers of swans being confined to small areas of open water. We have had many reports of dead swans in Ayrshire, Glasgow and Renfrewshire.
Owls. A tawny owl found on a road one morning was not a road traffic victim, as you would expect, was suffering from a fungal mouth infection. This was advanced, the owl was unable to eat, and had lost lots of weight. We were able to get a tube down the owl’s crop, and so give medication and liquid food. The difference in the owl, 10 days after its rescue, is remarkable. Just a bit of infection remains, so treatment is continuing. The owl is now able to feed itself, and is quite lively. We are hopeful of a full recovery.
2 tawny owls were released recently, one near Muirkirk, the other one near Kilbirnie. Both had recovered from shoulder injuries.
2 barn owls are doing well. One is now in outdoor accommodation, the other has just started feeding itself, having taken a long time to recover from concussion. Barn owls have had a bad time this winter, with many dying of starvation. Hopefully these 2 owls will return to the wild and breed successfully. I was pleased to see a barn owl sunning itself on cliffs at the quarry last week. Good to know that our local owls survived the winter.
Buzzards. We have had mixed success with buzzards. One bird found on the road near Balfron had several fractures of both wings. There was no hope of it ever flying again. Another buzzard, found closer to home, is making good progress.
Bats. It has been an unusually busy winter for bats. Most of these casualties have been found inside buildings. This may be because lower temperatures have encouraged the bats to move further into buildings, and some have found themselves in living space. With warmer weather predicted this week, some of the bats should be released.
Snared fox. Still making good progress. Wound healing well. The fox is becoming a bit restless now, shreds his bedding, tearing his papers.
On the day we rescued the fox, the fox bit Andy. It didn’t seem too bad at first, but infection set in, and an X-ray revealed that the finger is broken. So Andy spent 2 days in hospital last week, having the bone scraped and getting intravenous antibiotics. He is on the mend now, but everyone can see he has a broken finger. The splint is enormous!
Hopefully Andy and I will heading to England later this week, for a rehabbers meeting at Secret World in Somerset. It is always good to meet with other people running wildlife rescue centres. There is always something new to learn, new ideas to try.
17th January 2011
The past 10 days have been busy at Hessilhead, with a variety of patients coming into care.
4 deer were rescued.
Deer 1 had fallen into a narrow gap between fences in a built up part of central Glasgow. It was concussed and bit bruised, but made a speedy recovery and has been released closer to Hessilhead.
Deer 2 A rta victim from Paisley had several leg fractures, and, sadly was not viable.
Deer 3 On Monday David and Charlotte rescued a deer from a school playground in Lenzie. This deer had probably been a rta too. It is still in care.
Deer 4 Andy and I rescued a deer that has been hanging around a built of area of Kilmarnock. We had received calls that the deer was limping earlier in the week, but it was mobile, and couldn’t be caught. On Saturday it went between 2 fences, and someone trapped it there till we arrived. This deer has a nasty gash on its front leg, and is now receiving treatment.
Tawny Owls Two tawny owls were probably looking for a nest site when they fell down a chimney in Stewarton and landed in a ground floor bedroom. They were rescued, rehydrated and have now been released.
David rescued a pipistrelle bat that was joining in the dancing class at Dalry Community Centre. The bat will be released when the weather is warmer.
A pied wagtail looked in bad way after hitting a window at the Royal Alexandra Hospital. I was surprised to see it standing the following morning, and later that day it was perching and eating. Now it is free.
Swans have been getting into more trouble, with several road rescues. A badly injured swan came from Richmond Park. It has a deep wound on its face, and was bleeding badly. This could be a dog bite, or a shot wound. The swan looks much better today. It has been swimming and preening, so looks much cleaner, and has been eating well.
Parliament On Thursday Andy and I attended a snaring briefing for MSPs at the Scottish Parliament. The 2 presentations should have convinced everyone there that snaring is downright cruel and causes unacceptable levels of suffering. As a result of the meeting a debate is to be held in Parliament next month, when campaigners for and against snares will be able to put their case to MSPs. Please keep sending letters to MSPs. Those at the meeting said that it really makes a difference. Letters to your MSPs can be sent via Onekind's website www.onekind.org.
Good news so far on the fox that we rescued from a snare on 2nd January. He visits the vet regularly. His wound has been cleaned and remains free of infection. The healing process is now underway, and daily treatment with manuka honey seems to be helping.
A barn owl was found in poor condition near Biggar, on Friday. This is a juvenile owl that probably had trouble finding enough food during the prolonged frosty weather. Barn owls all over Britain suffered badly.
Also on Friday, we were called into Glasgow to help a fox that was trapped in a basement yard. When we arrived at the address the fox was nowhere to be seen, but there were signs of digging at two ventilation shafts beneath the building. We have seen foxes using these shafts many times, and lots of foxes rear cubs under tenement buildings. The problem with the site we visited on Friday is that we don’t know if the fox has another way out from under the building. There was no way out at the back of the house, but it is quite likely that the fox can move some distance under the basements, and emerge from under a house along the street. Other basement yards had flights of steps up to the pavement, so a fox would not be trapped in these. We will monitor the situation.
Wellington and Gale, the two grey seal pups were released on Friday.
The waxwing was released on Sunday.
A fulmar is an unusual bird to find in your garden, though the garden was only a couple of miles from the coast. The fulmar isn’t feeding itself yet, and is being hand fed whitebait. It is underweight and has a sore wing, but we think it will make a good recovery.
5th January 2011
So far there is good news about the snared fox that we rescued on 2nd January. He had his second visit to the vet today. The wound has been cleaned and dead tissue removed, and the vet thinks there is a good chance of him making a full recovery. There will be several more trips to the vet and a fairly long recuperation, but he is eating well, taking his pain killers and seems to be coping with life in a fairly small cage to prevent him moving around too much. If anyone reading this hasn't seen the pics of him, please look at the 2nd January entry below. Then visit www.onekind.org.
Yesterday we collected the first orphan of the year. The little otter cub was found sheltering in the porch of a house in Kirkoswald, South Ayrshire. We are sure that something must have happened to her mother, though the cub is in good shape. She is eating well, is a wee bit aggressive, and of course is quite adorable. She will be staying in the hospital for a while, but likes to hide in a big cardboard box filled with cosy bedding. I don't think there is any chance of her becoming tame; she seems quite independent.
2nd January 2011
Today we were called out to rescue a fox from a snare. It was awful. The photos are shocking and upsetting, but look at them. Imagine the pain and the fear that the fox suffered, struggling to free itself. With every move the snare got tighter, the wire dug deeper. Then go to www.onekind.org and see how you can help the campaign to ban snares.
While Andy and I were out rescuing the fox, Paul rescued 2 swans in Irvine. Susan took a buzzard to release on her way home, I released a mallard on the quarry pond, and we finished the day releasing swans at Irvine Harbour.
1st January 2011
It was a good start to the year. This evening we took a young roe buck back to Woodford Loch woodland, near Coatbridge. The deer was hit by a car a few days ago, treated by a vet that night, and Andy brought it to Hessilhead the next day. Suffering only from cuts and bruises, the deer soon recovered. This morning it was bouncing around its shed. The deer was sedated for travelling, and given an antidote before release. In the pic you can see Andy steadying the deer, before it wandered off into the woods.
5 patients were admitted today, a buzzard, a rabbit and 3 pigeons. We responded to 2 calls concerning swans (though one turned into a white poly bag!), and gave advice about an injured fox with a damaged leg. We will attempt to trap the fox in a few days, when it has become accustomed to feeding in a garden every night.
Click here for Gay's Diary, 2010 Click here for Gay's Diary, 2012