For over 25 years Hessilhead has cared for Scotland's injured and orphaned wildlife, aiming to rescue, treat, rehabilitate and release birds and animals back to the wild

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12th August 2013


Today a young lesser black backed gull was rescued in Greenock. It had a hook in its throat and line dangling from its beak. The point of the hook was poking through the skin. We cut the barb from the hook, then gently eased the line and remaining hook up the neck. Job done, antibiotics given, and gull wants to get back in the wild.

On Saturday a new seal pup was delivered from Northumberland. He is heavier than the last pup, had a nasty abcess, but no other injuries. He is being hand fed sardines.

On Saturday our old badger Mr Crusty died in his sleep. Mr Crusty was rescued over two years ago, with territorial bites, no ears and worn out teeth. He was in a bad way, but people had been feeding him for years, and felt he was one of the family. He seemed to be a special badger. We gave him a retirement enclosure, and he spent most of his time wrapped in a duvet. It is sad that he has gone, but we feel he had a good twilight life.

DSC_8108_resampledStill a few nestling coming into care. There is a cheeky wee wren that it always hungry, and today a day old pigeon was brought in. More swifts ready to go now, and blackbirds, a wagtail and jackdaw.

July 30th 2013

DSC_7955_resampledAnother couple of busy days has brought in 27 new patients, but 54 gulls were released yesterday. That cuts down the work and the feeding costs quite a lot. New patients include a heron from Glasgow Green that had a treble hook down its throat. A trip to the vet was needed to remove the hook. There is a new tufted duckling and 2 more mallard ducklings, a bat and a rabbit, both caught by cats, and several small birds, some cat victims, some found at roadsides. Another fox cub was brought to the hospital this morning. It is also a road casualty, badly concussed. A well grown cygnet was brought in from Rouken Glen Park, it has a leg problem, and sadly, a young roe deer, found on the roundabout at Morrison’s, Stevenston, did not survive. Hedgehogs continue to be high on the list of admissions.

There is good news about Georgie, the common seal pup that came from Northumberland last week. He has learnt to feed himself, and is happily chomping his way through 3 or 4 sardines are every meal.

July 29th 2013


This weekend was busy with more than 50 new casualties brought into care. There were 4 adult hedgehogs and 7 babies. 4 of the babies were from the same litter, found cold and weak in a garden. The others came singly. Sometimes it is difficult to know what kind of accident has happened to adult hedgehogs. One has an infected wound on its back, another has an injury near its mouth, and there were a lot of fly eggs that we removed before they hatched. There was a poor old hedgehog with very bad teeth. Obviously it hadn’t been able to eat enough food.

There is a new roe deer fawn that was rescued from the canal, and a new fox cub rescued from Pollokshields. It has probably been hit by a car. Its hind legs don’t work very well, but there isn’t a fracture, just severe bruising.

Another young barn owl came today. It was found near Ballantrae, too young to be out of its nest. This is a female owl, and will be reared and released with the young male barn owl that we rescued on Saturday.

Other new patients include house martin chicks, fledgling starlings, a jackdaw,  a quail, lots more young gulls and various pigeons.

Today 6 swifts were released. They were in very good condition and keen to go. It was great to see them flying high and darting after insects.


July 28th 2013

It isn’t always good news at the wildlife rescue centre. Today a buzzard was delivered to us, and we were disappointed to see it had been shot. A pellet had punctured the buzzard’s crop, and some of its last meal was oozing out. We cleaned it up, stitched the wound, and hope that the pellet hasn’t gone right through the crop. The bird will need antibiotics, and we are hopeful of a full recovery.

July 27th 2013

DSC_7918_resampledThis afternoon we got a call to say that people had ushered a barn owl off the road, and it left it in bushes beside Lochend House.  The location wasn’t far from Hessilhead, so we set off straight away, and while I was knoocking on the door of the house, to explain what we were up to, Andy had the owl in a net. It is a youngster, still with some tufts of down, and may have fallen from a nearby tree. Barn owls don’t feed their young on the ground, and the owl is a little dehydrated. It has had fluids, and looks much better now. It will probably be ready for food later this evening.

July 26th 2013

Yesterday another young buzzard was rescued. It was reported to have been on the same rock, at Snypes Dam, for several days. It was a long walk from the car park, and before our rescue team reached the bird, another thunderstorm had thoroughly soaked them. They soon caught the bird, which has an injured elbow, and the lady who reported it was right to be concerned. Fortunately the bird is still in good condition. It was probably still being fed by parents.

DSC_7909_resampledIt was a surprise to get a common seal pup today. The pup was found yesterday, on a beach in Northumberland. It has been given rehydration fluid and treated by a vet. It is a skinny pup, with cuts on its mouth, but nevertheless is quite active and aggressive. We have given the pup more fluids, and hope that it will eat small fish soon.

July 23rd 2013


Plans had been made for today. We had arranged to release the first batch of common gulls. These, you may remember, were hatched and reared at Hessilhead. The gulls had to be caught and put into boxes, just 2 to a box. We were grateful that Liz, from Starling Learning, had offered the use of her van again this year. This meant that 72 gulls could be transported. We hadn’t expected a thunderstorm to drench us while we were catching the gulls, but thankfully the sun was shining by the time we released them at Hunterston. The gulls were keen to fly, but most stayed within a few hundred yards, bathing and then searching for new things to eat. There were other common gulls on the sandfs, so hopefully our youngsters will follow their example.

July 22nd 2013

Today we had a call from Maxwell Park in Glasgow, reporting 5 ducklings walking along the road with mum.There is nothing too unusual about that, but on this occasion mum was determinedly walking her brood away from the park and the pond. As the family was in danger, we asked if the ducklings could be put into a box, and we arranged to collect them within the hour. The next surprise was that the ducklings were not mallards, as we’d expected, but dark, fluffy tufted ducklings. They have settled in well and are feeding themselves.

July 20th

When the hospital begins to fill with swallows and house martins, we think that the end of the hand rearing season is in sight. This doesn’t seem to be the case this year. We have plenty of swallows and house martins, and 5 swifts too, but nestling dunnocks and robins and still coming into care. There are lots of young blackbirds, a pied wagtail, and two very small cygnets.

We have some late mallard ducklings too. A clutch of 5 was rescued from a drain near Biggar during the week. Lucky that someone spotted them falling down. We have older mallards living outside, and 80 or so have already been released. The little tufted ducklings are growing well. They will soon be diving in their pool.

Yesterday 2 swans were rescued from the grounds of an abbatoir. You would think that if there is one place that wildlife would stay away from, it would be a slaughterhouse. But these swans had been there for a week. They had been walked out of the gate, and returned, again and again. We will relocate them to Irvine Harbour.

Today we tried to catch a cygnet from the pond at Robertson Park, Renfrew. It has netting tangled in its beak, probably hooked over the back of its tongue. Today the cygnet kept well clear of us, but we will try again tomorrow morning.

July 14th


DSC_7722_resampledToday we ran a Training Day, Owls and Raptors. 11 enthusiastic people were keen to learn about the care of the tawny owls, barn owls and buzzards that we have in care, and also about their behaviour in the wild. Everyone learnt how to handle these birds. People were amazed at the small size of tawny and barn, under that thick layer of feathers. The ears of owls are amazing too; they are huge. We spent some time dissecting owl pellets, and found the skulls of voles and shrews, as well as lots of other bones. The highlight of the afternoon was to release a buzzard. The buzzard was found in May, tangled on a barbed wire fence. Its wing was badly injured, but after weeks of care, physiotherapy and exercise, it was ready for release. Everyone went to the release site, and there was relief and smiles as the bird flew high. One very lucky buzzard indeed.