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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16th January 2018

Two interesting things happened at the weekend. The first was getting a call from a farmer, about a fox that was living in the poly tunnel where he will lamb his sheep, and where two micro pigs were living. The farmer had shut the fox in the pig ark, and asked if we would collect her. Off we went to meet a lovely farming couple, who were most concerned that nothing nasty should happen to this fox. We could see where she had been entering and exiting the tunnel recently, and remarkably she hadn’t touched the various free range poultry. It was a bit tricky getting the fox from the ark, with a no longer micro pig slumbering in the hay beside the entrance. We got her safely boxed, agreed that it wasn’t a good place for her to be living and promised to relocate her. She is a confident fox, probably used to being fed by people living in the houses not too far from the farm. Apparently someone had called the farmer that morning, saying he heard they had a problem fox, and that he would deal with it. ‘No way’ said the farmer, Hessilhead are on the way.

The second incident occurred on Sunday afternoon. I took a call from Maybole Police Office, which at first didn’t seem unusual, as the police often call us asking for help with a wildlife casualty. I thought it a bit strange when they asked if I was Mrs Christie, and then asked if I’d like to explain what I was doing in Minishant the previous evening. I could see where this was going! The previous evening Andy and I had met a couple from Stranraer, who had found an injured badger on the road. They very kindly offered to bring the casualty more than half way to Hessilhead. So on Saturday evening we were seen transferring a badger, in a dog cage, from one car to another. Someone must have thought that suspicious, and reported it to the police. When the police were given a description of Andy and I they recognized us, but quite rightly called to check it out. Good news that the public are aware of badger baiting and the threat to badgers. Sadly the badger was badly injured, had a broken back and was PTS.

10th January 2018

You may remember that last Friday we had an influx of patients. Today we released the sparrowhawk that came from Millport. We took her back to Cumbrae, released her just behind the town, and she flew into a tree as if returning to her favourite perch.

The otter that came from Rothesay has made remarkable progress too. She remained unconscious till Saturday evening, then when I opened her cage to give her more fluids, she ran off!. On Sunday she ate 3 herring, and has eaten smaller amounts each day since. She moves well, rolls on her blankets to dry herself after playing in her water bowl, but still sleeps a lot and we can still take hold of her. I expect that one day soon that will change, and we look forward to taking her back to Rothesay.

The buzzard that came on teh same day is eating well and gaining weight, but sadly the kestrel was too weak to survive.

Minty the pigeon that was covered in sticky mint scented goo is looking much better after several washes. The smell has almost gone, but there is some contamination. Hand wash is removing the goo without causing any damage to the skin.


6th January 2018

Of course we have been working all over the holidays, but we’ve been lucky as there weren’t too many new patients coming into care each day. Till yesterday, and it was back to normal. A couple of feral pigeons were delivered in the morning, then a kestrel was brought in by one of our couriers from East Kilbride. The bird had flown into an office building, and was very weak and underweight. We collected an adult otter from the ferry at Wemyss bay. She was found late the night before, in Rothesay, and was taken in by the local vet. We assumed she had been hit by a car. When we collected her she was unconscious, and more than 24 hours later she is still deeply unconscious, but takes rehydration fluid from a syringe, and occasionally moved around the cage. Fingers crossed. A buzzard was delivered later , and Minty the pigeon. If you imagine melting a packet of Fox’s Glacier Mints, and then pouring the goo over a pigeon, you’ll get an idea of Minty’s predicament. We have no idea where he got covered in this sticky minty cordial, but we are having trouble removing it from his feathers. 

Today was a release day. A buzzard was taken away to be released near Muirkirk. It came to us on Christmas Day, wet and very cold, having been found on the radiator grill of a car when it parked in the town. The driver had no idea where he collected his passenger! We just hope it was released close enough to home to find its way back easily. At lunchtime 3 seals were loaded into the van. It a beautiful day at Portencross, perfect for a release. Hartley, Arnold and Bute all seemed perfectly at home in the sea, and soon swam out of the harbour.

January 3rd 2018

New Year, new promise. This year we are going to try really hard and keep the diary going, no matter how many casualties come our way. Last year we floundered when the new of new patients escalated in summer, and we had some staff changes too. Now everything is running smoothly again with a new team wildlife rehabilitators, all determined to provide a first class service for injured and orphaned wildlife.

It is a real treat for us when a casualty that we have nursed back to health decides to make its home close to the centre. Recently we released a rather special heron. It is much paler coloured than the usual grey herons, so is easily recognized. We were thrilled to see it on the swan hospital roof a few days after release, eating scraps of fish left by the seals. At other times it perches on aviary roofs, watching the seals in a nearby pool.

4th April 2017

Since writing the last diary entry, a week ago, fox cubs have been flooding in. The oldest cub is Arnold, who came with a head injury, and is recovering well. There is Emma, a two week old cib found alone, but left out for 4 hours in the hope that Mum would appear. Newton was trapped between a fence and a garage, and when he was found he was cold, wet, muddy and very hungry. He is doing well now.P1120539 - Copy

The youngest cub was the last to arrive. She was found in a garden, and may have come from under decking, but didn’t retrieve her in the hour she was left poutsdie. At only a couple of days old, she couldn’t be left outsside any longer. Despite her small size she is a good feeder and very active.P1120525 - Copy

If you would like to contribute to the cost of rearing fox cubs text WILD24 followed by the amount you would like to donate, and send to 70070

Three baby rabbits have been a handful of trouble. They were chinky kits, dug up accidentally by a JCB. there were also hysterical whenever anyone tried to handle them. So feeding times were a trial. The first problem was catching a rabbit as the three of them did walls of death around the cage. The next challenge was not to instinctively drop the youngster when it let out an ear piercing scream. It was possible to get a teat into the mouth when the rabbit screamed, and over a few days they learnt to suck the teat. The rabbits are now eating dandelion leaves, so just one bottle feed a day. Hopefully they will soon be eating rabbit mix too.

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There are plenty of young collared doves in care too, the smallest one just a few days old. It is relief that quite a few hedgehogs have gone to new homes recently. If anyone has a suitable garden for hedgehogs and would like to help us return some to the wild, please get in touch

27th March 2017

The first fox cubs have arrived. On Saturday 3 cubs were found in a garage in Irvine. The lady of the house was sure they hadn’t been there previously, and had tried to give them sugar water. There was another smaller cub, sadly dead. All are feeding weell and although their eyes are still closed, they are active. Hence a photo of one sleeping cub. When awake they just won’t stay still.P1120419 - Copy

Fox cub number 4 came today, after spending a cosy night at Hamilton Police Office, where staff made sure he was kept warm and called him Chester. He is fedeing well too, and tomorrow will be introduced to the 3 cubs.P1120447 - Copy

There has been a steady intake of swans. A second swan from Kilbirnie loch had swallowed line but no hooks. A swan from Ardeer has bites on its neck, probably inflicted by a mink.A swan from Castle Semple Loch had a broken toe, and a cygnet from Lochmaben has damaged carpal joints.

Today Bryan the seal was released. It was a perfect day for a trip to the seaside, flat calm and sunny. Hopefully bryan is enjoying his freedom.

An influx of young pigeons have been joined by nestling collared doves.P1120437 - Copy

On returning from a few days away last week we checked all the badgers. The two that had fractures are walking fine now, so soon we’ll be making arrangements for their release. The temperature is much warmer this evening. Hopefully that will last and we’ll get lots of our hedgehogs into gardens with hedgehog houses.

No garden bird nestlings yet, but today I was watching a pair of long-tailed tits building a nest.

We thought you would like to see the baby pipistrelle that was born in care at Hessilhead 4 weeks ago.DSC_3356 - Copy

9th March 2017

We didn’t expect another badger to be delivered on Sunday evening. That makes 3 adult badgers in the hospital this week, and they have required a lot of attention.

The Lockerbie badger is eating well now and will move outsdie soon. The Dumfries badger starting eating last night and his wounds seem to be healing well. The little female badger from Eaglesham is still quite lethargic. She likes food from a syringe but hasn’t eaten from a bowl yet. No doubt she will.

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The swan from Kilbirnie Loch had an operation on Monday to remove the 2 treble hooks from its throat. He is still bad-tempered and throws a tantrum when its time for antibiotics. Hopefully he will soon be back with his mate.

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Today’s patients include a tawny owl that fell down a chimney. It is quite sooty and has a lot of gravelly bits stuck to its tail and flight feathers. It is a skinny bird with a brood patch, so may have been nesting in the chimney. A swan was rescued from between lock gates in Glasgow. A piar of territorial swans had him pinned against the lock gate, water pouring over him.

Last night’s day old rabbit is doing well so far. It had been dug up by a dog,  has a toe missing and a swollen leg. Seems to like his bottle.

The leveret is feeding better now, and eating lots of dandelions. Still very nervous though.

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5th March 2017

It has been more of a mammal week than a bird week. The badger from Lockerbie was x-rayed. The problem with right front leg is an old fracture that is healing nicely. It was still badly concussed at start of week, so gave homeopathic treatment as well as conventional. Often gives excellent results. Progress was steady, and badger has progressed from being syringe fed to standing and lapping from a bowl unassisted.DSC_3312 - Copy

This afternoon another was admitted. It has already received veterinary treatment for territorial bites on rump. He is very alert and active, so hope he feeds well tonight.DSC_3313 - Copy

As I write badger number 4 is being brought into the hospital. Never had so many adult badgers in care.

4 hedgehogs went to Stranraer today, and by now they should be settled in their new hoggy houses. 2 hedgehogs were admitted earlier in the week, probably woken from hibernation and discovered very little food available.

We now have two young rabbits, both eating well, so within a week they should be together. We have a leveret too, maybe 10 to 14 days old, but she was caught by a cat and badly bitten on her front legs. it is difficult to see if she can walk properly, as she is so shy and nervous that she crouches down whenever I approach the cage. I persuade her take half a bottle of milk twice a day, and she nibbles some vegetation as well.P1120344 - Copy


Bird news …  a buzzard, a song thrush, a magpie and a chaffinch released this weekend, 3 swans released earlier in week, Sadly today we rescued a swan that has swallowed two treble hooks. That will be a job for the vet tomorrow.

27th February 2017

A busy weekend has brought in a variety of new patients. On Saturday a new fox arrived. He was very subdued, with some bruises and cuts; probably a road traffic victim. He is making good progress now, and has been eating.DSC_3283 - Copy

A badger is another lucky road traffic victim. Unusually he was picked up by the driver who unavoidably hit him. The badger was made comfortable in a large dog crate with a soft bed, and we drove down to Lockerbie to collect him yesterday. Still a bit subdued, and there may be a problem with his right front leg, but he has wandered around his cage and been eating too. DSC_3291 - Copy

A coot was lucky to be found after getting tangled in fishing line that tied its legs together. Lots of vegetation had got caught in the line, and then the coot got snagged on a fence. Although there are deep cuts on the coot’s legs, there doesn’t seem to be any permanent damage. The coot is walking around, and today has been enjoying pond weed as well as some wild bird food.

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February 20th 2017

A varied selection of admissions have kept us busy recently. In the hospital we have two buzzards that arrived within 24 hours of each other. Both were in good condition but had been in road traffic collisions, and had some concussion and cuts. They have not been easy patients. They didn’t start feeding themselves as we’d expected, and when held and hand rfed were extremely bad tempered. One of them, that still has an eye injury, started eating yesterday, and the other one has eaten today. Hopefully they will soon be moved to aviaries. They are very unhappy in the hospital.

We have a kestrel ready for release, and another one making good progress. The latter had a shoulder injury, but now holds its wing high and flies well in the indoor flight.

A tawny owl was collected yesterday to be released where it was found. It is always a pleasure to let the finder release a casualty that he/she helped.

A barn owl that was found lying on the road last week has made a remarkable recovery. it will move to an aviary tomorrow and hopefully soon be back with its mate. 
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We enjoyed seeing a tawny owl perched on the entrance to our new owl nest box for a few days. We haven’t seen it recently, but hopefully the pair will nest there. It is within site of the hospital window.P1120295 - Copy

Last week we released a cormorant that had been found at Strathclyde Loch, soaking. It needed quite a lot of showering to make it waterproof again. We were pleased to see beads of water rolling down its back. The bird stepped from the box, and had a good around before flying away.P1120327 - Copy

Last Monday evening, just before midnight and as we were about to make hot chocolate, the phone rang. A badger had been found in a garden in Kilbarchan. Of we went, and the lady had put a ferret enclosure round the badger. It was a bit reluctant to enter the carrying box, but with a bit of persuasion we got it inside, and soon had it back at the hospital. This poor badger seems to have been bitten by a dog. It has an ear missing, has bites on its face, a cut lip and had a loose broken tooth. It has been patched up, had the tooth removed, and is now eating well.DSC_3264 - Copy

On Saturday a sparrowhawk was collected from us to be released in Drumchapel where it was found just a few days earlier. Apparently it flew off well. We had another sparrowhawk here for an overnight stay, after it hit a window at CVastle Semple visitor centre yesterday.P1120322 - Copy

Swans continue to come in, several a week. One was found at Kilbirnie loch with serious head injuries. It was almost a week before she started trying to eat, and she had trouble doing so. Over the past week she has got stronger, though we have been tube feeding her too. She is gaining weight now and should make a full recovery. We’ve had a bunch of cygnets that have been chased away from home, and a couple of adult swans that have landed on roads.DSC_3255 - Copy

Small birds have included robins, blackbirds and chaffinches. As usual there are plenty of pigeons.

Another small hedgehog was brought to us last week, but the warm weather of the weekend allowed us to release a few rather fat hedgehogs. Hopefully more will be going soon.

We were upset when the little female otter became ill after a couple of days in care, and sadly died. Her brother, who was bigger and stronger, is doing really well, and fortunately doesn’t seem to be lonely. He is eating well and seems content.DSC_3268 - Copy