Wildlife rescues

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Grey heron brought in with injured leg

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He’s a beautiful bird but it’s touch and go whether this heron will make it.  He has what looks like a break on the middle of his leg and he can’t put weight on it.  The other leg is fine and he can stand up alright.   He’s a grey heron, a species that is widespread through the U.K.

They are picturesque birds, it’s a superb to catch a glimpse of them standing in the water’s edge.  They eat all kinds of voles and mice and fish and stand motionless to catch their prey – they have a lot of patience.

Herons are good ratters and will wait for a rat to come out and then pounce, a lightning strike and they have him – tossed up in the air and swallowed whole.

Let’s hope the vet can save the leg and we can get him back to health and release him.

What to do when you find a baby bird


Unless you are convinced the baby bird has been abandoned by his parents or is in imminent danger it’s best to leave the little one where it is.  Babies do flutter out of the nest and wait a while to get their feathers and their parents will not come to it while you are around.

Sometimes picking the baby up and putting it on the inside branches of a bush is the best course of action.  Hopefully, cats won’t be able to get to it and it will have the instinct to keep fluttering higher and higher.

Putting the baby bird back in the nest (if you can find it) doesn’t usually work, it will just flutter out again.  Parent birds will come and feed even if on the ground if you leave well alone.

Your scent won’t put the parents off, they will find their baby by the noise he makes.  You may not see the parents, they won’t come out while you are around but will locate and fetch their offspring when you are out of the area.

If you are certain that the baby bird has been orphaned then you may have no option but to attempt a rescue.   A box with high sides is best, make a nest inside, with dried grass, hay or shredded soft paper – kitchen towels are perfect.

The nest should be baby bird size, it needs to be soft and so the little one can feel secure.   If you can bring the bird in to us as soon as possible that gives it the best chance of survival.  Keeping them warm is essential and feeding them is an expert and time consuming job.  We make up special diets depending on the type of bird, chopped up meal worms, finely minced boiled egg and Purina poultry cat food is a good standby.  We use plastic tweezers for song birds and syringes (cut open)  for pigeons and doves.

A nestling with eyes closed will need feeding every 15 to 20 minutes.  If his eyes are open and there are signs of feathers, you will still have to feed every 30 minutes.  It’s not until the baby is hopping around that you can spread the feeds out to every hour.

Avoiding stress is one of the most important factors in the survival of these fragile little lives so keeping them quiet and in natural (but not bright) light is best for them.

We’re open every day between 10.0am and 4.0pm – please ring direct to the sanctuary – 01246 455777 –  to let us know if you are on your way.

Hedgehogs are waking up

hedgehogs - Womble Hello Mr. Womble!  He’s had a good winter sleep and now he’s waking up and he’s hungry.   After a good feed Womble went back into his nest, the weather isn’t quite warm enough yet for a complete abandonment of hibernation.  Some of the others who stayed with us are also stirring, the rest are still asleep. We’ve been putting a big dish of food out for the last month or so, hedgehogs are nocturnal so we don’t always know who is eating it.

If you have hedgehogs in your garden please put food out for them, the last weeks of hibernation are critical.  They need enough energy and body fat to survive till the spring finally comes.   Cat food is good (chicken not fish), also sunflower seeds or special hedgehog food.   A big dish of clean water is appreciated but not milk as it isn’t digestible for them.

Our hedgehogs have wintered in several nests of hay and leaves, all quite close to each other.  When the weather finally turns warm they’ll be up and away.  Not to find friends and family though, hedgehogs are solitary creatures unless they are looking for a mate.

Injured little dove

birds - little dove 2Isn’t she beautiful?  This little dove was brought in yesterday.  She has an injured wing and can’t fly.  We’ve made her a cosy nest and she’s snuggled down and survived the night.  The first 24 hours are always critical.   She’s looking good now though and is eating.   She’ll stand up and walk round when she is ready.  It’s slow progress with injured birds, keeping them warm and quiet is the best treatment in the early days.

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Injured duck an amazing rescue

birds - donald duck 2This injured duck has been stuck down a drain for three weeks and is lucky to be alive.  He was seen at the beginning of January by a man walking his dog, but fluttered away and dived down an open drain.   A search proved fruitless, the duck was nowhere to be seen.  It seemed likely he’d been washed away but by an amazing chance, the same gentleman heard a scuffling and a faint ‘quack’ when he walked the same way this weekend.   There was the duck, he’d made it back to the opening and was in reach.   He was hauled out and brought to us, injured but alive after all this time.

He’s in bad shape, with two injuries to one of his wings.   He’s terribly thin and was very glad to have a big drink and some food as soon as he came in.   We’ve patched him up and settled him down in a pen with some hay to keep him warm – and a big dish of water.   Ducks need to dip their beaks in water as often as possible.

He’s a handsome fella and we hope he will soon put weight on and his wounds will heal.   He’s a wild mallard, a mature male with glossy green plumage and when he’s better we’ll release him.  What have we called him?   Donald – not very original but he has a very Disney sort of quack and it suits him!

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Birds - donald duck

Merlin is making progress


birds - merlin 7Merlin, our rescued Barn Owl, is making good progress.  When he first came in he flopped down on his side and couldn’t stand, now he’s on his feet all the time.  We used to prop him up in a corner of his pen, now it’s good to see him upright and managing to move around even though it’s only a little bit.   Apart from being very thin and light, he has a damaged wing, although we are hoping it’s an injury that will heal.   His feet have the most damage, one worse than the other.   This week was a breakthrough though and for the first time he put his talons on his perch (which is on the ground so that he doesn’t fall off it).  He must be feeling better to do that.

Merlin is eating well, intelligent and knows us, he hasn’t started ‘clicking’ to us yet but he is calm with us when we’re feeding him and cleaning him out.   If a stranger comes near him it’s wide eyes and panic mode though!   He is an amazing work of nature, beautiful colouring as you can see from the feathers on his back.

We still have to get him up to weight and although he is eating well now, it’s slow progress.

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Barn owl is on his feet

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He’s on his feet!   This is such an encouraging sign and that he’s still eating.  He helped himself to a chick for breakfast and took only a few minutes to gulp it down.  An owl’s beak might look small and their mouth is hidden but they actually have a big gaping throat and their food goes down quite easily.

We’ve called him Merlin, he’s a magical bird, an amazing creation of nature.   Merlin’s feathers are intact, he’s still very thin and much too light.   He hasn’t had enough to eat and this is the problem that late chicks face.  There aren’t so many small rodents around for them to catch.   Present day farming methods, big fields with no cover for small creatures, have a ‘knock-on’ effect on the wildlife food chain.   Hopefully though we’ll be able to save this young owl.

Another problem is his right leg which he doesn’t want to use, nothing to see but it’s obviously damaged.

Injured barn owl brought in

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We’ve had an injured barn owl brought in, he’s a youngster, looks like one of this year’s chicks, a late hatching perhaps as he’s quite small for the time of year.  He can’t walk or fly but whether that is an actual injury (there’s no wound that we can see) or just that he is weak from hunger.  He feels very light and thin.  Just one day and night without food is enough to cause a young owl to give up.  There isn’t a lot of natural food around at this time of year.  We are still feeding the Little Owl we released earlier in the year and are very happy to be doing so.  We put chicks out for him on the stable roof – if we can get him through to the Spring he will be alright, there will be more mice and voles around and he will find his own dinner.

This young barn owl is being kept warm and being hand fed.  We wrap him in a fleece, open his beak and pop a morsel of chick down.  At first he protested but it’s life or death.   After a couple of sessions he took the meat more easily.  If he  survives the night……if he can stand and take food for himself tomorrow…….it’s all in the balance at this stage.

Aren’t owls stunningly beautiful?

Kestrel touch and go

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Manni, the injured kestrel, had us in suspense most of yesterday.  In spite of us tempting him with mice and chicks, he refused to eat.   Getting used to his new surroundings was part of the problem, birds are very sensitive and he was obviously stressed.   He was warm and quiet but the chopped up meat stayed untouched.   Hand feeding was not something this little hawk would contemplate and we didn’t want to upset him.  If kbirds don’t feed they soon die.  We tried again with parts of a chick cut up into really tiny pieces.   That did the trick, he must be a dainty feeder and he ate it all up.   He looks much better this morning and has tucked into another chick cut up into little morsels.  It’s puzzling because he won’t have seen chicks before and mice, which are his natural prey, he doesn’t seem to like.  Depends on what his mother fed him I suppose.

While we were getting his food ready this morning, one of the sanctuary cats, an elderly resident called Bing, sneaked in, snaffled a mouse and ran off with it!   She obviously knows all about natural food!   Catch them for yourself next time please Bing!

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Young Hawk is latest arrival

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This young hawk was found in a garden at Mansfield and brought in to us before dark.   We were relieved because it was unlikely he would have survived overnight.  Can you come and fetch him was the first question when the concerned people who found the bird rang up?    Unfortunately we can’t do this at present, we don’t have the rescources unfortunately – one day perhaps.

How to pick this fierce, injured and stressed bird up and get him in the a travelling container?      It’s not so difficult though, don’t be afraid of him, he is terrified of you.  The first thing to do get a cardboard box, not too big, if he can flap about he might injure himself more.  It needs to be just right for the bird and his long wings to fit in.  Punch some holes in the sides.  If you do this before putting the bird in you will cause less stress.  This is the biggest killer of a wild bird.   A cat basket will do if you can’t find a box.

We put a few layers of newspaper in the bottom and then a towel on top of the paper.   This give his talons something to grip.  Now you need to get a large towel or soft blanket, a fleece is ideal.  Approach the bird quietly and cover him with the fleece then scoop him up.   He will be in the dark and not likely to struggle.   Watch out for his talons and beak, they need to be completely covered.   He won’t deliberately set out to hurt you but even a baby raptor (bird of prey) has strong and sharp beak and feet.

Pop him into the box, remove the fleece and close the box up.  If you can’t get him in to us straight away, put a few large leaves in a corner of the box and give him some food.   Ideal is a cut up dead chick but ~I guess not many people have those in the fridge!   A small dead mouse would do but some strips of raw meat or a bit of raw mince would do in an emergency.   Place the food on the leaves.    Why leaves?   Wild birds are suspicious of plastic and anything man-made.  Keep it all as natural  as possible.

Food with fur and bones and inners are what the bird needs and will like.   You don’t need to give water and definitely not milk.   The hawk will get all the moisture he needs from meat.   Put him in a warm, quiet place overnight.   If he’s eaten the meat when you look at him in the morning that is a very good sign.   If he hasn’t eaten then he will have to be hand fed to get him going ……. that’s for the experts only!

Our latest arrival has survived the night and is alert.  It looks as though wings and tail feathers are injured.  He ate last night’s mouse so we are hopeful of his recovery.   We’ve called him Manni – a bit feisty (a good sign) and he came from Mansfield!