Monday, 10 June 2013

Hessilhead stories

My summer of adventures has begun as I am volunteering at Hessilhead Wildlife Rescue Trust for 2 weeks.  You never know quite what to expect on these placements and in this case I had just arrived and within 10 minutes I’m told to push something that looks like dog food (which it turns out it was) down a jackdaw’s chicks throat.  Although this was slightly intimidating start seeing as I’d never even seen a jackdaw chick before I was glad to be put straight to work.  

I am now 3 days into this placement and my main duties so far have involved feeding a variety of species of birds in the hospital, including great tits, blue tits, pidgeons, common gulls, oystercatchers and many more. As the majority of the birds at this time of year are chicks then they all need hand feeding as none of them can take food for themselves.  This is a more difficult task for some chicks that are unwilling to take the food.  This was the case with a certain great tit chick which was brought into the centre after flying into a window and has subsequently received injuries which means that it cannot hold its head straight so needs help with this whilst being fed.  I was originally unsure about how long it would survive as its injuries seemed so severe but it does seem to want to feed if it has the correct help.  The fact that this chick seems so full of life does make the situation sadder though as if this is a permanent injury then it won't be able to make it in the wild and is likely to be put down.  Of course this is the worst part of the job and the most difficult decision to make.  This is always the case for any animal but when it comes to wildlife it is even more tricky as you have to be able to judge if it will survive adequately in the wild so even problems that could be treated in captivity and seem relatively minor do sometimes result in the animal being put down.

This is the case with a jackdaw chick which has a serious calcium deficiency which is indicated by the fact that at least half its feathers are coloured white.  On a supplemented diet, this bird may be able to survive but in the wild it's chances will be incredibly slim so the workers here have decided that it should be put down to avoid this potential suffering.  I was slightly shocked when I heard this news as my first instinct is always to try everything before resorting to this.  After all, if it cannot be released then it is only one more bird to be looked after so shouldn't it be given that chance?  However, I have only been doing this job 3 days so realise that I have to respect the decisions of the people here, many of which have been working with wildlife all their lives.  Even in the short time I've been here I've realised how much effort it takes just to keep these animals alive and unfortunately it is not possible to save them all.

However, the success stories defiantly prove that all this effort is worth while.  One of my favourites is a whole swan family (including 2 parents and 5 signets, photo below)  that arrived today which had to be removed from their habitat as it was no longer available.  They now seem perfectly at home in their enclosure and the parents are able to rear their chicks in safety before all being released together.

I'm sure I will be posting more about these success stories and I'm just hoping that I will be a part of saving these animals lives.


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