The Wild Blog, part 13

I never fail to be amazed at the generosity of the public! Here at Secret World we rely on people to support us, to enable us to care for the hundreds of animals each year that need our help. One thing that can be very expensive is feeding all our casualties. At the moment we have lots of fox and badger cubs on site. These require specialist puppy milk, and then when they are weaned they are fed puppy food. We put a request out to see if people could donate some tins, and were amazed by the response! This week alone we have received 384 tins and 624 pouches of puppy food, through our Amazon wish list. Thank you so much to everyone who donated, we are so grateful, and so are the animals! If you want to help us buying us something from our Amazon wish list is a quick and easy way to do so. You can see our wish list by visiting https://goo.gl/ppMw6A.

The baby heron

This week seems to be the week of Heron’s; as we had two arrive at our centre. One, a baby, had fallen out of its nest in Weston-super-Mare. On arrival he was assessed and found to be in shock, with no other obvious injuries, and was given fluids and weighed. Our animal carers then made the decision to transfer him to the RSPCA West Hatch centre in Taunton. In this case, the site is better suited for this young bird and the heron would be with others of its kind and be able to socialise. He was taken there the same day by one of our volunteer response drivers. It is important for us at Secret World to work closely with other animal centres, including RSPCA West Hatch, to ensure that the animals get the best treatment and rehabilitation support. Depending on capacity, where the expertise lies and appropriate facilities, animals are sometimes moved between wildlife centres in the interests of that individual animal and to give it the best chance of survival.

The trapped heron

The second heron had quite a traumatic story. The owners of a pond in Spaxton had been advised to protect their fishpond from a visiting heron by surrounding it with fishing line. However rather than discouraging the heron it had resulted in him becoming entangled and being unable to free himself. Our response driver Graeme managed to free it and transport it to Secret World, where our animal carer Dan worked to cut away the rest of the line. The heron was uninjured and will be released soon.

Finally we are ending this week with some exciting news. A few weeks ago we hosted a crew from Countryfile Diaries, who spent four days filming with us following casualty arrivals and the feeding of orphaned animals.  We feature in three episodes, which will be shown on Tuesday 29th May, Wednesday 30th May and Thursday 31st May, at 9:15am on BBC One.

The Wild Blog, part 12

It has been a busy week for admissions this week, with 172 animals coming to our centre for help. We are open 365 days a year to help British wildlife, and no matter how big or small they are Secret World is a place of safety for them. Of the 172 animals we have seen this week 45 were orphaned birds. These are placed in incubators in our hospital room, and keep staff very busy as they have to be fed every hour! It is always very loud in around feeding time, with all the baby birds chirping for their food!

One hedgehog who was caught in litter

 

 

We had a hedgehog bought in this week that had plastic round his neck. Plastic and other forms of rubbish is so dangerous to wildlife, and we see many instances where wildlife has suffered at the hands of people who have dropped litter.

Star

 

 

 

 

Shadow

Our lovely resident birds of prey have also been busy this week. These are birds that have been hand reared and are too dependent on humans to be released. They live onsite, and are ambassadors for our charity, visiting care homes and other places in the community. This week they went to Tudor Lodge residential home with Sheila and Sue, two of our bird handlers. Star, our tawny owl, and Shadow, our barn owl, also met children from Culverhill School who were on site for an educational visit. It is so lovely to see how much people enjoying meeting our birds, and we love giving people the chance to get up close to these beautiful animals. We have a new Facebook page for our resident birds, where you can learn all about them, and find out where they will be going in the community. Just search ‘Secret World’s Resident Birds of Prey’ on Facebook.

 

This week our team released 18 animals back to the wild, where they belong. This included a long eared bat, a swift, and a few hedgehogs. It is always a lovely feeling seeing these animals recover and get their freedom back. This is the reason we all do what we do!

 

 

The Wild Blog, part 11

As is always the way at this time of year Secret World is full of animals needing our help. Many of these are orphans who have been found alone, crying and hungry, with no sign of their mother. At the moment we have around 30 fox cubs and 7 badger cubs on site! This certainly keeps our animal carers busy, but there is nothing more rewarding than knowing you are helping to make a difference to these beautiful creatures, and eventually giving them a second chance back in the wild.

Harry and Houdini

We are very lucky here that we have a lot of dedicated people supporting us, not just those within our own charity. Members from Devon Badger Group went above and beyond to help two small foxes in need, ensuring they were bought to us for the care and attention they needed. The group found a lactating fox who had been shot, and they were concerned that there may be cubs starving. After going back that evening they found a small fox cub, who they tried to capture, but it escaped. The group set up a trap camera and found that there were actually two fox cubs, both in poor condition. They managed to capture one cub, and going the extra mile, they camped out for a week to capture the second. Both Harry and Houdini (as they have been named), are now safe with us, and are doing well.

 

Rodney the Rooster

We had an unusual animal arrive at our centre recently. We don’t usually accept domestic animals, instead focusing our attention on British wildlife, but when Rodney the Rooster turned up in need of help we couldn’t turn him away! He was found by a member of the public sheltering in a garden in Burnham, having narrowly escaped the unwelcome attention of a fox. After failed attempts to find his owner he was given to us to look after. We are now looking for a new home for him. Founder Pauline Kidner said: “We are hoping his owner may come forward or perhaps someone would like to give Rodney a new home. He really is rather majestic.”  If you can help call us on 01278 783250.

The injured gull

 

The best part of working at Secret World is the success stories, where we can see the real difference we make to these animals. This week we had a brilliant outcome when a juvenile gull, who had been caught by fishing hooks, was released. When the gull arrived at our centre it wasn’t looking good for him. The poor thing had three fishing hooks, one in its mouth, one in its foot and one in its wing! We managed to get the hooks from the wing and the foot out, but had to send the gull to our vets for them to remove the hook in its mouth. However this gull was a very determined thing, and made a great recovery. This week we were able to release him back into the wild, and it was so lovely to see him flying free, enjoying his freedom!

 

 

The Wild Blog, part 10

We are now well and truly into our busy Spring season, and we are seeing a lot of animals come through our doors. Our response drivers have been working hard to rescue and pick up sick and injured animals across our coverage area. Reception has been a hive of activity, with staff giving advice over the phone and coordinating recuses. And our dedicated animal carers have been bottle feeding orphans round the clock, while also caring for the other animals on site.

Marion feeding

 

One such orphan is Marion, a tiny two week old fox cub. She was found cowering by a shed in a garden, and was picked up by the home owners dog. Luckily she rescued her, and delivered her to us. When she arrived Marion was so young that her eyes were not yet open. Animal carer Dan has been bottle feeding her, and she is making a good recovery.

Fred and George

 

Two orphaned badger cubs also arrived this week. The pair were found 24 hours apart at an entrance of a badger sett, crying and calling for their mother. They were weak and close to starvation. At Secret World we like to have a theme when naming our orphaned badger cubs, and this year the theme is Harry Potter. So the obvious choice for our twin badger cubs was Fred and George, after the Weasley twins.

 

Pauline on BBC Somerset

We have had more radio interest as our charity founder and advisor Pauline appeared on a special show on BBC Somerset to mark their 30th birthday. We are proud of our connections with the local media, and they help us to promote what we do at the centre. It is also a good way to offer advice to members of the public on what to do if they find an injured animal. We enjoyed taking part in the show, and even received a piece of birthday cake!

This week we were delighted to welcome our patron Chris Sperring to the site. He gave a very interesting talk to staff and volunteers one lunchtime. Chris has wide experience of wildlife and conservation, and our team learnt a lot from his talk.

Finally, are you a budding photographer with a particular interest in nature? If so we have just the thing for you! Today we launch our photo competition, which will be judged by our patron Chris Packham. So get those cameras ready, and find out more details on the events section on our website.

The Wild Blog, part 9

Well, after a very wet Easter it looks like Spring has finally sprung today!

We were very disappointed that we had to cancel one of our Family Fun Days over the Easter holiday. Unfortunately all the rain caused our field to flood, leaving us with no car parking.  Thanks to everyone who braved the rain to attend on the Friday, and for understanding why the event had to be called off. Our next big event is our Summer Party, on August 27th, and fingers crossed the weather will be much kinder to us then!

Mrs West with Sarah
The heron in a tree

 

It has been a good time for releases, with two injured birds being given their freedom. Do you remember the heron, who we mentioned in our previous blog? Well, he was released by the very kind people who found him. Mr and Mrs West took the heron into their kitchen and called us for advice during the heavy snow last month. He was weak and cold, as he had been unable to find food. After some food, warmth and TLC by our animal carers he thrived, and went from a concerning 1kg to a more healthy 1.5kg. When released it instantly flew from its box to a high tree top, to wait until we had gone. Animal carer Sarah left its feeding bowl nearby with a hearty meal to tide it over.  With luck it will soon be catching its own! Mr and Mrs West will be keeping an eye out for it over the next few days.

 

 

Freedom for the swan

We also said goodbye to one of our swans. He was picked up by one of our response drivers cold and weak, and was treated in our hospital room. When he was back to full health he was transferred to our pre-release pen, where he could be outside and have a pond to swim in, to prepare him for life back in the wild. Volunteers Graeme and Vicki took the swan to a site where there was another group, and were delighted to see him accepted into the fold!

Windwhistle School pupils

And finally look at this lovely photo from Windwhistle School Primary! The children have been busy fundraising for us after our Learning and Engagement Officer Ellie visited to talk about hedgehogs. The children, all from Year 2, ran an after school shop to sell items they had made including cakes, clay hedgehog sculptures, book marks (all hedgehog themed). They made a fantastic £105! We would love to hear from any schools interested in fundraising for us, or having a visit from Ellie. You can email her at ellie.wallace@secretworld.org.

The Wild Blog, part 8

You might have seen us on the news at the start of this week. Our founder and advisor Pauline was on BBC Points West talking about the heron we have on site, and how the recent cold weather has affected British wild birds. Publicity like this is great for us, as it gets our name out there and if people find an injured animal they are much more likely to call us for advice.

The heron enjoying being outside

The heron that was the centre of this publicity is doing really well! He came in to us in a very weak condition as he had been unable to find food. After a bit of warmth and TLC from our animal carers he was soon back to full health. This week he was moved from his indoor enclosure to our water paddock, where he will build up muscle ready for release back into the wild. Sarah, who has been looking after him, said: “We lost so many herons as they are so nervous and poorly by the time they reach us, so it was wonderful when this skeletal heron took fish from my hand. He has continued to improve and put on weight.”

Sarah releasing one of the lapwings

We had a lovely ending to the week when we released a group of lapwings that came in during the snow. These beautiful birds were close to death when they arrived, as they hadn’t been able to find any food. Lapwings often feed at night in moonlight but many were bought to us by people who found them cold, exhausted and starving in their gardens. After feeding them up and a period of rehabilitation they were soon ready to go back to the wild. Sarah had the lovely job of releasing them, and seeing the fly free. She said: “It’s not easy to care for these kind of birds as they are so nervous but by feeding them on mealworms and waxworms, we have been able to get them back up to their normal weight and ready for release – it’s the best part of my job!” We wish the little guys lots of luck!

 

A delivery of a new marquee rounded off the week. Our old one was damaged during the high winds at the start of the year, and we have managing without for months. Now we have a nice new one, all ready for our Easter Family Fun Days, which take place on Friday March 30th and Saturday March 31st. It’s a free event and there will be lots going on, so we hope many of you will be able to join us!

 

The Wild Blog, part 7

Elmwood students working hard

It is always nice to see lots of bright flowers around the site, and this week a group of students from Elmwood School have been busy planting. The students are a familiar sight here, as they visit every Thursday and help out with any tasks that need doing. Our learning and engagement officer Ellie was keen to brighten up the boarders near the fox pen, and the students were only too happy to oblige! We have been working with Elmwood School for around 12 years now, providing practical experiences for students with a range of additional learning needs. The skills that they learn here will help them to prepare for working life, and we are proud to be helping them to develop.

The heron recovering

 

We had a call at the beginning of the week from a couple who had found a heron when they were out walking. He had been unable to find food and was so weak that they were able to gather him up and take him to their kitchen. One of our response drivers went out to pick him up and bring him back to our site. When he arrived animal carer Sarah found him to be very underweight and she was worried that he wouldn’t survive. She placed him in a casualty pen with a heat lamp to warm him up. Sarah was very pleased when she fed him some fish and he wolfed it down! He is now much stronger, and should be released soon.

 

Sarah assessing the swan

Our response drivers have been kept busy this week, going out to help animals in need across the big area we cover. Graeme went to the aid of a swan who had collapsed on a path near Bawdrip. When he arrived at our centre he was found to be quite weak, but luckily had no obvious injuries. He was given food and care, and once recovered was moved to our water paddock for the final stage in his rehabilitation. We are always on the look out for more response drivers, so if you could spare a few hours a week and are interested in helping British wildlife get in touch! Visit the volunteer section of the website to find out more.

 

It is clear that Spring is here as our Spring newsletters arrived on site this week! Packed full of updates on our animals and interesting features they are ready for distribution. We particularly like the cover photo, which was taken by our regular photographer Richard Austin. You can download a copy from the website – visit the newsletter section. We hope you enjoy reading it!

The Wild Blog, part 6

Dan and Katie washing Jammy

This week got off to a great start as we released Jammy, our gull. His story caused much amusement between staff and even attracted the attention of the local news. Jammy was found apparently covered in ‘blood’. While assessing him animal carers Dan and Katie were very surprised to find seeds in the ‘blood’. After more investigations they discovered that it was strawberry jam! It turned out that Jammy had a very sweet tooth, and took a liking to a vat of jam near a dessert factory! He was cleaned up and released on Monday. Another happy ending for an animal in our care!

Brightening up the garden

Our green fingered volunteers have been busy planting flowers to make the site look more attractive. We were lucky to have a donation of some lovely flowers and as you can see they really brighten up the Bluebell Barn garden! We can’t wait until Spring now when the days are warmer and we can get out and enjoy the site at lunchtime.

This week it was International Woman’s Day. We are very fortunate to have lots of incredible women working and volunteering for us, who go above and beyond to care for any British wild animal that needs help. We also have some inspirational female patrons, who have supported us for a long time. These are Michaela Strachan, Jilly Cooper OBE, Sarah Fisher, Rhianna Pratchett and Valerie Singleton OBE. On behalf of Secret World thank you to all the amazing women who keep the charity going!

 

Bat and baby

Animal carer Sarah had a surprise this week when a bat she was caring for gave birth! The pipistrelle bat has been in the care of Secret World since December and  while she was recovering, staff were surprised by how many mealworms she was eating – double the amount for a bat her size and sex. Bats have delayed fertilisation and only fertilise their eggs when the weather is favourable. It is thought that the bat was pregnant when she came in and being kept in a warm vivarium triggered the fertilisation. Once they give birth, bats keep the baby tucked under the wing hidden from view, so it was a lovely surprise to see a baby bat under there! Mother and baby will stay with us until April and we will take them to a flight pen before releasing them. The baby will need  to learn to fly and self-feed from live food and the mum will need to build strength back up.

Atom, the tiny grass snake

And finally, how many of you are scared of snakes?! It’s a pretty common phobia! But I doubt many of you will be scared of Atom, the baby grass snake we had in this week. When curled up he is about the size of a 50 pence piece, and was found hiding in a suitcase! He will be kept in a warm vivarium onsite until the warmer weather, when we will release him.

The Wild Blog, part 5

Staff braving the cold

Here at Secret World we are so lucky to have such dedicated staff who really do go above and beyond to look after our animals. This was especially the case during the heavy snow, when they trudged through deep drifts to reach our centre and ensure that all the animals in our hospital rooms were fed, medicated and cleaned. Heaters and incubators were running at full pelt to keep everything warm and safe, and reception took many calls about casualties.  It was a busy few days, but we still found time for a snowball fight!

Just before the snow hit our Community Champions got together for a catch up, and warmed up with tomato soup. These are volunteers who represent Secret World in their local community, by distributing leaflets, putting up posters, and finding places to put collection tins. This is an important volunteer role, as it builds our awareness in the community, and we are always looking for more people to get involved. The role is very flexible, and can be as many or as few hours as you can manage.  Visit the volunteer section of the website to find out more!

Lapwing

 

During the cold weather many rare birds arrived at our centre, including lapwings and plovers. Most of these were very weak from hunger, as they were unable to find food.  They were joined by several woodcocks, who are secretive birds that were forced to go near to people to find food. With their long probing beaks they search for insects through the mud but the sub-zero temperatures made this impossible.

Little Egret

One of our response drivers Graeme was sent out to a Little Egret that was so weak from hunger it was sheltering near a wall to try and keep warm. Graeme was able to pick him up without a fight and bring him in. As soon as he arrived animal carer Jade gave him fluids by a stomach tube to hydrate him. He was then placed under a heat lamp to recover.

 

 

This week we have also been preparing for our legacy day, which takes place on Saturday March 10th, at 2pm. This will give people the chance to find out about making a will, ahead of our make a Will week in April. Making a will – or even thinking about a will – can be scary. This event aims to dispel some of the fears around wills and legacies. There will be talks from our partner solicitors and Valerie Singleton, one of our long-standing Patrons, will also be joining us on the day. If you need more incentive to come along we will be serving a delicious cream tea! We hope to see lots of you there!

 

 

The Wild Blog, part 4

Daffodils have been flowering around the site which, despite the cold weather, has given us all hope that spring is on its way!  A lot of work has been going on this week to get out aviaries and pre-release pens ready, as spring is our busiest season. It is when we see an influx in orphans arriving at our centre, including otter, badger and fox cubs, and fawns.

Spring also sees the arrival of Easter, and our fundraising team have been busy planning our Easter family fun days. We will be open on Friday March 30th and Saturday March 31st and will have lots of fun activities for all the family to enjoy. There will be talks on our animals, crafts, and an Easter trail. We hope to see lots of you there – its free entry!

Zazoo being weighed
Bird handlers Sue and Diane carrying out the health checks

Every week our resident birds of prey have their health checks, which is very important as it helps us to keep track of their condition and spot any problems. This is done by our team of bird handlers, who check their weight, as well as their body condition, eyes, talons and beaks. We have 6 resident birds of prey – Star the tawny owl, Tinnun the kestrel, Zazoo and Shadow the barn owls, Mumbles the Bengal eagle owl and Daphne the European eagle owl. These are all birds that have been born or bred in captivity elsewhere and come to us. We are unable to release them into the wild as they are used to human contact and cannot hunt for food themselves.

 

Stanley

When we receive injured birds of prey we treat them and then release them back into the wild. This involves cutting off all human contact with them before they are released, to ensure that they do not become too tame. Stanley, a beautiful sparrow hawk, arrived this week after being hit by a car. After an initial examination he seemed to be relatively uninjured, just stunned. He was then taken to the vets for an eye examination. It is very important that birds of prey have good eyes as they need to be able to hunt from their food, and spot their prey from high up in the sky. When Stanley’s eyes were examined the vet found that he had an eye ulcer. He is now receiving treatment for that, and should be ready to be released in a few days.

Finn

Tiny Finn was another one of the animals we admitted this week. He had been caught by a cat and brought in from a field where there are many warrens. If cats catch wild animals and break the skin they can inject infection through their teeth, and the victim may need to be given antibiotics. Luckily Finn was uninjured and is now being cared for by Katie, one our animal carers. Weighing only 120 grams, Finn is still on milk, but rabbits only feed their young kits twice a day so it’s not too much work! He is already eating greens so will soon be weaned.