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.

 

 

The Wild Blog, part 3

Laura with Amore

Love really has been in the air this week, as everyone has fallen in love with our first otter cub of the season! She arrived just before Valentine’s Day, and so had to be given a fitting name. After much debate Amore was chosen, which is the Italian word for love. Little Amore was found hidden in some reeds calling for her mother. As it was so cold and she had been calling for a while we were concerned about her, so Head of Animal Care Laura and animal carer Sarah went out to assess the situation. They rescued her with nets and bought her back to our centre. Laura has been acting as her surrogate mother by bottle feeding her, and will teach her to swim. Amore has already proved herself to be a bit of a star and has captured the interest of BBC Somerset, who came out to take photos of her and interview Laura!

 

We have had lots of children on site during the week, as Ellie, our learning and education officer has been running three Wild Academy sessions: Brilliant Birds, Winter Wildlife and Tremendous Trees. These sessions are great, as

Children making bird feeders

they let children learn and explore nature through hands on learning. The wet weather didn’t spoil things and the youngsters were spotted exploring the site and woods with their raincoats and wellies on! They all seemed to enjoy themselves – especially Ellie! There are lots more sessions throughout the year – visit the learning section to find out more.

 

 

Pauline hard at work

Our reception area has been having a bit of a makeover. Reception is the first point of call for visitors and it was looking a little bit tired. Never one to shy away from a bit of hard work our Charity Founder Pauline has been painting the walls a bright green colour, sweeping and rearranging the stock. It’s now looking much more welcoming. We have lots of lovely items for sale in the shop so why not pop in and have a browse!

 

 

One very lucky gull!

This lucky gull was bought in from Clevedon by our response driver Cindy. He had been hit by a lorry and two cars, but seems to have escaped serious injury. Our animal carers assessed him, and it looks like he is just stunned, but they will be keeping a close eye on him for the next few days. Response drivers like Cindy are so important to us, as they rescue animals in need and bring them to us for treatment. We have a dedicated team of them that jump into action when called, but can always do with more! If you are interested visit the volunteer section and find out more.

THE WILD BLOG, PART 2

The saying ‘the show must go on’ has never been more true for us than it was this week. We operate seven days a week, and have numerous animals on site who need care and help. This means that whatever the weather or the circumstances our animal care team have to look after them. This is challenging at the best of times, but even more so in the dark! At the beginning of the week we had a power outage on site. Luckily we had light in the hospital room, but our Millie Block, where we rehabilitate animals, was in darkness. Showing true resilience our amazing team donned head torches and carried on! Big thanks to the electricians who came out and fixed it the next day.

You may have seen in the news this week the report that hedgehog numbers are declining. In the 1950s the population was estimated to be at 30 million, but that has plummeted to fewer than one million today, with a third of this loss thought to have taken place in the past decade. Because of this report we have received a lot of media interest in the last few days, and our Founder Pauline Kidner was interviewed on BBC Radio Somerset. She spoke about why numbers were declining, with habitat loss, new roads and housing developments, and the use of pesticides all contributing.  Our message to people wanting to help the hedgehogs is to make their gardens more accessible, by leaving holes in fences so that the animals can pass through easily. This will help them in their hunt for food, and suitable places to hibernate.

Rory and Mina, two hedgehogs we treated last year

This report was very timely as this week our Learning and Engagement Officer Ellie had students from Westhaven School onsite learning about how they can help hedgehogs. They also built a hedgehog shelter, which they are looking forward to putting in their school grounds! Education is very important to us, as by inspiring a love and understanding of wildlife and the countryside in children will help to ensure that they are protected for generations to come.

 

And finally we said goodbye to swans Ant and Dec, who left us to go back to the wild. They came in to us separately as juvenile rescues. They were placed in a pen together and become friends, so when it was time to release them we decided they should go together. Volunteers Graeme and Vicki took them for a release. Graeme said: “We know where to take them and it’s so good to set them free and watch them join the others in the field. There can be anything up to 30 in a field and they are such majestic animals.”

Ant and Dec explore their surroundings.

The Wild Blog, Part 1

Welcome to the new blog for Secret World. Each week we will take you behind the scenes of our site, letting you know what has been happening during the week.

This week the weather has been very temperamental, one moment it’s gloriously sunny and you think Spring is on the way, and the next you are caught in a sudden downpour as you run from one porta cabin to another! This has been especially trying for our builders who have been out in all weathers. Our site has been undergoing some essential building work on new aviaries and pens ready for the influx of orphaned badger and fox cubs and fledglings we are expecting any time from now.

 

The animal carers have been busy as usual, treating the wide variety of animals we see through our doors every day. This included a beautiful tawny owl that received a glancing blow from a car and suffered head injuries. She was left sitting at the side of the road and was very lucky not to have been more seriously hurt. She is currently in an incubator as she is in a state of shock, but she is expected to make a full recovery. It will then be important for us to get her back to where she came from as she is probably ready to start nesting.

 

 

One thing we all love here is when animals recover and we can release them. This week we saw two of our swans heading home. It is always a funny sight seeing the swans being taken for release as we carry them in Ikea bags. It may seem an odd choice, but they are really good for keeping the birds calm and stopping them from flapping their wings around as they are moved. Seeing them being released into the wild makes everything we do worthwhile. We wish them lots of luck!

While we have success stories every day we also unfortunately have to deal with loss too. We were all sad to lose a fox overnight that despite everyone’s best efforts was just too ill to survive. We give every animal that comes through our doors the best possible chance of survival but this doesn’t always work out and when we lose any animal it affects us all.

Ending on a happier note this week our resident foxes had their annual vet check and vaccinations.  Megan, Mia and April live at Secret World because they were reared by people wanting them as pets. They now cannot be released as they are too tame. Thankfully all three foxes were given a clean bill of health and were soon back scampering around their enclosure.