An historic Second World War airfield which played a major part in the D Day landings is to provide a new home for sick, injured and orphaned wildlife. The former RAF Blake Hill near Cricklade is now one of Wiltshire Wildlife Trust’s nature reserves. But a corner of it is all set to become the new base for Oak and Furrows Wildlife Rescue Centre.
Initial discussions have already been held with Wiltshire Council’s planning department about the proposals for a wildlife hospital, staff and education facilities, aviaries and pens. A planning application is about to be submitted detailing our plans.
One of our volunteers, Ray Hood, is project managing the move. Assuming there are no last minute hitches we are certain that we can look forward to a mutually beneficial long term partnership. We are confident that WWT will be excellent landlords and that we can work together to make a great success of the venture to the benefit of both organisations, the local community and most importantly our wildlife.
Ray told the Standard: “As a long term member of WWT it was clear to me from the outset that there was obvious synergy between the two organisations and a mutually beneficial arrangement should be possible.”
Head of fundraising for the Trust, Amanda Callard said it was delighted to offer Oak and Furrows a home. “We see a great fit between the two organisations, both of whom work to help our county’s wildlife and both rely on the goodwill of local people to succeed.”
She explained: “There are issues that still need to be formalised, such as funding and planning consent, but certainly in principle, we are very pleased to be able to give such a worthy cause a home with us.”
Oak and Furrows, which deals with more than 3,000 wildlife patients every year, is currently looking for financial backing to help pay for the new larger centre. Anyone prepared to help with donations of time, money or materials should get in touch by emailing email@example.com. Any offers of assistance will be extremely gratefully received.
We have known for some time that our leasing arrangements at The Paddocks, Somerford Keynes would come to an end this summer and that an alternative location would have to be found. We have been very happy operating from this site and are extremely grateful to Dave Hartland for his help, cooperation and understanding in allowing us to use his land over the past few years. It’s now time to move forward and a great deal of work is needed to ensure success of the change.
Clearly the need to relocate has been a very serious concern due to the cost and upheaval of such a venture and we are indebted to some very timely bequests which will help make it possible.
Over the past few months we have been in discussion with the Wiltshire Wildlife Trust about the possibility of using land on one of their local reserves, and are now in the final stages of agreeing a lease with the which will secure our future for at least the next 25 years. At this stage it is not possible to give precise details but we are confident that the new location will prove very suitable for our needs and that a partnership with Wiltshire Wildlife will be to our mutual advantage.
Although we hope to have sufficient funds to carry out the basic relocation, finances are very tight as usual and we hope to arrange a series of fund raising activities to help with costs and also approach local busineses and funding organisations for sponsorship. Once plans are finalised there will be a number of labour intensive activities required to build pens and aviaries, lay paths, plant shrubs etc. and details will appear on this website in due course. Please help in any way you can, it will be very much appreciated. If you have any suggestions for fundraising, then please do let us know.
Serena is always playing jokes on me and this week I fell for one. I arrived at work early one morning to find a note on one of the cages. It read ‘Blanc Oiseau’,’blown off course needs to be returned to grid reference 247 859, ask Stuart. Not sure what it eats so please look it up. Be warned it is very jumpy’. Looking into the cage I saw a very pretty bird no bigger than a blackbird. Serena came over telling me the story of how it came to us and asking if I had looked it up yet, so I started to look in the British Bird book. Serena told me not to be silly as it wasn’t British, I said it sounded very French and would it need to be returned to France. Serena left rather abruptly after I said that. It wasn’t until a few hours later when I had a few spare minutes that I decided to look up this bird on the internet. After typing in the name a few times the only thing coming up was the name of a French plane. I marched over to Serena’s house saying that there was no such thing as a ‘Blanc Oiseau’, you must have spelt it wrong. Where upon she burst out laughing and said ‘I love you Tori’. I had fallen for the joke, ‘Blanc Oiseau’ simply means white bird. And this little guy was just a white Japanese quail. I had my suspicions when I first saw the bird that it could just be a quail, and that they had got over excited and thought it was some exotic bird. Serena wasn’t alone in thinking up this joke, Stuart and Paul where in on it too!!!
We have hopefully the last of our baby birds about to fledge this week. Three swallows and two house martins who are eagerly awaiting a fine dry day to be released just in time for their migration.
A buzzard that has been with us for the past month was successfully released this week near Bibury. A gentleman found him on the side of the road after being hit by a vehicle. He took him straight to the vets and we picked him up later that day. We had him checked over by our bird specialist who identified that he had a serious wound on the base of his tail, which had become infected and full of maggots. It was decided that it was worth saving the bird but it would take at least three weeks for the wound to heal. The wound had to be bathed daily and cream applied to the infected area. The buzzard soon became aware of what awaited him every morning and started to get very annoyed with us all. Luckily just after a week of bathing, the wound was becoming smaller and we were advised to let it scab over. Once the scab had disappeared he was ready for release. So after a month in our care away he went.
The second litters of squirrels have been keeping us busy at the centre for the past couple of weeks. We have eight in total who are just being weaned of their milk and happily enjoying eating nuts and gnawing on wood. Just a few more weeks and they will be ready to go and stock up on food supplies for the winter.
We are preparing for the winter intake of hedgehogs, so if you have any spare newspapers, towels or fleeces the hedgehog patients will be very grateful. Also they will be eating us out of cat and dog food, so this is in demand too.
We would like to say a big thank you to the company ‘Dialog’ who are based in Swindon, for raising over £750.00 for us through a charity dinner event and for also donating a Dell laptop to the centre as well. Both things will be put to very good use.
This week has been much quieter and calmer compared to the last few weeks. We are seeing lots of pigeons and hedgehogs being admitted, but at the same time we have been able to release some of our juvenile hedgehogs back out into the wild. This slightly damper weather will help them in their foraging and all the homes they have gone too have nice hedgehog houses and a good food supply thanks to lovely people who have taken them.
Every night at around 9pm, whoever is at the centre, must down tools and put out the food for our local hedgehogs. They are always eagerly waiting under the picnic bench for their cat/dog food or any left over baby bird mixture we might have. We have four regular visitors two of which are only this years young so hopefully one of the larger ones is mum hedgehog. The first one that came for food this spring we nicknamed ‘Oafy’.
As we are getting more and more hedgehogs in we are desperately in need of more tinned cat/dog food and tinned puppy food. If you would like to donate any food to us then please do so, it will feed a lot of hungry little mouths who will be very grateful.
We are pleased to report that the red kite was successfully released last week. Katia and Paul chose a beautiful day to release it. After playing dead in the box for a few seconds it swiftly made its way out of the box and flew straight over to a clump of trees on the other side of the field. A happy ending for all.
We had an interesting creature in this week, when one of our volunteer drivers brought us in a bat from a local vets. When it arrived I could see that it wasn’t a common Pipistrelle but instead something larger. In fact I thought it was huge compared to the little pips we are use to. It was only a pup as it still had long facial features so it meant identifying it was harder as it wasn’t at its maximum size yet. After searching through pages of a bat book and even getting Paul to come to the centre late that night we were still unsure on what species it was. Wanting to give it the best care we could we contacted a local bat career who was able to identify it from phone photos. It was a Serotine bat, identified by the tragus shape in its ear and the location in which it was found. They are a large European bat with large ears and have a wingspan of around 37cm. Ideally the pup should of been placed back into its roost but as we had no idea where that was we were advised to keep it rehydrated for the night and then to contact another career who hand rears these types of baby bats. The following day it went to its new home.
A few weeks ago we had a call from a lady who thought she had found six abandoned otter cubs. She was only down the road so myself and Stuart went to investigate. On arrival we could see two ladies sat on a patch of concrete with six bundles of fur crawling around. They were not otter cubs but instead polecats. It was an unusual situation as they were found crawling around this small patch of concrete where cars would park in the blazing sun with no sign of a parent around. We were slightly unsure on what to do as leaving them could result in them crawling into the road. We also were not aware that there were polecats in the area. We took them back to the centre and very shortly after we arrived back we received a call from one of the employees of the local lakes confirming that there had been sightings of two adult polecats in that area that same day. Luckily we had only briefly handled them so we took them straight back. As we got out of the van I spotted one of the adults in the bush, so we placed all six babies safely into the bush away from the road and hoped that the parents would look after them. We later went back that same day and they all had disappeared so hopefully they got reunited with their real parents.
These polecats were only about 20cms in length, but will grow to be around 60cms long. They are part of the weasel family and are distinguished by their dark black/brown bodies with creamy patches on the ears and face. They are solitary, nocturnal animals who spend the day in dens. So in this instance we can only assume that the parents were in the process of moving them to a new location when they were found.
July has turned out to be an extremely busy month for us at the centre. We currently have a beautiful red kite in our care that came to us after being found on the side of the road. The bird is recovering really well and has recently been moved into an aviary to stretch its wings. Also in one of outside aviaries are two kestrel chicks, which are coming on leaps and bounds. We have a large number of seagull chicks in our care ranging from large ones which are due for release any day soon and a very small one who is need of a companion. Our little partridge chick ‘Peter’ has now been joined by eight other partridge chicks, they are adorable and they are just starting to get the red colouring on their legs. Our melanistic pheasant chick is growing by the day and will soon look stunning when all her feathers fully develop.
Hedgehogs are our highest casualties at the moment, especially baby ones. Every day we are getting new ones in who have been found out in the day time crying for mum. In this heat it is very dangerous for them as they will be easy prey to flies. Even if there are no wounds on the hedgehogs the flies will quickly lay eggs and shortly after they will hatch into maggots and start to find their way into the hedgehogs (same for any animal or bird). If you do come across an injured animal or bird do check to see if there are tiny white eggs on its body.
Adult hedgehogs that are extremely dehydrated are being admitted across many centres at the moment so don’t forget to put out a shallow dish of water for the hedgehogs that are in your gardens. They will be suffering terribly from this heat wave and will need to stay fit and healthy to look after all their young.
We had an interesting rescue this week when a gentleman called regarding a grass snake that he had found in his conservatory. He had managed to capture it himself and called the centre for some advice. The gentleman was happy to take the grass snake to a different location to release as advised by us. However about 10 minutes later he called back to say that the snake had managed to get out of the box and crawl behind the dash board. All we could suggest for the minute was to leave the snake in peace and hopefully it would come out on its own accord. Luckily just as the conservation was coming to an end one of our volunteers arrived who is in the motor business and he went cast his eye over the situation. When he arrived there was a large group of people all crowded around the car waiting for the snake to reappear. And it just so happened that as he peered into the car the snake was making its way under the seat and he was able to grab it and put it securely into an appropriate container. It was just a bit of luck being on our side that the snake happened to of come out of hiding as we arrived. The grass snake is now happily living in a compost heap in the volunteer’s garden.
We have a very lovely patient in our care at the moment named ‘Bin Bag’. He is a gosling who was found amongst some bin bags and was luckily rescued by some very kind people. He is quite a character and loves nothing more than swimming on our pond and eating endless amounts of cleavers (which is commonly known as Goose Grass) and I can see why.
We are excited to announce that our website, although somewhat neglected recently, is now being managed by a new volunteer who will be working hard over the next few months to give the site a full revamp. Among other things, this will enable us to keep everyone informed of developments so please do keep checking back for news of progress and the latest information.