The Marsh Harrier Saga...

At the beginning of March, we reported on one of our long-term hospital residents, which has been with us since way back last August.

To recap briefly, the Marsh Harrier had two bits of shot in its wing and a swollen, infected foot. It has taken a long time and a great deal of care to tend the Harrier back to health and in March, with a mended wing and a healed foot, we were just waiting for its tail to moult properly before finally expecting to release it back into its natural habitat. Talk about ‘best laid plans…’ The Harrier’s tail is now absolutely fine, but for no explicable reason the toes on its right foot have suddenly all swollen up again.

Sneak peak - I grabbed a crafty photo of the basking
Marsh Harrier in its recuperation aviary at feeding time,
though we generally rely on ‘big brother’
in the corner to keep an eye on things,
so keeping human contact to a minimum

So it was decided that another trip to the vet was required. Marsh Harriers are very sensitive birds with nervous, flighty dispositions and they have tendency to react quite wildly when unsure of a situation, so General Manager Andy wrapped our patient securely in a towel before putting it in the travelling box. This way it could be kept calm and quiet and not run the risk of thrashing about and causing damage to itself.

The vet examined the bird’s foot closely and decided that the best course of action was to put it on a course of antibiotics for a couple of weeks. If this doesn’t cure the condition, the next course of action will be to x-ray the Harrier’s foot, to see if an operation to remove the detritus in the affected area would be appropriate.
We are desperately hoping that the antibiotics will do the trick though, as the Harrier has been with us for a long time and the falconers would really like to see it returned to its natural habitat as soon as possible. I was concerned that the Harrier wouldn’t survive in the wild, having been in a rehabilitation aviary for so long, but I was assured that as it has had the absolute minimum of human contact necessary and will not have forgotten its natural hunting instincts, it would be absolutely fine again once released.

So for now, the Marsh Harrier is back in the rehabilitation aviary and we are keeping everything crossed that it will soon be fit and well to fly free once more. However this a case which illustrates perfectly that the care and rehabilitation of such wonderful creatures and others like them unfortunate enough to come a cropper, is often a lengthy process.

All Friends Together

 Two Boobook owlets and two Tawny owlets shape up together in the crèche aviary

We are absolutely chuffed with the real baby boom we’ve had this year again and all our current chicks are in fine fettle and looking fat, fluffy & well fed. At the moment we have four Harris Hawk babies, five Little Owl chicks, two Tawny owlets, two Boobook babies and two Lanner chicks. The Boobooks and Tawnies are now in the crèche aviary, where they have lots of space to grow and to start finding out what their wings are for and exercising them.

The youngest of our babies are still being fed with tweezers every four hours, which means one of the S.O.S staff has to take them home and look after them after the Sanctuary closes for the day. For the first couple of feeds, Andy adds a supplement called Bioplus Pro-biotic, which helps to get the youngsters’ guts working properly and also has beneficial bacteria, minerals and pro-biotic herbs in, to give them the very best start in life.