Much to take in about animal care

A hedgehog at Berwick Swan and Wildlife trust catches up with the news in the Berwick Advertiser.

A hedgehog at Berwick Swan and Wildlife trust catches up with the news in the Berwick Advertiser.

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Well, it had to happen at some point – early on Wednesday morning I had a phone call from my fellow volunteer to say she had a horrible sickness bug and wouldn’t be able to do her normal shift at the Rollo Centre with me.

After four months of working alongside my wildlife rescue trainer and mentor Una (and having a lot of laughs along the way), I was going to be flying solo.

I thought back to my first week when I’d wondered if I’d ever be able to recall all the varying needs of each animal.

As if to pile on the pressure, a new recruit turned up to learn what’s involved in volunteering at the centre so it was down to me to show him.

After a moment of blind panic, I realised, of course, that I wasn’t really on my own – Kay and Pat were on hand to consult if I needed any reminding of what had to be done.

Steve and I started with preparing the fresh food for the swans, cygnets, ducklings and eider, who are now all in the big pond enclosure.

They get buckets of chopped up bread, grain and dried mealworms, with grass cuttings, lettuces and yet more mealworms sprinkled on the water.

It’s always great fun feeding these birds, especially the eider duck who propels himself across the pond by flapping his wings furiously, I think out of the sheer joy of eating mealworms.

Then there were the four hedgehogs in the outside runs, and a racing pigeon to top up with the mixed dried peas he gets.

The hedgehogs all get a bowl of meaty (non-fishy) cat or dog food, with a garnish of mealworms, which they love. We also swept up some straw bedding, which the hedgehogs had dragged outside through the night for reasons best known to themselves.

In the recovery room, I showed Steve how we weigh each hedgehog, record how much they’ve eaten, and place them in a holding box so we can clean out their cage.

We remove the dirty newspaper and towel bedding, thoroughly clean the cage, then put in fresh newspaper, towel, food and water, plus an electric heat pad for the more vulnerable hogs.

It’s very rewarding seeing hedgehogs at such close quarters – they really are the most beautiful creatures, but the leather gauntlets are useful as getting prickled can be painful.

When we’d finished the hogs, Steve said there was a lot to remember and I thought back to my first week when I’d wondered if I’d ever be able to recall all the varying needs of each animal. Well, I’d managed to pass some knowledge on to Steve so something must have gone in.

Once all the animals were settled back into their now pristine accommodation, it was time for us all to enjoy a chat, cuppa and a biscuit in the office.

Volunteering at the Swan Trust isn’t just about helping to ensure the patients have the best possible chance of recovery and release, but for us humans it’s also about the good company of the other volunteers.

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