• Maggi

Wild life rescue ................

Just before Christmas I was driving along the road which goes along what is known as the Waternish peninsula, on a clear day there are very fine views to the Outer Hebrides. Driving along the edge of Loch Bay the islands of North and South Uist can be seen on the horizon on a clear day. On this particular morning it wasn't especially clear but it was a dry and calm December morning (in the Western Isles one always counts ones blessings when the weather is calm and dry in winter!) The road along the peninsula, as with most roads on the island when you turn off the main route, is a single track with passing places. As it follows the coast line leading you to the end of this narrow finger of land pushing out into the sea, it is a very twisty road and going through blind bends one can either encounter other vehicles (foreign tourists in hire cars who haven't mastered driving on the left are fun!!!) or flocks of sheep using the road as a quick cut through to their next juicy piece of grazing. And so, as with many of our local roads, it makes for an interesting journey.

On this particular morning I came to one of the straighter stretches and saw something large in the centre of the road ahead of me. I slowed and as I came closer saw it was a buzzard sitting in the middle of the road next to a very mangled carcass of some unrecognisable creature. Now it is not unusual to see buzzards taking advantage of road kill for a quick breakfast or lunchtime snack. However when a car approaches they fly away, circle and return to their meal once the coast is clear. This buzzard sat very still and just looked at my car, by now stationary with the hazards flashing. I climbed out and walked slowly towards the bird. It's beak was open and it was panting, one wing appeared to be drooping and whilst it was clearly anxious about my approach it neither attempted to fly away nor did it show any hurry to run off. There was no sign of any blood and the bird was standing on both legs. I guessed it had been clipped by a passing car whilst engaged in its feasting and from the look of its feathers guessed it to be a juvenile. Above us was an adult circling and frantically calling to the bird down below it, mum perhaps. So what a dilemma, whatever was I to do? I couldn't leave it in the middle of the road where it ran the risk of being hit and killed this time, but I was on my own with no box or gloves or anything to throw over it so to try and catch it was not possible. The bird circling above us landed in a tree in a small stand in a field just to my left. There was a gateway entrance to that field from the road and so I slowly encouraged the bird to go in that direction and into the field, towards the other buzzard that I assumed to be its mother. The buzzard moved quite freely using both legs and so I hoped that it was only stunned and after a rest in the safety of the field I had coaxed it into it would rejoin the 'parent'(?) and they would be on their merry way. I was on the return journey past that field 4 hours later and stopped to check on my buzzard, fully expecting it to be gone. Sadly it was sitting where I left it, no sign of the other bird now. I was really concerned as it was starting to get cold and the bird would surely die if left exposed overnight. So I hatched mission 'Buzzard Rescue'.

I went home and collected Tubby Hubby, a large box, some old bath towels and VERY thick gloves. We drove back to the site and on the way I rang our vet who said if we could catch the bird to take it straight to him. Arrival at the field revealed no sign of ma buzzard!! Oh no what had happened? Tubby and I climbed the gate (with trepidation I might add as there was a large 'DO NOT ENTER BULL WITH COWS' sign ). We walked slowly down the field close to the drystone wall which was where I had left the buzzard. Suddenly a few feet in front of us in the tall marsh grass we spotted a flapping and there was our buzzard, still unable to fly away but keen to keep us at a distance. Tubby did a wide circle to get in front of it then we slowly closed in. Poor bird was so frightened, exhausted and probably very cold it made no further attempts to escape and I easily captured it by gently throwing the towel over it and gathering it up. Luckily there was no sign of Mr Bull nor any members of his harem. A quick trip back to the car, gently lowering buzzard into the box, removing the towel and then off to the vet.

John (the vet) confirmed it was a juvenile and guessed that it was just badly stunned as when he tested it for flight it used both wings. He said he would keep it in for observation and we could call in the morning for an update. He also gave us a lesson in buzzard handling. I was really wary of the beak but he said by far the most dangerous part of a buzzard is it's talons as once they grab hold of something they lock in and you cannot get them to release. John showed us how to hold such a bird, by the legs above the talons so that they cannot get their talons into you! We fully expected a report of a dead bird the next morning but to our delight buzzard survived the night and John had taken it to a man elsewhere on the island who is our resident wild bird healer for TLC and restoration to health. Once ready to return to the wild it will be released close to where I found it. I currently have no further updates to report but hopefully our buzzard is now roaming the skies of our beautiful island once again, wild and free as it should be.

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