Friday, 28 March 2008

Vet visit

We had a complementary visit from our vet this week to look over our sheep and answer any questions that we may have. I've had Rosy and Gletness on antibiotics for a few days as they have both had problems with their feet, but they seem to be on the mend now. We fat scored the sheep and found that they are slim as would be expected of a hill breed at the end of winter (all of ours are hoggs and we've no sheep in lamb) but not skinny. Our sheep don't seem to have a huge amount of interest in being fat, they come running for feed and politely nibble at the hay but wander off to graze after a few mouthfuls. I'll be interested to see them once their fleeces are off. The vet said that she was very happy with their health and loved having such beautiful sheep as Shetlands to watch over.

Rosy made the best of a networking opportunity to make some powerful friends!

Monday, 24 March 2008

Dreaming of a White Easter

Boy did it snow last weekend?! Funnily enough though I was staying with my parents in Ulverston where there was none so when Chris called me at 6am, enthusing enthusiastically about the "half-foot of beautiful white stuff" that was blanketing our village, I was a little miffed. I'd committed myself to spending the day getting some fencing done and introducing Granny to the sheep.

Dad had drawn the short straw of giving me a hand for the morning and so we set off in good time to get cracking. As we traveled we went from green fields, to icing sugar sprinkled, to a good big white blanket that covered the land from mountain tops to road side.

The sheep were very happy to see the car edging its way down the snowy track and came running to greet us at the gate. I gave them some hay which they munched happily for a while before the novelty wore off and they pottered away to dig out grass from beneath the snow.

There was no getting out of work for us. The new paddock has to be finished soon as the sheep are getting toward the end of the grass in their current residence and are staring at the new green stuff through the fence.

Dad and I hammered in a line of posts and felt very pleased with ourselves, despite the underground rocks that had caused two to suddenly kink over into an irrecoverable lean.

In excellent time, as our muscles started to ache, Mam, Kate and Granny arrived to see the sheep and take us off for an Easter Sunday pub lunch. Granny made friends with the sheep first and said all the right things about how pretty they are :o) In the meantime, Kate busied herself building a snow sheep!

After lunch the family took off home, but Wal and Ruth had appeared with a fresh enthusiasm for fencing so we carried on and got the netting on the posts. The result was ever so slightly wonky but still a smart looking new fence. Only a couple of hundred meters to go now!

Sunday, 16 March 2008

Little Rotter!

It's Sunday afternoon and all three of us are lying around doing very little. Chris is on the sofa watching Watership Down with a cup of tea and a packet of biscuits, I'll be joining him after writing this, and Fox is stretched out in front of the fire. We're all absolutely shattered because of a certain little visitor!

On Friday afternoon, just when I was looking forward to switching off for the weekend, I got a call from my boss asking me to give advice to someone who had found a baby otter on the banks of Crummock Water. The poor little wretch had been wandering around for over three hours screaming her head off for a mother who never returned. After that length of time, I knew that she really had been abandoned and asked for her to be brought in to me.

Chris and I are no strangers to hand rearing wild animals, we're sensible about it though and only keep something going if we think that there is a genuine hope that it will be fit to return to the wild. You won't find any one legged Blackbirds or one eyed Tawny Owls in our back garden!

When Otto arrived she was quite dehydrated but in surprisingly good nick. I guessed she was about 6 weeks old so not ready to be out and about yet. We got fluids into her but she spent a good chunk of her time still screaming for Mum. I slept on the sofa with her to keep her warm and give the contact of another living thing that she needed. I've had about 1.5 hours of sleep in the last two nights and have raided our neighbours' freezers for trout, which she devoured happily.

Every time she cried, Fox would jump up to check she was ok. He was amazingly gentle with her and, although I'd never have left them alone together, clearly meant her no harm and was simply baffled by the sudden appearance of this noisy little creature.

My friend and otter expert John McMinn came up to see her, give extra advice and discuss our plan of action. We agreed to transfer her to the care of Paul and Grace Yoxon who run the International Otter Survival Fund and have taken otters from John and I before, so this morning I drove to Gretna Green to hand her over to Colin Seddon, an SSPCA officer who would then relay her up to IOSF on Skye.

It is always rewarding looking after a baby animal but I always suspect that anyone who says "oh how on earth could you let her go" must not have reared many wild animals! They are hard work and I always think of them as being wild and never "mine." She will be much happier playing with other otter cubs at IOSF and has the best chance possible of staying wild enough to release.

Sunday, 2 March 2008

So called holiday

Two weeks off, two whole weeks all to myself. What would you expect someone to do with two weeks available for rest and joyous wandering... possibly not take on two extra jobs! I do wonder at myself sometimes. The local uni called needing a lecturer for their Wildlife Rehabilitation course which I taught last year. I explained that I didn't have a day to spare each week and they kindly said that that was fine because we could squash the whole thing into my weeks off! So I have spent 5 days of my break lecturing and writing lesson plans.

Apart from this I had already promised to refresh my film production skills and make a promotional video for the Red Squirrel project along with my friend Paul Nichols who is shaping into an excellent wildlife camera man. I dragged my good friend Chris Sperring up from Somerset to present it too. . It was so horrendously windy that we struggled to get the shots we needed because of the noise in the tops of the trees. We had fun though and I'm sure it will all turn out fine in the end...