|Judith and Boris the pig!|
I turned to the right and two shiny black eyes were fixated on me, intently staring, watching silently. The black crow appeared quite fascinated as I fed the fledgling Great Tits that were jumping about with glee.
The tiny birds knew the routine by now. Every hour on the dot, a human (wearing gloves and a rather fetching green overall), appeared at their spacious cage and patiently stood there until every one of the chirping birds had been fed.
I did wonder what the crow thought of this hourly spectacle as he rested in his box waiting for his feeding time.
During my time volunteering at RSPCA Stapeley Grange Wildlife Centre in Cheshire I kept a diary. Wildlife is a particular passion of mine so I wanted to learn more – and also as an RSPCA press officer the variety of challenging and bizarre questions you get asked about every species known to man has increased the desire to expand my wildlife knowledge!
Questions in the past range from being quizzed about slow worms, to how to stop foxes digging up a bowling green (thank goodness for the experts in RSPCA wildlife department!).
The species that fill the centre change with the seasons but all are in need of either specialist veterinary treatment or expert respite care.
One minute the centre is full of poorly hedgehogs, the next awash with chirping fledglings of every species imaginable. There are plenty of youngsters of every variety- from badgers to bats, seals to shrews.
In fact one of the most delicate jobs I witnessed was the feeding of a baby shrew. It was completely bald and wriggled around like a toddler having a tantrum. But the caring staff member was completely focused on the job in hand and lovingly ensured it was fed.
On my first day at Stapeley the centre had an abundance of hedgehogs. On entering ‘hedgehog hotel’ you can’t actually see any hedgehogs as they are all dozing after their exhausting night trashing their temporary abode, but the fragrant smell that greets you gives the game away.
The hogs are cleaned out and weighed every morning. Some hogs graciously comply with this daily activity and duly roll into a ball to be weighed. Others with a more inquisitive nature don’t stay in a ball for long before their little wet nose is frantically sniffing the air to see what is going on – after all they were sleeping and this morning wake up call is most inconvenient!
Most hogs, when placed back in their fresh clean bed, rustle about for a while until they get comfy in the shredded paper; while others have to investigate a bit further coming to the front of their cage, nose twitching, to have a closer look at this strange world they are currently living in.
There are so many stories I could tell about my time at Stapeley- from donning white overalls and wellies to venture into the isolation unit (where the sickest animals are often treated) to the many fascinating wild animals and birds I was privileged to clean up after!
But the one overriding thought I was left with was the wildlife that comes through the doors of Stapeley are indeed the lucky ones. What makes Stapeley truly special is the staff (not forgetting the many volunteers and students). Their compassion, enthusiasm, expertise and 100% commitment to the wildlife in their care was wonderful to witness.
Regional Press Officer