Busy season coming for our Galwegian Swan sanctuary

By Laura Hannot

A busy season is starting for the Galwegian rescue team. Soon the phone will start ringing 20 times a day with no rest for our wildlife heroes.

“The sanctuary is a place to keep injured birds and rehabilitate them until they are old enough to be released,” says Mary Joyce Glynn, co-founder of the Galway and Claddagh Swan Sanctuary.

“We set it up the sanctuary because there was a need, there was no wildlife rescue in Galway at the time which is 22 years ago now. We set it up as a result of an oil spillage that happened in 2001 and we stayed together since that.”

Galway and Claddagh Swan Sanctuary does not only take care of swans but any wild birds in need of help. About 15 volunteers work at the sanctuary divided between different tasks: rescue, rehabilitation and release.

Retired, Mary spends her days answering calls from worried people who find an animal in need of help. She sometimes collects injured birds along with volunteers but she mainly rehabilitates birds at the centre in hopes to release them. 

“We’ve got an awful lot of injured pigeons. Some of them are just starving and exhausted and all they need is just a week or two of good food.”

Lucy the Goose

Lucy the goose is a well-known full-time resident. Whenever a new young bird admitted to the sanctuary it will act as an adoptive mother. 

She “is a wonderful foster mother, […] she is about 15 years old now and is in wonderful form.”

20 calls a day during the summer in Galway

Mary never let her phone down during the week. Mike, one of the volunteers is in charge of answering the phone during the weekend.

“During the winter it is quieter than usual, it could range between two to six calls a day. Some of them would be just looking for advice and we would get lots of calls from all over the country as well to advise people,” says Mary.

“During the spring and summer, we would have 20 calls a day because people are out and about and they see more problems.”

Some birds will need veterinary attention and others will just need a little rest.

“Sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t, and sometimes they are just exhausted and need food and warmth. If they are really badly injured we take it to our local vet for euthanasia.”

As cruel as it can sound, euthanasia can be necessary. A bird with a broken leg or wing, with no chance of healing, cannot fend and defend itself in the wild.

A funny habit

Mary released thousands of birds of all species over the years and the herons have a peculiar habit.

“I’m really fond of herons,” says Mary, “when they see somebody [at the sanctuary] they often fly back and hope to have a free lunch.”

Released birds seem to remember the sanctuary and its good food. People can often see them on the roof of the sanctuary waiting patiently in the hope to see a fish fly magically at their feet.

A short video is available here.

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