Close encounters with wildlife are always very special. Two years ago I had a close encounter with a swift – probably my favourite bird if I had to choose. Sadly, it had become grounded due to an infestation of parasitic flat fly, and we tried for hours to pick off the flies and rehydrate the swift. A volunteer from Swift Conservation was kind enough to collect the swift and look after it, but it didn’t recover and died a few days later. It was a very emotional experience. My next close encounter, which happened just last week, would play out a little differently.

When Wimbledon is on, nothing else on TV matters. To be honest it’s the only thing I watch all year. Taking to the floor to sit after sitting at a desk all day helps me justify more screen time and brings back some nostalgic feelings. It’s lucky I take this approach sometimes, as if I hadn’t last Thursday I never would have noticed the dark, Ping-Pong ball shaped object near the shoe rack.

I thought it was some tumblefluff (think tumbleweed) blown in from outside. I strained my eyes to see, while simultaneously trying not to miss any spectacular winners down the line. I just couldn’t make it out. I rolled over to get a better look. It was impossibly small, and breathing. It was a young vole. It was the saddest, and closest to death vole I had ever seen.

Vole looking very sad, very tired, and very frantic when trying to eat a seed (Photo: Jack Plumb)

After some short intakes of breath I sprang into action. This one had to survive. I found the softest tea towel in the house and a small box to keep the vole close to the food, water and love I was going to provide it with. Safely wrapped up, I researched how to nurture it back from the brink. “Rehydration with an electrolyte solution recommended.”

I grabbed some Dioralyte and a make-shift water dish. A dash of the powder, and some honey, thoroughly mixed and dissolved in the water would hopefully do the job. I took a small handful of mixed seed and the rehydration concoction back to the intensive care unit, feeling confident. I named the patient, Vole. Nothing else felt appropriate.

The will to survive was there, but Vole couldn’t get his tiny legs to carry him to the water dish, or even pick up a seed. It was rapidly becoming a critical situation, and I knew I needed to intervene.

I thought back to my experience with the swift. We had used a cotton bud to drop water onto the side of its beak for it to slowly sip. Perhaps this would work for voles, too. Vole in hand and wetted bud at the ready, the minor operation began.

Vole’s tiny mouth was moving, more and more with every drop of the restorative elixir. It was working! Vole’s strength returned. His legs grew like Popeye’s arms, and lifted his near-lifeless body above and beyond the grasp of death. Vole was grabbing seeds and oats, grass and the thrill of life once more.