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Catching up with Wirral’s pioneering ‘Mr Wildlife’

Until he left work eight years ago, Malcolm Ingham, the council’s former head  ranger and wildlife officer, was synonymous with anything to do with Wirral wildlife.

He was the person residents turned to if they found an injured bird or badger, and an immediate ‘go to’ for local media when they needed advice or an opinion on conservation or wildlife issues.

Malcolm is still championing conservation from his new home, over the Dee in Denbighshire, but his retirement has been anything but quiet. He monitors the safety and wellbeing of otters and badgers, gives talks on wildlife and conservation, and acts as expert witness for North Wales Police and the RSPCA on badger and wildlife-related crime.

He has fond memories of his time in our lovely borough, loving the views to the Dee from Heswall Dales and The Dungeon, and missing the sound of waders over the Dee Estuary.

During his time with Wirral Ranger Service, he founded the wildlife rehabilitation unit at Wirral Country Park. There, among a selection of sheds and outbuildings at Thurstaston, Malcolm and his wife, veterinary nurse Ann, would give round the clock care to countless fledglings, birds of prey, foxes, hedgehogs, and other waifs and strays.

The unit, set up in 1985, built a national profi le. As well as the subject of countless articles, it featured on television too, and saw him filming with author and zoologist Desmond Morris, singer Kim Wilde and botanist David Bellamy.

Fundraisers supporting the unit included photographer Mike McCartney, who enlisted the support of his famous brother to raise money for the hospital, and remains Malcolm’s personal friend.

Malcolm reintroduced barn owls back to Wirral; one of his proudest achievements, he says, was discovering that a pair of owls that he had reintroduced had bred successfully in Royden Park’s Bell Tower. This led to him founding Wirral Barn Owl Trust, along with local RSPB warden Colin Wells.

His wackier Wirral bird-related anecdotes are safely retrieving a falcon from an Iranian ship in Liverpool, and accompanying an American nighthawk, found in Moreton, from RAF Brize Norton in a VC10 back to Belize for rehabilitation!

Malcolm remains a respected expert. He is guest speaker for conservation groups and has written technical papers on wildlife rehabilitation for organisations around the world. His services are often called on by animal organisations to appear as an expert witness in wildlife crimes, and to train staff working with animals.

Born in Clitheroe, Lancashire, he worked for Lancashire Ranger Service, patrolling moorland in the Forest of Bowland, before moving to Wirral. Since retiring to Denbighshire, he sits on North Wales Wildlife Trust Conservation Committee and North Wales Mammal Biodiversity Committee.

North Wales may be home now, but Malcolm says he misses the sunsets of Wirral and the sounds of waders over the Dee Estuary. A cherished sight was also seeing barn owls hunting silently over Heswall Fields.

‘My other fond memories are of my tame badger Basil, and my foxes Muffl es and Velvet, both of whom died at the ripe old age of 15 years just before I retired,’ he says.

Follow Malcolm on Twitter @ingham_mal