August was another very busy month at WBR. Including releases I attended 54 sick or injured birds. That makes 162 rescues performed in the past 3 months. Sheeesh! Last year WBR completed more than 500 hundred rescues but if this keeps up 2017 could top the 600 mark. Not good for the birds.
Rescuing so many birds means I come into contact with a LOT of people, many of whom are over the moon to see a creature they care about getting the help it needs. Yet despite this WBR only received a couple of donations during that entire three month period. The few who offered to donate didn’t keep their word. Disappointing. I don’t have any expectation that people who call once or twice about rescues should necessarily help out, although some do and often very generously. But I do get a bit miffed at others who’ve called this service dozens of times over the years and never offered anything. I guess they’re just happy to take what they can get for free. Thank goodness I have regular donors and those who’ve given before and gave again. You are the lifeblood of this rescue service.
OK … after that little gripe let’s move onto something far more uplifting. I’m talking about everyone’s favourite bird (cough) … the ibis. The poor old ibee did have a rough time during August. I attended 10 in all. It’s nearly always fishing line entanglement. Ibis have such big feet and are constantly foraging which makes them super prone to walking through fishing line carelessly dropped on the ground and getting it caught on their toes or feet. The only time ibis are not foraging and therefore safe is when they’re standing next to a picnic table hoping for a free snagger. Maybe they should do more of that 🙂
Raptors like osprey, kites and sea eagles have a sharp beak that can sometimes bite through fishing line. But not ibis or most other species. Once the line is on, that’s it. What follows is months of agony as the line tightens and slowly amputates the affected limb. In fact when I first came to the Gold Coast 12 years ago you could not find a mature ibis that had all of its toes. Every bird I came across had lost toes to fishing line. Things are much better now.
The funny little bloke upper left (how could you not love that innocent face? Well, at least his mother loves him) was very young; probably only a month out of the nest. His entanglement was typical … three toes wrapped up tightly and formed into a point, just like a ballerina’s toes. I see this a lot. Very uncomfortable trying to walk on pointy toes. I set up a snare to catch him. A snare is just a simple loop of heavy fishing line laid flat on the ground. You throw food to move the bird across the loop then quickly pull it tight around the creature’s legs. Harmless and very effective the snare is the ‘flight capable’ catchers primary tool. The problem was a pack of gulls had also turned up for the food. Pesky things kept tripping my snare. Ibis are smart. Normally they’d take one look at a tripped snare and it’d be ‘hasta la vista baby’ … you wouldn’t see ’em for dust. But not our little friend. He hadn’t a clue about what was going on. The bloody gulls tripped the snare four times but the ibis hung around until eventually I caught him. The fishing line was quickly removed and he was freed, no real damaged done (right).
You may remember from the last Capture Report that RSPCA Ambo Officer Sarah and I were rewarded with a nice cup of tea and cake after a successful magpie rescue at Griffiths Uni. Well I did it again. In fact ‘tea and cake’ has become my new yardstick for success in the rescue business.
This time it involved a group of elderly ladies out for a picnic on Jabiru Island with their carers (at left) from Anglicare. The only bloke was the bus driver/bar-b-que operator. Boy was he outnumbered. One of the ladies noticed that an ibis hanging around for some tucker was limping heavily. No prize for guessing why. They Googled and found WBR. I was there in a jiffy and quickly purloined a sausage from the bar-b to use as bait … freshly cooked snaggers being the finest ibis bait there is.
I set up a snare and it was all over within two minutes. The ladies gathered around and were full of interest and questions about wildlife rescue and discarded fishing line and the damage it causes. A few minutes later their new friend was released, minus a couple of toes which couldn’t be saved, but otherwise much more comfortable than before. One lady asked how I was funded. I said, ‘by donation’. Very kindly they said, ‘we’ll pass around a cup’, which they did. Then they offered me refreshments in the form of two muffins and a cuppa. Could it get any better?
Heading back to the car I spotted ‘the pack’ who’d fled after seeing their mate caught. They’d alighted upon a nearby lamppost and were all glaring down at me … mistrust in their beady little eyes. One was bellowing loudly. After years of working with them I now speak fluent ibee. He was shouting ‘show us the money!’ So I did.
The Gold Coast’s swans didn’t fair too well either during August with more than a dozen needing help.
People who follow WBR on Facebook may remember several recent posts featuring a female swan I call Cantankerous. It’d taken two days straight to catch Cantankerous and her two 8 week old cygnets after she’d gone lame from a fish hook in the knee. I whisked all three off to Currumbin Wildlife Hospital. This left dad out there all alone wondering where his family had gone. We hoped for a quick turnaround in hospital and got it when Cantankerous was pronounced fit for release just 4 days after admission. This was a spectacularly result considering that a hook in a joint is often fatal, or at very least can take weeks to heal. She and the kids were returned to Broadbeach and found their dad a few hours later. But the good times didn’t last. A week later Cantankerous was almost lame again. I thought ‘how the hell am I going to catch you this time?’ But there was no choice and it needed to happen quickly because I was about to take time off. There was no way I’d leave her out there without help.
I got a lucky break. It came while rushing a pelican to hospital from Jumpin Bar; the channel between North and South Stradbroke Islands. The caller had phoned RSPCA to report a lame swan camped with her partner and their two cygnets on the front lawn. I knew immediately who the bird was. As lucky would have it I was travelling adjacent to Broadbeach at the time so pulled off the M1 and sped to the address. The homeowner took me through and we carefully spied on the family from her kitchen window. Cantankerous was already on alert. There was only one option … I’d have to rush in from a side-gate and hope to get a net over her before she made it to the water. Thankfully the plan worked and soon she’d joined the peli in my car for the trip to hospital.
Happy to report it all ended well when after five days in care she was ready to go home. This time dad had been left with the kids and had done a very good job. Cantankerous was released and found her family later that afternoon. The pic at right was sent in by caller Julie the following morning after the family had camped for the night in her canal-side backyard (Cantankerous upper left).
I wrote most of this report from the hardstand area at Boatworks in Coomera. My yacht, which is my home, was in great need of paint and I was in even greater need of a holiday. Unfortunately the words ‘holiday’ and ‘hardstand area’ don’t really go together, the latter being more akin to ‘purgatory’. Pleased to say I just finished the job and it looks great. The pressure had eased a little during the last week and I’d been taking calls for critically injured birds. Typically these are hooked or lured birds in desperate need of help. I’m back to full rescue duties as of 6am today (Wed 20th).
The move to Coomera a couple of weeks ago coincided with a very sad pelican spotted in Waterhen Park, Oxenford, quite close by. The bird had a lure in the right side of its neck and fishing line wrapped tightly around the right leg. The peli was unable to weight-bear on that leg. With Cantankerous taken care of and another big fella that had a hook in his right ankle caught and hospitalized, the peli was my only outstanding ‘critical’. Sadly he wouldn’t come anywhere near making him almost ‘uncatchable’. I would have persisted and I’m convinced would have caught him eventually, but the bird only gave me the one chance. Apparently he flew from the lake later that day and hasn’t been seen since.
While searching for that pelican I came across a large gaggle of geese. I stopped the car and they all rushed me, no doubt expecting food. It was pretty clear from the lead bird the food they were most often being given was bread. The creature had angel wing, left side. In fact a few of them were suffering from that condition.
Back to the pelis. The number rescued in August was greater than normal with 7 birds needing attention.
Owen (below) is the fish filletter at Peter’s Fish Market on SeaWorld Drive and often calls me to help hooked pelis that show up for fish scraps. On this occasion the bird was a regular but gave me the slip first time I tried to catch him. The hooking wasn’t serious so there was no great urgency. We knew he’d be back. Often it helps to give them some time between attempts. A week later he was caught. This provided a great deal of excitement for Chinese tourists munching on their fish and chips and delighted to have an opportunity to pat such a big bird. I doubt the peli enjoyed it much but it’s a small price to pay for being de-hooked and it brings so much pleasure to the tourists and their kids.
Owen and I took a moment to cut a large amount of fishing line from the high branches of a tree in front of the car park. It’s the second time we’ve done this in as many months. In all there was several meters of line; 3 hooks and a sinker. That stuff is such a menace hanging there just waiting to entrap birds. With the long graphite extension pole I bought some time ago we can cut and remove branches and line as high as 10 meters that would otherwise require a cherry picker.
Hopefully the next few months will settle and not be as hectic as the last quarter. I’ll end this report as I always do by offering my sincere thanks to all donors. You provided the means to attend those 54 birds in August, many of whom would have died or been left seriously maimed were it not for your generosity.
Pres. WBR Gold Coast