Activity picked up during January with Wild Bird Rescues attending 38 sick, injured or orphaned birds. Species rescued included ducks, swans, ibis, pelis, cormorants, crows, maggies, pigeons, gulls, a white-faced heron and even a striated heron.
Striated heron are not a bird that I have to catch very often. They’re funny little blokes. in fact several live around Southport Yacht Club where I’m based. I have a collective name for them … Lurk. That’s because they ‘lurk’ around the docks with their little hunched backs as they peer into the water hoping to snatch small fish.
In this case Lurk was hobbling. He had quite a limp but boy was he hard to find. After disappearing for two weeks he’s returned and appears to be walking much easier. No further action needed.
Mayhem, Mayhem and more Mayhem
Before you plunge into the rest of the report a quick reminder that this is wildlife rescue. It ain’t always pretty. But we’re able to save a hell of a lot more birds than we lose and even when outcomes are not good we nearly always manage to reduce suffering. Sometimes that’s the only thing we can do and it’s a good thing.
That ancient god of Bad Anglers was extra busy on the Goldie these summer holidays. As usual, swans copped the brunt of it with 11 needing to be rescued during January, most due to fish hook injuries.
One of the biggest problems during any school holiday period is kids using bread for bait. As you know waterbirds will often approach people standing on a dock or shoreline hoping for a handout. Kid’s (or anyone) casting a hook baited with bread in amongst those birds is a disaster waiting to happen … and it happens often. If people who fish amongst waterbirds had to deal with the horrors that myself and the hospital are confronted with daily fishing would not be treated so casually and would lose any credibility as a ‘family friendly’ sport.
In the last newsletter I told of a new submissions I’m preparing for the Dept. Fisheries and the Minister calling for education which demands that fishers report hookings immediately and to stop casting in amongst birds. The latter is a massive problem because it results in so many hookings. The submission has been written, I’ve just got to add finishing touches. If you think the stories and pics in these Capture Reports are confronting I can tell you they’re nothing compared to what the Minister is about to receive.
One of the worst examples of irresponsible behaviour involved the poor little chap in these pics. He was called in by a canal barge crew who’d spotted him swimming around frantically without his mum or dad. When I caught him I could feel that big lump in his neck was solid. I thought, ‘Oh no. Here we go again’.
You may remember the picture of a swan in the December report showing a hard lump in the bird’s neck which turned out to be a blockage of food caused by a fish hook. This little guy was suffering from the same problem. A large hook lodged in his throat (x-ray pic at right) had prevented him from swallowing. I hoped we’d caught him in time but it wasn’t to be. Infection had spread to his oesophagus which was necrotic. He couldn’t be saved.
The ‘irresponsible behaviour’ I speak of refers to the fisher who hooked this bird and didn’t call to report the injury or get him help. That stinks! What kind of person does that?
Doing Everything Right
One of the many entangled birds WBR saved in January was a gull called in by Tabitha who was enjoying an afternoon in the Broadwater Parklands with her two year old. The little one became very concerned about the ‘hurt birdy’ stumbling around in front of them.
I’ve singled out this case because Tabitha did everything right when reporting the injury.
As soon as she spotted the entangled gull, not knowing who to call, she Googled ‘Bird Rescue’. Discovering Wild Bird Rescues she phoned immediately then listened patiently while I gave her the necessary instructions. Namely, to feed the bird as little as possible and only enough to keep it around. I explained that I can only catch a hungry bird and if she over-feeds while I’m rushing to the rescue I might not be able to catch the gull when I arrive.
(Pic above left. The gull was fully hobbled by loose strands of heavy nylon rope. Just shows that nearly any fibrous plastic material is a threat to wildlife)
I pulled up at the Parklands then headed towards Tabitha’s location. On the way I noticed one of the local ibis with a fishing line entangled, making a note to sort her out on the way back.
Tabitha had half a box of fresh chips which she donated to the cause. Waste not want not is my moto so after savouring several of those tasty chips I set about catching the gull.
It was all over in 5 minutes, plus another 5 to cut away the entanglement. Although sore and swollen the bird got immediate relief and in time the swelling will subside.
As soon as I’d released that bird I headed back for the ibis. She was quickly located and caught. The fishing line strangling her toes was cut away and she was returned to the flock no doubt wondering what the hell had just happened, but feeling a lot more comfortable.
Oh yeah, there is a God
I use a ‘hands-free’ in the car which I have on speaker so I can talk while driving but one time, when pulling out of a carpark, I inadvertently picked up the ringing phone and began to talk.
The caller was a very elderly lady concerned about a magpie which visited regularly. I asked her to hold the line as I put the phone down and prepared to pull over so that we could discuss the matter further. Seconds later a car wheeled out in front and cut me off. I let out a string of expletives, not loud but loud enough, realising too late that my elderly caller was still on the line and the phone was on speaker. ‘Oh no! How the hell am I going to explain this?’
By the time I stopped the car a couple of minutes had passed. I picked up the phone and rather sheepishly said … ‘hello’. I heard a clunk, then a voice on the other end said, ‘oh I’m sorry dear but I had to leave the phone to get something out of the oven. Now, about that magpie.’
Contain Your Excitement
OK ibis lovers … get ready! Last month I promised a bumper ibis issue and being a man of my word I fully intend to deliver with extra stories and pics about the Gold Coast’s ‘favourite’ bird.
Speaking of favourites … in a national competition at the end of 2017 the ibis was just pipped at the post for the title of ‘Bird of the Year’. Damn magpies won. What a bloody travesty that was. Rigged vote I reckon.
You also might be surprised to learn that the Australian white ibis is native and therefore fully protected. They are in fact more of an inland species but due largely to our irresponsible behaviour with rubbish ibis happily migrate and take up residence near the coast knowing they can easily find a free feed. That makes the ibis a great barometer for how well we’re managing our rubbish. That being the case it’s clear we’re doing a lousy job! However, rather than blame the birds wouldn’t it be easier to just cover our bins and not leave food around (and not feed them).
I think ibis are hilarious the way they strut around, yet even I’ll concede they don’t smell too good. The aroma can best be described as a none-too-delicate blend of ‘chook pen’ and ‘stinky socks’ … not a fragrance you’re likely to find in the perfumery at Myer anytime soon.
Ibis might be the ultimate hunter gatherers. The bird at right had just ‘hunted’ down a plate of king prawns on a picnickers table before ‘gathering’ one and running off. Kids were in hot pursuit. The picnickers were not impressed to find me cheering for the ibis. Go you little rascal!
During January I caught several ibis.
My friend Dani completed some good bird capture training with me before joining the RSPCA as one of their officers. Early one morning in January she called to report an entangled ibis on the beach in front of her house. By the time I arrived the creature had moved off so Dan, her son Kai and I set off down the beach hoping to catch it.
(Pic above left. Dani and Kai, happy to have the bird firmly wrapped up in a towel)
The ibis was walking briskly as we followed along on the opposite side of the canal. This creature was tricky and so far had offered no hope of capture. Next thing it took to the air but to my great relief landed only 200m ahead in a local park which had a playground.
When you’ve caught as many ibis as I have (some 900+) you develop a sense of what is possible and what isn’t. The fact that the bird landed alongside a playground, where it was probably used to getting food from families, could be a game-changer. We jumped in the car and rushed to the park.
(Pic above right. Mother and child share a moment bonding over an ibis foot)
Sure enough, with the change of location our little friend transformed into a different bird. Our strategy was to ignore him completely, acting like picnickers for the couple of minutes it took me to set a snare, before standing back and throwing dog ‘meaty bites’ to the bird. He happily obliged by rushing in for the tucker. BIG mistake, or more likely his best decision so far this year!
(Pic above left. The most dangerous wrap of line is that one above the ankle. In time it would have taken his entire foot off preventing the bird from foraging for food)
(Pic at right shows that same foot free of the entanglement, which is how an ibis foot is supposed to look)
This entanglement was a bad one although fortunately the fishing line hadn’t yet cut into the bird’s flesh.
The ibis was super lucky that Dan spotted him in time or he would have gone on to suffer terrible pain and eventually lose that foot.
Two minutes work with scissors and the fatal entanglement was off and so was he.
(Pic above. Kai doing his best breakdance as he leaps aside to avoid the escaping bird)
Would you like your Ibis Gift Wrapped?
Had I caught the ibis at right a few days ago I might have thought it was intended as a Valentine’s Day gift, all wrapped up in that pretty blue ribbon. After all, nothing says ‘I love you’ quite like a nice ibis foot!
Picnickers at Paradise Point weren’t too sure what to make of this but caller Amanda had the good sense to Google ‘Bird Rescue’ and report the creature’s plight.
Catching a wild ibis in a park on a Saturday arvo amongst dozens of families, kids and dogs can be quite a challenge. You definitely need some luck. Fortunately I had luck with this bird and caught him quickly.
That ribbon hadn’t tightened, nor done any damage, but it could have. Definitely better off than on.
Hoppy the Irrepressible
Some months ago I reported that Hoppy (at right), an ibis which lost a foot just above the ankle to a fishing line entanglement at The Spit, was doing OK. That continues to be the case. Hoppy was lucky. His stump healed well and is sufficiently calloused for him to weight-bear on it without pain. The stumpy leg is shorter than the other of course but not so short that it can’t be used.
Hoppy is a rare survivor of this type of injury. He’s a little lopsided but he gets around and can forage quite well. The risk posed by more weight being transferred onto one side is that the bird will develop bumble foot. This is painful swellings on the underside of the foot, kinda like boils. We’ll just have to wait and see. In the meantime … Go Hoppy!
(Pic at right. Hoppy doesn’t like me much. Don’t know why ’cause I might just be his best friend. Normally he bolts when he sees me but in a rare display of trust he allowed me to snap this picture through the car window)
The Cake File
If I was ever to consider another vocation obviously this’d be it. Pic at left says it all.
Don’t forget this month Grill’d in Surfer Paradise (Caville Av) is hosting Wild Bird Rescues in their Local Matters competition.
Each month Grill’d chooses three worthy causes from the local community. Diners are given a token which they place in the jar corresponding to their favourite cause. So far WBR is doing really well but more tokens are needed so if you’re down Surfer’s way please enjoy a yummy burger at Grill’d and cast your vote for Wild Bird Rescues.
The winner receives a $300 donation. Runners-up each receive $100. Good onya Grill’d!
Thank you to all Wild Bird Rescues donors. Your help make this service the most efficient and effective bird capture outfit on the Gold Coast, rescuing 500+ creatures every year.
As always special thanks go to our patron Jim Downs and to Liz and Paul on the Donations Committee.
Until next month
Ibis Boy out