July was another brisk month at WBR with a total of 42 rescues attended plus 4 significant releases.
I’m writing this report in the carpark above beautiful Oxenford Weir where a drama is currently playing out. Ten days ago one of the local ospreys was reported with fishing line trailing from her left foot. Close up pictures show a scar and much swelling indicating the likelihood of a fish hook above her left ankle. She’s unable to use the talons on that foot to grasp prey (live fish) which means she’s at risk of starving; assuming infection doesn’t kill her first. I hope to catch her before either of those eventualities. Ospreys hunt over a wide range and rarely come to ground, so catching her is incredibly time consuming and will require all of my skill and patience. The degree of difficulty is approaching 9 out of 10 and I probably won’t sleep too well until it’s over. Fingers crossed.
Fishing line entangled ibis eluded me all month. Of the six birds reported I think I only caught two. A badly entangled ibis at The Spit knows me so well and that she flies off if I even drive my car within 50 meters. I must have caught her before. Ibis would put elephants to shame when it comes to memory. I’ve tried everything to trick this bird including dressing in outrageous clothing and wearing strange hats. I’ve taken a friend along twice so that we could play the role of innocent picnickers, all to no avail. I just hope someone bails me out if I ever get arrested for running around the local park with a handful of mince, dressed like a transvestite and waving a net gun.
One of the most unusual rescues this month was a peli I named Matilda, spotted at Jumpinpin Bar off Jacobs Well with a bite out of the front of her pouch. She’d probably been scooping up baitfish and still had a pouch full of water when hit by a small whaler or bull shark. She was very lucky not to lose more of the pouch because it would have been impossible to repair. The hospital did a fine job sewing her up and now she’s back at The Pin doing well and terrorizing the mullet. Thanks to the lads at Jacobs Well VMR for assisting with on-water transport.
In the picture at right she’s standing on the swimming enclosure at Jacobs Well, shortly after release, looking as good as new. Go Matilda.
This picture was taken on a recent trip to collect wash-in rubbish from the shores of lovely Curlew Island, 300 meters off Labrador in the heart of the Gold Coast. The label says biodegradable but that doesn’t help at all if these bags get into rivers or the sea. They take months to break down when exposed to sunlight and a great deal longer if underwater. In fact the regulations around biodegradability and what that term actually means are confusing, just like the term ‘free range’. The only real solution is to BAN THE BAG, sooner rather than later, before they completely choke our oceans.
The little girl at right looked pretty manky and display all the symptoms of botulism when I pulled her out of the mud at Steiglitz Wharf up near Cabbage Tree. Paralysis had affected her legs and arms (wings) but hadn’t yet made its way into her neck muscles. This augured well for her survival. Currently she’s in Currumbin Wildlife Hospital receiving treatment.
WBR is an emergency wildlife rescue service and so I see some pretty horrible things. The fact that many injuries are caused by fishing, touted as ‘Australia’s most popular sport’, means that most are avoidable, making them all the more unpleasant. I’m not going to show you the picture I have of a beautiful white-faced heron with both legs entangled in line, dangling from a TV antennae two stories up, while it’s mate stood on top of the antennae looking down, unable to help. That image still haunts me. I got her down quickly but she couldn’t be saved. I just wish I could show that pic to the ‘half back flanker’ who dropped the fishing line on the ground instead of putting it safely in a rubbish bin, thereby causing the entanglement and her unnecessary death. Very sad. Please pick up discarded fishing line wherever you find it. Wrap it into a tight ball before binning it (otherwise it will entangle birds when it gets to the tip), or put a lighter underneath and incinerate it.
Several crested pigeons were rescued in July. These dear little birds beetle around shuffling everywhere they go, making them a magnet for discarded cotton, braid (non-stretch fishing line) and human hair. Entanglements maim their little feet terribly unless caught and the offending material removed quickly. The pic at left shows my friend Danni, vet nurse and volunteer RSPCA ambo driver, holding a pigeon that we’d just disentangled.
I had to deal with so many abandoned cygnets (baby swans) this month that I hardly knew which way was up. I’ll give you the abbreviated version of this story but be warned, it’s full of twists and turns, so please pay close attention. Are you ready?
It all began when caller Jan reported a duck sized cygnet swimming alone at the west end of Burleigh Lake. The bird was barely 3 months old; a bit too young to be out there on its own. Cygnets mature into young swans (fledge) after 5 months at which time their previously kind and loving parents transform overnight into the parents from hell and drive their now ‘flight capable’ young out of the territory. Problems arise if the parents begin nesting too early, before their cygnets have fledged. Unable to fly the young birds have no way to escape from aggressive parents. They usually sustain repeated beatings which is hard on them and not much fun to watch. Such was the case with this little bloke.
I headed to Burleigh Lake and grabbed the cygnet, then took him to Currumbin Wildlife Hospital where I asked (begged) head vet Mic Pyne if he’d take him into care. I said he’d only need about a month, which was a shameless lie because he needs at least 6 weeks. Mic said ‘OK, bring him in’. The hospital is a hospital, not a caring facility, so it was very kind of him to offer sanctuary. I named him Scooter (at right) and the girls made a big fuss of him. It turned out to be Scooter’s lucky week because a few days later I picked up another abandoned orphan, exactly the same age, from Clear Island Waters, ten k’s to the north. He and Scooter bonded immediately. By now Mic was probably regretting his decision. He would have regretted it a whole lot more had he known that over the next two weeks I’d come across another ten abandoned cygnets. Yep, TEN, and I planned to take ALL of them to hospital!
Figuring out where these young birds had come from took a while. Turns out that five were the offspring of Trisha and Tyson, the established pair of swans on Miami Lake. The other five belonged to the (un-named) resident pair on Burleigh Lake, adjoining and immediately south of Miami Lake. Both pairs of parents have the nasty habit of driving their young away well before they’ve fledged. It also happens that both pairs tend to nest at the same time meaning that all cygnets involved in this story were about the same age. Quite remarkable.
Trisha and Tyson had six cygnets to start with (5 in pic at left) but one became separated as they fled. It travelled alone, south and along to the west end of Lake Burleigh. That was Scooter. (I hope you’re following all this?) Meanwhile each of these two separate groups of five cygnets moved to the far end of their respective lakes, trying to evade aggressive parents. Despite their best efforts all have had to endure regular raids and beatings from their dear old mums and dads. Child abuse at its very worst, I’d say.
At right is the West Burleigh 5, expectations of a handout written all over their faces.
Fortunately for Mic I’ve now determined that all ten cygnets still in the wild are coping reasonably well and can be left to fend for themselves while maturing, all under the watchful eyes of local residents who spoil them rotten. In about four weeks they will mature sufficiently to be ‘flight capable’, meaning they can go wherever they choose. Around that time I’ll pick up Scooter and his mate from hospital and release them somewhere nice. Scooter is a happy little fellow but he’s blind in the right eye, quite possibly the result of beatings from his parents, but we think he’ll be OK.
My sincere thanks go to all who donate to Wild Bird Rescues. You keep this service running and it’s your generosity that made these rescues and many more, possible. Special thanks also to WBR patron Jim Downs and to Liz and Paul on the donations committee.
Remember, if you see a ‘flight capable’ bird, keep it in sight and call me immediately. That gives me the best chance of finding, catching and helping the creature.
At right, 4 of the West Burleigh 5, snouts in trough of greens.
Rowley El Presidente for Life
PS. To show my appreciation donors automatically receive each month’s Capture Report before they’re made available to the public. Archived Reports can be viewed at http://wildbirdrescues.com.au/capture-record