Activity was brisk during June with Wild Bird Rescues attending 53 creatures in distress.
We’re at the end of the financial year and I’m delighted to report that donations received during ’16/’17 were sufficient to the cover the cost of running this rescue service. It’s the first time in the twelve years WBR has been helping injured birds that I haven’t had to do the rescues and chip in to pay for them too! There’s even a small surplus in the Donations Account which adds a comforting buffer against unforeseen expenses. My sincere thanks to everyone who helped.
Last week I turned sixty five. Yayyy, I’m now a senior citizen. Shortly I’ll unpack my new Zimmer Frame and apply for a grant to buy that mobility scooter with the V8 engine, built-in food trays, capture boxes and solid mount for the net gun on the front. Then, if I can’t shoot ’em I’ll just mow ’em down.
You may be surprised to learn there is very little government support for wildlife rescuers. With the exception of RSPCA the entire network exists primarily because of volunteers. Even RSPCA relies heavily on vols. I’ve been lucky because government benefits are available to anyone over 55 who volunteers in some capacity for 15 hours each week (I do several times that much). Of course this is not much help to younger volunteers, many of whom dedicate a huge amount of time and their own resources to saving wildlife in distress. I’m now eligible for a government pension which will provide a much needed boost to my modest income. Now, with donations meeting expenses, Wild Bird Rescues is assured of survival.
With all this good news I thought it might be nice to feature only ‘good news’ stories in this report. Of course it won’t be a true reflection of all the events that took place during June, some of which were far from happy. You also need to keep in mind that good news stories don’t usually start out looking real good. But all’s well that ends well.
First cab off the rank is this little lady at right called in by Wendy from Miami Lake in Burleigh Waters. Wendy could see the shank of a hook coming from the swan’s mouth. Having contacted Wild Bird Rescues many times before to get help for injured birds she knew who to call. I live in Main Beach; some 20k’s north of Burleigh. From the time I received the call at 6.30am, to when I’d caught the bird, took less than 30 minutes. Pretty quick I think you’ll agree. Speed is everything when rescuing injured creatures that are able to swim or fly away in an instant. Delay can turn a straight forward rescue into something that takes days, or not eventuate at all.
Although the swan’s injury looks dramatic the hooking was quite fresh and only through soft tissue. I nipped off the barb; backed out the hook and released the bird immediately. No harm done.
Those who follow the WBR Facebook page may remember a recent post featuring Caroline, ‘Lady of the Lake’. She stood in cold, waist deep water for an hour holding a rake above her head so that a crow hanging by a hook from its mouth could perch and ease the pain of the injury.
I caught the crow, which we named Crusty and rushed it to Currumbin Wildlife Hospital. There it was treated before being sent on to carer Jenny in Nerang, pictured at right holding Crusty.
Three days later Jenny pronounced Crusty fit for release. I delivered him back to his family at Lake Laguna in Palm Beach. One very lucky crow.
Another of Jenny’s success stories is Cyril, a baby bush-stone curlew that also featured in a FB post. Cyril was abandoned by his parents and then plucked from the middle of a busy road by passers-by. I delivered him to Jenny who spent the next 6 weeks raising him. When fully grown we let him loose among the flock of curlews that live in the bush opposite SeaWorld.
Curlews are wonderful birds and very comfortable around humans, however this means chicks are especially susceptible to imprinting while in care. It happens easily and results in the adult curlew, when released, becoming a nuisance to people and a danger to itself. I recall ones such case where a curlew had become quite imprinted. Some days after its release I was enjoying lunch in a Southport café when the bird came strolling in. So ended my meal. I recognised it and reached down and grabbed the little rascal, then carted him back across the Broadwater and let him go in the bush. A week later he was spotted perusing magazines in a local newsagency. Caught again I released him back into the same bushland. I could go on … point being that carers have to be very careful so that birds in captivity don’t become too attached or they’ll have a bumpy ride when returned to the wild.
Delighted to say that Jenny did a great job raising Cyril. It’s been 5 weeks since his release and we haven’t heard a word. That’s very good sign.
Two young swans that I picked up from Currumbin Wildlife Hospital and released last week were Tango and Tempo. This pair of ‘media tarts’ featured in a WBR Facebook post; a GC Bulletin newspaper article; and were recently filmed for an upcoming episode of Totally Wild. Any more attention and they’d be demanding their own dressing gowns with names embroided on the back.
I’d caught the pair and admitted them to hospital (at left) after they’d been driven off when too young by their parents. At the time Tango had sustained a nasty hook injury. They spent 8 weeks being raised in hospital (thanks to the generosity of head vet Dr. Michael Pine) and now were ready to go back into the wild. Vet nurse Amy brought them out to my car, looking fat and plump (the swans, not Amy). I drove the pair to Southlake in Robina where they waddled into the water, chortling and squeaking and happy as Larry.
There was a fortuitous outcome for a crested pigeon, spotted by caller Niki, hanging by fishing line high in a tree late one Sunday arvo on the Burleigh Heads foreshore. Any bird hanging by the legs and struggling; which they all do of course, is at high risk of breaking its legs or irreparably tearing tendons. Sadly I see this a lot. So much time and effort can go into saving a creature only to discover that it’s injured beyond help.
I rigged the long extension pole with a cutting head then fed the head up through the branches. This is tricky. You have cut the branch leaving just enough weight to bring the bird down so that it can’t fly away while still entangled … but not too much branch or the creature will crash to the ground injuring itself in the fall. I was having a hell of a time positioning the cutter among the dense foliage, some 6 meters above. Then a young guy offered to climb the tree and help place the head. That worked a treat. The branch was cut and the bird flew but only covered 50m metres before I got my hands on it.
Niki, her daughter and I took the pigeon to my car where we cut away the entanglement then released it unharmed. Another lucky bird.
Speaking of pigeons, that’s Geronimo, lower right. (Well, when you’re little and not feeling well it helps to have a BIG name). I was having coffee in Caville Av. when I spotted Geronimo stumbling around amongst the tourists. His feathers were matted and greasy and he was confused and tripping due to an entanglement of cotton around both feet. Poor little fellow looked wretched.
Sculling hot coffee isn’t easy, but I’m used to it. Rarely do I get to finish an entire cup before some ‘bird crisis’ occurs in the immediate vicinity.
I needed food to entice the pigeon so approached a Tradie eating a hamburger and asked, ‘Mate I know this is going to sound a bit weird but I’ve got to catch that pigeon. Can I have some of your bun?’. Dude gave me a look that said … ‘it’s too early to be dealing with f/wits’, then tossed (not handed me) some bun onto the table. Well, could have been worse I suppose. I rushed over, grabbed Geronimo, waved him aloft so that his new benefactor could see, then fled.
The staff at the Gold Coast Vet Surgery went straight to work. Dr. Charlotte cut the entanglements from Geronimo’s feet, then she and nurse Lily gave him a warm bath. Let this be a lesson to all … you never know when your luck is going to change majorly for the better. One minute living rough on the streets … next minute being nursed and bathed by attractive women. Could it get any better??
The girls kept Geronimo overnight. By next morning he was looking pretty good. I took him home then next day released him among a flock of pigeons on Macintosh Island, a short distance from the mean streets of Central Surfers where pigeons are all too prone to entanglement in cotton or human hair.
I want to say a big thank you to Dr. Kevin and his staff at the Gold Coast Vet Surgery for their endless help treating all the injured birds I take in. Kevin has provided free treatment for the past ten years. Staff always make sure that I’m seen quickly whenever a situation is urgent. Nothing is too much trouble. Very kind indeed. Thanks guys!!
The surgery also has a machine that makes hot chocolate to die for. Well worth taking your pet along for that reason alone 🙂
It was good news too for a family of ducks rescued by Lee (duck carer) and myself from a backyard pool in Miami. It’s common for Pacific black ducks to arrive in backyards where there’s a pool and then nest, unseen by the residents. The home owners wake up one morning and voila … a pool full of ducks. Ducklings can’t fly, which means they’re relatively easy to catch. I say ‘relatively’ because they can run like the wind and are programmed to all head in different directions, meaning if there are bushes nearby you’re likely to lose some. Not good. Those caught go into care with people like Lee. On the plus side ducklings in care usually survive, whereas survival rates in the wild can be as low as 10%, mainly due to eels, gulls, crows, water dragons etc. The downside is that carers can easily become swamped with ducklings because there are just too few carers to keep up with the demand.
Best option therefore is to catch and relocate the family as a whole. That’s what we did. Mum and all 9 ducklings were released on a lovely little Billabong on Assura Island, Varsity Lakes. Here’s hoping all make it through to maturity. Mind you that won’t be much comfort to the homeowner. With his address now firmly imprinted on the ducklings brain he can look forward to many more arrivals and nesting’s.
Check out this poor crow. Gives a whole new meaning to the term ‘entangled’. He’d swooped down and grabbed a baited hook from a young boy fishing in Labrador. The bird became seriously entangled in the line. The boy’s mother called, very distressed, to report the problem. Getting a call from a fisher who’s just hooked or entangled a bird is such a rarity that it stands out. Most just cut the line. That’s a mistake because the injured bird flies away, meaning I’ve then got to find it and try to catch it. Luckily this crow was so entangled it couldn’t get airborne but did managed to swim to the other side of the canal, smothered in line. That’s where I got my hands on it. In the end the only harm done was to its dignity.
Rescuers need to be careful when entering water. Sometimes, in the heat of the moment, it’s all too easy to rush in without thinking. This little chap at left … well, probably not accurate to say ‘little’ given that he was a good 2 meters long, was laying in the shallows at the end of a Mermaid Waters canal on a day that I happened to be looking for an injured swan. He wasn’t alone. There were 5 rays in the area. They’re docile and gentle creatures, unless you tread on one. That’s why it’s dangerous to lift your feet when walking through murky water. Always shuffle. The rays will move out of your way meaning you’ll be less likely to step on one and get stung.
My final good news story concerns another pigeon. ‘Oh my God’, you say. ‘He’s spared us the usual manky ibis feet but now all he can talk about is bloody pigeons.’ This is a cautionary tale that needs to be told. It concerns a pigeon with a feather stuck through both nostrils.
As you know the Gold Coast has an unsavoury reputation for drug use. The only explanation I could come up with for this bird’s dilemma was that local pigeons, unable to get their hands on the ‘good stuff’, have been snorting feathers. Shocking, I know. Nor is it a good look when one’s plumage is supposed to be smoothed back against the body and here you are, walking around, with a big feather stuck sideways through your nostrils.
The girls at the central Surfer’s café who’d called about the bird were very concerned. Took me a while to catch up with it, but a few days later the pigeon was spotted cruising among the tables. He was a quick catch, much to the delight of a large group of Asian tourists who seemed to think it was all part of a show. The feather came out easily, along with some blood. Must have been damn uncomfortable. My advice to all pigeons … JUST SAY NO!
This has been nine of fifty three stories from June. Thank you for supporting Wild Bird Rescues and making it possible to help so many injured birds. Rest assured that I’ll have an entire photo album of ibis feet ready for the next report 🙂
Special thanks goes to our patron Jim Downs and to Dr. Kevin and staff at Gold Coast Vet Surgery. Also Liz and Paul on the Donations Committee and all WBR’s regular donors.
Lowly Poultry Slave
Wild Bird Rescues GOLD COAST.