March was steady at WBR with 43 rescues and 2 major releases.
The big news was the introduction of the Gold Coast’s first three Tackle Bins at The Spit. A further ten bins will be installed at three other fishing ‘hot spots’ as soon as Council provides metal posts.
The public welcome for these bins was nothing short of extraordinary. The WBR Facebook page has a modest following of some 1600 people, although popular posts regularly achieve 15,000 views. In contrast the post where I offered a sneak peek at the new Tackle Bins was viewed by 72,500 people; shared 385 times and received nearly 500 ‘likes’. Comments were all positive, many from fishers who applauded the new initiative.
A truly amazing result.
To date the three bins at The Spit have been collecting around 200 meters of fishing line each week. I’d like to say that line was all deposited by fishers, but it wasn’t. Most was deposited by me during my regular foraging for discarded fishing line in the area. However, some was deposited by fishers and I expect their participation will increase as the bins become more well-known and accepted. Either way, the quantity of line and other waste tackle collected, regardless of who deposits it, will be indicative of the amount that may otherwise have been dropped on the ground, had the Tackle Bins not been there. I expect the primary users of the bins will remain the general public, fed up with seeing discarded fishing line, hooks and filthy bait bags littering beautiful places. A weekly audit of the bins contents will create a growing record that highlights the problem of discarded tackle, beginning with the bins at The Spit, and soon to include Oxenford Weir, Tallebudgera Creek and Currumbin Creek.
This Capture report does feature rather a lot of ibis. ‘Oh yeah’, just what I was hoping for’, I hear you say! Hey, someone’s gotta take care of the ibis. When a bird looks that odd and has an aroma to match, it needs all the help it can get! However, I will give you a brief reprieve from the ibee, just for a moment, and quickly relate a sad story from Paradise Point. It concerns a call I took from the RSPCA at 6pm last week about a pelican standing on a lamp post (7m high) at a local boat ramp. The next thing onlookers saw was the bird plummet to the ground and hit the deck, full force, without so much as opening its wings. Poor thing then staggered to its feet and stumbled towards the water. A bleeding wound was observed on the side of its neck with a long length of fishing line trailing behind.
People attempted to catch the peli as it scurried into the water, before swimming slowly to the opposite shore on Lindsay Av, some 200 meters across the bay, where it waddled up the beach. By now the light had almost gone.
I left Main Beach the moment I got the call and arrived at Paradise Point 20 minutes later. It took another 5 minutes to get access through a house to the beach where the bird had come ashore. It was pitch black and there was no sign of the pelican. Using torchlight I could see the beach clearly, four houses in each direction. I also searched the entire opposite bank. No sign. The peli must have slipped back into the water at some point just before I arrived. It either swam out of the bay; darkness covering its departure, or it died and sank. I organised for spotters to look all the next day and checked again myself the day after, but no bird. It was a lousy outcome.
Those who follow the WBR Facebook page know there was a much happier outcome for a little swan near Casino in NSW that had a lure in her face. WIRES Northern Rivers had asked for my assistance to catch the bird. It took a while but after a few hours of cat and mouse I got her. She was treated by Evan at the Lenox Head Vet then released by Melanie from WIRES two days later, safe and well. I wish I could say that was the only ‘lured’ bird I attended during the month, but it wasn’t. The term ‘lured’ refers to a fishing lure being deliberately cast at, and hooking, a bird.
I was taken to task on Facebook by a fisher offended by my comment that the swan had ‘probably had the lure cast at it by a bored fisher’. He wanted to know how I could be so sure and told me not to ‘guess’ about such things, no doubt keen to defend his ‘sport’ from any suggestion of heinous behaviour.
It is possible the swan had dipped its head underwater to feed and gotten hooked on a lure that was lost among reeds. The lure being in the bird’s face lends some credence to this. However most of the birds injured by a lure that I’m called to rescue have that lure embedded in their neck, body or a leg. It’s most unlikely that happened by ‘accident’. Fishers typically cast out a lure and retrieve it fairly quickly. Most waterbirds move about slowly; nowhere near fast enough to accidently swim into the path of a lure being reeled in, unless that lure has been cast in among the birds, which would be highly irresponsible (and fishers do it all the time). It’s my belief that most ‘lured’ birds have been targetetted for fun, or out of boredom. In other words, their hooking was an act of animal cruelty.
Of the hundred or so hooked or ‘body’ entangled birds I catch every year only one or two are called in by the fishers who’ve hooked them. And in fact most of those callers are the parents of kids who’d either hooked, or caused the entangling of a bird. It’s rare for an adult fisher to call about a bird they hooked themself, and in the twelve years I’ve been rescuing no fisher has every called to get help for a bird they hooked with a lure.
This gull at left was reported in distress by a Canadian tourist. It’s amazing how many calls I receive from tourists trying to get help for an injured bird. Why aren’t locals calling about these creatures?
Initially the gull appeared to be unable to fly. The caller said it was flapping and staggering but couldn’t get airborne. However, by the time I got there it had partially freed itself and was well and truly flight capable. That changes things entirely. Through binocs I could see a lure under its right wing and lots of blood. I had to catch the bird.
It was late arvo on the beach at Central Surfers. Not too many people thank goodness. I told the lifeguards what was about to happen, then began burleying up the other gulls. With his mates coming in for food my target bird felt more at ease. As soon as the opportunity presented I shot a net over him; the blast not attracting too much attention. Then it was off to Currumbin Wildlife Hospital to get those hooks out.
That story reminds me of a rescue a couple of years ago when I came across a limping ibis (at right). Closer inspection revealed a huge lure hanging from the bird’s left leg and treble hooks (three pronged) embedded in its knee and ankle. A very nasty injury indeed.
While setting up for the catch a cop car arrived and slowly swung around in the nearby turning circle. Seconds earlier I’d been using my long bladed knife … and I’m talkin’ one BIG knife, to prise open a can of cat food, hoping to attract the injured bird. Because my ‘catching’ activities can look a bit suss I thought I’d better tell the cops what was going on.
I gave them a wave and moved towards the car. The car stopped. The cop closest was looking at my face as I approached. Then I saw his gaze drop to my hands; his expression quickly changing from one of complacency to major concern about the ‘ibis feeding nutter’, now only 6 meters away and closing fast with a huge knife in one hand and a can of cat food in the other. I twigged at the same moment and thought, bloody hell, I could get shot for this. I quickly dropped my arsenal and walked to the car to explain. Neither cop blinked, or said a word. They just listened quietly then wound up their windows and drove off, probably very happy to get out of there in one piece.
It was 6am when a convenience store cashier in Cavil Av, central Surfers Paradise, called to tell me a bird was trapped in his store. I asked, ‘what kind of bird’?. In halting English he said, ‘I tink pelican’. A little unkindly I thought, ‘I know who the pelican is and it ain’t the bird’. I asked him to text me a picture. Turned out to be an ibis. No surprise there. I gave instructions about how to get the bird out of the shop. Ten minutes later he called back … no joy. Crap. Ibee at 6am … what’s my world coming to?
I arrived in Cavil Av, then did an illegal park; pretty much the only option. The convenience store was narrow … very narrow, and the ibis had made its way into a back passage with no door to the outside. Only way out was the way it’d come in.
First thing was to clear the store of people. At 6am that wasn’t difficult. So, with the coast cleared for a smooth exit by our little friend, I got behind the bird and had the two cashiers block off another nook so we could drive the creature forward and out through the shop. That was the plan anyway. Things were looking good until two Japanese girls walked in. The bird started to panic, then flew and perched on top of the office door. I thought, ‘now, little fellow, all you’ve got to do is step off that door, spread your wings quickly then bank hard right and all this will be over and I can go home for a much needed cup of tea. And pigs might fly. The Japanese girls were blocking the bird’s path out. I experienced a vision with excited faces, having just located their favourite brand of ramin noodles, then suddenly getting taken out from behind by a bellowing ibis desperate to break free of its confines. Things were about to get interesting.
The ibis took off from the door, but didn’t bank right, instead doing a lap of the tiny office, knocking over goodies as it went. Then it landed on the shop’s computer keypad. I heard a cashier groan. The office was tiny; not more than 6 square meters and had a really low ceiling, so when the bird took off for its second circuit I just reached up and plucked it out of the sky by the legs. Everyone was very impressed. The creature was rushed out the front door … no Japanese chicks died … good job all around!
Speaking of ibis (I know … it just goes on and on), this is Limpy, a truly recalcitrant bird that led me on a merry dance for weeks. Limpy had become the bane of Kellie Lindsay’s life. She would see him limping around Doug Jennings Park with fishing line entangled around his toes slowly cutting them off. Nothing we did to catch Limpy worked out. He led a truly charmed life; if you consider ‘evading capture’ and guaranteed ‘relief from pain’, as charmed. Limpy could spot me from 100 meters away and would take to the air. He even knew my car. The net gun failed at critical moments when, on rare occasions, Limpy was only meters away. It was enough to give a bloke a nervous breakdown.
Limpy was always on full alert. But there comes a day in every ibissesses life when the pigeons come home to roost, so to speak. It happened one windy arvo in the park. Limpy was hanging with his mates. After a long period of covert surveillance I chose my moment, then drove up quietly to the nearest park railing and with net gun on lap threw several slices of bread out the car window. Limpy must have been feeling peckish because he cast caution to the wind and flew straight in for a snack. BIG mistake L. I took careful aim, determined to capitalise on this rare opportunity, then blasted him from the window. Limpy went down like … well, like a down pillow. It was all over, bar the squawking. Oh, what a feeling. I know they say small things amuse small minds but catching Limpy, after a pursuit lasting some 5 weeks, was a sweet victory indeed and of course he got to have all that fishing line removed from the few toes he still had left.
Pic above right … Limpy, dressed like Mike Tyson, still entertaining illusions of grandeur. Give it up Dude. It’s over. You lost. Pic below … Poor thing only had one full toe left. After all those weeks the only part I could save was what was left of his middle toe.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this report … the good, the bad and the humorous. Another 38 sick or injured birds were also helped by WBR in March. Thank you to all donors, especially those who’ve supported this service for years. Your generosity makes it all possible. Special thanks to our patron Jim Downs and to Liz and Paul on the donations committee.
President WBR Gold Coast and Ibis Hunter Extraordinaire