Rescues of sick and injured birds during March totalled 24. The number would have been higher except that a few days into the month I had my bi-annual ‘rescue meltdown’ where everything becomes too much and I can’t see a way forward. I immediately arranged to have a few days off but it soon became apparent that a few days wasn’t going to cut it, so I added a further ten. By the end of that good break I felt restored and ready to get stuck in again.
I Just Can’t Escape Them
On day two of my break I headed to Byron Bay. It’s such a relaxing place. A few hours there and I feel rejuvenated.
On the way home I swung into Brunswick Heads to check out the boats in the Fishing Boat Harbour. Guess what I found? Yep, right there paying homage to the fallen on the gates of the war memorial was an entangled ibis (above). And not just any entanglement … this was human hair. Poor thing had already lost two toes, I suspect to fishing line.
Day off or no day off an entangled ibis to a catcher is like catnip to a tom. I had him in a jiffy. Poor thing didn’t know whether he’d been shaken or stirred but was now free of hair which threatened to change his life for the worse by taking off more toes (above right).
Two in a Row
You may remember that Wild Bird Rescues entered the Grill’d ‘Local Matters’ competition held in February. Grill’d is a burger chain which runs a competition each month where three worthy community groups vie for a total of $500 in donations. Customers award tokens to their favourite group with the winner taking the lions share.
We won again. Yay!! This is the second time that Wild Bird Rescues has received the most support from Grill’d customers. Just shows that people really do care about our wildlife. Grill’d will be donating $300 to us. Thank you Grill’d!
And the Heavens Open!
As you know most of my rescue hours are spent helping birds that have fallen foul of irresponsible fishing practices. This month I was very encouraged to experience at least one example of the very opposite. This case involved fishers at The Spit (Gold Coast) who’d hooked a gull and acted MOST RESPONSIBLY.
So, what made their behaviour unique? Two things. Firstly, the lads called immediately to report the hooking. Secondly, they told me they’d actually gone to one of the Tackle Bins installed at The Spit to retrieve the phone number for Wild Bird Rescues which is printed clearly on each bin. Double yay!! As you know it’s rare for any fisher to report a hooking. And just as uncommon for them to go to a bin and seek a rescue number.
This was very much an accidental hooking. Steven, who told me he’d suffered terrible injuries when struck by a car last year, had just baited his hook and put his rod down. A gull swooped straight in and grabbed the bait.
I arrived within minutes, removed the hook and released the bird.
Our Tackle Bins are wonderful insofar as they serve multiple purposes. The most obvious is as a receptacle for unwanted fishing tackle. But the benefits go a lot further. Each bin also acts as effective, non-threatening signage, positioned right in the heart of key fishing areas (some might say ‘enemy territory’), delivering a clear message reminding fishers that carelessly discarded tackle is a huge risk to wildlife. Finally, the bins provide contact numbers for WBR and RSPCA, all clearly displayed on the front. For these reasons the bins are seen as useful by all. The message they deliver is not demanding or threatening, which almost certainly explains why, over the past two years since installation, they’ve suffered from very little vandalism.
Even More Bins
Kellie Lindsay (at right) and I recently spent an arvo scouting locations for more Tackle Bins on the Goldie. Kellie is the co-ordinator and driving force behind the Tackle Bin Project. She was also instrumental in getting the Cash for Containers scheme up and is a tireless campaigner against plastic waste.
Recently the Tackle Bin Project GOLD COAST was given solid support by GC Councillors. This means more funding which will ultimately see another 20 bins added to the existing 12 already in the field. www.facebook.com/tacklebinproject
Kellie and I began our investigations by heading to the very northern end at Jacobs Well (30k’s north of central Surfers).
In the final tally new locations chosen included Jacobs Well, 2 bins. Coomera River under the M1 overpass, 3-4 bins, Jabiru Island (at Hope Island) 2 bins, and Paradise Point 2 bins.
Next week we’ll be checking the mid and southern GC areas for more locations. With luck the new bins will be up and running by mid-year.
Well done Kellie on a brilliant job.
The young couple who called in this swan had seen the bird limping heavily. I arrived and quickly caught the bird. There was a large ulcer on her leg. I couldn’t see any obvious reason for the ulcer however it was causing her considerable pain. So, it was off to hospital. I asked whether they’d like to name the bird and Alex chose the name Betty. Can’t say we’ve had a Betty before.
This couple were only staying in the house for a few weeks. It was canal-side, so understandably the young bloke was keen to get some tackle in the water and try his luck.
It was only after I’d secured Betty that I looked towards the end of the pontoon and saw three rods. To my horror I noticed that one was set with the line streaming out into the water amongst the family of 4 swans. Needless to say I had plenty to say about that. He just hadn’t made the connection between those fishing lines and the potential for injury to the birds. This despite the pair’s obvious interest in caring for wildlife. He quickly hauled in the line and committed to being much more careful in the future.
Looking just a few doors down I saw another pontoon with two rods left unattended and line streaming out into the water. This arrangement is a death trap for birds, especially swans. Recently the practice of leaving lines unattended has been made illegal. Sadly and for reasons which defy belief that law only applies in salt (tidal waters). The new law says that fishers in tidal (salt) waters are permitted to cast out three fishing lines and must stay with those lines at all times. The two lines I could see were set in salt water. So, after delivering Betty to hospital my next stop was Fisheries where I reported the house number. Officers will visit and warn the fisher. If he doesn’t comply he’ll be fined.
The ulcer on Betty’s leg could easily have been caused by an old fish hook wound. We can’t tell for sure because x-rays didn’t reveal anything suspicious and the ulcer responded well to treatment. Betty was back with her family 7 days later.
The Delicate Art of Bird Naming
I name most of the birds I send to hospital. For me it’s kinda like having a pet, albeit for a very brief time before the creature is hopefully returned to the wild. Bird naming is not easy. It requires much consideration; a good deal of finesse and of course those two most important ingredients … a sense of humour and a good dose of insanity. Luckily I have plenty of the latter.
I’ve come up with some beaut names over the years. Other people have added to the list.
There’s been a Pyewacket; a Jessica Goodbird (’cause she was such a good bird); a Bella Pelicano (pretty sure she was Italian) and a Snookums. Wayne Swan has always been popular with the public and recently there was a Grover, which I liked. At one time we had a duck called Jiggerypokery, a frigate bird that I named Ming (’cause she was inscrutable) and a little swan called Ting Ting. Currently I have a cormorant in hospital named Spanky. I don’t think we’ve had an Alice yet (note to self).
Above right. Bella Pelicano in hospital wearing her moon boot.
I’m just waiting for the right creature to come along so that I can name him Lee Ho Fook. OK, ‘how the bloody hell did you come up with that?’ From Warren Zevon of course. You remember his ’78 classic, Werewolves of London.
‘He was lookin’ for the place called Lee Ho Fook’s,
gonna get a big dish of beef chow mein,
Ouwhoooooo, werewolves of London’.
Of course hospital staff would just shorten it to Lee. They couldn’t use his last name or they’d sound like a Scotsman who’d just stubbed his toe.
The problem of course is that one does run out of names (as you can probably tell!). I reckon I’ve caught 6000 sick or injured birds over the years. I don’t know how many I’ve put in hospital and therefore named, but it’s a LOT. If you ever come across a good book of bird names please buy it for me. The wackier the better.
Will He Attack Me??
That was the desperate question on Hanna’s lips as she faced off against a big pied cormorant standing on a pathway in Mermaid.
A cormi out of the water is a sad thing. They never leave the water to go wandering around a neighbourhood unless something is very wrong. From Hanna’s description it was unlikely this creature could fly, however a cormorant can waddle a very long way in the 20 minutes it would take me to get there. I told her to try and keep the bird contained in the one area.
Half way to the scene she phoned again to say the cormi was walking towards her, adding that she was worried it might attack. I assured her that bird’s don’t attack, unless defending young. They might bite, but only if feeling threatened by a human. And, I assured her this bird would bite if she tried to pick it up, in which case she’d have an experience not easily forgotten. Pound for pound cormi’s are second only to galahs in their ability to latch on and do damage … serious damage. In fact I’m sporting a bruised wrist right now, the result of a cormorant rescued two days ago (Spanky).
Went I arrived the look on Hanna’s face said it all. Clearly my assurances had fallen on deaf ears, but she’d held her ground bravely and prevented the bird from escaping down the pathway.
I quickly netted the creature, which she named Charlie, then I rushed it to Currumbin Wildlife Hospital.
Sadly Charlie was not in good shape. His ‘bloods’ indicated that everything was rock bottom. It’s rare for a cormorant to be salvaged from that grim situation. Even after weeks of care and at great expense, they seldom come good. The few that do suffer as a result of human handling during which time most become hopelessly imprinted on the carer. When finally released into the wild the once independent, standoffish species, makes a bee-line for the nearest fishermen, standing at their feet begging for food.
I remember one cormi some years ago that had spent too much time in care. It was released in the same place where it had been caught. That happened to be 200m for where I was living at Tallebudgera Creek. The day after release the bird was seen wandering amongst fishers at the end of Tallebudgera’s southern groyne. The fishers enjoyed the unique experience of having a wild bird acting like a pet and were giving it fish, but ultimately this would be the creature’s downfall. I recaptured it and drove it way out the back of Currumbin Valley where it was released into a suitable waterway. Then I climbed into my car and drive home. The bird made it back to Tallebudgera before me.
It was recaptured and released again. Last I heard it was slowly reverting to its natural ways and engaging in less contact with people. That was a big relief.
Action is Urgently Needed
Last month I asked you to help our native waterbirds by putting pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard, and writing a brief submission to the Director-General of Fisheries asking for laws to be changed so that recreational fishers were only permitted to use two fishing rods at any time and must remain in attendance with those rods at all times. In other words, fishers not be allowed to cast baited fishing lines into the water then head off to the movies, or go on holidays for a week (yes, I’ve seen it). Unattended fishing lines cause more damage to birds, especially swans, than just about all other forms of fishing.
If you haven’t yet sent in a submission please spend 15 minutes writing something brief and asking for these changes. Add a personal touch by talking about your own experiences that may include carelessly discarded fishing tackle and the injuries you know occur all too often due to irresponsible behaviour, largely because fishers are allowed too much gear. That small investment of your time (about the same time it takes to order and drink a cappuccino) can help bring about changes in law that will make a HUGE difference to waterbirds and greatly reduce their suffering. Wild Bird Rescues only exists because current laws give fishers too much opportunity to do damage without holding them accountable. I’ll rescue 50 hooked swans this year alone. AS many as 1 in 5 of those birds will die because of a hook injury. Please help.
Below is the information you need. Your submission can be brief. These campaigns are always a numbers game. If the Director-General of Fisheries, Dr. Beth Woods, doesn’t know about the problems I’m highlighting then she can hardly be expected to act to correct them. However, if enough people bring these matters to her attention, she will act, so please help.
Info below is Reprinted from the February Capture Report
Scarily the QLD Recreational Boating and Fishing Guide, at 104 pages long, contains not a single word (that I could find) about the need for responsible fishing practices around wildlife, or how to avoid hooking birds, or what to do if a fisher hooks a bird. That has to change.
My recent letter to QLD Fisheries seeks changes to fishing legislation in two key areas and asks for more education.
Firstly … that the maximum number of fishing lines allowed to be set by a fisher, which currently stands at six lines allowable in fresh water and three lines allowable in salt water, be reduced to a maximum of two lines per fisher whether in fresh or salt water. Two lines is more than enough to enjoy the sport.
Secondly … that fishers in fresh water be required to remain with their lines at all times, as is already required of those fishing in salt water. (Currently the regs allow fishers in fresh waters to set up to six fishing lines and be 50m away from those lines. However, fishers in salt are required to remain with their lines at all times)
If the number of fishing lines allowed to be set by ALL fishers, whether fishing in fresh (non-tidal) or salt (tidal) water was reduced to a maximum of two, with ALL fishers having to remain with their lines at all times, we could be assured of a significant reduction in bird hookings and/or entanglements.
Education … More education is desperately needed to advise fishers how to avoid injuring wildlife and who to call if a creature does get injured. The following 3 points are relevant.
A) The Dept. to begin a program of education advising fishers not to fish if birds are perched or swimming in the immediate area. (If birds are present all lines should be pulled in).
B) The Dept. to advise fishers of their obligation to report any hooking or entanglement immediately. (There can be no excuse for failing to do this. Lack of reporting, while allowing a bird to swim off with a potentially life threatening injury, is an act of animal cruelty).
C) The next edition of QLD Recreational Boating and Fishing Guide, plus the Pocket Handbook, to include a comprehensive section showing fishers how to avoid injuring wildlife while providing rescue service phone numbers if a bird (or animal) sustains a fishing related injury. The guide also needs to address the issue of discarded fishing line and other tackle, highlighting the need to dispose of unwanted line (and rubbish like bait bags) responsibly to prevent line from entangling foraging birds on land.
How you can Help
I need your help to get these changes implemented. If I’m the only one who writes in then I’ll just be a voice in the wilderness. You have to back me or we’ll lose the opportunity and the carnage that you see in every WBR Capture Report will continue.
Below are the relevant pages copied from the Guide which show that fishers in fresh (non-tidal waters) (P71) can set 6 lines and are allowed to be 50m away from them, while fishers in salt (tidal waters) (P80) can set 3 lines but must remain with those lines at all times.
As stated earlier I’d like the regulations changed so that fishers in both fresh and salt water are permitted a maximum of 2 lines each and be required to remain with their lines at all times.
This is very little to ask and it would ensure far fewer unwanted hookings of wildlife while helping to preserve fish stocks, yet not diminish the enjoyment for fishers.
There also needs to be more education so that fishers understand they must take care around wildlife and have a responsibility to immediately seek help for a hooked or entangled bird. The issue of littering also needs to be addressed. Fishers need to be aware that discarding unwanted fishing line on the ground leads to the entanglement of foraging birds, causing much suffering and death.
Please support this initiative. You know what to ask for. There are pages of info and pics at www.wildbirdrescues.com.au and pics available in these Capture Reports and from the WBR Facebook page, all of which you are welcome to include in your correspondence to the relevant people. You can just cut and paste from this Report if you like, but writing in your own words and telling your own story is always better. And remember, please keep your message respectful.
Write or email the Director-General, Dept. of Agriculture and Fisheries QLD, Dr. Beth Woods, firstname.lastname@example.org . Also CC a copy to the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries QLD, Mark Furner, email@example.com
Please do it now.
Email me if you’d like a copy of the letter I sent to QLD Fisheries and to The Minister firstname.lastname@example.org
My Appreciation of Donors
You receive these monthly Capture Reports because you’ve donated to Wild Bird Rescues. Along with weekly Facebook posts the reports are my way of showing how your helping helps me to help sick and injured birds. I believe it’s important to keep you fully informed because you’ve made your caring for wildlife tangible by supporting this rescue service.
Until next month
Head Werewolf and ….
Pres. Wild Bird Rescues GOLD COAST