Rescues were brisk at WBR during May with a total of 48 sick or injured birds needing urgent help. As always there was a variety of species but sadly our swans didn’t do well at all. In total I rescued 11.
I know what you’re thinking .. forget about the swans Rowley and tell us about the ibis! Well, alright, but before I provide news about the Gold Coast’s favourite bird (cough) here’s an exciting photograph that proves beyond any shadow of a doubt that ibis are more intelligent than teenagers.
Take a look at the bird at right. He stood patiently at the lights by the park in Burleigh until they turned red and all cars stopped before casually strolling across to the opposite corner, no doubt heading for Tropicana where the under-table pickings are rich indeed.
This is not a one-off. I’ve seen ibis wait at traffic lights before and only cross on the green. But teenagers do that too, I hear you say. Not without their nose buried in an iPhone they don’t. That’s what I mean … very intelligent birds.
As for ibis rescues … there was 8 in total during May; most suffering from fishing line entanglement (nothing new about that) including one ibis I caught on Wendy’s front lawn in Biggera Waters. That’s Wendy in the pic. She’s my ‘hero of the month’ having called in two entangled birds during May alone.
The other bird was a dear little wood duck called Fifi. She was in terrible shape with both legs heavily entangled in braid and unable to stand due to pain. That didn’t stop her flying of course. The line had cut so deeply I was sure Fifi would lose at least one foot. The vets would probably accept that loss if I could assure them she’d still be OK with only one foot and a stump. However, if she lost both feet it would be ‘game over’.
In the pic at right I’m only a meter from Fifi who’s sitting by Wendy’s front lawn. You’d think being a metre away would make her an easy catch. Far from it. In fact she was downright bloody difficult. In the end I blasted three nets at poor Fifi, over a period of two days, before finally securing her with the last net shot. Then it was a mad dash to Currumbin Wildlife Hospital where head vet Dr. Mic Pyne examined her before pronouncing the verdict … ‘I think we can save both of her feet’. Oh yeah, there is a God!
At last report Fifi was doing very well. She limps (initially she couldn’t even stand) and is still in some pain but the hospital is keeping her on a cocktail of ‘good drugs’ to mitigate discomfort until she’s well enough for release. One very lucky duck indeed.
The poor swans did have a bad run in May. A word of warning … this is wildlife rescue, meaning it ain’t all roses. The next few paragraphs are grim reading.
Back to the swans … I had to rescue 3 of those 11 swans in just one day.
One youngish bird landed by the boatshed on the Currumbin Estuary around 5pm. Then for reasons known only to itself decided to walk out of the water and attempt to cross the road in peak hour traffic (I tell ya, nowhere near as smart as ibis who instinctively know to wait for lights to turn green). Anyway, one thing is certain, there’s no future for any swan (black in colour) who crosses a busy road with night approaching. In fact one got clobbered the evening before on Ashmore Road and couldn’t be saved. I grabbed the little bloke then released him half an hour later on Southlake, Robina. The other two from that day had both sustained eel attacks and couldn’t be saved.
Last week a young swan was reported from Broadbeach having only one leg; no doubt also the result of an eel bite. They rarely survive such trauma but two cygnets from different families in Clear Island Waters had survived last year with only one leg. Those birds are now about 9 months old. I suspect the bird in Broadbeach had come from Clear Island Waters. I let the first report about it pass because it sounded like the bird was coping but by the second report, a few days later, I thought I’d better check it out.
The poor thing had lost its foot just above the ankle. The creature was getting by but the stump hadn’t healed. To make matters worse its right hip was partially frozen from holding the stump out sideways to prevent the sensitive end touching ground. Sadly I could see no future for him … only ongoing suffering. That’s the yard stick. I’ll leave birds out there with wings half hanging off and legs missing and all sorts of other problems, as long as they appear to be coping and having an OK life. But when it’s obvious that a bird is really struggling, with no relief in sight, it’s time to call it quits. The kindest thing was to put the little fellow to sleep.
Another sad case was a young female swan seen floating down Biggera Creek obviously in distress. I arrived 20 minutes after receiving the call and found her beached in the mud. She couldn’t stand; in fact could barely move and her head was lolling around indicating she was very far gone. I didn’t expect her to survive the rushed trip to hospital, and she didn’t. DOA. This happened just a day after catching the peli I called Esmerelda with similar symptoms, all consistent with botulism … typically rapid paralysis beginning in the legs then moving up to wings and neck. The organism is in all waterways and not normally a problem but every now and then a bill feeder will pick up a dose. Unless discovered and treated within the first 48 hours a bird’s chance of survival is slim. Even with rapid treatment we only manage to save 30-50% of the pelis and swans affected. Ducks do better with around 80% survival rate.
The last really big outbreak of botulism was 5 years ago in the waterway alongside the Turf Club. That area is polluted by horse poo runoff from the stables. This greatly enhances nasty organisms. From memory nearly 200 ducks died that week. In fact only one survived that I know of … a little chap I found huddled in a rock wall and took directly to hospital. At the time I cleared the entire lake of swans as a precaution. No small job I tell ya, but worth it because all survived.
There was a happy outcome for a 10 week old cygnet on Emerald Lakes, abandoned by its parents. They hadn’t been seen for two days. The little one was coping and I was reluctant to take him into care too quickly, hoping the parents would return. Next day the cygnet was nowhere to be found. I feared the worst … fox attack in the night. I should have anticipated this; Emerald Lakes being so close to wooded areas. Foxes are everywhere. Locals were distraught and searched all day, high and low for the cygnet. No sign. But next morning he was spotted swimming with his dad, safe and well.
Speaking of naughty birds … just look at this little terrorist. He’s about to dip his snout into a pot of butter intended for my hot croissant. I let him come in close because he had a limp and I needed to get a good look at his foot. When berated about his antics he screeched at me and flicked lumps of butter all over my shirt. I’m not sure how healthy butter is for pee wees but told myself the fatty acids might help his wonky ankle.
Soon I’ll have a new video up on Facebook featuring the capture of a white-faced heron by the Coomera River. This unfortunate bird had already lost toes to previous fishing line entanglements and was now entangled again, this time hobbled by three different weights (thicknesses) of line. After the successful rescue, disentanglement, vet visit and half a fillet of whiting, the bird was released. This all took about an hour.
Being a heavily fished area I decided to take a look around and was horrified to find discarded line laying everywhere. In fact the bunch of line I’m holding represents a good half kilometre and took me the grand total of 60 seconds to collect from an area the size of your kitchen. Plastic bait bags lay everywhere. I swear those grubs would drop line and bait on their lounge room floor if they thought they could get away with it. Appalling behaviour.
It’s probably fair to say that pigeons aren’t real smart, not like ibis, but I do feel for them because they suffer so terribly from entanglements. It’s nearly always cotton or human hair; usually the latter (at right). In fact I had to catch a few pigeon during May … one in Caville Av (the main Surfers tourist street) for which I enlisted the help of two cops for crowd control. That was probably a mistake because the presence of coppers guarantees an even bigger crowd, but it gave me some peace of mind and legitimacy. Without the police I’m just as likely to get abused for being a pigeon napping nut case. (sadly not far from the truth)
The pigeon at left picture was also in Central Surfers, inside a souvenir shop, but this one had dropped down behind a narrow display cabinet and couldn’t spread its wings to fly upwards and out. It’s a bit hard to get perspective from the pic but the bird is a full 3 meters (10ft) below me and the gap is only 200mm wide. It took a while but I managed to scrounge a long ladder then feed a narrow net down the hole to pluck him out. ‘Pluck him’ might not be the ideal turn of phrase to use in a bird report but I’m sure you get my drift.
Those who follow the WBR Facebook page will be aware that it’s donations week. I ask for help twice each year and have learned from past experience to make donations week last for a good three weeks! Seams it takes that long for the message to get through and for help to trickle in.
If you’ve been making regular donations to WBR then I want you to know how much your help is appreciated. But if you haven’t donated for a while I hope you’ll consider doing so again now. A single donation only lasts for so long because rescue calls keep coming in and expenses are ongoing. I assure you that WBR is a very lean and efficient operation meaning anything you give achieves maximum results for the birds.
President WBR Gold Coast