May was brisk at Wild Bird Rescues with a total of 50 sick or injured birds needing help.
In all I attended 18 ibis, 2 pelicans, 9 swans and 31 birds belonging to other species, including maggies, scrub turkeys, pigeons, gulls and currawongs. In fact, all the usual suspects.
The number of entanglements was super high during May with 23 birds caught up in something; mostly fishing line. A few got their feet entangled in cotton, and two in human hair. 4 birds were suffering from fish hook injuries.
(At right. Discarded fishing line left hanging from a tree)
Of the 18 ibis attended, 14 were entangled; 12 in fishing line and 1 in human hair. The fourteenth bird had a Macca’s slushy cup stuck over its head. Confirmation, if needed, that junk food is bad for you!
Four fish hooked birds in one month is fewer than average, but to find twelve ibis entangled in fishing line, amputating their toes and feet, all within one month, is outrageous and shows the prevalence of this insidious problem. Ignorance is the cause because few fishers realise the horrendous consequence of dropping unwanted light-weight fishing line on the ground where it can readily entangle around a foraging bird’s feet.
(Gull at left, looks bad but Currumbin Wildlife Hospital got him through. At right, fishing line entangled ibis at risk of losing all toes)
Dropping line on the ground is an act of laziness and littering, so there can be no excuse.
Highlights during the month included a spot on local Gold Coast 9 News warning about fish hook injuries to pelicans. This was well received and many people told me they saw it. In past years I’ve avoided the press, but with so many bird getting hooked and entangled it’s clear the issue needs more publicity. I’ve made some good contacts in the media and plan to utilise them more.
Another highlight was the naming of Curlew Island, Curlew Banks and several other features on the Broadwater. Quite a few Wild Bird Rescues people put in a submission in support of this. Well done you! Curlew Island is home to several important and endangered migratory bird species.
One would think that EHP (Dept of Environment and Heritage Protection, formerly DERM) would jump at the chance to provide safe habitat for any bird listed as endangered and under imminent threat from people, dogs and developers, but that’s not the case. It’s my cynical view that EHP spends more time thinking up new names for itself than doing anything useful for endangered Gold Coast birds.
Most times protection is only achieved after a monumental struggle and years of hard work by dedicated, unpaid people. Even then it doesn’t always happen. Hopefully the much mooted Broadwater Master Plan will address the plight of these precious migrators.
(At right. Whiskers, one of four endangered beach-stone curlews that call Curlew Island home)
I had a couple of really lousy days in June. I won’t labour this point because I know many of you find the details distressing. Please remember, WBR is a wildlife rescue service and while we can’t save all sick or injured birds, we can at least reduce suffering. That’s a good thing.
Early this month I rescued a lovely bush turkey found hanging in a tree just south of The Spit. The bird had been dangling from fishing line entangled around both feet. The injuries to its feet were terrible. With the sun setting I took the turkey home and made it comfortable, intending to run it to hospital first thing next morning. However, an hour later I decided to try to get interim veterinary help for the bird (not easy after hours). Luckily it was the weekend and Claire from Currumbin Wildlife Hospital, who occasionally works weekends at a 24 hour vet, said I could bring the bird straight in. On the way there I got a call about a swan reported to be sitting lakeside with a wing that looked ‘funny’. I diverted immediately, hoping to pick up the swan and admit it with the turkey. It took a while to find the creature in the dark. The swan was in bad shape. Poor thing had a broken wing and had lost an eye; probably during a fight that day.
Thirty minutes later I pulled up at the vet surgery only to discover the turkey had just died. The swan had no hope either and was put to sleep. Next was a little ibis that had somehow broken off the top half of its beak. The bird could barely feed and was terribly underweight. A prosthetic beak is not possible, unless a creature lives in a zoo or sanctuary, where it can be monitored and the beak re-glued every 6 months or so. No such luck for this ibis and so it went to heaven too. I could go on, because there’s plenty more, but I’m sure you’ve heard enough.
Mitzi, the swan with ‘angel wing’ that I trimmed and then had to catch again, a week later after she broke a toe, is still in hospital. It’s been a month and Mitzi’s toe has not fully healed. The vets are tossing up whether this can go on. Dr. Fumie, who is an excellent surgeon, is considering amputating the toe. That might save her life, but it will also cause her to weight-bear more heavily on the other foot which can result, over time, in pressure sores called bumble foot. Equally undesirable. So, there is much to consider. Mitzi’s case highlights the dedication shown towards our wildlife by staff at Currumbin Wildlife Hospital. We are very lucky to have them.
It was a happy reunion for a big male swan (at right) when I released him back with his partner and their one cygnet at Clear Island Waters.
Caller Jenny had noticed that the bird couldn’t stand and was having to slide off the bank on its belly to get back into the water. She also reported him swimming with his left foot held high out of the water. Normally this wouldn’t signal a problem. Swans will happily throw one foot up onto their back and swim around like that all day long, causing great concern for observers who understandably conclude the creature must have a broken leg. But with this bird its raised foot was indeed a red flag. To make matters worse he was engaged in a fierce battle with a rival male that had entered the territory. It’s a battle he had to win or his cygnet would be doomed. Rival males take no prisoners and a female swan is not usually strong enough to protect a tiny cygnet on her own.
It took some time and lots of banging on doors before I finally gained access to the shoreline where the bird had eventually holed up. Fortunately he was easy to approach, which made for an easy catch. The injury was immediately obvious. A nasty little fish hook right through the front of his shin, with a couple of meters of line trailing behind. It was another case of a fisher hooking a swan and not reporting the injury. That happens every week. Although the hooking was fairly minor, and the hook quickly removed, a fish hook passing through tendon is excruciatingly painful and can literally cripple a big bird.
With an aggressive, rival male in the territory it was vitally important to get him back in the water asap. But I couldn’t risk infection so decided to gamble on a 30 minutes return trip down to Dr. Kevin at the Gold Coast Vet Surgery which was close by. There the swan received medication, just to be on the safe side. In the meantime I instructed Jenny to use food to keep the female and cygnet close to her jetty. Happily the plan came together and a short time later the male was home and quickly reunited with his family. It’s always a great pleasure to watch their joyous trumpeting and neck bobbing and to see the little bloke, who is only four weeks old, swim straight up and greet dad.
Another piece of exciting news concerns the newly arrived osprey pair on the Sundale Bridge (Southport) tower. Two weeks ago I reported that the pair appeared to be taking up residence. Now I can confirm their daily presence on the tower. The next step is to try to gain access to the upper floors of the 40 story residential appts, under construction across the road, so that I can get some pics down into the nest, hopefully of eggs. Will keep you posted.
In this report I’ve described just a few of the fifty rescues that took place in May. Happy to say that most had a good outcome. For example, I was able to catch, disentangle and release nearly all of those 23 entangled birds. A pretty good effort considering that every bird was ‘flight capable’. This is the specialty of WBR, which is the only full time rescue service on the Gold Coast capable of securing flight capable birds.
We are nearing the end of the financial year and as always I’m in need of help. So far the Wild Bird Rescues coffers are in the best shape they’ve ever been, thanks to you, but I’m still a couple of thousand dollars short of covering costs. Over the past decade I’ve made up any shortfall from my own pocket, but I can’t afford to keep doing that, so if you can spare some money to make a donation it will be much appreciated. http://wildbirdrescues.com.au/donations
Thank you from me and the birds.