Delighted to report that rescue numbers were lower last month with 41 birds attended in November, plus several major releases. Rescues for ibis and particularly for swans were very low. This is a great result because GC’s swans have had a real hammering all year, WBR having to catch almost 100 birds, many requiring hospitalisation.
We held our AGM for the Donations Committee early in the month. All accounts and the auditor’s report were signed off and submitted to Fair Trading. WBR is always on the ball in these matters. Recently I read somewhere that more than half of registered charities had not yet lodged their 2015-16 audit, never mind their 2016-17 audit. Makes you wonder. (I should clarify. WBR is licensed to fundraise but is not a charity, however all are subject to auditing requirements))
The Gold Coast Bulletin came good with an excellent article and pictorial spread reporting the high incidence of hooking and entanglement of native birds by recreational fishers. The reporter Kate Paraskevos did a great job with accurate reporting throughout. The pics were really compelling and I’m sure many people read it.
I finally received a reply from the Director of Fisheries regarding concerns raised in my letter about recreational fishing activities impacting native birds. The Director’s reply was typically generic and talked about the Depts efforts to raise awareness and the need for fishers to adopt good practices towards wildlife, blah blah. He included that old chestnut, ‘most fishers are responsible’. Not according to my records.
WBR capture records show a ‘hooking to reporting’ ratio of around 50 to 1. That’s horrendous by any standards. For more than a decade I’ve been lucky if 2 fishers a year call to get help for a bird they’ve hooked. That’s out of some 100 hookings or lurings that I attend every year. Half of those calls came from concerned parents of kids under 10. Responsible fishers are out there of course. I’ve met people who are very careful with their gear and are aware of the impact the sport has on wildlife, but the above figures demonstarte they’re in the minority and are tarnished by many who just don’t give a rats. In fact while writing this report I took a call about a gull that had just been hooked by kids fishing in Tallebudgera Creek. They pulled the bird right in then cut the line. The gull was free but now entangled and struggling to fly. It swam away.
Best case scenario … the bird will free itself of line, but that’s unlikely. Next best case scenario … a rescuer (guess who) may spend hours hunting and catching that bird. If it swallowed a hook it will go to hospital for an expensive operation and a week or more of costly rehab. Worst case … the bird won’t be found and may die a miserable death, all because the fisher who caught it didn’t help or call to get it help. Responsible behavior, my arse!
I’ve written back to the Director. In fairness he probably doesn’t know the extent of these problems. Nor is he likely to hear about it from the recreational fishing industry . That leaves volunteer rescuers like myself and outfits like RSPCA, who encounter hookings and entanglement almost daily. I intend to keep the pressure on. I’ll also contact the Rec Fisheries Officer and see what he has to offer.
In the meantime I’m considering pushing ahead with a poster, designed and produced by WBR for display in tackle shops, or anywhere it can be read by fishers showing the consequences that carelessly discarded line has for wildlife. Producing the poster ourselves will get it out much faster than waiting for authorities to act.
I’ve yet to receive a reply to my letter from Barnaby Joyce or Anthony Lyneham. Too busy saving their seats I guess.
Right, enough of that. Let’s talk POULTRY.
Award of the Century … almost
The headline jumped out at me ….
‘Bin Chicken Poised to Win Australian Bird of the Year’.
And here I was thinking I’m the only sick puppy that voted for ibis! Not so. Apparently Australia is chock full of wierdos like me. Despite most people’s love/hate relationship with ibis, LOVE has triumphed. When I cast my vote the humble ibee had polled twice as many votes as its nearest rival. The species was poised for a landslide. However, in the closing days of competition those bloody magpies drew level with ‘our favourite bird’ (cough) and eventually pipped them at the post. I’ve been depressed all day. It’s a disaster and I’m considering demanding a recount. 🙂
Despite the ibisessses obvious popularity, which even a dedicated ibee lover like myself concedes does truly beggar belief, the fact is whenever I post about an ibis in trouble that post only gets half the LIKES of other posts. And, if I ask for donations at the same time nobody helps. What’s up with that? Time to get behind Australia’s ‘almost’ Bird of the Year.
And … there’s always next year!
Some Days are Hot; some are NOT
Some days at WBR are very busy. Others less so.
One day in November began at 5.15am when the first call came in about a swan standing in the middle of south bound lanes on Bermuda St. This is a main north/south artery of the Goldie. Not a good place for anything to stand. Fortunately caller Andrew stopped his ute and shooed the creature onto the central, grassed median strip and out of danger. Then he phoned WBR. I was there in 20 minutes having cleared the rescue with Traffic Control while on the way. There was little doubt about who I’d find. It was almost certainly Snooky. You may remember her from the last report. She’d been in hospital for 6 weeks after a wound caused by a fish hook in her face was slow to heal. She was lucky to survive. I’d released Snooky 3 days earlier on a lake adjoining Bermuda St. Apparently she wasn’t keen on her new surroundings and decided to make a move … to all the wrong places.
I pulled my car onto the grass. It sure looked like Snooky. Positive ID was confirmed when I walked straight over and picked her up. She didn’t blink, in fact she looked happy to see me. Bloody lucky she hadn’t been mowed down.
I thanked Andrew and headed straight for caller Jan’s house on Burleigh Lake near where Snooky was born and raised, and where she’d been hooked several weeks earlier. This area was not the ideal place to release her, which is why I’d chosen a different lake for the first release, but chances were better that she’d settle here, as long as Dad and her 4 siblings, none of whom would recognise her after a 6 week absence, didn’t attack and drive her off. Even if they did she was mature enough and fully flight capable, so would be OK.
I banged on Jan’s door. She was delighted to see Snooky standing on her back deck (above). I suggested she get her some food. Jan returned and offered grains. Snooky gave her a withering look that said, ‘I nearly got run over by a truck … and you think I want breakfast?’ We walked her to the water and she jumped in and swam away. But her peaceful re-introduction to ‘home’ lake was short-lived when a flotilla of pesky kayakers came through at speed and drove Snooky into the air, never to be seen again. Jan was worried but I assured her the SnookMeister was a survivor and will be fine.
There was just enough time for a quick coffee before caller Vicki from Isle of Capri reported that a tiny plover chick had slipped through the grate into a roadside drain. Could I come and help?
This is not normally a rescue I’d attend but being only a couple of k’s south meant I could be there in a jiffy. The drain wasn’t deep (1500mm) and the grate lifted easily. However all the kafuffle can freak a little bird out causing it to sprint down adjoining stormwater pipes where its completely inaccessible. Sure enough, that’s what happened. There was nothing to do but wait above, poised with a net and mimick a parent plover’s cries in the hope of drawing the chick out. This went on for 15 minutes. Tradies working on a building site opposite showed great restraint in not calling the cops about the ‘fruitcake’ sitting in the gutter squawking like a plover.
Finally the little ‘snapper’ emerged from the pipe and ran straight into my waiting net (at right). But the drama wasn’t over yet. I placed him out on an open area of grass hoping his panicked parents would spot him. They didn’t. Another call came in, this time about a cormorant seen walking along a pathway in Southport. Not good. I couldn’t wait any longer. Happily Vicky phoned back an hour later to say the plover chick had re-united with its parents and one sibling and all were looking good.
I wasn’t able to locate the cormi. It’s a huge problem when people see a bird in trouble then leave the scene before reporting it. If they remain and keep the creature in sight so I can find it there’s a very high chance of capture. Adding to the pressure was another call, just come in from Runaway Bay, concerning a pelican which had swum through an unattended fishing line and become entangled, then flown off down the canal trailing line … and yep, also trailing the callers rod. Could she still see the bird?? ‘Yes’, she said. Thank goodness for that. Twenty minutes later I was standing on her balcony observing the bird perched 200m down the canal on the railing of a floating pontoon.
The only way to reach the creature was to estimate the approximate position of the house with the pontoon, then doorknock to get access through to the water. I do this all the time. Most people are incredibly helpful. They don’t know me from a bar of soap but let me run though their house with wet feet, nets, guns, snares, buckets of fish … whatever it takes. Countless times I’ve asked to use their boat or kayak. I don’t think I’ve ever been refused.
Arriving at the approximate location I found an elderly chap in his driveway. I introduced myself and hurriedly told him about the peli. He ushered me straight around the side and to the canal … then stood well back. I think he was afraid that if I caught the bird and asked him to help it might bite him … an entirely accurate concern I’d say.
The peli turned out to be a fairly quick catch. I dragged him ashore then made a thorough examination. No sign of any hook or fishing line entanglement. He must have shaken it all off. That’s what we like, although nor was there any sign of the callers fishing rod. I couldn’t care less about that (except now it was more waste on the canal bottom). No fishing line should ever be set then left unattended. It’s a guaranteed way to catch waterbirds.
It had been a busy several hours … typical of how it goes. Rescues often come in a hectic rush, then it can be quiet for a day, before it all starts again.
I won’t dwell on these however each month there are some very sad cases and I want to mention three of them.
The first was a young swan, about 5 months old. I know its family well. The creature had a nasty wound to the head … blood everywhere. When I arrived it was cowering under thick bush. On closer examination I saw that the poor thing had lost an eye. Later in hospital, deep puncture wounds indicated dog attack. Dr. Camille agonised over whether to patch the bird up and release it with just one eye. In the end she decided against this, which I feel was the right decision.
The second was a peli I caught in Coomera. The creature had an old hook protruding from its right hock (knee) and was limping heavily. A hook in a joint is very serious and often fatal, especially if it’s been lodged there for more than a week. I’m convinced this peli was one I’d been called about 6 weeks earlier near Sanctuary Cove (2 k’s downstream). Local residents had seen a fisher hook it. The peli promptly spooled him (pulled all the line off his reel) as it flew away. Needless to say the fisher didn’t call to get the bird help. This creature was a regular at the adjacent boat launching ramp. It was another week before a resident noticed the bird limping and called WBR. I mounted an immediate search. Others joined in and we watched the ramp for a full week, but the peli never returned. Bummer. Now it finally looked like I had her. The hospital removed the hook and all seemed good, then 48 hours later she was found dead in the waterbirds enclosure. Crap result. No clear reason. Sometimes this just happens. No different with humans in hospital.
The final tragedy in this trio features a wood duck with a truly awful double entanglement of braid (non-stretch fishing line). Poor thing must have had that line on forever (at least 3 months I’d say). The line had cut almost to the bone and one foot was terribly swollen. For most bird species an injury this severe would be irreparable, but I assured Fay, off duty Fisheries Officer and WBR supporter, who’d come across the bird with her daughter Sarah, that wood ducks were one species the hospital could nearly always pull back from the brink. Sadly it wasn’t to be. I wasn’t there (or informed) when the treating vet decided upon euthanasia. We’ll never know whether this was the right decision. All I can say is that it was a dreadful blow and upset me terribly. I’ve put measures in place to prevent that happen again.
At right is Craig who works at Southport Yacht Club (SYC). He’s holding Humphry. I caught Humphry a few weeks earlier when he was seen perched in a frangipani tree in the callers backyard. Cormi’s are supposed to perch at the water’s edge, or on jetties, or on spit posts … not in frangipani’s. Clearly Humphry wasn’t well. A healthy cormorant is completely unapproachable. If you do manage to get your hands on one and don’t hold it correctly you’re in for a serious mauling. Yet these super stand-offish birds can imprint within days of captivity and will follow a carer around like a puppy dog. Major problem.
After a few weeks of R&R and good food in Currumbin Wildlife Hospital Humphry was ready to go. I released him together with another little black cormorant (that’s the species name) at SYC. All yacht clubs are ‘fish friendly’ meaning no fishing is allowed, hence my choice of location. An added bonus is abundant bait fish hanging around under jetties; a veritable smorgasbord for a hungry cormi.
Both birds released well. Humphry hung around.
Things looked OK for the first few days, but by day three Humphry was approaching the docks and wearing an ‘I’m hungry, please feed me’ look on his dial. Next I found him standing against a glass wall separating the water from the yacht club’s restaurant, peering in at all the ladies in their fine hats enjoying Melbourne Cup lunch. I just prayed he wouldn’t jump the fence, crash the party and gollop down one of their prawn cocktails. Later he was seen walking around the carpark. Management advised me and I shooed him back into the water. The final straw came when he waltzed into the Marina Office and started rubbing against Stacey the secretary’s leg. Luckily by then she knew who he was and phoned me to come and get him.
The sad truth is Humphry was non-releasable. For some reason he just couldn’t (or wouldn’t) catch fish which meant he’d slowly starve. Either that or he’d beg food from everyone. We can’t allow that. But finding a placement for a humanised native bird is VERY difficult. People ask, ‘couldn’t he go here, or there’ but the fact is everywhere is full. Crickey, there aren’t anywhere near enough places for struggling humans, much less struggling birds.
At left. Humphry doing the cormorant equivalent of a ‘drive by’, scoping out the restraurant
Humphry is a dear little chap and so I made a few calls and engaged in some serious grovelling. Delighted to say that both Currumbin Wildlife Hospital and SeaWorld both agreed to give him a home. What luck. I delivered Humphry to SeaWorld (just up the road) with strict instructions they be good to him and let me know how it goes. Turns out Humphry is now the star attraction in SeaWorld’s ‘Manky Bird Pool’ (my name, definitely not a SeaWorld ‘sanctioned’ name). The Manky Bird Pool is where a couple of dozen handicapped peli’s, cormi’s and other needy creatures are given sanctuary. I’m told that not only is Humphry very popular but he climbs out of the pool and onto tourist’s arms to have his picture taken. Go Humphry!
It was my pleasure to assist Gold Coast Councillor Peter Young with the capture of a scrub turkey. The bird is a regular late afternoon visitor at Peter’s home and had recently turned up with it’s leg badly entangled in … are you ready for it … a shoe lace! The wrap was very tight and above the ankle, meaning it would amputate the bird’s foot in short order. A turkey with only one foot can’t scratch for grubs and will slowly starve.
He was a tricky little sucker but we got him in the end. It only took ten minutes to cut the lace from his leg then we released him immediately, very lucky and none the worse for wear. Peter was very grateful. I took the opportunity to say how grateful I was and I know many other people are for his wonderful efforts opposing dodgy behavior that has been going on for some time in the Gold Coast Council. Thank you for your fine efforts Pete and also for your support of those protesting the planned destruction by the Turf Club of beautiful Black Swan Lake in Bundall.
The picture at right shows Tony, long-time supporter of WBR, getting a serve from a swan called Hissy Fits which he’d just tipped out of my transport box. Hissy Fits wasn’t keen to vacate. He’d landed on his bum and was having, well … a hissy fit. We’d caught the bird several days earlier when Tony saw it limping. Normally this bird and its partner eat out of his hand but things can change quickly when another person enters the mix. The creature took one look at me and probably thought, ‘I know that bloke and he’s trouble’, then promptly waddled off into the water. In the end I had to blow a net over him. Upon examination we found a large fish hook through the pad under the creatures foot. Ouch.
Now Hissy Fits was back from hospital. Question was … would be able to find his long term partner? Happy to say that late in the afternoon Tony reported the pair had re-united and were back together.
The Festive Season … but not for all
This is one of the happiest times of the year. An opportunity to join friends and family in celebration. Many will enjoy a Christmas table laden with goodies like ham, chicken, turkey, eggs and fish.
When purchasing your Xmas dinner, or indeed anytime, please choose compassionately and only give your dollars to growers who treat birds and animals in their care with some dignity and kindness. An extra two bucks (half the price of a cup of coffee) will get you a dozen ‘open range’ eggs or ‘free range’ chicken. Health shops and selective butchers carry ‘open range’ which is the best. Go online to source ‘open range’ turkey. Please don’t settle for any old ham regardless of BS on the packaging telling you how succulent or tender it is … all claims designed to distract you from the horror of commercial pig farming. Unless ham is ‘free range’ or at least ‘sow stall free’ you’ll be buying inferior, adrenalin filled meat from terrified animals grown in torturous conditions. Inhumane farming methods will only stop when it’s no longer commercially viable to torture little birds and animals for profit. Money is the only thing the torturers care about, so don’t give them yours. Please shop with kindness this Christmas. www.possumcreek.com.au
Thank you to everyone who supported Wild Bird Rescues this year. I’ll take this opportunity to wish you all a very Merry Xmas and advise that I’ll be rescuing right across the Xmas period including Xmas Day.
Poultry Slave and President
Wild Bird Rescues GOLD COAST
Well, a bloke can dream can’t he?