November was steady at WBR with 25 birds attended, yet there was no shortage of action.
Fish hooks, fish hooks everywhere
Hookings continued, as they always do. In this case it was a cygnet from a family of five which some idiot had caught then cut loose to swim away with a very large fish hook embedded in the base of its neck. Luckily caller Barry spotted the hook and kept an eye on the family until I arrived in Varsity Lakes.
The cygnet was quickly caught. More luck followed when we saw that the wound was superficial and could easily be treated on the spot. First I doused the shank of the hook in betadine before nipping off the barb which allowed me to draw the shank back out through the skin. That way some of the betadine gets drawn into the wound.
The little fellow didn’t flinch as the hook was removed and we were able to released him immediately to his family. It was all over in 15 minutes.
I think Workplace Health and Safety would have plenty to say to this young lady about her rescue outfit! (below)
Her name is Serene and she’s holding a cormorant she’d come across that was hooked through the foot and trailing fishing line. Luckily the line had become snagged around something in the water leaving the bird tethered
Pound for pound cormorants bite harder than just about any other bird (with the exception of galahs). Getting nipped by that sharp, hooked beak is not something you forget in a hurry. In fact when I was a newbie rescuer I wouldn’t go anywhere near a cormi without first donning a long-sleeved shirt and welding gloves. As you can see Serene is not wearing her welding gloves or a long sleeved shirt, or any protection at all for that matter. Pretty gutsy I reckon.
She told me on the phone that she’d had experience rescuing pelicans with WIRES (the NSW rescue group). Shortly after our call Serene managed to grab the fishing line and drag the struggling bird in before removing the hook and releasing it. A brilliant effort.
(Left is the hook, trace and line that tethered the bird preventing it from escape and allowing Serene to pull it in and save its life. That is one very nasty rig. More cormorants die from those sorts of injuries than we are able to save)
Everyone knows that self-respecting swamp hens wouldn’t be seen dead in anything but the latest fashion. Although nobody bothered to tell me that turtle necks had re-emerged as a fashion item.
Not your real turtle neck mind you, but rather one made of materials available to any bird, on the day. Still, I think he looks pretty good and definitely stood out from the crowd; his mates being unfashionable types and quite plain, notwithstanding their colourful plumage.
Despite strong reservations I felt the need to catch him and remove that item, lest he trip and fall while strutting the catwalk.
My attempts to catch went real well ….. NOT.
First I snared the poor bird which instantly took to the air and flew straight back at me. The noose on the end of a snare is designed to drop off easily should the line break and the bird fly away. Same thing happens if a bird flies towards you causing the line to go slack. That’s what this bird did and of course the snare dropped off, meaning the bird was off too.
Not satisfied with such a humiliating outcome I jumped into a Security buggy in Southport Parklands and pursued the poor creature before blowing a net over him. Somehow he managed to get out from under that too and escaped again.
I’m not a quitter but I know when I’m beat. If he was so determined to wear that ice-cream cup around his neck for the rest of the day, then who was I to argue.
Security did check the next day and the cup was gone. Once or twice a year I’ll get a call about an ibis with a plastic bag around its neck (obviously been shopping). The bags always seem to come off without intervention.
During the month I had some gripes about the RSPCA and so pulled the pin on them. After providing a free service which has completed countless rescues on their behalf over the past 10 years I was a tad disappointed when they dragged their feet on a job I’d asked them to handle for me. There were some other issues too. So I thought, stuff you … catch your own birds. Of course that decision won’t play out well for some birds but it has produced positives results at my end ….. several in fact. Firstly, it means a little less work for me and I’m certainly happy about that. Secondly, it puts more pressure on the RSPCA. This might be a good thing as hopefully will jolt management into action.
The RSPCA is based in Wacol, just south of Brisbane, meaning that ambos attending a rescue(s) on the Gold Coast face a 160k round trip. That’s madness. They only have two ambos and one travels down here most days. What our local wildlife desperately need is another full time RSPCA professional ambo based here. They pulled their last one out 8 years ago and have not replaced it. Since then they’ve been heavily reliant on local volunteers but they can only attend simple rescues.
Wild Bird Rescues has been lightening the RSPCA’s load for so long that its probably reduced incentive to seriously seek funding for a new van. Yet surely the cost of dispatching ambos all the way down to the Gold Coast, virtually daily, would be much greater than the expense of basing an ambo here. Twice in the past year I’ve called and offered to help by introducing the RSPCA to potential funders but they never got back to me.
The ambo officers themselves do a great job rescuing domestic pets plus all manner of natives from pigeons to bats to koalas and everything in between. At some point I’ll probably relent on my decision and recommence taking peli and swan calls from them (for the bird’s sake), but not just yet. Until then I plan to enjoy my Xmas.
If you support of wildlife rescue and you’re seriously financial and would like to help the RSPCA commission a third ambo to be stationed permanently here on the Goldie, please give them a call.
Pelicans, pelicans everywhere
The BIGGEST plus which flowed from the above decision is that I felt relieved of a lot of pressure ….. which caused me to immediately seek out more pressure (as one does). It came in the form of fast tracking something that’s being weighing heavily on my mind for the past 5 years. Namely, to set the ball in motion for better management of the Charis Seafood’s lunchtime pelican feed.
The ‘feed’ has been going for some 20 years. Every day on the Labrador foreshore at 1.30pm, out the front of Charis Seafoods, anywhere from 30 to 130 pelicans show up for free fish frames … a fish frame being the bony skeleton and head, plus some of the flesh left after the fillets have been removed. This is good food for pelis and very close to their natural diet of whole fish. Nor am I of the view that attracting and feeding pelicans overly humanises the birds. They’re gregarious and comfortable around people meaning that if they weren’t scrounging at Charis they’d be lining up at local fish cleaning tables begging from fishermen. In fact that’s were half of them head off to as soon as the feed wraps up each day.
From modest beginnings the feed has become a very popular tourist attraction well attended by 200-300 people during fine days, especially on weekends. The problem is there are no controls in place to protect the birds during that interaction with the public. None at all.
Pelicans all wear wrist watches and know exactly what time it is. Depending upon crowd activity they start to get ancy about 20 minutes before the feed begins and approach the beach in anticipation. At that point they can get set upon. Young kids and teens are the main problem. They can be cruel. Some kids chase the birds and harass them. Others throw sand in their face. One day I stopped a young boy who’d just picked up a large rock and was about to throw it at a pelican standing right in front of him. Much of this behaviour takes place under the gaze of ignorant parents who allow it. No management and no supervision means there’s nobody to protect the birds. Summer holidays can be a nightmare for them. That said, I’ve never seen a pelican injured by anyone at the feed, although that’s hardly the point. Compare the damage inflicted by fishing activates which results in Charis staff or myself rescuing, on average, one pelican every single week suffering from a hook injury or an entanglement of fishing line, or both.
To get the ball rolling on these important changes I quickly set up a meeting with Salvi from Charis Seafoods. He understands the problems but doesn’t know what to do, nor is he chafing at the bit to provide supervision which will no doubt cost money. I explained that things had gone too far and something had to be done and that I would be writing to Parks and Wildlife outlining the issues and making suggestions for what will hopefully result in daily onsite supervision during the half hour before the feed and the next half hour while the feed in taking place. In other words from 1pm to 2 pm.
After receiving my correspondence Parks and Wildlife called and said they were onto it, hoping to have changes in place by Xmas! Beaudy. They wouldn’t disclose what those ‘changes’ were which is a bit scary because in my experience the department likes to make decisions ‘in house’. Why they don’t seek advice from knowledgeable people familiar with the circumstances, I have no idea, but I’m about to send them another letter emphasising that need. Ultimately we’ll just have to wait and see what transpires. Either way any improvement is likely to be better for the birds than the current situation.
The Heartbreak File
This is wildlife rescue meaning I see some pretty awful things every month. So, brace yourself.
(Crested pigeons are Australian natives and lovely little birds. Because they constantly forage over the ground they fall victim to all manner of threads and hair which readily entangles their feet and legs and causes terrible damage)
First story concerns a family of four dear little crested pigeons who live in the parks around Burleigh beach. Three of them had picked up entanglements of cotton and hair which was cutting off their toes. Over a period of about a week I located and caught all three. I was able to disentangle, treat and release the first two but the last little girl was in pretty bad shape. I took her to be operated on so that dead toes, growths and overgrown skin caused by the entanglement, could be removed. These were a severe encumbrance to her mobility.
The operation went well and the results looked good but she kept bleeding. Clotting agent and a fresh bandage quickly stemmed the flow and all looked well, but to be on the safe side I decided not to release her immediately, instead holding her for another day, or possibly two. I took her home for the night, leaving her caged with food and water and went away for an hour. When I returned she was dead, lying in a pool of blood.
All I can say is these things happen. Major surgery is always risky. But what a sad thing such outcomes are.
So much work, by caring people, had gone into helping her and trying to provide a more comfortable life yet in the end she wouldn’t be going home to her waiting partner and family. Broke my heart.
The next story concerns a young ibis discovered in the grounds of SeaWorld Resort. Poor thing had a fishing lure in its mouth with the hooks buried deep in the back of its tongue. It gets worse. Line attached to that lure went down and around the bird’s foot meaning that every time it took a step forward it pulled the hooks in deeper.
I live just down the road from SeaWorld and was onsite within 10 minutes, but to no avail. The distressed bird had flown up onto a roof and couldn’t be coaxed down, no doubt due to pain and panic. It was already 5.30pm, the time when most ibis fly home to roost. That’s exactly what he did, never to be seen again.
It’s an awful business these bloody fish hooks. In fact I remember attending a tackle shop some months ago to buy a new capture net and telling the girl behind the counter what I’d be using it for (the shop has always given WBR a generous discount). She showed some interest in the rescue service and so I brought up a few pics featuring recently hooked birds. Poor girl was horrified. In the end she said, ‘goodness, after seeing all this I don’t know whether I can sell any more fishing equipment’. I almost felt guilty.
These have been two sad stories from November but looking on the bright side I’m convinced that God created cake and planted it here on Earth to act as an antidote for unhappy times.
The Cake File
Kali Byers (at right) very kindly baked me these brownies for Xmas. Just look at them. Aren’t they terrific! Probably won’t last long but that’s the whole idea. Rationing would be the prudent course of action but I’m not very good at that. In fact I feel strong empathy for addicts of any kind because we all know that cravings can be overpowering.
In fact I’m eying off the tin as I write.
Thank you Kali!
You Heard it here First!
A young Frenchman is sailing around the world solo in his 34ft steel yacht with his pet chicken named Monique. That’s right, a chicken. Not only is the chook great company but she lays an average of 6 eggs every week. Not bad.
I wouldn’t mind a chook(s) for my boat but not sure that I could cope with all that wet poo. Not sure either whether Southport Yacht Club, with all its million dollar boats (not mine, I’ll hastily add), would look too kindly upon a flock of clucking chickens wandering around on the foredeck.
Here’s a link to the story. Well worth a look, especially for the beautiful camera work and spectacular Icelandic scenery. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bJhct9CPlPs
I’ve decided to go out on a limb and tell you a chook story that I haven’t made public … until now.
It occurred 3 years ago when I was last in Perth at Christmas time visiting my family. My niece Janice has several chickens. We noticed that one was stressing and straining. Poor thing appeared to be egg-bound. This is a condition where an egg that’s about to be laid gets stuck and won’t come out. What an excruciating way to die. Not knowing what to do but being very worried about the bird I grabbed it then quickly found a tube of haemorrhoid cream in their bathroom cabinet. I liberally oiled up my finger with the cream and yep … budding proctologist in the making!
Twenty minutes later the chook laid that egg and has been fine ever since. I, on the other hand, needed a drink.
Xmas is Upon Us
Here’s wishing all Wild Bird Rescues donors a very Merry Xmas and a Happy New Year. I plan to continue ‘catching’ right across the Xmas break so don’t hesitate to call if you see a peli or swan in trouble, or any other species of bird if it’s fish hooked, fishing line entangled or entangled in some other material.
0438-823100, 6am-9pm, 7 days.
These have been just a few of 25 stories from November.
As always special thanks go to our patron Jim Downs and to Liz and Paul on the Donations Committee.
Merry Xmas everyone!
Until next year.
‘Friend of all Fowls’ and
Pres. Wild Bird Rescues GOLD COAST