October was flat out at WBR with 55 sick or injured birds needing help, plus I did several major releases.
I managed to generate quite a lot of publicity for the many hooked and entangled birds caught in September. Adding to last month’s appearance on 7 Local News were two more appearances this month. I also did two radio spots on ABC Gold Coast FM and had a letter to the editor published in the Bulletin (local rag) telling of the carnage wrought upon our swans by fishers.
Maintaining the momentum I sent a detailed letter to several State and Federal Ministers; the Mayor and all Gold Coast Councillors (except one that I refuse to deal with); and the Director for Fisheries, QLD.
The letter told of ongoing deaths and suffering among native birds caused solely by fishing activities and related a number of incidents. I identified three areas of fishing law which are in desperate need of change if we’re to have any hope of stemming the carnage. I also called for more education of fishers and made the point that rescue services like WBR, plus local vets and hospitals like Currumbin Wildlife Hospital and RSPCA Wacol pick up all the costs of repairing wildlife injured by fishers, while fishers and the recreational fishing industry contribute nothing.
The 3 week old cygnet above right is a prime example. It’s one of two infants, each from a different family that I had to catch on the same day, both suffering with a hook or an entanglement. Their injuries obvious because each had the same red coloured float attached to fishing line.
Below is a list I presented in my letter to authorities covering rescues performed over a one month period. These are not the only birds caught by WBR during that time, just those suffering from fish hook injuries and fishing line entanglements.
13-9-17 Pelican. Steiglitz. Fish hook in right leg. Hospitalised.
14-9-17 Swan. Robina. Fishing lure in leg. Hospitalised.
20-9-17 Ibis. Robina. Foot entangled in fishing line. Caught/released.
23-19-17 Crested pigeon. The Spit. Feet entangled in braid. Caught/released.
23-9-17 Swan. Carrara. Hook in jaw. Hospitalised.
23-10-17 Swan. Carrara. Hooked and entangled in 50m of fishing line. Caught/released.
25-10-17 Pigeon. Surfers. Feet entangled in light braid. Caught/released.
25-10-17 Oyster catcher. Main Beach. Both legs entangled in braid. Caught/released.
26-10-17 Cygnet (3m old) Fishing line around bill, sinker and hook hanging. Caught/released.
26-10-17 Pelican. Robina. Fishing line strangling left wing. Caught/released.
26-9-17 Swan, Robina. Reported fishing line from mouth. Not found.
27-9-17 Swan. Burleigh. Lame from hook in right knee. Hospitalised.
27-9-17 Crested pigeon. The Spit. Entangled in cotton and braid. Caught/released.
30-9-17 Duck. Mermaid. Fishing line entanglement cutting off feet. Caught/released.
2-10-17 Swan. Fish hook in ankle. Hospitalised.
2-10-17 Waterhen. Oxenford. Soft plastic fishing lure hanging from chest. Not yet caught.
4-10-17 Cormorant. Tallebudgera. Soft plastic lure hanging from back. Hospitalised.
6-10-17 Fig bird. Broadbeach, hanging in tree by fishing line. Hospitalised.
9-10-17 Bush-stone curlew. Southport. Entangled in string or braid. Hospitalised.
9-10-17 Cygnet (4w old) Mermaid Wts. Fishing line around leg, float trailing. Caught/released.
11-10-17 Cygnet (3w old) Coombabah. Hook in neck, trailing line and float. Caught/released.
12-10-17 Cygnet (3w old) Burleigh. Fish hook in face, line and sinker hanging. Hospitalised.
14-10-17 Ibis, feet entangled in fishing line. Hope Island. Caught/released.
15-10-17 Cormorant. Tallebudgera. Hook in jaw. Hospitalised.
16-10-17 Cormorant. Tallebudgera. X-ray revealed 2 hooks in oesophagus. Hospitalised.
That’s 25 birds, many seriously injured, maimed or killed in just 33 days. I think you’ll agree that number is appalling.
So, what’s been the result of all this so far?
The press coverage has undoubtedly helped to create greater awareness amongst the public. I’m very grateful to Channel 7 and the ABC who provided the best coverage. Local 9 News was nowhere to be seen. I’m yet to hear back from the Bulletin who said they wanted to pursue this issue with a feature article.
As for Gold Coast Councillors … Gary Baildon posted my letter in a group councillor forum, which is good. Dawn Critchlow said she’d bring the matter up on her radio talk show, which is even better. Pauline Young wrote back commending WBR. She was the only one to do so and I appreciated her kind words, although she did go on about the “Council’s” Tackle Bin program, apparently unaware that I was a founding member of the project. Council’s only involvement was to provided mounting posts whereas volunteers like myself and others put in a huge amount of time and effort to make the project a reality.
Of course, fishing related problems are not the responsibility of Local Council. Rather they’re entirely the responsibility of Dept of Fisheries, however, I do like to keep councillors informed and so occasionally send them one of these Capture Report. They can’t be expected to know about problems unless they’re made aware.
The response from the Director of Fisheries was interesting. He had one of his representatives write back thanking me for my correspondence and saying they’d sent my letter to State Minister Lynham (I’d already sent it to him). Can’t have struck much of a chord with the Director despite it being comprehensive and filled with facts and graphic pictures (and by ‘graphic’ I’m sure you know what I mean). I found his ‘non-response’ very disappointing.
Boring, boring I know, so let’s talk about ibis. Now there’s a subject to gladden everyone’s heart! Last month I mentioned a theory that was forming, but said I needed more time to test it. Well, test results are in and my suspicions are confirmed.
Since early September work has progressed full steam on the new car park and ring road at The Spit; the area at the very north end of SeaWorld Drive. This means much of the Seaway Wall has been off limits to fishers.
Lo and behold, capture numbers of entangled ibis are down to record lows. Hardly surprising given that fishers had been dropping 100-200 meters of unwanted fishing line on the ground in that area every week. This resulted in multiple entanglements; especially of ibis. Over the past several weeks I’ve only had to catch one entangled ibee within a 10 kilometre radius of The Spit. That’s it. No others. In any comparable period I might have caught a dozen within that same radius.
That one capture took place in the Nerang St Shopping Mall in Southport, a couple of k’s across the water from The Spit. Poor little chap was hobbled with wraps of line threatening to cut off his toes; plus he had a long stick caught in the line. He was called in by a woman from a local RE agent in Nerang St. She was eating lunch in an alfresco café. I told her to keep the bird around with a little food … so she fed him chips, by hand, at the table, in the restaurant. I love that! No doubt the restaurant owner was just as thrilled (he he). The bird was a quick catch. I had the line and stick off in a jiffy and we sent him on his way.
When Animals Attack!
The graphic image at right captures the terrifying moment that I was set upon by an enraged ibis. I’d just snared the bird at Paradise Point when the evil creature turned on me … biting the hand that feeds it. OK, so maybe I was feeding it so that I could catch it. Probably more accurate to say … biting the hand that cut the fishing line from its toes.
Of course any unprovoked attack upon my person constitutes a ‘neck wringing offence’ of the highest order. He was very lucky to escape with his life. Luckily for me being bitten by an ibis is about as traumatic as having a slice of tomatoe drop out of your sandwich and land on your toe. No serious damage done :-).
During the month I was called to catch 6 cormorants. That’s a LOT for one month. All but one of those birds was hooked or entangled in line. Three came from the same area on Tallebudgera Creek. One cormi took me 6 hours to secure.
Two of the cormorants died of their injuries; two were saved, and one very unlucky bird with heavy fishing line coming from its mouth flew as I lined it up for an easy net shot. Sadly he bailed the moment he saw me. Had that bird hesitated for just one second, as most do, I’d have had him. But it wasn’t to be and I haven’t heard anything since. Same fate befell two beak-entangled darter spotted in different suburbs. Both birds flew before I arrived. I have a 100% success rate catching darter so it was dreadful luck for those poor birds.
At left is Wildcare rescuer Emily from Palm Beach. She and her partner Dillon volunteer driving the Currumbin Wildlife Hospital ambo on Sundays. Emily is very capable and often spots for WBR when a ‘flight capable’ bird gets called in from the southern suburbs. We cut this cormorant (hook in jaw) from a fishing line which had been left unattended in a canal. The woman who left the line out said she’d ‘never had this problem before’. Well, if you leave fishing line with a baited hook out in a waterway it can only ever be a matter of time before it does happens. The bird died.
The swans didn’t fare any better during September with 8 being hooked or becoming entangled. The last bird I caught made it 95 swans rescued by WBR this year already, most injured by fishers.
Another 14 birds of different species suffered the same fate.
Horrible Story Alert!
Probably the most distressing rescue was a lovely little curlew that I caught one night on Isle of Capri. Poor little bugger was standing there holding up his right leg while his foot dangled underneath from sinew. The fishing line responsible for cutting off that foot was still wrapped around his ankle. I caught the curlew and took him home, then cut the sinew; disposed of the foot and disinfected and dressed the stump. He really needed strong pain relief but reliable A/H help is hard to get, so he just had to tough it out for another 12 hours until I could get him to Currumbin Wildlife Hospital first thing next morning.
Because the line had amputated across the ankle, and a good area of stump remained, I held great hopes for his recovery. However, infection had set into the exposed end of the leg bone causing his WBC count to rocket to ten times normal. He couldn’t be saved. Damn near broke my heart.
In happier news … The best outcome of the month (and there were many) is Snooky, a 3 month old sub-adult swan that at the time of her capture had a big fish hook sticking out through her cheek. The fishing line was wrapped around her bill and there was a sinker dangling. Imagine her distress. Full marks to Jan (at right) and her husband from Burleigh Lake who, guided by instructions over the phone, managed to grab Snooky when the family turned up for a snack at 6am. They incarcerated her in their laundry until I arrived.
I know I go on about these A-Holes that don’t call to get help for little birds they’ve seriously hooked, but SERIOUSLY! Snooky was in a real mess. How can they do that??
A big hole remained in Snooky’s cheek after the hook was removed and infection was present. That hole was a veritable crater on the inside and kept catching food. This caused the infection to persist despite strong antibiotics. The flesh just wasn’t healing and we very nearly lost her. Then Dr. Fumie, who is an excellent surgeon, packed the hole with goop (technical term, that) and changed to a different and stronger antibiotic. That did the trick and after three weeks the SnookMeister started to come good. Yehaaa! She’s still in hospital and Nurse Niki says, ‘not out of the woods yet’, but we’re hopefully that she’ll be ready for release soon.
I just bought a new net gun. Same brand, but the old gun has been playing up and I can’t have that. I use a cheap Chinese unit that I buy from a guy in Korea whose name is Kim Kim. You just can’t go wrong with a name like that. Wouldn’t matter if you forget your own first name, or your surname, as long as you could remember one of them!
The gun that Mr. Kim and many others sell is damn near useless, except that I’ve made significant modifications which turn it into a very effective capture tool. Even so, net guns require much practice and trial and error to master. In fact they are so difficult to use that every person I know who owns one of that model has given up and doesn’t use their gun at all. None of them, except for me. I wouldn’t be without it. My gun has caught countless ‘very difficult to catch’ birds and has well and truly earned its keep over the past 3 years. The RSPCA Ambo’s have a couple of American designed guns (no doubt made in China). The model is ridiculously overpriced in my view but is a tad more effective and slightly easier to master. However, I refuse to spend my money, or donor’s money, to purchase a $2500 gun when I can buy one that works perfectly well for me for $480, landed here. The American gun might be better in some ways but it still has plenty of deficiencies (RSPCA have had no end of trouble … one even blew up) and the after sales service they’ve experienced is woeful. Happy to stick with what I know.
Don’t be a Wally!
Last month I talked about the need to keep an injured bird in sight while you call for help and wait for the rescuer to arrive. This makes ALL the difference because we can only catch what we can find.
This month I’d like to mention two frustrations that rescue services come up against occasionally. First it’s when people report an injured bird, then provide their name and number, but don’t answer when you call back to get crucial details about the situation. Happens all the time. It’s why I haven’t got any hair. Even worse is when a caller ‘shops around’ for a rescuer. Can you imagine setting off to drive maybe 50ks to attend a rescue only to discover the caller has phoned 3 other rescue services and that 2 more rescuers have set off on the same 50k journey as you. Fortunately that doesn’t happen too often, but it does happen. Talk about a waste of resources! Any hairs on my head that were lucky enough to escape that first gripe quickly fall victim whenever this second scenario shows up.
The good news is that all of these problems can easily be remedied with a nice piece of cake. This month it was Fiona Byres who came to the rescue with a generous slice of carrot cake. It was delicious. No tea, but the size of the slice more than made up for that. At present my cake to rescue ratio is running at a dismal 1 to 100, possibly not even that good. The ultimate goal of course is to achieve 1 to 1. By that I mean a cup of tea and a generous serving of cake, per rescue, preferably in advance (meaning, before I’ve even done the rescue!) Ambitious, I know, but if I carry on about this for long enough, well, you know what they say … the squeaky wheel gets the oil.
Old Age Sucks!
I want to say hi to my dear old friend Margaret from Elanora Lake. I remember well the first time I heard Margaret’s voice. I was standing in Bunnings buying something or other when the phone rang. I answered and all I could hear was … waahhaaa, sob, sob, wahaaa, on the other end.
The din being made by customers all around didn’t help. It was a good ten minutes before I could make head nor tail of who I was talking to, or what was going on. This was the first of so many times that Margaret called, sobbing, because one of her beloved swans on the lake had been injured or was unwell. If I had a buck for every one of those birds I’ve rescued over the past 10 years I wouldn’t be writing this report … I’d be slurping a Pina Colada on a beach in Belize with enough money left over to shout Margaret a trip there too. She always jokes that I’m the last person she ever wants to see, but is enormously appreciative of the help I’ve provided to generations of ‘her’ swans.
Sadly Margaret’s husband Gordon passed away two years ago and recently she had a very bad fall after a house cleaner left a puddle of water on her tiled floor. She lay there for five hours until her son Greg arrived to visit, which he does twice a day (at least) and found her on the floor. It’s meant weeks in hospital and the possibility that she might not be able to return home. Devastating news, and she’s the first to say … ‘old age sucks’! Here’s wishing you a quick and full recovery Margaret. In the meantime don’t worry about the ‘poultry’… Linda (by the lake) has got them covered and I’m always available to rescue any in need.
Thank you to everyone who donates to Wild Bird Rescues. You’ve allowed me and those who’ve assisted me to provide help for nearly 150 sick or injured birds in the past quarter alone. In fact, if you were to look out upon any lake on the Gold Coast and see swans, chances are WBR has saved the life of one or more of those birds.
Special thanks this month to Pam and Ray Ison, and as always to our patron Jim Downs and to Liz and Paul on the Donations Committee.
‘El Presidente for Life’
Wild Bird Rescues GOLD COAST