Rescues were steady during October with 35 sick, injured or orphaned birds receiving help, plus several releases.
October being the last month of spring saw me attend quite a few chicks and fledglings; not something I normally do. Therefore I’ve decided to make this a bumper baby bird report.
Before we get onto babies there was a couple of ‘angel wing’ swans that needed help during the month.
Angel wing is seen in several species of waterbirds especially swans, ducks and geese. Also in domestic poultry. A primary trigger is parents being fed too much grains; bread being a great example. This can cause their young to develop a deformity of the outer wing joint on one, or both wings. In AW the wing feathers stick out sideways and have a ‘quilly’, bare look which is quite dramatic.
Birds that are mildly afflicted can still fly, however those with more serious AW will never fly. They can still put on a pretty good flap though, enough to get themselves out of trouble. Being waterbirds they also have the advantage of the safety of water.
I’d heard about the swan at left some time ago when he was only 2 months old. Residents around the lake could see something was very wrong with his left wing and were concerned. From their descriptions I knew it would be angel wing and explained that he was OK, at least until fully grown, at which time his parents would want him gone. That was the problem … the family lived on an enclosed lake; his siblings had already left, and there was nowhere for him to go.
Not long after fledging the inevitable happened. The parents began attacking and trying to drive him away. He did his best to avoid them by staying on the other side of the lake, but that was only 200m away and there was nowhere else to hide.
Things could only get worse, so I grabbed him and drove to hospital where they trimmed that quilly left wing before I releasing him on a nearby lake which offered plenty of food and kilometers of open waterway (at right).
He’ll be happy there and should enjoy a good life.
October produced dozens of calls about another swan with angel wing on Lake Orr. She’d been hanging around on the grassy banks near Aldi which meant a lot of people saw her. Invariable the report was …’there’s a swan here with a broken wing’.
I caught her, had the wing trimmed, then released her back on Lake Orr, all within the hour.
I haven’t had any calls about either of those birds since. Keeping their wonky wings trimmed is good for the birds and gives peace of mind to the public.
Baby Birds … Ospreys and Brahminy Kites
Baby birds are such cuties but they can bring both joy and heartbreak to anyone who tries to help them. Such is the case in some of the following stories.
Olive, the fledgling osprey from the Sundale Bridge osprey tower in Southport, was one of the success stories, but talk about needing a hand!
That’s Olive at left with mum in the middle
She failed miserably on her first 3 flight attempts and only succeeded on attempt number 4 because I placed her back into the nest and she had the good sense to stay there. After 10 days in her parents care she’d built up the strength for that first successful flight. She did a quick lap of the bay, accompanied by her mother, before returning to the nest.
We’re still not sure if she’s caught her first fish. It’s been 6 weeks so that’s a bit of a worry. Hasn’t been for lack of trying though. She goes out on her own each day before returning half an hour later with nothing. Hopefully Olive is just a late starter.
Percy was one of 3 osprey fledglings from the Mallawa Dr. tower in Nth Palm Beach. He’d been found by a resident standing on the footpath of a bridge and was taken to Currumbin Wildlife Hospital. He was very thin.
We can’t know whether it was Percy’s first flight and he failed to get back into the air after landing, or whether he’d left the nest some days earlier and hadn’t been catching enough fish, or indeed any fish. Probably the latter.
Percy ended up spending far too much time in hospital but nurse Mimi, who is the resident raptor expert, told me later that time away from their parents isn’t critical because ospreys imprint through eye contact and a parent will always recognize one of its young.
I released Percy in the sports ground 50m back from the base of the lighting array and was delighted to see him fly straight back up to the nest 18m above. Even more delighted to see a mature osprey join him within 2 minutes. Much less delighted to watch as that mature male began attacking him. Don’t know what it was about. Fortunately the attacks weren’t too and to his credit Perc held his ground bravely, but it wasn’t a good start.
I waited and watched for half an hour. By then it was time to go. Nothing more to be done. Did Percy survive? Hope so.
You might have seen the WBR Facebook post about the Brahminy that I pulled out of a crab pot at low tide off Coomera. That bird survived its ordeal.
Things didn’t go so well for a fledgling which was mercilessly attacked by 20+ black and whites (maggies, crows, currawongs and pee wees) as it flew across western Southport.
One of the attackers knocked it out in the sky and the poor Brahminy plummeted to earth in a ball, landing hard on the steel tray of a trailer parked in the street. Ouch! He looked dead when I arrived, but then I saw movement. There was still some hope, albeit slim. It was late so I took him home and put him to bed for the night. By next morning he’d revived quite well, although he still looked depressed.
Sadly, in hospital his eyes exhibited a level of neurological damage from which he would never recover.
The Wavebreak Clan
Kathy, the chick from the Wavebreak Clan, which built their nest on a channel marker 200m north of Wavebreak Island in the GC Broadwater, looks to have made it.
(Kathy’s mum stares at me as I drift close to the marker in my dinghy. Kathy is in front, fully grown and only days from fledging)
I think there’s a significant advantage when ospreys nest low down near the water, which they are able to do on channel markers. They’re low but they’re safe because people can only access them by boat and it’s illegal to climb a marker.
Being just 4m above high water the fledglings are more likely to return to the nest after their first flight. Unfortunately ospreys are discouraged from nesting on channel markers for obvious reasons. None of the lads from GC Waterways Authority are keen to climb through an osprey nest to service the solar panel or lights on the marker. Don’t blame ’em.
Here’s the heartbreaker among this year’s fledgling ospreys.
Little Jack (at right) had probably just taken his maiden flight before coming down on a grassy verge 200m across the river from the family’s nest in Mangrove Jack Park, Helensvale. He was found by Council workers who called WBR for help.
I rushed there and picked him up then took him to Currumbin Wildlife Hospital for a check-up and some tucker. It was Thursday, too late to organize access to the park for a cherry picker and get Jack back up into the nest for a second chance.
If my recent observations are correct I suspect many young osprey land on the ground after their first flight and never make it back to the safety of the nest. They need to return so their parents can continue to feed them while they learn to fish. It’s as if that first flight is ‘all too much’ and ‘just too exciting’ causing them to lose their bearings.
What a tragedy it is for young to make it so far then fail at that final hurdle.
There is still some hope for a young bird on the ground as long as the mother is willing to feed it and is able to encourage it back into the air. But I suspect most don’t respond. Olive faced similar problems but had the good sense to stay put when returned to the nest. Jack didn’t.
By Tuesday (4 days after I’d rescued him), GC Council provided access to Mangrove Jack Park. I picked Jack up from hospital and drove to the park.
Our good friends from EWP Hire donated a 40m cherry picker. Up I went with Jack. Both parents were in the nest eating a fish (at left) and got the fright of their life when I popped my head over the top. They bailed but stayed close, circling and occasionally making an uncomfortably close pass at me.
I placed Jack back into the nest, tossed him a ‘bon voyage’ fish, then called to be taken down, quick! I only made it half way to the ground when the little rascal flew. He headed straight back across the river and we found him on someone’s pool deck. I grabbed him again, then it was straight back to the picker and up we went for a second time. Half way to the ground he flew again.
It probably didn’t help that his patents were circling but there wasn’t much I could do about that. If Jack had stayed put they’d have landed in the nest and things might have worked out, but he didn’t.
This time, when he flew, his mother took off after him. Our hopes soared, only to crash 15 minutes later when she returned and Jack hadn’t followed. I’d lost sight of him a full kilometre away. Too far to mount a search that offered any reasonable hope of finding him.
Some birds are lucky and some really aren’t. I feel gutted because whenever I take time off, birds die.
I’d taken a break but left messages with all the rescue services asking them to contact me if a raptor showed up in the northern suburbs. Seven days later a kayaker on the Nerang River came across what he thought was a young Brahminy standing on a log just above high tide. I knew it’d be Jack. The guy went back 2 hours later to check and the bird was still there. RSPCA were notified and contacted me by text but I didn’t see the message until 4 hours later.
I drove straight to Helensvale and met RSPCA onsite. We searched but he wasn’t on the log. I waited until dusk for the caller to return from Brisbane then we searched again. No sign. Next morning he paddled out early in his kayak and searched the area thoroughly for nearly 3 hours but couldn’t locate Jack. What crap luck it was.
Will Jack survive? Doubt it. He hasn’t returned to the nest. Of course that doesn’t mean he’s not out there somewhere and doing OK. Let’s hope.
All these stories underpin the fact that life for a young raptor, or I suppose any young bird, is a precarious affair.
I want to say special thanks to Neil and the guys from EWP Hire who provided WBR with the cherry picker for free. How kind is that!
I was close by when a call came in for a baby noisy minor that had fallen into a roadside drain.
The first question one asks is … ‘is the drain on a busy road?’ The second question is … ‘how deep?’ The answers came back … ‘not too busy and not too deep’. OK then.
They aren’t called ‘noisy’ for nothing. I could hear him squawking as soon as I pulled up. I parked in front of the drain so that if some loony came through they’d hit my car first and hopefully not me.
The metal drain cover was a bad one, old and wouldn’t budge. I managed to rig a small net on a pole and fed it through the back of the grate down to the young bird, a meter below. After scooping him up I lifted the net head, but I needed more hands. I stuck a finger through the grating to move the bird over a little. ‘Stuck’ became the operative word because I couldn’t pull my finger out of the grate. ‘Oh this is just great’ (pun intended). There I was, lying in the bloody gutter with a baby minor in the net, still inside the drain, and my finger firmly wedged between the rusty bars.
(At right. Mum sits on a twig above and behind him, ready to deliver a worm)
Eventually it did come out, but not without a good deal of panic, swearing and bruising.
The good thing about minor chicks is their parents, aunts and uncles will all come down to feed them. The tree next to the drain was the ideal place for him. It was a bit high so I drove my car underneath and climbed onto the roof. That way I could get the little fellow up onto a good branch. He had other ideas and kept fluttering to the ground. In the end I left him in the crook of the tree (at right), a bit low but stable and being fed by this parents. Fingers crossed.
A young maggie came to grief outside Southerby’s on Tedder Av, Main Beach, close to where I live. I agreed to help.
There was no sign of the nest but both parents were coming to ground to feed him. That’s a key requirement.
At first I tried the old ‘bucket in the tree’ trick, punching holes in the bottom of a 2 gallon bucket, before building a nest inside; adding the ‘poultry’, then hanging the bucket 4m up in the tree away from predators. Well, that was the plan. Turns out he was too big and had already enjoyed too much freedom to stay in the bucket. He kept jumping out and plummeting to earth.
Next best option was to contain him lower down, so I headed to Bunnings and bought a roll of fencing material then set about fencing the perimeter of the little garden bed at the base of the tree. The trick to erecting fencing in the heart of a shopping precinct, without permission and with no authority, is to look confident. People would just think I was the gardener having to do a Sunday shift. Poor thing.
The garden bed was risky for him because it was only knee high and unprotected, but there was good cover and he was up off the ground. So far his parents had done a great job getting rid of curious passes by. I was operating under an umbrella, for safety.
The fence went up; he was installed behind the barrier; things looked GOOD. But it wasn’t to be. The next 24 hours went well but when I checked at 5am on the second morning, there was no sign. Could have been a cat, although that’s unlikely in a busy shopping street. Probably an owl in the night. Lousy bloody luck.
Last of the babies is this little chap at right. He’s a fairy marten. Dozens of them live at Southport Yacht Club. In the early morning and at dusk they can be seen flying around plucking bugs out of the air that are too small to see.
‘Fairy martens’ and ‘welcome swallows’ love tucking themselves into tight spaces where they build mud nests. This makes them very popular with yacht owners who arrive for a day’s sailing only to find their sail bag filled with wriggling little chicks and large dollops of mud on their deck. Invariably all the wrigglers end up on my boat, which makes them very popular with me.
Luckily this little guy had already fledged, but he wasn’t doing too well and had flown into a yacht’s windscreen. He just sat there and wouldn’t take off. The owners scooped him up and arrived on my doorstep saying, ‘we’re sorry but we have to go’. I replied, ‘no probs, I’ve got this … ha!’ I left the ‘ha’ part until they’d left.
I waited 15 minutes until the coast was clear then sprinted back to their yacht, climbed aboard and stuffed him into their sail cover. Nice and comfy. Observing from a distance it only took 30 minutes before a tiny ball of fluff came rocketing out of the cover and never looked back. Oh, I do like a happy ending.
It’s a Bloody Catastrophe!
Forget about Brexit or the US elections, the only meaningful vote this year was Bird of the Year … and we missed it!
I blame myself entirely because long-time supporter Ray Issen had sent me all the info 2 weeks ago but I didn’t check the closing date. I was waiting to get this report out to tell you to get behind ‘our bird’. With enough support we had a real chance this year after being pipped at the post by those darn magpies in 2017 in what I’m convinced was a shameful case of vote rigging.
Amid claims of vote rigging this year too, and even Russian meddling, the 2019 title was taken out on Friday by the black-throated finch. The black-throated what? Who the hell ever heard of the black-throated finch, for chrisake?
Well, apparently the BTF’s are at the heart of ‘ground zero’ on the Adani site. I suppose that does give them some credibility. But no more than Gold Coast picnic tables which are ground zero for ‘our bird’. Surely those sites are equally important?
Tawny’s came in second with Sulphur crested’s taking third. Our nemesis, those maggies (never trust a magpie voter), came in fourth with ibis a crushingly disappointing tenth. Crushing because there were only 10 starters.
I’m gutted. What’s wrong with the world? Is nothing is sacred anymore? Apparently not, so thank God we have the sacred ibis. That name alone should have won it for them.
Do I Look Decrepit?
I’m getting a lot of spam coming through on the WBR email address. Most from China. An email the other day caught my eye.
A young lady from Ningbo named Kasey wanted to know if I needed an electric wheel chair. Well, not yet I thought.
I wondered whether she’d looked at my photo on the Wild Bird Rescues website and shouted, ‘Eureka (in Mandarin), this guy needs a wheel chair for sure!’
Part of her sales pitch was, and I quote … ‘The biggest market selling point, remote wireless control of wheelchairs within 10 meters, very cool! And the price has absolute market competitiveness’.
I find nothing cool about the thought of some bugger controlling my wheelchair from 10m away. That’d play out real well during a duck rescue in a swamp. Knowing my putrid friends they’d probably leave me out there, bogged. And, pray tell, what good is ‘absolute market competitiveness’ when you’re dying in a swamp?
News flash. This Capture Report has only just gone out and I’ve already received another email. It says … ‘I wish you a wonderful day! This is Kasey from KS Medical, Ningbo, China. I am happy to know that you need an electric wheelchair’. Who told her??
Osprey Watch, Gold Coast
Judy Martin has set up the Osprey Watch, Gold Coast FB page so that people can monitor and report osprey action or any nesting behavior they observe. www.facebook.com/groups/736900073459567/
In the meantime my architect friend Paul Robinson and I are working on drawings that cover two osprey projects.
Firstly, designing outrigger perches for the unsuccessful osprey tower at South Palm Beach on the Currumbin estuary. Judy was instrumental in having this tower erected, but Council restricted the height and now we all think it’s too low. Ospreys are unlikely to nest there with people and dogs running around just 11.5m below them. Plus, at that height the nest is at risk from rock throwing teens. We’re still waiting on confirmation that Council will approve the necessary increase of 5m in height which, along with the new perches, should make all the difference.
(Pic at left and left. The Bundall osprey tower has lost its crossbeam and nails are protruding upwards. That’d be comfy for an osprey to land on)
Secondly, we’re designing a new osprey platform featuring an all-aluminium frame, clad in recycled, untreated hardwood. These can be mounted on a treated timber pole which could be anywhere from 15 – 18m in height, depending upon the location. If successful this new platform design could be used to replace several existing timber osprey platforms that are falling into disrepair, like the one pictured.
The WBR fishing line campaign which seeks to reduce the number of lines that each QLD recreational fisher can use in fresh water, from 6 lines down to 2, and require them to stay with their lines at all times, is going well. Support so far has been very good with many submissions already in. The black sheep among those I’ve approached being Local Federal Member JP Langbroek who stuffed me around royally before I finally asked him a direct question …’do you support our campaign’. He chose not to answer the question, which is an answer in itself.
(I just caught the swan above and below right. Look closely at the pic at right and you can see the 5 hooks (plus a 6th hook dangling) that I had to remove from her right foot. Just 200m away there was a dock with 4 fishing rods left unattended. They weren’t set, thank goodness, but they will be. This was a fresh water lake so the fisher could legally add another 2 rods if he wants! This madness has to end, so pls help)
If you haven’t lodged a submission for the fishing line campaign please email me at email@example.com and I’ll send you some info. If you care about waterbirds and want to see an end to all the dreadful fishing related injuries then email now. It’ll only take a minute and your voice counts. Do allow a few days for me to answer ’cause I am flat out choosing a colour for my new electric wheelchair.
Thank you to everyone who supports Wild Bird Rescues and special thanks to Liz and Paul on the Donations Committee and our patron Jim Downs.
Until next time
Ibis Lover and Pres. WBR Gold Coast