activity during September was brisk with a total of 42 rescues.
It was a month of ‘baby birds’. Despite the WBR homepage clearly stating that I only rescue pelicans, swans or any bird that is hooked or fishing line entangled, and that ALL other enquiries should go to RSPCA or Wildcare, I still managed to field at least 100 calls for baby birds during the month. I even attended several rescues. Sheeesh!
One of those babies was this funny little fellow at left. Caller Anne was worried because he looked too small to be out of the nest. My first question was, ‘do you know where the nest is, and are the parents coming down to feed the young maggie?’ The answers were, ‘yes and yes’. All good so far.
When I arrived I could see that he was indeed tiny; almost certainly a casualty of the previous day’s very strong winds. The nest was high; ridiculously high. Even if I got him back up there was no guarantee that, after this recent taste of freedom, he wouldn’t jump right back out. To make matters worse he had an older sibling who was much bigger and fully flight capable. That bird was following the parents around the garden, squawking his head off, which meant he was getting most of the food.
I spotted a nice hanging flower pot that looked ideal. Anne was willing to sacrifice her pot to help the little bird, so I ditched the dying plant and constructed a nest out of twigs and leaves in the pot. If you ever do this make sure your pot or bucket has plenty of good drain holes, otherwise the baby bird will be doing laps after the first downpour.
We hung our newly constructed nest from a low branch in the parental tree; just high enough to be safe, but low enough so that Anne could stand on her step ladder and poke supplemental food into the little bloke’s mouth. Seconds later mum visited the new ‘nest’, so we knew the parents would go on feeding him too.
He sat in his flower pot, looking a little bemused, but with a bit of luck he’ll grow quickly and be able to join his brother in the garden.
Swallows and martins are nesting at the marina where I live, as they do this time every year. The little rascals love hollow aluminium yacht booms, or the soft folds of sails; anywhere they can tuck themselves in. They even get into bar-b-ques hung on boat railings. That’s all well and good if an owner is not using their boat, and especially not their bar-b-que (euwww) . But it’s a disaster if a skipper heads out and then finds a nest of chicks on-board.
Nests can’t be relocated. I’ve tried shifting them to safer places as little as two meters from their former location, but the parents won’t have a bar of it. That leaves just one option; the chicks have to go into care.
Young Holly is holding eight tiny martins that I’ve just taken off two different yachts. She’d been at the Club helping her dad wash a friend’s boat when mud and sticks came raining out of a sail. We knew what that meant. As it happened the yacht in front of mine also had a nest, so we ended up with two lots of four chicks, each about the size of a large thimble. They all went into care with Allison from Wildcare.
It’s heartbreaking to see the parent birds return to where their nest used to be, only to find nothing. They look at me with such enquiring little faces. All I can do is tell them I’m sorry and that their kids will be safe and they’ll be coming back for release at the marina when fully grown.
The little fellow at left is a wood duck that I called Peter. He was reported limping heavily in a hinterland area behind the Gold Coast. The caller could see something entangled around both of his feet. I assumed it was fishing line, although ‘there ain’t much fishin’ in them thar hills’. He and his partner had a brood of ducklings but in the end Peter could barely walk and so was unable to keep up with the family. I visited the area twice but couldn’t find him. A week later a different caller in the same area told me about a wood duck on their property that was struggling to walk. Thank goodness. No doubt about who it was.
When I arrived I could see that Peter was in terrible shape. This was also potentially a very difficult catch. Luckily things went fairly smoothly and half an hour later I had him.
What a mess his feet were. The line around his legs, which turned out to be ‘builders string line’; the kind they use to set levels, had cut in deeply. It must have been terribly painful. To be honest I held out little hope for his survival.
Fortunately, it turned out to be Peter’s lucky day because head vet Mic Pyne was in attendance at the hospital, as he often is on a Sunday. Mic is a tireless worker and is not only an exceptional vet but lightning fast in his work. Mic took me straight in. I plonked Peter up on the operating table and held the gas feed until he went under. It was painstaking digging all that line out of his little legs but in the end Mic said those five magic words. ‘I think he’ll be OK’. Oh yeah! I’d given Peter almost zero chance but now it looked like he was going to survive and would, in time and after much rehab, go back to his family. What a great outcome.
Fiona and Paul rushed down to check on a swan that was standing on Burleigh Beach. I was still 600k’s north, driving back from my recent trainings. I’d asked them to give me a report. They confirmed that the bird was flight capable and there was no blood; wings hanging off, or obvious trauma. The most likely scenario was a young bird, a bit confused, and choosing a less than desirable place to land. Someone approached the creature causing it to fly to a pool, sheltered from the ocean waves, out on the Burleigh headland. Over the next several hours I fielded multiple calls from concerned observers. Fiona, Paul and their kids continued to check until about 4.30pm when the creature took to the air. This was the third swan in a two week period that had landed on or near a beach. Quite unusual.
Sandra from Burleigh Waters was very concerned when four grown cygnets that were Tyson and Trisha’s (Miami lake’s resident pair) past litter arrived for a snack. One bird couldn’t stand. Thirty minutes later I’d grabbed it. The offending item turned out to be a nasty little fish hook stuck deep in the creature’s ankle joint; a fully life threatening injury and excruciatingly painful.
The swan required surgery and a week in hospital. Without help it would have died. Had the ‘upstanding citizen’ who hooked this bird, but didn’t bother to call for help, been presented with the repair bill from Currumbin Wildlife Hospital, I suspect they would have had to sell all of their fishing tackle, and their car, to pay for it.
(Below. Brothers and sisters, not sure what to make of all this)
These are just a few of dozens of successful rescues during September. Others you can see on Facebook. Thank you to everyone who supports Wild Bird Rescues. Without your help so many of those birds would have suffered even more, or died.
A very special thanks to my monthly donors (you know who you are) and to WBR patron Jim Downs who just increased his already very generous support. Thanks too to Paul and Liz on the donations committee.