Wild Bird Rescues ended 2019 by rescuing 31 sick, injured or orphaned birds in December. This brought the total to 387 rescues for the year.
The stand out for December was the number of swans that came to grief. It wasn’t all that many, only nine in fact, but they got into plenty of trouble.
You may remember my FB post from the previous month reporting 5 serious dog attacks; 3 on the Goldie and 2 in Tweed Heads (just south in the NSW). Fortunately, those dog troubles concluded in November, but that allowed our old friend ‘fishing equipment’ to take back the reins in December.
Gruesome stories to follow. Well, not too gruesome and I promise things do get better the further you progress.
Bloody Crab Pots
Over two days I was alerted to two different cygnets tangled in crab pot lines.
One was called in by Christian working on a canal maintenance barge in Mermaid. He’d come across a cyg about 5 weeks old (size of a duck) wrapped in pot line and laying on the shore. The bird was motionless. Christian thought it was dead but noticed movement when he got closer. Poor little bloke was probably exhausted and dehydrated by the struggle. It had an adult swan with it.
Christian untangled the cygnet then called me. He couldn’t see any injuries and so I had him sit the young bird on sand by the water’s edge then stand back. He said it looked OK but was in no hurry to go anywhere. I instructed him to give it and the adult some food. Neither would eat but both seemed comfortable enough.
Taking the cygnet to hospital for a check-up was an option. But this would mean separating it from a parent. I couldn’t risk being unable to find that parent when it came to re-uniting the two. In the absence of any injuries, and with both birds looking comfortable, I decided they were in the best place and let things be. Christian gave my number to a local resident and instructed her to call if she had concerns.
The next day a very sad event occurred in Burleigh (at left).
Caller Trish saw a sub-adult swan struggling in Pelican Lake in front of her house. A passing kayaker paddled over to assist. They soon discovered this bird too was wrapped up in crab pot line and exhausted. The kayaker did her best to cut away the line and managed to remove most of it. But she was unable to cut a very tight wrap from behind the wings and so she released the swan.
I know it can be hard for an inexperienced person to handle a big bird, but if a creature is still hooked or entangled it should never be released until the problem is fully dealt with. If it is released there’s every chance it will swim or fly away. That creates huge problems for me because it might take hours or even days to locate the bird, assuming I can find it at all.
It helped that this young bird was so debilitated that she just waddled along the grassy bank then flopped down some 100m away, traumatized and exhausted (pic upper left).
Under my instructions Trish followed at a distance so as not to spook her, while keeping the swan in sight for the 25 minutes in took me to drive from Main Beach to Burleigh.
The entanglement was awful. She had crab pot line wrapped around each wing at the shoulder, lashing her wings tightly together behind her back (at right). I cut and removed the line quickly. This gave immediate relief, but I also noticed blood on the leading edge of her right wing where she’d abraded it on the line during the struggle. That wing was draggy, although not too bad. I felt she had a reasonable chance.
Sadly it wasn’t to be. The first couple of days looked good but her draggy wing remained unresponsive. Nerve damage meant she’d never be able to use it. The hospital cannot release a bird if it’s wing is useless and dragging behind.
Two for the Price of One
It was a much better outcome for two gulls found on Heron Island by Kellie from the Tackle Bin Project. The pair were lashed together by fishing line. This is not uncommon and is particularly good for a rescuer because although the birds are usually ‘flight capable’, their predicament means they pull against each, meaning neither can get airborne.
Kellie caught the pair then cut away the line before releasing both gulls unharmed.
I came across the gull below on the Labrador foreshore. That is one seriously bent leg! Goodness knows how it got into that position; possibly broken in the nest then sat on by siblings until it set, resulting in the leg pointing directly backwards.
Gulls are survivors. They get by easily with just one leg. I know of several that have no legs. Doesn’t stop them. In case you’re wondering, almost all of those losses occurred curtesy of a fishing line entanglement which had amputated each limb.
Fishing line isn’t the only culprit. Several wraps of cotton can easily take off a small bird’s toes or feet. In fact there’s a gull getting around central Surfers at the moment with a deep entanglement of human hair around its left ankle. Had I been alerted earlier I could have saved that bird’s foot, but the injury has gone too far, meaning the foot has died and must be left to drop off on its own. If I were to remove the entanglement now I’d interrupt that process and leave the bird with a dangling, dead foot; a painful encumbrance and potential source of infection. Left to run its course the foot will amputate cleanly with little risk of infection.
No Beak, No Problem
Speaking of survivors … the young maggie at right somehow lost half of its beak. Top and bottom, that is. Don’t know how it happened. May have flown into plate glass. Sometimes we find them with the lower beak only broken off. That’s even worse.
A broken break presents a significant problem for a maggie because it can no longer ferret out bugs in the soil. Nor is there any possibility of a prosthetic replacement. Reason being they only last about 6 months. A prosthesis is an option for a bird in captivity because the beak can be changed when needed. Not so for a wild bird, meaning if it goes to hospital it won’t be coming out again.
Would this maggie want that? …….. NOOOOOO, I say.
The caller was concerned for the bird. He’d dug some live worms from his garden and saw that the maggie was able to pick them up and eat. I told him not to worry because magpies are VERY resourceful. I suspect this bird has several households giving it food. The caller liked that idea.
Next day he phoned to say the maggie was back in his garden and enjoying a big breakfast of fresh worms.
An adult swan tangled with a hook in a Biggera Waters canal.
The bird had been observed by resident Michelle hanging around alone at the end of her canal. She noticed it was limping, then saw a soft plastic lure with a hook embedded just above its knee.
I was there within 20 minutes. Five minutes later the swan was on my lap. I named her Trixie. I explained that a hook in, or close to a swan’s knee (hock), is a dangerous injury. The barb only has to penetrate a few millimeters into the hock to blow the joint capsule, meaning the bird will never use that leg again … and we know what happens then.
This hook was on the lower margin of the hock (at right). Lucky indeed, but the barb came out easily when I pulled on the shank of the hook. That’s not so good. The barb is supposed to keep a hook embedded in flesh: usually a fish’s mouth. The fact that it wasn’t holding firm in the swan’s leg meant the flesh around it was infected and slightly necrotic. If infection had spread to the nearby knee joint she was in big trouble.
Happily that wasn’t the case. Trixie was treated by the hospital and released 5 days later.
This was almost certainly a deliberate ‘luring’, meaning the fisher had cast that soft plastic lure at or very close to the swan.
Another fortuitous rescue occurred after caller Tinddy saw a swan in front of her house with a large lure hanging from its neck.
As with the previous story there’s little chance this swan had swum into the lure by accident. Equally unlikely it had become hooked on a lost lure laying on the bottom of the canal. The most likely explanation is that some ##@%wit had cast the lure at the bird.
I doubt there was a deliberate intention to hook the swan. After all, the exercise cost the fisher a $20 lure. But of course that’s no excuse. And as usual, this bright spark hadn’t reported the injury or tried to get help for the bird, instead opting to cut the line and let it swim away with a life threatening injury.
Large lures typically have either two or three ‘trebles’ (three pronged hooks) hanging underneath. In total there’s the potential for nine barbs to become embedded in a bird. In most cases only two or three are embedded, but that’s bad enough because just one barb can kill.
I named this swan Ellie. She had three barbs in her neck and they were deep. Nothing I could do, so it was off to hospital.
Fortunately all three barbs missed Ellie’s oesophagus. She spent 11 days in hospital before being released safe and well. The fisher lost a $20 lure. The total cost of rescue, repair and rehabilitation of this one swan, if billed at going rates, would be a couple of thousand bucks, minimum. Add in the swan from the previous story and we’re up to $3000, all curtesy of Australia’s most popular sport.
Because these are ‘cruelty’ issues I’ll probably do a FB post about each.
A Day at the Beach
During December two swans decided to land on Burleigh Beach. Not together; these were different birds on different days.
People often ask, ‘how does a swan get onto a beach?’. Well, clearly not in Uber. They flew in, meaning they can just as easily fly out. But it isn’t always that simple. Usually these are young birds, probably booted out of their home territory by parents getting ready to nest again and not wanting them around. They’re often a bit confused. Add to that the potential of attack by an off-leash dog.
The caller who phoned in to report the first swan was giving me details when the bird spread its wings and took to the air. Nice one! That was easy.
The second swan landed several days later. It was much less willing to leave. I had the caller chase it to try to scare it into the air. It just ran away down the beach. The caller stayed with her, keeping the growing crowd at bay while watching for OL dogs.
The only one in the picture (at right) who didn’t appear worried was the swan!
It was a young bird and looked a bit scruffy. Her feathers were very wet, which they shouldn’t have been. I suspect she’d taken a tumble in surf.
I bundled her off to hospital for a vet check, leaving instructions for the ambo to release her out on one of the fresh water lakes at Robina. She may not choose to stay out there of course, but its good place to start.
Cheaper by the Dozen
The palatial swimming pools at Palazzo Versace in Main Beach are a veritable breeding ground for ducklings.
There isn’t much vegetation around those pool areas, but little cover is needed for a female Pacific black duck to tuck in out of sight and lay her eggs. Four weeks later and voila, the hotel has a bunch of ducklings doing laps where they’re not supposed to. Unfortunately for the hotel ducklings born in a particular area automatically imprint on that area, meaning some will return to the very same spot to breed.
I’ve rescued my fair share of ducklings from the Palazzo Versace pools in years past. More recently I’ve tried not to take on duckling rescues, however a special request from Kathryn from Wildcare, who had an important Xmas arrangement, saw me head to the hotel to hopefully catch the duck and her brood.
The pool area was busy. I had to wade through a sea of Botox and gold chains to get to mum and her kids. Eventually, with the help of a groundsman, we caught them. Then it was off to the Southport cemetery. No, not to bury them, but rather release the family in a lovely little lake which had recently been renovated and replanted. Hopefully they’ll do well.
The funny thing about rescuing for big outfits is they rarely if ever offer to donate, even after you’ve attended dozens of times. In fact you’re lucky to get a thank you. But, that doesn’t matter. We do it for the ducks not for some of the turkeys we deal with. (he he!)
2019 was a GOOD YEAR
Wild Bird rescues did a lot of good work in 2019, thanks to your help.
Donors are the lifeblood of any volunteer rescue service. Thank you kindly. These Capture Reports are for you. They show (often in all too graphic detail) that your gifts are being used to do good and to save wildlife which would otherwise suffer.
Special thanks to Liz and Paul on the Donations Committee. Don’t forget, if you’re planning a new website, or need work done on your existing site, Paul Luxford is your man. He’s been helping WBR for 5 years by designing and hosting our website. At Gold Coast Business Websites you’ll get quality work at a very reasonable price! www.goldcoastbusinesswebsites.com.au
Until next time
Pres. Wild Bird Rescues GOLD COAST