WILDWATCH by ANNE WILKINSON
Rain at last, and what a wonderful Christmas gift it was to parched gardens, countryside and bush. Hopefully, it is also a good omen for 2013. From WPSQ, we wish everyone a very happy New Year.
The rain has brought plenty of good news to the wild world with struggling plants recovering from the dry, blossoms opening on trees and cassowary fruit such as the white apple dropping to the ground for the big birds to feast on.
Everything happens so quickly and abundantly. And quick seems to be an operative word, especially for birds like the rainbow lorikeet, at the moment.
FEASTING: Yvonne Cunningham took this picture (left) of a rainbow lorikeet tucking into the honey-rich flowers of native Melicope elleryana in her nursery garden at Coquette Point.
It is a source of wonder that these fast-flying birds can negotiate between closely laced branches without either accident or losing speed. Their agility at times can make human motor racing seem almost ponderous!
But of course tragedies still happen and Mission Beach Wildcare has been kept busy over this holiday season.
One of their biggest problems, according to Wildcare president Kim Badcock, is receiving injured animals and birds too late.
“It is sometimes several days before we are contacted and by then it can be too late to give the patient a good chance of recovery,” Kim said.
“Injured or orphaned birds and animals need very special care such as feeding the right food in the right way. For example, it is very easy, if you don’t know how, for food or liquid to go into a bird’s lungs rather than its stomach, and this is almost always fatal.
“To have the best chance, injured or orphaned animals or birds need to go into care as soon as possible after they are found. The quicker and more quietly this is achieved, unless their injuries or shock are too severe, the better are their chances.
“Remember, these are wild creatures and not used to humans, so however sympathetic their rescuer is, being handled is still a frightening experience for them, especially as it is on top of what has already happened to them.”
“People finding injured wildlife should phone the Wildcare hotline 0439 687 272 and we will advise them how to catch and handle the patient and where to take it. Many carers tend to specialise so, for example, an injured hawk would go to a raptor carer,” Kim said.
Especially living in the bush as we at Wildwatch do, and having rescued all kinds of injured creatures, we now always carry a large towel in the car to throw over the victim so it is easy to gather up and less hassled than it would be by being chased, plus an empty cardboard box lined with a towel. A mobile phone and the Wildcare phone number completes this makeshift “animal ambulance” which, of course, we hope we never have to use.
Kim was quick to add that many fledged (feathered) baby birds which have apparently fallen from the nest and seem uninjured may still be looked after by their parents. He suggested lining an ice cream container with something soft and putting the youngster into it then placing it into the tree where it is safe from ground predators and cats.
“Wait to see if the parent birds come to it,” is his advice. “Often, but not always, one at least will be nearby.”
Birds often fly into windows and are stunned.
If the bird doesn’t recover quickly, gently lay it in a small dark box – a shoebox is excellent. Closing the lid will give the little patient peace and a feeling of security. Don’t offer it food or water. The recipe is rest, and often it will recover and fly.
All Wildcare carers are volunteers. Kim said Wildcare is always looking for more people who would like to take on the rewarding task of helping injured or distressed wildlife which, without human help, could well die a long and painful death.
“We train carers,” he said, adding that carers for birds are always particularly needed.
“Seeing an injured creature recover and grow strong again then return to the wild is a wonderful reward, definitely worth all the care and work,” he said emphatically.
As a happy footnote, the three baby kingfishers in Wildwatch (20 December 2012) are doing well.
Their eyes are open and they are growing their colourful feathers. These little “miracles” were hatched from eggs found cracked on the ground after the tree the nest was in was bulldozed.
Fortunately, it was a veterinary nurse who found them and she glued over the cracks with nail polish to allow incubation to finish, then helped the babies from their eggs.
They too, will be returned to the wild.