This is a blog about our experiences as relatively new wildlife carers. It's not a reference guide on how to look after animals, there's too much left unwritten in our posts for that and we don't always get it right.
Remember, wild animals belong in the wild, they don't belong to us!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Newton's law

I think it was Newton that said, "for every action there's and equal and opposite reaction".

There are lots of practical applications of this law. For example, a few months ago when I was building the tawny aviary in our shed I climbed up the step ladder and hit my head on a light fitting above the aviary. Naturally, when you hit your head on something you duck. I ducked and bashed my face on the top of the aviary. It hurt for a couple of days, so I was a bit disappointed that I didn't at least have a black eye to show for it.

Tonight I managed to demonstrate the law again and I don't think the other person involved was too impressed.

We have a tawny in care at the moment. She almost certainly has rat lungworm disease, so we won't have her in care for long. Basically, we've got her for a couple of days to see if she improves, then she'll go back to the vet we got her from if she doesn't.

With rat lungworm disease the birds will still take food, but they become increasingly paralysed until they can't survive. Usually they are put out of their misery before then. It's misery because they usually still function from the neck up, the parasite affects the spinal column. I went to feed this poor girl tonight and she bit me quite hard. Newton's law kicked in and I pulled my hand away. Unfortunately, she was still attached to my finger, so when I pulled my hand away she came with it, just long enough for her to be dragged out of the basket. Then she let go and ended up being unceremoniously dumped on the concrete floor.

I wouldn't have mentioned this, but Donna fed her last night and did the exact same thing, so it's not a one of. If you're a new carer and you're reading this, don't be too embarassed about any silly mistakes you might make. Just try to learn from it, we certainly did.

I can't help thinking that when she goes to meet her maker, she'll be planning to haunt the poor vet that decided we'd be the best carers for her. I hope not, he's the best vet in the area.

Monday, October 12, 2009

An update

It's been a while since I last blogged. I always seem to have uni assignments to work on just lately, so I feel guilty if I'm spending time writing a blog entry when I should be writing an essay. I've overcome my guilt for a while and am writing this when I should be finishing my assignment on the biogeography of genus Trichosurus (brushtail possums).

We've been pretty busy recently with the wildlife. The silly season is upon us and we're getting a lot of birds in care, especially young ones. I finally finished the tawny aviary about two months ago and it's already had a few visitors, including a couple of kookaburras that were fished out of an effluent pond.

A lot of our birds come to us via Pelican and Seabird Rescue. Regular readers might remember my post about our day helping them with a rescue last year. On Friday we finally got around to asking Hammy, the fearless leader of PASR, about membership while she was dropping off a baby tawny for us.

Saturday morning while I was lying in bed, feeling the effects of too much red wine the night before, Hammy rang to see if we wanted to go up to Beerwah with her. Beerwah is the home of Australia Zoo and their wildlife hospital. If you've ever watched the TV show Outback Wildlife Rescue, Beerwah is also the home of the Twinnies.

Only one of us could go as we have baby birds that need feeding throughout the day, so I gratiously let Donna stay home to feed the animals while I spent the day having an adventure.

Our first stop was the home of Liz and Alf, the only raptor carers in Brisbane. We had a Brahminy kite to drop off to them. Our tawny aviary is big, about three metres, by two, by two, but theirs are huge, as they need to be for the types of birds they look after. In fact our last visit to Liz and Alf was to see their aviaries and get some ideas for ours. Since Liz and Alf don't do lorikeets and Donna and I do, they gave us six tubs of lorikeet food that had been donated to them that morning.

From there we headed up to see the Twinnies. They live on about three acres with their parents and dozens of waterbirds. We had an orphaned cygnet to drop off to them and since it needed a name for their paperwork I suggested Madonna. Here's little Madonna getting aquainted with a cuddly toy.

From the Twinnie's place it was a five minute drive to Australia Zoo where we had an appointment for a magpie to have her plaster cast removed. They have a couple of bins in the waiting room of the hospital there, where carers can rummage through and take whatever they need. By the time I got home I had a box full of the lorikeet food, bandages, swabs, syringes, forceps, you name it I probably had it in that box.

Once the maggie had had her cast removed we headed back to the Twinnies, since we had some birds to bring back to Brisbane. It also gave us the chance to have a proper look around. Below is a picture of one of the dams on the property, called Pelican Paradise. Actually it's not just the pelicans that find it paradise, there's also a couple of swans, terns, gannets, ducks and some wild whistling ducks that aren't in care but just like to visit.

By now it was starting to get late and the Twinnies had to take some birds to Australia Zoo as well. We headed home with a magpie, a darter and an ibis in the back of the truck. The ibis was released back where it came from near North Pine dam and we finally got back to Hammy's place after dark.

But the work wasn't over yet. Donna arrived to pick me up with five birds in the back of the car that she'd just picked up from a vet. This was apart from the lorikeet she'd picked up from another vet that morning. Hammy took the wood duck, as our permit doesn't cover us for waterbirds yet, and we took the two magpies, the butcherbird and the crested pigeon.

Now you might think we could relax on Sunday, we had some junk mail to deliver but that was only going to take us about and hour and a half. Then we got a call from Hammy about a duck tangled up in some wire about five minutes from us.

We eventually found the duck and discovered it was actually entangled in fishing line in a creek about three metres from the shore where we couldn't reach it. A quick drive back home and I returned with a net on the end of a pole and my diving boots, wearing shorts instead of the jeans I'd originally put on.

I gave Donna the net so she could get it under the bird to support it as it was now getting very tired and kept going under. Just as I got my boots on and emptied my pockets ready to get in the water, Donna fell in. I helped her to her feet then waded in and was half way to the bird when it went under for the last time. Suddenly there was a huge splash next to me, one of the bystanders had dived in to help and she got to the bird before me.

It was then an easy task to pass over some cutters so the line could be cut and we all helped each other back to shore. We would have liked to have got the bird to a vet since it still had some line in its mouth, but as soon as our assistant reached out to drag herself out of the water the bird made a break for it.

Picture if you will, a grown man running round a public park in ankle length dive boots kakhi shorts and a white polo shirt, dripping wet, or a grown woman in bright red shorts with mud all over her backside. When we dropped off a couple of baskets at Hammy's place later that day she said, "did you get any pictures?"

Unfortunately no, we didn't.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Another release

We did another release today, four ringtails, a boy and three girls.

The three girls were originally looked after by a friend of ours, Maree. She and her hubby Dan moved onto an acreage at Eudlo last year and didn't have an aviary to keep the girls in, so we looked after them until they were ready for release.

We took a drive up to Eudlo today to release them. It was our first visit to Maree and Dan's place and we'll definitely be visiting again. If you've heard of Steve Irwin's Australia Zoo, Maree's place is basically past there and turn left. It's nearly all bush, seventeen acres of it.

Anyway, we picked a couple of trees and out came the ladder. I don't really like heights, despite the fact I have a pilot's license, so I made sure the ladder was securely lashed to the trees before hoisting the possum boxes up.

The picture below shows the second tree that we put the boy up in. It was the lower one, so the photo doesn't look as impressive and I don't look as brave.

Just before we left to come home we noticed that there was some activity in the boxes. The possums had already started exploring their new surroundings. It's always good to see them having a look around like that.

Maree and Dan are both musicians, so I just had to photograph this. It's their Treeano.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

It's been a while

I've been a bit slack updating this blog just lately. It's not so much that we haven't had animals in care, it's just that when I'm not studying we're both working. Doing blog entries seems like I'm slacking off.

So, what have we been up to this week, wildlife wise?

Donna and I are doing junk mail deliveries twice a week, the money isn't good, but the exercise is fantastic. Anyway, we got a call from one of our local vets on Tuesday afternoon. Not just any vet, but the best vet in the Redlands. Raby Bay Vet surgery had a lorikeet that had hit a car. I think the paperwork said it had been hit by a car, but in my experience it's usually the other way around. It's pretty hard to hit a bird when you're stopped at an intersection and I know heaps of people that have had that happen, including us.

So, all sweaty and stinky after three hours of walking we dropped into the vet surgery the next day to pick up this poor lorikeet.

We had a basket with us for the bird, but I'd forgotten my gloves, so for safety's sake I borrowed a pair of welding gloves that they had in the surgery. Think of that what you want. The lori was in a bird cage inside another cage, the little buggers are escape artists, and he was really noisy, more so than most lorikeets.

I put my gloved hand in the cage and grabbed our patient. If you've ever read the story of the monkey grabbing nuts from a jar you'll understand what it was like. Once I had the bird in my fist I couldn't get it out of the door of the cage. Angie, the vet nurse that was helping me, took the top off the cage and helped me put the other glove one. I then got a good grip on the bird with my left hand, but unfortunately he had a good grip of my right hand and wouldn't let go.

David, the vet, came to the rescue and grabbed the bird by the head, always the best thing with any wild animal, and we quickly had it in a basket.

He's now in a cage with the other lorikeets as he's still a juvenile. He'll be in there for a couple of weeks until they're all ready for release. In the mean time, they're all going to be the subjects of my animal behaviour assignment at uni.

Early this afternoon I was sitting on the back bumper of the car having just finished the junk mail delivery and I got a call from Hammy who runs Pelican and Seabird Rescue. She was at Raby Bay Vet surgery and they had a tawny frogmouth, could we take it? Of course we could, not only are we planning to specialise in tawnies, but it was a good opportunity to catch up with Hammy as she's been pretty busy just lately since the oil spill in Moreton Bay.

Hammy dropped the tawny round (not a frogmouth owl as the paperwork said, tawnies are not in any way related to owls) and the topic of the oil spill came up. Seems some high up pen pusher with no knowledge or experience of wildlife in the EPA took exception to Hammy trying to educate him, and now one of the most experienced pelican people in south east Queensland has been pretty much black listed.

In my limited experience as a wildlife carer, that seems to be the perception that the government has of wildlife carers. They see us as a bunch of amateurs. The fact that the people making decisions in the EPA are mainly admin people that don't have a clue shows you what carers are up against. A lot of carers have more specialised knowledge of certain species than scientists, and that's saying a lot considering I'm a science student. I can honestly say that the scientist appreciate that knowledge if the public servants don't. I say that as an ex-public servant too.

Anyway, rant over, Hammy showed us a bird that had come into care but unfortunately hadn't made it. It was a juvenile white tailed tropic bird and it has to be one of the most gorgeous birds I've ever seen, the pictures on the link don't do it justice. Unfortunately, I've never seen one alive, but it's now on my to do list. The one Hammy had was on its way to the Queensland museum, so other people will get to see what a beautiful bird it is.

Later in the day, we got a call from Donna's friend Lesleigh who had had a call to pick up a possum, species and age unkown. Lesleigh isn't a carer, but often does rescues and was wondering if we had room for another possy. We don't so she rang back to get that one passed back to the RSPCA.

Shortly after that we got call from Lisa, another friend of Donna's, who is also a possum carer. She had a lorikeet that had hit a car, sound familiar? She brought the little guy (or girl) around and it's now downstairs in a basket being kept quiet.

We seem to have have quiet periods, then busy periods in waves as carers. This week was sort of a busy period, nothing like what it'll be when the silly season hits in spring, but busier than it has been.

It definitely keeps you on your toes. Life would be so boring without a challenge.

Monday, December 8, 2008

You never stop learning

When I first started this blog back in August last year I was a new carer. The blog was, and still is, intended as a sort of diary about our experiences as new carers. It's a way of letting other new carers see what we've been through.

One thing I've never meant it to be is a resource for people to learn how to be carers. That's why it concerns me a bit when I look through the visitor stats and I see common search terms like how to look after a baby possum (especially when it's someone in New Zealand), or what to feed a possum. Those kind of queries suggest to me that people are trying to look after baby animals themselves with only the internet to help them. The poor animal is doomed from the start, especially if they're taking as gospel something I wrote a year ago.

Take this post for example. I wrote that entry back in November last year after we'd had a really bad run with ringtails dying on us. Two had died from dog attacks within a day of us getting them, one died from bloat and three died from the stress of being in care. One of those last three we suspect died in sympathy because the one that died of bloat was its companion.

We were recently on the phone to an experienced carer from our organisation and she mentioned that particular blog entry. Someone else had told her about it and we got the impression that, the person that told her about it thought all six possums had died of bloat. There was also the feeling that we were saying there is nothing you can do for bloat, which is not true. Reading back through that entry I can see where someone assume that they'd all died from bloat though.

That's where you need to take whatever you read on the internet with a grain of salt. What you read may be perfectly true, but not tell you all you need to know, or it might be complete rubbish.

We care for a lot more animals than we blog about. If we blogged about every animal we got in, it'd bore the tits off you. There's also the fact that people can read things the wrong way and you get unfounded critiscism for that. A good example of that is the lorikeets we have that we've never written about and I'll tell you why.

Because so many people like to feed wildlife, especially birds, and because so many people feed them rubbish like bread and honey, birds like lorikeets often end up in care because their feathers haven't developed properly. The young ones that come in like this usually don't have their primary flight feathers or tail feathers. We call them runners, because that's what they do. All they need is time in captivity with plenty of the right food and the company of other lorikeets and they'll eventually grow those feathers.

Now, if you google lorikeet runners you'll find plenty of forums that will tell you that these birds probably have beak and feather disease and should be euthenased. Our birds don't have beak and feather I can tell you that for a fact, but I thought it was easier to just not mention that we had runners than to chance the ire of those that think they know better. Interestingly, the people that seem to shout "beak and feather" the most are the ones that like to keep birds as pets, locked up all their lives and usually with their wings clipped.

The title of this post is you never stop learning and it's very true. Every time we get a new animal in we learn something different. What we knew a year ago about caring for wildlife is nothing compared to what we know now and what we'll know in a year's time will be massive by comparison to today.

So if you're reading this blog to help you become a carer don't, it might be wrong or you might misunderstand it. That goes for this entry too.

The animals are too important to not get proper help for them if they need it.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Up close and personal

One of the good things about being a wildlife carer, especially if you're part of a network, is that you get to see a lot of animals that other people don't get to see up close and personal, even if they visit a zoo.

I've mentioned the tawny frogmouths before. These two aren't actually the same ones as in my previous entry. Moe and Curly have gone to another carer who has more room for them and we got these two in exchange. I'm in the process of building a 3m x 2m x 2m aviary, so hopefully the tawnies we now have will stay with us for a while.

There used to be this perception of Australia that it had kangaroos hopping down the middle of the street and everyone had one as a pet. Well this little fellar isn't a pet, but you wouldn't think so to look at him. In fact the bag hanging up next to him contains another joey.

These are probably one of Australia's most recognisable birds, especially their call. What? You can't tell what they are? They're young kookaburras.

Now I can fully understand if you don't know what these are. My first thought when I saw their noses was that they reminded me of the weasels from Wind in the Willows (the David Jason version). They're bandicoots a kind of marsupial (related to possums and kangaroos) that feeds on the ground. They use those long noses and front claws to dig and have a backwards facing pouch (unlike possums and roos) so that it doesn't fill up with dirt when they dig.

The roo, the kookas and the bandicoots were all photographed at Natasja's place (our co-ordinator) when we went to exchange the tawnies and pick up some lorikeets on the weekend. The pictures below were taken at Alf and Liz's place yesterday. Alf and Liz are raptor carers and live on about half an acre. Some of the aviaries on their property are huge, and they need to be because of the size of the birds they're caring for.

This is a boobook owl. They're also known as a mopoke because of the sound they make. Tawnies are sometimes referred to as mopokes as well, mainly because people don't know the difference. I reckon they're just as cute as the tawnies.

Last but not least, a one winged wedgetail eagle. She can't fly obviously (if she tried it'd probably be in circles), but other than the amputated wing she's a perfectly healthy bird and so will be used for breeding. You can tell from the size of that ladder just how big a bird she is.

While on the subject of eagles, Liz was telling us about another eagle she had a few years ago that had one eye and so couldn't be released. That particular bird used to follow her everywhere around the yard during the day and was a pretty accomplished flyer. Even though she couldn't hunt properly because of the missing eye, she still had the hunting instincts. She used to fly off and steal tennis balls from the kids up the road while they were playing. The kids were regular visitors and thought it was pretty cool having their ball stolen by something other than a dog.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Flying lessons

We're looking after three little tawny frogmouths at the moment. There the cutest little buggers you can find, but being meat eaters they tend to be a bit messy and smelly, so the cage has to be cleaned out daily.

With most birds that's just a case of pulling the base out of the cage and changing the newspaper, but with these guys they like to sit on the bottom of the cage, even though they have a couple of perches in there.

What I have to do is take them all out one by one and put them in a bowl and clean the cage while they watch me.

These little guys are getting to fledgling age now so, as you can imagine, they're not content to just sit in the "nest" and watch anymore.

They like to explore.

That's Larry still in the bowl. He's the heaviest of the three, but he'd been attacked before he came into care and has a few feathers missing. As a result, he's not as confident about trying to fly as the other two. Moe is sitting on the bike closest to their cage and Curly is the one on the left.

Curly is the most confident and competent flier at the moment. Shortly after this picture was taken Moe tried to fly to the cage. He made it, but landed a little too low down to get in the door and I had to pick him up and put him in. Curly hopped over to the other bike, flew to the cage, landed in the right spot, but fell into the cage. I had to carry Larry.

That was Wednesday. Yesterday (Thursday), Curly ended up on the handlebars, with the other two on the front wheels. Larry's getting more confident, but I still ended up carrying him the rest of the way. Moe made another attempt at the cage, but missed again. Curly was the star of the show.

You can't see it in those pictures, but there's another cage on the floor to the left of the bikes with a basket on top. I was standing in the doorway watching and Curly decided to fly toward me and landed on the basket. When I moved he flew back to the bikes, then he decided to attempt the bench behind the cage. You can just see a stick on there, it's a perch I'd removed from the cage to give them more room and I think that's what he was aiming for.

He almost made it.

I don't have any kids of my own, just two grown up stepdaughters, but I've now got an appreciation of what it's like to see your kids walk for the first time.