Saturday, 1 August 2020

10 Years Bird Rehabbing - How I Started

Was really by chance that I got involved in caring for injured birds. My daily visits to the river  feeding Popeye, Penny and their cygnets was therapeutic and joyful. On a few occasions I saw  

Penny and the cygnets entangled in fishing line and found myself catching them to remove the hooks and line. Sometimes the line was barely visible, and only my closeness to them was able to spot it.

The biggest shock came on a Sunday in July 2010, when the family was attacked by a dog on the river bank. Penny had moulted and was frantically trying to protect her cygnets but was bitten on her wings and side. The dog owner eventually pulled the dog off, and the family escaped down to the Harbour. Being so attached to this family of swans I had to do something and contacted Sue Hulbert who has a small sanctuary down in Swindon, but decades of experience on treating injured Swans. She told me it was vital to get antibiotics into Penny ASAP, as dog bites were prone to causing infection.  She also told me the dose to administer - but how? Once again my closeness saved the day, as I could give the antibiotic orally with my habit of feeding her.

Happily after 10 days treatment, she survived and went on to produce over 50 cygnets since that year.

The same year, again by chance, one of the neighbours children pointed to a young herring gull walking the street with a broken trailing wing. She asked me to fix it, I said I would try,
knowing nothing about bird anatomy and was tempted to call the SSPCA. I was told that they would almost certainly put it to sleep as was common practice with broken winged birds. After contacting Sue Hulbert again, she advised me to use a self sealing vet bandage and have a go at setting the wing into position by feeling and manipulating the break. After a couple of pecks, I realised handling a struggling bird is not easy, until you put an elastic band over it's beak and wrap it in a towel ! Another thing I did not realise was the fact that mending a broken bone has to be done before the break callouses over, by then it's too late to reposition them. Luckily I could feel the bones moving apart in two places. 

Wrapped the bird up and freed the broken wing to apply the bandage folding it into what I hoped would be the right position. 

Removing the elastic band and bird from my lap, the result was now in the lap of the gods !  I called it Steven Seagull, and had it for 13 months before successful rehab release. The story of Steven has been viewed on YouTube 20k times 
I think that was the moment that really started me looking at injured wild birds in a new way.

Over the years I've had many failures too, the fragility of birds, my inexperience, mistakes and accidents, have all contributed.

The happiness and joy seeing some of my successes fly to my hand or door, and wildfowl that swim close to me is priceless. 

Bonding with another species makes you realise that we humans could do so much better than we do, to protect this special Planet and all the life on it.

My Thanks to Sue in Swindon, and Elizabeth in Denver, for their expertise and help over the years.

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