When I was young and still living in Turkey, it was time to sit for university entrance examination. I was told by many people that I’d better be a veterinarian – whenever someone found an animal needing help, I was their destination. My first memory is hanging around with a little sparrow I had saved. I believe I got this love for creatures from my mother. It was always in me. Anyway, one day my life changed completely.
I had been given a canary in a cage. His name was Murat and he was singing beautifully. I was over the moon the day he arrived. One was never enough! then I had two, and then three, but Murat’s place in my heart was special.
Watching my canaries having a bath in their special little plastic container was big fun for me as well as releasing them in the living room watching them fly. When they were hungry or thirsty all the canaries, including Murat, went to their cage by themselves.
It was one of those Sundays I had been given permission to release the birds. My mum was not a big fan of this practice for obvious reasons.
On that particular day I killed Murat. I was 11. I remember my lovely bird died in my hands – it was a terrible accident. I remember leaving the room while the three canaries were in the cage. I had forgotten to close their door. When I came back to room I was thinking Murat was still in the cage but unfortunately he was behind the door.
I remember I cried for hours if not days! I stopped eating, and I refused to bury the body. I was so full of shame. Eventually I did it, and I still know where that body lies, in my home town. My father comforted me, and told me Murat would watch me from paradise. For me, Murat was much more than a bird.
Now I live in Australia, in a Sydney suburb in the inner west, and since I got here, I have rescued many Australian birds. Each time I save a bird I feel better, I feel a little bit of my guilt lift.
The last time it was 8th March 2017. I was in Sydney Park – a large urban park with an artificial wetland that filters the runoff and is a haven for native birds. I’m always there with my camera looking for all kinds of birds which live there or pass through – from Tawny Frogmouths to rare Stits and all kinds of Egrets. All of a sudden I heard a group of native noisy miners and they were really squawking. I know them, and I know it is a clear indication of something quite not right. I ran towards where the incident was happening.
There lay this tiny Common Kingfisher being attacked by approximately 20 miners. It was helpless. Now I love to photograph the wildlife in this little reserve. My camera and tele photo lens in hand, I could make pictures and post them online showing birds killing another bird and receive “likes”.
Once more I remembered what I should do. One life is simply much more important than a few likes or a win in wildlife photography competition. And here was another chance to lift the guilt I carry.
I placed my gear on the ground and ran towards to the scene. The chick didn’t move, its head tucked under its body. I took the bird to my home. After giving it water using a syringe, I logged online and found out about its diet. It was not difficult for me to catch a few lizards in the garden and feed the chick. Next day I released it at a spot very close to where I had found it. It flew for a few seconds and landed among reeds where there were two adult Kingfishers perched on the poles that stand in the wetland. There was plenty of water and food sources available and I hoped the grown birds might be the parents.
Some people says we would better not to interfere with nature but I completely disagree. This kingfisher chick was simply at wrong place at wrong time and he deserved a second chance. The balance is out of whack in the cities. So I might as well help this rarely seen creature. I want to believe that he made it. And I am still happy knowing I did what I could.
It’s hard to believe how I could still carry these feelings after such a long time. But each time I rescue a bird I feel less guilty. So I will always help the birds when they need it.
In the end though, I know – seconds before I die – I will think about Murat. I made an agreement with him when I was 11. When I die he will know this and he will wait for me at the entrance in Heaven on the right side.
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