In January 2012 my husband and I spent a few days at the Youth Hostel in Morning Bay. While unpacking our kayaking gear a young Canadian staying there, knowing we were birders, approached us cradling something fluffy in cupped hands.
‘Found a baby Currawong ‘bout a hundred metres down the track’. Opening his hands, a raptor-like beak protruded from mottled white and brown fluff.
Suspecting the bird had been blown out of its nest by an earlier gust of wind, we retraced Glen’s steps looking for a nest or distressed parent. With the late afternoon rapidly turning into evening, we were left with no choice but to take care of little ‘fluff ball’ ‘til we could find a Wires volunteer.
Retrieving a needleless syringe from my first aid kit, I filled it with water and rubbed the nozzle along the outside of Fluff ball’s reluctant beak. No response. Then a childhood memory kicked in. Rapidly I opened and closed the hand without the syringe with the dual intention of creating wing-like shadows and snapping sounds above the bird’s head. (I had seen my mother do this on a number of occasions when we rescued very young birds). Instinctively the bird looked up with beak parted just enough to allow me to trickle water into its mouth. Success! Its chances of surviving looked a little brighter. However, we hadn’t fed it yet and it wouldn’t take too eagerly to the news that our supplies were strictly vegetarian!
Glen, our Canadian hero, came to the rescue providing a piece of prime steak. Cutting this up I attempted to feed our little feathered carnivore without success.
Enter John, husband and reluctant accomplice of raptor rescuer. Armed with a pair of kitchen scissors, he cut the meat more finely than I had, mixing it with oat bran and a little water. The long nose plastic forceps in my first aid kit, absolutely useless for removing splinters, made a perfect substitute bird beak. Pinching pieces of ‘raptor food’ I offered them as temptingly as I could. Once Junior realized he was being fed, he became a little wrestler – tearing threads of meat from the forceps, eating the estimated equivalent of a small mouse.
Helga, a German student, observing my joy at this hearty feeding cautioned, ‘Now we have to wait for him to poop. When he does, I’ll know he’s doing ok’.
Allowing sufficient ventilation, I wrapped my windbreaker around a cardboard, towel-lined box, insulating the base from the cold floor. Bracing myself for the possibility that our charge wouldn’t survive the night, I went to bed.
Next morning, with great trepidation I lifted one corner of the towel. A pair of bright, beady eyes stared back at me! I had good news for Helga too, even though it meant some cleaning up for me!
We transferred our feathered friend into the capable hands of a Wires volunteer who identified it as a Grey Goshawk.
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