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Archive for November, 2009

Though it was my birthday, duty still called me on the 24th. There was a mother duck in a pool with her eleven ducklings (that had hatched that morning). The couple there wanted help capturing them, as they had trouble the year before. Also, the ducks could not stay in a pool full of chlorine. So, my mum and I went to collect the ducks.

I had never been involved with trying to get ducks from a pool before, so I was pretty nervous. I had reread through my Fauna rescue notes on capturing ducks though. I said to try to capture the mother first, but the ducklings were the first to come out of the pool- by one good scoop of the pool cleaning net from the man.

We had read that Pacific Black Ducks (which was what these were) were more likely to abandon their young than other ducks, so we were surprised when the mother hung around. Mum and I grabbed the towels, waited for the mother ducks to come to her ducklings, then did our best to grab hold of her (the plan being to wrap her in a towel and put her in the second cage- we would then relocate them). We had her briefly, but ducks are slippery wriggle- pots. She managed to escape our grasp, and then she was suspicious. We tried a few more times, doing our best to corner her and not stress her out too much; but then she flew over the fence to the street on the other side. I could hear her quacking on the other side of the fence. We waited a few minutes. I then picked up the second basket containing the eleven ducklings and mum and I walked out onto the road. Mother Duck was still there, standing quacking in the middle of the road, and she and her young were still calling out to each other. We tried again to capture the mother, but not for so long; and again she flew off.

I was feeling a little distressed myself now. It was so obvious that the mother wanted to stay with her ducklings; and them her. But we could not catch her. We called Bev Langley of Minton Farm for advice. She suggested walking to a nearby winery where we knew there were other ducks; and the mother would follow the basket containing her brood; but the winery was not within walking distance. She also suggested placing the basket in a place like a garage, so we could trap mother in with her ducklings, but the couple had no place where we could do that. Also, by now, the ducklings were getting fairly stressed.

I watched sadly as the Mother duck flew over the car a couple of times (she could probably hear the ducklings), and then flew out of sight. My mum tried to console me by saying that getting the ducklings was the most important thing. The chlorine was bad for them, and the mother can look after herself; she may even be back in a couple of weeks and lay another clutch. Knowing this, she advised the couple to find the eggs next time and hand them over to someone with an incubator, so the ducklings would hatch elsewhere.

Back home, I set the eleven ducklings up in a box. We made plans with the couple to try to capture the mother in the dark, when she couldn’t see. At the time, she was back swimming in the pool.

A little time later, and I noticed one of the ducklings didn’t look too good. He didn’t move around as much as the others, and looked soaked. My mum reckoned he might have been the one at the bottom of the net when the man scooped them out, meaning it was briefly under water. The ducklings were inside under the light at this time.

Remembering what I did last time a duckling was drenched and looking a little lethargic, I took the ducklings (still in the box) outside and placed them in the sun. I watched the weary duckling closely, making sure the others didn’t trample him, but let them cuddle with him (though most of them were walking around the box). I stroked him and pulled at his feathers very gently, as if I was preening him. This always seemed to get the ducklings to wake up a little. I then took him out of the box and put him in my lap.

After a while, the duckling was dry and a little more awake, but then I found another problem. This duckling, though had been swimming in the pool with the others, was not standing. His legs were splayed a little, his tiny webbed feet resting on either side of his head. His legs felt fine to me, and I tried to get him to straighten them and stand, but he could not. Remembering the deformed duckling from before, I examined this one more closely. I turned him over and my breath caught in my throat.

The two older Pacific Black ducklings that we already had here were going to Minton Farm that day; and I placed the tiny, lethargic duckling into a large shoebox that I had made air-holes in with scissors. Bev would take a look at him too, but my hopes were not up. This little guy would have to be put down.

I did not go with my mum this time, I could not.

When she got home, she told me what I had already suspected. Bev would put the tiny duckling down for us, for it seemed he had disembowelled himself, probably from when he came out of his egg. Now we are down to ten ducklings.

I have never looked after so many ducklings at once, and I had hoped that we would get the mother back, and then release them all somewhere else. We gave the suggestion of putting a couple of chicken eggs into her nest, so she would stay and perhaps sit on them at night, but the couple said she hadn’t been there for over an hour. It seems she has flown off, and will not be back for another couple of weeks, or even until next spring or summer; but it’s likely that she will be back. Ducks, like many other birds, return to the place where they hatched to raise their own family. I don’t think the couple wanted her and all her brood to return to their little yard every year.

So now the ducklings are a few days old, already a little bigger, and will stay here for a couple of weeks. After that we have arrangements with another Fauna Rescue member, that she will take them and look after them. She has a nice little lake on her property that a few other ducks use already. We would have passed them onto Bev, but she tells us she is already inundated with ducklings at the moment.

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The ducklings may be going to their new home soon. I can just see the adult feathers starting to grow on the older one’s wings.

The past week or so has been fairly quiet, considering how many call- outs we could get. Now I just need to catch up with my records. For each rescue I fill out a form, and then post it in. So far, I have recorded 42 rescues. So far, those rescues are: 21 Australian Magpies, 6 Murray Magpies, 13 ducks/lings (9 Pacific Blacks, 1 Peking or Muscovy, 3 Australian Wood Ducks); 2 Ravens (many just call them Crows), 3 Blue-Tongue Lizards, 1 Welcome Swallow (thought it was a Wren at first), 1 Owl (well, actually he got away- think he was a Southern Boobook), 1 Galah, 2 Honeyeaters, and two chicks that I could not identify at the time. Wow, that’s 52 animals in total so far! And that was just in my first year of being a Fauna Rescue Member!

Unfortunately, I guess I have to expect even more animals to come into my care over the summer, as we’re expecting it to be another extremely hot one. Also, not all rescues survive.

Besides looking after the animals currently in my care, I haven’t been up to too much. However, this week I will be celebrating my birthday! Going to have a family lunch, and catch up with some friends and see a movie. 🙂

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It was lucky I checked on the ducklings when I did yesterday morning. The evening before, I received yet another Pacific Black Duckling into my care, making the total number of ducklings here six. It was quite small, tiny compared to the first three I received about a month ago. The older three seem like dinosaurs when standing next to the new one.

I was concerned about putting the new guy in with the five already there. They had already accepted one or two others before, but they had grown since then, and this one was about the size of a golf ball. Really, the older three were getting a bit big for their box. My original plan for the ducklings was to, once they had grown, put them into the ‘run’ out the back (it’s really a hutch with no bottom that can be placed onto grass so that the animals inside can graze). However, I keep getting ducklings into my care that look to be only a few days old, and they can slip through the bars of the ‘run’. It is also quite hot at the moment. We seem to be in another heat wave over here, meaning that all the animals have been brought inside. My mum has described the place as a ‘barn’, what with the ducklings, a Galah, a rabbit, a guinea pig and three Cockatiels inside (luckily the fish stay outside and the cat seems content to sleep in the shade of bushes).

When I placed the new duckling into the box with the others, my concern grew deeper. The others weren’t accepting him as soon as they had accepted the others; especially the older three (who are half-grown by now). I had noticed that the five ducklings had grown close by now, and they always walked around together following one of the older (who had obviously made herself the ‘Alpha’). This leading duck (who was also the biggest) pecked the new duckling, and so did a few of the others. I watched for a while, not interfering, as I knew that this was probably just the Pecking order taking place; a natural process where a bird’s place in the flock is established; usually the older and strongest peck the smaller and weaker, letting them know who is boss. This is how a hierarchy is formed; it’s the same with other animals, like dogs. The top dog then gets to eat first, and then the next in line and then the others, etc, etc.

This also came to mind while I watched the ducklings. This little guy might not get enough to eat, as he’s the youngest and the weakest. I had no idea how long he had been alone by that pool for before being found; how long it had been since he had eaten, even though ducklings can feed themselves as soon as they have hatched they still need and follow their mother.

I decided to try calling a couple of people for advice, and got hold of one. She told me that the duckling was better off with other ducks than being on its own, but would be better off with others his own age so he had more of a chance of getting food and water. She suggested calling around to see of anyone else had small ducklings to put him with, but it was getting a fair bit late for that. Thinking I’d try calling the next day, I left it and watched the ducks again.

The older where still pecking the new one a bit, but were also letting him cuddle with the group. I dipped my finger in the water and then into the food bowl so some of the Chick Starter Crumble stuck to my finger. I then pressed my finger to the youngest one’s bill. He didn’t really take anything and was trying to go to sleep with the others, so I decided to leave them for the night.

The next morning, when I checked on the ducklings, I felt my breath catch in my throat, and I’m sure my heart may have skipped a beat. The new duckling was calling out, but was sitting in the box, drenched, shivering and his legs splayed beneath him. The other ducks had semi-flooded the box, like usual, but were also ignoring the little one’s calls. I immediately got him out, put a towel in the carry basket we use for call-outs, carefully placed the duckling in the towel and put the desk light on for heat (we use a small desk lamp as a heat light, we currently have a 25 watt globe in there). I used the towel to try and dry off the little duckling as he sat, exhausted and near death, in the basket. I watched him carefully for a while, and then decided to let him rest and warm up while I had some breakfast.

I always cleaned out the ducklings in the morning after breakfast, letting them have a swim and play in water out the back while doing so. The evening before, the new duckling had trouble keeping up with the older ducks while I cleaned out their box, but he wanted to be with them.

As it was a hot day, I decided to let nature help this duckling, other than a light bulb. I took the sick duckling (a bit more awake now) outside in the basket and sat him in the sun. I stroked him a little with the towel, and stayed with him for a while, also keeping an eye on the other five walking around in a little pack- following the leader as usual. As the sun sometimes has trouble shining in parts of our backyard, I ended up standing holding the basket so the duckling was still getting the sunlight. I then set him down on the ground again so I could clean out the box.

As time wore on the little duckling perked up, and began calling out more and more. I occasionally stroked his feathers, as if preening him. He always shuffled when I did this. After a while I then saw him preening himself, and I knew he was better, even though I also had to try washing his eyes as he seemed to have some mud stuck in them.

The others then came to inspect the duckling in the basket. I gave them some water to play in and some food; and the new duckling got up and tried getting out of the basket to them. I waited a little and then got him out and placed him on the pavement near the other ducklings. He waddled up to them, and, again, the alpha duck pecked him, and grabbed his down at the neck and practically threw him around. I snatched up the younger again and held him close, examining him for any injuries. He had only just warmed up, wasn’t even completely better yet- and the older knew it. The alpha just wasn’t accepting this little duckling into the brood. The five of them were from two different clutches anyway, but they had spent a lot of time together. This one was younger, smaller and new.

Out of the five of them, three of them were around the same age; the other two were younger than them, with one being only slightly older than the other (a few days or so maybe). The alpha always had a go at the new one, but the others were a little more accepting. Even so, the new one always seemed to run up to the older and try and stand with them or cuddle up. I tried feeding him again off my finger but he wouldn’t have it. He was desperate to be with other ducks.

After a while I let him mingle with them again, and for a while they hardly took notice of him, too busy preening themselves. I stood back and watched with a small smile as the new one stood beside the others in the sun, also preening himself.

I knew, however, that it was going to be too risky to leave the young one with the others for another night. He could be dead by the next morning. We rang up Bev Langley, and she said she could take the little guy and put him with a Mother Duck she had there, and also other ducklings the same age as the little one. I also had been thinking that the older three were getting too big to stay, so we took all six up to Minton Farm, the three older in one cage, and the two younger with the new one. They sat comfortably with him and did not peck him once. As it was hot, we soaked a towel and a tea towel and draped one each over both the cages to help keep the ducklings cool.

Once there, I told Bev of the close call with the duckling. She took him, examined him, gave him some form of eye drops (I believe his eyes were looking a little irritated), and then put him in a box (possibly a heat box) with another little duckling around his age. There the little guy did his best to get out, jumping at the spot he knew the door was, but couldn’t get out. Bev put a sheet over the front to settle him. She also put the three older ducks into a carry box. They would go with other ducks about their age (I know at least three of them were Australian Wood Ducks, I had seen them a while ago).

The remaining two came back home and are still here. They seem to miss the rest, as they did spend a fair bit of time with them and they had formed a group, but the age difference would have caused trouble had they all been put together with other older ducks. The two remaining have called out a little, and seem confused (not too surprising), but they do still eat, drink, swim, walk around and cuddle together. They are also harder to catch. Five or six ducklings walked around together and could be herded to a spot where they could be caught. These two temporarily lost each other, got split up, and then when they were together did what normal, wild ducks are expected to do; they sat quietly hidden in a bush. I’m glad they are acting this way, but it does make it more difficult to capture them. Hopefully, soon, the hot weather will ease a bit, and these two can stay in the ‘run’ out the back until they also go to Minton Farm. There they will hopefully get together with other ducks, and then, like others before them, they will fly off and finally be returned to the wild.

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Not long after being reduced down to five ducklings, I realized the youngest of those left was sneezing a little and making noises when he breathed. We took the ducklings to the vet on the fourth (we took all of them together so they wouldn’t get stressed from being separated); the Veterinarian said it was an infection, and the duckling was given a dose of antibiotics. He went back on the sixth for his second dose, and was due for his third dose yesterday. Unfortunately, the little guy passed away overnight and we had to cancel yesterdays’ appointment.

On the sixth we also got in another little Pacific Black Duckling. He’s younger than the others; about as small as the others were when we first got them in (about the size of a golf ball). He is going well, occasionally plucking the others and tends to get a comfortable spot sitting on the older ones’ backs.

Yesterday we received a small ‘turtle’ sandpit from a family member; instead of sand we filled it with water, and the ducklings have been having fun playing in it.

Got a call in on the seventh to pick up a baby bird; my curiosity was struck when I was told that the person who had called couldn’t identify the bird, simply because it didn’t have any feathers yet. I almost missed the bird when I took a look in the box it was so small; it was about the size of a thumb, was naked and its eyes were still closed. It had obviously hatched not too long ago. Apparently the family cat had brought them this bird. The bird is lucky to be alive (especially after that rude awakening to the world). Had it been just pricked by the cat’s claws or teeth it wouldn’t have stood a chance. Mum and I took the bird straight to Minton Farm, where Bev Langley took a look at it. Don’t know what it is yet. It is currently in a small pouch in a kind of heat box. Bev also gave us its rescue number so we can ring back and check up on him.

We have received animals from our area before, but I suppose it was only a matter of time before we took them in from our own backyard. Yesterday a couple of Honeyeaters flew in under our Pergola. Seeing the sky through the roof they tried flying up and out, not realizing that the café blinds were up. I wasn’t home when the first one came in, but when I got home my older sister told me how the Honeyeater was spotted by our mum, flying around. My sister went out as it collapsed under the guinea pig hutch. It was still alive and my sister had scooped it up and brought inside.

I came inside and looked at it in the carry basket we use for Fauna Rescue. The poor thing was lying in the small dish of water (just a small old jar lid). I racked my brains, trying to remember what to do with an animal suffering from heat stress. Remembering my study for my TAFE course, I grabbed a tea towel, soaked it, rang it out a bit and then draped it over the top of the basket.

We then spotted a second Honeyeater flying around under the Pergola. We watched it for a moment to see of it found its own way out (it was possible that it came under looking for the first one). Noticing that it was panting when it stopped briefly on a rafter, I grabbed our butterfly net from the laundry. It’s the perfect size for a tiny bird like a Honeyeater. It wasn’t too long before I had him in the net. We put him in with the first one, which wasn’t looking too good. Realizing the first Honeyeater had taken up the dish of water, we added another one (another small old jar lid). The second Honeyeater wasn’t as overcome from the heat as the first, and he flew out of the basket when we put in the dish. I had to catch him with the net again. I put him back into the basket and then we left them for a bit to calm down. I looked up first aid for heat stress from my TAFE books; unfortunately there wasn’t too much information on treating birds. I had already placed a damp tea-towel over the basket, and I knew about fans and ice packs; but these guys are very small. Then I read about ventilation, making sure they had enough of it. As it was quite a hot day, we had our air conditioner on. Deciding it was a kind of mix between ventilation and fan, I placed the basket the two birds were on a table near the air vents. We then left them to settle again.

For a while we weren’t too hopeful about the first Honeyeater’s survival, he was looking that close to death, but the second one continued to occasionally flutter about the basket. We weren’t going to let them go, however, until it was cooler outside.

Knowing that Nectar eating birds like Honeyeaters need a fair bit of energy, I was feeling like I was missing something; these birds, once they’d calmed down a little, would need food to help them get going again. My sister had already given them a flower off the Banksia bush out the back, but I had the feeling that perhaps we should add some sugar into their water, or honey- just something. We had never looked after nectar eaters before, so I was unsure. I decided to ring Bev for advice.

During our visit to hand over the just-hatched-chick-that-has-yet-to-be-identified, Bev had given us a brochure with his rescue number written on it. She told me that there was a recipe in the brochure for Nectar eating birds. I read the list. I was needing a raw egg, Farex, raw sugar or honey, Wombaroo Nectar Mix, and water. We had eggs, sugar, Farex and water; wasn’t sure about the honey, and I knew we didn’t have the nectar mix. I was told not to worry about the Mix, and to just give the other stuff.

Once the birds were left for a while (thankfully the honeyeater that we were sure might die perked up), we mixed the recipe. We realized that the quantity in the brochure made up half a litre, and we didn’t need that, so we used less. We also didn’t have raw sugar, so we used what we had. I mixed it up and we went to the basket. The first Honeyeater we got in was sitting quietly and had been having a snooze, while the second was still fluttering about the basket. I covered the side of the basket as my sister tried to carefully put her hand in and lift out one of the dishes…but, unfortunately, the active Honeyeater, once again, got out. Again, I caught him with the net and, once my sister had put the dish back (now with the mix in it), I quickly let the bird go back into the basket too. Once again, we left them.

A few hours later and it was nearing dusk; its daylight saving, it was a bit cooler and they still had about an hour or so of light left. Not wanting them to fly straight back under the pergola again, we released them out the front. The active Honeyeater flew straight out and away. The second stayed for a while, getting his strength back. He went over to the flower in the basket and began feeding, and occasionally drank some of the mix as well. Nectar eating birds have a tiny ‘brush’ on the end of their long tongue, and the pollen, or nectar, sticks to the brush and they suck the liquid up.

After about five minutes, I suggested perhaps moving the basket so the bird would fly out. My sister moved closer to it. The Honeyeater, still looking a little drowsy but much more alert and better, looked up. Realizing the lid was actually open, he flew onto the edge of the basket, looked around for a bit, and then fluttered into a nearby tree a few feet away. We believe he stayed there all night.

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 It was a sad start to the new month for me. I had been watching one of the three newer ducklings closely over the past couple of days, as he didn’t seem that well; we even had him Vet checked. This duckling didn’t seem to be joining the others when they ate and drank, though he’d follow to try and cuddle up to them. We thought that perhaps it was out of shock, as it looked like he’d been attacked by something before he’d been picked up.

The next day, however, the duckling got into the dish of water we’d provided the ducks, had bathed and was standing and preening himself, acting like a normal duckling should. However, I remained concerned so we took him to the animal hospital (took all six so they wouldn’t freak out from being separated). The Vet checked him over, and concluded that he did seem a little too quiet and inactive. I told him how I hadn’t seen the duckling eat yet (though he must’ve been eating otherwise he would be dead already). The Vet suggested syringe feeding but I wasn’t too comfortable force-feeding a duckling. The Vet suggested perhaps watching the duckling for another day, to see how it went, otherwise the kindest thing to do would to be Euthanize it. He reminded me that young creatures, especially, crash quickly. The duckling ate and drank a fair bit once we arrived home again and the ducks were back in their box.

That night the duckling took some food off my finger, and I dipped its beak into their water dish. We even put the light on for them, and I hoped that he’d still be alive the next morning.

He was, but I could feel my hope for his survival fading. He seemed to have perked up the previous day, but now he was behaving as he had done at first. He sat in the box as the other ducklings moved around him (occasionally treading on him), with a duckling occasionally cuddling up beside him. The little guy wasn’t behaving right (and was damp, making me think the others had been in the water and then sitting and or walking over him); plus, now he didn’t seem to be walking either (though I had seen him walk the previous day and at the animal hospital). Now he was leaping, almost like a frog would; or hopping, rather like a small bird hops along…

This morning I spent about half an hour sitting outside with the ducklings making sure the little one was eating and drinking, the other pets were to wait a little for their breakfast. Even the cat had to wait a little, though I could tell he wasn’t too impressed by that; Simba’s usually the first of the pets to get their breakfast.

I didn’t want to give up on this duckling, I didn’t want him Euthanized if there was the slightest chance I could help him somehow. I tried all I could think of. I gave the ducklings their Chick Crumbles, grass, water, mud, even some soaked Weet- Bix; I gave this to the little one on a spoon. I even briefly gave the duckling some leg exercise, and plopped him into the dish of water, trying to get him to use his legs…but all the duckling did was leap/ stumble out of the dish.

Knowing the result could be saying goodbye to the Duckling, we contacted Bev Langley of Minton farm Animal Rescue Centre (http://www.communitywebs.org/MintonFarmAnimalRescueCentre/) to see if she would take a look at the duckling and tell us what was wrong and if he had a chance.

Unfortunately it was bad news. She knew as soon as she’d looked him over that he wasn’t going to make it, that he was going to fade away; but it was also a little peculiar. Bev said that the duckling didn’t have much of a stomach at all (he was malnourished), and that he seemed a bit out of proportion, especially when compared to the other ducklings. She also noticed that his tail looked different; it was more bird-like than a duckling’s should look like. I realize ducks are a type of bird, but what I mean here is that this duckling’s tail was more fanned, and it shouldn’t be like that. It was as if this little guy was mostly duck, but its back end was that of another type of bird; and Bev said that it was possible that his insides were a little wrong too. In short, it seemed this particular duckling was deformed. As a result, it was decided that it was kinder to put the duckling to sleep. Bev took him and placed him in what looked like a warming box in the hospital (she would put him to sleep later), and the remaining five came back home.

Whether it was a freak of nature, a result of inbreeding or something else we don’t know. Even now we are trying to trace where this duckling came from so we can see the status of the ducks there. At the moment there are two places in mind. We found out today from the carer the three ducklings came from, that one came in separately from the other two.

 

On a slightly brighter note, the other five are doing fine though I’m still keeping a close eye on them (especially the younger two). Today we even put them into the ‘run’; a metal hutch with no bottom that can be sat on lawn (or in this case dirt). I sat and watched the ducklings closely as they bathed in the water and tried finding food in the dirt. On his travels, one of the smaller ducklings found one of the wider gaps in the hutch doors, and managed to squeeze his way out (which was why I stayed and guarded). He ran into the bushes beside the hutch. I didn’t give too much chase as I knew he’d just come right back again. Peeping, he came running back and tried finding his way back into the ‘run’ again. I grabbed him and did my best to hold him (they’re very much the wriggle-pots), opened the door and put him back in with the others.He escaped again though when I had the doors open to get them all back in their box to bring them back inside for the night. He was the last duckling in there and he managed to evade my hands and spent about a minute in the bushes trying to get into the hutch the back way. He then finally came around to the front again and I caught him and put him into the box with the others. At least, I think it was the same duckling…

 

 

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