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The Little Owl Sanctuary: Waddlesworth Strikes Again

Another great post from guest blogger, Sarah Higgins of the Little Owl Sanctuary!

A few mornings ago Waddlesworth, the Pelican, excelled himself. He swallowed a teaspoon!

Sammy had just laid the table on the veranda when ‘himself’ arrived and snatched a teaspoon off the table. This is not unusual and we are always shooing him off the veranda as he can be a bit of a pest, but he was just too quick for Sammy and the spoon was gone before he could do anything about it. Swallowing the spoon was unusual as he normally just plays with whatever he has stolen until he gets bored and then he drops it and goes off to find something else to play with. Anyway Sammy didn’t know what to do and as I was not around he decided to give him some fish in the hope, I think, that the food would flush the spoon through the system. Whilst this might work for a human I was pretty sure that it wouldn’t work for a pelican.

So you swallowed a spoon, did you?

So you swallowed a spoon, did you?

As soon as I got back and had been told what had happened I rang our Vet and asked his advice but he had to confess that he had never had a situation like that before and told me that he would have to consult his partner and his books and then get back to me. Some time later he rang back to say that he was none the wiser.

Now, this won't hurt ...

Now, this won't hurt ...

As we know that baby pelicans put their heads inside their parent’s beaks to get the fish out of its crop, I decided that the only option was for me to put my arm down the poor creature’s throat and try to fish the spoon out. The Vet had kept muttering about anaesthetic but I decided that time was of the essence (our Vet is an hour and a half’s drive from here) and didn’t feel that this was strictly necessary so I rang next door and asked Jane to “bring a camera”, rounded up Waddles, got Sammy to hold him and Mwanzia to hold his beak open, oiled my arm with cooking oil and in I went.

Here we go ...

Here we go ...

Unfortunately there were about seven fish on top of the spoon but having fished them all out I eventually felt the spoon, part way through the second sphincter, and was able to retrieve it, much to the relief of us all … with the possible exception of Waddles who had just had his entire breakfast stolen, quite literally, right out of tummy!

Look! You can see my hand

Look! You can see my hand

Gosh, it's a long way down

Gosh, it's a long way down

Got it!

Got it!

Amazingly Waddles is still talking to me after all this, as he usually refuses to speak to me for at least a week after I have had to handle him and more often than not he also leaves home (for a day)! Not that he got the option this time as I confined him to the walled garden for the rest of the day until we were sure that he had suffered no ill effects from my cheerfully thrusting my arm down his throat. The attached pictures are courtesy of Eddie Ver Beek who was literally just arriving back from his honeymoon when Jane caught him and told him that he and his camera were needed next door!

The spoon

The spoon

Waddlesworth is still in fine fettle but I hope that he has learned his lesson and doesn’t swallow anything else that he shouldn’t.

There, that's better ...

There, that's better ...

The Little Owl Sanctuary: Waddlesworth and Rosy

Another great guest post from Sarah Higgins

Waddlesworth is still with us and is worth his weight in gold for all the chuckles he gives us. He spends his days mucking about in the garden, pulling the flowers off my plants and annoying the tortoises by attempting to catch their heads whilst they are trying to eat. When he is feeling really adventurous he gallops (a pelican’s ungainly version thereof) down the lawn and into the air for a quick spin round the bay, but making sure that he is always back in time for ‘lunch’! Then a post-lunch snooze, some more rotting-up of the tortoises and guddling in his little pond and then it is food time again!

He has just recovered from (according to him) a very serious injury! He came in a couple of weeks ago and claimed that he was totally unable to walk. He refused his fish and just lay there with his foot off the ground and was even trying to keep his wing away from the foot. We couldn’t find anything wrong with him bar a little cut on the bottom of his paddle but after a couple of days of this we decided that we were going to have to call the vet. The vet couldn’t find anything that could cause this serious inability to even put his foot to the ground but suggested all sorts of things that we could do to try and help the bird. After day three both Sammy (Waddlesworth’s keeper/mum!) and I had decided that all that was wrong with him really was that small cut on the bottom of his paddle, after all pelicans are renown for getting stressed over the silliest things! So we just continued to carry him out into the sun in the mornings and carry him back to his favourite sleeping spot in the evenings and forced fish down his throat at meal times and ‘Hey presto’ after five days he could walk (with a dramatic limp) and by day seven had forgotten all about it and was cured! It is silly enough that we have a pelican living with us but to have a hypochondriac pelican – well!

He is still showing absolutely no sign of leaving home, I suppose that life must just be too comfortable for him. Perhaps if I cut his food a bit he might think about going and looking for his own, but somehow I doubt it and anyway, with the lake so low, there are not that many fish available for hungry pelicans!

He often amuses himself by trying to catch butterflies but the other day he snapped at a hornet, which naturally didn’t take too kindly to this and stung him in his pouch. I looked up from my lunch just in time to see him open his beak with a squawk and the offended hornet fly out and away. Then there was a great deal of shaking out of the pouch trying to get rid of the nasty pain, poor fellow. You should have seen the swelling that had come up by evening, it was really quite impressive, but by next day all was okay again. I just hope that he learned from that but I doubt it. He still tries to catch butterflies!

Waddles has recently taken to having his bath in the bird bath and, as you can see, it is a perfect fit! Which of course means that he doesn’t get very much of himself wet during the wash, particularly as he has usually spent some time prior to his ablutions using his bill and pouch to scoop most of the water out of the bath! It amuses him to watch the water flow over the edge and then try to catch it on the way down!

Waddles enjoying the bird bath

Waddles enjoying the bird bath

Rosy does not seem to have made any progress with his ability to see. We watch him closely and grasp at every little sign that his sight might be improving but I regret to say I am beginning to give up hope a little. He can see something so the operations were not totally wasted, and can certainly see enough to get round his ‘palace’ on foot and be able to hop up onto his perches. He seems to see much better in poorer light (he has trouble when it is very bright), so these rainy days that we have been having over the past few months have definitely been good for him. He can detect movement in the grass and makes a very good attempt at pouncing on things but if the movement is too fast he can’t follow it and Girl then takes over. Despite this they both seem happy and call often so although the lack of sight seems to have put a stop to the breeding programme they both appear to be content with their lot and are both in very good health.

The Little Owl Sanctuary: Waddlesworth Update

by Sarah Higgins

I am pleased to report that Waddlesworth is not only in fine feather but is also in perfect health.

Thanks to the many responses that we had to our appeal for information on our ‘squishy’ bird, I can now report that Pelicans are supposed to feel as if they have bubble wrap just under their skin because they actually do have the bird-equivalent of bubble wrap just under their skin! These are little air-filled pockets are designed for floatation, insulation and protection when diving. I have been absolutely fascinated by the amount of information that has come in and am very grateful for all of your responses – and also very relieved as it means that there is nothing wrong with Waddlesworth!

Waddlesworth has been for his third flight which, by his standards, was an epic trip. He was so disgusted at being tagged that he actually left home, got lost and ended up in our sheep field behind the house. As we hadn’t seen where he had landed he spent the night there – his first night out in the big wild world! We didn’t discover him ’til the next morning and, as he still wasn’t talking to us, he refused to come home. So I left him there and told our staff to just keep a distant eye on him. By lunch time Sammy (his foster mum) couldn’t bear it any longer and went up to the field, caught him and carried him back home under his arm (much to Waddles’ disgust). At that stage we were still worried about Waddle’s ‘bubble wrap’ so it was decided that he should remain in the walled garden (which he can’t fly out of) until we were sure that he really was OK – which, of course, we now know that he is.

Waddlesworth’s freedom has now been restored to him but he seems to have decided that he is not so interested in this flying business and that life holds far too many interests right here at home. I open his gate every morning and herd him out into the big garden where he mucks about and flaps his wings a lot but still he refuses to fly. On the one hand we are delighted, as we all love that bird to bits (especially Sammy, who is ‘mummy’), but on the other hand he should be getting on with his life. Still – the option is there and the decision is his. He has made friends with Batelle (the new Fish Eagle) and spends hours watching her. He is also pals with ‘Shale’, the tortoise.

Oh not again
Oh not again!

i’m getting out of here
I’m getting out of here!

It is totally ridiculous watching Shale and Waddlesworth sunbathing in the morning. Shale parks himself in the sun and sticks all his limbs out of his shell, Waddles comes along and plonks down beside him and amuses himself by very gently trying to catch Shale’s head, which is smartly withdrawn into the shell, only to reappear a few seconds later. Shale will put up with this for a bit but then gets fed up and moves few inches further away so that his head is not actually reachable and then settles down again.

out of reach
Out of reach

Waddles then plays at trying to pick him up, which of course would be impossible. It really is the silliest thing to watch. Waddles’ beak is very gentle and he is not capable of doing any harm, except with the fish hook on the tip, which he doesn’t seem to use except for picking up his fish. The tortoise doesn’t seem to mind this treatment and is perfectly happy to settle down with Waddles – when he is not being a pest and trying to catch his head!

peace at last
Peace at last

The Little Owl Sanctuary: Batelle

by Sarah Higgins of The Little Owl Sanctuary

The Fish Eagle with the broken right wing that was brought in in July is recovering well. We have decided that she is probably a girl and have christened her ‘Batelle,’ because of her brave fight for survival. I have yet to hear her call – which would tell us for sure what gender she is (a male has a higher voice than the female) – but at least ‘Batelle’ or ‘Battle’ is a name that fits all! Of course, as so often happens, Batelle will no doubt shorten to Batty before too long!

Batelle is proving to be a gentle bird and is prepared to tolerate humans waiting on her hand and foot. Her wing stump, which had to be de-feathered for the operation to remove the damaged part of the wing, is beginning to sprout some nice new feathers, so her nights of a chilly wing stump are almost over. Her legs and feet, which were deeply lacerated when she arrived, have healed well and one of her two broken talons is beginning to grow back. Once she has gown back sufficient feathers to protect her wing stump we will think about introducing her to Bogoria (our other mono-winged Fish Eagle) and see if they would like to have the companionship of another bird, albeit of the same gender. I do hope that they’ll get on.

Batelle the Fish Eagle

Waddlesworth (the Pelican) spends quite a lot of his time beside Batelle’s cage and will often leave his last fish of the day by her cage door, so I oblige by popping it inside for her to enjoy – always a popular move.

The Little Owl Sanctuary: A New Fish Eagle Arrives

Guest post from Sarah Higgins of The Little Owl Sanctuary

Yesterday, July 25, a poor broken Fish Eagle was brought in. It had been found the previous evening trying desperately to fly and getting nowhere, so it was picked up, put in a cardboard box and brought round to me the following morning.

I checked it over and found a clean break up near the right shoulder but sadly it was a fairly old break and the three inches of exposed bone had the look of an old dog’s bone that had been buried for a week! The bird was underweight and desperately thirsty and had just about given up, although he was feisty enough when anyone approached him. I put him in a small compound and went to get some tape to immobilise the broken wing so that he didn’t keep tripping over it, and by the time I got back he was lying on the ground looking as if he really had had enough. In fact I wondered at that moment if he would make it, but as soon as I approached he threw himself on his back and threatened me with his talons (two of which are missing)!

I taped his bad wing to his body and showed him where the water was by splashing in the bowl. Once he had taken his eyes off my face long enough to glance at the source of the sound he fixed his gaze on the bowl. I quietly withdrew and left him to it and as soon as I shut the door he lolloped over to the bowl and drank and drank. Poor fellow, he must have been desperate.

new fish eagle little owl sanctuary
New Fish Eagle at Little Owl Sanctuary

I rang the Vet who told me to bring him in, so I popped him into a large cardboard box and set off. It is a hundred mile drive to get to the Vet but, for someone as desperate as this poor bird, it was worth the journey. The Vet, a delightfully calm and confidence-inspiring man, checked the bird over and weighed him – he was just 2 kg (a healthy male bird should be 2.5 kgs and a female up to a kilo more!). Sadly, having seen the obvious age of the injury and subsequent lack of blood supply to the bone, it was decided that the only thing to do was to remove the wing.

I brought the bird back home after the operation and by late evening he was awake and thirsty again. The Vet had suggested that I should only give him water with glucose for that evening, which he gulped down. He spent the night in the bathroom where he was warm and safe and I could keep an eye on him. He produced a couple of ‘poops’ in the night so at least that side of things was still working well which is always good news.

This morning we tried him on a small fish which he ate greedily. He had another for lunch and another two for supper. He is still rather miserable and unsure of all the things that are happening to him and around him, but at least he has stopped looking fierce and putting his one good wing out at me every time I approach and is now allowing me to come close and talk to him.

I am referring to him as a ‘he’ as I am really hoping that he is but am not entirely sure yet. Bogoria, our resident mono-winged lady Fish Eagle, would be delighted to have a male companion all of her own!