Tag Archives: waddlesworth

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: Meet Waddlesworth

Here’s another great guest post from Sarah Higgins!

In April, on the shore of Lake Elmenteita, a young pelican waddled up to a weekend cottage and begged for food from the couple staying there. As you can imagine they were somewhat startled by this but they rushed to the fridge and dug out some tilapia fillets, which the little fellow gulped down greedily. They then herded him back to the lake shore. Next morning he was back again so they gave him some nice smoked salmon and herded him back to the lake but, as they turned to go back, so did the pelican! They couldn’t get rid of him and had to assume that something had happened to his parents and that he was otherwise starving to death. As they were only there for the long weekend they didn’t quite know what to do about the bird as they couldn’t exactly take him back to Nairobi. So they rang a friend who suggested that they should bring him to me!

‘Waddlesworth,’ as he became known, arrived in the back seat of a car all wrapped up in a kikoy, looking very miserable, underweight and covered in lice. We put him in a nice warm compound with a bucket of water and I raided a neighbour’s deep freeze for some fish for that day and sent out to the local fish market for a regular supply of fresh fish. We checked him over and he seemed to be unharmed although he did seem to carry his left wing closer to his body than the other one, but there was no sign of any injury. I did notice that he was sort of ‘crackly’ as if he had bubble-wrap under his skin but not knowing anything about pelicans I didn’t take much notice and assumed that is what a pelican should feel like.

Waddles in May 2009
Waddles in May, 2009

Waddlesworth soon got the hang of being hand-fed and I became ‘Mummy.’ As soon as he saw me with the white ‘fish’ pot he would rush up, bumping into me, flapping his wings, making his baby ‘feed-me’ noises and biting excitedly (but gently) at my legs, his own wings, bushes, anything, in a food ‘frenzy’ – which is exactly how a baby pelican should behave! I have not had any experience rearing a baby pelican and so out came the books. Waddlesworth did exactly what a wild pelican should do and at exactly the right time he started practicing his wing flaps. From then on we allowed him the run of the garden with its two acres of sloping lawn that has a ‘haha’ at the bottom and then acres of wildlife-filled vlei between us and the edge of our rapidly receding lake (we are in a drought situation at present), so he has plenty of room for a long takeoff and safe landing. He quickly settled into a routine: Mornings – bullying the dogs and playing in the bird bath! Afternoons – sleeping off his busy morning.

Waddles and Radar
Waddles and Radar

When he was old enough he put himself on a ‘flight diet’ to loose sufficient weight to be able to take off and then, a few days later, off he went on his maiden flight. He tried a steep turn but didn’t quite make it home and ended up in my neighbour’s hedge, being eyed up by their huge dogs. I galloped round, rescued him from the hedge and carried him home. As soon as I put him down he stomped off to his favourite snooze spot and slept for the rest of the day. Next day he set off again and again miscalculated and ended up in the neighbour’s garden. So I nipped round next door and herded him back home and once more he slept away the rest of the day. After that he seemed to give up all idea of flight and went back to his dog bullying and mucking about in the bird bath (I still haven’t been able to persuade him to float about on the pond, which doesn’t auger well for life on his own!). I had hoped that in the three weeks between his first flight and our intended overseas trip he would have become a good pilot and left home, but no such luck. After much discussion we decided that Waddles should remain in the walled garden beside the house whilst we were away so that he couldn’t get himself into trouble.

On our return we found him in good form but he had now transferred his affections to Sammy, who had taken over feeding duty, and didn’t recognise me any more (I confess to feeling just a tad miffed that he could be so fickle!). We had decided that we should tag Waddlesworth before he went off on his next adventure so when Simon suddenly appeared out of the blue he was asked to do the deed. Waddles now wears a smart yellow (number 56) wing tag. Whilst tagging him, Simon remarked on the odd bubble-wrap feel of the bird but, like me, was not sure if this was normal, but suspected that it might not be. So now I am trying to find someone who knows something about pelicans who might be able to tell us. The crackly ‘bubble-wrap’ is all over his body, even his wings! Can anyone shed some light on this?

Waddles july 2009
Waddlesworth, July 2009