A Travellerspoint blog

Entry 26A - Wildlife Hospital - Second week

overcast 0 °F

26A - Australia Diary – Hospital #2 May 9 – July 13 – Twelfth Week


Saturday, July 29 – Day off

Up as early as possible to get the day started. By the time I joined Ruth, she had finished everything except two watering duties.

I asked Harry for the car registration and a letter authorizing me to drive the car, which he said was not needed, as he was not the owner. I met the owner yesterday, Jacko, a man who came to visit just at dinnertime.

Off we went in a 20 year old Holden with 190,000 miles. Oil was full, gas was full, water was full and I kept forgetting and trying to shift with my right hand. Co-pilot Ruth was good, but her hat kept getting in the way. The shift was a tradition modified H with reverse up high on the left. The H was very close together I kept going from 1 to 3. The ballet moves it took to get the car in reverse were considerable, so I got very good a making U turns whenever I could.

We traveled over very twisty roads that were very narrow but we made it to Atherton within one hour having traveled 50 km. First stop was at the information center for maps, then to a coffee shop for a lovely coffee and nougat. Mine was pretty good, but the others were not as pleased with theirs. We did lots of window-shopping and ended up at Brumby’s Bakery, a chain in Australia, for lunch. Yummy flakey pastries and breads. I finally got to the internet and made my flight reservations for South Africa. Within one week, the price had increased $170. We stopped at a liquor store to pick up champagne, as both Melody and I will celebrate birthdays at the hospital, her 21st and my 47th. This is the second birthday I will have celebrated in Australia. (the first one was my 12th.) As we were paying for the bottles, a young man of aboriginal descent chatted up Melody. That should be quite a journal entry for her.

We are in an area called the Atherton Table lands that are high roads that fall quickly into verdant farm valleys with dairy farms and a sprinkling of sections of rain forest full of water falls. We are here during the winter, which should be the dry season, so the waterfalls aren’t at their peak. Considering how dry most of the continent is, I was amazed they even have waterfalls.

Our first stop after Atherton was to see the Curtain Fig Tree. The most amazing thing about these trees is that a bird deposits a fig seed high on a branch. The seed sprouts and then sends roots both into the tree and then down to the ground forming almost a ladder with anchor roots to the trunk of the host tree. Finally, the fig is so large and has a strangle hold on the host tree and the host tree eventually dies, leaving the fig tree still standing. Absolutely amazing.

PHOTO – 3 at the fig

Next, on to Youngaburra, a charming little town where we were one week late for their famous market. Quaint, but not much open at 3pm on a Saturday afternoon. We were in search of waterfalls.

On the way to the first water fall, Ruth had expressed an interest in seeing the swamp listed on the map. We turned off and again, were heading along a high ridge. Just as we past the overlook for the swamp, I spotted the sign. We were on a ridge on a ramp that looked down into a pasture with cows and white birds at the bottom and several patches of water surrounded by green grass. Not what any of us at expected as a swamp, but I guess it qualified.

Off to the Malanda Falls, which to my amazement had cement sides and terraces, a concrete walkway over the narrowest part and a ladder for you to enter the water from the side. It looked rather inviting and Ruth hopes that we have another day off where we can use the car so that she can return and swim. Across the road from the parking lot was a conservation trail that was paved and track going into the woods with interpretive signs along the river. We spied lots of water turtles that were hoping for handouts, but no platypus. Maybe the next water fall.

Back in the car and a short side trip up the wrong road to Willa Willa. Harry had told us to take the bus ramp to the parking lot and this delivered us to the base of the waterfalls. This was a lovely waterfall, high off a cliff into a pool. A knowledgeable photographer who was patiently waiting for people to get out of the way of his shots laughed about the signs warning bathers about the germs in the water. He wondered why they weren’t mentioning the leeches that would be more of a concern to most people, especially in the summer season. Glad I left my swimming suit at home, thank you very much!

Another short detour up the wrong stretch of road, when we finally located the scenic drive back to Ravenshoe. As we turned on the road, a sign said would be 24 km of twisty roads again. It was 5pm and the light begins to fade by 6:15, so I was intent on getting back before the dark. The roads in this area had a tendency to become very narrow (really only one lane), although there was a single lane of cars going in each direction. I got very good at hugging the left side of the road. The angels were flying with us all the way.

As we got closer to Ravenshoe, we were on the backside of the wind farm that we had passed this morning to the way to Atherton. They are amazing looking, but a little weird. For whatever reason, they remind me of a scene in the Planet of the Apes movies from the 60’s with Roddy McDowell.

We were glad to be home and as I was pulling down the back driveway and around the corner to the caravans, I scrapped the left side of the car on the large landscaping rocks. SIGH! 170 km with no problems, and I scrape the car in the driveway. Harry was very nice about it.

Melody and Ruth go to the markets tomorrow and have to be at the gate waiting for their ride at 5:30. I will stay home and take on a little more work, but I must admit, I am looking forward to a little solitude while I work. Maybe some more gardening or mulching, which does not need two people for the task.

Off to bed with a new magazine.

Sunday, July 30

Ruth and Melody had to rise at 5 to be ready at 5:30 for their rides to the markets. I must admit, I was pleased not be going and looked forward to a productive day at the hospital.
As I began my day, I went off with 5 bottles to feed 4 joeys by myself. I had found that at least one of the recipients was slow to come, so I figured, by the time I had the first two done, I could do the last two. NOPE! All 4, plus an interloper decided they all needed their bottles simultaneous. First was Mr. Greedy (Seddy), who normally gets 1.5 bottles. I got him started on his half bottle, got Skippy’s bottle going for him and tried to rest it on the other stool, while I fed Roy his bottle. It worked for about 1.5 seconds and then Skippy’s bottle fell and Roy needed assistance. Add to this, Skye, who had not appeared for days for her bottle, and usually had to be coerced to take it in the field, was in the group demanding hers and trying to steal someone else’s. Last but not least, the swamp wallaby that does not get a bottle, decided today he needed one. I finally had Seddy’s bottle between my knees, my right hand feeding Skippy under my left arm and my left hand feeding Roy under my right arm. Once Roy had had some, I disconnected him and let Skye have the rest of his bottle. I figured I would give Skye’s bottle to Roy later. Roy was very patient and waited for someone to stop so he could have some. About this time, Seddy was bored sucking on an empty bottle so I had to let go of one bottle in order to hook him up with his larger bottle. Well, long story short, everybody got some milk, not necessarily from the correct numbered bottle, but in the end, everyone had a full stomach and was happy.

When I had finished with the joeys, I found that Harry and Karin had already done all my other feeding jobs for me. HMMM? They are very efficient. I had hoped to do the rabbits by myself and to get to spend some time with them.

I did need to add hay to the rabbits so Karin and I went into the roo pen to get the last of the hay before Tuesday to see how far it would go. As she began moving they hay into a wheelbarrow, she found a large nest of wild rats. She began picking them up by their tails and putting them in a large feed barrel. She was not able to collect all of them, but did end up with 9 from large to pinkies that will be fed to the raptors. We moved the hay to the rabbit area, and I began to fill in the gaps of the cages. Some of cages have nesting mom’s so I had to be careful around the little piles of fur where the tiny bunnies are. Most of the rabbits loved the hay and began munching it right away. I did dig out completely a few of the pens and they were awfully soggy. Amazing as they had only been done 6 days ago. We will do a thorough cleaning of these when the hay arrives.

After that, I watered the clippings I had planted and not much life to be seen from the pumpkins yet. About 75% of the sweet potatoes seem to be holding on, but several look very wilted. We will see. I then followed Harry around with the wheelbarrow as he pruned all the bushes. I would then take the load to the burning pit that he had started. In it was the poor eagle that had not made it. Back to the ashes.

After lunch I decided to spend some time with eagles. Harry had said that I would be able to get closer to them if I remained outside the cage. I have had to enter the cage daily to add water to the pens, and had no fear of them. They avoid us and try and stay as far away as possible. I have not been around when Harry feeds them, so I don’t know if they ever approach a human. I sat outside in the shade of a little tree and with my binoculars. I was able to see all 5 of them at least part of the time. These magnificent eagles can be up to 3 feet tall, between 5-10 kilos (12-25 pds) and are generally dark brown/black with some copper colored feathers in different locations. I noticed that 4 of the 5 had copper colored feathers at the back of the head that swung like long hair when they moved their heads. One of them did not have the copper head feathers and seems more of a dark, smooth head. I could not discern any difference in their beaks or talons.

PHOTO – Eagle

There was a pair of eagles, one of the copper headed and the smooth dark head and seemed to be buds. Harry told me later that these were Freida and Freddy Kruger. Freida can fly, but I am not sure about the rest of the group. They sat in such a way that if one was looking forward the other was looking back, so that they had a view of the entire cage between them. They were lovely and stayed put the entire time I was with them.

Next are the two who couldn’t decide if I was a friend or a foe. Butch, (or the one eyed eagle) walked up a ramp made of a log to a higher vantage point and again, kept his good eye to me, as well as the rest of the cage.

Eddie as I arrived was trying his best to get on the same perch that Frieda and Freddy had. There was plenty of room and it was only about 4 feet high, but he was having some difficulty flying even that small distance. I watched him make several attempts and then finally in frustration (my words) disappeared behind a bush where I could not see him. Finally, after I had spent some time admiring Frieda and Freddy, I looked around at Eddie was on the other side of the pen and working his way up the log ramp that also housed Butch.

Harry had told us that in the wild, male eagles are very territorial and would not spend time with each other. In captivity with adequate space and housing and nesting spaces, they quickly become comfortable with the other’s presence and don’t seem to worry each other. Eddie got right up next to Butch and Butch sort of tried to let him pass to an even higher perch, but Eddie stayed put.

Within the eagle enclosure, about 1/5 of it has been sectioned off with a half wall and gate to allow injured eagles a little privacy. This is were the not-name eagle has been housed and even though he can get on the perch and is doing much better with very short distances, he stays in his little area even with the gate open. This was the area that Harry had put Captain, the eagle that did not make it, and it was where I found him. At one point, not-named had managed to get into the other side of the pen when the gate was closed. Poor Captain, no one wanted to be with him.

I had a wonderful hour and half with the eagles and will go back at different times of the day to see if there are doing other things. I had taken off my glasses to look through the binos and as I got up the leave, found that grass had been in front of my graying lenses and had formed a pattern on my right lens. I hoped it was not permanent as I would have had to look through this strange set of lines. Luckily, once I went back in, they readjusted and gave me no problems.

PHOTO – eagles
Ruth and Melody returned from their markets and the attendance was underwhelming at Ruth’s, only 9 tables and $55 for donations. Melody’s was larger and farther away and she went with a tremendous volunteer who is very voluble and great at getting donations. No final numbers from that one at this writing.

During the day, Harry had several visitors and one left $20 as a donation, which is always nice. He usually spends upwards of an hour per visitor.

Around dinnertime, it was time for Harry to force-feed the Little Sooty Owl who is now in it’s own cage. I got to hold her again, and she is so soft Harry fed the baby pinkie rats to her and we found that they went down better dipped in water. We also found out that she was very thirsty and took dropper after dropper full of water. We hope that this shows she is still interested in eating. We will feed her daily now and see how she goes.

After dinner, Melody finally made good contact with Raja, so now the kitty has two friends. I am pleased that happened, as I did not want her to become dependent on me, and if she accepts Melody, then maybe, other volunteers will visit her when I am gone.

I finished another mystery which was mediocre and started My Sister’s Keeper, a book I had seen in NZ and wanted, but did not want the extra weight at the time. It is a story about a younger sister who was conceived because her older sister had leukemia and needed a close family donor. When I finally picked it up, I thought it was non-fiction, but it is fiction. When I first heard about it, I thought I knew how I felt about the topic. I am only half way through and each chapter is told by a different character, child, mom, dad, sister, outcast brother, child’s attorney, child advocate, etc. I will let you know what I find at the end of the book.

Light off late, could not sleep and took a pill at 11.

Monday, July 31 – HOT HOT HOT today!

My tasks today was watering and I ended up doing the rabbits with Ruth. This is our first day back after three partial days off. Ruth and I are wondering how it will go.

New tasks today included cleaning the feathers out of the eagles enclosure, out of the falcon pens, collecting dried cow pies for compost and the ever popular and back challenging, breaking up the garden and weeding the beds.

Ruth took the eagles, I took the falcons and Melody took the weeding. I had three enclosures with falcons and kites to clean. The first pen had only one falcon and it was hard to pick up all the little feathers. What amazed me was how few bones were left after they had eaten. They obviously are very efficient eaters. My second pen had two falcons, one high and one constantly skipping about on the ground. This pen had twice the number of feathers and it was even harder to get it clean. The hardest part was coming across the little numbered bands that would have been on the pigeons. Well, raptors don’t eat at McDonalds. My third pen had a kite, a smaller raptor. No feathers at all only a partially eaten rat. I asked Harry and he said that the kites don’t get the larger birds, only the young chicks and obviously their feathers go down okay. I must admit, I was a bit queasy after the first pen, but I think it was partially due to not enough water and too much sun.

Ruth had the same experience, both on finding bits of things in her pens and also the heat. We have discussed it with Harry, and if it is hot again in future days, we will rest between noon and two and then work form two to four in the afternoon.

As I mentioned before, I had somehow forgotten that wild animals eat live prey. As I work with them and clean up after them and daily feed, water and clean up after their prey animals, I am thankful for the seminar I took with Terri O’Hara and her discussion about the agreement between animals and their prey animals. On one hand, it is still hard for me to look at the cute little things and realize their destiny. On the other hand, I feel I have a better understanding of the dynamics of nature and the wonderful cycle that all life has. It is not right, it is not wrong, it is what it is. Mind you, I am not cuddling the rabbits, playing with the guinea pigs or making friends with the mice and rats. But I do give them my care and attention and make sure that they are fed and comfortable as I can make them.

The final project for the day was cow pie collection to add to the newly created compost pile in my garden plot. As we clean out the rabbit cages, all the stray, excess food and little rabbit pellets go into one of the numerous garden beds of border areas. Nothing is wasted and everything, with the exception of plastic is recycled or reused.

Bindi, the little cow I think I mentioned before, loves to eat vines and so in addition to the cow pies, I also sent all the stems back over the fence to be burned in the pit. My mother would be shocked to hear that I willingly picked up dried cow pies and put them in a wheelbarrow for the compost. By the time that Ruth and I had sod busted and weeded the last bed, it was too hot to continue.

Melody had been put on caravan painting and we joined her for the rest of the afternoon.

The hay arrived a day early and we expect tomorrow to be a massive cleaning day in the roos, rabbits, and guinea pigs area.

Dinner was a stir-fry by Karin and we all retired early.

Tuesday, Aug 1 - + two wwoofers arrived today

With the hay delivered yesterday, we knew it would be a big day of heavy cleaning. Luckily, we were expecting two additional people to show up. They are WWOOF’ers ( Willing Workers On Organic Farms) and normally, they work in return for meals. It is an organization that is active in Europe, Australia, NZ, Canada and growing in many other countries.

Harry had asked me today to assist with the daily assignments and co-direct the team. Melody, when done with her standard am tasks of bottle feeding, bird island and the water in the roo pens, was to report to either Harry or I for other assignments. One task that Melody will take on by herself will be all the dishes during our stay and has an ongoing assignment to paint the outside of the caravans when no other areas need extra assistance.

Ruth was still not feeling well but we went off together to bottom out the rabbits. I had developed what in my mind was a fantastic plan of how to clean all the cages efficiently with two people, but it ended up that one of us stood around while the other worked. HMMMM? Not my best plan. Normally one person does the rabbits and it usually takes all morning. As the hospital had not had hay for some time, most of the cages were at least 3 inches deep in matted straw and poo pellets. Once the wheelbarrow was full, one of us would take it to the new compost bin in the garden plot I am watering daily. Two of the beds are very hard and need lots of mulch and constant working to keep them workable. Needless to say, by the end of our rabbit and composting exercise, we needed a bath. We constantly have to move the rabbits around as several pens of Mrs. Rabbit present us with 1-4 little guys. Most of the pens are overcrowded now, so it looks like rabbit will be on the menu for the raptors a lot this week.

Adam and Janet, from Holland, arrived just as Ruth and I were ready to take our am break. They are in their 50’s, have two grown daughters in Holland and they have quit their jobs, come to Australia for a year, bought a mobile home and are wwoofing around OZ. He was in construction so Harry is very excited to have his help on numerous building projects. Janet is very willing to help and was using wheelbarrows and driving huge bales of straw all over the compound. I found at one point I was starting to direct them at work, which was not appropriate. Luckily, I caught myself early and realized, it was not mine to do. What a relief!

My last task for the am was to clean out the guinea pigs pen. What a mess. They were very cute and so wanted to get out of my way. They kept up constant communication between the groups and ran hither and thither as I tried to pry up the matted, wet straw from the far end of the cage under a very short roof. I wish Ruth had been there with my camera. They loved it when I added the straw and they all immediately hid under the mound.

It was a long exhausting morning and I know I looked a mess, but it was a big accomplishment and good to get it done. With the new hay, the pens should not get that dirty again.

After lunch, I watered my garden and the pumpkins are still being elusive. Not one up yet. The sweet potatoes are holding their own, but I will water them daily. I then picked some beans that Harry will use for new plants, tidied the garden area, and watered everything including the beds that needed work and the new compost pile. I forked through some of the bed, but Harry said to call it a day.

I arrived back at the caravans to find Melody not very far along. Ruth had excused herself and was taking a rest, so I helped Melody with the painting and showed her Dad’s techniques for even painting, proper use and storage of paint and brush cleaning. Thanks Dad!

My shower was wonderful and I rested for the rest of the afternoon.

For the last three nights, Harry has been force-feeding the Little Sooty Owl and it was my turn to hold her. 4 little ratlettes tonight and more water. She is really catching on. Harry says her one eye is permanently damaged, but it is too early to decide if she will be releasable or not.

I find I am in the routine here now and feel pretty comfortable. This placement is another one with more work to do to support the animals rather than working with them directly. I find I really appreciate the time that I do get to spend with them, and prefer the jobs like gardening for the food source over the enclosure maintenance and construction. As with so many animal jobs, there is nothing glamorous about moving hay, scrubbing out water containers or taking the wet and smelly straw to the compost bin. But it is what needs to be done for their care.

I took a little time today to review the current member/donation brochure for the hospital and will offer my suggestions to Karin and Harry. They have a committee meeting on site on Sunday and they can bring it forward if they choose.

Tomorrow, with the extra people around, we will most likely reposition one of the cages that has not been wired yet and try and get the mesh netting up over three aviary cages for more raptors.

I better get my sleep!

Wednesday, Aug 2

I am finding that I am getting through a book every two days. My read list will expand considerably by the time I update my list. They are mainly novels, but sometimes, I find a real peach.

Today was a pretty normal day, with the exception of moving a frame of huge cage from one location to another. A snap when you have good directions and 5 people working together.

My day was spent wiring doors for the cages we finished last week. Janet and Adam are great and work solidly along moving rock, digging trenches and otherwise doing a lot of the heavy work. Harry was so sweet, as Ruth and I were doing doors, he rigged a shade for us. I think I might have seen the first hint of a pumpkin coming up. I keep my figures crossed and wished I knew who is the patron saint of gardeners. I will email David Maurek and find out.

It is getting hotter and hotter and it is not even close to spring here. I cannot imagine being in OZ in the true heat. My arms are very brown, my face is spotty red and my legs are very white. The only way I could catch my tan up would be to wear elbow length gloves and nothing else. As you can imagine, something will freeze over before that happens!

Ruth is feeling better which is great for both her and all of us. We worked today on my computer on suggested revisions for the hospital’s brochure and sponsorship information.

Melody’s painting continues and today Harry worked with her on the table and chairs outside of our caravans.

Thursday, Aug 3 – Doors, doors and more doors

Today, Ruth and I focused on the doors and also training the wwoofers on the feeding duties. We have a partial day off tomorrow and may need to leave before all the early am feeding was done.

Another hot day and I worked away on finishing my fine mesh door, under my shade umbrella. I ignored a vibe not to cut an overly long piece of wire, and ended up having to patch it back together twice before I had finished my door. I find back to back days of wiring exhausting on my hands and fingers, and as I fatigue, my ability to maintain balance and remember that I am having fun hard to remember. Luckily, Harry understands when we take breaks, and there is normally something else productive I can do during my time away from the wire, such as watering the rabbits or the garden.

Days are running together in the routine and I am usually in my caravan to 7:00 pm for blogging or reading. Tonight, I completed The Loved One by Evelyn Waugh.

It turned out to be a very cold night and I was up numerous times to go to the dunny, and to don more clothes in order to get back to sleep.

Friday, Aug 4 – Day off and off to Cairns for a new volunteer

Up at 6:20 and out the door at 6:35 to begin the am chores. I was freezing by the time we left and had on a long sleeve shirt, fleece vest, fleece jacket, scarf and socks on under my sandals. I KNOW! Soon all the fashion houses will be following my lead! The three of us were looking forward to a day away and me especially, to return to Cairns and have time on the computer. It was a 2.5-hour drive on very curvy roads, but the scenery is interesting and changeable.

We were also dropping off the eagle that had surgery two weeks ago for a broken wing for a check up. Karin was to do some shopping and on the way back home, we were to pick up another volunteer at the airport.

As we arrived, Ruth and I headed off to the computer connection and Melody to the bank and the mall. Lots accomplished, the unhappy part, was that I realized that I had made a wrong flight reservation for South Africa and will now have to change it. Sigh!

Ruth looked at some tour options and when we met Melody and Karin, we found out that the volunteer had missed her connection out of Hong Kong and we were not sure when she would arrive.

Back at ranch, we talked through the plans for the rest of the weekend and projects to accomplish. As we don’t know when the volunteer arrives or how long the wwoofers will stay, Ruth and I have come up with a short list of things that we as a pair want to complete before she leaves.

Not as cold tonight, but I put on an extra blanket just in case.


Push Bike – bicycle

Sook – sweet and needy, like a young child who clings to mom, but once comfortable, you can’t get rid of.

Posted by ladyjanes 01:06 Archived in Australia

Email this entryFacebookStumbleUpon

Table of contents

Be the first to comment on this entry.

Comments on this blog entry are now closed to non-Travellerspoint members. You can still leave a comment if you are a member of Travellerspoint.

Enter your Travellerspoint login details below

( What's this? )

If you aren't a member of Travellerspoint yet, you can join for free.

Join Travellerspoint