Tag Archives: Wildlife

A day of firsts

6 Oct

Well, it’s been a time of firsts for me lately, and last Friday was a particularly ‘adventurous’ day.

My day started out well, it was actually a beautiful day, the first after the most terrifying electric storms had hit Melbourne in the the previous couple of days. I usually love storms but I have never heard anything like it….it was quite funny actually, there I was calming Little B down (as with most dogs, she hates storms), patting and speaking quietly to her, as we sat on the porch watching the lightening (I always have had romantic notions of storm watching from a porch and here was my chance) when all of a sudden there was a giant crack, and lightening struck the house at the bottom of our garden!! I could have won a sprint race with the speed at which I raced inside cursing all sorts of unmentionables. Myself and Little B spent the rest of the afternoon in bed 😉

Anyways, now it was so beautiful that I decided to take Little B out for a long walk at the local creek just near our home. Enjoying ourselves and the weather, it was amazing to see what the storms had done to the level and ferocity of the water: what was usually a placid slow meandering stream was now a torrential (mini) river.

Anyways, just near the end of our walk I spotted a small duckling swimming in a slightly calmer bend of the stream, and of course, my first reaction was ‘oh how cute!!’. But then I noticed that she (for the purposes of the story, the duckling will be a she…I don’t know why) was on her own, no family in sight, not a good sign for such a young thing 😦 She had obviously been separated from them in the extreme weather.

Now, though I am a qualified wildlife rescuer by virtue of taking a course, I had never actually completed a rescue on my own before but the thought of just leaving the little duckling to her own devices, when the odds really are not that great at all, just didn’t sit well with me. My first thought was, if I could locate her family first, then I could try and somehow maneuver them together, but I quickly saw that she was in fact hemmed into a part of the stream that was bordered at two ends by rapids caused by the new influx of water. So, I thought the best thing I could do would be first locate the family, then capture the duckling and return her to her family (the myth that ducklings that have come into contact with humans will not be taken back my their parents is actually false), and if her family could not be located, I would take her to the wildlife sanctuary where I volunteer where they are actually currently are raising another duckling (the only survivor of a hit and run on a local highway 😦 )

I didn’t want to leave her but I was completely unprepared for a rescue and, as much as love her, I didn’t think Little B would be too much help being that she is a natural born hunter (it is the only thing we disagree on 😉 ). So I took her home and made a plan. The first thing I was going to need was a net so I did a quick internet search and found that we actually have an anglers store in a neighbouring suburb which would be perfect. I got all the other things I would need from around the house: a lined box with air-holes, some bread (for coaxing purposes) and my wellie (see gum) boots then headed off the anglers store, my first first of the day.

Having never fished a day in my life since making my own fishing rod as a youngster on a caravaning holiday and surprising myself and those around me when I actually caught one ( I was horrified!),needless to say, I am no fishing expert but they were very helpful in the store though the look on the guy’s face was priceless when I mentioned that I was going to use the net for duckling rescue and not prawn catching (prawn nets are the best for rescue of ducklings and such like as the net is very fine, meaning that no harm can come to legs and wings during the process).

Then the creek. Firstly, I walked up and down the area for some time searching for the duckling’s family but unfortunately, it was to no avail 😦 However, I was glad to see that the duckling was still safe and sound so I spent some time quietly throwing her bits of bread trying to gain a little trust and set everything up ready for when I caught her so that she would be settled quickly and the least amount of distress caused.

For my first attempt at the rescue I tried to net her from the banks, but I knew this was going to be a long shot, so the next step was to get into the water, my second first of the day (wading in the local ‘fresh’ water creek), and hope it wasn’t TOO deep. Well, at first it wasn’t…just up to my thighs, far too deep for my wellies to be of much use except for protecting me against whatever lay at the bottom the of the incredibly muddy water (which made them well worth it, I thought!) but manageable, however, as I followed her (trying to be as quiet and unthreatening as possible and keeping the net down low so as not to frighten her too much), the water got deeper and deeper (and colder and colder, my gasps were uncomfortably reminiscent of the scene from Titanic when Kate Winslet first enters the water on her way to rescue Leo)  but I had come this far so I kept on until I had a great opportunity and she was within my reach…..and then I sank…and that, friends, was my third first of the day….SWIMMING in the local creek! I swear the duckling was laughing at me, in fact she didn’t even swim away, she just got onto a mid-stream rock, gave herself a cleansing shake and sat down to watch me splutter away.

However, I was determined to keep this duckling safe and so this same process went on for over two hours (one of the main things they teach you about rescue is patience!!) until I was truly exhausted. At the point when I could barely wade through the water, I had to give up! I had tried my best to do the right thing and had only come close to rescuing the duckling about 3 times. In my mind, if she could happily escape me with such poise, hopefully she would be alright on her own, at least until the flood waters died down and her family was able to get to her.

I was just getting out of the water when an older gentleman across on the other bank (many people had passed by during my rescue attempt but not a one had offered to help) called out to me. At first my thought was that he was offering to help, however, I couldn’t have been more wrong. He was angry at me and yelling his head off!! Fearing a misunderstanding, I let him know that I was not fishing and the reason for my net…however that just made him more mad and let me know in no uncertain terms I was wrong to be doing what I was. I even let him know that I was a trained rescuer, however that didn’t seem to help, he seemed under the impression that I was trying to steal wildlife for my own personal gain, though what that gain was seemed to be a little unclear…..

So there I was standing by the creek, soaked to the bone in muddy storm water (more on that later), holding a prawn catching net, wellie boots brimming and many many twigs in my hair, having failed at my rescue attempt AND getting yelled at.

I am sorry to say that at that point I lost my temper a little and had a bit of a yell back…something along the lines of “I am trying to save a life not catch dinner”…..and as a person who avoids conflict like the plague, it was a very uncomfortable moment. Once I had calmed down, I explained the statistics of the survival of a duckling out on her own and that seemed to quieten him up and he huffed his way off. And, of course, that was the point when the skies opened and it literally poured down. In my single-mindedness, I had not noticed the skies gradually darkening!

That was a bad moment for me. I felt truly defeated, misunderstood, and all those bad things and I just stood there in the rain crying. I felt every time in my life when I tried to do the right thing but been completely misunderstood by those around come crashing down around me. Totally melodramatic, I know, but I have to admit to feeling very low at that point.

Of course, a couple of hours later, after an extremely hot shower, and some hot soup, I felt better. I had tried to do the right thing, and though it hadn’t worked out, and though people around me couldn’t understand or agree with with what I tried to do, I knew that I couldn’t have just ignored the duckling on her own and had taken the course of action that I felt most appropriate at the time.

In my contemplation, I realised it’s much like my decision to go back to university at this stage of my life. People may not understand why I’ve made this decision and may even be fairly vocal in their opposition (that is not to say that I don’t have support, I also have plenty of that too), but as long as I feel like I am doing the right thing  (and I don’t mean only for me but also for my nearest and dearest) then it IS the right thing.

Note: I have been very sick and laid up in bed for most of this week. Turns out that during the storms, raw sewage has been released into Melbourne’s creeks and rivers to “reduce pressure and prevent sewage backing up through household drains”. Lovely. Swimming in sewage turns out to be the fourth first I experienced last Friday. Thankfully, I have recovered and am feeling much better!

I still stand by my decision to try and rescue that duckling! Maybe I am just a little bit crazy………….. ;D

Fact No 11: In light of this post……Ducks’ feet have no nerves or blood vessels. This means ducks never feel the cold, even if they swim in icy cold water.

Getting down and dirty :D

15 Aug

Mud, excrement, rain, kitchen prep, weeding……….none of those things sound particularly exciting or intriguing (well, not for most people :p) but these are all words that relate to my new extremely exciting adventures at a local wildlife sanctuary 😀

When looking for new ways to get some real life experience to help with my new chosen career, I did lots of research and found the courses I have previously written about but I was also exceptionally lucky to find myself having a conversation with an ex colleague of mine who, when I told her about my new plans, let me know that she was studying (also via distance learning) for a certificate in Captive Animals, part of which is 8 hours of volunteer work per week at a local animal shelter/sanctuary. She told me it had been very difficult to find such experience but that she had finally been successful at an out-of-town sanctuary where they don’t get many volunteers due to location. I asked if she could put in a good word for me, and lo and behold, it turned out that they were having a volunteer induction day on the 22nd July 😀

So, of course I registered and took a day off work ( I don’t think I mentioned before, but I am currently temping at the moment, recovering from my old job and filling in the time until I finally get to go back to university(hopefully!)) to attend.

This place is a dream for me, it’s set in the most beautiful location, they have over 350 animals on site (mostly Australian species such as dingoes, wallabies and koalas, just to name a few), and everyone there is wildlife/environment mad and so full of expertise and knowledge which I can just soak up like a sponge!
They have also breeding programs for all sorts of endangered species which I have a special interest in and of course, wildlife rescue and rehabilitation.

You know when you ask yourself “why haven’t I been doing this all along??”Well, that was me!!

So now I go every second Saturday from 9-5, and get muddy & sweaty cleaning out enclosures, feeding and watering the animals, doing general maintenance and coming up with new ways to keep the animals active and enriched, I LOVE it 😀 There will also be opportunities to get involved with sexing and tagging new arrivals of which there are going to be many very soon as we are heading into spring and the capturing of any animals that may require medical attention (In fact, only last Saturday one of the male Potoroos had unfortunately scratched his eye and we spent about 1 ½ hours trying to catch him, but to no avail (the nifty bugger) so hopefully they had better luck yesterday 🙂

My best moment so far has been feeding the resident Barking Owl. The keeper let me know that she can sometimes fly to you for feeding if she feels like it, so I donned the falconry glove, took some meat and held me arm up high for her to see. And wouldn’t you know it, this beautiful bird decided that I looked ok and swooped down to land on my arm!! I have never been so in awe in all my life. This amazingly beautiful and powerful (you should have seen her talons!!) bird sat with me to enjoy her whole meal, those big bright eyes staring right into me. Most children’s animal stories feature a wise owl, and I can definitely see where the inspiration comes from 🙂 It was one of the best days of my whole life!

It’s really just such a great environment to be in, and not only do I feel like I’m taking a huge step forward and learning heaps, but I’m also doing a lot of good as the sanctuary is privately owned and receives no government funding, therefore they rely heavily on their volunteers.

Plus, it gave me a good excuse to buy that pair of gum boots (or wellies as I would call them) that I have hankered after forever (yes, I know I’m a little strange!). Bob took one look at them and said to me, with a slightly concerned expression,  “you’re not really planning to wear those ALL the time are you?” ;D

Fact 4: The Barking Owl is a nocturnal bird species native to mainland Australia and parts of Papua New Guinea. They are a medium-sized brown owl and have an extremely characteristic voice that sounds exactly like a barking dog noise! Here in Australia, Barking Owls are often said to be the source to the myths and legends surrounding the Bunyip.

And the long wait begins

10 Aug

Well, I’m now going crazy with the wait to find out whether I get a place at University or not………..but there are plenty of things to keep me occupied in the meantime 😀

Since deciding to change my direction completely and study Environmental Science, I thought I should start getting as much real-life experience as possible, as well as continuing with my online short course in vertebrate zoology. I have to acknowledge that it’s a truly competitive world out there, and if I want to be a success, I’m going to have to make sure that when I graduate (fingers crossed 🙂 ) I am armed with even more than a degree. I know this all may seem a little pre-emptive, considering I don’t even have a university place yet, but I figure any experience is good experience and if I don’t get the opportunity to start at the beginning of next year then it may help me get in mid-year or even when 2013 applications open.

So, even though it may not be about my study specifically I thought I’d spend a bit of time posting about the experiences I’ve had so far!

My first point of call was to visit the website of a local wildlife organisation of which I was already a member, to check out if they had any opportunities available. Turned out that they run various courses each month, mostly one day but sometimes two, at exceptionally reasonable prices (I’m talking round A$20!!) covering various themes and topics. I immediately signed up for one of their starter classes entitled “The Rescue & Transport of Injured Wildlife”. I couldn’t believe that such a valuable resource was available and made so easily accessible, why had I not done this before 😀 So I attended the course a couple of weekends ago. Bob actually came with me because he wanted to show his support in my new direction which I love him for, but I have to say, the look on his face when he found out (while taking our seats) that is was a day long course and not couple of hours as he’d assumed was priceless 😉

It was certainly a most informative day, though quite hard at times. In fact, I’ve seen enough images of injured and distressed animals to last me quite some time (and the things that people do to animals!!!!), but I think it was an extremely useful course to have attended, because while my end goal is not to run a wildlife shelter or similar, I will most certainly come across cases very like the ones discussed and I want to be fully prepared. Also, just from a basic wildlife handling perspective, I learned so much in just 8 hours. It’s always great to hear real-world advice from someone who has been in the field for so many years (I believe this particular wildlife instructor had been rescuing for 20 years!)

 It’s funny though, when you attend these things…there’s always one isn’t there? You know who I mean….The person who you want to turn to and ask why they even bothered coming because they apparently already seem to know everything!! 😡 (just in case this is not clear, I am trying for a frown here…in fact it actually looks like frog with a crazy hair-do 🙂 )

Well, we had one. Some individual in the back row, who not only could not keep quiet (consistent interruptions), but who kept trying to contradict the course facilitator with her own pearls of ‘wisdom’. Now I’m all for open discussion and lively debate, but this girl clearly felt that she was the only one in the room (and the only knowledgeable one at that including our instructor) and that she was there for a private one-on-one. In fact, the course ran over by almost an hour, pretty much solely because of this person. I just don’t understand why some people don’t ‘cotton on’ as the old expression goes, especially when the rest of the class is staring at you and clearly getting quite frustrated! The rest of us were there to actually listen and learn from someone who had knowledge based on a wealth of experience and tried & tested methods, not to prove a point!

 Later in the evening, Bob and I were discussing the individual and I came to the realisation that I’m probably going to have to get used to the ‘Hermiones’ of the classroom environment. It’s been so long since I last went to school and then University that I’d forgotten all about them!! But, also, at the same time, it got me thinking about how NOT to become one. As an extremely passionate individual with a little bit of life experience under her belt who wants to become a contributor during classes and tutorials this time around, how do I walk the line between fascinated and knowledgeable student and total know-it-all??

And, as always…any advice on this point would be welcome!

Anyways, that’s my food for thought today 😀

 Fact 3: The Japanese Macaque (Snow Monkey) is native to Japan and eats a large variety of foods, including plants, insects and fruits, so far so normal, however what is fascinating with these creatures is that they wash their food before eating it! Researchers discovered this when they left sweet potatoes on the beach for a group of these monkeys. One female took a potato and washed it off in the water before eating it, and the rest followed suit. The ocean water not only cleans the food, but the salt in it offers seasoning, too!!

For more information about the strange eating habits of animals go to: http://green.yahoo.com/blog/care2/285/10-animals-with-interesting-eating-habits.html

How do you start a journey? By taking the first step…

4 Aug

Ok, so I know it’s been a while since my first (and last post)! Not to worry, that just means that I have a lot more to fill you in on in regards to my quest for finding my “purpose”. It’s been a very busy few (alright, so more than a few) months!

When I last left you, I was disenchanted with my current career, was working in sales, and looking to make a change, at the ripe old age of 30 🙂

And look for this change I did.

I spent a lot of time thinking about where my passions truly lay, and realised there were 3 main contenders: wildlife, musical theatre and books. Now, musical theatre is a big part of my life, I try to perform in an amateur production at least once a year, and love working with a number of different amateur theatre companies in Melbourne. However, would I want to do this as a career? Not so much. Amateur shows last for about 4 months, including rehearsals and performances. It’s exciting, challenging and very fulfilling, but there can be some down-sides. The hours are late, there is a LOT of bitchiness, and the thought of doing the same show night after night for years on end, just doesn’t appeal. Also, and I’m being completely honest here, whilst I’m not without a bit of talent, the competitive nature and just sheer amount of people out there who are just way more talented than me, would see me perhaps, if I was VERY lucky, land the occasional  chorus part. This all translates to a lifetime of serving tea and coffee waiting for the next opportunity….Not much of positive life change (for me at least!)

Then I came to Wildlife. And not just wildlife….under this heading also falls nature, environment sustainability and natural science. I am the eternal  tom-boy, and would prefer a life, dressed in overalls and gum boots, saving the planet, to anything else. So right there should have been my answer. Well, unfortunately it was not as straight forward as that. I did a LOT of research and what it all boiled down to was that if I wanted to forge a career of substance in this industry, I would definitely need to study as my original degree was an MA Hons in Philosophy (yes, get the laughs out 😉 ) and therefore of NO use to me in the field. *Actually probably a side note here should be that at 17, when I was asked to choose my preferences for university, I had no idea how important that decision was in determining my future. (I’m pretty sure most people are the same).* My reasons for choosing philosophy, while valid in some ways, were not grounded in real-life direction, and whilst I had the best four years living it up at University, my degree has only really been of use in getting interviews (ie that I have a degree from a great university) and in the most basic of job requirements (ie time-management, autonomy, etc).  Now, the idea of going back to study actually really appealed to me, as I believe this time around it would be a whole different story, and as a mature-aged student, I would get a lot more out of studying a second time around. The other extremely appealing thing about taking this new direction was that it would be fulfilling my other desire, which is to truly make a difference in the world, rather than just make it more money, which is what I feel, at heart, that I’ve been doing for the past few years. However, as always with any such decision, there were the cons to consider, the most obvious being the financial side. My partner (who, for the purposes of this blog, shall be named Bob 🙂 ) was actually just finishing up his own studies and about to forge his career path (yes, for anyone doing the maths, there is an age difference 😉 ), so money wasn’t hugely plentiful, though after having lived on one and a half salaries for 3 years, we thought we could probably do it. Bob was extremely supportive and understanding, he being one of the lucky few that has always know what it is he wanted to do *another side note, Bob’s motivation , and love for his chosen career path, was one of the key reasons for my career re-evaluation. That kind of passion is highly motivating, and wonderful to be around*
But still, I worried about taking the time to study (I would be looking at 3 years minimum if I wanted to do it thoroughly, and at this stage, I don’t want to do anything half-heartedly). At 30, having family becomes a consideration, and although we are no-where near ready for that part of our lives, as a woman, it does weigh on the mind.

So, after much thought, my mind turned to books. I love books!! I read about 5 a week, 2 at a time and love discussing them at any available opportunity. Now at this stage, I should mention that for quite a few years, I actually worked in the publishing industry, in the sales & marketing fields for one particular company. For the most part, I had actually really enjoyed my time working with that company and only left in the end because, as fun as publishing was, the money was not, and when a relationship of mine broke up I needed to earn quite a bit more money in order to manage financially and I wasn’t going to get it by staying in publishing. However, now in a stable relationship and looking to make a change, publishing didn’t seem like a bad option. I could find work (hopefully), become more fulfilled, and we could FINALLY be that glorious of things, the couple who have double income but no kids yet (DINKYS!!!).
So I decided, that all in all, the best choice would be to try and find a job back in the publishing world, but in the mean-time do some study from home, allowing me to fulfil some of my new-found passion for learning, and my love for all things wild, and then perhaps, a few years down the track, once we were in a more solid position with family etc, then I could return to University to study full-time.
So I jumped on SEEK, applied for the limited amount of publishing jobs available, noting that, in the past couple of years, there had been no great rise in salaries in this particular industry. * Note:  I should also mention here that my foray out of publishing had been in the FMCG industry, where money is readily available should you work in the sales side of things, which I did. Returning to publishing, I had no desire to continue in sales, therefore, I was looking more into marketing roles where I had less experience. This meant that I would have to come in a little further down the ladder. (I know this is not strictly true but my confidence was not at an all-time high at this point and so I was probably under-selling myself)*

At the same time, I started looking into Distance Learning and enrolled in a suitable course in Vertebrate Zoology which was extremely exciting and motivating for me.
I was extremely lucky and succeeded in securing a position with a leading publishing house after only a couple of months of job hunting. I couldn’t believe my luck! I was back in publishing, not working in sales, me and Bob were DINKYS  and I was studying another true passion. This was obviously the right choice and things were all going to work out perfectly…………………………………..

Now, obviously this is not the end of the story….but I’ve already posted a novel and don’t want to bore (if I haven’t already :D) so it’s bye from me for now!!

If you are even remotely interested, tune in for the next instalment of: ” Finding my purpose, one women’s struggle to matter” (Catchy don’t you think ;D)