14 Jan Storm Survivors
At the end of May, the day after an unusual big winter storm, WA Seabird Rescue Inc. started getting reports of groups of small grey seabirds on beaches from Perth to Augusta. We quickly realised they were all Australian Lesser Noddy, a threatened seabird that is only found at the Houtman Abrolhos Islands, many hundreds of kilometres from the cold southern beaches where they were turning up. Many were dying of exhaustion and hypothermia. Our volunteers swung into action, searching beaches and sand dunes and within 24hrs we had 33 birds to care for! We marshalled our resources and hastily bought supplies and enclosures. Each bird required intensive round-the-clock nursing in warm enclosures and hospital boxes with 6 hourly “tube” feeds of seabird formula, supplements and antifungal medications. Volunteer carer Fiona had 21 birds to care for and by prefilling each of the syringes managed to complete each feed in 1.5 hours. After a few weeks of intensive care they graduated to large gazebo enclosures for fresh air, sunshine, flying exercise and to improve their waterproofing. Finally, after 6 weeks it was time to take them back to their island home. Seabird scientist Chris Surman has spent 25 years studying these birds and accompanied volunteers Sharon and Fiona on the 4-hour road trip followed by a 4-hour boat trip right back to their nesting island. The birds were released from their crates, swirled around in a group and then these beautiful little birds flew off to their foraging grounds without as much as a backward glance.