We’ve had a long dry spell of late. The grass is brown and crunchy underfoot, the trees are shedding leaves and everything seems to want a drink. A pair of Pacific black ducks pops into our swimming pool not long after dawn for an early morning splash and the bird bath is a busy spot for everybody. Not that all the smaller birds use the bird bath. It’s set up next to the swimming pool and a few birds prefer the Big Blue. Blue-faced honey eaters and noisy miner birds in particular, prefer the risky but obviously satisfying thrill of bathing in the pool. It doesn’t always work out. I’ve had to rescue quite a few over the years, some lucky enough to attract my attention before they were completely sodden. Some… well, drowning comes at the end.
I’ve seen kookaburras using the swimming pool for a bath but that was many years ago, when we had another long, dry spell. They’re big strong birds, the largest of the king fishers, so they tend to handle the deep water pretty well. But not always. I’d been reading inside and went out to check the letterbox. On the way back I noticed a bird in the pool, sitting on the flexible pipes that run from the skimmer box down to the automatic pool cleaner. The kookaburra had been in there for a while, its soaked wings dragging in the water.
I approached slowly. Kookaburras have a formidable beak and the bird had opened it. But she didn’t struggle when a scooped her out, lifting her with her body cradled in the palm of my hand. Her wings hung down, absolutely soaked and she had no energy. Usually, if a bird hasn’t been immersed for too long I can put them into a tree, where their claws will automatically latch onto the branch without them being conscious of it. But this bird was past even that. So we dabbed her dry with a towel and then I sat in a chair with her propped up in a towel-nest on my lap. That way she was protected from other birds who might attack a predator in a weak state, and the warmth of my body would help her to recover.
I sat like that for about half an hour, aware of her body moving as she breathed, until she began to stir a little. Then I set her up in her towel nest on the chair to give her a chance to decide what to do next without having the great big human to contend with. I kept an eye on her, though. After another ten minutes she moved to the arm of the chair and then up onto the canvas back.
Ten minutes later, she’d moved to the clothesline in the sun and breeze, moving her wings to dry the underparts. And then she was gone, off to tell the family about her frightening experience.
Two days later, three kookaburras turned up on the pool fence, happy to accept some meat scraps. Life’s hard for the predators at the moment. The worms are buried deep in the dry soil, the frogs and lizards are in hiding. I think they were happy to accept some help. Oh, and two of them went for a quick bath in the pool before they went home to bed.
I’ve called the kookaburra ‘she’ but I really don’t know. There is no discernible difference between the sexes, as far as I know.
And yes, it felt good to know I’d done a small thing to help the wild creatures in my neighbourhood. Very good.