It’s hatching time of year for masked lapwing chicks!

Some weeks in wildlife caring are just pure joy! Last week one of our WILVOS who was working on the Bruce Highway upgrade rang to ask if I’d take four plover eggs and try to hatch them. There should be more Environment Officers like Dallas on big developments. He goes above and beyond to save any wildlife impacted upon by the human bulldozer! Ready for any wildlife challenge, I turned on the humidicrib and frantically researched all the information I had on hatching masked lapwing eggs. I’m experienced at incubating silky bantam eggs but wildlife situations usually like to test your specific knowledge.

After a quick photograph the eggs were settled in their original nest material in the humidicrib. Was that squeaking we could hear in the egg? I just hoped the temperature and humidity would be just what they needed to hatch successfully. Checking on them when getting up to feed my little gliders their 2am feed, I was delighted to see two big legs and the rear end of a chick appearing from the egg. The gliders had to wait while I surreptitiously videoed the hatching. By the time the gliders were fed, another was on the way. By sunup there were 3 bedraggled little ‘plovers’ in the nest. It was a long almost 48 hour wait for the final egg to hatch, which it did successfully. By this time I had borrowed two day-old silky chickens from my daughter, as they are very good at teaching others to scratch around and peck the ground for their food. They had all graduated to a guinea pig hutch, still coming into the humidicrib at night.

Now I have four cute fluffy masked lapwing plovers eating me out of house and home. I try to keep their diet as natural as possible and am highly entertained with the tug-of-war which ensures when they find a large earthworm in the mulch. They have a special supplemented meat mix which I initially rolled into tiny little worms and put in with the earthworms. That fooled them! Lilly pilly fruit which I had frozen from last year is enjoyed, along with greens, fruit, vegetables and canary seed. Natural grass seeds, little ground plants and hiding invertebrates are all pecked at with gusto. Their rate of growth is in tune with the amount they eat! Think of these little darlings next time a plover is ‘bombing’ you. This is the precious treasure they are protecting!

The animals’ parents are always the best

Many of the native animals that come to WILVOS are extremely lucky to be alive. Some go through unimaginable trauma, and some of the members of the public also show great initiative and courage in dealing with situations that arise. Recently a very young eastern grey kangaroo came to one of our WILVOS carers through the Australian Wildlife Hospital. The female kangaroo had been hit by a car and was wedged underneath the vehicle. Fortunately the driver’s son was able, with some difficulty, to remove the dead animal from under the car. The in-pouch joey appeared uninjured.

It is never easy to deal with the situation when an animal has been hit by a car but these people immediately took the joey to a vet at Tanawha. He was then transferred by medics, who were more used to human patients, to the Wildlife Hospital for xrays and a full check-up. WILVOS were called to take on the rehabilitation, and the little joey arrived in care with just minimal swelling and bruising to his leg, which was bandaged to give support and help alleviate any pain.

The response by these people meant the survival of another of our unique native animals. This caring attitude is most appreciated by wildlife carers and undoubtedly by the animals!

Each day our WILVOS hotline receives numerous calls, and our volunteers do a wonderful job of maintaining this service. Many of the calls at this time of year are about young birds that have fallen out of nests, or they overestimate their flying ability! If the birds are uninjured and the parents are seen in the vicinity, an artificial nest is made and hung up nearby and parents are usually happy to resume their feeding of the young. This has to be monitored to make sure it does happen, but usually it is successful even if the nest is suspended a short distance from where the original nest was. It is not always possible to relocate a nest ten metres up a tree! The birds do not mind if their chicks have been handled by humans. It is a fallacy that they will reject them in these circumstances.

No matter how good our wildlife rehabilitation practices are, the animals’ parents are always the best at rearing their young.