Steph Bennett has her hands full as the mother of three children – but they’re even fuller as she cares for injured or orphaned wildlife every year.
Between July 1, 2020 and June 10 this year, she looked after 440 animals or birds and already from July 1 to November 17 she’s cared for 190.
At any given time, Steph can be found teaching birds to catch bugs, keeping an eye on orphaned ducklings, introducing magpie geese to each other or on duty feeding Welcome Swallow chicks every 15 minutes.
“That was hard – I couldn’t even have a shower during the day in case I missed a feed,” Steph laughs.
As the Northside Bird Co-ordinator for not-for-profit wildlife rescue operation Wildcare Australia, Steph is responsible for caring for orphaned and injured birds throughout the Moreton Bay Region and returning them to the wild.
In the case of adults, that means returning them to where they were found, while juveniles will be taken to a suitable site.
“I try to take them all the way through from hatching until release - at the end I want to see where they go.”
As well as the wild creatures that come to her to be nursed back to health and released, the property she shares with husband James and her children is home to domestic ducks and a variety of chickens.
Steph says she’s always had an affinity with birds and she has fond memories of spending time watching over them with her grandmother.
“I love birds, and my Oma was just the most beautiful woman and all my memories of her are with birds.
“When I was eight, we went to Heron Island and there were Buff Banded Rails…I loved them.”
The Bennetts’ backyard is home to a variety of cages suited to birds of various sizes and an aviary for larger species tucked into the shade of leafy trees.
A room downstairs has been converted into an avian nursery, complete with a cot, more cages and intensive care units.
When Moreton Daily visits, a three-and-a-half-week-old black swan cygnet is doing his best to distinguish himself from the Pacific Black ducklings he’s sharing a cage with, comically nudging them out of the way as fresh bok choy is added to their food bowl.
A larger enclosure houses two young Magpie geese – one of which was found wandering through a Bribie Island nursing home – while outside the cage resident ducks poke their heads though the wires, deciding the water on the inside looks better than their own.
“At first they didn’t love each other but now they do,” Steph says of the rescued pair.
Inside, a 10-day-old kookaburra sways drunkenly in its intensive care unit, drowsily trying to find its balance on outlandishly large feet it is yet to grow into.
It perks up when Steph offers a tasty treat, gently lifting wings that are beginning to sprout feathers.
“He was naked and pink when he came to me after falling from a 3.5m high nest,” she says.
“Kookaburras are known for evicting siblings from the nest, so we considered putting him back, but it was very likely that he or one of the others would just be kicked out.”
Steph says she will try to reunite him with his biological family once he’s feathered, but if that fails she will try to have him adopted by local kookaburras.
“He’ll need care for about three months, and fortunately kookaburras adopt babies really well.”
To find out more or to donate much needed funds to help Steph care for injured wildlife click here or visit Dayboro Produce and Hardware - where Steph buys waterbird food and other supplies - at 21 Bradley St.
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