Steph Bennett has her hands full as the mother of three children – but they’re even fuller as she cares for hundreds of injured birds and animals every year.
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 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.”
Between July 1, 2021 and June 30 this year, Steph had 445 patients through the doors and since July 1 this year she’s already cared for 173.
Most were water birds, but Steph’s cared for a few other interesting feathered friends.
“Some of my highlights were a huge flock of Magpie Geese - 14 in the one group - that were all successfully released back into the wild after five months in care, a flock of five Black Swans, two of which were handed in as eggs to Australia Zoo Wildlife Hospital and then incubated and hatched - they were in care for nearly six months.
“I also had some beautiful Australasian Grebes as well as a pair of White Necked Petrels and some Shearwaters, both are a species of seabird and they were an absolutely mammoth task to raise as they required tube feeding every two hours, supplementary vitamins specially designed for seabirds, fresh fish as well as a process called 'salting' where I had to tube feed them salt water to ensure their salt glands were sufficiently working before I could release them.
“The release of one of the Shearwaters was particularly memorable as she was in care for six weeks and by the time she was ready for release (having come into care exhausted after storms with a gut infection and a number of other health issues) her flock had continued their migration to the Philippines so a dear friend of mine and I had to drive to Gladstone and get a boat out into the open sea to release her with the others.
“It was just the most magical experience and such an amazing success to get her back out there - these seabirds migrate thousands of kilometres each year to chase the warm temperatures and spend most of their life on the open water and only come back to land to breed.
“I will remember that moment of setting her free when I am an old lady!”
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 geese and a variety of chickens.
About Steph Bennett
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.
To find out more or to donate much-needed funds to help Steph care for injured wildlife click here.
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