On one of my morning walks with Nutmeg four or five weeks ago I came across a wounded kestrel at the bottom of the Sewage works footpath. It had a badly damaged right eye, it couldn’t fly and its only defence was digging its very sharp talons into my fingers.
I wasn’t sure how to deal with a wild bird in this state. After a couple of attempt to pick it up – including the bloody fingers – I tried putting my handkerchief over its eyes which calmed it enough for me to hold it. It didn’t really struggle for the whole way home but looked in a really bad way.
Via the Norfolk Wildlife Trust who recommended a lovely man who said he couldn’t do anything for the bird but put me in touch with a raptor rescue specialist called Jo. Jo runs the Phoenix Bird of Prey Rescue and came over to look at my female kestrel that afternoon. She took one look at it and pronounced that there was nothing she could do. The poor bird apparently had something that sounded to my deaf ears like Trowse Trichosis. I later found out it is actually called Frounce Trichomoniasis – a horrible virus endemic in pigeons who are not affected by it. It is thought, after much research, that where pigeons drink they leave a trace of the virus and if a raptor drinks soon after the raptor can catch it. In raptors it leads to blindness, damaged hearing, weakness, digestive problems and death. Great disappointment.
However the lovely Jo said she would try. There might be a small chance that a course of anti-biotics might help alongside intensive care and careful feeding. She took the female kestrel away and I thought that would be the last I would see of her.
About two weeks Later Jo phoned to say that, against all expectations, our kestrel was responding to treatment and was getting stronger. This week (last week in October) Jo rang again with the amazing news that she (the kestrel that is) was ready for release. Today, 29th October Jo brought her here and we released her by the bridge where I found her. It is Jo’s policy to release the birds she rescues from the place where it was found – seems eminently sensible. After a bit of a struggle to get out of the box she flew off in a big arc and landed in a tree by the footpath. Apparently that was a good release. She looked strong and happy to be flying again. Pity it was raining but preferable to release in rain than keep too long in captivity.
The big lesson to me was to have acted quickly. Another few hours may have triggered a less happy outcome. If you find yourself in similar circumstances please do act quickly.
Jo at Phoenix can be contacted on 07914 661385 and her website is www.phoenixbirdofpreyrescue.org.