An early Christmas present arrived for wildlife carer David Joyce one night early this month. A female frogmouth he raised and released two summers ago returned to show Joyce her offspring.
Joyce could hardly contain his excitement in an email he sent me with a picture of the adult frogmouth with her youngster sitting on his balcony in the near darkness.
Each frogmouth that Joyce rehabilitates is given a number with the letter “T’, instead of a name. This signifies the sequence of arrivals and the bird to turn up to his balcony with a youngster in tow was T15.
As Joyce put it: “T15 brought its baby round to introduce me last night. The young one was very comfortable with me.”
When I first met Joyce at his West Hobart home three years ago, he had just started out as a carer and he was only up to T5 in the frogmouth count. And I shared in Joyce’s excitement at seeing the rehabilitated bird released from the aviary in his garden.
On a moon-lit night the bird had sat on the branch of an ancient oak tree for an hour or so before finally making off into the night.
On my latest visit to Joyce’s home his frogmouth count was up to 38 and he said one of the latest batch, T35, had looked a forlorn figure after being rescued at Seven Mile Beach. The bird had become entangled in discarded kite line that it had somehow carried into a tree. Trying to free itself, the bird had become totally enmeshed and was finally found hanging by one wing.
“It appears this bird was there for four days before anyone took action. It was lucky to survive,” said Joyce, as the frogmouth demanded food. In the aviary with it were two rapidly-growing juvenile birds which appeared to have fallen out of nests.
Dave Joyce is one of a dedicated band of voluntary wildlife carers spread throughout the state who are on hand to take birds, animals and sometimes reptiles coming to grief in the human world. The carers are on-call to provide additional care for birds and animals initially treated by veterinarians, or they receive less serious cases from members of the public who have contacted wildlife emergency hotlines.
Joyce specialises in birds, leaving the “furries”, as he calls mammals, to other carers. Most carers have specialities – I know of a couple who are a dab hand at putting wombats in the road to recovery – and within the wider world of birds, Joyce is known for his passion for frogmouths.
They come to grief for all sorts of reasons, sometimes hit by cars because they often hunt moths on roads, but they are assured of a little tender, loving care in the hands of Joyce and his wife, Lisa.
Joyce, originally from Canada, is a trained remedial therapist who applies all his healing skills for humans to his voluntary bird rehabilitation duties. His wife is a nurse.
Even though Joyce receives birds from all over the south, West Hobart produces many injured and orphaned frogmouths, mainly because it borders the forests of Knocklofty in the foothills of Mt Wellington. The lights of suburbs tend to attract moths, which in turn attract frogmouths looking for food.
When I visited Joyce this month his main aviary and a smaller one were exclusively the domain of the three frogmouths currently in his care but a whole range of birds have passed through his hands.
On my first visit a free-flying musk lorikeet was still coming to call after its release after rehabilitation. At the same time, a yellow-throated honeyeater was receiving attention.
When it comes to frogmouths, Joyce is pleased that his rescue and care operation has been a huge success. Out of the 38 frogmouths handed to him, only five have died.