A young currawong called Pea is out and about in the wide and wild world, spreading his wings.
Occasionally he calls to his “foster parents”, the loving carers who set him on the road to recovery after he was found sick and abandoned, but Pea is determined to go it alone without human intervention.
I heard about Pea a few months ago when Rachel Meyers of Southern Wildlife Rescue and Care emailed to say that among a batch of nestlings that she had been handed was a baby grey currawong.
The bird had made progress after a dodgy start to life and she invited me down to her home in Kettering to have a look at the currawong she had called Pea, a batch of rescued magpies and a pair of kookaburras all receiving at little tender loving care.
I couldn’t make it at the time but promised I would be there for Pea’s eventual release.
A date was set at the end March and I duly turned up at the woodland property of Rachel and partner Tom on the momentous day. Pea by this time was at his striking best, displaying finely groomed black feathers with a beautiful sheen that caught the autumnal sunshine. Pea was active within the spacious pre-release aviary, flying from perch to perch and it was clear that he was impatient for release after his time in care.
The sub-species of grey currawong that inhabits Tasmania is actually black in colour, resembling the endemic mountain currawong, but it can be easily told apart because it has white “windows” in its wings, instead of white tips to its primary feathers, and has white under the tail. Grey currawongs also make a “clinking” sound which gives them their other name of clinking currawong.
When Pea was handed to Rachel, after he was presumed to have fallen out of a nest, he was in a sorry state and Rachel and Tom set about reading the literature on the rehabilitation of grey currawongs. Unfortunately there was not a great deal about this specific species but information on the treatment for pied currawongs found on the south-eastern mainland helped.
Pea was given specially formulated medication and food that can he purchased from suppliers serving the cage bird trade and he was soon on the road to recovery.
As well as showing off Pea, Rachel was keen to show me the bird hospital she has set up in the family garage.
The garage houses cages of various sizes for bird treatment and recovery, including a special intensive care “ward” made from a cage designed for guinea-pigs. This can he heated for sick and injured birds incapable of generating their own heat.
Wildlife carers often specialise in certain animals, and Rachel’s speciality is birds although as secretary of Southern Rescue she is on hand to aid animals like wallabies and wombats that might need attention locally.
As it happened, I did not get to see Pea released on the day I visited. Yellow-tailed black cockatoos coming off the nearby hills told Rachel the weather was turning for the worse, confirmed by a warning on radio of snow on high ground.
But Rachel announced in an email a day later that Pea had been set free a short distance from his pre-release aviary that he shared with the four magpies. They were all released nearby so they could return for food if need be.
“Tom and I are suffering a little empty nest syndrome which always happens on release,” she said. “Pea hasn’t popped by, but when I call him, he does answer. A ways off, but I have called several times and he is calling back. The other currawongs don’t!”