Quick thinking saves magnificent ospreys

Two large osprey raptors become entangled in fishing line in the Bellinger River at Urunga.

AN act of quick thinking and compassion by some local recreational fishers resulted in saving a family of osprey on the Bellinger River recently.

Two ospreys, a breeding pair, were circling over the Bellinger River in search of fish, in the vicinity of the Urunga Railway Bridge, and both dived into the water at the same time to catch the same fish.

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Unfortunately the fish was tangled in fishing line, resulting in both of the large ospreys also becoming entangled together with the fish and unable to fly away from the surface of the water, therefore facing drowning.

Pete Denham and Dave Mayo from Hungry Head, fishing nearby from a small boat, could see the fate facing the birds and set about keeping them afloat using lifejackets supported by the oars from the boat.

The fishermen then began the difficult task of maneuvering the still entangled birds to the shore.

While heading for the shore they phoned the Wildlife Information and Rescue Service (WIRES) who connected them to a Nambucca Heads based-WIRES Mid North Coast Carer who was able to provide advice.

Heeding the advice of WIRES the fishermen stayed clear of the talons of the birds and now knew that containing them and getting them to Mid Coast Vets at Urunga for assessment was essential.

As they approached the banks of the river a part-time Urunga resident, Joe Stephens, who had been alerted by his partner, arrived on the scene to assist.

Fortunately for the osprey and the fisher folk, Joe had extensive previous experience handling raptors during his many years of work with the Australian Wildlife Conservancy in Western Australia and the Northern Territory.

“Although they have sharp beaks and talons, raptors like these ospreys are gentle animals and do not actually want to hurt you,” Mr Stephens told News Of The Area.

“We were able to get the birds to the vets and I was able to assist with my handling experience to get them x-rayed and treated.”

One of the birds, the male, was assessed as uninjured and was released back to the wild by WIRES carers from Valla Beach and Nambucca Heads later that same day.

Once the bird was released it flew into the air and circled back to land on its nest on the top of the Urunga Railway Bridge.

There were young in the nest who were now reunited with at least one parent.

The other bird, a female, had obvious wing injuries and was transported by local WIRES volunteers to Maclean, transferred to a WIRES volunteer from Casino, then to the Byron Bay Wildlife Hospital for treatment.

Last week the WIRES Raptor Coordinator and the vets from the Byron Bay Wildlife Hospital had to make the difficult decision to euthanise the female osprey due to the extent of its injuries.

Despite one of the osprey not able to be saved, the actions of the fishers, Joe Stephens, the staff at the Mid Coast Vets Urunga and the dedication of the WIRES volunteers resulted in the rest of the osprey family surviving.


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