Sunday, July 01, 2012

The Wanderers Return

My two galahs, Hedwig and Hermes, left home last Monday night/Tuesday for the big wide world (of Spring Rock anyway, it looks like they didn't leave the farm).  Nova the refugee racing pigeon, the little shut in, stayed in the cage squatting in the darkest corner and trying to ignore the open cage door. I imagine after her last effort at free flight when she was blown off course in a race from north of Brisbane to her home south of Melbourne she feels her days out in the world are over and she's more than pleased with that thank you very much.

I forgot to put the pin in the latch when I closed the cage door after feeding the birds on Monday night.  This is the first time in ten years that I've forgotten, but it only takes the one time for the birds to fly the coup.  Of course I've been worried sick about Hedwig out there with her weak left wing, crooked left leg and total lack of experience at  being a wild bird.  I was pinning my hopes on Hermes (who has just as little wild bird experience but is a whole and hearty galah) to look after her. 

Hedwig came to live here nearly 11 years ago when I found her as a very young bird on the side of the road.  She'd had an altercation with a car or grain truck and had come off second best to say the least.  I gathered her up without anything to protect my hands (I didn't have anything in the car I could use and it was summer and I wasn't taking my tee shirt off on the road side) and Hedwig, despite being broken and hurt took full advantage of my bare fingers.  The local wildlife rescue service didn't want to take her so close to Christmas and told me how to put her down.  I agued I wanted to save her so they gave me their blessings and said goodbye.  I nursed her back to health and after some misunderstandings and bad feelings, we became best friends.  She has a permanently weak, slightly crooked leg and a weak slightly crooked wing and tail.  She can fly short distances but has trouble steering.   

A few years later Hermes was found on the roadside in a similar condition to Hedwig and came to stay for rest and recuperation too.  He was fully healed so I intended to let him go as soon as he was well enough.  Then he fell in love with Hedwig and just didn't want to leave without her, so they became a pair and have lived in the aviary happily ever since.

I scanned the skies for them every time I went outside and worried almost non-stop about Hedwig making it out there with the hawks and eagles.  Every time I saw one of these predators I would cringe and tell them to go away.  I usually love watching them soar over Spring Rock, but with my little girl and boy out there it was a different matter entirely.

 On Thursday afternoon Hedwig and Hermes dropped by to say hello while I was looking after the chooks as they grazed around the back yard.  The two galahs perched high up in the pine tree and Hedwig called out to me to let me know she was there.  She obviously wanted me to turn around and have a catch up with her on all the news from the farm and all her news of being out and about.  We chatted back and forth for a while and eventually Graeme joined us.  The basic topic of conversation rather than a catch up on news was  whether or not they'd come home.  I said yes, they said no.  After a while I very reluctantly decided that they weren't coming down more than the couple of branches they'd hopped down to say hello, yet still out of reach, so I put Nova in a small cage and left the aviary door open in case they wanted to come home or have a snack.  Hedwig didn't sound too impressed when I left them sitting in the tree but I wasn't about to stand out there as the sun set and freeze to death.

There was no sign of Hedwig or Hermes on Friday or Saturday and I stepped up my worrying.

This morning I was putting the ferrets back in their outside cage after their nightly winter sleep over in the house.  We were having our early morning chat about how cold it was and how they needed to get into their sleeping bag and keep warm when I heard Hedwig call out to me.  I answered and with Hedwig calling out each time I said her name, I eventually managed to track her down to the top of the big steel workshop shed up the back in the next paddock.  She and Hermes were sitting up there bobbing their heads and saying hello.  Every time I go outside I take a handful of seed with me in case I meet up with the errant galahs so I was ready to start enticing them.

Hedwig started to weaken after a few minutes and began making her way down the shed roof towards me, her beady little eyes on the sunflower seeds.  Hermes headed her off and talked tried to talk her out of it.  Hedwig took to the air and headed for the  house yard in the general direction of the aviary and my hopes soured.  Hermes took off after her.  By the time I made it around the shed towards the house Hermes had returned alone and came to roost on top of the power poll.  I offered him the seed and he bobbed his head in acknowledgement but stayed put.  I went out to the aviary and found Hedwig in the Kurrajong tree in the paddock behind the cage.  I talked to her and showed her the seed while my poor toes froze in just a pair of crocks (I was still in my pyjamas and dressing gown too).  Hermes eventually joined us and Graeme came to help.  After a while we decided to give up again.  I put the handful of sunflower seed on top of the aviary so they could at least have a treat.  Hermes made a beeline for it.  I got some more and put it on a red plate to attract his attention and in no time flat Hermes was sitting on the edge of the plate.  I walked slowly to the cage door, opened it carefully (I'd left it unlatched before I tried feeding him) and he flew into the cage and straight to the feed containers.  I closed the door and called Graeme back.  We renewed our efforts to convince Hedwig to come home.  After all she was the one I was worried about out there in the wild with hawks and eagles soaring over our place all the time.

Hedwig bobbed her head, tweaked at us and generally tried to maintain the friendship from a distance.  Graeme (the love of my life even more now) climbed the tree to try and talk face to face with her and convince her to end her wandering.  I warned her that if Dad fell out of the tree she was in big trouble!  Graeme took his jumper off and tried to put it over her while they were chatting and she was getting a longed for scratch.  She simply side stepped it a couple of times.  I gave him the red plate and after a few aborted attempts Hedwig was nabbed and retuned to the cage! 

They both tucked into the seed and started getting reacquainted with Nova, before falling asleep on their favourite perch despite the lateness of the morning.  Hedwig has a large area of feathers missing from her chest just below her throat. No broken skin thankfully, just a bare area where pink feathers should be.   She won't say how that happened but I'm wondering if it had something to do with their return home.

I'm breathing a big sigh of relief and all is well on Spring Rock once again.  I can go back to admiring the eagles and hawks with a clear concience.

Hedwig in her younger days while recovering from her car accident.