Monday, 19 February 2018
So, it's been a fairly normal weekend here at Countryside Tales: parkrun on Saturday, cross country race on Sunday morning, find an injured Buzzard on the road Sunday afternoon, pick her up, bring her home, make arrangements to take her to a local wildlife rescue centre then drive through the New Forest with a raptor on my lap.
She'd been hit by a car. It must have happened only moments before we came past because she was lying on the verge, wings open, looking stunned and afraid. There was a second buzzard a few feet away clutching something dead in its talons. My guess is they both went for the same prey item and, in the clash over possession of it, didn't see the car coming and she got hit.
It's a difficult decision, to know what to do with a wild creature that's been injured when you don't know how badly it's hurt. My preference is to move them out of immediate harm's way and leave them in their own environment, hoping that it's just shock and after a while they'll recover. It's an offence by law to remove wild animals from the wild. But when they're obviously badly injured I would never leave them on the side of a road to die. I've nursed crows, blackbirds, swallows, rabbits, deer and a baby Tawny Owl before (remember Bop two springs ago?). But I've never picked up a raptor.
I have enormous respect for the beaks and talons of raptors, having seen them in action (you may remember the Buzzard who came into the garden a summer or two ago and eviscerated a huge male rat, splitting in from throat to tail in one go. Impressive). They are perfectly adapted to gripping, squeezing, ripping and tearing. I'll admit, therefore, that I was a little bit worried about how we would go about picking her up and holding her, we had no towel or gloves with us. But in the end, my farmer's-son, country-boy husband, just bent down, scooped her up and gave her to me in one seamless movement. He ushered us to the car and managed to put the seatbelt around us both (meanwhile, dogs in the back, noisy with over-excitement at what was happening), then drove us the few minutes home.
A quick phone call confirmed a local centre could help. When M came back outside to tell me this, the Buzzard, who'd been quiet as a mouse in my arms up until that point (once she'd settled into a more comfortable position), suddenly came to life: she opened her wings, squeezed the life out of my finger which she'd been holding gently up until that point, and opened her beak at him, warning him to stay away.
He backed off and she settled down again. I got her wings carefully refolded, extricated my finger from her hold (experiencing no small amount of relief that it was still in one piece and looked like a finger, rather than the crushed bit of flesh I'd been half-expecting), then we got back in the car and drove over to the centre.
For most of the forty minute journey she was quiet and sat still in my arms, but every now and then she'd look over at M who was driving and struggle to get away. The first time she did this she put her weight on her feet which had been resting on my leg. Have you ever had a buzzard squeeze your thigh before? No? Let me tell you those talons are mighty sharp. I have three small puncture wounds and a nice big bruise about 5cm wide to show for it, which says something about how big she was (fortunately, she was a yearling, so on the small size compared to some of them, but still big enough). I spent a good part of the rest of the journey worried (because it hurt, a lot) that she might have sliced through my femoral artery and kept trying to take surreptitious glances at my leg to check it wasn't awash with blood. I was quite relieved when we got home later and I could assess the damage as being non-fatal :o). M, when I told him this, grinned: don't be ridiculous, of course she wouldn't have pierced your artery.
After 40 minutes, during which time (when I wasn't worried about bleeding to death), I was grinning to myself imagining the responses of the people in the cars we passed had they but known who was in the passenger seat, we arrived and met Mike at the gate of his beautiful forest cottage. He took down all our details and where we'd found her and in what condition, talked us through what would happen next (anti-inflammatories, fluids, a medical assessment), and we handed her over, giving him £20 towards her care.
I've just rung to see how she is, and she has a broken wing with an open wound. She's off to be X-rayed this morning to see how bad the damage is, but hopefully, it's treatable and she'll mend well enough to be released back out into the wild where we found her. Thank goodness for people like Mike, eh? And what a complete privilege to have been so close to such a magnificent wild creature. I'm keeping everything crossed for her.