THE first time I spoke to Rosie Campbell was on the phone a few nights ago.
She told me that, amongst the many creatures in the care of herself and her partner, Denis McCarthy, was a male peregrine falcon with gunshot wounds. The following day, she told me, with great joy in her voice, that the falcon’s nest had been found and that his mate, the female, was successfully feeding the two chicks.
This is good news, of course. Whether the male will ever be able to return to skies is uncertain, but if it is at all possible, Rosie and her helpers at Animal Magic Rehabilitation Centre in Kilmallock, Co Cork, will heal its wound and set if free.
Why anyone should shoot a peregrine beggars belief. It is not as if their prey species, typically wood pigeons, rabbits or wild duck, are endangered, or that the bird had made a conservation area for the seriously endangered grey partridge its hunting ground.
In rural County Cork, there are sufficient rabbits and wood pigeons to feed a legion of peregrines. So it must have been pure ignorance, vindictiveness or hatred of the creatures that made the finger pull the trigger and shoot the bird.
Peregrines are at the apex of the evolutionary scale. They dive at speeds plus-or-minus 200mph; their eyes, set in the front of their heads, have binocular vision enabling them to spot prey from a kilometre above the earth — and then some clown shoots them; and during the nesting season; and for no reason. Extraordinary! Our species produces the smartest creatures on earth but it also produces the dumbest.
I was introduced to Rosie by a reader, Billy Kearney, who telephoned me to say that he had a clutch of orphaned swallows on his hands.
A cat, which he’d found as an abandoned kitten and charitably reared, turned out to be a bird killer. It had killed both swallow parents; it was caught in flagrante delicto with the second parent in its mouth.
That night, Billy climbed a ladder to the rafter and peeked into the nest to be greeted by five small heads with gapes open wide for food. He took down the nest, fed the occupants with puréed banana and rice supplemented with water on a cotton bud, and strung a bulb above them to keep them warm. He tried to contact me. Fortuitously, I was away and so he found Rosie who certainly knows a great deal more about rearing and healing wild creatures than I ever will.
Even as she took the five orphans into her care, she had five others ‘ready to go’. Brought to her at a few days old, all were now fledged and ready to take to the skies and fatten on Irish midges before heading off on the long trek to Africa in October.
Currently, at Animal Magic, she has two baby barns owls, ready for release; two blackbirds, one poisoned from ingesting insecticidal insects, one with a bust wing; two herring gulls; one robin; one sparrow; one wood pigeon and a stock dove.
She also has a leveret, not the first she has reared. I was intrigued by this — how did she feed them, I asked. “On Lambs’ Milk Formula, bought at a farm shop, along with baby colic medicine to relieve ‘bloat’,” she replied. “Really?” I said, dumbfounded. Well, one lives and learns!
Last year, the Centre cared for and released over 300 creatures, and 100 already this year. Amongst exotics were an oceanic Manx shearwater and a pine marten — an aggressive creature and very strong — damaged in a trap in Slieve Bloom.
How is all this paid for? The Centre gets some public finding and paying visits to schools encouraging nature awareness. It puts on displays of falconry to raise funds but greatly relies on donations. We should all donate. Do it directly or via the website at www.animalmagic.ie.
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