One Voice for Animals UK Guest Blog by Stephanie Williams
Guest Blogger Stephanie Williams runs Every Feather Bird & Wildlife Rescue, in Greater Manchester.
Every type of rescue has its busiest time. In truth we are all crazy pretty much 24/7, 365 days of the year, but there is that one time that we dread and for wildlife rescues it’s around March to September. The months differ depending on the weather and what species you accept, but this period of around six months is the worst of all.
From the first baby bird (usually a collared dove for us) we skip sleep, meals and general hygiene in order to cope with the demand. I have been known to reach for a mug of coffee and accidentally gulp down a mouthful of Kaytee instead. I have also been known to turn up to work with mincemeat stuck in my hair and a dollop of poop on my shoulder.
With Lockdown we experienced our busiest year yet. More people were spending time in the garden or going for walks in the countryside. It stood to reason that there would be more babies brought to us. People were gardening in the months when nests were being used and healthy fledglings were being bird-napped because someone who had never seen one before assumed they were in need.
So – how can we possibly survive it when the demand appears to only be increasing?
I have run Every Feather for a decade now and I can honestly say it doesn’t get easier. The phone will never stop ringing and messages will never stop coming through. It doesn’t matter if you want a rare night off or just time to eat a meal – there will always be someone who needs your help.
Here is short guide on How to Survive Baby Bird Season? Every rehabber will probably have a guide of their own but this has helped me when I’ve felt like throwing in the towel and hiding under my duvet.
1. Eat. - It doesn’t matter if you order junk food or find someone kind enough to make you a meal. You have to eat regularly. You can’t look after anything if you are running on empty and close to breaking point. So, turn off your phone for quarter of an hour and get some fuel inside of you.
2. Set Yourself a Limit. - Some rescues never say no – I’m not quite sure how they manage it. Every place has a number of patients they can comfortably and safely deal with. You don’t have to feel guilty if you can’t take every single one in – in fact it would be highly neglectful of you to do so if you can’t guarantee the right level of care to each patient. So, look at your facilities, your provisions and your own time and make a realistic limit to set for yourself. Once that limit is settled then be strong and learn that saying no doesn’t make you care any less. You are a superhero but not super human after all.
3. Reach Out for Help. - I have some wonderful fosterers in place, and most of them are actually looking forward to Baby Bird Season every year. It’s when they get called to action. Sometimes providing a little training in a quieter period can do you a whole lot of good when things get crazy. We have several families who are happy to foster baby birds and they do so successfully. It will free you up to look after the poorly and injured patients who aren’t going to stop coming just because the babies are swamping you.
4. Don’t Forget to Prepare. We know that Baby Bird Season is coming with the certainty of the sun rising in the morning. - So, once the chaos finishes for the year start to write a list of everything you will need in place when the madness starts again next year. Start buying equipment early so it doesn’t cost a lot of money all at once. Start stockpiling what you use the most and start sharing that Amazon Wishlist.
5. Make Time for Social Media. - Keep people updated on what you are doing – let them see where their donations go. Let them know how hard you are working because sometimes people forget. Also, I find Social Media can be a really useful tool for learning. Follow other rescues and look at how they deal with certain species, spy on their enclosures and what feeds they use. It’s never time to stop learning and I’ve stolen many a useful tip from someone-else.
6. Block the Haters. - Every rescue will have dealt with abuse at some point or other. It’s par for the course unfortunately. Baby Bird Season brings out the worst for wildlife rescues. Getting around 60 – 100 messages a day, holding down a full-time job and looking after all the patients means that something does, sadly have to slide. The only thing that can is answering messages. If you don’t answer every single one then prepare for some abuse. People get frustrated when they can’t find help and that is understandable. However, you don’t need to take the verbal beating when you are already swamped – so ignore and block if you have to. This is about your mental wellbeing and all the lives that rely on you being in the right place to do your job.
7. Out With the Guilt. - Don’t feel guilty about taking time out for yourself when you need it. You have a life and an empty battery can’t power anything. I have realised that taking a few hours off for the cinema, a walk or even taking a night away is not being selfish. You have family and friends who want to spend time with you and you shouldn’t neglect that side of your life too. Find people to bird-sit if you need to and turn off your phone for a little while. Your battery will recharge and everyone will benefit from it – trust me.
8. Grieving isn’t Weakness. - We all get the patients in that we know aren’t going to make it. We also get those we think will and don’t (and the other way around). Don’t let yourself get blind to it because you think you don’t have the time or the energy to be upset. I think a good cry is so important. Never feel like a failure – that’s the last thing you are – but do feel like a human being with a heart that’s a little more battered. Sometimes people apologise for crying over something and say “you must be used to it”. No, you never get used to it – you do your best and you mourn those that don’t make it.
9. Have and Have Not. - Reach out to other rescues and find out what facilities they offer and what they don’t. I have found this really useful over the last few years. As a relatively small rescue I have limited space and some species take a long time from baby to release. I reached out to another Sanctuary a few years ago and said “hey can you take some juvenile gulls for me. I don’t have the room for them.” A lot of rescues are happy to help if they can and it forges a friendship with a great source of support. Don’t forget to pop them a little donation if you can – they are taking on more mouths to feed.
10. Remember to Enjoy it. - There is a reason you started rescuing and if you hated doing it then you simply wouldn’t carry on. Try to focus on the things you enjoy the most to power you through. Magpies are mine. I love baby magpies. I love that first little magpie face peering up at me. Let those moments remind you why you do the job and why you aren’t going to give in.
To anyone who isn’t a Rehabber perhaps this will help you understand what we go through a little more. If you know a Rehabber, then you may find yourself as a Rehabber to Rehabbers at some stage.
Rehabbing is a vocation. It gets me out of bed on those mornings when all I want to do is pull the duvet over my head. And let’s face it – if we can survive the crazy times like Baby Bird Season then we can pretty much survive anything.
If you would like to Every Feather Wildlife, you can do so HERE.
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