Did I mention I hate those, "Mum, Come quick!" moments? Cuts bleeding like a stuck pig & requiring stitches; the child who stepped on a legless lizard & got bitten but it might have been a snake; muttonbirds tangled in fishing line...
And did I ever mention I really, really dislike handling birds? They spook me. They look solid enough but weigh lighter than air. Too weird. I've done my share of birds: honeyeaters braining themselves on the glass windows to make a fluttering attraction for cats; rails & pittas crashing through our undergrowth straight into Issi; sick chooks & poisoned scarlet honeyeaters; kookaburras that should have known better & screaming pheasants but the bird that put me in the mental nut house was a black swan.
All our swans are black. They migrate on to our bay at the end of winter to mate & nest & raise their young, a great flock of more than 200 birds. They congregate in the sheltered curves of mangroves on the other side of the bay where I can happily observe them through the binoculars. What I did not want to hear was, "Mum! Come quick!"
Eight children: my 4 & the 4 they regularly played with. Eight pairs of eyes gazed at me imploringly. Eight pairs of eyes assured me that I would know what to do. Sixteen hands grabbed me & dragged me out the door, down the hill, through the mangroves & gluggy mud.
"There," they breathed in awe struck wonder. "See. It's not even frightened of us, mummy. It can't fly away." UGH! I was considering the baleful red eye & long snaking neck whipping too & fro & the sheer size of the thing. I am not a big woman & was unhappily contemplating my chances should this very large, very unhappy, black thing decide to make his unhappiness adamant.
I sent one of my boys home for the largest towel they could find while I pointed out adamantly we were not, I repeated not several times, acquiring another pet. This was a wild animal, hurt maybe, but wild & it would not want to live confined with us.
Birds are definitely skittery, hard to catch & easily frightened when caught but this extremely large bird contemplated my advance with a large towel spread gingerly with barely a flicker of acknowledgement. Definitely not a well bird at all! He let me wrap him firmly with barely a quiver & I braced myself to lift him & very nearly put myself flat out in the mud because big as he was he weighed next to nothing. Trailed by a kite tail of children I began the process of getting the swan, the children & myself safely out of the mangroves.
Our mangroves are a mix of buttress roots & hooped roots crammed & tangled in a knotty sprawl along our shoreline. Negotiating them usually requires 2 good hands. I didn't even have one. Progress was slow & hampered by children scampering in front of me to peer at the swan so they could assure me he was doing so much better now he was safely in our care. Somehow I don't think that's what was going through a brain the size of a pea!
I took the easy route to the low lying land farther down rather than try to negotiate our hill, hampered as I was, & headed to the farm where the owner of 2 of the children resided with a car! Bedlam as children erupted across the lawn screeching their news at full volume. I gratefully handed over the swan who took a car journey to the bird lady who pronounced *sea lice*, doused him & eventually released him. It was weeks before my skin stopped crawling.