Tail-wind for our young Storks

Tail-wind for our young Storks

The young storks reach us due to several main reasons. They are most often just unintentionally pushed out by their siblings. Thus they end up on the ground much sooner than necessary, unable to fly and protect themselves from predators.

Another usual reason is short-circuit, caused by the nests located on electric pylons. Sometimes the nests burn down while the youngsters fall with various stages of burns. Falling down, they often break their feet or wings and their condition severely worsens. Sometimes parts of the nests fall on them, crippling or killing them.
The nylon ropes, often used in agriculture and household activities also pose huge problem. The adults like to use it to stabilize their nests with it. The young storks get entangled while growing in the nest. The nylon rope gradually digs into the entangled limb, cutting through the tissues as the leg grows, interrupting the vessels until the entire foot dries out and falls off like a dry stick. Otherwise, the first flight attempt of the stork ends up with the bird hanging down the nest, taken hostage by the nylon rope.

The most problematic cases are the ones which require the involvement of other institutions – fire brigade or electric companies, as they are the ones operating with suitable equipment. If the nest is on an electric pylon, an electrician is needed to cut the power and secure a crane to reach the nest. Even if they are willing to collaborate, the technicians are instructed not to touch animals so in almost all cases there is a need to also send a volunteer to disentangle the stork. Sometimes we need to wait for hours until the specialized vehicle arrives from the municipal town. We have to however underline that the electricity companies are not obliged to help us in such cases and are doing it out of good will!
This year we had a horrific case with 2 storks, hanging down from their nest, entangled in nylon ropes, in the town of Kostenets. The nest was on the chimney of a deserted bakery and the ladder along the chimney did not reach the very end of it. It took hours of begging one or another institution to send a crane or a ladder to reach the nest. The efforts were common, uniting the Rescue Centre team and the local people. The tens of phone calls finally set the things in motion, but at the time the ladder arrived, hours had already passed. At long last the storks were freed and brought down, but their joints were irreparably dislocated so they had to be put asleep immediately by the local vet to be put out of their misery.

Another horrible case was the storks, harmed by the hail in the Municipality of Dimovo. Adults and young were smashed by the ice pieces the size of a chestnut. An adult and 7 young storks in a very poor state were sent to us by the concerned locals of several villages in the Municipality. Two of the youngsters died on the way, while four underwent urgent surgeries. At the end, we managed to release only the adult and one of the youngsters.
As usually, we also encountered a striking case of human “concern”. A miniature odd baby, at a height only at a third of the normal was received with old, already healed fractures of both wings. The reason for our complete inability to help this bird was the fact that the stork had been kept too long by the woman who found it and consciously took care of it. She just did not want to send it to us because of the heat… Well, she saved its life but possibly took its chance to fly as fractures can only be cured in the very first days. After that the damaged tissues and bones simply die. Besides, Zelcho, as we called the bird, is an irreparable imprint. Raised by people, it thinks it’s a person too and does not recognize the other storks as own-kind. We called him Zelcho (Cabbage) as due to the inappropriate food, his feathers are damaged and somewhat resembles a cabbage. The woman who kept him had sent us detailed instructions that he eats tomatoes, regardless of the fact that storks normally feed on fish, frogs, mice and insects. The tiny Zelcho walking along the corridor of the Rescue Centre is a truly miserable sight. The only thing we can now do for him is let him live in the yard.

After the childhood of all the storks which have arrived had been darkened by various incidents, they grew here in our stork kindergarten among a much greater company than in a typical stork nest. Some of the injured will unfortunately remain crippled for the rest of their lives and will never be released, as they could not adapt to living into the wild. For the luckier ones we had to choose a habitat to sustain their transition from secure Centre live to the uncertain live in the wilderness. We therefore used the innovative young stork hacking method, invented last year by our colleague Karney.

This year we selected a wonderful site for release – the Zlato pole Protected Area. We separated our storks in four batches and transported them there. We initially set four nests, as last year, yet later the number of storks grew so much we got ourselves short of nests which only fit up to three youngsters. In order to release a greater number, we chose the roof of a deserted low building, we suited to serve as a huge nest. For some time the storks will return there to rest after the days of wandering around the floodplains of Maritsa. They are all a big stork family and stick together in a group to feel secure.

For some time after the release they stayed in the site we chose for them and then, feeling the urge for migration, joined one of the huge flocks heading to the South. We are sending them off with all our hopes but also with great concern as multiple dangers lurk along the way. Many of the migratory birds become victims of the non-isolated power network of not only Bulgaria but also the countries along the way. Many of the young ones, which have not gained enough weight or have had health issues, simply lag behind. If their strength leaves them above the sea… it becomes their final stop forever. Many will become victims to the predators on the way or during their stay in Africa. The laws of natural selection at still in force…

All birds released from the Rescue Centre are marked with rings of the Bulgarian Ornithological Central to allow for collecting follow-up information on what happened to them and where did they reach.
We are very grateful to our colleagues from the Regional Inspectorates of Environment and Waters (RIEW) for their collaboration, as well as to the electric companies, whose help we need to use quite often. We are hoping that the things will improve in the future and most of all that we would manage to set up common grounds with their management, so that their assistance does not depend on the mood and will of the particular officer who happened to have picked up the phone. An investment in isolating the power lines would be an additional huge step forward. These are all practical challenges, which need the active involvement of all relevant parties – Ministry of Environment and Waters, electric companies and NGOs for dealing with the problem down on the ground and not only on paper.

What else to say about our Storks… We will be hoping on you guys to return to your nests back in spring! Bon voyage!

The people, who prepared buckets of food every day to answer the hunger of the Storks:
Krasen Lazarov – baby room
Pavlina Nikolova – baby room
Venelin Hristov – baby room

Main actors in releasing the grown-ups:
Nikolay Arabadzhiev – wildlife rehabilitator
Alexander Mechev – Green Balkans – Stara Zagora
Karney Karneev – Aviculturist breeding programme
Venelin Hristov – baby room

Liubomila Krivoshieva – wildlife rehabilitator
Wildlife Rescue Centre – Stara Zagora
моб.тел.: 0885 22 84 86

Liubomila Krivoshieva – wildlife rehabilitator
Alexander Mechev – Green Balkans – Stara Zagora