Three years ago Sean knew very little about hawks. But when he saw one hit by a car near the Waimak Bridge, he stepped in to try and save it. Sadly that hawk didn’t survive, but it just made Sean more determined to do something for these majestic birds.
So he started Canterbury Raptor Rescue (CRR). Today, he’s got a purpose built hawk enclosure (otherwise known as a ‘mew’ volunteer Vikki tells me) at his home in West Eyreton. This is where injured hawks can recuperate until they’re ready to head back to the wild.
“The release part is the most rewarding thing” says Sean. And so far CRR have released 52 rehabilitated hawks.
When I visited the ‘mew’ was occupied by two recovering hawks, but it can hold up to eight. The majority of hawks are injured by cars and usually end up with broken wings and/or head injuries. It’s why CRR encourage people to move dead animals off the road (obviously only if it can be done safely). And many volunteers now carry a shovel in their cars for the task says Sean.
There’s also a third hawk in residence at CRR. Eva is chilling out with volunteer when I arrive, enjoying the morning sun on her feathers. It’s a calm mood that’s briefly interrupted as Eva is in need of a beak trim. Sean holds Eva, whilst Vikki snips quickly at the overgrown beak, shaping it at the end. Eva seems happy enough with the result as she’s soon back out in the sun arranging her feathers and enjoying a snack.
It looks like Eva will be a long term resident at CRR. She’s a young female but a cataract on one eye means she couldn’t survive in the wild. So CRR are currently going through the process of getting permits that will allow them to keep her as an ‘advocacy’ bird. This means they will take her out and about to fairs and schools, etc promoting the cause.
Sitting happily on Vikki’s hand she looks like she’s perfectly suited to the job. I even got to try the special glove on and have a hold of Eva – which, I have to say, was totally the highlight of my day. Eva, like most hawks I guess, looks rather short-tempered – I think it’s those piercing eyes. But she was surprisingly accepting of my fumbling attempts to get her on and off the glove.
As well as hawks, CRR also rescue falcons. They’ve passed some on to the Marlborough Falcon Trust. Including Rocky, a one-winged falcon who is now part of a breeding programme there. He has a specially adapted enclosure that he can hop around.
Sean says they have had great support from the community and local businesses. Air New Zealand help to pay for the steel framing of the mew, Oxford Vetlife have been ‘awesome’ and generally people have been really positive.
However, like most voluntary organisations, CRR welcome any donations (there’s a donation box at Oxford Vetlife). They have a hefty fuel bill from driving to rescues and also need funds for things like gloves and hoods for handling the birds. They’d also love to hear from any other vets that might be interested in helping.
You can find out more about Canterbury Raptor Rescue and contact them through their Facebook page.