Rare plover hatchlings in good hands

WITH a bush-stone curlew as a guard dog and a backyard filled with kangaroos, Ray Alcock of Bemboka isn’t your average pet owner. 

He’s actually a dedicated and long-term Wildlife Rescue South Coast (NANA) volunteer who takes in scores of sick and orphaned birds and native marsupials every year. 

Lately Mr Alcock has been caring for a brood of banded lapwing (Vanellus tricolor) hatchlings.

The banded lapwing (Vanellus tricolor) is from the plover family and is similar to the more common masked lapwing, but is distinguished by the red band under its eyes and its lack of wing spurs.

Like all other birds that nest on the ground, the eggs of a banded masked lapwing have a low survival rate.

“Obviously they have a lot of predators, native and introduced, so not many make it to hatchling stage,” he said. 

Mr Alcock’s newest lapwings are extremely well protected – to reach them you must run the gauntlet of his elderly, but extremely vocal, cockatoo Mary and a hand-reared male bush stone-curlew. 

It follows him about the property like a faithful dog and isn’t past giving a visitor a nip if they get too close to his “owner”.

“He’s a good little fellow, takes care of the mice which I get can a few of with all the bird food around,” he said. 

“But he can peck if he doesn’t like you….he must like you,” he added with a wink. 

There are several bush stone-curlews under Mr Alcock’s care and when this endangered species breeds he often passes on the offspring to wildlife parks across the country. 

He has a Native Animal Keepers Licence from NSW National Parks and Wildlife. 

One of Mr Alcock’s banded masked lapwing pairs recently welcomed three hatchlings, but he was surprised at a fourth arrival this week. 

“There was a second group of eggs I thought weren’t any good but I put them in the incubator out of habit, it was a pleasant surprise when one hatched,” he said.

“I’ve borrowed one of the other three from its parents to keep it company, so the newest is ticking along nicely.” 

A recent scratch by a fruit bat he was trying to extricate from a neighbour’s tree netting resulted in him receiving a week-long series of inoculations (BDN 13/12/13). 

Now fully vaccinated against lyssavirus, a potentially fatal infection that can be passed from bats to humans through bites and scratches, he will be adding bat rescuer to his many NANA duties.

Where possible, Mr Alcock releases adults and healed birds back into their native environments, although this isn’t always possible and his aviaries grow every year. 

A beautiful tawny frogmouth found as a baby in nearby Mogilla and raised by Mr Alcock will soon hopefully be one of his release success stories.

“He’s come along well. I think he’s about ready.” 

“It’s a lot of work, you have to be up a 5am and sometimes through the night with the babies, but I enjoy it,” he said. 

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