by Chris Tobin
When Timaru Girls’ High School principal Deb Hales rushed to help a bird struggling in the surf near Jack’s Point 11 days ago, she thought it might have been a seagull.
The bird was being pummelled by heavy waves in the stormy weather after getting its beak caught in seaweed.
After dashing down to the water’s edge and lifting the bird as the tide was out, she found it had a large beak and was a lot bigger than she at first thought.
“It was in bad shape, sodden, floppy and very passive and didn’t resist being lifted.
“I walked 400m along the beach first to a flat area and put it down on a grassy patch. I had slipped in the mud as well and had to get myself sorted.
“It got heavier and heavier – my arms and back got a good workout.”
On reaching her car, about 25 minutes after taking the bird from the turbulent seas, she rang Zena Guthrie, of South Canterbury Bird Rescue.
“I’m a bit of an animal lover and had taken a small bird to Zena about a year before.
“When I rang her all I could say was, ‘it’s big.’ She was surprised.”
Ms Hales took the bird to Ms Guthrie’s, where she identified it as a white-capped albatross, or mollymawk. These birds weigh 3.4kg to 4.4kg and have a wingspan of up to 256cm.
The albatross was checked over by a veterinarian, given fluids, placed on a heat pad and taken to the Dunedin Wildlife Hospital, where it was quickly on the road to recovery. It is expected to be released soon.
“I’m very pleased with how it’s turned out,” Ms Hales said.