By CLARE CHAPMAN
WHEN Clarence Valley WIRES received a call to rescue a tern tangled in fishing wire from Lawrence last month, they were not expecting it to be the oldest of its kind ever recorded in Australia.
Local WIRES member Linda Wright arrived at the scene and collected the caspian tern from the concerned fisherman who had called in the rescue, and had managed to untangle the bird.
Once home, Mrs Wright gently sprayed the tern with water to clean it, only to excitedly find that it had a band on its leg with 'write CSIRO Canberra Australia/082-43604' printed on it.
On phoning the CSIRO, she discovered that the monitoring of banded birds had since been handed over to the Australian Bird and Bat Banding Scheme (ABBBS) and after placing a call with them, she received a very excited return call informing her that this tern had indeed been banded as a nestling, indicating it had successfully grown to adulthood after being rescued in 1982 in Victoria.
This makes the tern the oldest of its species ever recorded in Australia by seven years ? the previous oldest was 16 and only three others have ever been recorded over the age of 10.
Unfortunately, despite four days of attentive care from Mrs Wright and two other WIRES carers, the fishing line episode proved too much and the tern died.
It was thought that the tern may have been trapped for some time, as it was extremely weak, thin and lice-ridden when it arrived in care.
Due to the age of this tern, it has been sent to the Australian Museum for study and archives.
Caspian terns, the largest of the tern family, are found on all continents except Antarctica.
They dive for fish, hence they have webbed feet, and have a beak which is a spectacular six to seven centimetres long and bright red ? something Mrs Wright said, 'is quite scary if it's being snapped loudly in your direction'.
WIRES implores local fishermen to take home all scraps of fishing line, as well as hooks and plastic bait bags, and also urge the constant monitoring of any fixed line. If a bird or other animal does become entangled, the sooner it is rescued the better its chance of survival.
TO donate items to help with Clarence Valley WIRES Monster Easter Garage Sale, being held on the Easter long weekend, at the old Bunnings Warehouse, on Treelands Drive in Yamba, phone their 24-hour local hotline on 0500 894 737.