It could happen any moment. A call or message could reach me that a small bird has been found in my area and it needs help. I would immediately drop my work and prepare a heated box. Why? I am a private sanctuary for wild birds!
It all started on a Friday afternoon before the holidays when I was still at school. I worked for the school newspaper and I was busy. Apart from me and a few fellow writers, the school was pretty much empty. Then, another writer suddenly came rushing in: They found a little bird on the street. Next to it was its dead mother. So, they put it in a box and took it to the school garden. I went out immediately. We thought about what to do with the little one. Although it was already fletched, it could not walk properly. Since it was the last day of school and nobody was there to ask for help, I decided to take the little one home with me. And that’s how it all started.
I named the little bird Jack. I asked my vet what to do next and he encouraged me to raise Jack myself. Said and done. Now, looking back, I certainly didn’t do everything right back then. I would not recommend to do what I did to anyone today. But Jack survived somehow and became a beautiful Fieldfare male. A year later, a teacher approached me: She had heard that I had raised a bird last year and she had an emergency at home. A marten must have plundered the nest. Only one chick survived and it was injured. So, I adopted my second bird: Phoebe, a blackbird. She also survived and grew up, but could never fly.
Every year more people contacted me and I learned a lot. In the meantime, I had also made contact with other bird stations. I learned that I hadn’t done everything right. I got the right food, housings and accessories. I drove every grown up bird that was ready for nature to the next station with an aviary. The drive was long with mostly 1-2 hours. The birds needed a release aviary with conspecifics in which it could be prepared for life in the wild. Someday, I had so many birds that I built my own aviary in the garden. Gladly, my parents were okay with it and I had the knowledge to do it right the first time.
Bird season means two things to me: little sleep and little free time. The birds need to be fed about every half hour: from sunrise to sunset. Their conditions might be critical even at night. In the last few years, I was still studying and had a part-time job. Luckily I was allowed to take the birds to university. (Except that one time in one course. One guest lecturer didn’t allow it.) Then, I fed them briefly between classes. And my boss in the office job also agreed that I could bring the little ones with me. At some times, I even brought three large boxes with me. And every hour the birds screamed loudly for food. Fortunately, my fellow students and colleagues in the office were noise resistant and kind enough to endure. Traveling during spring and summer times is almost impossible for me. I have to look for stations that can accommodate my birds – sometimes there are 30 in number. Even doctor’s appointments or visits to the hairdresser become difficult. In the end, a big problem with my hobby is that I don’t have an own car. That means I always transported the birds by bus. The funny lady with the beeping bags is certainly already well-known among the bus drivers!
Since I’ve been working more and more from my home office, the logistics have become a little easier. So, the birds are daily companions at conferences and meetings. I often have to mute myself because some people find the loud beeping annoying. (My co-workers at NightinGames obviously would never ask me to mute myself!)
A frequent problem that unfortunately occurs is when finders do not bring the birds. I’m not questioning whether they can’t or don’t want to. After all, if you want, you can always find a way. There’s a bus stop a few meters away of my home. It’s not I am living on Mars. Then, it’s up to me to find a way. I need to call someone from my fellow bird stations to pick up the new bird for me. I can’t just leave my baby birds at home because the little ones have to be fed regularly. Usually, the finders don’t leave me any donations, even if I manage it somehow to pick up the bird at their homes.
Perhaps you are wondering how the whole thing is financed. And I can say: Not at all. I’ve been paying for everything out of my own pocket since the beginning. I am a completely private person whose hobby is probably very costly and time-consuming. There is no government support or anything like that. To give you a little insight: The most expensive things are the insects. I need kilograms of insects for food! Feeding a bird from the day it arrives at my home until the day it flies back to nature are minimum 50 euros. That’s a single bird! I have around 200 birds each year.
That’s why I’m always very happy when a finder not only gives me the bird, but also leaves money as a donation. In return, he can then follow on my website how things are going with the bird, because I keep a small diary with important steps and photos for each bird.
If you would like to learn more about the work of the wild bird stations, you are welcome to watch this small documentary, which we shot three years ago. Anyone who finds a bird in Germany is lucky, because we have a wonderful volunteer group here that networks all the bird stations. In the Facebook group Wildvogelhilfe-Notfälle you only have to post a photo and postcode and you will be helped with first aid instructions and nearby stations will be searched out.
I really love this work. Even if the season is very exhausting. I’m also happy when all the little birds are back in nature early fall. I miss every single one of them. The best thing ever happened to me was when four starlings came back to me after one year. They were in the south over the winter and one spring morning they were back on my aviary – their home. These are the moments that pay off all the hard work and you can just watch them with tears of joy in your eyes because they are free and healthy.
You are thinking about helping me in some way? Feel free to have a look at my website. Soon, the season is starting again and I am always happy about donations. (The donations don’t need to be money. There are several ways to support my work.)