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Bird Garden Team

Harewood Welcomes New Baby Donkey into the Fold

Baby donkey born at Harewood House in Yorkshire

Lady, Harewood’s female donkey, gave birth unaided last night to a new foal. The latest arrival is Lady’s first baby and both mum and baby are doing well.

The gestation period for donkeys is twelve months so when Lady arrived at Harewood in August 2016 she was already pregnant.

Nick Dowling, Bird Garden and Farm Experience Manager said: “We began to notice that Lady was widening a few months ago. At first we considered she may be gaining weight however it soon became evident that she was pregnant – much to our surprise!”

“We’re really pleased to have this latest addition in the Farm. Lady is doing all the right things and is showing signs of being a fantastic mother.”

“At the moment we are leaving mum and baby to bond. We suspect that the new baby is female although this is yet to be officially established. Once we confirm the sex, we will name the latest arrival.”

At birth, foals usually weigh between 19 and 30 lbs. (8.6 to 13.6 kg) and can stand and nurse after just 30 minutes. Harewood keepers are keeping a close eye on the new baby ensuring both Lady and the new addition are getting the best care around the clock.

Jane Marriott, Director of Harewood House Trust said: “We’re thrilled to welcome the new arrival to the Farm. Harewood House Trust relies on visitors and our members to support the work of the charity. We hope our latest addition will be a positive new attraction this summer.”

Visitors to Harewood will be able to see the newborn in the Farm this weekend.

Winter in the Bird Garden and Farm

Harewood House in Yorkshire has a bird garden and farm After a very busy summer season and the late rush of Autumn Glory during the October half term, it has suddenly become very quiet in the Bird Garden and Farm. Zucchini and Zebedee the alpacas have moved to a field on the Estate to give their enclosure on Farm a break. The pygmy goats have also moved with them.

Despite the lack of visitors and Farm animals, the workload has not decreased as we have now entered the busy closed season where we have begun our winter projects. This starts off with clearing all the leaves which have fallen onto the paths, paddocks and even in the penguin pool! No small task.

Several of the aviary sheds and roofs are being repaired or maintained and two aviaries are being completely replaced. We are going to extend the farm animal paddocks onto the South Front which is the large field below the Terrace to allow the farm animals extra room, the rabbits and guinea pigs will be getting new larger outdoor pens and the Chilean flamingos will be getting a new lakeside fence. All in all, there is much work to be done this winter!

If you visited us in the summer holidays you would have met our two young donkeys Lady and Max, who are our two most recent arrivals to the Farm. Since arriving they have settled in well and have become very friendly (although much of that is down to food I suspect!), allowing us to groom them, put them into head collars and lift their front feet for cleaning. We are still working on the back feet!

Another big character you might have already met is Molly our Moluccan cockatoo. Molly is actually a boy, but was originally thought to be female by his owners who very kindly donated him to the Bird Garden earlier in the year. He can be found in the aviary opposite the donkeys where he keeps visitors highly entertained by imitating their laughter and talking to them, as well as showing off his salmon coloured crest.

This year we have had a reasonably good breeding season with another Palm cockatoo chick fledging in October. This species is part of a European wide breeding programme and Harewood Bird Garden is one of the few collections that is successfully breeding them, a fact we are very proud of. It’s down the skill and care that the team and I provide which makes this possible.

The Eurasian eagle owl chicks are now are now the same size as mum and dad and I am currently in the process of finding new homes for the three of them. This species is in fact one of the world’s largest owls with a wing span up to 188cm (6ft 2 in)!

Our pair of brown lorys also laid their first eggs this year and although the chick sadly did not survive it was a promising start for them.

We will have a few new arrivals in the Bird Garden for the upcoming season including two Satyr tragopan, a Nepalese pheasant that will go into our Himalayan aviaries, a female Bali starling which his critically endangered will also be on show. We’re happy to report she has already paired up with our male. I hope to bring in a few more new species in the New Year.

As a licenced zoo, Harewood has a responsibility to support research, education and conservation. Earlier this year we have welcomed two students from Leeds University who carried out a study on the Humboldt penguin colony. They studied the bird’s behaviour and then introduced feeding puzzles containing the penguin’s favourite food (sprats) to assess their foraging capabilities and whether birds learned these skills from one another. They have now finished their study and we are eagerly awaiting the write up and subsequent findings.

Olivier Nesengimana, a Rwandan vet visited Harewood Bird Garden in August and gave our visitors, staff and volunteers an inspiring talk on his project ‘Saving Rwanda’s Crowned Cranes’. We have recently started supporting this project which aims to rescue crowned cranes that have been illegally poached from their native habitat in Rwanda and then rehabilitate them back into the wild. It truly is a fascinating and humbling project. To hear about how one man has made it his mission to conserve and protect this majestic bird is something we will never forget. His drive and determination to motivate the Rwandan people and the authorities is immensely inspiring and we look forward to supporting this project further in 2017.

We hope to team up with Leeds University again and look at other ideas that might help Olivier in his work, such as eco-tourism trips to see wild cranes in Rwanda. Olivier was recently in London for the prestigious Tusk Conservation Awards for which he was a nominee. The event is highly regarded in this field and was attended by the likes of Prince William and Sir David Attenborough. A justified accolade for this project.

A day in the life of the Bird Garden team

Visit Yorkshire to see our Bird Garden

I took on my role as Bird Garden and Farm Experience Manager in December 2015, joining Harewood from Edinburgh Zoo. As manager, it’s my responsibility to oversee the daily running of the Bird Garden and the newly created Farm Experience. It’s an exciting, busy part of Harewood which is at the start of a three year development plan to enhance this much loved part of the grounds.

My day begins at 8am when I arrive at the Bird Garden kitchen with the rest of the team. The Bird Garden is home to 37 different bird species which all have specific dietary needs. From the tall, elegant cranes to the critically endangered Bali starling, we make sure each bird has the right food. We also prepare buckets of chopped carrots, apples, pears and leafy greens for our rabbits, guinea pigs and farm animals.

Once prepared, we head to the Bird Garden and begin the task of feeding and cleaning all the aviaries. We check all the birds to make sure that they are in good health whist we’re in the enclosures before the visitors arrive. One of my personal favourites in the Bird Garden are our family of palm cockatoos. These are unusual birds and it’s the first time I’ve worked with them. The youngest of the three birds is very inquisitive and he will often fly around the keepers, watching them closely as we clean and prepare the large aviary.

At this time of year we often find nests full of eggs which we will leave with parents to look after. On some occasions it may be necessary to take the eggs carefully to our artificial incubation room. Here we place them in specially designed incubators and hand rear any chicks that might hatch.

Once all of the birds are fed and checked, we go for a well- earned cup of coffee!

The next job is to clean out the farm animal paddocks and give them their first feed of the day. At 12pm, one of the keepers will take a bucket of eggs, veg and fruit to the pig enclosure. Here we invite visitors to take an item from the bucket and throw it over the fence for the pigs to enjoy. They are full of character and, since their arrival in March, I’ve grown very fond of them. Once the pigs have had their fill, we move onto the next paddock. Once again visitors can feed leafy greens to our hungry pygmy goats.

After lunch, I often leave the Bird Garden and Farm in the capable hands of the team and head over to the office to carry out the necessary (and inevitable!) paperwork for the day. This includes record keeping, ordering supplies, planning for upcoming events, liaising with the vet, managing new arrivals and arranging transportation of animals who may be leaving our care.

A significant role for the Bird Garden is the care and preservation of endangered species. Many of the birds we manage are in captive breeding programmes which supports their ongoing survival. These breeding programmes exist to support the genetic variation of captive populations. Computer databases help compile studbooks that record the details of each individual animal in the programme. This includes the animal’s sex, date of birth, and full family history. No money changes hands when we exchange animals with other zoos. Our aim is purely to save and protect endangered wildlife.

We have welcomed several new additions including six Humboldt penguins which arrived in early March from the Cotswold Wildlife Park in Oxfordshire. We also took on an egg which our colony have adopted. We hope that this foster-chick will hatch soon.

Other new additions include a pair of cheer pheasants which form part of our Himalayan themed enclosures overlooking the Lake, and a large group of roul roul partridge, an appealing, ground dwelling bird from Borneo.

When I’m in the office, it’s also the time that I catch up with the rest of the team who work outside the Bird Garden. The team at Harewood have a lot to juggle from school groups to TV interviews!

At 3:30pm, I will head back to the Bird Garden to carry out the Daily Penguin Talk and often find myself introducing not only the penguins, but also the wild grey herons and red kites that visit the enclosure hoping they might help themselves to a sprat or two!

Once I have answered the varied and interesting questions from visitors, I will either head back to the office, or carry out a variety of tasks around the Bird Garden until it is time to close for the evening. Every day there are new and exciting challenges arriving, so no two days are ever the same.

By Nick Dowling, Bird Garden and Farm Experience Manager

New Plans Hatching in the Bird Garden

When I started on 7th December 2015, Harewood was already a hive of activity and over the past few months it has only gathered momentum!

Bird Garden Redevelopment Project - tree clearing credit Harewood House Trust (7)

The Bird Garden is undergoing a massive overhaul, with enclosures being taken down to make way for a brand new Central Hub. Tonnes of overgrown shrubs and trees have been taken away to open up beautiful views across the Lake.

The Bird Garden aviaries are also having a facelift and I am making plans for new species to join our existing collection. This will include a number of Himalayan birds that will be housed in the Lakeside aviaries.

Visit Harewood House in Yorkshire to see palm cockatoos

Palm cockatoos

We will also have aviaries dedicated to important international conservation work situated on the eastern side of the garden. These will be home to many endangered birds found throughout the world. A new species for you all to look out for this season are the Palm Cockatoos. This fascinating birds boast wonderful black feathers with an impressive crest and vivid pink cheeks. We hope that you come along to see these interesting creatures.

Harewood House penguin pool project

The penguins are also moving up the property ladder with a full refurbishment of their enclosure. New rock work and nesting caves will be a welcome improvement to our Humboldt family home.

And of course there will be the usual favourites including the Chilean flamingos, blue and gold macaws and Colin the Crow!

Harewood House has Harewood Farm with alpacas

This is only the start of the work that is planned before we re-open on March 25th. We are well under way with work on Harewood’s new Farm Experience. This week I have started to look for new residents for this brand new attraction.

We are all looking forward to welcoming you once again to the Bird Garden.

Bird Garden Redevelopment 2016

This winter, a mammoth effort has been made to modernise Harewood’s Bird Garden and to open up previously closed areas. The Bird Garden has been at Harewood since 1970 and needed a great deal of attention! Every member of Harewood’s team has been involved; from Gardens to Education.

Bird Garden Redevelopment Project - tree clearing credit Harewood House Trust (7)

Tree and shrub removal

The project, which is part of a three year development plan, has seen a great deal of tree work undertaken. Tonnes of overgrown trees and shrubs have been removed, reopening views across the Lake. It has taken 8 Grounds staff plus 10 volunteers 5 months to make this transformation happen. Visitors will notice the new landscaping forming part of this work. This is an ongoing project with more to come throughout 2016.

The aviaries have also seen changes. Overgrown ivy has been removed and the interiors have had a spruce ready for the breeding season.

Harewood House penguin pool project

Penguin Pool redevelopment

Working with Nautilus, a zoological enclosure specialist, large scale project works have been undertaken. Most significantly, the Penguin Pool has seen a total revamp. New rock work has been sculpted by the expert team and new burrows have been created for our Humboldt family.

Nautilus have also overseen the construction of a new Central Hub. The structure sits in the heart of the Bird Garden with views across the Lake. This area will be used for family activities, school groups and as a place to sit and relax.

Fresh interpretation has been written for the 37 species of birds cared for in the Harewood Bird Garden. This is a rolling programme of work with more to follow throughout 2016. The importance of conservation and protecting endangered species is at the core of the message.

Parrot aviaries at Harewood House

Palm cockatoos

But that’s not all! We have reopened closed areas of the Bird Garden, giving you the opportunity to see the charismatic palm cockatoos. These entertaining birds boast iridescent black feathers and bright pink cheeks. Residing in the largest aviary at Harewood, these birds are a must see when you visit.

The collection plan has been given more focus, with dedicated themes tying in with the wider conservation initiatives and messages. Harewood’s connection with the Himalaya’s has been taken into account, with new species from the region joining us this year. The pekin robin is one bird you will be able to see from this part of the world in 2016.

Beyond the exotic species, a fresh initiative to represent our native wildlife has also been undertaken. A brand new minibeast trail has been created with plans to tell visitors more about the Red Kites, barn owls and water fowl coming later this year.

We hope to see you this year and we hope that you will enjoy all the changes that have taken place!