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5 Minutes with Nick Dowling, Bird Garden Manager

BirdGarden BlogNick Dowling hasn’t stopped over Christmas and New Year, as the Bird Garden at Harewood is constantly ‘open’ for activity looking after the birds. Here he takes five minutes out…

Are there any highlights from 2018 that you particularly enjoyed?
2018 was a busy but promising year for the Bird Garden. Several of our newly paired birds had their first attempts at breeding during the spring and summer months, including the red legged seriema and Satyr tragopan. Our palm cockatoos raised a chick and the collared hill partridge enjoyed another good season raising three more chicks, as did the silver pheasant pair.

We welcomed four female goats, two mothers and their kids, as well as four breeds of heritage chickens into the Walled Garden as part of the Seeds of Hope exhibition, which ran throughout the summer months. Our younger visitors in particular enjoyed feeding the goats and helping keepers to collect the eggs during the holidays.

Other highlights included the arrival of thirty Java sparrows, eleven black-cheeked lovebirds, a pair of Nepal kalij pheasants, two male critically-endangered Edward’s pheasants as well as a female burrowing owl to join our male.

But the main highlight of 2018 in the Bird Garden was the successful hand rearing of two Brown Lory chicks by keeper Lisa Bath. The two girls were removed from their nest at just two days old and raised for over two months, syringe fed on specially made formula every few hours. Goldie and Blue, as they were very soon to be known, had to be removed from their nest as the parents have been prone to feeding their young unsuitable food items, such as leaves and feathers. You will be able to meet Goldie and Blue when they move next door to the lovebirds in the spring.

The newly added Ferry across the Lake and its adjoining jetty, has proved extremely popular with visitors linking the Bird Garden on a scenic and restful route across to the Walled Garden, and many of the free-roaming birds have enjoyed this new space.

Whilst the House and grounds are closed for three months until March, what’s going on behind the scenes?
Over the next two and a half months the keepers and volunteers will be working hard to prepare for another breeding season, pairing up birds, making new nest boxes and providing suitable habitats to help the birds feel safe and secure in their environment. We also take this opportunity to carry out essential and routine maintenance work on aviaries and enclosures.

This is the time of year I look to move any young birds that we have bred at Harewood onto new homes in other zoos, as well as bringing in new birds to pair up with our own.

What’s on the agenda for when Harewood reopens in March?
We’ll be bringing in one or two exciting and fascinating new species ready for re-opening in March, watch this space for further announcements!

Jane Marriott, Trust Director, looking forward to 2019

HarewoodBiennial19_GlassWe are all now great Mary Berry fans at Harewood. Over Christmas over 2 million people watched Mary at Harewood House on the BBC.

But what we particularly enjoyed was showing Mary and the wonderful crew at Shine TV, the many stories that have developed here over two centuries, and give an insight into how the future might look.

Starting the year with so many political and economic uncertainties in the face of Brexit, it is perhaps not surprising that we look to the comfort and steadfastness of spending time at home, surrounding ourselves with our treasured and familiar objects, spending time with friends and family. The holiday industry is also anticipating that it will become a sector driven less by exotic spa-breaks and overseas far flung holidays, and more by a growth in accessible, affordable ways to take time out and enjoy what is on our doorstep.

Interestingly, everything is now seemingly based on buying local, supporting great makers and surrounding ourselves with beautiful, tactile objects, from thick wool rugs, to velvet throws and gorgeous objects on display – this is reassuring and helps us feel as though we have some control in how we look after ourselves. Our homes are a place to retreat to and replenish ….I’d like Harewood to feel the same as you drive through the gates into another world, which is just as familiar, warming and enjoyable.

Craft and design will always be affected by what is happening in the world and this current moment is no exception. We will celebrate great makers this year with ‘Useful/Beautiful: why craft matters’, the first exhibition of our newly launched Harewood Biennial. We’ll pose questions about craft in a digital age and our yearning still for something physical and sensory. To explore objects that give us a thrill to look at, touch and ponder. To wonder how something was made, who was involved and why they chose to make it. Our ambition is to create the most significant craft and design show outside London every two years.

We are clearly moving towards a rejection of a throw-away society and a pace of life so fast that it is exhausting. This year at Harewood we’ll continue to help visitors find their oasis of space, perhaps by wandering through the engaging sound installation of the Pleasure Garden, sited in the Walled Garden this summer, or by celebrating 30 years of working with great contemporary artists at Harewood, in a new exhibition in the autumn called ‘Postcards to the Future’.

For now, after a day of meandering through the glorious work of great craftsmen from the past at Harewood, from expansive Adam ceilings to intricate carvings on Chippendale furniture, I am happy to be inspired to create my own corner of luxury at home. Let’s not kid ourselves, my house is far from an architectural gem, revealing a mix of Georgian, Victorian and 20th century additions…but I can’t deny the thrill of pulling back old carpets and chipboard to reveal striking slightly battered floorboards yearning to be restored. My husband and I may yet be our own versions of great craftsmen ….!

Parroting on about it…

Loro Parque ParrotIn a recent visit to Loro Parque, Tenerife, Harewood Bird Garden specialist Lisa Bath recounts behind the scenes of her trip.

Last year was a big birthday for me and so I made it an aim to visit all the places and events I had been meaning to go to but never got around to. Top of the list was the International Parrot Convention, which is held every four years at Loro Parque in Tenerife. Fortuitously for me 2018 was the year of the 9th convention so I took this as destiny and booked my tickets. It also coincided with my 10th anniversary of working at Harewood Bird Garden. I began working here in 2009 with parrots and penguins after completing a BSc in Animal Management. My dissertation focused on Amazon Parrots, hence my motivation to travel.

The convention attracts delegates from 47 countries who all converge on the island to discuss everything parrot related, with three days of talks by some of the foremost parrot experts in the world. Participants from zoos, private collections, biologists, veterinarians and conservationists working in the field are given the chance to connect and share information.

For anyone interested in parrots, a visit to Loro Parque is a must. The Collection houses around 4,000 individual birds from 350 different parrot species and is one of the biggest collections in the world. The Loro Parque Foundation also supports projects to conserve parrots in their natural environment and is regarded as the authority on all things parrot and not only that one of the best zoos in the world.

For me it was a chance to gain knowledge and make connections with others who work with parrots. Not only was this in the form of the lectures and workshops but also just walking round the zoo looking at the exhibits. I attended a workshop on hand-rearing parrots run by the curator of birds at Loro Parque, which helped hone the skills I had developed over the summer when hand rearing two Brown Lories at Harewood. I also looked at the enclosures and gained some good ideas about aviary layout. As I result, I will be trying some swinging perches and different ways of feeding the parrots in my care that will add more entertainment for them.

The highlights of the trip for me were seeing lots of different species of parrot that I had always wanted to see. My favourite was the Pesquets Parrot, pictured. Also meeting new people was an amazing experience, especially as there were people there with so much knowledge to share – I learnt as much valuable information over the dinner table as I did in the lecture theatre.

Loro Parque in Tenerife
Being a bird keeper and working with parrots is a dream for me. At Harewood we have ten species of parrot, some of which are pets which have been donated to us, and others are rare and unusual such as the Palm cockatoos and the Greater Vasa Parrot, the latter species has an unusual breeding behaviour whereby the female goes completely bald on the head. Every day is different and you are interacting with birds every day. I think it is a privilege to be able to work so closely with them and there is no greater job satisfaction than seeing happy healthy birds in the environment that you are providing. This is why I feel it is very important to continually learn and communicate with other aviculturists to ensure that the birds that you care for can receive the best life possible. The Loro Parque International Parrot Convention was an ideal opportunity for me to do this and I am already looking forward to attending again.