Bird lover and Bird Keeper extraordinaire, Peter Stubbs is just as much a part of the Bird Garden at Harewood, having worked here since 1974, just four years after the opening.
What’s your role in the Harewood Bird Garden?
Official Title – Senior Keeper. Actual? Same as everybody else. Bird keeper, gardener, builder, carpenter, painter, food caterer, educator, tour guide, supervisor , pest controller…
What’s your background?
I didn’t have any official training before Harewood, they certainly don’t teach this at school, but I have been on various avicultural courses over the years such as incubation and rearing and, like in life, you learn on the job from other people.
Can you describe what a typical day might look like?
My alarm goes off at 4.50am and I’m on the first bus normally at 5.50am. I enjoy the walk down the drive first thing, it’s a lovely walk and setting and I arrive just after 7am with time to do the crossword and enjoy a coffee.
Food prep for the birds starts at 8am, with a break when that’s finished. Depending on how many keepers are working that day, feeding the birds can take a couple of hours. I usually wash the food dishes and prepare the dry food after lunch, ready for the next day. This takes me up to somewhere between 2-3pm. In the afternoon it’s back over to do aviary work; waters, cleaning, landscaping, perching, etc.
The afternoon/evening feeds are done depending on dusk times and daylight length. This can be as early as 3pm in winter, much later during summer. Then it’s back over to the portacabin for the final wash up before heading home. I’m normally back somewhere between 7 and 8pm.
Do you have a favourite part of the job?
Yes, usually something which entails close contact with the birds.
There’s great satisfaction from completely setting up an aviary, from floor coverings and landscaping to planting, perching and nest siting. Doing this and seeing that the birds feel at home and secure enough to reproduce successfully is a job well done in my book.
Is there a least favourite part?
Filling in questionnaires, review forms and the like!
If you were not doing this job, What would you be doing?
Living a life of luxury…(chuckles)
You’re not supposed to have favourites, but do you and why?
Who says we’re not supposed to have favourites?! I usually say it’s whatever I’m stood next to at time of asking. As I’m filling this out at home it’s the African Grey Parrot whistling in my ear.
At the moment the Crested Seriemas are particular favourites. Their actions, confidence and boldness, their ancestry, the way they look can transport your imagination back millions of years to a time when their ancestors were the top predators in the land. They have nice eyelashes too. (amongst the only birds to have this!)
The Bird Garden is a vital part of Harewood, visitors really enjoy the interaction with the birds and learning more about them and how we can protect them from extinction.
It’s the 50th anniversary of the Bird Garden, look out for new exhibitions, openings and events across the year here.