+44 (0)113 218 1010

[javascript protected email address]

Category

Bird Garden 50

From chopping up fruit in the morning to an afternoon in the office: A day in the life of Bird Garden Intern Joel

Joel with a Brown Lory on his arm

In August, Joel joined Harewood as a Bird Garden Intern. In our latest blog, he reflects on how he came to intern for Harewood, an average day on site and shares his plans for the future.

I’m Joel and I worked as a Bird Garden intern at Harewood in August. I grew up in and attended schools in East Leeds. This summer I graduated from the University of Leeds with a degree in Environmental science, which included a year abroad at Osaka university in Japan. My degree was centred around the interactions between the Earth systems and how human activity has and continues to impact the environment we live in.

During my studies at university, I volunteered at RSPB Fairburn Ings. This consisted largely of site management, ensuring that the reserve was suitable for both guests and wildlife. 

My ideal career would have a good balance of field and office work, perhaps as a consultant ecologist with a specialisation in insects. I would like my work to be centred around conservation, creating environments in which humans and nature can coexist.

The Plus Programme, part of the Access to Leeds scheme at my university, made me aware of this opportunity in an emailed newsletter. The plus programme gives extra support and opportunities as well as events to students from underrepresented backgrounds at Leeds University. The application process, as the first (of hopefully many) Bird Garden intern at Harewood, was straightforward. I just sent off my CV and attended a 30-minute informal interview. 

Joel cutting fruit

A typical day starts off with chopping up fruit and veg for the farm animals and birds. Then after clean-up and a quick tea break, it’s feeding time. Feeding the animals involves checking the enclosures and furnishings are in good condition and ensuring they have access to clean water. It is also important to check the condition of the animals and monitor their behaviours. Knowing individual animals, as well as typical behaviour for species, may indicate something- such as breeding or illness. Understanding this means a healthy and happy collection, as the keepers can act accordingly.

Joel sat at the computer

The afternoon sometimes involves a miscellaneous task, which ranges from cleaning out enclosures, monitoring animal introductions to moving bits and pieces about the bird garden. Then it’s to the office for some much-appreciated time off of my feet. Office work revolves around ZIMS, a zoo collection management software. ZIMS functions as a pseudo bird garden news, in which the day’s occurrences are reported. Animal movements, births, deaths, behaviours, vet reports, worming and weights all need to be recorded. Keeping records of the animals and their enclosures gives us a good knowledge base to refer back to. Then after that, it’s home time.

My favourite parts about being the Bird Garden intern was the practical experience I gained, as well as the knowledge the team shared with me whilst doing this. I enjoyed learning about the behind-the-scenes aspects of managing a zoo. What works best isn’t always simple and straightforward, when working with animals your approach has to be tailored to the individual. Seeing and learning about this process surprised me and was super interesting. The team was always happy to share their knowledge with me and answer any questions I had. Feeding the animals was also really fun. The Striated Caracaras and Andean Condors were good to feed, as they are very keen feeders, albeit a bit intimidating. The Brown Lorries were very entertaining to feed too, and I loved that as I spent more time with them during working here, they began to trust me more, to the extent that they make it difficult for me to leave their enclosure without them on me. It was also a bit disconcerting saying hello to them, and having them answer me back! 

After I finish this internship, I will be learning to drive so that I am able to find a job as a graduate ecologist. Working at Harewood has certainly enhanced my skill set and will definitely aid me in my search. 

Igor The Palm Cockatoo

Meet Igor, the Palm Cockatoo.

Igor’s beak was slightly off-centre. Since parrots’ beaks continue to grow throughout their lifetime, they usually wear them down either by chewing on branches or hard items such as nut shells, or by rubbing the lower mandible against the upper mandible which makes a rasping noise (which makes Nick, our Bird Garden Manager, cringe)! Because Igor’s beak was not straight, it ran the risk of not wearing down evenly: sadly an overgrown or mis-aligned beak can cause problems for parrots as it hinders their ability to feed themselves or their chicks properly. They may also have issues climbing and moving about naturally.

 

In order to give Igor the best chance in life, the vet was recently called out and fortunately (for Igor !), his beak was not severe enough to need a brace. Instead, the vet carried out a beak trimming procedure; an operation requiring anaesthetic. We are very much hoping that since he is a young bird who is still growing, this minor beak trim will allow the beak to correct itself and straighten out. If these problems are caught early enough they can usually be relatively easy to solve. In the picture above he is showing off his newly trimmed beak.

 

Operations such as these go hand-in-hand with caring for living collections such as those found at Harewood. Our annual vets bills are in excess of £15,000, that’s around 400 Individual memberships every year.

 

Igor is the first palm cockatoo to be hand raised at Harewood. We removed him from the nest at seven days old, as chicks have not recently been surviving with their parents during the last couple of breeding seasons. After four months of hand feeding the chick, he is now fledged (able to fly)  and almost fully weaned onto his adult diet. He will go on to play an important role in European breeding programme for this increasingly threatened species.

 

It’s Snow Laughing Matter – A Bird Garden Winter Update

Our Burrowing Owls in the snow. Picture by Francesca from our Bird Garden Team.

Last week saw West Yorkshire covered in snow, with Harewood forced to close to visitors due to the weather. In this blog, our Bird Garden Manager Nick Dowling explains how our feathered friends deal with the cold temperatures. 

Although most of the species we keep in the Bird Garden are cold hardy and well acclimatised to the Yorkshire weather, the recent low temperatures and snow have meant that some of the tropical birds such as the cockatoos and brown lorys have been making good use of their heated sheds. The flamingos have also been shut into the boat house while the lake has been frozen. Although naturally they are able to live at high altitudes and survive extremely low temperatures, a combination of long legs and slippery surfaces can cause problems for flamingos, so for their safety we keep them inside until the ice has melted.

Two of our Kookaburras enjoying (?) the snow. Photo by Francesca.

Another potential problem caused by the lake freezing are visits from foxes who travel across the ice to snoop around the bird garden at night. Keepers have the tiring task of breaking ice around the chain ferry and Capability boat jetties to ensure there is no easy access route for potential predators. Unfortunately our mother and son red crested turaco did not have the sense to roost indoors so our keepers Abby and Peter have had to use gentle encouragement and shut them in their warm house on an evening!

 

A frosty Penguin Pool ! Photo by Francesca.

Although from the Atacama Desert of Peru and Chile, the Humboldt penguins are quite content in the snow and often the younger members of the colony will chase snowflakes as they fall.  Due to the freezing cold currents in which they swim, as well as the cold desert nights, Humboldt penguins are well adapted to cope with the cold despite their status as a tropical penguin species. They have a layer of blubber under their skin for added insulation, as well as two layers of thick densely packed feathers for waterproofing and further protection against the cold.

 

Our Andean Condor isn’t too sure what to make of this snow…Photo by Abby, a member of our Bird Garden Team.

 

Some more feathered friends were out and about in the snow last week : 

A Greater rhea and Alpaca out for a snowy walk. Photo by Francesca.

Our Satyr tragopan standing out against the snowy backdrop with its bright feathers. Photo by Francesca.

A Family Love Affair with Birds, by Ben Lascelles

Harewood_House_Trust_BirdsWith a degree in Environmental Management and Economics, Ben Lascelles is the son of the current Earl of Harewood and manages the Harewood Estate, whilst playing an active role in contributing to the Charity’s Bird Garden management.

1. What’s your background and connection to Harewood Bird Garden?
I manage the Harewood Estate, the land surrounding the charitable Trust, and am Chair of the Harewood Bird Garden Advisory Group.
I’ve always loved the outdoors and birding is a great excuse to get outside and observe the world around us. As kids we’d spend a lot of time outside, climbing, swimming, having picnics and exploring. I think my first proper bird experience was visiting the famous RSPB reserve of Minsmere in Suffolk, close to where my grandmother lived for some years.

I had a year off before studying Environmental Management and Economics at York University, heading to Nepal and working as a guide in a safari lodge. This is where I really got into wildlife photography.

2. Where have your bird studies taken you?
The nature of my studies has enabled me to travel all over the world and work on some incredibly varied and far reaching projects. This has included time on a remote mountain range in Southern Tanzania, which had a lot of unusual and rare species of birds, a year working in Mauritius, contributing to a project to study the Pink Pigeon, a species we kept for many years in the Harewood bird garden, several years in the most famous rare bird migration spot in the UK, the Scilly Isles and then a project with the Smithsonian Institute in Panama, Central America.

I’ve also studied topics closer to home such as projects on Drax Power Station, Dalby Forest and Pocklington Canal, but these international visits have expanded my knowledge about the importance of conservation, what interventions work in different locations and given me a passion to share this knowledge and these incredible bird species where I can.

HarewoodHouse_Trust_birds2

3. What do you know of your family’s love for birds?
My grandparents had a strong interest in and love of birds when they established the Harewood Bird Garden in 1970. I was also aware that my father had an interest via film work he undertook on various research trips in the 70s. However, the family connection reaches much further back. Harewood was home to an 18th Century menagerie and Charles Canning received an award for the introduction of Himalayan pheasants into England. Later my grandfather was President of the World Pheasant Association for many years.

Gerald Lascelles, son of the 4th Earl, was a competent falconer from an early age. He wrote several pioneering books on falconry and land management and was a land manager in the New Forest for many years. When moving back to Yorkshire some years ago, I enjoyed learning about Princess Mary’s interest in birds and of her ornamental owl collection. I thought I’d built up quite a good selection of owl figurines over the years, put to shame by her Faberge Owl!

Ben Lascelles, Harewood Estate (3)

4. Why is an understanding of birds and bird conservation important/enriching?
In our globalised world, it’s more important than ever that we’re aware of the impacts our choices can have on the environment and the species within it. Consumer choice drives so much of our politics and economics that making informed decisions about what we buy is a key part of sustainability and conservation. Until recent years, we haven’t always been aware of the impacts we have or the choices we can make.
Birds are great indicators of what’s going on in the world around us and how their numbers fluctuate can inform us around how sustainable different practices are.

And in this fast-paced world, taking time out to just sit and observe is a great release for stress and anxiety. Mindfulness and wellbeing are easily associated with watching birds.

5. As Chair of the Bird Advisory Group at Harewood House, what role do you play?
I was asked to set up and chair the Advisory Group around five years ago. The group provides advice and recommendations to the Harewood Trustees for all matters relating to the Bird Garden. I’m keen to better make the connection between conservation works here at the charity and on the estate with those going on abroad.

The mantra of “think global, act local” is a good one. The group is a forum for assessing and adopting best practice in the Bird Garden across a range of topics such as ethics, fundraising for the charity, project development and collection planning. With my background in science, I’m trying to bring some data driven rigour to our recommendations and help make connections to conservation projects round the world, which is where the Bird Garden has a role to play, in connecting young people.

6. What’s significant about Harewood’s bird collection and role?
50 years is a long time for a small collection such as ours to keep running. We’ve always had excellent care of the birds in our collection and over the years some notable successes in breeding in captivity. This is a critical step before reintroduction schemes can take place.
In recent years we’ve scaled the collection back somewhat to allow us to focus our efforts on key areas where there is a connection to Harewood, including South America, the Himalayas, parrots and our native wildlife.

The Harewood Bird Garden plays an important role in raising awareness for the plight of some of these endangered species, through the appreciation gained through seeing them and learning about them from the keepers and from a visit to Harewood.

To learn more about how you can play your role in supporting the Bird Garden Appeal, read more here.

New Bird Game to Download and Play

Harewood_House_PeckingOrderBirdGameIn the countdown to what would have been the Half Term Holidays The Pecking Order is an activity pack of 56 playful bird statistic, free to download online.

The colourful cards represent the 56 different species of birds in the Harewood Bird Garden and the ‘Top Trumps’ style game has been created to celebrate the 50th anniversary this year – just one of many online initiatives to entertain families and children, stay connected whilst they cannot be at Harewood, and also to raise awareness for the Bird Appeal.

Nick Dowling, Bird Garden Manager, said; “We’re really excited to be sharing our bird collection with the public in such a year. Birds have been a part of Harewood’s heritage dating as far back as the 4th Earl in the 19th century and when the 7th Earl George Lascelles and his wife Patricia set up the Harewood Bird Garden in 1970, it was not only to provide an opportunity for people to see some incredible species up close, it was with the hope that visitors would learn about and care for the conservation of the birds, something that remains at the core of the charity’s work today.”

The majority of Harewood’s 300+ birds are endangered in the wild, with several species critically endangered and some believed to be extinct.

Playing an active role in 17 international breeding projects, Harewood is also a holding venue for confiscated birds from the illegal customs trade and a rehabilitation facility for injured Red Kites.

Whilst the gates are closed to the House and visitor attraction, work behind the scenes to care for the birds must continue in spite of no visitor income, which is the reason why the Trust has an ambition to raise £35,000 at this time – the amount it costs to take care of our birds for 12 weeks.

Four cards will be available to download daily from Sunday 17 May. These will be uploaded to the Harewood website and shared across social media @HarewoodHouse on Facebook and Instagram. The ‘wow’ factor is scored across size, weight, intelligence, lifespan and risk of extinction.

A weekend of birthday celebrations will go ahead as planned on the last weekend of the Half Term, 30 & 31 May, but with activities online. These include creative sessions with Aardman Animations model maker Jim Parkyn and Leeds-based bird illustrator, Matt Sewell, in addition to a virtual party online.

With just six weeks to go, the Bird Appeal is calling out for those passionate about birds and engaged in the work Harewood is doing to support if they can.