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Bird Garden 50

Menagerie – new contemporary sculpture in the House

Harewood_House_Kate_MccGwireInstalled behind currently closed doors, waiting to be revealed in the beautiful 18th century rooms of Harewood House is a new exhibition by Kate MccGwire, an artist who makes sculptural works and installation from feathers.

Due to open on 21st March, we will now have to wait until later this year to present it.

As a country house with a 30 year history of working with great contemporary artists, Kate MccGwire is someone we had wanted to work with for a long time. 2020 offered the perfect opportunity as we celebrate the 50th anniversary of Harewood’s Bird Garden and collection. It wasn’t an ornithological exhibition about the bird collection that we wanted. It was an exhibition that reflected something of the unique ‘otherness` of a bird and would cause our visitors to reflect, stop and wonder at the micro beauty of a…feather, that remarkable, protective, resilient but fragile material that forms the basis of all of MccGwire’s sculptures, transformed by her into extraordinary, sometimes, disturbing objects.

Harewood_House_Kate_Mccgwire
While the Harewood bird collection is set up to protect rare and exotic birds and endangered species, this artist turns the spotlight on the common bird questioning commonplace perceptions and prejudices. A pigeon may not be our favourite bird, even invoking disgust in some people, but MccGwire’s sculptures strips that away revealing their inherent beauty.

Kate_MccGwire_Harewood_HouseThe feathers here come not from rare or exotic species, but from pheasants, pigeons and magpies, harvested or donated by farmers, gamekeepers and pigeon fanciers. Transformed into works of art, their particular qualities are revealed and celebrated; iridescent colours and incredibly detailed markings – each one unique like a human thumb print, giving new insights on both the source material and the way the artist uses that to explore more abstract concepts.

Follow us on instagram and facebook to keep up to date with stories and the latest news relating to the closure. You can find out more about Menagerie 

Potty for Parrots, Meet Lisa Bath, Bird Keeper

LisaBath_bird_keeper_parrot

As part of the 50th anniversary celebrations of the Bird Garden at Harewood, Bird Keeper Lisa Bath takes five away from a busy schedule of bird keeping and studying.

What is your role in Harewood Bird Garden?
My job title is bird keeper, which means I look after a group of aviaries containing birds such as Vietnam (Edward’s) pheasant, Java Sparrows and Red-crested turaco, but mainly I care for parrots.
I also perform any incubation and hand-rearing that is required. This usually consists of endangered species, sick chicks or eggs and chicks which are abandoned by their parents.

What is your training or background that led to this role?
I enjoy formal learning, so I have completed a BSc in Animal Management and an industry standard qualification, DMZAA (Diploma in the care of zoo and aquarium animals).
I also volunteered and completed work experience at Blackpool Zoo and Harewood, as well as previously working at Living Coasts in Torquay. Presently I am studying to gain an MSc in Zoo Conservation Biology.

Can you describe what a typical day might look like?
Morning-8am start preparing food for all the birds and animals, followed by feeding and watering everyone.
Afternoon-jobs such as cleaning and gardening inside the aviaries, health checking the birds and aviary maintenance, such as building nest boxes and feeding tables.
During our open season we also give public talks and feeds three times daily.

Favourite and least favourite part of the job?
Favourite-I just enjoy being around the birds and watching their behaviour.
Least favourite-Losing birds. You can become very attached to some, birds so losing them can be hard.

What would you do if you weren’t doing this job?
I always wanted to be a detective like Inspector Morse or Miss Marple, but I’m not sure I’d be any good at it.

Which are your favourite birds?
Parrots are my favourites, especially the Brown lories, as they are cheeky and playful.

What is the importance of Harewood Bird Garden?
Personally, it is the opportunity to work with amazing birds and rare species. I feel that collections such as ours are important to help breed and conserve endangered species such as Bali starlings, Edwards pheasants and Palm cockatoos,
It also enables visitors to learn about the importance of conservation and sustainability of environments, to engage with wildlife and learn about birds they would not normally get to see. I feel it is important for everyone to be aware of the amazing wildlife we have on this planet and why each species is unique.

Celebrations of the Bird Garden start when Harewood opens on 21 March. Find out more about the full season of events, workshops and exhibitions.

Bird Lover and Bird Keeper Extraordinaire, Peter Stubbs takes 5 minutes out

Peter_Stubbs_Harewood_Bird_KeeperBird 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!)

Final words?
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.