Nick 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!