For the last blog of year I thought we would have a look back over the year and review the year that was 2013
Cold weather was the theme for January with a couple of dustings of snow, as much as a foot in places. The penguins were seen tobogganing in the snow and incubating snow balls. The temperatures were well below freezing. We also had some tree surgery going on around the grounds. A male Southern Ground Hornbill arrived from Marwell
Further snow fell in February. The Kings were busy moulting and Humboldt’s Chloe & Myrtle produced 2 eggs. Arrivals included 3 Humboldt Penguins and a Ross’ Goose from Dudley. Another female Ross’ Goose arrived from Slimbridge and a male Roul Roul Partridge came in from a private breeder. 2 female Crowned Plovers went to Marwell and our female Marabou died of a heart attack
After yet more snow and temperatures of minus 6 it finally started to warm up and we were able to start leaving some of the birds out overnight. Channel 4 installed a webcam in Chloe & Myrtles nest for Easter Eggs Live but unfortunately the eggs did not hatch. A Brown Breasted Barbet male arrived from Bristol and the 5 Edinburgh King Penguins went back to Scotland
Penguin Shore was given a facelift with a new back wall incorporating nest sites for the Humboldt’s and a sprinkler system. We had a move around of some of the birds in preparation for the breeding season. A Male Siamese Fireback Pheasant arrived from a private breeder whilst 4 Madagascan Teal bred in 2012 departed to Shorelands in Norfolk and 2 female Temmincks Tragopan went to a private breeder. Koda the Snowy Owl also departed. Park favourite Kayto the Cockatoo passed away, with no obvious cause of death shown on the Post Mortem
Sir David Attenborough joined us to do some filming with the Kings. He spent an hour or so in the park chatting with staff and the penguins behaved impeccably. The first King egg of the year was laid by Missy. The Greater Flamingos and Pelicans started to show signs of wanting to nest build. The Snowy Owls produced eggs but would abandon them overnight. 3 Temmincks Tragopan, an Emerald Dove and a number of Zebra Finches were hatched and arriving were a female Luzon Bleeding Heart Dove from a private breeder & a Chaco Owl chick also arrived from Cotswold Falconry, to be hand reared by Helen
This was the month when we hit the local headlines when a Chinese Painted Quail was brought to us after being found wandering in the village. The bird was eventually reclaimed by his owner. We were also in the news for teaching our Black Necked Swan cygnets to swim. We were busy hand rearing with Yellow Shouldered Amazon, Kookaburra & Northern Helmeted Curassow all being cared for by the keepers. Other births included Rhea, Sacred & Waldrapp Ibis & Bartlett’s Dove. A Humboldt Penguin chick hatched but died after swallowing feathers, presumably fed to it by its first time mother. A Black Swan female joined us from Prinknash
We had a session of sexing some of the birds whose gender we did not know. This would have been chicks born in the year and birds who have arrived but without the sex known. One bird that didn’t originally need sexing was our female Siamese Fireback Pheasant. After the arrival of the male she started to develop male plumage instead of her normal colouration. Births included 2 Emerald Doves, 2 Azure Winged Magpies, Java Sparrow & Sacred Ibis. Arriving from Birdworld were a female Marabou Stork, male Burrowing Owl & an unsexed Blacksmith Plover with a male Black Winged Stilt and 2 male Crowned Plovers going the other way
King Penguin Missy hit the headlines as we claimed her to be the world’s oldest penguin at 36 years young. Coverage was both local and global, with her being featured on ITV and hitting new sites around the world. Mango, the Yellow Shouldered Amazon hand reared by Chris, entertained the public one day by flying up a tree and not coming back down. After several hours she eventually returned. A very busy August Bank Holiday saw all 4 keepers plus volunteers at a day long Meet a Keeper. Hatching in August were Grey Peacock Pheasant, multiple Roul Roul Partridge & Red Fronted Macaw. A juvenile Roul Roul Partridge left the park
The Caribbean Flamingos were caught up for their annual health check. Feet, weight, feather condition, breathing and rings were all checked over. Births included Roul Roul Partridge & Bartlett’s Dove hatched this month and my wife and I had our own little chick!
We spent a couple of days micro-chipping some of the more endangered animals in the park, as required by EAZA. This included Humboldt’s, Waldrapp Ibis and some of the parrots. A pair of Comb Duck arrived from Cotswold Wildlife Park.
We started to shut some of the birds away at night as it began to get colder. One of the female Pelicans disappeared one afternoon and toured the private lakes of the village for a few days before being recaptured by Chris. The female Marabou Stork broke her left wing, which had to be amputated by emergency surgery, which she came through fine. 2 Military Macaws left for the Parrot Zoo.
Lots of new arrivals during the month as we looked to pair some of the single birds. Coming in were 7 Avocets and a male Ross’ Goose from Pensthorpe, 4 White Faced Whistling Duck from Slimbridge and a male Tawny Frogmouth from CotswoldWildlifePark. Also arriving eventually from Flamingoland after Simon broke down on the way back were a pair of Pink Backed Pelicans, a female Crowned Crane, a male Coscoroba Swan, a pair of Cattle Egret, a pair of Little Egret and 4 Fulvous Tree. A male Hammerkop went to Flamingoland
Wildlife highlights through the year were plentiful, with Little Egret, Kingfisher and Nuthatch amongst the favourites.
In the last week the new birds have been settled in. The pair of Pelicans have been moved to the shed with the rest of the group where we have deliberately kept them shut in so they can get used to each other. This worked well as with a couple of days heavy rain, the river level was up. The group were let out for the first time on Sunday with no problems.
We also moved the new male Coscoroba into a shed with our male, again keeping them in so they can spend time together. Again, there have been no problems although the river level meant that they were kept in for quite a few days.
We should also have some more new arrivals at the time of writing. Today I’ve been up to Chester Zoo to collect a pair of Cape Teal (a new species for us), another pair of White Faced Whistling Duck & a male Orange Headed Ground Thrush. Hopefully the New Years Eve traffic isn’t too bad and by the time you read this I will be back.
The wet and windy weather didn’t affect us too much, although some of the birds were kept in when the wind really picked up.
Wildlife highlights this week were Pied Wagtails, unusual for here, and Tawny Owl was heard on Christmas morning. As it has got colder, I’m definitely noticing more finches about in the nature reserve, particularly Chaffinch & Goldfinch, although 5 Bullfinches have been seen and Greenfinch are also about. With extra Goldfinch around, it was no surprise to see the first Lesser Redpoll of the year on Sunday, dropping into the feeders. I expect many more to be seen, along with Siskin, over the coming weeks.
There are also more thrushes around. Blackbirds are always plentiful but I have also noticed an increase in Song Thrushes. Fieldfare are still passing over and we had a group of 10 or so Redwing in Marshmouth this week. Greater Spotted & Green Woodpecker have also been spotted and there was some unusually high toned drumming going on this week, potentially a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker? Unfortunately although I could hear the drumming I could not locate the bird to confirm ID
Many thanks for following the blog throughout the year, I hope you have enjoyed reading about what we get up to. Next year I will continue with the weekly updates and will be highlighting one species every week, so let me know if you have any particular favourites you wish to learn more about.
Happy New Year