This week saw the weather take a turn for the colder with temperatures touching minus 4 and snow falling Sunday night/Monday morning. Whilst certain black & white residents are perfectly happy in these conditions, the winter weather does pose problems for the staff.
Obviously when it comes to snow, the first issue is getting in to work. We have one keeper living on site and most of us live locally so usually access is not too big of a problem. One of the hardest things is actually defrosting the padlocks first thing in the morning so we can actually get in!
We talked in a previous blog about checking stock first thing and this is particularly important during extreme weather. If a bird is even slightly under the weather (pardon the pun) then the cold can be a major factor. Keepers look for birds that might be ruffled or lethargic and if anyone looks unwell we have off show in door pens in our bird hospital and quarantine pens where heat lights can be set up for warmth.
During snow it’s also very important to check the state of the aviaries. Are the heat lights working? Are the ponds frozen? If there is snow settled on a netted aviary roof it will have to be bashed off as weight of snow can snap an aviary if left for too long. This has happened a lot in the past although in recent times we have used a different mesh netting which seems to cope well (touch wood).
Even the WAGs get put to work!
We then have to get round and feed everyone. Our regular guests will know that we usually do these pushing trolleys but if the snow is deep this is near impossible. Thankfully we have a tractor that can get around most of the park. In one extreme case a sledge was once used to get feeds around the park.
Health and safety is also important and pathways have to be cleared and gritted so that access around the park is possible and safe. Hosepipes have to be defrosted and ice broken.
Thankfully this week has been nowhere near that bad. All of our inhabitants are safe and well and the snow that fell Monday had all but disappeared by the same afternoon. Temperatures have definitely dropped this week and it’s always a sign that it’s cold when some of the birds have put themselves in before the end of the day.
In news from the park, the first of the King Penguins have started to moult. First Maclean and then Oscar have fattened up and are now starting to drop their old feathers as new ones grow through underneath. Hopefully the rest of the group should follow soon.
Both the Fischer’s Lovebirds and Vulturine Guineafowl have laid eggs but as both pairs are females the eggs will not be viable and have been removed. The Emerald Dove egg in the Discovery Zone has unfortunately disappeared.
Our Facebook page reached 500 likes and to celebrate we gave away a Keeper for the Day Experience to one lucky follower.
Wildlife sightings have included a very confiding Lesser Redpoll and the first Sparrowhawk & Siskin sightings of the year.
Tomorrow a new male Southern Ground Hornbill will be arriving from Marwell to pair with our single male. The old pair, including the male with the broken bill, will be moved off show. Hopefully the new pair will settle and breeding efforts will follow.
This Sunday is Penguin Awareness day and to celebrate we will be giving away not one, but two chances to win a Penguin Feeding Experience. One will be an online competition and the other will be given away on the day on site. Check out our Facebook/Twitter on Sunday for further details.
The following weekend is the Big Garden Birdwatch and we will be spending an hour in Marshmouth reserve recording what’s coming down to the feeders. More details on this next week. Until then keep warm!