The nights are drawing in and the temperatures are starting to drop so we are now starting to prepare for winter. The Penguins and Snowy Owls are more than happy as the cooler weather comes in but for many of our more exotic species the cold can pose a problem.
With temperatures dropping below freezing there is an obvious risk to the more delicate species and we can overcome this in a number of ways.
The really delicate species are housed indoors all year round, examples being our Blue Winged Minla, the Bee-Eaters & Roul Roul Partridge. We have indoor housing in the Discovery Zone, Desert House and the glass house that was formerly the Temperate House & Toucan House. Straight away being indoor retains heat and provides shelter from the rain, snow, wind & cold. Heaters and heat lights can also be set up to provide hotspots.
Other species may be kept outdoors in the Summer but will be moved inside for the winter. This might be birds that have no shelter on their aviary but need to be kept warm, or it may be birds that have a history of illness that we want to make sure have no issues over the winter, our female Bali Mynah is an example of this (she is now old and not hugely mobile)
The easiest way to keep the birds warm is to shut them into sheltered overnight quarters every night. As we have built new aviaries over the years we have made sure that sheds are available where we can provide heat. It is then just a simple case of training the birds to go in at the end of the day and we can then shut them in.
We do this to nearly half the aviaries during the winter months and this is the case for the Flamingos, Pelicans, Cassowaries, Touracos, Hornbills, Ibis, Plovers & some of the pheasants.
It will take a couple of keepers to get the birds in for the first few days but as they work out that it is warmer in the sheds and that the food is inside then one keeper can shut everything in within 40 minutes (bribery always works!!)
With birds going in it means extra cleaning duties for the keepers. The larger sheds have to be cleaned every day, if you imagine 17 Flamingos in a shed from 4pm until 8am then you may be able to imagine the smell. If it’s two Rollers in a shed then cleaning will be every couple of days.
Winter also brings the joy of frozen ponds, taps and padlocks. Water dishes will be provided indoors which won’t freeze with the presence of heat lamps.
Snow can also be a major problem if it settles on netted aviaries. We have had several broken aviaries in the past so keepers have to regularly bash the snow off. Snow can also cause problems for staff getting in. Luckily we have keepers on site so the birds won’t go hungry. One winter when myself and the wife lived on site we were feeding everything of the back of our sledge as we couldn’t push a trolley around and the snow was so deep the tractor wouldn’t get about either.
We will be changing to winter hours soon as well, with the park closing at 4 from the start of November
Hopefully that’s a way off but we are getting ready none the less!