I know it’s now November as I write this and I apologise for it being late, but October just stooped past us at a rate of knots.
This blog might be a bit random as I don’t know where to start or end. It’s been a very busy month which is no surprise really having a centre within an estate which holds one of the most haunted castles in the country and it being Halloween.
However before all the spookiness kicked off, we had an annual vet visit as required from our avian specialist vet. The reason for this visit is just so that he is aware of what’s happening in the centre and also part of our zoo licensing requirement. Whilst he was here he managed to microchip all the new birds. Much the same as a cat or a dog, this allows ease of recovery if lost and found, stolen and also proof of ownership. It’s pretty crazy that he microchipped Vulcan our female African white-backed vulture, a big bird weighing in at around 11 pounds in weight, to then microchip Chip (that’s a lot of chips) our little jack merlin who weighs in at around 5 ounces!!
For two weeks we were joined by Michaela who carried out work experience within the centre. Michaela helped bird staff out greatly over the Halloween period with cleaning, marshalling and displays. She’s now returned back down south to start a new job. It was nice to have a new face around the centre.
Over the Halloween period we drop our ‘world of owls’ display and instead do a ‘Twilight Owls’ display. They went very well indeed with only one hiccup on the second night. Opening up the display by flying Phoenix the rock eagle owl, making this one of his first ever Twilight Owls displays. He did very well in rehearsals but obviously the rehearsals lack all the humans in the audience. Phoenix flew a couple of lovely flights until a paper cup decided to roll across the display arena, spooking (no pun intended) Phoenix who then flew off! He flew out of the ‘Old Rose Garden’ and into the aviary section, then proceeded to carry on flying over the wall and out of the centre. Emma made a very quick recovery of him as he was sitting on top of a car in the car park and upon hearing Em’s voice, he quickly flew to her fist. The display resumed and all was well. Even though Phoenix is still very young and learning, I think a paper cup blowing across the arena would’ve scared even the most experienced birds we have when flying in the dark.
The team of yellow-billed kites have been flying in display all spring and summer and are now starting to moult. They’ve flown like absolute troopers this season and are now on a well earned holiday in their winter aviary. They’re being ‘fattened’ up to allow them to rest and push out old feathers and grow new ones nicely. They’re in an off-show aviary which is much better adapted for the colder winter than the big open one they have for spring and summer. Only down side of having three kites on big meals every day is that they always have a big poo party overnight that requires cleaning daily. Lovely.
As we’re well into autumn and winter is fast approaching, we always have to check the weather report before leaving work to see what the lowest temperature will be until we’re back in. The reason for this is because we go off a rule that if it’ll drop to 5 degrees or below and all the heat lamps go on. We had our first chilly night of the season and all lamps were put on. I love seeing the centre when all the lamps are on at night as all the birds look toasty warm and safe from the elements. They have a better heating system than I do at home!
This season we’ve had an amazing team of volunteers and each and every one of them has been great, I take my hat off to every last one of them. Tammy, Mike and Dom. What an incredible bunch of lovely people all giving up their free time to come and help us out. They’ve made this Halloween period go a lot more smoothly for me and the team so thank you all very much!
Even though the busy period is out of the way, we’re still doing a display at 1:30pm every day and heron feed at 3:00pm. We’re also still training Pegasus the black chested buzzard eagle; he is progressing very well indeed. He has learned to turn unbelievably quickly and is now circuiting many times before coming in for a reward on the fist. Very pleased with him and looking forward to him building more fitness and hopefully flying in the ‘Sky Hunters’ display next season.
Today it was also dry enough to cut the grass in the centre. It’s been long overdue as it has been far too wet to cut and just when you think it’s dry enough, guess what, it rains again. I do love a freshly cut lawn but hopefully it’ll be the last cut of the season!
We’ve had some tingly moments at work as well. Newts still in the wildlife pond, peregrines soaring and hunting over the estate and there have also been a lot of migratory pink footed geese flying over the centre; such a beautiful sight to see. It’s moments like these that make you pause and appreciate how wonderful nature really is!