06:15 Alarm rudely drags me out of a busy dream, but I soon forget what the dream was actually about. I scrabble about in the dark, find the light switch, and turn that dream invasive noise off. Poof my pillows up, slope myself half upright and catch five more minutes of zeds.
Pilates, muesli, coffee, a twenty minute read of my current novel, and then I start layering up. Layer after layer of clothing. It’s below freezing out there.
08:00, arrival. Straight to the Black-necked swan families. Staggering and tottering over the ice to them. Three pairs, between them ten fluffy cygnets. I ponder, at what age do their necks begin to elongate? I top up all the baby cygnet feed. Reprimand all the adult ducks for eating the baby’s food. Slip and slide back to the barn. And then, commence feeding all the many other (adult) birds.
I top up feed, give treats to excited and grateful ducks. A pair of chestnut teal always wait for me at their aviary entrance, waiting for their millet. I am besotted with them. A female wigeon purrs her excitement. A male Gadwall rushes around purposefully bumping into all the other ducks (he reminds me of myself in a dodgem car) quacking all over the place. Hooded merganser cruise around looking too cool (I’ve never seen them eat, though I know they must). Golden eye do their funny head thing.
The Andean geese strutt around with their chests puffed out looking as innocent as could be. The Cereopsis behave like they want to kill me. Nothing new there. Magpie geese chat and look lethally inquisitive.
This week I’ve moved feed dishes around a bit, to make life easier for the birds. I want to be sure they continue to eat. No laziness due to slippery slopey ice. This has obviously meant that life has become more complicated for me. With feed dishes in quite inaccessible locations. Ive been crawling, shuffling along on my bum or dragging myself along the fencing to avoid those icy ponds!
I look at and watch every bird. Looking for unusual behaviour or posture. I have got to know my birds and hope to notice when something is not quite right. Injury, damp, cold, unwell. All very well and happy today.
I look to identify every species. With over 200 species it’s been a slow learn. Today I chose to add whistling ducks to my knowledge. Fulvous, West Indian, Black-bellied, White-faced, Plumed, Wandering, Spotted.
I feed the Black-necked swan cygnets again. They are fluffy and pale grey. They ride around on their parents backs, snuggling under the wings to keep warm or snooze. This has to be one of the cutest sights I have EVER witnessed.
A male Mute swan tries to attack me from his pond as I replenish his feed. He goes for me, he misses, his face lands in his food, he savagely bites the feed dish instead. I believe his pride is hurt, as I had to carry him to his feed dish when he couldn’t walk on the ice a few days ago! Great, after his ‘face in feed’ mishap he’ll be even madder. Swans hold grudges!
10:00. Feeding finished. I start scrubbing. Through the indoor duckery ponds. One at a time. Rather social over the last few days of freeze, as we brought many birds in from the cold. . Scrubbing away poo, replacing water. Being as least scary as possible to the birds, which to me generally means chatting in soft voice, no sudden movements, and keeping my distance.
11:45. More feed to the Black-necked swan cygnets.
12:00. To lunch. I walk over to the park. Looking out for wild birds on the way. Woodpeckers, Bluebirds, Blue jays, cardinals, wrens, juncos, Snipe, heron, etc. Eat my packed lunch in the staff room whilst using the wi fi to quickly attempt to catch up on the outside world 🌍.
13:00. Go for walk enroute back to Breeding centre. More feed to Black-necked swan cygnets. Back to scrubbing more poo. Poofing up straw bedding. Refilling feed bins. Checking on and topping up feed for all the other babies. Chasing cheeky goslings. Chatting with Katy the parrot.
15:45. Feeding Black-necked cygnets.
16:00. Afternoon top up feed. All over again. Though the ice is melting. Some less slipping and sliding all over the place. It starts to rain lightly. If it continues, all that feed will turn to mush.
16:45. Last feed of the day for the cygnets.
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