The chill disrupts birds and hogs

As December temperatures plummeted well below zero recently, the freezing conditions created problems for humans and wildlife alike at the trust.

By The Newsroom
Saturday, 23 December, 2017, 13:21
Swans and ducks that were 'grounded' because their pool froze solid during the recent cold snap.

Our group of cygnets, swans and two Muscovy-mix ducks were most put out when they had to be taken off their pool because it became a half-metre deep block of solid ice.

It was going to take around a week to thaw, said Jackie, so the pool birds were literally grounded until then.

By last Friday Jackie told me that she and Kay had finally managed to break the ice, but it would still be a few days before they could change the water and allow the birds back.

The swans will be delighted to get back in the pool – there will be much splashing and flapping as they enjoy the feeling of fresh water on their feathers after several days on dry land.

Another bird came in from the cold that was so wet and bedraggled that Kay had trouble even telling what species it was.

He turned out to be a buzzard, and he was put up in the Claw and Talon room overnight.

By the next day he had dried out and recovered a lot of his feistiness, but Kay said he was well under weight and would need to stay a bit longer.

I could hear Kay asking the buzzard very nicely to behave himself as she was transferring him from his cage to the large outdoor aviary.

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The chilly nights have created some confusion among the hedgehogs resident in the outdoor hutches of Hotchi Mews; some are hibernating, some are still eating normally, and the remainder are just popping out for a ‘top up’ every few nights.

Milligan, the former trust hog that came to live in our enclosed garden because of his lung condition, is likewise eating on milder nights and sleeping through the icy weather.

As with the trust hogs, I check Milligan’s feeding station every morning to see if the mealworms on top of the dry hog food have been disturbed and he’s been out and about looking for a bowl of wet food.

But one day I watched a mouse scurry from the bottom of the gate into the feeding station, grab a bit of raisin or biscuit and run back under the gate.

Back and forth he went, keeping a cautious look-out for our two cats, repeatedly stealing and storing morsels of dry hog mix.

It’s not just the mouse who’s helping himself to Milligan’s grub; I’ve also seen a robin sidling up, ducking in quickly and making off with mealworms.

A single piece of straw placed diagonally across the doorway of Milligan’s box now tells me if he’s broken his winter slumbers in search of sustenance.

As this is our final report before the festivities begin, we at the trust wish all our supporters – volunteers, donors, sponsors, or visitors to our events throughout the year – a peaceful and enjoyable Christmas.