Windy Hall Birds
2015 – Feeding time at the Windy Hall duck pond. The Eiders and White Faced Whistling Ducks can be heard calling.
The birds are fed a grain mix, a pelleted food designed for poultry and special seaduck pellets with a high protein level. Eiders require this high protien food as, in the wild, they would be feeding on molluscs etc.
Ducks and Geese
David has been interested in birds for many years. Aged around 12, together with a friend, he went on a trip from Bristol to the newly established Severn Wildfowl Trust. A couple of miles short of the New Grounds they were offered a lift by Peter Scott, who spent the next hour guiding them around the pens of ducks and geese – a never to be forgotten experience. David has been a member of the Wildfowl Trust ever since.
The move to Windy Hall afforded the prospect of keeping a larger waterfowl collection and over the past 30 odd years we have kept many species of ducks and geese from around the world. Many of these we have bred successfully but in recent years we have reduced the collection considerably. We still keep our favourites and are members of the British Waterfowl Association.
A particular interest has been Chinese Mandarin Ducks. This is a tree nesting duck and we have put up large nesting boxes for them in the waterfowl garden. One female hatched 8 youngsters from one box this year.
In summer when the adults are in eclipse plumage we may have 20-30 sitting around in trees or on fence posts around the pond.
We have been active in the conservation of pheasants for many years as members of the World Pheasant Association. We have surveyed nesting populations in central Nepal and, in Pakistan and China, helped to run scientific symposia and visited breeding areas. Our Pakistan travels took us up the Khyber Pass and along the Afghan border to Chitral, where David’s grandfather had been in the 1920s – areas one would think twice about entering now. The dried mulberries from Chitral were wonderful with muesli – but where can one get them in Britain?
Monal pheasants, the national bird of Nepal, are very colourful and trekking above Gorkha in the Nepal Himalaya one autumn we watched large numbers of these beautiful iridescent birds migrating down the mountain ahead of the advancing winter snows. This is a species we usually keep in our aviaries.
We have recorded over 60 species at Windy Hall and about half of these have bred. On our 10 acre parcel of land about a mile away, with a more upland character, a further 10 species have been seen. More information about native birds and wildlife can be obtained from the RSPB and Cumbria Wildlife Trust.
Outside our kitchen window are feeders stocked with sunflower hearts and peanuts year round. At times it is all too easy to spend the day just bird-watching. One benefit of having so many small birds around is that our garden plants are almost completely free from insect pests.
Another benefit of the bird feeders….. is the occasional red squirrel.