Chough report: November 2013

Neil Singleton replaces hatch hinges. Photo by Liz CorryBy Liz Corry

Sorel Choughs

Choughs at the Sorel aviary. Photo by Liz CorryNovember was a relatively quiet month regarding chough activity. Green was mixed back with the females on the first of the month. Considering the amount of squabbling the females had been doing whilst he was locked away the mixing was very uneventful. He immediately reunited with Mauve, the birds preening each other to make the point. The rest just carried on with their day to day business.

After several days of being mixed it was clear to see that the bond between Green and Mauve was as strong as ever. He was feeding fine and everyone was responding well to the whistle training. It took a while, however, for the birds to get over their fear of being caught up again.

Despite the group looking ready to be released again the weather conditions were certainly not looking good. Strong gale-force winds kept the choughs hunkered down seeking shelter. Even flying from one end of the aviary to the other proved challenging. Often the choughs would just ‘go with the flow’ and glide sideways through the hatches to a safe landing spot. Weighing the birds became near impossible with the scales moving and birds struggling to brace the wind.

Long-range forecasts suggest the weather is only going to get worse. Taking this into consideration along with the birds being locked in for so long the decision has been made to keep them in over the winter now.

Life in the wind tunnel (video from the chough cam)

Aviary DIY

Release aviary hatch 11-2013. Photo by Liz CorryWith the birds locked in we took the opportunity to carry out some essential maintenance on the aviary as well as a few improvements. The major issue with any temporary structure on coastland is weather erosion. A few of the hatch hinges and associated wiring system had rusted despite oiling. The hinges were replaced, with the help of volunteer Neil Singleton, and the wires replaced with PVC coated wire (i.e. washing line!).

Rusted hinges and wires have been replaced and housed under pvc guttering to prevent birds becoming tangled. Photo by Liz CorryBoth keeper doors needed mouse-proofing using half-inch galvanised mesh sunk into the ground. The perimeter of the aviary has sunken mesh around but the inch mesh covering the doors provides an easy access inside for small rodents. The food waste bin proving an obvious appeal to the fieldmice now that winter supplies are becoming scarce.

Rodent-proofing the keeper porch. Photo by Liz CorryExtra shelter boxes have been added to the aviary to try and create a more appealing roosting environment for the choughs. Ideally, as was originally planned, the roof of the shed area would be covered. However, concerns over wind damage to the overall structure or panelling blowing off injuring the public has meant a compromise needed to be sorted. There is still some work needed to be done to improve the aviaries appeal but, for now, it more than adequately provides shelter for a bird like the chough from the wind and rain.