It has been a remarkable time lately to visit Fota and as someone who has been working here for the last month the place still surprises me, constantly offering something new and interesting every week.
During my first few weeks here I had the pleasure of seeing first hand the pattering troops of goslings and ducklings march and swim in formation behind their mothers, while dad kept a protective eye fixed on his young and taught harsh lessons to anyone unfortunate enough to come too close to his downy offspring (Including yours truly!!).Any wildfowl family is a very close knit one, parents will furiously defend their young against any and all who might threaten them, even things many times their own size, particularly over curious visitors to the park. As my weeks here progressed these adorable creatures grew at an astounding pace, the phrase ‘they grow up so fast’ takes on a whole new level of meaning when considering wildfowl within what seemed like such a short time the little animals were gone only to be replaced by large just as fluffy versions of there parents and in another few weeks they will be completely indistinguishable having lost there warm protective downy coats, replaced by the sleek waterproof feathers of adulthood. Of course, ducks and geese are not the only proud parents or source of fascination we have here in the park.
Very recently I have been seeing a good number of baby wallaby’s also known as Joey’s tucked away safely in there mothers pouches with only a thin head sticking out to catch a glimpse of the world. I must say there are very few things more fascinating than seeing that first peek of a head from the mother’s pouch or a baby that scrambles back in for safety. Then of course there is always the big baby that tries to hide in mother’s pouch, only to find out that he can only get his head in but still feels safe nonetheless. As marsupials, wallabys give birth to live young that are severely underdeveloped, these young however are equipped with strong forearms that allow them to grope and climb there way into the protective pouch where it will remain for several months growing in size and being nourished by their mother’s milk.
The Bennett’s wallaby, which is the only resident wallaby at Fota, typically give birth around the month of July, so we are now entering the peak time to see these amazing animals and watch as they develop.
The Ostriches too have just come out of the breeding season and are in the process of laying eggs, at the moment there is a small batch of 4 oversized eggs laid out carefully in a ‘scrape’ nest, constructed by our male ostrich Ollie and his mate within the park. These 1500gram eggs which are the equivalent of two dozen domestic hen eggs will be incubated and cared for by both parents over a period of six weeks, after which we should have a small flock of ostrich chicks running around the park. Amongst wild ostriches the number of eggs in a single ostrich nest can exceed 30. A male ostrich will not just mate with single hen but multiple females; all the eggs produced afterwards are then laid out in a communal nest and cared for by the dominant male and female of the group. In many cases the dominant hen will actually be able to distinguish her own eggs from all the others and will move them into the centre if the nest while shoving others out of the nest completely, obviously these eggs that are not cared for do not hatch from lack of attention and are sub-sequentially predated upon by hyena and other predators.
Finally I will end with telling you all that while walking the park today I was pleased and surprised to see the first batch of the long awaited for peafowl chicks. For a number of weeks now our male peacocks have been strutting around displaying and screeching with vigour in an attempt to attract a mate and it now seem that the fruits of there labor are just emerging which is not only pleasant to see but also a relief as the peacocks will soon cease there incessant screeching and give both the parks animals and staff some much deserved peace.
Fota Wildlife Park is teeming with new life at the moment and while I may not be able to talk about every newborn I have given you a taster and below you can see some of our new additions but most importantly you can come down yourselves and be delighted in seeing them.