Snapshot of amazing wildlife at Beale ParkBy Alan Bunce
January 27, 2011
Beale Park is stepping up its efforts to promote conservation in this area and throughout the world.
The West Berkshire wildlife park, which has already started schemes to promote bug hotels and pond dipping, has teamed up with the British Trust for Ornithology to promote National Nest Box Week when it reopens on February 14.
And later this year another scheme will encourage people to make their own hedgehog houses.
The projects come on top of a series of breeding programmes backed up by a feeding scheme that helps fund many of the Lower Basildon park’s activities. Spokeswoman Donna Hatchett said: “We are in the process of building our conservation up.
“We are making a really big effort this year. We have always done conservation but this year we are making a really big effort with hands-on activities. It’s one thing to give out leaflets but unless you have actually done it it’s not as real to you.”
During the first two weeks of the new season children will be shown how to build nest boxes and encouraged to build their own at home.
Later in the year, a similar project will focus on homes for hedgehogs. Schemes currently under way look at how to make bug hotels from garden waste and other materials and Mrs Hatchett said pond dipping has proven to help get children interested in wildlife.
She said: “It’s a chance for children to see what’s in a pond. A lot of children find it interesting if they are given the opportunity to find out.”
Beale Park is also part of a worldwide breeding programme and among the rare breeds the park is working to support are Bali starlings. Three males are currently at Beale Park waiting to be matched with females ready to breed as part of a scheme to increase numbers. Even in Bali there are only 12 of the distinctive white birds in existence.
Other conservation programmes include a bird ringing programme, green peafowl and mountain peacock pheasant breeding programmes, a World Land Trust project and a wildflower meadow scheme.
Most of the money for these is generated by 20p feeding stations dotted around the park. Every penny from that scheme, said Mrs Hatchett, goes into conservation and visitors are owed a big “thank you”. She said: “That has helped us to be involved in projects throughout the world. It’s just 20p for the visitors but it raised thousands of pounds to fund projects.”
Preparations for the new season include a new entrance for members, a new website with Kids Zone, and Beale Park mascot Bertie the Peacock will be holding bulb plantings. And this year Bertie comes out of the screen and will be a real life 7ft tall mascot children can meet.
Another new feature will be an enlarged pets corner which later in the year will be welcoming African pouch rats which are “the size of dogs”.
The park’s normal attractions have coped well with the harsh winter. Staff, some of whom live onsite, are feeding, cleaning and getting in extra stocks of food and other supplies.
Meerkats enjoy their underfloor heating, while many of the feathered guests are not captive at all but are birds which are on the migration path and spot a good place to stop off. So while there are ample exotic species there are also standard British birds such as robins, finches and blue tits.
As Mrs Hatchett said: “We are a wildlife park so that is not a problem at all.”