Notes from St Tiggywinkles: Spike’s now ready for Watermead

Spike the great crested grebe
Spike the great crested grebe


At last we are starting to empty out.

It has been a very successful summer but now the time is right to release all those recovered or orphaned animals that have been with us for the past few months.

After all that is our ‘raison d’etre, not to keep animals in cages but to keep all those cages as vacant as possible.

Our group of otters has to stay with us until the new year. But there are other superstars ready to leave us.

One of the most special and a feather in the caps of our nursery team is a great crested grebe.

We see many adult grebes but this one ‘Spike’ came in as a tiny black and white baby.

Difficult to rear as they need a diet of whitebait and vitamin B1, to provide the thiamine these fish eaters need.

Spike has grown from strength to strength.

High maintenance he had to have swimming lessons every day both to build up his strength and to bring his waterproofing to perfect.

Grebes are a little bit lost on land.

They do not walk particularly well and can badly soil their chest feathers if they are not kept clean.

Soiled feathers would lead to a very wet, sinking bird unable to swim.

But our nursery team has done a spectacular job.

Spike is now grown, handsome, spiteful and ready to be released on the grebe-friendly lake at Watermead.

We might let just a few of our ‘quacking’ hordes of ‘grown up at last’ ducklings join him on Watermead.

We have had a very successful duckling year but, have so many ready for release, en masse they would sink Watermead.

Small groups are taken to suitable water courses all over the county leaving all our pens empty until the autumn’s batch of casualties starts to turn up.