Our Nene are beginning to hatch all over the place! BBF began the trend last thursday with her 2 fluffy bundles of joy, shortly joined by BAX who lovingly hatched off 3 goslings. Other females are not that far behind, these include BBU, BAP, BCD, BAS and BEP.
The first few families to hatch are always in the most danger, as the very earliest eggs are laid in the freezing cold snaps of early February and left for up to 8 days in extreme and frosty conditions. Conveniently, the most experienced females are the very birds for the job… BAX is famous (yes famous) in the Nene world for being Slimbridge’s best mum. She has hatched out an average of 3 goslings a year since hitting breeding age in 2009, with a 100% success rate.
The key it seems is the duration of time spent brooding the young goslings on the nest. Other females always seem tempted to leave the nest in order to fill their tummies after their 28 day fast, but BAX always keep her young charges on the nest as long as possible. After hatching on the morning of the 11th, BAX was still sat brooding her goslings on the morning of the 13th when we went to collect the family. As the families are fed daily a mixture of protein pellet and chick crumb there was no need to leave the safety of their lonicera bush!
As a gosling hatches out, the nutiritious yolk sack is being absorbed and then ingested for up to 24 hours. The ideal state for a gosling to be in for that duration is warm and toasty beneath mum’s feathers as their digestive systems kick into action. Unlike her previous position of sitting quite tight on top of her eggs, mum now lifts herself up into a crouching position and fluffs up her feathers to allow some aeration of the goslings. On the second day, the goslings might toddle out with mum just for a few metres in the sunshine, take a nibble of a grass shoot and a beak full of crumb, before toddling back! That really is all that is on the cards. BAX recognises what her babes can endure, and as such is an excellent mum. On the morning of the third day we go out to catch the whole family. After they leave the comfort of the breeding site (which they inevitably must) they are vulnerable to herons, big gulls and bullying geese. Our favoured action is to bring the whole family off site into a covered pen with food and protective shelter from those deadly night-time chills. As I write BBZ BAX and their 3 goslings are safe at the Top Hut. All being well, they should make an appearance in a side pen towards the end of the month in order to celebrate the Nene’s 50th anniversary of re-introduction.
Join us through April at the Slimbridge Wetland Centre to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Nene’s re-introduction. Learn all about Nene habitat, lifestyle, life-cycle and current status by participating in arts, crafts and Nene themed activities. Special activities available 6th, 7th and 8th of April including behind the scenes walks, talks, and events!