Birds rehomed as fate of Shepton Mallet's Collett Park aviary is decided
Keen ornithologist Neil Watkins is taking the remaining birds left in Shepton Mallet's Collett Park aviary under his wing while councillors decide its fate.
Concerns have been growing over recent months over the decline in the numbers of birds at the aviary, the condition of those remaining, the state of the aviary and fears that the amount of bird excrement could pose health and safety hazards for park visitors.
It was Mr Watkins who was instrumental in cleaning out, remodelling and restocking the aviary in 2011 after concerns were voiced about its poor state.
Local businesses donated support and equipment, students from Whitstone designed attractive murals for the interior and sculptor Jeff Body donated one of his stone sheep to keep the birds company.
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A grand reopening ceremony was held in August in 2011 attended by MP Tessa Munt and with former Shepton councillor Colin Lockey cutting the ribbon.
But in recent months concerns have again been voiced about the condition of the aviary deteriorating and the state of some of the birds.
And at their meeting last week town councillors agreed that Mr Watkins should remove all the remaining birds immediately, check them over, ring them and look after them in his own aviary at his home while the council decides what to do with the aviary in the Park.
Mr Watkins told councillors he was more than happy to take the remaining birds and look after them and put them back once the aviary was in good condition again.
But he said some 80 birds out of 200 had been lost from the aviary in the last 18 months and he said he would not be happy to let those left go back there "until these problems have been resolved."
Councillor Bente Height said the councillors were not zoo-keepers. Mr Watkins was the expert who knew what to do and they would have a very happy life with him, she said.
Councillor Jeannette Marsh reminded colleagues that they were warned by their clerk Graham Brown last June that they could face a health and safety risk issue and a lot of money would need to be spent to get it back to a good condition. She said it was quite unacceptable to leave the birds there any longer until improvements were made.
Councillor Derek Marvin said the problems had been going on for some time and he had been trying to sort them out and get repairs done.
He is now going to draw up a detailed report for the next council meeting so they can decide what can be done with the aviary in the future. In the meantime the council is asking the park contractors – the Landscape Company – for costings for improvement works and a thorough cleaning of the aviary. Councillors thanked Mr Watkins for his kind offer to look after the birds and said Mr Watkins will be reimbursed any costs incurred in moving and looking after the birds.
After the meeting Mr Watkins said he was more than happy to look after the birds.
They are being joined also by 28 budgies and canaries that belonged to some of the men at Shepton Prison who are being moved elsewhere now the prison is closing, and who are not allowed to take their birds with them.