Liz Brown writes:
On leaving New Zealand a little over two weeks ago, I carefully packed all the thick polar fleece, merino wool and thermal layers I could fit into my allotted 23kg baggage allowance. I never expected to arrive to such amazingly warm and well-insulated houses! My thick polar fleece trousers appear to have been relegated to use as a pillow for the duration of our stay in this kindly donated comfortable house.
However this warmth comes with an alarming negative side. Our “incubation room” is now thoroughly disinfected and the windows covered with black plastic to create a completely dark environment in which to candle the eggs (shining high intensity light through the egg shell to determine fertility and stage of development). But it is now far too hot for our incubators.
With the door constantly shut the room is heating to between 28-33°C. All incubators are designed and pre-set to operate in optimum conditions of 20-21°C, meaning the re-calibration process has been lengthy and at times very trying! Unfortunately one of our key incubators is still causing headaches, as its thermostat stubbornly refuses to tell it to stop heating when it reaches the set temperature of 37.5°C —often climbing to over 40°C.
This heat will not help the Spoon-billed Sandpiper eggs to develop, but rather it will cook the embryos! The team back at WWT Slimbridge had anticipated potential problems, so we have alternative back-up systems already up and operating perfectly. We still have a few tricks up our sleeve for the problem incubator, wish us luck!