Saturday, 22 August 2020

Baby Snakes

Adderlings! OK, baby adders or "neonates". But I prefer to call them adderlings. 

Aren't they beautiful! Stunning little miniatures of their adult form... Bellatrix, our female, mated earlier this year after the boys showed off with their dancing and last weekend she gave birth. Unlike many snakes, adders don't lay eggs but give birth to live young... or to get a bit complicated, they appear to give birth to live young but in fact they develop inside the female in little egg sacs which usually erupt just before or while giving birth. 

Female adders usually have around double figures of young, and we have seen eight at once so far... so a good litter. 

Daddy's little girl!.. This gives you the scale (get it, scale :-) ) of how big the adderlings are when first born. This is a one day old adderling basking next to one of our males. 

They are full independent from the moment they are born. The father, and even the mother, has nothing to do with them once they are out in the real world. The adder is our only native venomous snake in this country, and even from day one they can administer a venomous bite. 

But look at her... butter wouldn't melt!

They do have a bad reputation, or a misunderstanding is perhaps a better way of putting it. Adders are very docile animals, and will usually be long gone before you see them out in the wild. Much rather slinking away than to be near us. Usually they would only bite if someone tried to handle them when they didn't want to be, or they where accidentally stepped on... but then wouldn't most wild animals do this!

In the extremely unlikely event that you were bitten by an adder, then you would likely just get a painful swelling and feel a little sick/unwell for a few days... That being said, if you do get bitten by an adder, it is always best to seek medical advice just in case you react badly to it and require some extra care or treatment. 

Oh, they are stunning little snakes though. I spent an hour in with them the morning after they were born and before we opened to the public. We had about 5 adderlings basking on the logs, and when I jumped in the adults all stayed but the youngsters slinked off. 

Sneaking up to the log pile, and hanging around for twenty minutes they slowly begun to crawl back to bask. One even had a slight altercation with a spider, I'm not sure who was more surprised than the other, but fun to watch. 

If we are talking about baby snakes, we have to mention our grass snakes! 

We had about 100 eggs in there or so, and about 60 odd have hatched. Take that all those that say they have never seen our grass snakes! :-)

They are much shyer than our adders, but the grass snakelings (hmm, that doesn't quite work as well) our little grass snake neonates are great and some lucky visitors have seen them exploring their compost and swimming across their ponds. 

They are pretty cute too aren't they!.. Maybe not so much as the adders, but still something about them. Completely harmless too. 

They are a little older, a couple of weeks or so now, but similar in size to our adderlings so pretty difficult to spot. When curled up our little neonates of both types are not much larger than the size of a fifty pence piece.

If you are visiting soon, just spend a little time up by the snake enclosures, and with a little patience hopefully you will get to see these stunning little strikers. 

Saturday, 1 August 2020

Wildcat Kittens

It's been a strange year, a difficult few months, but finally we seem to be getting a little bit back to normality. We have been open to the public again, pre booking only, for the last month and it has been great to see many of you back here to share our wonderful wildlife with and to just give the Centre a "buzz" to the atmosphere. 

Blog posts have been absent while we have been working short staffed to keep things moving, but hopefully the office have been keeping you all up to date with the animal news via our social media pages. We have some new arrivals I will introduce you to soon, lots of babies, but perhaps most popular of all at the moment are our two litters of wildcat kittens!

Kendra, out experienced mum, gave birth seven and a half weeks a go now to two wildcat kittens. Both strong and healthy. They have been putting on a good show, coming out post days and playing near the back of the enclosure. 

Then a couple of weeks later Hilda, one of our newest wildcats, gave birth to her first litter. She has also had two strong, healthy kittens, and they are the ones pictured here in this post. 

Don't they look adorable? They have been spotted out a couple of times in the last week by visitors, and will get bolder by the day. One morning when heading in to work early I spotted them out on the log with mum, so dashed back to get my camera and took a few photos. 

This photo may look similar to the one above of the single kitten, but the pose is coincidental... this is of the other kitten. One photo of each. 

Look how amazingly blue their eyes are!.. Kittens always have brilliant blue eyes when first born, slowly changing to the greener eyes of adult hood, but this litter has the bluest eyes I have ever seen in a wildcat kitten. Stunning! 

Keep your eyes on the first two wildcat enclosures if you do decide to visit, the first pen has Hilda and her kittens in it and the second Kendra and her two kittens.

Saturday, 30 May 2020

Water Voles

Our new display family of water voles have been out on the island for about 2 months now, and have settled in extremely well. Some may think this is due to the lockdown we are currently in, and no visitors being here... and maybe that has helped a little, but to be honest our water voles normally settle fairly quickly once they are out on the island. It is a very large, natural enclosure for them and so plenty of space to hide if they so wish. 

I took the photo at the top of Walter, one of our male voles, a few days a go. It was a quick snap and go while he was eating breakfast and I was doing routines, but it made me think I must spend a bit of time with them and my camera. Yesterday morning was that time!.. I had a few minutes, so spent ten of them in around the island with my camera. The voles are active on and off through out the day, but usually have a peak around 10am. That's when I was there. 

I managed to see all five... Walt, Skyler, Saul, Gus and Jessie. All looking good and healthy. They do eat what we offer them, but can also munch away on pretty much everything in their natural enclosure so would likely survive even if we didn't offer any extra food. They would miss their apple treat every morning though. 

If all out together I could probably tell them apart, but would be trickier to do so one at a time... except for Walter and Skyler who are a bit more obvious. Mainly you can tell by behaviour though. Some are bolder than others, some use different track to the others, some prefer different feed stations etc. 

For example, this little one above is one of the youngsters. A female called Jessie. Very shy compared to her siblings, and often just playing peek-a-boo out from one of the holes in the main island... waiting for you to not look before she makes a quick dash to one of the feed islands.

Having the 'moat' around the main island allows our water voles to swim naturally as they would in the wild, and deep enough for them to dive and swim below surface if they wish to. Again they show different personalities when swimming. Some more relaxed than others, some preferring under water to above, and some freezing in place when spotted while others dash off, dive under or just carry on unbothered.

If you sit still, even if only for ten minutes, you get to see a lot of action... and quite possibly even all five voles. The way they move around and keep popping up from different tunnels though, you may well think there are more than that in there.

We also have some frogs in there. A few common frogs, and some marsh and even pool frogs too.

Once restrictions are lifted, and you are able to come and visit again, it will be well worth spending a bit of time by our water voles. Even if only for ten minutes, as I did here, you will get to see plenty of behaviour. Best time will likely be shortly after we open in the morning... around 10am for the first hour or so.