Thursday, 29 September 2016

Polecat Update


Do you remember these?.. Lots of polecat babies bred by Cassie and Billy. I haven't got any recent photos, as they are now preparing for collection by the breeding group, but along with Whitstable and Oriel's youngsters we have 12 kits ready to move on to pastures new.



All our kits are now off-display, so you can no longer see them if you visit the Centre. But you can still see our adult polecats.

Oriel, above, is very much enjoying her life now with out the kitts around. She if  make the keepers lives easier too, with no babies to protect she is a lot less bitey!



Whitstable is as laid back as ever, but it won't be long now until we introduce him back in to our main enclosure with Oriel. They can the settle over the winter, before hopefully having more kitts next season.

Billy and Cassie, well... Just Cassie really... is a bit more temperamental. We will have to introduce them together a little bit slower, but they should both be on display by October half term.

Monday, 19 September 2016

Harvest Mice on Countryfile


Our harvest mice have been very successful this year, and so we have been able to continue our releases out on to our nature reserve. Having spotted more frequent activity on my morning walks with Bess around the boardwalk area, we decided to release this years mice a little further in to the reserve to encourage the spread throughout our land and hopefully connect up with previous litters we have released. 



Our releases have been such a success that they even caught the eye of the Countryfile team. They have filmed a piece on the work the Surrey Wildlife Trust do with monitoring harvest mice in the wild, but unfortunately were unable to find any mice in the lead up to filming. Therefore they sent Anita Rani to see us to actually see a mouse, and talk about the work we do here.

We filmed a short sequence on how we converted 26 acres of redundant farmland in to a nature reserve of a mosaic of habitats, and how introducing our harvest mice is not only good for bio-diversity but also as a indicator species for the habitat itself and how successful it is for wildlife.



All good news of course, and means one of our harvest mice gets to be a TV star!... (but not Barry, sorry Steve).

Of all the mice we release, only a small percentage will survive, but that is what is expected with a survival rate in the wild of only around 5% Unfortunately for the harvest mouse, one of their main roles is to be at the lower end of the food chain... but it is there presence, along with other mice and voles, that attracts in the stoats, weasels, barn owls, kestrels and many other predators that we see on our reserve.

If you want to see our mice on Countryfile, I believe it will be aired on the 2nd of October, but will let you know if that changes.

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

Long-eared Owl chicks


After a bumper Spring and Summer in terms of new life, let's update you all on some of the animals we have bred here this year... and let us start with our two new long-eared owl chicks.

Earlier this year our pair of owls had two chicks. Keepers Meg and Tom had the envious task of rearing and training them. Taking them from about 3 weeks old when they were still little balls of fluff, they have now fully grown and matured in to the beautiful owls you see above.



They had their first official photo shoot the other evening, and both took to it very well. Above is "Leo" who was reared by Meg.



And this is "Percy", having been reared by Tom. Percy has just started his flying lessons, and has got off to a good start. He will make his first appearance in the display this coming weekend, and it will be his first flights in front of a crowd... so we will keep it slow and steady until his confidence builds. 



Then in a few weeks time he will be a pro, just like Leo above. Leo has been in flying training over the summer and is already a staple in our owl display.

We will update you on some of our other youngsters in the coming weeks.

Tuesday, 6 September 2016

August 2016: Photo of the month

"Tawny Owl" by Mark Thomas

Summer has come and gone, and we are back to normal with school groups and photographic groups during the week... open to the public at weekends. You certainly made the most of the 6 open weeks we have just had though, lots of visitors came to see us, and many of you with cameras! It has been a joy looking through all the photographs shared this past month.

In the end I picked a trio of images from flickr, and of these have selected the photo of a tawny owl above, taken by Mark Thomas, as our photo of the month.

Mark Thomas's photograph really stood out when looking through the many shared this past month. Not only for it being one of the very few black and white images, but for the very distinct style Mark seems to have used. Some beautiful editing and stunning contrasts have allowed "Aluco" the tawny owl to really pop out , and I love the way the texture and detail in the branch adds to the overall picture. This was also taken of one of our owls in their aviary, showing the photographic potential of these enclosures if you know how to work it. Great portrait Mark!

To see more of Mark's photographs, and I really recommend you do if you like his style above, then follow the link in his name to his flickr stream.


"Red Squirrel" by Steve Liptrot

Over the summer opening, our squirrels have been on top form. Greeting many a visitor, and being quite nosey. Steve took a lovely picture of one of them, look at the great eye contact!


"Grass Snake" by Bob Howell

And a rare sight, our grass snake Gerald. He must of heard the rumours from some of our more frequent visitors that they didn't believe there was a snake in the enclosure, as for the last few weeks he has been a star! Out and about a lot, the tree begin one of his favourite resting places.

Lots of good photos caught him out, including this fantastic one by Bob go him up a tree with his tongue out.


Thursday, 25 August 2016

Black Rats


Phew, what a hot spell we are having a the moment, and the animals are struggling a little. Not spending too much time in the heat of the sun, they are making more use of their underground dens and shaded areas.

This makes our "Keeper Talks" all the more vital for you to see our animals. I am sure many will still be visible outside our talk times, you may just need to be a little more patient than normal, but certainly at the talks you should see everything while we feed, before they slink off again in to the shade.



"So why a photo of a black rat Matt?" I hear you ask...

"Well" I would answer, "That's not just any old black rat... that's Kelvin!"

Kelvin is one of a few new black rats that arrived at the Centre last week. Some of you may have noticed a decline in numbers recently, mainly due to age, and so an injection of youth and new blood to minimise inbreeding was needed.

Kelvin and his mates came to us from friend of the Centre, Dr Steve Havers. Hopefully they will settle and breed with ours, and in the new year we will begin to see our numbers begin to increase. Kelvin is the boldest of the newest arrivals, and over the past few days has always been the first down to feed, and happy to feed in front of the public. If you visit in the morning, keep your eyes open for him in the barn, and you may well get to see him.