Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Successful Summer

Just a reminder that this is the last full week that we are open to the general public. After this we continue to be open for weekends, bank holidays and school half terms only while looking after of private school visits, photographers and film crews during the week.

This Summer has been extremely successful seeing many new faces visit the Centre for the first time, as well as many members too. Bank holiday Monday yesterday was a really good day, blessed by the weather, which saw us reach a record number of visitors for this time of year.

Of course our walk-through red squirrel enclosure has been a huge achievement, as mentioned in the last blog post, but equally as successful has been our new flying teams of birds and owls.

A scheduled owl display at 4.00pm (which will continue on weekend openings) has seen many visitors crowd in around the dell to get a close up view of these awesome, silent flyers. Our team of owls have been rotated around to provide different displays most days, and with new owls joining the team in a few weeks and earlier next year this ensures the displays will only get more varied and better.

The raptors are also proving to put on a good show. Many of you have seen me fly "Fin", one of our buzzards, over the deer park in recent weeks, and Jack the Peregrine is back in training after his moult and will make his first official public appearance this coming Saturday, the 4th of September.

Hoping to add another kestrel to the team this year as well as a sparrowhawk and a bit of a surprise bird (stay tuned) for next year, again this promises to only get better and I hope to have an official bird of prey display up and running for next year in the mornings to compliment the owls in the afternoon.

Lots of plans for over the Winter months. New enclosures, moving animals around even more photographic opportunities!!! Keep in touch with all this here on the Keepers Blog. On the quiet weeks I will update you all with videos and photos of some of the individual animals as well as animal profiles to tie us over until the new arrivals start to appear again.

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Red Squirrels

Our Walk-Through Red Squirrel Enclosure is going from strength to strength. The squirrels we currently have in there are settling down extremely well over the Summer opening period, and many of them come up really close to see what is going on.

I am planning on introducing a further batch of squirrels out there next week, this should bring the total up to around 30 ish which we believe is the capacity of the Copse. Included in these will be a few females, so you never know, next year may bring a few litters of kittens for you to see out in the open.

If you are planning on visiting over the end of the Summer school holiday, or over the coming weekends, then the best times of day to see the squirrels are for the first and last hour we are open. We feed the squirrels during the morning keeper talk which sees a number of them coming up to hand feed from the keeper, they then stay around feeding for a while before resting up during the middle of the day. They are still visible, but you have to be more patient to see them. Then they start a second burst of activity from around 4pmish till we close at 5pm, and this has seen many good photo opportunities from budding photographers.

Red Squirrel eager to come and see what I am up to...

Owner David Mills saying hello to one of the residents

David Mills feeding one of the many friendly squirrels in the enclosure

Our new enclosure provides some great photo opportunities

Sunday, 22 August 2010

New Barn Owl Chicks

Our Barn Owl pair in the aviaries by the other owls have been sitting on eggs for the last month, and earlier this week the first one hatched out. Now they are currently on two chicks and another 4 eggs.

Next week we will be taking two of the chicks to hand rear to join our flying team. Our other barn owls, Tyto and Alba, have unfortunately not fitted into the flying team as well as I would of hoped and so will retire early to allow our new comers to hopefully take their place.

The parents of the chicks, Twilight and Eclispe, have so far been very good parents, and I would hope another egg or two will hatch and so they can be seen rearing their other chicks in the aviary over the end of the Summer.

Katie (our resident crazy bird lady) will take on the task of rearing the new arrivals having recently successfully reared our long-eared owl. Tentative names for the chicks are Emerick and Evy and I hope to have them on the flying team before the end of the year.

Monday, 16 August 2010

New Keepers

After 10 months of travelling the world, Richard has realised I was right all along and that there is no better wildlife than British Wildlife! He has rejoined our full time keeping team and has slotted straight back into the role as if he had never been away.

Richard couldn't wait to get back to work and in particular to see our wildcat kittens. Being careful not to lose a finger or an eye he is already back in business by educating the public at our keeper talks.

At the same time as taking Richard on full time, we have taken Katie on full time too. Katie has been with us for many years part time, and now having completed her degree is looking forward to staying with us full time.

In other keeper news we say a big thank you, and a farewell to Kate Ford. She has helped us out part time over the last few months, but is now venturing off to the far east before returning to continue her studies.

We wish Kate all the best on her travels, and good luck for the future.

Friday, 13 August 2010

Autumn Events

Just a brief "non-animal" update to inform you all of a couple of events that are coming up at the BWC very soon. In both instances places fill quickly, so book early to avoid disappointment.

Wednesday 8th September 2010, 7.30pm

Renowned wildlife filmmaker and passionate conversationalist, Richard Brock worked in the BBC Naturals History Unit for 35 years producing many of the BBC's flagship wildlife series, including the Life on Earth and Living Planet. To become actively involved in tackling environmental challenges around the world, Richard left the BBC and established his own independent production company Living Planet Productions. He recently founded the Brock Initiative, using his archive of film footage and to educate communities and decision makers around the world about local conservation issues.

From the Serengeti to Cheddar Gorge...

At this special evening Richard will recount his work with David Attenborough, filming in far flung corners of the globe, his conservation efforts with native species, such as the Water Voles and Red Squirrels here at home, as well as the vital international conservation work of the Brock Initiative.

Digital Photography & Photoshop Day with Heather Angel and Giles Angel

New Autumn Date... Monday 11th October 2010

We are pleased to announce the latest date for this popular workshop, led by Heather Angel, a top professional wildlife photographer with over fifty published books to her name, and her son, Giles Angel, a commercial photographer and digital re-toucher.

The day will combine tuition and photography, with the usual wonderful opportunities to get images of the animals here at the Centre. The day starts with a presentation from Heather, with expert advice on composition and lighting, followed by sessions inside some of the enclosures. Giles will explore the use of Photoshop to enhance your images, together with practical advice on making the most of problem images.

It promises to be an exciting and varied day and adds up to a great package for anyone interested in improving their photographic skills and gaining an insight into processing and enhancing digital images with photoshop.

For more details on either of these events, or to make a booking, please visit our website through the link on the right. No entry to either events is permitted on the day without prior booking. 

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Pine Martens have mated

A week ago now a regular visitor and member of the Centre informed me that they thought they saw our pine martens mating. After talking to them further the description was very accurate, although I was not holding my breath since this is something we have been waiting for for years. However, the day after during my Owl Display all I could hear was the obvious vocalizations that go with the pine martens courtship and mating. Since this Bonnie and Clyde's behavior has changed somewhat, and they have become a little less forthcoming for the keeper talk, again a possible sign that their mind is on other things.

Pine Martens are slower breeders compared to the other mustelids in the UK usually only having 2 or 3 kits each litter, and usually only breed every other year due to their delayed implantation. They mate in July or August and if successful, delay the active gestation by 5.5 - 6.5 months before an active pregnancy of only 30 days. This means we have all our fingers crossed for possibly our first litter of pine marten kits late March early April next year.

I am sure most of you appreciate I am extremely excited about this news!

Friday, 6 August 2010

Badger cubs

Some of you most recent visitors may have noticed that we have removed the 3 young badger cubs from our display sett. Humbug successfully gave birth to them at the end of March this year, and has looked after them extremely well. Unfortunately however, over the last couple of months, they have just seemed to have stopped growing. They are fully weaned, but Humbug is not taking them to get their food... in fact it seems she is fed up of them and has not missed them since we took them away.

For this reason we decided to take them out and house them in a separate enclosure, just so we can keep an eye on them and feed them up. We have housed them next to our other young orphaned cubs so they can start getting used to each other. The plan is to eventually, when the three young cubs have grown, to introduce them to the other 2 cubs to make a small clan. They will then be released into our semi-wild sett out on the nature reserve early next year. Here, hopefully, they will remain fairly tame for us to call out for photographers and possibly even offer badger watch evenings next Summer.

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Otter update

Our 3 otter cubs born to Thistle on the 7th of July are all doing very well. In fact today for the first time I opened up the observation holt so people can walk through again and actually see the cubs sleeping in their den. All are fit and healthy, and mum is doing a great job.

There are 2 females and 1 male, the same as her litter last year. Please if you do come along to see them keep nice and quiet as you walk through so as not to disturb them. Having only been opened for a couple of hours this afternoon and on going back to check up on them I noticed some people had been trying to get them to stir and wake up. If this becomes a problem I will have to close the holt off again.

In other mustelid news, our three baby badgers born to Humbug will be taken off display later this week to feed up and prepare to introduce to our two reared orphaned cubs. And our pine martens Bonnie and Clyde have been seen (and heard!) mating.

More news on both of these later in the week.