Monday, 30 June 2014

Red Squirrel Kittens

This year has been a very successful year so far with our breeding red squirrels. Most of our holding group members have currently got litters of red squirrels running around, and we have several litters in our off-display breeding pens ready to be moved on.

Currently we are just looking to re-organise what we have both on and off site, but have plans for creating new breeding pairs in other locations around the country and are possibly helping with another pilot release programme later this year. More news on this to follow over the summer.

We have a litter of kittens in our walkthrough enclosure, but I thought I would show you this little handsome chap in one of our breeding pens. It is difficult to see on the photo, but his flanks, ear tufts and tail are very pale in colour. Stunning!

Don't forget members evening this coming Saturday!

Saturday, 28 June 2014

Introducing Pine Martens

It is that time of year again when we introduce our pine martens together for the breeding season. As you know, I am desperate to breed ours as they are the last mammal for us to successful breed here at the Centre. Although we haven't bred them yet, the good news is that we have got them to live together each summer... a tricky task in itself, and each year we seem to get a little bit closer so... fingers crossed again this year.

I used to be on tenterhooks when introducing Bonnie and Clyde together, but they get on so well (maybe too well for breeding), that I had no fear this year, and using the run systems like we do each year today was the day when we opened them up and allowed them to meet face to face.

As usual, they pretty much ignored each other, but in a few weeks they will hopefully mate as they have in previous years, and then it is fingers crossed until next year to see if it has been successful.

While I was too busy keeping an eye on them, and making sure it all went well, it seemed Clyde was busy keeping an eye on me!.. Reassuring me I had nothing to worry about. Either that or he was impressed with the "Crocs"!...

We will still keep a close eye on them over the coming weeks to make sure they are settled, and not causing problems. We have not introduced Hamish and Buttons as Hamish is being... well... a bit of a sod to be honest, but we will see if it is possible in a weeks time. We may not risk it though as Buttons is an old girl now, and so possibly past the breeding age.

For more Pine Marten photos, click on the "More BWC Photos" tab above.

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Deer Fawns

We have recently had our first fallow deer fawn born at the centre for this year. Fallow deer have a slightly shorter gestation than red deer, so despite mating later in the year, they still give birth around about the same time.

This little one above was still finding his feet, but it is amazing how quickly they do start to bound around. Within 15 minutes of being born they will be up on their feet. Admittedly, very wobbly and falling over occasionally, but it doesn't take them long.

While this young though, most of the time you will find them tucked up in the grass while the mother goes off to feed.

Only occasionally going back to feed the youngster, and move them on to another spot. This is why it is so important to think twice before approaching a lone fawn in the wild. What may appear to be an abandoned fawn, may well just have been left while the mother goes to feed and she will come back to collect them later. But once any human scent is on the baby, it is then very likely that the mother will abandon the fawn.

If you do come across a baby deer, and are concerned, the best thing to do is check the spot again later in the day... chance are it will no longer be there as it would of been collected by the mother.

Back to our red deer calves. They are doing extremely well, and on last count we currently have six of them. You can see two above already big enough to follow the rest of the herd around.

They vary in age, and so many are still tucked up in the grass. You can see below how easy it would be to pass them with out ever knowing they were there... and this is in relatively short grass too!

So, keep your eyes open for deer fawns and calves this weekend if you are planning on making a trip to see us, and click on the "More BWC Photos" tab above for more photos of our fallow deer.

Sunday, 22 June 2014

Baby Polecats

Mags, one of our female polecats, gave birth earlier this year to a litter of kits. We weren't sure how many as she was keeping them in one of her underground dens, but we thought it may be a lot by the noise coming from her den when the kits were obviously beginning to get hungry.

Well, on Friday, we found out that she has given birth to eight! That may sound like a lot, but it is an average size litter for a polecat, we were still surprised though as in previous years she has only had a small litter.

This is Mags above, a proud mum, and doing a great job in looking after her babies. On Friday the kits all seemed to have decided that that was the day to start exploring... they all came out of their nest, and were looking around on very wobbly feet, all while mum was frantically trying to carry them back in to the nest.

She has since moved them two or three times to different nesting areas, and we were able to count eight different kits on one of these occasions.

Yesterday they were out and about for a short while too, but I think the heat proved a little too much for them, as they quickly retired back underground. I expect to see them more frequently over the coming days and weeks as they mature, and really begin to find their feet. The it won't be long till mum finally gives up, and lets them explore and leaves them to find their own way back to the nest for feed time.

Keep your eyes open next time you are here, or perhaps more reliably your ears... they are noisy little things! Still early days though, so not guaranteed to see them.

For more photos of the animals at the BWC, don't forget to click on the tab above "More BWC Photos"

Friday, 20 June 2014

New Stoat on Display

We have had a young female stoat off-display for some time, and we recently decided to move her in to the middle of three stoat pens up the other end of the Centre, oppose it the polecats. I wish we had done it sooner, as she has settled in quickly and well, and has turned in to a real diva... enjoying having her photo taken.

The last couple of weekends has seen a lot of people keeping an eye open for her, and it is not only how relaxed she is generating the interest... look how beautiful she is! A real stunner, with little blond highlights either side of her head and around her ears.

Our other two stoats on display up there are also great for photography, but are really only active in the afternoon... and mainly around 3pm onwards. This little one is active most of the afternoon, and has also been seen out in the mornings too. So keep your eyes open.

If you do come to see her, and try to take photos of her, good luck! I know I said she was settled, but even a slow stoat is still very quick!

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Red Squirrels on Tresco

Red Squirrel in Tresco - by Kathryn Cooper 

I am sure you are all aware that over the past two years we have released, and established, a new colony of red squirrels on the isle of Tresco... one of the Scilly isles of the coast of Cornwall. It is only with releases like this that we will be able to keep red squirrel in the country. Our aim is to one day be able to releases red squirrels back on to the mainland, but this may not be for some time and so for now the islands are their safe havens.

But, has it worked? How are the squirrels on Tresco doing?... Well, I am pleased to say it has been a resounding success and the squirrels are fairing well!

Squirrel on feeder - by Kathryn Cooper 

I was a little concerned over the turn of the year, due to the strong winds and heavy rain we had, as to how they would cope... but during the early part of this year they have all been seen busying around the island and coping extremely well. They have built their own dreys, and even adapted to the wild food on the island. Although do still come back to eat some of the food given out by the residents, an ongoing food source for them if they need it.

Squirrel on feeder - by Kathryn Cooper 

What's more is they have bred this year too! Something we hoped for, but perhaps didn't expect for another year while they settled in. This is great news of course, and shows how happy and settled they are to rear young.

Squirrel on nest box - by Kathryn Cooper

All of these photos were taken by Kathryn Cooper, who recently went for a visit to the island and got to see the squirrels first hand. She did amazingly well to get these pics, and it is nice to see the squirrels looking so healthy with their new wild life. This is what Kathryn had to see on her recent trip:

"It was an absolute delight to spend some time with them. It took quite some time for them to get used to me enough that they'd come close enough for a good shot.  After a couple of hours of patient waiting (and brief glimpses, inevitably at the furthest feeder), there were four or five busying themselves around me. They move incredibly fast through the branches - a difficult but satisfying subject to photograph! The habitat on Tresco looks superb and I'm so pleased to hear that they are breeding." - Kathryn Cooper

We are linked with more projects for the coming years regarding red squirrel conservation, and I will tell more when I can. But for now enjoy these pics from Tresco, and thanks to Kathryn for allowing me to share them with you.

Monday, 16 June 2014

Water Vole Kits on Island

The last couple of weekends have seen a lot of attention around our water vole island. After a slow start to the year, and only fleeting glimpses of the adults, they have recently given birth to their second litter and these babies are currently spending much of the day exploring their home.

Peak activity still seems to be first thing in the morning, shortly after we open, and again nearer the end of the day before we close. If you are planning on visiting us over the coming weeks, please do make an effort to spend a bit of time down by our water voles. A little patience may be needed, but it will be reward with a beautiful sight of one of Britain's most endearing mammals.

They can be seen with the parents on the island, and swimming in the water. Their general pattern however seems to be swimming from one of the tunnels on to one of the smaller feeding islands, and then stopping off for a bite to eat. They do this back and forth for a while, before resting up and then coming out again in spells throughout the whole day.

Our water voles on the nature reserve are continuing to thrive too... I am getting daily reports of sightings of the wild voles, which is exciting news for us of course. The youngsters on the display island will eventually be released on to our reserve, a little further up the stream, to help encourage them to dissipate further afield. Having grown up our display island will give them a great start in life, as they will already know what wild food types are.

Keep you eyes peeled next time you are here for our water voles.

Friday, 13 June 2014

BWC Sister Blog

I briefly mentioned that we would be starting a "Sister Blog" a few weeks a go now, but since today it has been more widely linked and announced I felt it only right to do an officially launch/announcement here for those that may have missed it a the bottom of a previous post.

I have often been asked to see more of the photos I take around the centre for work, or more of the photos I may have taken for a particular post I put up here... but I am wary not to clog up this blog with too many photos, for those less interested.

Therefore I have set up a sister blog:

Where I will post these extra photos, photos people have asked to see, and share others photos from around the BWC.

It will all still be from around the BWC... and so will be like an extra blog where you may perhaps learn more about our individual animals, a bit more from behind the stories on here and of course see some extra photos.

For those that that are not interested in extra photos. Don't worry... all the BWC news about the animals will still be put up here on the main BWC Blog!.. the other blog will simply be for extra photos for those interested in seeing more, or hearing about individual images etc.

Already I have "piloted" the blog with just a small mention, and I have been amazed by the support. In only three weeks from the first post it is averaging over 50 hits a day... a long way short from the main blog, but then I wouldn't expect it to ever reach the success of this BWC Blog.

There are currently some new photos of water voles on there, from the second litter on the island display. I'll mention more about that here soon.

And some old photos too to get it all started. Seven posts for the seven British Owls. If you think this is something that interests you, please do go and have a look and spread the word for those you think may be interested.

The first post you will see will be from the bluebell shoot we did earlier this year, plus a few from past years in the bluebells.

I am hoping to update this second blog regularly, so keep checking back using the tab above under the header "More BWC Photos"

I will not mention here every time there is a post there, but may on the occasion I think there might be something that interests more of you.

Please, take a look, and thanks for your continued support for the BWC Keepers Blog.

Oh, by the way, something I only found out last week... if you click on one of the photos in these posts, it loads them all up slightly bigger and in a slideshow format. Easier to see them if it is only the pics you are interested in, or just want to see them bigger!

Back with animal news next week.

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Red Deer Calf

I was going to officially launch the sister blog today, but after yesterday I just had to share this exciting news with you all. I was out in the deer paddock for a couple reasons... taking a photo, above, to continue the antler growth series we are working on, and to take some pictures of our fallow deer for a side project David, the owner, is working on.

As I started to drive out, something caught my eye in the grass, and low and behold we have our first red deer calf of 2014!

Unfortunately I had disturbed the fallow deer a little while photographing them, and they were wandering over to see this little calf, so I hung around to make sure they caused no trouble.

I was quite far away, these are close cropped photos, but after a while this little one got up and went off to join the herd where mum took her off to another safe spot.

She is only young, and likely only to have been born the night before or even yesterday morning. Keep your eyes peeled next time you are here, and if you see reddish brown blob in the grass... it may well be a calf!

Saturday, 7 June 2014

Photo Comp Winners Day

Last year George Wheelhouse won our BWC Photographic competition with an endearing close-up portrait of one of our water voles, selected by professional wildlife photographer Danny Green. As a prize for winning our third annual competition, George won an exclusive photographic day here at the Centre and booked in to claim his prize just over a month a go.

The timing was perfect for the bluebells, and so we made the most of them with a few carefully placed owls and a hedgehog. The weather was forecast to be a bit iffy, but we got very lucky and it avoided us for most of the evening. We even got a bit of late light!

After the bluebells, we set up some other owls for George to photograph down on our nature reserve, before heading back up to the Centre to look at some mammals.

Being an exclusive day with George being here on his own, allowed us to photograph animals which we can not offer on our normal photographic days, such as access to one of our pine marten enclosures.

We can also move other sets around, making the use of different backgrounds for our harvest mice for example.

It was a great evening, and I had a great time too in showing George around. We covered a lot of animals in the afternoon and evening he was here, and it is clear from the above that George went away with some stunning images.

To see more of George's work, have a look at his website

I'll leave the last words to George...

"I just wanted to thank you all again for a fantastic day there. I still can't believe I won, and how lucky I was to get such a fantastic prize. I'm encouraging everyone I know to enter this year." - George Wheelhouse

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Adder Feeding

First let me say, this may well be a love it or hate it post... there are photos below of adders feeding and even a short video clip. If you would prefer not to see out adders eating voles, best to give this post a miss.

Of course we have to feed our adders, as we do all our animals here at the Centre, but I have always tried to feed the adders when we have been quieter, usually when we are not open. The reason for this... it seems snakes feeding has a mixed reaction. Where as most people are OK with us feeding our carnivores rabbits or chicks etc, the thought of a snake feeding on a mouse is sometimes disliked.

A couple of weeks ago though, I had to feed them during the day when we were open, I tried to time it for when it was a bit quieter in that area of the Centre... but within ten minutes or so quite a few people had gathered, and most were fascinated by the way they ate!

Most of you already know I have a soft spot for our adders, and have studied and worked with snakes for longer than I have been at the BWC. For an animal with no limbs to be able to eat prey much larger than them, with relative ease, is fascinating to watch.

Snakes do not dislocate their jaws, but do have independent moving mandibles of the lower jaw. They are joined at the front by a very strong and flexible ligament, allowing the snake to open their mouth extremely widely. By being able to move each lower jaw bone separately, the snake can then "walk" the prey in by pulling with first the left side and then the right.

I once read that an adult adder only needs to feed on two adult voles a year to survive! We offer ours food once every two or three weeks from roughly a month after they emerge from hibernation until the begin to slow down in the Autumn.

OK... I think that has been enough rambling to separate some feeding pics from those who didn't wish to see them...

And for those who would like to see a bit of it in action, here is a short video clip...

Monday, 2 June 2014

Muntjac Fawn

This weekend just past saw a new arrival. A new muntjac deer fawn was born in our walkthrough re squirrel enclosure.

It caused quite a stir, as the mother gave birth early in the morning and just before our red squirrel, just down beside the boardwalk. This particular female has successfully reared young in the past though, and being so settled in the enclosure was quite relaxed feeding and cleaning her hew baby while visitors watched.

After about an hour, she went off and left the youngster to feed her self. This is often what happens in the wild too, and why it is so important to leave young deer alone if you find them out on a walk. They may look abandoned, but chances are that they have just been left by the mother in a safe place while she goes off to feed, and she will be back again later to collect. If you are that concerned, leave well alone to give the mother a chance to come back, and go and check later in the day. Chances are the youngster will have been moved.

Once the mother came back she collected the little one, very wobbly on it's legs, and took it out in to a bit more cover under the trees. There she gave it another feed and a good wash. Dad even came over to check that they were doing alright...

... er, well... Would be nice to think that, but he was probably waiting for her to come in to season again. She will likely be mated within the next few days for the process to start again.

Muntjac deer are an introduced species to the UK, and are beginning to get to the numbers which are causing some problems out in the wild. They are quite a popular animal for small wildlife parks though, and we have a waiting list for centres wishing to home our young muntjac. It is quite likely that this little one will be making it's way to Wildwood Trust once weaned.

Below is a short video clip of the fawn being washed.