Saturday, 15 April 2017

First 2017 Releases

This past week was the annual Common Dormouse Captive Breeders Group (CDCBG) meeting. As well as discussing all things domousey, it was a chance for the group to collect up all the dormice bred last year for the annual release. 

We had a very successful year last year, and all our youngsters came with us to the meeting to be handed over to the quarantine team. Both London Zoo and Paignton Zoo take the dormice to be checked over before release later in the year, co-ordinated by the Peoples Trust for Endangered Species (PTES). 

As well as our dormice preparing for their release, we had our first release of harvest mice on home soil! With the warmer Spring in full flow, we were finally able to release the many we had been keeping safe over the Winter months.

We breed several harvest mice each year, and have slowly been releasing them around our reserve. Last year we found several signs, including nests, to show they are settling in well and really making a home for themselves out there.

More animal news over the coming weeks, including some new arrivals!

Monday, 10 April 2017

Dancing Adders

Firstly, apologies to those whose photos I shared yesterday, I prefer to leave them as the first post for a few days, but secondly... THE ADDERS ARE DANCING!

Above is an old photo, but you can see from the two below that they started to have a little tussle yesterday afternoon in the sun. Nothing spectacular, and still early days, but I know a lot of you have been waiting for this so thought I would throw it our there.

There is never any guarantees of course, but this does mean they could well be dancing again at some point this week. You all know I love this, but I will try to limit my posts on the adders... especially as there is so much other news to share at the moment.

So if you are visiting this week, makes sure you spend some time up with our awesome adders. If you are not too keen on snakes, come and see them anyway... see how beautiful and miss understood they really are!

Don't forget to check out yesterdays post to see some visitors photos that we shared from last month.

See you by the adders.

Sunday, 9 April 2017

Photo of the Month: March 2017

"Polecat" by Kevin Pinfold

Spring finally feels like it is here, and the number of you visiting with your cameras shows this too. Lots of fantastic photographs shared over the past few weeks, by I chose this one above of one of our polecats, taken by Kevin Pinfold, to be our photo for March. You will be able to see it up in our gallery next year, and Kevin will be in with a shout of winning our photographic day here if chosen by our professional photographer at the end of the year. 

"Red Squirrel" by Dave Burden

Here are a few of the other photos that caught our eyes.

"Red Fox" by Adrian Coleman

"Harvest Mouse" by Jennifer McCluskey

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Antlerless Albus

It is that time of year again when our Red Deer lose their antlers. If you have visited us over the last few days, then you may of thought we only have the one stag... Olivandeer... but our master stag, Albus Dumbledeer, cast his antlers a few days a go.

This happens every year during the Spring. Our red stags will drop their antlers before growing a new set, this growth starts straight away, and usually only takes around 16 weeks until they have a full set again. I expect Olivandeer will lose his before the Easter opening is over.

Each year their antlers grow slightly larger, as you can see from the photo above, but still stick to a familiar pattern. The first small set at the top is what Albus was wearing when he first arrived at the Centre, and the largest set at the bottom the ones Big Tom picked up from the paddock a few days a go.

The growth is remarkable... covered in a soft velvet, these antlers will grow noticeably over the weeks... possibly even days with Albus's crown! In the past I have taken photos weekly of the growth, and will attempt to do so again to show the speed of this process come the Summer when he has a full head again!

Saturday, 1 April 2017

Easter Opening

Some of you may have heard the news through Facebook that 'Pip's Corner' is now open for the Easter holiday, but you know what else we have at the Centre for you to enjoy?.. A wealth of wonderful wildlife, an abundance of awesome animals, a bevy of beautiful British b... uh, yeah!

This time of year is particularly good too, as the clocks have changed and the days are lengthening. Most of our hibernating animals have now emerged, or are in the process of doing so, and we even have our first signs of new life. One of the first Spring sightings for us are the herons nesting, and they are currently sitting on eggs. And yes you can go and see them, as the boardwalk is now open after a couple of months of essential repair works.

You all know one of my favourite Spring sightings are the adders. I mentioned a few weeks a go that we saw the males out, and one of the females emerged a week or so a go. I was a bit worried about the second female, but finally saw her a couple of days a go so all are good and looking well.

The nocturnal house is beginning to wake up, and Tiny Tom the hedgehog has been busy for a few weeks now. The bats have been seen too, leaving just the dormice to begin to wake up... but I would imagine this will be very soon as we have seen signs of out breeding dormice already waking up in their outside pens.

Longer days allow us to lengthen our schedule of Keeper Talks, and the summer itinerary is now in place. This means we no longer do a dedicated talk on the polecats (although you will still see them out and about), but have introduced the badgers, pine martens and hedgehogs back on to the agenda.

And of course, there is a lot more to see too. Our otter cubs are growing up, and I will have an update for you on them shortly (yes, including names...) Our red squirrels are going well, and signs of a few possible litters already. And some of you may have noticed a re-vamp to our bird feeding area as you enter the Centre. More news on the idea behind this too coming shortly.

So, remember we are now open to the public everyday for the next two weeks and Easter bank holiday Monday. Why not come and see us and the animals.

Thursday, 16 March 2017

Adders have emerged

The warmer weather has brought some of our hibernators out from their winter slumber. Some of our dormice have begun to stir, our hedgehogs have been up and about for a few nights, our bats have begun to flutter and feed during the day and perhaps most noticeable are our adders.

Last week we saw the two males up for the first time, and over the weekend they made an appearance along with one of the females.

Having just emerged, they are not looking their best. Some sand around their eyes and a dull skin. But it won't be long till they have had a swim and cleaned themselves up, a shedding of skin will make them glisten and then of course it will be soon time for them to do their yearly "dance".

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Filming Dormice

Last week we welcomed a film crew to do a little bit of filming with some of our animals. I can't say too much at the moment, but they are working on a piece that will be aired at the end of this year at prime time on a major channel. All exciting stuff!

As and when we can let more information out, I will of course let you know, and reminders nearer the time. But for now, one of the things on the list to film were hibernating dormice. 

We are very successful with our breeding dormice, and have three litters lined up for a release later this year, but what some of you may not realise is we also have some "educational" dormice. These are dormice that can not be released for one reason or another, as deemed by the studbook, and so need a permanent home.

It is these dormice which we can use for filming. We very rarely allow this, as we want to keep any disturbance to them to a minimum, but have on occasion gone ahead. So for this little chap above, we delicately took him out of his nest box whilst he was hibernating, placed him in a set for a bit of filming, and then placed him back in is nest box again... none the wiser.

He was a star, even though he didn't know it, and we will make sure he gets a few more hazel nuts when he awakes later in the Spring!

Saturday, 4 March 2017

Photo of the Month: February 2017

"Otter Cub" by Bob Howell

Trying to keep things seasonal, and relevant to the yearly activities, we had our eyes open for some lovely photos of our otter cubs... and we weren't disappointed. We have had a lot of them sent in to us and shared over the internet. Our two new foxes seem to still be drawing a lot of attention too, and believe it or not we had a very... VERY small snow flurry at the beginning of the month, which a few of you managed to enjoy.

Of all the fantastic otter cub photos we saw, we decided to chose this one above taken by Bob Howell. We loved the way she still had some grass on her head as she left the water. As always, check the links in names to see more of the photographers pictures.

"Otter Cub" by Zena Saunders

Lot's of playful photos of our cubs, they have been seen often playing with sticks and roots in and out of the water. 

"Otters Playing" by Natasha Jefferies

Elwood is being a great dad as always, and is always up for a bit of playtime with the youngsters.

"Red Fox" by Sean Weekly
We have seen some great portraits of our new foxes, like this one of Basil who is settling in to his new home really well.

"Roe Deer in Snow" by Bob Howell 

And remember that snow flurry I mentioned?.. Well, Bob was one of the photographers who happened to be here, and took this lovely photo of  one of our roe deer with the snow still falling.

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Otter Cub Update

Half term is half way through, and the stars of the week have been our two young otter cubs! Despite the somewhat dismal weather, they have both been out and about frequently and made an appearance at most of our otter keeper talks... and all our otter main feeds.

They are both doing really well, and growing in confidence daily. Both already hand feeding by the keeper, and showing their own individual personalities and traits. They have all been showing off their playful sides too... when we had the short snow flurry last Saturday, they were rolling around and playing with a snowball. And as with his cubs in the past... shortly after most of their feeds, Dad, Elwood, has been seen playing with them in the water, tumbling in and out and cartwheeling in the water.

We are still open for the rest of the week if you wish to come and see them, and then of course still open for the weekends after this week. Hope to see some of you here.

Sunday, 5 February 2017

Photo of the Month: January 2017

"Ermine Stoat" by Jonathon Hicks

It is time to share our first photo of the month for 2017. We choose our favourites from the ones we see shared over the internet, or sent in to us via email. The main places we look are flickr and instagram, so if you post your pics in one of these places, there is a good chance one of us will see it... but if you have a photograph you are particularly pleased with... why not email it in to us!

We have decided to share photographs that have been uploaded within the month in question, but will always show a preference to those taken that month too... it is nice to keep it seasonal... especially since the 12 chosen images make up our coffee shop gallery for the following year. The overall winner, chosen from the 12 by a professional photographer, then wins a photographic day here at the Centre. 

So on to January 2017! Lots of seasonal pics on view, otters on ice, animals in the snow but we have picked this lovely shot of Susie the stoat, having turned ermine for the winter, taken by Jonathon Hicks. A nice closeup, which shows the full white coat and black tip to the tail in the background. 

As always, click on the link in the photographers name to see more of their work. Below are some other pictures that caught our eye this past month. 

A black and white otter on ice by Zena.
"Otter on Ice" by Gary K Mann

Gary has some great otter on ice pictures on his flickr stream, but we particularly liked this one... just how we feel on some of the colder mornings.

"What is this white stuff?" by Natasha Jefferies

You can see we didn't have much snow, but that we did have caused some great reactions form the animals.

"Eagle Owl" by Daniel Hannington

And an older picture, but a great one. Ethel flying straight towards the camera during our owl display. Great eye contact!

Tuesday, 24 January 2017

BWC 2016: Photo of the Year

"Wildcat Kittens" by Bob Matthews

Congratulations to Bob Matthews, who was selected by Professional Photographer Heather Angel, to win our photo of the year 2016 with this lovely image of Kendra and her kittens.

Heather chose this photo above, saying:

"It is always difficult to get an animal family portrait without one individual's face masked by another body or, even worse, a youngster running out of shot just as the shutter is released. Bob Matthews' image of "Wildcat Kittens' has achieved an endearing image of Kendra and her three kittens. Capturing all kittens in contact with their mother conveys her love for them and their dependence on her. I particularly like the way they are grouped together in a diagonal line, which enhances the composition. Well done and congratulations Bob!"

Well done Bob, you win a photographic day here at the Centre, and your photo will be displayed with the 11 other chosen photos of last year in our coffee shop gallery.

If you would like to see more of Bob's photographs, follow this link in his name above to his flickr page.

Many thanks again to Heather Angel for being our professional judge for last year's competition. To see some of Heather's work take a look at her website by following this link: Heather Angel Photographer You will get to see some stunning images taken from around the world, and a great blog offering tips for your own photography.
If you like what you see there, why not follow her on twitter. Heather posts regular updates under @angelantics
And if you're more of a smartphone kinda person, then Heather had a new Instagram channel where you can see a selection of her worldwide images.

Friday, 20 January 2017

Otter Cub Update

Our otter cubs have been growing bolder by the day, and over the past couple of weekends have even made brief appearances after some of the keeper talks. I have tried to get some pictures for you to see, but... I have fallen short... I don't know, lack of time and I don't even know if I know my landscapes from portraits these days.

These were the best I could get, both taken shortly after a keeper talk, and both after Emmy took some food back to the holt to try and tempt them out... hey look, two cubs in the photo above!

"Otter Cub with Mum" by Moi Hicks

The good news though is that some of our members have been staking out the pond, and gone home with some lovely photographs of the youngsters. Like this one above taken by Moi Hicks, mother Emmy on the left taking one of the cubs down to the waters edge... and a great reflection!

"Otters" by Chloe Holland-Skinner, age 11

And how about this great photo by Chloe, age 11. Last weekend, shortly after our deer talk, I headed back past our otter pond in the rain... and a few brave souls were stood watching Emmy move her cubs from one holt to another. I don't think there was a camera between any of us, but a few people had their phones out and Chloe managed to capture this special moment.

You will probably see more images of our cubs pop up on the usual photo sharing sites over the next few weeks, or of course... come and see them for yourselves in person.

Friday, 13 January 2017

BWC in the Snow?..

Well, kind of... We had a small, very small, dusting of snow here last night. Not really nearly enough from a photographic point of view, but still it was there.

It is thawing fast though, so for those possibly getting excited about the weekend and photographing our animals in the snow... you will most likely disappointed.

But!.. on the positive side of things, out otter cubs are continuing to get bolder every day. Both youngsters are venturing out a little bit more, and a little bit further under the close supervision of mum. We have even seen them playing with each other on their own once, until scampering back to the holt when something spooked them.

Saturday, 7 January 2017

December 2016: Photo of the Month

"Poseur" by Mike Doyle

The colder, quieter days of December don't seem to have stopped the buddy photographers showing up. In fact, I think we have seen more photographs shared this past month than we have in other recent months. A really good variety of animals too!

This month I picked this lovely photo of Sylvester, one of our Stoats, to adorn our coffee shop gallery wall. Our stoats are extremely difficult to photograph, they move so fast and rarely stop still for more than a few seconds. So for Mike Doyle to be able to capture one so beautifully, and in such a great pose, was no mean feat. Well done Mike!

As always, to see more of Mike's photographs, then follow the link in his name to his flickr account. 

"Tree Heron" by Etienne Fournier

Some other great photographs were shared in this last month of 2016. It was really nice to see a lot of pictures of our wild wildlife, out on our nature reserve. My favourites being a series of herons by Etienne Fournier in some superb lighting.

"Fox" by Geraint Parry
Geraint Parry took this great photo of one of our new foxes, Ted, settling in well. A classic yawning shot.

"Thieving Squirrel" by Life's a Journey
A fun one here from "Life's a Journey" over on flickr, one of our mischievous squirrels trying to steal some boot laces for their drey.

"Otter on Ice" by Zena Saunders

And we had to include at least one nice ice shot. This great photo from Zena of one of our otters on the ice.

Well done to all the twelve monthly photos form last year. This year, professional photographer Heather Angel will be selecting her favourite from the 12 to win a photographic day here at the BWC. We will announce this before the month is up, and then start looking at 2017.

Monday, 2 January 2017

Happy New Year

Happy New Year to you all, hope 2017 turns out to be a good one!

So what's new at the BWC?.. Well, the star of the show over the past few days we have been open surprisingly has not been our otter cubs, but has been one of our stoats, Susie.

Susie is moulting in to an ermine coat at the moment, that is she is turning white for the winter. She still has a little patch of brown on her back that will possibly moult out, but I think she will keep the brown mask around her eyes.

Susie has caused a lot of stir, particularly among some of our regular photographers, meaning our otter cubs have had to take second place... they have been out though, and a couple of days a go Emmy even had one of the cubs out on the near bank after the keeper talk.

Today is the last day we are open for the Christmas period, so keep in mind we are now back to weekend, school holiday and bank holiday openings. But if you can't make it out this afternoon, then I am sure Susie will still be white for a few weekends and our otter cubs will only get bolder as the year goes on.