Sunday, 23 July 2017

Summer Opening


This weekend sees the start of our Summer opening for the school holidays, this means we are now open every day during the week, as well as our usual weekends, until the 3rd of September. We then go back to just weekends until the next half term. 

I have been told by the office that we seem to have a road closure coming up north of us on the A22... not ideal being one of our main routes of access, but apparently there is a fairly simple diversion. More details on our website https://www.britishwildlifecentre.co.uk/planyourvisit.html

Don't let this put you off though, lots to see these coming weeks. 



Our new badger cubs are settling in very well, and although not currently on display, you will get to see their new enclosure being designed and built at the end of the copse.



The family of water voles we introduced you to last week have made themselves at home on our display island, and we have had a few recent sightings of wild ones out on the reserve too... I even spotted a harvest mouse out there last week among the reeds around the boardwalk, so keep your eyes peeled!



New stoat and weasels are just a few of the many new arrivals we have had this year, most now out and about and ready for you to see.



Our conservation team of highland cows are currently in our deer paddock, helping to keep the  grass in check before it runs away from the deer. 



And still a couple of youngsters that are still being reared, and can still be seen out and about with a keeper during the day... including Betty one of our long eared owl chicks. Look at her stunning eyes!

Hope to see many of you here over the next few weeks.

Saturday, 15 July 2017

Black Water Voles and Black Rats


Some more new arrivals to introduce to you, this time of the rodent variety, and ones that may seem quite similar at first appearance... but are in fact very different. First off, take a look at some of our new water voles.



You may notice something a bit different... Yes, he has black fur! It is thought that wild Scottish water voles have a different ancestry to our ones down South, and many wild water voles in Scotland are black in colour. Derek Gow at the West Country Wildlife Centre does amazing work with water vole conservation, and donated a small family of water voles to us including some of his black ones from Scottish lines.



This little family have been put out on to our display island, with our older vole "Walt" coming off display to retire. This is another of the youngsters, this time a brown one, enjoying his breakfast... "Hungry for Apples?"

They are still settling in, but do come out. Best times to see this new family are first or last thing during the day... but you will need to keep quiet and move slow until they get used to the hustle and bustle of being on display.



Our other new arrivals are some black rats. Very similar looking to our black water voles, but more angled features, longer face, larger ears and a very long tail. These have been introduced to our barn enclosure, with our older black rats retiring off display.

Once again, as with our voles, it will take a little while for them to settle, but it won't be too long until they are as visible as our other rats.



Unlike our black water voles, that look the same as brown ones although maybe a little smaller. Black rats do differ in look to our brown rats, being a different species. Black rats are sleeker, with a pointier nose, longer tail and larger ears compared to a brown rat. They are much more agile looking, and this reflect in their more agile behaviour. I would say they are a prettier looking rat too!

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

New Keeper: Clare


I alluded to another new arrival at the end of last week, and this time it is of the human variety... This week we welcome Clare to our keeping team.

Clare has recently finished studying at University, and was looking to venture in to the world of wild animal keeping and conservation work. Having worked part time at a pet store, Clare was looking to move on to something where she will learn more and develop her animal keeping skills. Clare has also volunteered for Drusillas education department, making her an ideal choice to join our team which mixes both the husbandry of animals and direct education work with thousands of school children visiting on pre-booked groups each year.

Good luck to Clare, I am sure she will fit in and settle quickly. Do say hello to her when you are next here, and make her feel welcome.

Friday, 7 July 2017

Photo of the Month: June 2017

"Hugo the Hedgehog" by David Jacobson

I love the summer here at the Centre... all the youngsters are at the age where they are beginning to show themselves, the longer lighter evenings allow us to get more work done, and it brings more photographers to the Centre meaning more photos of our wonderful animals being shared.

Lots of great shots seen and sent in this past month, our wildcats continuing to be very popular as are our hedgehogs. In the end we picked this photo above taken by David Jacobson as out photo of the month for June. It is a fun photo showing Hugo during some unusual hedgehog behaviour, self anointing himself during a photo day!

Below are some more pictures that caught our eyes. 


"Wildcat Snarl" by Brian Coles


"What does the fox say?" by Simon 


"Summer Hedgehog" by Kirsten Asmussen


"Kendra's Kittens" by Gill Penny

Well done again to David, whose photo will appear in our gallery in the coffee shop next year, and who will be in with a chance to win a photographic day here at the Centre. As always, click on the names above to see more of the photographers pictures.

More new arrivals next week, and some stunning photographs already being shared from our Members Evening which may well be seen here next month. 

Sunday, 2 July 2017

Members Evening


Many thanks to all the members who came and spent the evening with us last night. Yesterday was our annual Members Evening, where we stay open for a few more hours to allow members to enjoy the animals in the later, summers light.

It is always a great evening, and we always enjoy allowing you to see the animals during this quieter time, when they are often more active.

Yesterday we put on some extra feeds with the more popular animals, and a couple of extra talks we don't usually do on a normal day. Harvest mice are always popular, so once again we arranged a set up to allow everyone to see them up close and out of their enclosures... also allowing some great photo opportunities for those keen photographers who regularly visit.

Our second extra talk for this year was about our stoats and weasels, where we were able to introduce you to our new arrivals one the past few months.



For those that weren't here last night, we have had some new rescues arrive at the Centre that have needed a new home. 3 weasels and a stoat. Our new stoat came from Folly Wildlife Rescue, where he had been hand reared by one of our members, Margaret. She has done such a great job, that he is now full of health, and extremely friendly. She named him "Columbus", and you can no see him in our hedgerow enclosure. Columbus is such a poser, as you can see in the photo above, and has already met many school groups in his short time here.

Shortly after Columbus arrived, we had a call from a gentleman in Oxford who had accidentally ran over a weasel carrying a baby... Unfortunately the mother died, but miraculously the baby survived. He brought the weasel down to us to look after, and she has now become arguably the friendliest weasel we have ever had. We named her Ginny (Weasley).



I have often told people that female weasels aren't much bigger than a pack of polos, so set up a photo to show this with Ginny performing admirably.

As well as Ginny, two new male weasels have joined our team too... Wilfred and Wallace. Wallace joins Ginny in our hedgerow enclosure, where we hope they will become a breeding pair next season. Wilfred, who is pictured at the top of this post, has moved up to one of our photographic pens opposite our polecats You can see how well he poses already! He will eventually be paired up with our other female weasel, Nina.

So lots of mustelid movements happening, more to come too which we will share over the coming weeks.

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Polecat Kitts


Both our breeding pairs of polecats have given birth, and the kits are at that age where they are beginning to come our and explore... although very slowly.

Cassie is currently off display with 5 little ones to look after. Oriel, above, is on display in our main polecat enclosure looking after 4 kits.



The kits have so make the occasional appearance, but are still a little shy like this one hiding behind the grass.



You can see they are catching up to mum in size very quickly, and this little lad quickly dragged her back in to their den rather than have to come out in to the open even more.

Best time to see them will be around their feed times... currently first thing in the morning, and just after the badger talk in the afternoon.

And for you members out there, don't forget our annual Members Evening this Saturday the 1st of July, 5pm- 8pm.

Thursday, 22 June 2017

More Long-eared Owl Chicks


Well, they've done it again. Another year, another second clutch of long-eared owl chicks from our pair Quill and Embry. This time they had two eggs hatch from two laid, another success.

They have been named Barney and Betty... um, yep... you read that right.



These little ones are currently being reared by our own Little Tom, and what better hands could they be in with Tom having reared their older brother Percy last year,  who now performs so well in our flying team.

Already with homes lined up, they won't be with us too long, but no doubt Tom will show them off when he is in.

Thursday, 15 June 2017

Red Deer Calves



Over the last couple of weeks, our red deer hinds have been giving birth. We currently have 5 calves out there, and one or two more hinds possibly about to give birth. Red deer calves are remarkable, usually on their feet within twenty minutes of being born. Very wobbly, but still up and moving. They spend a lot of time laid up in the grass however... Usually the mothers will leave them hidden away in the grasses while they head off and feed with the rest of the group, returning periodically throughout the day to feed the calf.

You may think that leaving them in the grass in not that good of a camouflage technique, but take a look at the photo above... can you see the calf?



OK, a little easier for you... how about above in the nettles?..

Did you find her in the bottom left corner? Great, what about the other one though, there are actually two calves in this photo!



So, out of the 5 we currently have, 4 keep getting tucked away in the grass, and the older one has begun to follow the herd a bit more frequently. I couldn't get close enough to take photo for you without disturbing the group, so here is one from last years youngsters with one of the hinds. Another month or two and our calves this year will look like this.

If you want to try and see our red deer calves, you will need patience. One or two maybe be with the group at the back of the paddock, but will unlikely come over for the Keeper Talk. The others you will need eagle eyes, or maybe even binoculars, to try and pick them out where they are laid up in the grass. A top tip!.. not always, but usually they are tucked up near a patch of nettles. Good luck!

Saturday, 10 June 2017

Little Owl Chicks


Our breeding pair of little owls, Robin and Nancy, have been extremely successful... 5 eggs were laid earlier this year, and all hatched! Nancy did a great job in rearing them, but we took them away at 2 weeks old so that we could rear and imprint them to become great educational owls.



We have homes lined up for them all, some already moved on and the others to go shortly, but we have decided to keep one... little "Dave"

Dave will be reared to be used alongside Tyrion as one of our meet and greet little owls, photographic superstars and maybe even join our flying team!

They are currently being looked after Izzy, so if you happen to visit on a day Izzy is working, you may be lucky enough to see them.

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Photo of the Month: May 2017

"Running Otter" by Nicola Adzic

It was an absolute joy looking through the many photographs that have been shared over the last month... We normally see a lot, but May seemed to be even more popular with the photographers out there. Lots of really amazing photographs too, we could of easily shared many more than we have.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the main attraction seemed to be our three wildcat kittens. Lots of photos of these beautiful kittens all over the internet already. Surprisingly, our hedgehogs cropped up a lot more than usual. Great to see, and hopefully many more with the photography days coming up over the next couple of months.

But in the end, we went for this lovely photo of "Emmy" the otter running, taken by Nicola Adzic (Nik nik9 on Flickr). It is almost as if the otter is leaping out of the photo and some great spume, you feel as if you are going to get wet looking at it.

Well done Nicola, your photo will be in our gallery next year, and you will be in with a chance of winning a photographic day here at the Centre.


"Tawny Owl" by Brett Watson

Here are some other photos that caught our eyes, including this beautiful portrait of Aluco. As always you can see more of the photographers pictures by clicking on the link in their individual names. 



A shy hedgehog during one of our photo days. 



All three kittens in one shot, playing out on the grass.


"Wildcat" by Emily Leonard

And nice to see some didn't ignore mum and dad in favour of the kittens. Macavity in the dandelion seed heads.


Monday, 5 June 2017

Lucy Leaving


It is time to say goodbye to one of our keepers, Lucy. Lucy has been with us for around 4 years, during which she has been a valuable member of our team, helping with the education and conservation work we do.

Over these years Lucy would of helped educate 1000's of school children about our British wildlife, and helped care for and form bonds with many of our animals... none more so than Tyrion, one of our little owls, who Lucy reared from a very young age.

Lucy has always shown a particular keen interest in the more direct conservation work we do, and it is this which she sees herself doing more of going in to the future. Therefore she has decided to leave the Wildlife Centre, allowing her to have the time to return to part-time study and work/volunteer part-time with local conservation and ecological groups.

We all wish Lucy all the very best for the future, and hope she will keep in touch to let us know how she is doing, and come back to visit us and all of the animals.




Friday, 2 June 2017

Wildlife Garden


Those of you who have visited us recently may have noticed a bit of a tidy up as you come in. Just past the main gate, and opposite our picnic area, we had an old area with a few bird feeders hung from the trees... Well, over the last few weeks, we decided to tidy this little corner up and turn it in to an area to show you all some ideas for what you could do in your gardens at home to help wildlife.



Lots of different ideas are shown, some big some small, all that could be done to some scale in most gardens, and a lot which can be made up with old bits lying around. We have bird boxes and feeders, plenty of insect bits and pieces, reptile and amphibian homes, things to help your local hedgehogs... all sorts, and as an evolving project new things can be added as time goes by.



The centre piece has to be our majestic bug hotel, a modest size easily replicated on a larger or smaller scale. This provides a habitat for many a minibeast, and thus deserves a fitting name. We have called ours "Bugwarts" (thanks Leonie :-) )

The wildlife garden ideas really tidy up an unused area, and will look particularly good when the wildflowers begin to flower. Following on from this we have started to make use of other unused areas, all to show what can be done to help wildlife or just as a chance to observe nature.



Our wetlands reserve is home to many a species, including many reptiles and amphibians. It is also a relocation site for reptiles, and has had many a slowworm released over the years. Dotted around the reserve are some old hiberneculums, places for reptiles to hibernate and/or live.

Walking down our boardwalk, you will see a new bit of landscaping on the right hand side. This is a newer hiberneculum to show you what they can look like and what they are used for. They can be created on a smaller scale than ours, or even on a much larger scale to encompass large areas.



Little Tom has been hard at work, and between school groups and photographers, managed to create a great example for us to show you. Making use of the whole bank, a log pile, rockery, and two types of corrugated roofing all provide excellent hiding spots of reptiles.

Our reserve has seen many a slowworm and grass snake, and so it will be interesting to see if any decide to make use of their new habitats.



Ah, look at him... very pleased with his hard work!



Another little space used... the blank wall in the entrance to our badger sett now houses a wormery. Lots of trails can already be seen, and once we finish it it will make viewing of the worms themselves possible.

Lots of other ideas on the way to make use of the little corners around the Centre, so keep your eyes open for new things each time you pay us a visit.

Monday, 29 May 2017

Wildcat Kittens


There has been a few rumblings amongst some of the members who visit us regularly now about our wildcats. They were calling earlier this year, Kendra our female seems to be gaining weight, we decided to shut the male out in to his own enclosure, and then we stopped cutting the grass for a few weeks... On top of all this, it is a similar time of year to when she had kittens last year!

Well, the wait is over... yes, Kendra has had another litter of kittens this year, and even more exciting is that they have just started to make appearances over the last weekend. Still very shy around people, but we did manage to get a quick snap of one of them (above) before she ran back to her den.



Kendra is being a great mum, and is very experienced. These kittens look a little older than her last few litters when she started bringing them out, but either way they all look good and healthy.

Some of our visitors over the weekend managed to see them, and some even managed to take some lovely photographs. Hopefully we will see some of these shared online.



In the mean time, here are last years three kittens just outside their den at around the same age as our ones this year currently are.

Don't forget we are open everyday this week, and if you do decide to pay us a visit... keep your eyes open around the Wildcat enclosure for a chance to get a glimpse of these beautiful animals.

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Badger Cubs


What a hectic few weeks... This year it seems that a lot of things has happened at once, and we are only just about catching up with ourselves. This means a lot of news to share with you all, and hopefully I will be able to bowl a bountiful of blog posts your way over the coming weeks... that is if we get our electricity back! But that's a tale for another time. 

So where shall I start. A lot happens behind the scenes here at the Centre, and I think it is sometimes nice to share some of these stories as well. A couple of weeks a go we had a couple of badger cubs brought in to us. They were on death's door, had obviously been out alone and abandoned for a night or two, completely dehydrated, stone cold and covered in more fleas and ticks than probably all us keepers put together had seen before. 




Most of you will be aware that we do not advertise as a rescue centre, and usually pass animals that come to us on to dedicated rescue centres, but these two cubs needed immediate attention and a lot of luck! So we kept them here to look after.

After a long night, they were finally showing some good signs, and another day saw them begin to feed well from the bottle. They are now going from strength to strength, and are beginning to begin the weaning process.



They currently live off display where we can keep them quiet and keep a close eye on them, but they do venture out in to the Dell every so often to wander around, explore... and of course DIG! so if you see any muddy divots in there at the weekend, you now know why!

More new arrivals to announce soon, and of course half term next week too... could be a good week to visit!

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

Photo of the Month: April 2017

"Ted and Basil" by Dave Burden

A lot has happened over the past month... Drogo being a star for the pine marten talk, long-eared owl chicks, Drogo loving his role for the pine marten talk, red squirrel kittens, a new emerging favourite for the pine marten talk, heron chicks, dancing adders, oh... and did I mention Drogo, he is really relishing his new role as being one of our main pine martens for the afternoon talks!

Lots of photographs showing all these things have been sent and and shared over the internet, but I chose the photo above by Dave Burden to be April's photo of the month. What a great moment to capture!

And below are some other favourites from the last few weeks...


"Heron Chicks" by Bobs Photography

"Dancing Adders" by Moi Hicks

"Harvest Mouse" by Lisa Clark

"Hedgehog" by Andre Neves