Monday, 13 August 2018

Photo of the Month: July 2018

"Polecats in Hammock" by Nicholas Armitt

Instagram provides the photos for last months photos of choice, and we have selected this one above of our polecat pair sharing their hammock taken by Nicholas Armitt.

Nicholas's photo will be on display in our coffee shop gallery next year, and will be in with a chance to win a photographic day here at the Centre when all 12 images have been selected.

To see more of Nicholas's photos, or any of the photographers below, click on the link in their name to go to their instagram pages.

"Wildcat Snarl" by Kieran M

Monday, 6 August 2018

Floki the Barn Owl

Can you believe it?!. This is Floki, our new barn owl, who only a few weeks a go was an ug.. eh, was a little ball of fluff. All owls grow and change quickly from hatching to 12 weeks, but I always think barn owls go through the biggest change in look.

Floki was kindly donated to us by Osney Farm Lodge as a young chick. Keeper Tom took on the role of surrogate mum, and took him home with him each night to rear and spend time with. 

A couple of weeks later and he was beginning to sit on his own, and become a little more upright... although still a ball of fluff. Heart shape face beginning to take shape.

Another couple of weeks, and he was a pro at standing. Still a lot of fluff, but some actual feathers growing through underneath all that. You can see the classic heart shaped face developing well.

Another week, and the change is speeding up. Adult feathers really pushing through now, and beginning to do small hops and flights. It only took another week or so for Floki to lose all his baby fluff, and he is now on display in one of our aviaries...

... and also in our owl display. Training is going well, and Floki is now a full member of our flying team, being shown off in some of our displays.

It's been a while, and since we are still open everyday for the summer holidays, a quick update. Our other owlets are doing well. Two little owls which are in training for the flying team, and the two tawnies which will soon be a part of the display too. 

Our ravens have settled in extremely well, and have been popular with many visitors. 

Our three badger cubs are exploring a little more each day, and slowly getting used to being out and about with the public. Still mostly seen at the end of the day when it is a little quiet, but a few of our visitors have spotted them out during the middle of the day too.

As with previous years, it seems to be the summer when our grass snakes become more active. This really hot weather has forced them in to hiding during the middle of the day, but they have both been seen out basking at the beginning and end of opening. 

And it seems to be a good year for our water voles on the reserve, with a lot of visitors mentioning they have seen them swimming and out on the banks down there. Great news!

Sunday, 22 July 2018

Ravens on Display

Our pair of ravens are now on display in their new aviary, and just in time for the summer opening period as we are now open every day for the summer until the 3rd of September. They are in the new aviary on the left hand side as you head towards the wetland boardwalk. A lovely large aviary, with extra height, which gives them some great roosting areas to overlook the whole Centre and much of the reserve too. 

Our two are still young, and although pretty much fully grown, will still take a while to fully mature, bulk out and develop into adult plumage and look. Ravens are the largest members of the crow family, differing from the others not only in size but also with their heavier built and larger black beak, their more wedge like shaped tail when flying and ruffled shaggy feathers around the throat and above the beak.

Huginn and Muninn, as we have called them, came to us as very young chicks from a corvid rescuer and raven breeder local to us. Hand reared from this young age, they are very friendly, and enjoy human interaction.

Ravens are fascinating birds, and it will be great for visitors to see and hear about them over the coming weeks. I think for me the most interesting things about them are the folklore, myths and history through different cultures. Their names for example, Huginn and Muninn, come from the names of the Norse god Odin's two ravens. Huginn (thought) and Muninn (memory) would fly over the world, and report back to Odin.

And of course, perhaps most famous, Edgar Allen Poe's poem "The Raven"

You will see our ravens long before you get to their avairy. They love to perch up high, which gives them a view of the Centre and a chance for you to see them above the owl aviaries as you wander down towards them.

Don't forget that we are now open for the summer holildays, everyday until the 3rd of September. Hope to see many of you here over the next few weeks.

Thursday, 12 July 2018

Photo of the Month: June 2018

"European Adder" by Fay Saunders

As always, some lovely photos shared over the past month, but how could we resist this beautiful face of one of our adders for June's photo of the month.

This photo of one of our male adders was taken by Fay Saunders, while the adder was sunbathing in the gorse bush. The photo will be on display in our gallery next year, and be in with a chance to win a photographic day here if selected by our professional judge at the end of the year.

Below are a few more pictures from last month. Click on the names of the photographers to see more of their photos.

"Yellow Neck Mice" by Danny Simpson

"Harvest Mouse" by Celia Mulhearn

"Fox" by Catherine Lawrence

Sunday, 8 July 2018

Members Evening: 2018

Thank you to all the members who came along to our annual "Members Evening" last night. As with previous years we stayed open for an extra few hours after we usually close, for members of the Centre to enjoy the place to themselves and in the slightly cooler evening weather.

This is a great time to be at the Centre, and the animals are often a little more active with it being slightly quieter and certainly with yesterdays weather a little cooler too. A couple of extra talks were done, not usually on our schedule, and a few extra feeds for the animals too.

Our harvest mice are always popular, and as has become a bit of a staple for this event now, after the owners welcome we went down to the Dell to talk about harvest mice and provide a few photo opportunities to the keen photographer too.

Our second talk was held at the other side of the Centre, with an update on our badgers, dormice, snakes and smaller mustelids... but with a focus on weasels and stoats.

Throughout the evening we had keepers out and about with our new owlets, and generally on hand to answer any questions. A few extra feeds were added too, including the otters, foxes, wildcats and pine martens.

Thank you again to all who came, and for all your support as members. The evening was a huge success, and a great way to end a great day... Not sure if you heard... but it's coming home!

Monday, 2 July 2018

Reserve Releases

Our reserve releases continue this year, with us breeding and releasing both harvest mice and water voles out on to our nature reserve.

Having established some harvest mice further down in to our reserve, we have come back closer to the boardwalk this year to boost numbers there. So far they are settling in well in the reeds, including this little one above exploring his new home.

The harvest mice are very shy and elusive, and will be difficult to spot, but keep your eyes open while walking around the wetland walk as you never know!

Our water voles will be a little easier to spot, or at least hear, as you hear a little "plop" in to the water as you walk nearby and one jumps off the bank. We have had a couple spotted in recent weeks, and last week we set up our soft release pens with new families of water voles ready for release later this summer.

You may well see them scurrying about in some of these pens which are visible from the boardwalk, and we have several other further in to the reserve too.

If you spot either any of our wild harvest mice or water voles while down there, do let us know... it is always nice to hear.

Sunday, 24 June 2018

Owlet Update

This year's owlets are all doing very well. The long eareds are thriving in their new homes, the little owls are... well, still little, but pretty much fully feathered now and often seen out and about while we are open to the public, but it is the tawny owls and barn owl that are showing most change.

The two tawny owls have really come on leaps and bounds from when they started, and are now housed in "Hedwig" the snowy owls old enclosure. This means they are on view to the public while we are open, and they have been a huge hit!

You can see how much they have changed in the photos above, and they are quite at home in front of the public. They have started their flying training already, and I am sure will be a full part of the flying team by the end of the summer.

Floki, our barn owl chick, has perhaps changed the most. From an ugly ball of fluff, he turned in to a slightly less ugly ball of fluff above. From this he has now developed his heart shaped face, but still a ball of fluff otherwise below.

They change and develop so fast, only a matter of weeks from hatching to looking like adults. Once fully grown it will be great to share photos through the whole growing/changing phase.

Saturday, 16 June 2018

Deer Calves

A little earlier than usual this year, our red deer started to have their calves at the end of last month. So now out in the paddock with the rest of them, the youngsters are at the age where they are following their mum and running and playing in the field. 

They are all legs, and when they really get going it is quite fun to watch them jump and run up and down, and change direction almost falling over.

Most of them stick with their mum, but this little one obviously thinks he is a big deer already... hanging out with the boys.

Even taking charge, and leading them to the next patch... maybe a young master stag in the making.

Friday, 8 June 2018

Photo of the Month: May 2018

"Tawny Owl in Bluebells" by Shaun Jackson

Time to share a few photos that have been sent in and/or shared on our social media pages over the month of May. A lot of birds this time, mainly owls of course, but even a few of our buzzards which was lovely to see.

We have picked the photo above by Shaun Jackson to be our photograph of the month, being lucky enough to be on one of our owl days while we had some bluebells out. Shaun's photo will be in our gallery next year, and be in with the chance to win a photographic day here at the Centre if chosen as the overall favourite later this year.

Here are a few others we would like to share.

"Yawning Hedgehog" by Dave Cox

"Buzzard" by Ray Davis

"Eagle Owl" by Connor Passey

Friday, 25 May 2018

Owlet Update

"Hey Matt!"

"Yes Meg?.."

"Who's an owls favourite sportsman?"

"I don't know Meg?.."

"Mohammad Owli!"

An update on our owl chicks, in short... they are all doing well. The two tawny owls we were a little concerned with have come on leaps and bounds, they have grown a lot as you can see above, and have now been handed over to Meg to hand rear and train to fly. 

The slightly larger and older one has been named Ash, and the smaller one Oakley. They are very steady already, and I am sure will be a hit on our owl days and talks in the future.

Of all our little owls, the two we took to help keep the tawnies warm are also becoming little stars. Fagin above still thinks he is a tawny owl, and likes to snuggle up with Ash and Oak when they are all in on the same day.

Izzy has taken on Fagin to rear, and as with all our others, will train him to be part of our education team.

Our other little owl, Athelstan, is being reared by Tom. All these young owlets go home with the keepers at night to feed and keep them company. But when they are working, the owlets will be here, and so the keepers will often walk around with them for you to see.

Tom's got double the duty with this special little one... This, um, cute little fella is a barn owl chick which came from Osney Farm Lodge. He may not look the prettiest at the moment, but they soon grow to be one of the most beautiful of our British owls!

"Indy" by Jo McConnell

And our long eared owl chicks?.. Well they are all doing extremely well in there new homes, and it is great to be able to see how they are getting on. This is one of them, now called Indy, who went to Tandridge Hill Farm to help with the special needs adults who visit.

"Hey Matt!"

"Yes Meg?.."

"What's an owls favourite food?"

"I don't know Meg?.."

"Vole -au-vents and Micecream!"

Friday, 18 May 2018

New Aviary

We are currently building a new aviary behind our owls, and on the way towards our nature reserve. It is nearly there, with just a bit of dressing to do, and eventually it will be the new home for a pair of ravens we have been rearing.

These ravens were bred nearby by a corvid rescuer, and had to be taken to hand rear from a young age. Keen to find them a good home we were offered a a pair, and how could you say no to there pretty faces!

Being so young, they have been imprinted on to humans, and so will be quite comfortable being on display. They seem to thrive on human interaction, and always "talk" to us when we are working with them.

Noisy, and always hungry, they are growing extremely fast! Having spent the first few weeks in my office with me, they are now housed off-display in a small aviary while their new display aviary is being built. 

While off-display they can get used to stretching their wings and building up their stamina. We can also begin a little training with them, so that when they are on display they should settle quickly.

We will let you know when they are on display, probably another 2 or 3 weeks, and I will get some pictures of what they look like now. They are big! but very gentle...