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...

Sunday, 13 May 2018


We have had another successful year with our owls, and all breeding pairs have produced clutches of chicks. This means we have long-eared, tawnies and little owl babies. They are all all doing well at the moment, but we did have a bit of worry with some of them.

Our long eared owl pair, Quil and Embry, have been successful for a few years now... usually having two clutches a year, so we weren't surprised that they had another clutch this year. Our first owls born of the season, three beautiful chicks, and all gone off to new homes already.

They stayed with us while we made sure they were all healthy and well, and then were donated to good homes all with close links to us here through current and former keepers. It will be nice to be able to stay in touch and see how they settle in, develop and grow. 

Having tried for a couple of years, this is the first year our tawny owl pair have produced a clutch of eggs and sat on them. Three chicks hatched out, but unfortunately despite the male taking lots of food to the female, she wasn't feeding the chicks. It's always a difficult decision, as you want the mother to learn what to do, but keeping a close eye on them it was soon apparent that they weren't going to survive unless we stepped in earlier than we usually would. We took two chicks away to rear, with the third unfortunately not making it.

Our little owls are pros now, and having had a few clutches in the past, this is the first time two years in a row they have produced. Four chicks hatched this year, and to help the two undersized tawnies we took to rear, we removed the two largest little owls to help keep them warm in the nest.

The other two chicks will be removed when we usually take them so they can be reared and imprinted.

Friday, 4 May 2018

Dance of the Adders 2018

The adders are dancing!..

Yesterday afternoon our two male adders were spotted 'dancing'. They didn't stay at it long, but it was a sign of things to come... and one of the signs for me that Spring is finally here.

Most of you will already know how much I look forward to this time of year, and seeing this beautiful ritual dance between rival males, and I was beginning to wonder if we would have much of a dance at all this year with the weather being as up and down as it has been. But, nearly a month later than last year, our boys finally put on a show.

Today, they have been off and on all day, and in front of our lucky group of photographers who were booked in. I managed to spend some time with them, and a lot of the time they were dancing directly on top of one of the females.

The 'dance of the adders' as it is known, is a competition between rival males. It can be between any number, and the males writhe their bodies together and try and force each other to the ground in a show of strength. They will often raise the first third of their body off the ground in trying to do this, and twist and turn with each other almost tying themselves in knots trying to get the upper hand. 

All while doing this, they never bite, it is just a show of strength and stamina. Their motion is often quite twitchy and jerky during this time, almost hypnotic to watch, and so they create these beautiful shapes with their bodies hence why it is called the dance of the adders. This 'dance' can last from anywhere between minutes and hours, and is often repeated on and off over a few days.

Of course all our animals here are true professionals, even our adders, and so they have timed this years dance to coincide with our bank holiday weekend! As always no guarantees, but hopefully they will display a few more dance moves over the next couple of days.

If you are planning on visiting this weekend, do make sure you spend some time with the adders. If you do get a glimpse of this behaviour, it will be worth your time, and if not then just appreciate them for the miss understood and docile animal they are.

If you can't make it in this weekend, or want a preview, here is a short clip of them dancing from this afternoon.

See you by the adders :-)

Wednesday, 2 May 2018

Photo of the Month: April 2018

"Molly the Weasel" by Dave Burden

What's this?.. Only second day in  to the month, and I am already posting the photo of the month for April?!. Yep, but don't worry, I am very well, I am just a little ahead of myself and with some exciting news of youngsters around to come next week, wanted to get these photos shared before we are in to the middle of May.

Lots of great pictures sent in to us and seen online over the last few weeks, but we went for this photo of Molly the Weasel taken by Dave Burden to be our Photo of the Month for April. Dave's photo will be in our coffee shop gallery next year, and he will be in with a chance to win a photo day here at the Centre next year if chosen by our professional judge as their favourite of all 12 images at the end of the year.

As always, a few more pictures below including a couple of unusual shots of an adder yawning and  hedgehog looking as though it could be sniffing the flower, plus one of the first photographs of our Daenerys out on display.

"Adder Yawning" by Moi Hicks

"Hugo the Hedgehog" by Mike Crowle

"Pine Marten" by Paul Stuart

Friday, 27 April 2018

Braveheart Back on Display

You know, sometimes I get some funny suggestions for animal names from the keepers, and sometimes if I know the animal is going to move on to another Centre I agree, keeps everyone happy and the name won't be here for ever. Problem is when things change and the name remains... last time this happened was with one of our wildcats, now on loan at Wildwood Trust, called "Richy Junior". This time it is once again another wildcat... "Braveheart".

Braveheart is one of the kittens we bred here last year, son of Macavity and Kendra, and was due to move to a Centre in Scotland for the breeding program. That was until we had some really sad news, and earlier this year his dad... Macavity... sadly passed away.

Braveheart has always been a keeper favourite, if we are allowed favourites, and is the spit of his dad in both looks and behaviour, as you can see above. Macavity is on the left, and Braveheart is on the right trying to be the big cat in stalking and snarling.

With this in mind, we decided to keep him back here at the Centre to be our new young breeding male. He will miss this season, but hopefully we will have a nice young female cat arriving later this year to pair up with him for next years breeding season.

He has the classic 'wildcat snarl' down already!

Braveheart has been off display to prevent him mating with his sisters, but they have now moved to the Lake District Wildlife Park, allowing us to move him back on to display. He has settled in quickly, and you can now see him in the first wildcat enclosure.

Friday, 20 April 2018

New Keeper: Aaron

If you visited us over the Easter holidays, you may have noticed a new face among the keeping team. Let me introduce you to Aaron, our new keeper. No one has left, all your favourite keepers are still here, it is just our diary is constantly getting fuller with groups and our animal inventory continues to grow and so we need another pair of hands to help out with the load.

And what a pair of hands! Aaron studied at Plumpton College before going on to earn his degree, and now has joined us to develop his animal husbandry skills and broaden his knowledge on British wildlife.

I am sure you will all make him feel very welcome when you see him around.

Sunday, 15 April 2018

Photo of the Month: March 2018

"Albus the Red Deer Stag" by Vicky Inseal

Hmm... I came on to this blog today to introduce you to our new keeper, but then realised two things. Firstly, I don't have a photograph of him... or her... yet, and secondly I must have forgot to press the publish button when I put together our Photo of the Month post last week. Doh!

So, if I remember this time, here it is. Lots of great photos over March, and we could of gone with any number of pictures, but decided with the photo above taken by Vicky Inseal of our old stag looking proud with his harem in the background. Vicky's photo will be on display in our coffee shop gallery next year, and be in with a chance to win a photographic day here at the Centre. 

Have a look below to see a few more images from last month, and click on the photographers names to see more photos by them on their websites. 

Wednesday, 4 April 2018

March Update

Last month we were hosts to another film crew, as they filmed some of our animals at night. Yep, at night... Over several evenings filming through to early mornings, we helped entice some of our animals in front of the cameras for a series on nocturnal British animals coming out later this year. More news nearer the time. 

For this we had help from our pine martens, foxes, wildcats, badgers, hedgehogs, owls and the stars of the show... our otter cubs. It took all the animals a little while to settle with lights and cameras around during their usual peaceful time, but once they got used to it they were their usual selves... settled down, and provided lots of opportunities for the crew to film them. 

You may have noticed that our reception area has had a little change around. An extended office, and a re-organised kitchen. Woop-de-do I hear you cry, what about the animals?.. Well, this change around has allowed us to build a new enclosure for our harvest mice in the reception by the entrance. This new enclosure is far bigger than their old one, and gives you plenty of chance to see them while queing up to come in. No worries if you miss them, we still have our main display of harvest mice in the hedgerow section too.

A little change around with our foxes. Basil, above, had been getting in to a few little scrapes and we found out that he and Dobby had taken a slight disliking to each other. With this in mind, we thought we would try and introduce Basil in to our other enclosure with Ellis. So far so good, and they seem to be getting on well... even seen playing with each other on occasion. Great news as it gives Basil the space he needs, and Ellis some company. 

Our other change around was brining Daenerys on to display. She has settled in very well, and is one of our most active pine martens during the day now. Often been seen out in the morning, and often on her high shelf watching the public walk by. 

Despite the torrential rain over previous days, our adders have still been seen out during the brief dry spells. It won't be long till they are dancing.

Don't forget, we are still open everyday until the 15th for our Easter holiday opening. Photo of the month later this week, and then I will introduce you to our new keeper next week.

Thursday, 22 March 2018

Daenerys on Display

Isn't she beautiful?

Isn't she beautiful?

Isn't she beautiful?.. yes, worth mentioning three times, as you may have been so caught up her striking looks that you didn't fully take in the first couple of sentances of this post. 

Do you remember Daenerys? She arrived from Wildwood Trust a couple of years a go as a youngster, and has been off display since. During that time we have settled her in and worked hard with her so that she hand feeds as well as our others. She is now of breeding age too, so we are keen to pair her up this season to see what happens. 

All this means it is time for her to step out on to display, and a new enclosure has been built just for her. Over the last couple of weeks we have dressed it up, and earlier this week introduced Daenerys to her new home.

Here it is, right next door to Hamish. Daenerys will live here until a couple of months before the mating season, and then we will have a think about rotating some of our pine martens around to set them up ready for the summer.

She is still shy, having only been in her new home for a couple of days, but it won't be long until she settles down and starts showing herself during the day. Here is a little bit of footage of her exploring on her first night, picked up by our trail camera.

And another of her in the early morning, enjoying the sun.

Isn't she beautiful?

Later this year we will be pairing her up with one of our males, Drogo, and then fingers crossed to see if we can breed some kits.

Saturday, 17 March 2018

Keeper Talks

Lick your lips everyone, the summer season of talks is here...

Yes, it seems strange to call it our summer season of talks when spring hasn't even fully arrived yet, but these are the new "Keeper Talks" that usually last us through till our winter season at the end of October.

For those new to the Centre, the new talk schedule sees us add in three very popular animals which are just a little less active to star during the winter.

Hedgehogs are now at 1pm, replacing the polecat talk. Pine martens are at 3pm and Badgers are at 3.30pm. This means two extra talks every day for you all... aren't we good to you.

For those regulars who have visited over the years, note the badgers and pine marten times are slightly different this year to previous years. Just something we are trying out, and if it is no better, then we may well change back before the real summer season hits.

Wednesday, 14 March 2018

Adders Awaken

"Adder" by Bobs Macklow-Smith

Spring has sprung,
The adders have ris,
I wonder where my camera is...

At home unfortunately, but luckily for us, when the adders where seen out at the weekend, Bobs managed to take some great photos.

"Adder" by Bobs Macklow-Smith

The adders emerging from their winter brumation is always one of the things that makes me think, spring is on it's way. On Sunday, one of the males was seen up and about, this was the first sighting of the year, and he looked pretty good after his long sleep.

Since then, over the past couple of days, both the males have been seen up. The males usually stir first, with the females a few weeks after.

"Adder" by Bobs Macklow-Smith

They will soon shed, and then the mating season will soon be on us. This is when the males will begin to perform their "dance" while competing for the females.

Thanks to Bobs for these great close-up photos, and to see more of her adder pics... as well as many more of our animals here, follow the link in her name under the pictures above to go to Bobs flickr page.

Saturday, 10 March 2018

Otter Cubs on Ice

The cold snap that hit us last week has gone, and the milder weather we have now really makes it seem like Spring is just round the corner. This will be welcome news for a lot of our animals, and will see a few more of our residents wake from their winter slumber. 

Our hibernating dormice, bats and hedgehogs should begin to stir. Our snakes will begin to think about emerging for the first time this year, and despite not hibernating, our badgers and squirrels do slow down in activity during the winter months... and so should begin to be seen more frequently. 

With this in mind, next weekend sees our new season of talks with Hedgehogs and Badgers added to the schedule, as well as the Pine Marten talk returning meaning two extra talks every day we are open for you to see. 

One animal that really enjoyed the cold last week though were our otters! I have mentioned before about them chasing each other under, over and through the ice, and last week was no different.

Elwood is used to this weather, having seen it all before. This can't be said for our otter cubs though, who on the first day of the frozen pond and with the snow falling weren't sure what to make of it all...

Both Harry and Beatrix would run after mum and dad as the leapt on to the ice, but the cubs would screech to a halt and stay on the bank.

It only took an extra day though, and then they were well at home on the solid ponds.

Great fun was had chasing mum and dad, and running back and forth over the ice...

Well, at least for Harry anyway. Beatrix was still very wary, and would come up to the ice, but often just stayed in the water by the edge waiting for her brother to come back to her.

Buster is an old pro at ice walking, wondering what all the fuss was about. The ice only lasted a couple of days, a real short spell compared to previous years, but they still made the most of it.

Don't forget, new talk schedule from next weekend... also, a date for the diary... our Members Evening this year will be on Saturday the 7th of July. More details on that nearer the time.