Tuesday, 16 October 2018

Red Deer Rut

Our red deer are in the full swing of rutting season. Olivandeer, our main stag, looks likely to become "Master" stag this year and has been strutting and roaring around the deer park for quite a few days now! 

This time of year is always the best time to see our deer... even without clashing of antlers, just the intricacies of the way the stags watch and behave around each other is really interesting. The way the more dominant stags body changes, with their throat filling out while the rest of their body becomes physically drained with the effort they put in to securing top position of the herd. 

The sights are amazing, but the sounds and smells need to be experienced too. The sounds of clashing antlers when in full swing if more than one stag thinks they are in charge, the sounds of the stags bellowing out their roar... and the smell!... Boy, I have said before, but will say again... I wish we could convey the smell of our deer park at this time of year across to you though the blog! It really is something. A musty, testosterone filled aroma that hits you from some distance away!

And this is what it is all about... the hinds. Isn't she a beauty? The stags compete with each other to become the dominant stag who gets to mate with the females during the mating season. 

The rut usually lasts around 3 or 4 weeks at the end of September, beginning of October. During this time the male rarely eat or sleep, and so not only are they showing off their strength, but it is a test of their stamina too. Throughout the rut they will try to group the females together with them, while at the same time keeping all other rival males away.

Olivandeer has been extremely vocal the last couple of days in particular, and will most likely continue for another week or so. There will be little if any clashing of antlers this year, as none of our other stags can match him yet in size. But clashing of antlers will almost certainly be heard when our fallow bucks rut...

"Fallow Deer" by Steve Liptrot

Fallow deer tend to rut a little later than the reds, and our two fallow bucks have already had a few practice tussles in preparation as you can see from this photo above, taken by Steve a couple of weeks a go. I expect them to really go for it this year, and it will be interesting to see who takes the top spot. Norman, our white buck, has the size and experience. But Vinny, our younger buck, has the stamina and youth on his side.

Saturday, 6 October 2018

Photo of the Month: September 2018

"Water Vole" by Robert North

We have had a great number of really good photos shared over the past month, and a real variety of animals within. This time we have gone with the above photo of one of our black water voles, taken by Robert North, as our photo for September.

Robert's photo will be in our coffee shop gallery next year, and be in with a chance to win our photographic day if chosen at the end of the year by our professional judge.

As ever, links to more photos from each photographer here are within their name under the image. Below are a few more from September that caught our eye.

"Otter" by Mandyhib

"European Badger" by Steve Liptrot

"Yawning Adder" by Phil Sheer

Monday, 1 October 2018

New Mink, Malfoy

A few weeks a go we welcomed a new animal to the Centre. One that may not be welcome to all, but is still important for the Centre. This is "Malfoy" an American mink who was found/rescued and handed in to a local vets. His future was to be put down, being an invasive species they can not be released out in to the wild, but the vets contacted us to see if we could offer him a home here.

Usually the answer would of been no, but with our old male mink passing away earlier this year, it meant we did have a space for him. The vets were kind enough to castrate him for free for us, and having arrived a few weeks ago he has now been introduced to our female Mindy on display.

The vets named him Malfoy, and of course being a Harry Potter name we kept it :-) Whether you like mink or not, you have to admit he is a handsome devil. Very dark and sleek.

I occasionally get asked why we have mink here at the Centre. As I always say, as a Centre we try to represent the wildlife that is out in the wild of this country today. This means the ones that shouldn't be here too. We need to educate about why mink shouldn't be here and the effect they have on our native wildlife.

Friday, 21 September 2018

Summer Update

An update is due me thinks... the last few weeks, in fact months really, has been really busy for us. It seems this year the Centre seems to have stepped up to another level in terms of recognition and awareness. All good of course, and well deserved if I may be biased, but it is taking a little time for us all to settle in to the extra work load on many fronts. Thankfully having the extra keeper we added to the team earlier this year has allowed us to cope. 
Our social media following is growing at an amazing rate, and Liza in the office has done a great job in keeping it all active with news and updates. It does mean many of the smaller stories are now irrelevant or out of place on this blog, but we will still be covering the more noteworthy keeper/animal news here and can update on the smaller bits from time to time. 
With this in mind, let me bring you up to speed on a few things...

We are currently doing a little work in our walk though squirrel enclosure. To do this we have had to catch up the squirrels temporarily and house them in the satellite pens within their enclosure. This does mean you can still see them, but look into the smaller pens with in the main enclosure. 

While doing this it does mean we can add a few more squirrels to the enclosure too, and soft release them at the same time... they will learn quickly form the experienced squirrels where to go to feed and nest. It won't be long till they are back out free-roaming the Copse, and we will let you know when of course. 

Our three new badger cubs have settled far better than we could of hoped for. All coming out for the afternoon talk, and making a real mess of their enclosure. Well... it's not too bad, actually the way they have dug their tunnels is quite nice. It gives them a run to explore, and they way it is open in many areas can give you an idea of what part of a wild sett would look like.

Lots of babies around this year as always, but some you may not of seen were our polecats. Whitstable and Oriel once again produced a litter of kits, but they were far shyer than in previous years, and rarely seen out during the day. The kits are now housed off display to prepare for their move to other Centres.

We are also currently looking after a couple of rescued polecats which can not be returned to the wild. These are very important as they will be able to add new genes to the captive population and breeding program. They may not stay with us, but will move on with our kits in a few weeks time.

Our owls were extremely successful this year. We have mentioned who had what over the end of Spring, but our little owls had a second clutch for the first time this year. 2 little little owl chicks, one male and one female. These have been left with mum to rear to becoming breeding owls at other centres.

Another area were we have had more work load is with filming. Lots of our animals have been star of the small screen this year, perhaps most notably Toby the badger, but we are still doing more filming over the coming months. A few things booked in which we can mention nearer the time, but maybe the photo will give you a clue to a potential future star!

Our reserve releases have been extremely successful. Water voles have been spotted often, and even our harvest mice on a couple of occasions... the first for that from the public walking around the boardwalk.

Further afield our squirrel releases seem to be thriving. Owner, David Mills, is back from a fairly recent trip to Tresco to see how they are doing. The news is all positive, with the squirrels doing far better than could have been anticipated. Island releases are still high on his agenda, but a couple of other red squirrel projects are being worked on behind the scenes at the moment. Again, more news on these as and when I can update.

Thanks to all who came to see us over the Summer opening. Many people say we must enjoy our quieter times when we are closed to the public, but in truth these days are our busiest! Still having to look after all the animals, but with private booked groups in every day to look after too. Lots of photography sessions planned, and school groups are beginning to visit too now they have settled back in to term time.

Monday, 3 September 2018

Photo of the Month: August 2018

"Yellow-neck Mouse" by Helen Hooker

It seems like the summer opening is coming to an end, even before it has started. This time of year always flies by for us and this year is no different. We have been very busy with visitors this summer, lots of regulars, and lots of new faces too which has been lovely to see.

A lot of cameras as well, and we could of easily of chosen several more photographs to share of our animals taken this summer. If you get the chance, do look us up on flickr and instagram and you will see many more great photos taken by our visitors this past month. But for our photograph of August, we have picked this photo above taken by Helen Hooker of one of our yellow neck mice posing rather nicely. They really have been one of the underrated starts of the Centre this year so far! Very active, and providing much entertainment.

Helen's photo will be in our gallery next year, and Helen will be in with a chance to win a photographic day here at the Centre.

Below are a few more photos from this past month, and as always, click on any of the photographers names to see more photographs taken by them.

"Scottish Wildcat" by Bob B

"Playing Otters" by Geof S

"Is it feeding time yet?" by Steve Liptrot

Wednesday, 22 August 2018

Einspine the Hoglet

Say hello to our new baby hedgehog.... Einspine.

Einspine was bought in to us as a rescue a couple of weeks a go. She was only a few weeks old, and still was and is reliant on a helping hand, so keeper Clare has taken up the role of surrogate mum.

Looking after her at such a young age means Clare takes Einspine home in the evenings to carry on with her regular feeds, and to spend time with her to keep her friendly. This little hoglet is still on milk feeds, but is currently being weaned onto soft food and being encouraged to lap up milk on her own.

Once weaned, bigger and ready, Einspine will become one of our education hedgehogs to meet and greets with school groups, helping us to try and engage school children to want to go home and do something to help with our wildlife themselves.

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!