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...

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.