Saturday, 7 September 2019

Owl Update

Do you remember our three owl chicks we reared earlier this year? Well these ugly little balls of fluff have now grown and matured in to these beautiful owls! This past week they all took part in their first photo shoots, and all did exceptionally well, so will be rotated with the rest of our educational team on future owl photographic days.

They are also all now fully graduated members of our flying team, and will be taking their turns in our afternoon displays when open to the public. Well done owls!

And well done keepers for doing such a great job rearing them. Clare reared the owl with no name (Arya) the tawny owl above. Izzy reared (Owl) Pacino the little owl below, and Millie reared Kate (Wingslet) the long eared owl at the bottom of the post. Don't worry, it will be the last time we let Millie name anything :-)

You can catch our owl display as the last talk at the end of each open day, and occasionally they can be seen out and about during the day with one of our keepers.

Tuesday, 3 September 2019

Photo of the month: August 2019

"Water Vole" by Steve Heggie

After the summer of the water voles, it had to be a water vole photograph we chose for photo of the month. Now back on in their main display, they are having a whale of a time, in and out of their tunnels, running over the bank and spending more time in the water than any of our previous groups out there! Best times to see them are shortly after opening, and in the afternoon around the owl display time.

So, for photo of the month, we chose this lovely picture above taken by Steve Heggie of one of our voles poking his head out of the tunnel. Steve has a lovely little set of the voles on his flickr, so click on the link in his name to see some of the other he took. The photo above will be in our coffee shop gallery next year, and of course in with the chance to win the photographic day here next year too. 

More photos below, and links in all the names to see more pictures by the photographers. 

Saturday, 24 August 2019

Water voles back home

After a long staycation in the grass snake enclosure, our water voles are back where they belong on their island display.

The water vole island display has recently been renovated, and while this was happening we placed 5 youngsters in to our grass snake enclosure (after taking them out) so they could be visible over the summer opening.

The voles settled down well, and many visitors enjoyed seeing them, but it was never a long term solution with the enclosure not being ideal for a permanent home for water voles. Now that their real home is ready, we have caught them up and put them back where they belong.

It is lovely to see them back home, and I have spent the last few evenings watching them explore and run around. Our water vole enclosure is one of our most well known displays, and it is easy to see why... A large area with plenty of natural burrowing areas and food to supplement what we give them, surrounded by water deep enough for them to swim and dive, multi species with the sticklebacks, pond life and common frogs which we have added back in too and all raised to make it easier for you keen photographers and anyone interested to see them.

As always with our voles, mornings and later in the afternoons are when they are more active. So for the best chance to see them head along shortly after we open, or around the owl talk time when it is a little quieter.

As for our grass snakes?.. they will be back on display in a couple of weeks after we have tidied up the mess the water voles have left behind!.. This will give them plenty of time to settle before brumation.

Here is a little video clip of one of them enjoying being able to swim again properly! Taken by keeper Meg.

Saturday, 10 August 2019

Polecat Kits

Nearly half way through out summer opening, and arguably the main stars of the Centre so far have been our polecat kits! Whitstable and Oriel, our main pair of polecats, successfully bred once again this year and Oriel gave birth to 4 kits a few months a go. Over the last few weeks they have slowly been getting bolder, and the last couple of weeks in particular have seen them become very brave and adventurous in their enclosure often out and about exploring and playing.

If you are thinking of coming to see them, they can be active any time of day... but seem to peak in two periods. First thing in the morning and in the afternoon around the badger talk time (3.30pm).

It is well worth the time to spend watching them if you can, especially when they are in their playful and mischievous moods. They will chase each other and mum, much to her annoyance, pounce on each other and just have a general rough and tumble session. Great fun to see, especially when they lose balance and end up rolling down the hill being chased by a sibling.

It may be tricky to see from the photographs, but the four kits are recognisable from each other. Not only in their appearance, but also in their personality. All four are pictured below...

This little beauty is exactly that... a beauty! Some of you may have been coming to see us long enough to remember a female polecat called "Velvet" we used to have here. She was the most beautiful polecat I have ever seen, a real stunner, and this little one here look like she may rival her when older and mature. Really dark and sleek with high contrast in her coat, a little stunner already!

This lad is the spit of his dad, Whitstable... but not just in looks, in behaviour too. Sooo laid back without a care in the world, and a real mummy's boy often hanging around Oriel and still trying to suckle from time to time.

The other two youngsters are quite similar in appearance, although one does have a slightly lighter face and undercoat. They are quite different in behaviour though. The little one above is very playful, and usually the one jumping around with her brother and chasing each other... not afraid to give back as much as she gets from him.

Where as this female above is probably the shyest of the four, still comes out and joins in and has fun, but a little more reserved about it.

Of course we can't forget mum, Oriel above, who is still with them and doing a great job making sure they have enough food. She will look a little thin over the summer having weaned four kits and making sure they have all they need before looking after herself, but she won't take long to put the weight back on over the end of the summer.

Wednesday, 7 August 2019

Photo of the Month: July 2019

"Red Squirrel Kitten" by Barry Doolan

Our summer opening is in full flow, and there is lots to see at the Centre. Our polecat kits in particular have been putting on a good show for visitors as well as our new family of water voles.

Lots of photos shared as usual, but for July's photo of the month we went with Barry Doolan's lovely photograph of one of our red squirrel kittens above, eating some of the naturally growing hazelnuts in our walk through enclosure. Barry'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.

More visitor photos below, and as always, click on the link in the name to see more of their photographs.

"Badger" by Joe Burdett

"Fallow Deer" by Steve Liptrot

"Buzzard" by Eleanor Smith

"Pine Marten" by Joyce Hazeltine

Saturday, 3 August 2019

Welcome Tom

With our recent departures we are having to hire new members for our keeping team. Our solutions...

Step 1 - hire a Tom. We already have one, he seems to be working out OK for us, so why not another.

So, welcome Tom (above) to our keeping team. Tom completed his animal management course at Merrist Wood a few years a go, and has been volunteering at London Zoo for the last few years. He joined us at the beginning of the week and is settling in quickly. Make sure to say hello next time you are here and make him feel welcome.

Step 2 - advertise for a new keeper...

With another keeper recently moving on, we are now in the position to offer someone else a new opportunity to be a keeper here at the Centre. If this is something that interests you, then click on the link below to see requirements and how to apply.

Monday, 29 July 2019

Goodbye to Jamie and Aaron

Recently we have had two members of the keeping team move on to pastures new. Jamie, above, left a couple of weeks ago having worked here for 18 months. Having enjoyed his time here, it was always the more handy man(y) and maintenance side of things he really liked. Of course there was not much of this available for a keeper with all the animal husbandry getting in the way, and so he has moved on to role that can offer him more experience with tools and a little close to home. We wish him all the best with his new career, and expect he will still pop in to see us from time to time.

Aaron has been with us for around 16 months, having moved down from the midlands to gain experience with wildlife. Having thoroughly enjoyed it, the call of education and to complete his Masters has always been there. Aaron's last day with us was this weekend, and he will be relocating back home for a year before starting his masters in Autumn of 2020. His main motivation (at least that's what I like to think) of his University of choice... how nearby it is to wild red squirrels. Another one converted! Good luck Aaron, and don't forget to pop in and see us when you are back South.

Wednesday, 24 July 2019

Summer Opening

Today is the first day of our summer opening, meaning we are open daily through out the week as well as our usual weekends, for the general public. This will continue through the summer until out local schools go back on the 4th of September... we will then be back to the usual weekends and bank holidays.

So what's happening...

To start with, there has been a few animals moved around. Our water vole island is taking longer than anticipated to renovate... don't ask... and so temporarily we have housed our display water voles in our grass snake enclosure so they can be seen by the public. Don't worry, our grass snakes won't mind, they have been temporarily moved off display in our holding pens ready for our new reptile enclosures next Spring... lets be honest, most of you never saw them anyway...

Whitstable, our male polecat who sired the litter of kits with Oriel, was off display while the kits were growing. He has now been moved in to the hedgerow enclosure next to the pond with the extended run system for him to explore. Mentioning the pond area in the hedgerow, this has been extended with the glass tank removed, to give more space to the animals in there. Once completed this will end up being a nice little multis species enclosure showing off a few things you may be lucky enough to find in a typical garden pond. Really excited to see this one finished.

Our red squirrels, who were only a few months a go re released in to the new and improved enclosure, are really beginning to settle now and are more frequently being seen as they are getting re used to people. They have been great for recent photo days, and we now often have 2 or 3 about for our keeper talk in the morning.

New arrivals, including Rosie the weasel, are settling in well. She is housed outside by the polecats in one of our weasel enclosures.

Lot's of youngsters are around as always this time of year. Perhaps easiest to see are our deer fawns and calves out in the main paddock, but not too far away from them in our aviaries we have a stunning long eared owl chick called Bruce Wayne being reared by mum.

Our other chicks being reared, Arya (Tawny), Pacino (Little) and Kate (Long Eared) are really progressing well and will be seen out and about and learning to fly over the summer. But if it is more mammals you want, you won't go wrong spending some time up with our polecats where 4 handsome young kits are growing and playing with mum Oriel. 

I often remind people, and will again now, don't neglect our inside areas where our mice and voles reside. They are on great form at the moment, often seen out and about, especially in the mornings.

New moving of animals, new animals, new babies and new people and opportunities coming up too over the summer. Hopefully get to see some of you here over the next few weeks.

Saturday, 13 July 2019

Photo of the Month: June 2019

"Red Squirrel" by Jane Hamilton

Our chosen photo of the month for June is this beautiful portrait of one of our red squirrels, taken in our walk through enclosure. Our squirrels have been slowly settling back in to their old ways since being re-released out in to the copse, and are getting bolder and more confident by the day. This photograph was taken by Jane Hamilton, and will be in our coffee shop gallery next year.

More photos from our visitors are shared below, and as always click on the names of the photographers if you would like to see more of their photographs.

"Yellow Neck Mouse" by Karen Jones

"Grumpy Owl" by Sean Collins

"Scottish Wildcat" by Philip Harris

"Wood Mouse" by Robert German

"Heron" by Irene Ford

Sunday, 7 July 2019

Hedgehog Hoglets

Many thanks to all who came along to our "Members Evening" last night. It was a successful night, and extra talks gave the usual opportunity for you to get up close and photograph our harvest mice on a more intimate level, and allow us to update you on the work we are doing with all our mustelids, either in conservation, research or both.

Perhaps the unannounced stars of the evening though were our 4 little hoglets. They were on display for the first time in the Dell, being closely watched by surrogate mum Keeper Meg, who is currently hand rearing them.

These four little hedgehogs came in to us a few weeks ago having been found abandoned in someones back yard. Being left for a couple of days, they were cold, hungry and dehydrated and so a lot of initial work and care was needed to bring them round. Very underweight, they are only now beginning to catch up to where they should be for their age. Meg is doing a great job!

These hoglets will stay with us now, being as friendly as they are. A couple of them will be used for education work, and meet the many school groups we have in each year, and the others will be allowed to breed for potential releases in to hedgehog friendly gardens in the future.

Oh, I didn't mention their names. Wait for it... Quil.I.Am, Amy Spinehouse, Snoophog and Cruela D'Quil.

Monday, 1 July 2019

Polecat Kits

This year we have had two successful litters of polecats from two of our breeding pairs, including our main display pair Whitstable and Oriel. Now, at around 8 weeks old, they are beginning to venture out of their nesting areas to explore their home... much to the annoyance of mum, who keeps trying to take them back underground.

Watching them closely, we think she has had 4 kitts this year. A litter on the smaller side for a polecat, but then she is an old mum now and only had the two last year. The best time to try and see them is shortly before we feed them... which is usually shortly before our badger talk at 3.30pm.

All are looking good, bright and healthy. Off display we have another litter, a few weeks younger, from a new and younger pair of polecats. We are unsure how many she has had at the moment, but for a first time mum she seems to be doing really well in looking after them.

All these kits, along with others bred at other Centres, are part of the breeding program where they will be released back in to the wild.

Saturday, 15 June 2019

Keeper Vacancy

A vacancy has arised, arosed?.. become available and so we are currently looking for a new keeper to join our team here at the Centre. Can you train a badger to take a photo?...

Or an owl to tune a guitar?..

Can you master the art of a duel?..

and are you not afraid to work at great heights?..

Do you have the expertise to fill a water bowl with water?..

Do you love nothing more than picking up shi.., er, cleaning up animal droppings no matter the weather?..

Would you be able to survive a day being around this lot?..

If you can answer yes to all the above, or at least the last three things, have a passion for British wildlife, a relevant level 3 animal management/zoology qualification or above and are interested in the position... then head over to our website for more information on the role, and how to apply.