Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Polecat shift

A slight rearrangement of our polecats has freed up our pen next to the mink enclosure. "Velvet" & "Storm" who were in there have now moved opposite into one of our double weasel pens. The polecat which was in there has been moved to the first of three stoat pens opposite the water voles and next to deer corner, and the polecat in there has been introduced with the 2 which were already in the other double stoat pen.....

Keeping up?..... well, this leaves our main polecat enclosure next to the mink empty. As we did last year, we are going to use that pen as a photo set over the Spring and Summer evenings for any of our photographic groups we have booked in. Here photographers will be able to get fairly natural looking shots of our young cubs we have around, including our new badger cubs.

Regular visitors will be pleased to know that our three tame fallow deer, "Bambi", "Thumper" & "Bracken" have been moved back on to display for the Easter period. They are back in Deer Corner and still as friendly as ever. We had moved them to a different paddock to Winter and allow their main home to re establish itself, but now they are back to where they can keep an eye on any visitors we have.

Tuesday, 30 March 2010

On the move

Quite a few of our animals are being moved around at the moment, just to make way for new arrivals and setting up for photographic displays and breeding programmes etc. I will keep you up-to-date over the next few days with the where a bouts of the animals, but thought I would start of with the raptors and owls as they may be the most confusing...

OK, you ready?..... here I go....

The buzzards, "Bella" & "Blizzard" have moved off-site temporarily until their new aviary has been built. They will eventually be going opposite the other buzzard aviary and next to the otter pond on the way to the nature reserve. This of course leaves their old aviary free...

Into which we have moved our eagle owls, "Igor" & "Doina" This will give them much more space and free up their old aviary. This we are dividing into three smaller aviaries to hold the other British species of owls in, thus completing the set and having all 7 owl types in one area of the centre.

Into one will go our long-eared owl pair, "Quil" & "Embry" A second aviary will be saved for our short-eared owls, for which we are currently on a waiting list. The third will be home to our new pair of barn owls...

We will still of course keep "Milo" and "Mrs Milo" in the barn, but thought it would be nice to have all the owl types on show in our bird area. Today we welcomed 2 new barn owls to the centre, currently housed off-site until their new home has been done. Pictured above is "Cleo", I will let our new pair settle in before subjecting them to the camera lens.

Sunday, 28 March 2010

Sunday 28th March

This past week saw the latest issue of "Surrey Life" hit the stores. It includes an article on the BWC and the opening of our red squirrel walk-through enclosure.

Good weekend, very busy here despite the threat of showers both Saturday and todays afternoon. Many thank to friend of the centre, Gary K Mann, for bringing us down some trout to feed to the otters. Needless to say they loved it, except Kernow, above, who seemed much more content in just swimming around and seeing what everyone was doing.

Just a reminder that we are still open during the week for the next three weeks so hope many of you can make it down here to see what we have been doing over the last few months.

There will possibly be little news to report while we are open so I hope to update you all with pictures, videos and species facts over the next couple of weeks to keep your interest up.

Friday, 26 March 2010

Easter opening

Just a reminder that we are open to the general public for the next 3 weeks starting from tomorrow, Saturday the 27th of March 2010. Of course after the Easter half-term we are still open every weekend, school and bank holiday until the end of October.

End of a busy week for us this week, big schools in each day and Heather Angel, wildlife photographer, was here yesterday giving one of her 1 on 1 photography courses.

Around looking after them we have been busy tidying up the place ready for Easter and it was time again for the main cleaning out of our rats... not the most pleasant job there is going here, but when they look like this it doesn't seem so bad.

Ahhh, .... Hope to see you soon

Posted by Picasa

Monday, 22 March 2010

Hartley the Hare

A week ago now we had a young hare bought to us. His name is Hartley and he is a last years hand-reared leveret. He lived with a family in their house before getting too large and active that they needed to find him a new home.

Hares are rather tricky to keep in captivity but we hope he will settle down in his new home here with our other Hare, Moongazer.
Posted by Picasa

Thursday, 18 March 2010

Baby Badgers

Just over a week ago now we had a couple of baby badgers bought in to the centre. They are two little girls, found together as wild orphans, and are currently being reared by centre owner David Mills.

Today you may have been lucky to see them already as they have made their first TV appearance. They were filmed live for the meridian weather forecast this evening at around 6.30pm.

We estimate them to be around 7 weeks old, and are being kept safe and warm while they are still being fed milk. They will start the weaning process very soon when they will get far more boisterous and will be housed in a small pen at the centre. Look out for them then being escorted around the grounds by one of the keepers, they may even make an appearance at the badger talk.

When older and ready to move on we will look to house them in our semi-wild sett out on our nature reserve. Here we hope they will make a strong family group with other badgers and stay around for us to provide badger watch evenings in the future.

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Pine Marten dell

Our maintenance team have recently finished work around our natural amphitheatre, the dell, which we have been using quite regularly over the last year and a half for keeper talks etc. Wooden benching has been built around the dell to create more areas to sit and watch the many displays we now do there. Several flying routes have been picked out for our Owl display, every open day at 4.00pm, but most excitingly we have extended our pine marten run system to en corporate all 4 enclosures, the two oak trees and the perimeter of the dell.

Pine martens are extremely solitary animals, quite aggressive towards each other and an aggressive courtship too. This makes them very hard to breed in captivity. We have had 3 years in a row now of successful pairings, and we think it is due to our run system. Originally it linked one of our males pens to the 2 female pens, thus allowing non-direct contact to each other and their scents. Knowing that there were other pine martens around all year we believe made the introduction process a little easier on them.

With its success we have extended the runway all around the dell, the trees and the enclosures and have a system of slides to cut the runs off in different ways. This allows any combination of the martens to have access to the run without direct contact to each other, and can be changed easily as we see fit.

Currently I have allowed one of our male martens, Clyde, to have access to the whole system. He is the most likely to explore it quickly, and will scent it as he goes, this should encourage the others to be a bit braver in trying out their new home when they have their turns.
After that I will shut the system into 2 areas, one half for Bonnie and Cylde, the other for Hamish and Buttons, all in anticipation for the breeding season this Summer.

Not only does the extended runways help with the introduction for breeding, it also enriches the pine martens giving them more enclosure space, looks quite impressive and really makes you feel like you are in amongst them when you are standing in the dell.

Members evening

Saturday the 10th of July 2010 is the date of our annual Summer members evening this year. We will remain open after the public leaves at 5.00pm for an additional 3 hours until 8.00pm for members of "Friends of the British Wildlife Centre"

As always keepers will be on hand to talk to you about our animals, and we will have a schedule of extra talks and animal feeds for that evening. More information will be posted on the 'members events' page above closer to the actual date on schedule and timings.

In the mean time make a note of this date in your diary, and if you have any suggestions/request for animal talks then contact me in any of the usual ways. I can't promise anything, but if any good ideas crop up I will give them some thought.

5.00pm - 8.00pm Saturday, 10th of July 2010

Monday, 15 March 2010

Falcon in training

Quick video of me flying Jack, a Peregrine tiercel. Many of you asked me about him over the weekend, but I think few of you saw me fly him as were confused as to where I was going. At the moment I am flying him over the back corner of our deer paddock, you would be able to see him from the deer platform where we do our deer talks. I aim to fly him everyday from between 2.00pm and 3.00pm but can not be exact as it does have to be fitted around the many other tasks we have here.

Jack is on loan to me from a falconer friend over the next 6 months for a way to build up my experience in handling and training falcons. Of course its good for Jack too who gets to fly everyday, and good for the public who can get a closer look at the fastest recorded animal in the world.

Apologies for the video quality. May be best played on mute, and quality not as great as the last one posted. Im still getting used to all this techno geek bits of editing and uploading movies, and think I may have compressed this one a bit too much. Also I cut out the falcon catching the lure! Ill try upload another one later with that in.

Friday, 12 March 2010

Little star of big screen

For the past 2 days the BBC natural history unit has been in our field studies centre filming a sequence for "Natural World". The piece is actually about the peacock butterfly but one of our wood mice makes a cameo appearance.
The section they were filming was of the butterflys reaction to nearby threats. The butterfly was placed in a makeshift set and our mouse was encouraged to walk along a log nearby. This led to the butterfly opening its wings displaying its bright colours and making a slight hissing noise.

I think the sequence proved quite a challenge to the filming team, but they seemed pleased with what they managed to film. Look our for it on TV over this coming Summer. Of course, now one of our wood mice is famous I guess its only proper he has a name... any suggestions?... and please something more original than "Woody"

Warmer weather here is lovely, hope to see some of you this coming weekend.
Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Red Squirrel Launch

Today was the day of our official opening of our walk-through red squirrel enclosure. We were delighted to welcome back  Dame Judi Dench to the centre to open our new exhibit. The morning went very well and we had quite a few press people from local tv, radio and news.

After Dame Judi Dench cut the ribbon we all went into the enclosure to release 2 more squirrels into their new home. They were very quick out of their traps, but I think at least one photographer was lucky enough to catch it on camera. As soon as the new arrivals were out, a lot of the current residents also made an appearance to meet their new companions, and so provided a good opportunity for the photographers.

After opening the enclosure Dame Judi Dench went to see here adopted otter, Minnie. 

Overall it all seemed to go very well with many invited people turning up. As well as Dame Judi Dench we had Chris Packham here from Springwatch who is a good friend of the centre and David Shepherd, wildlife artist and founder of the David Shepherd wildlife foundation.

Look out for us on the BBC South East news tonight.

Monday, 8 March 2010

Jack flying free

Some of you who visited us over the weekend may have been lucky enough to see me out and about with our Peregrine, Jack. Jack has been getting on extremely well, and from 2 weeks ago when he was not even interested in hand feeding from me, this past weekend he had his first free-flight off the training line.

I have had a lot of guidance from Paul Davies, an experienced falconer,  with the training of both the Kestrel and Peregrine and he came along on Saturday for moral support as Jack took his first free flight. 

All went extremely well and both yesterday and today I have worked Jack hard  in the air to try and get him fit. 

I aim to fly him every day so keep an eye open over Deer Paddock next time you are here, and you may be lucky enough to see him.
Posted by Picasa

Friday, 5 March 2010

Adders about

The sun has been shining for the last few days and the warmer weather... well slightly warmer weather, has brought our adders out from brumation.

We currently have adult adders, 3 males and 1 female pictured below.

As some of you will know, our adders successfully had a clutch of neonates last Summer. I am unsure how many they had, and was worried with the extremely cold weather whether they would survive, however one of the youngsters was spotted today so hopefully most, if not all, made it through.

Just a reminder that we are open to the public every weekend, school and bank holidays from now until the end of October.

Thursday, 4 March 2010

Long-eared Owl

 Asio otus

This beautiful owl is one of the least known and shyest of our native owls. Weighing only around 200-400g it is only slightly smaller than the Tawny owl, but has a wingspan to match it of up to 1 metre. These owls have the knack to almost change shape. Usually roosting very tall and elegant with a narrow face they can make them selves appear fluffier and more rounded as pictured above. The colouration really has to be seen to be appreciated and works extremely well as camouflage in its mixed woodland habitat, although I always feel they should be seen in an old pine tree.

There is the general rule with owls eye colour as to when they are most active, but the long-eared owl is almost strictly nocturnal only rarely venturing out in low light as the orange eyes would suggest. They emit a quiet hoot call, "hoo hoo hoo hoo"

Prey is made up mainly of the smaller mammals such as mice and voles, but they do also take smaller birds from their night roosts.

Nesting in abandoned crow or other bird nests or squirrel dreys they usually have one clutch of eggs a year in the Spring. 3 or 4 eggs will be incubated for around 27-30 days before hatching. The chicks grow quickly and will be out of the nest at 21 days and starting to learn to fly at only 30 days old. Still very dependent on the parents though until they are almost 2 months old.

Population counts of this secretive owl are guesses at best with many numbers thrown around mainly at about 2000-4000, although it is generally believed that their numbers are heavily boosted in the Winter due to migrants from northern Europe.

No one really knows the function of the striking prominent ear tufts they have, possibly for communication, but it is generally considered it does not aid hearing in any way. However this owl does have amazing adaptations to enhance its hearing. The facial disc helps to channel the sound into its asymmetrical ears which openings are almost the height of the owls skull. These 3 things together help the long-eared owl to hunt with 100% accuracy even in total darkness.

We currently have "Quil & Embry" in our off-limits site to allow them to settle in while we build them a new aviary down with the rest of our owls. We hope to have them on display for the Summer, if not earlier, and of course we should have our flying long-eared owl chick with us by the end of May being taken out and about by one of our keepers.

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

New arrivals at the BWC

Today the BWC welcomed new arrivals to the Centre. It is always exciting to receive new animals, even more so when it is a species that we have not kept before.

Above is a photo of our two new Long-Eared Owls. We have named them "Quil" and "Embry" Long-eared owls are native to the UK but not very common in captivity. Currently there is only one well-known breeder of these owls in the country, but we have acquired a potential breeding pair in the hope that we may be able to breed some of these amazing owls ourselves.

We are also awaiting the arrival of a long-eared owl chick, still yet to hatch, which I will then train to fly to be part of our flying team. This should prove to be a great display as we will be one of the only places you could go to see these owls in flight.

Our other new arrival was a young male Otter called "Kernow" He came from the Tamar Otter Sanctuary in Cornwall where we traded him for our young male cub. He was introduced to Lilly, pictured above, this afternoon.

They both seemed very excited to have company and met with chattering noises and started playing straight away. We hope they will form a close bond and maybe even produce cubs when Kernow is mature in a couple of years time.

The name "Kernow" is old cornish for Cornwall, and regular members and photographers may be pleased to know that he is the son of Carmen, the female otter we had on breeding loan for 6 months about 2 years ago.