Monday, 28 June 2010

Borrowed Run System

Some of you who have visited us over the weekend may have noticed that our outside stoat and weasel pens, currently occupied by some polecats, have had a few run systems built in place. After the success of the pine marten runways and the already well established overhead runs in the Barn and Hedgerow, we decided to give more space to the animals in these enclosures as well.

Currently our polecats are testing them out and already they are being used regularly. Within in a few weeks we expect to see our young polecat kits running around them too.

Keep an eye on the blog over the next couple of weeks to here news of when we are moving a few of the mustelids around. We hope to be able to bring you Stoats and Weasels back to the photographic pens, with the new runways, by the end of Summer this year.

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Mustelid matings

It's that time of year again when I have to hold my breath and introduce our pine martens together in the hope that they may mate. Pine martens can come into season through July and August, but due to their very solitary nature can show aggression towards each other. Our newest marten, Hamish, seems to have a very volatile nature to him and since our other female, Buttons, is probably too old to mate I will keep those two separate. However, Clyde pictured above, has been let into Bonnie's, pictured below, enclosure in the hope that they will mate.

Pine martens have a delayed implantation, so all things going to plan Bonnie will start her active gestation next Spring and we will have young pine marten kits for the Summer of 2011! If she doesn't take, then next year I will give Hamish a chance of being the father.

As well as the pine martens we are currently pairing up our stoats (pictured above) and weasels in the hope of them breeding. We have 2 young female stoats and 1 male which will be moved to our photographic enclosures opposite the polecats at the end of the week where we will try to introduce them for breeding.

Meanwhile our 2 weasels are currently happily living together and have been seen mating. Hopefully in a few weeks we will have young weasel kits again at the Centre. I am looking to have weasels back out in our photographic pens, next to the stoats, by mid/end of Summer.

Thursday, 17 June 2010

New hare on display

Do you remember that a few months ago we took in a couple of young orphaned leverets? Well, I know many of you do because I have had quite a few messages asking how they are doing and whether they made it. Well, Izzy took on the difficult task of rearing these nervous and skittish animals and has done a fantastic job seeing them both through the weaning stage.

The future for these two hares are both good, but very different news. One of the hares we are going to release back into the wild next week where it should hopefully lead a happy and healthy life. Her sister however has always acted a little differently, and when taken to the vets a couple of weeks ago they confirmed Izzy's suspicions that she was completely blind in both eyes.

This means that we will not release her, but instead have introduced her to our other hare currently resising in our kestrel aviary.

This is a picture of the hare during the weaning process, she now has the name "Barley"

Izzy letting her go into the aviary. Barley seemed to enjoy the long grass, and has settled down extremely quickly. After just one night it appears she has her new enclosure mapped out in her head. She has met our other hare, moongazer, and they seem quite happy to share their pen.

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Wildcat kittens

After a 5 year gap we once again have wildcat kittens at the Centre. Last year I acquired two new females from a centre in Scotland to aid us in our breeding program. Earlier this year, in their first year, they produced a litter each.

Kendra had three kittens which are now approximately 7 weeks old, and over the last week have just started to venture out for the first time in front of the public with their mother. Iona had a lone kitten one week after her sister gave birth, this kitten is still doing well but has yet to make an appearance of her own.

Even at this young age they already have their snarling down to a tee.

Keep your eyes open next time you are here, and you might be lucky enough to see our wildcat kittens out and about.

Saturday, 12 June 2010

Red Squirrel kittens

A week ago today I set to the task of seeing what red squirrel kittens we had bred so far this year at the Centre. The plan was to hopefully release a few of them into our walk-through red squirrel enclosure.

After looking through all the pens I now know we have had our most successful year to date breeding these iconic British mammals. We have many litters varying in age from a few days old all the way up to thirteen weeks and ready for separating from the mother.

I took 8 squirrels that were ready to be re-located and placed them in the holding pen in the walk-through enclosure, then let them go on the following Monday in front of a film crew that will showcase our efforts, in breeding and conserving these animals, across the world.

They have settled down well and are now even more noticeable at our keeper talks as I put in a few "friendly" ones too.

While searching I came across one youngster, only 5/6 weeks old, that looked like it had been abandoned. I don't like taking young away from the mother so checked the nest boxes first, and found 4 of her brothers and sisters all alert and active in the drey. This youngster had definitely been kicked out by the mum and was listless, lifeless, damp, had her eyes half closed and I though she probably wouldn't make the night.

Having reared many squirrels in the past, I took her away to try and bring her round. She made the first night and is now going from strength to strength. A week older and I am now beginning to wean her. When she is old enough I will pair her up with another one of our friendly squirrels, Rupert, where they will hopefully breed next year. She will not go in the walk-through as she will probably just be a nuisance jumping on people and possibly following them through the double doors.

Look out for her next time you are here, she may well be on my back as I wander round like the 4 I reared a couple of years back, including the one above... Nutkin.

Updates on Wildcat kittens and Leverets to come next week.

Hope to see you soon.

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Other BWC babies

Our Hedgehogs on display have recently had a litter of hogletts. When first born they are quite pink/purplish with very fine soft white spines, but it only takes a week or so for them to begin to look like miniature hedgehogs.

Not to be left out, out education team of hedgehogs "Gnasher" and "Holly" are also proud parents of some youngsters. They are housed off view to the public, but are frequent visitors to the afternoon keeper talk. Today, Gnasher is also doing his bit for conservation by helping out the local PTES team for one of their displays.

Another new mum is one of our polecats. Above you can see her two kits looking very healthy indeed. Polecats usually have about 5 or 6 in a litter, and can sometimes have up to double figures so 2 is quite small. however she is getting on a bit now, and has had many litters here in the past.

Her previous kits have gone onto a release programme to help the spread of polecats in Scotland, these two youngsters are more likely to go to another wildlife centre to help with the education and conservation of these smelly yet endearing animals.

Exciting updates on our other youngsters over the next few days... the Red Squirrel and Wildcat kittens!

Sunday, 6 June 2010

Owl chick update

Joining our team of owls earlier this year were a pair of tawny chicks and a pair of barn owl chicks. Katie took on the task of rearing them, and is doing a fantastic job! All four are thriving and will hopefully join the flying team  this Summer as well as give Milo the odd break on welcoming duty.

Above is a photo of Tyto taken only yesterday, halfway through transition from "ugly duckling" to "beautiful swan" This is what he did look like...

and this is what he will end up looking like...

One of the most beautiful, and certainly the most recognisable British owl.

Can you remember what our Tawny owl chicks looked like at 2 days old...

Now they are old enough to perch for themselves and are also halfway through their transition.

It is at this stage that in the wild they often fall from their nest while trying to branch out. Unable to fly yet, many people pick them up to take to wildlife rescue centres or bring them to us here. Please do NOT do this. If you see a young tawny chick at a base of a tree, leave it be and it will slowly make its way back up to the nest. Tawny chicks are excellent climbers.

For those that still don't believe, watch this video clip below, taken by Katie, showing just that...

Our owl chicks are often seen out and about the Centre accompanied by keeper Katie. Make sure you keep your eyes open for them next time you are here.

Friday, 4 June 2010

BWC Photo Competition WINNER

Many congratulations to Mark Coventry for winning the BWC Spring Photo Competition with his image of a Red Squirrel shown above.

After looking through the over 100 entries, the keepers whittled them down to a short list of about 15 which they particularly liked for various reasons. Then on Wednesday evening, wildlife photographer Andy Rouse came to the centre to photograph our fox cubs. While here I asked if he would mind judging the competition from the short list and he was delighted to help.

Out of the photos there were a few that caught his eye, and the Wildcat in the post below was a close second, but in the end Andy plumped for Mark's photograph of the Red Squirrel above.

Andy Rouse felt that the image showed the cute factor of the red squirrel, was nicely composed and in-focus and remarked how tricky it was to get a good sharp photo of such a quick moving animal. He particularly liked this image as he has still yet to see and get a good photo of one of our red squirrels out in their new walk-through red squirrel enclosure.

Many thanks to Andy for his help with this competition, and congratulations again to Mark Coventry for his superb portrait shot. Have a closer look at his image next time you are at the centre on our news board, or follow the link below to see some of his other photos on his website.

BWC Spring photo competition

It has been a couple of weeks since our first BWC Photo Competition has finished, and I can now tell you all that a winner has been selected.

It was a fantastic success, only due to your great response and photo entries, and the keepers ended up having to look through over 100 different images to select a final short list of around 10.

We did have to disqualify some photos which were taken before 2009/2010, and even a couple that were taken of animals not at the BWC (Yes! we do know our animals that well to tell them apart) Bit overall the standard was very high.

I must confess however, I did notice a few of you regular photographers to the Centre did not enter? Be sure to next time as the more interest we can gain for this the better we can make it.

Anyway, with that said, below are few photos that we particularly liked for various reasons, and then the final four photos from which the winner was chosen.

We had many photographs showing of the interaction between our animals, which I for one loved, there was a great photo of our foxes by "Janet Howard" that can still be seen in our flickr group, but the one we liked best was this photo above by "artography64" entitled "The Lovers"

Behaviour shots were another that cropped up a lot, and most of you know I am a stippler for my animal behaviour. We particularly liked this one by "Alan Jones" of our Fallow Deer with one apparently scaring the other one off by sticking its tongue out at her.

Unsurprisingly portrait shots came up the most, and it was nice to see so many of you not forget our smaller animals with lots of entries of Polecats, Harvest mice and snakes. However this above photo of Robin our Little Owl, taken by "Barney Couch" particularly grabbed our attention.

Some of you even took photos of our "wild" wildlife here, and there was a great photo of our resident robin sitting on our feeding trolley with a rake and watering can entitled "Robin the gardener" Taken by Julie Iles.

The choice was very tough, but we ended up narrowing it down to around ten potential winners from which 4 particularly stood out. They can be seen below.

Badger cub in daisies, taken by "7D man!" via flickr

Red squirrel, taken by "Mark Coventry" via email

Heron, taken by "Zwierzanski" via flickr

Wildcat, taken by Maria Marsden via email

I will post the winner in a separate blog post later today, as selected by world renowned wildlife photographer Andy Rouse, and his reasons for his selection.

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Deer calves/fawns

We now have two Red Deer calves that I have seen out in the deer paddock, and it seems that they belong to our two friendliest hinds, Penny and Poppy.

Eric won the rut again last Autumn, and all the older hinds should give birth over the coming weeks. At a glance I would expect us to have near to just over double figures of youngsters running around by the Summer.

The calves are on their feet within 15 minutes of being born, and although a little wobbly, can manage to follow mum around if needs be. I remember one year I was doing a Deer talk and one gave birth right at the beginning of it, and by the end the youngster was on its feet at the back of the paddock.

Above is Penny with her calf. It will not take long for the youngsters to come to the keeper talks, they will follow the herds lead, and seeing that they are not bothered by us being there, they won't be either.

One of the youngsters having a clean from mum. You can just see the dappling or lighter spots along the side of the calfs body. This would be to help it hide away in the long grass out in the wild. If you are still unsure how well this would work, look at the photo below.

Yes... there is a deer in this picture : ) It is Willow's Roe Fawn. If you look closely at the photo below, you will see where I have zoomed in on the ears just poking out from the thistles.

Ideal camouflage. The mothers will often leave their baby in the grass while they go off to feed themselves, this is why it is important to NOT disturb what you may think is an abandoned fawn. Most likely it is not and the mother is just waiting for you to leave so she can return to it safely.

Willow seems to be feeding her fawn quite regularly in the early afternoon on these past few days, keep an eye open for her next time you are here.