Saturday, 30 April 2011

BWC update

After a very busy week here at the BWC, and hence a slight lack in posting, I thought I would up date you all briefly on a couple of the lesser thought of animals. Firstly, our Marsh Frogs are proving to be very vocal. I am sure you will of heard them on recent visits, but they are now at it all night as well. Good opportunities to get nice photos of the puffed out cheeks.

Gnasher, one of our elder and more experienced hedgehogs, spent a morning filming with the PTES. He is to be the star of a new interactive, youtube game, to try and get youngsters interested in looking after wildlife and helping these animals by doing the odd little thing in their garden. When all finished and done the PTES have promised to send me the link, so I will endeavor to pass it on to you all too.

As for Jack, some of you would have seen him flying this year, but I have not had the chance to fly him as much as I had hoped. Therefore Katie has volunteered herself to help with his training/flying duties and you may see a new face controlling him in the skies.

News next week of yet more BWC babies, and a very exciting development with our badgers to be announced in a couple of weeks!

Saturday, 23 April 2011

Wildcat Kittens

A few nights ago saw Kendra giving birth to another litter of kittens. The very patient of you may catch a rare glimpse of these rare and elusive kittens at the rear of the enclosure.

It looks like she has had two, and so far both appear to be healthy. We will have a closer look once they have grown a little, but for now will leave them alone to settle in to their new world with their mother.

Below sees the second kitten coming over to great his or her sibling.

Last year Iona also produced a litter, and today she did look a little thinner. So who knows... a few more days and I may well be bringing you news of our second litter of wildcats.

Wildcats are one of our rarest mammals with only 400 left in the wilds of Scotland. Along with other centres, we are trying to breed the purest of these animals for an eventual release programme in the future. To find out more about this wildcat haven follow this link:

Friday, 22 April 2011

Red Squirrel Kittens

The first year after we introduce females into our red squirrel walk-through enclosure has seen its first litter of kittens! Pictured above are two kittens in one of the nest boxes, taking a glimpse out into their new world. They have yet to venture out fully, but I think it will only be a matter of days before we see them climbing through the trees of the walk-through.

Below is another shot of a kitten poking his head out of a smaller hole in the box. I have only seen two together myself, but it is possible the mother may have had more in her litter.

Keep your eyes peeled next time you wander through the enclosure for the babies, our first litter of 2011.

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Dormice enclosure

Yesterday we hosted the CDCBG meeting for 2011 (Common Dormouse Captive Breeding Group). The BWC is one of the newest members to the captive breeding group, housing a pair of their dormice for breeding and potential future release.

The new enclosure above, which many of you have seen being built opposite our snakes, will be the new home for these enchanting animals and their offspring. Dormice spend most of their lives asleep, and are extremely nocturnal. A glimpse of them therefore is unlikely. But with specially adapted nest boxes, and an enlarged entrance way to the pens, we hope to be able to offer the occasional "meet and greet" of these beautiful mammals.

And just because a photo of an empty, half built pen, is not much to look at... above is a photo of our resident crazy bird lady spending a morning in the woods with our hand reared tawny owls, all in aid of some Easter publicity adverts.

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Dance of the Adders, 2011

The weather is warming up again, and the adders are dancing again. If you can, try and get here in the next couple of days to see them in full swing. The activity may cool off towards the end of the week when they start thinking about mating.

A couple of photos from today, have a look at the flickr site for some more action shots of this amazing ritual.

Saturday, 16 April 2011

Eric the Red

Our master red deer stag, Eric, is getting on a bit now. He is about 15 years old, and probably wouldn't reach much more than this in the wild. Of course, in the wild varied ground and a short life means that the length of hooves would rarely cause a problem, but with the soft ground of the paddock here and the lengthen life span it is possible for a deer's hooves to become over grown.

Therefore, yesterday evening, we trimmed Eric's hooves back. He was beginning to struggle a little bit on his front feet, and along with his old broken leg, it was starting to cause a little lameness. Of course, trimming a red deer's hooves is not a straight forward task. We had to get our zoo vet involved and dart Eric to sedate him enough to be able to work on him.

All went well, and after 40 minutes work he was back on his feet and grazing only yards away. He obviously didn't seem to mind too much about his ordeal and was maybe grateful for his new ease of movement.

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Adders Dancing

Our adders have started dancing once again. Perfect timing for all you budding photographers as well, as we are now open to the public everyday for the rest of this week and next week. Come see if you can catch a glimpse of this impressive ritual, rarely seen in the wild.

Saturday, 9 April 2011

Flo's had her cubs

Hello... You may have noticed the new look to the blog, I hope you all like it. We where getting a little tired of the old look and thought we could make it a little more "professional" if you like, and a little less like all the other google blogs out there!

Well, to start off the new look, what better way than to announce that Flo has had her cubs. She disappeared a few days ago, and emerged a couple of days later looking much thinner than she had been. I would guess it will be about 4 weeks till we start seeing the cubs emerge, so maybe 5/6 weeks for them to be bold enough to come out with visitors being here. Something to look forward too.

Below are some images of last years cubs.

Don't forget, we are open to the public everyday now, including the week days, for the next two weeks. Plus the two bank holidays of the week after.

Thursday, 7 April 2011

1st Harvest Mouse Release of 2011

Today we released our first batch of harvest mice out onto our nature reserve for this year. We breed many of these little mammals every year, and despite the very cold Winter we had our breeding pairs only slowed up a little. With the nice warm weather recently, it seemed an ideal time to add to our reed beds around the reserve.

These amazing mice weigh less than a two pence piece, have opposable thumbs and are the only mammal in Europe to have a prehensile tail. All this enables them to climb high up in the reed beds and make themselves at home.

Some of you very lucky visitors have commented in the past on seeing our mice out around the wetland boardwalk, and we hope these new additions will help booster their numbers and make them a more common site for visitors. Of course we still have our two display tanks and our breeding pens in action.

Meanwhile, earlier this afternoon, Senior Keeper Laura spotted a common lizard wandering a little too far from home. We are hoping to create some new reptile enclosures around the boardwalk later this year, but in the meantime while releasing the harvest mice we relocated this lizard back to where he probably came from.

Our nature reserve is a relocation site for British reptiles. So far we have welcomed grass snakes, common lizards and many slow-worms. You would have to be extremely patient, but a glimpse of these elusive reptiles is certainly a possibility, especially now the weather is warming up!

Don't forget we are open during the week for the next two weeks, and all the bank holidays over the Easter period. Hope to see you here.

Monday, 4 April 2011


A couple of years a go, we were home to one off the best and largest captive stoat populations. They were a huge success offering the sight of this very elusive predator to many a visitor, and their pens were often surrounded by the keen amateur photographer too.

Unfortunately, as many of you know, we had a very nasty virus sweep through our collection, claiming most of our stoats and weasels. It has taken us a while, but we are getting closer to where we used to be.

After a brief spell on display last Summer, our stoats were removed from public due to the hope that they may breed. Now I am very excited to say we have two male stoats back out on display in our photographic pens and a new female has joined our male in the hedgerow display in the hope we can breed from them. Still off-display are our breeding females who are due to give birth over the next month.

Stoats are one of the smaller members of the mustelid or weasel family. Differing from weasels in that they are larger, and have the very distinct black tip to the tail. Some stoats turn ermine in the winter, this is when they change coat colour to all white, yet retain their black tip on the tail, although usually this only occurs in the more northern regions they are found (we did use to have a Scottish stoat here who went ermine every winter.)

Stoats are very playful and curious creatures, but this hides a viscious streak. They are no doubt one of our greatest predators, able to single handedly take down prey far greater in weight, such as a fully grown rabbit. Far more impressive than a herd of lions having to work together to take down a zebra.

If you haven't guessed yet, the Stoat is by far one of my favourite of the British mammals! Come see them soon in their new display enclosures.

Friday, 1 April 2011

Nesting Herons

Before we started work on our nature reserve, over 5 years ago now, we had herons visiting the centre daily. Once the reserve was under way they started roosting here, and now they are permanent residents often numbering well over 20 individuals.

Come the late afternoon you often see many of them lining up at the back of our deer paddock, waiting for visitors to leave. This is when they can have a look in our otter ponds for any left over fish the otters have left behind.

Once again it is that time of year when the chicks have started to hatch. We have more nests than before this year, and at least two on which I have seen chicks. I took the above photo yesterday evening after seeing one head poke up from the nest... it was only later when looking on the computer that this picture above (the only one out of the 5 or so I took) had a second head peering over the top of the nest too.

The herons are always a joy to watch, and we do put food out for them every afternoon at about 4.30pm. It is for this last half hour of the day you can often see the parents squabbling and taking food back to their chicks.

Come have a look for yourself.