Saturday, 28 July 2012

Pine Martens

Bonnie (below) and Clyde (above) have once again mated this year, and it was a much rougher affair than in the past. Previously over the last couple of years we have seen and heard the pair mate, but this is the first year where Bonnie has shown the tell tale signs around her neck of slight scarring/redness from the long mating procedure.

As with most mustelids, the mating can look quite aggressive, but it is believed that this aggression with the female is what stimulates her into oestrus and therefore allow her to become pregnant. We will leave the pair together until the end of August in the event of subsequent matings, and then it will be all fingers crossed again for the possible litter of pine marten kits in Spring next year, only this time we are even more hopeful than in previous years.

Over the last few years, and even as recent as February, the pine martin has been brought up in the news as the Scottish Gamekeepers Association has apparently called for a cull on these animals. It seems strange that one of our most iconic, and rarest animals could even be considered for a cull, but the SGA are concerned about the effects they are having on our Capercaille and new areas they are finding for nesting.
I have been asked about this a lot, but am refraining from passing on my opinion until I know and have heard more about it. Even the Mammal Society have yet to offer their position statement about this.
In the past the Vincent Wildlife Trust has looked into the possible release of pine martens back in to England so maybe a relocation exercise could be a possibility to aid with this whilst thinning numbers in these high density areas.

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Owl Evening

The owl photography evening booked out overnight, and with one late cancellation one lucky person filled the spot at the last minute. Thanks to all who came and made the evening so enjoyable for myself and Izzy... we hope you all had a great time too and went home with some super photos!

Contrary to what many think, I rarely have time with the camera around work, so I took the opportunity to take my camera with me and take a few pics too.

We started off the evening in the woods, getting out of the hot sun for a while and using the dappled light to make the most of the habitat using Archimedes above.

After that we were ready for the sun again, heading back out to the main reserve you can see the gang above... what are they photographing? Well the amazing wall of course, still standing, and this time with a little owl in it!

Scrappy was getting a little too hot, so we decided to move him to a shady area to cool, the badger hide provided the perfect spot.

Around half 6 the light was just becoming perfectly soft, Kevin was next on the agenda using the last of the light in the main reserve.

For the last couple of hours we were chasing the light to make the most of the golden glow. We moved to the new area of the reserve that we are developing and tried Fawkes in some white flowers.

I am sure you will see some amazing photos of Florence flying over the water, complete with reflection, on flickr soon... I had to help Iz fly, but was content with this portrait of her gazing at the midges. While perched she even managed to pounce and catch a vole ;-) None of us were quick enough to get this though.

A lot of you that follow my sister blog will know that I love using the light in my own photography, and at times can become a little obsessed with back light... I thought I would experiment with our long-eared owl Archimedes while the evening was so nice.

The light was fading fast, very fast, but we caught the last of it in the grass with Fawkes... difficult to see on this small photo, but you might be able to work out the setting sun reflected in his eye!

With the light gone, but always looking for new opportunities, we took the advantage of a beautiful sunset to get some silhouettes. We only had 5 minutes before it went, so used our short-eared owl while he was still out. But imagine the above with a  long-eared... Wow!

I think everyone went away happy. Keep an eye on the blog, I will announce a mammal evening soon and possibly another owl evening later in the Summer.

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Owl Photography Evening

I've been working on a few extra events for the Summer, news of which will hopefully follow if they come to fruition, but for now I can introduce the pilot of one of these things.

This one if for all you budding photographers...

This coming Tuesday, the 24th of July, I will be holding an evening photo session with our owls down on the nature reserve. Those who sign up will be able to hang around after we close from 5pm until sunset (9ish) to get some amazing photographs of our 5 most common British owls

Our owl days have been a huge success, all selling out very quickly, and so this idea was to help offer more chances for those that missed out on our planned days. At the same time of course you get the much softer and warmer evening light to photograph by... Stunning!

I will be charging £50 for this event, and limiting the spaces to 10 photographers. If you are interested please let me know by emailing me at The first 10 people who contact me I will confirm back by phone or email that you have a place.

If this proves to be popular, then I will look at offering more of these dates over the Summer weeks... maybe even throw in a mammal evening or two as well. If interested but this is too short notice, still let me know and I can look at booking some in for later in the Summer. If little interest is shown then no worries, I will just enjoy the evening and owls to myself.

So what is on offer on Tuesday...

A fun relaxed atmosphere on a glorious evening. Fingers crossed for some red light at the end of the night.

 - Little Owl
 - Barn Owl
 - Tawny Owl + Flying Tawny Owl
 - Short Eared Owl
 - Long Eared Owl

I will only be able to fly the tawny as other owls would have been flown during the display, but you would get some cracking chances of it flying down the track in the warm light!

The event will require moderate walking, and in places on slightly uneven ground.

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

BWC Photo Comp Winner's Day

Do you remember the winning photo of last years BWC photo competition? It was a close up of a water vole, taken by Junior category winner Jaime Holme. Well today Jaime visited the centre to claim his overall prize of a one on one day with renowned wildlife photographer, Andy Rouse.

I say day, in fact it was the afternoon and evening which Andy spent with Jaime. The earlier part of the evening saw us down on the nature reserve making the most of the dry weather. Down there Jaime had the chance to photograph several owls, including the rarely seen Long-eared and Short-eared owl.

Then after a short break we headed back to the Centre to concentrate on some of the mammals. By this time the rain had set in, but we still had fun and took the challenge on of otters running head on to the camera in the pouring rain!

Congratulations to Jaime again,  I am sure he enjoyed his day today and know that he would have picked up lots of tips and new skills to take away with him to practice.

Monday, 16 July 2012


Introducing two new hoglets to the BWC family... Timon and Pumbaa. These two young hedgehogs were found washed away down a drain in Godstone after the recent floods. We have taken them on to rear them up.

Leonie has taken on the role of hedgehog mum, they currently need feeding several times a day so it is quite a taking on, but so far she is doing a great job.

Once they have grown up a bit, I am sure Leonie will be happy to show them off during our hedgehog talk.

Saturday, 14 July 2012

New Otters

There is not much that is more exciting than when we welcome a new otter to the BWC, but one thing that is is when we welcome two!

This past Wednesday saw two new otters arrive from the New Forest Wildlife Centre. These brothers, named "Jake" & "Elwood," have been introduced in with Lily and Emmy respectively.

The photos in this post are all of Elwood, who has been an absolute star so far! He did his first keeper talk with me this morning, and he was out waiting much to my surprise. He has settled really quickly, and has been seen playing with Emmy on many occasions. Nice for her to have a playmate since we moved her brother Tamar across to Gracie's pond.

Jake is a little shyer, and looks like he may take some time to settle in. However he has settled very quickly with Lily, and on most occasions I have seen him it has been laid up in the reeds, or in their holt, together with Lily. Do persevere to get a peek of him if you visit as it will be worth it... he is one of the biggest otters I have ever seen!

I think Elwood was getting a little fed up with all the attention by the end of the day, he certainly told me to go away in no uncertain terms.

Come and see our new otters if yo get the chance over the Summer holidays.

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

New Weasel and Pool Frogs

Some of you may have noticed our new weasel on members evening this past Saturday. This is our new male weasel, tentatively named "Goliath" by the keepers. Goliath came from a friend of the Centre, Andrew Gray, who runs the Mustelid Rescue UK up in Manchester.

Andrew has a network of students over the whole of England which help him to rescue any injured or abandoned stoats and weasels. We got to know each other a couple of years ago, and have recently helped with a couple of his calls from down south... including one of our new stoats Dorris.

Goliath was reared by Andrew, but it was soon evident that he was too tame to be released back in to the wild. Knowing that we had just reared our own female weasel, Eva, Andrew thought that we may be able to offer him a permanent home here at the Centre.

Of course I jumped at the chance. As most of you are aware, weasels are one of my favourites, and a tame male would be perfect to eventually pair up with Eva for the hope of young weasel kits in the future.

If you haven't met Goliath yet, you are in for a treat... He is a stunning young weasel, and arguably the biggest weasel I have ever seen! Hence the name. Although I am sure he will be a gentle giant, and treat Eva well. They a have already been talking to each other through the wire, and I don't think it will be long until we can try and run them together.

Also on his trip down to see the Centre Andy brought with him some young Pool Frogs. You may remember from one of my previous posts that Andrew Gray is a Herpotoligist that works at the Manchester Museum, part of the University of Manchester. He is an expert in all amphibian matters, and works extensively in the husbandry, research, fieldwork, education and conservation of these often miss-understood and overlooked animal groups.

To get a better understanding of what Andy does, his work with amphibians, and the occasional bit of mustelid news, check out his blog at "Frog Blog Manchester" It is a great read, and you will certainly learn a lot about all herptiles, British and exotic.

The pool frog is a welcome new addition to our collection. I am hoping to branch out our herptile section to include all native reptiles and amphibians, and am working hard to get the necessary licences to do so, and the pool frog is a fantastic way to start with its great conservation story.

Pool frogs were a native British frog, presumed extinct in this country by 1995, but have since been re-introduced to a single site in East Anglia.
These frogs can grow up to around 9cm, however the males are usually a lot smaller. These little ones I have now are not even 2 cm yet, still youngsters, but they are eating like anything and I don't think it will take them long to grow.

I currently have them set up in our fish tank in our Hedgerow section, next to our hedgerow pond, and they were beautifully out on display this past weekend so why not come and see what they look like. Once grown on, I am hoping to place them in the main hedgerow pond.

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Members Day Success

A big thank you to everyone who came yesterday to our members evening, and made it such a huge success!

The evening started with the traditional welcome and Centre update from owner David Mills, before the members were let loose around the Centre to see the animals and what they get up to in the evening.

The first talk of the night was on British Snakes, with a focus on the grass snake. Four of the keepers had a grass snake each, and were spread out around the Dell to allow visitors to go up close and see this miss-understood reptile for all its glory. Some members stayed a little further away from our scaly friends, sitting on the benches, but hopefully gained a little insight in to the life of the largest British reptile. Of course, a little photographic opportunity was available at the end of the talk before the snakes were carefully place back in their home.

The second talk of the evening was by far the most popular, where we called out our stoats and weasels for all to see. For many years we have been trying to build up our collection, since the loss of many of our animals due to a mystery virus 4 years ago. This year has seen us get back to where we were in terms of numbers, and all but one made an appearance for the talk up by the outside pens.

Following on from this, our newest small weasel members, Sybil and Dorris the stoats and Golliath and Eva the weasels were on view in our Hedgerow section.

The talks were interspersed with some animal feeds to keep the evening moving, and to offer a sight and update of some of our more popular animals.

And of course we had some of our newest members of the team on view to show their progress.

Once again a big thank you to all members who came... thanks for your continuing support, and see you all soon! Keep your eyes open over the Autumn and Winter for news on when our Winter Members Day will be.

Saturday, 7 July 2012

Members Evening: Tonight!

And so it is that time of year again when we open our doors to our members of "Friends of the British Wildlife Centre" for an extra few hours in the evening.

If you are a member, or sign up for membership today, then you can stay today until 8pm to enjoy the animals and wildlife in the evening light. Of course, we will also be on hand to show off some of our newest animal friends.

The evening will follow straight on from our normal opening times, and officially start with a BWC Centre update and welcome form owner David Mills. There will then be a couple of new talks plus some animals feeds to keep you busy until we close the doors at 8pm.

These photographs may offer some clues as to what will be happening tonight, but until then why not come and enjoy the day here first before seeing what is on offer tonight.

Look forward to seeing many of you here, hope it is a fun evening for all to enjoy and that the forecast showers don't put any of you off.