Thursday, 27 September 2012

Tawnies and Kestrel back on Display

After a short break while enclosure repairs were made, our tawny owls and kestrel are back on display. Tawny owls "Magnus" and "Whicket" have settled in very well, and may even breed next year.

Our kestrel, "Rush", is taking a bit more time to settle. Quite happy on his own, he does get a little flighty when too many people rush over to see him. Please bear this in mind when you go to say hello while he gets used to being on display.

Hopefully next year we will be able to find Rush a mate, and possibly breed kestrels too. We could then look at adding another kestrel to our flying team, along with our buzzard and peregrine, after the retirement of "Kes."

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Red Squirrel Future Release

This week we are sending half a dozen red squirrels over to the Scilly Isle of Tresco for what is a start in a very exciting project for us!

We were contacted by Tresco earlier this year with the idea of trying to establish a new population of red squirrels on their island. What with our squirrels breeding so well, and with a few surplus males at the end of this season, we decided to help out.

The plan is for the island to house these six squirrels in a pen over the winter to get some experience in looking after and observing these animals, then into next year we will look at supplying them with some females to pair up with the males to hopefully have them breed later in 2013 into 2014.

These kittens that are bred will then be released into the wild of the island, supplemented with extra squirrels from us, to try and establish this new population.

Hopefully this new project will work, and I will keep you informed of progress over the coming months and years.

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Pine Marten Kits?

Could we have pine marten kits next year?

Well, I have been hopeful for many years... but none more so than this coming year. Once again this past summer we paired up Bonnie and Clyde in an attempt to breed Britain's most beautiful mammal. Where as in previous years they mated at least once, and then showed no obvious signs of being pregnant. This summer they mated on several occasions, and poor old Bonnie even showed the scaring around her neck which are the tell tale signs of mustelid mating.

This aggression in the mating is what helps to stimulate the female into oestrus, then hopefully the subsequent matings are what end up making her pregnant. Of course, the pine martens delayed implantation means we have to keep our fingers crossed all the way till next April, when hopefully we will hear the call of a few young kits from the pine martens nest box!

If successful, Bonnie's kits could play a vital role in pine marten conservation in the future. Despite being one of Britain's rarest mammals with less than 4,000 individuals left in the wild, there is a call for a cull on pine martens in certain areas of Scotland. It seems there is a question mark over their impact on Capercaille numbers along with more frequent reports of them moving into peoples loft spaces.

Many wildlife centres, including ourselves, have joined forces to look at the possible idea of relocating and maybe even re-introducing pine martens back in to the wild into non-problem areas. Of course it is early days, but who knows... another 10 years or so and we may see pine martens back in Southern England.

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Polecat Kits

Once again this year we had a successful litter of polecat kits from our main pair, "Storm & Velvet" And, once again, they are among the most beautiful polecats I have ever seen! These two have a real flare for producing some stunning animals.

Of the seven kits, 6 were females, and two of these have already made their way to a new home. Of the remaining 5, some of them will eventually be released back in to the wild to help bring polecat numbers back to the UK.

Proud mum, Velvet, will be pleased to get rid of them...  think she is tiring of having them around now and looking forward to some peace and quiet. Over the next week we will be catching up the kits to move off-display. Here we will have less contact with them to prepare them for the big wide world, while they await collection for their new exciting futures.

This weekend will be the last chance to see them bundling around and playing in the afternoon, so get down here if you can for one last glimpse before they head off to freedom.

Friday, 14 September 2012

New Weasel

We welcome a new weasel to our BWC mustelid family. Last weekend, "Nutmeg" was brought down to us from a vets in Oxford were he was rescued. While receiving care, and being reared, he became to tame to be released back in to the wild and a permanent home was needed for him.

Of course we were happy to help, and now after nearly a week he has settled in nicely to his new home on display to the public. He is in one of our outdoor pens, opposite the polecats.

Here he will stay until next year, when we will hopefully be able to pair him up with the female next door to him.

If you are here this weekend, maybe spend a few minutes by his pen to see if you get a glimpse.

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Little Owls

We have recently had a slight re-vamp of our little owl aviary. It was getting to the stage where the trees where constantly growing through the roof and wire, and creating little holes that little owls could possibly escape from. Therefore we removed Robin and Nancy for a couple of weeks while changes were made.

Trees were trimmed, wire was installed, and now we have successfully re-introduced our breeding pair of Little Owls back on display.

Earlier this year they produced eggs, but unfortunately nothing came from it. Next year, fingers crossed, and in their second attempt we hope we may be able to rear some little owl chicks to add alongside our tame little owl "Scrappy" in the display.

Monday, 10 September 2012

BWPA 2012

I know that many of you are interested in my photography that I do around the Centre, and very complimentary of the BWPA photograph I took last year of Flo the fox.

Well, today the BWPA winners for 2012 were announced, and I am very pleased and proud to say that I have 3 photographs in this years competition.

I submitted a few earlier this year and was amazed to have had 8 photographs shortlisted, including the one of Florence flying over the bluebells which sadly didn't make the final. Maybe because it had only just previously been in many of the national papers, or just maybe because I like it far more than the judges... I don't know. But I did get 3 into the finals. 2 commended and 1 highly commended.

Above is a photo of Grace, our otter, taken with the fish eye lens Iz bought me for Christmas. She jokingly said it was to get another photo in the BWPA this year with, and so it is quite nice that this is the photo that was Highly Commended. This photo will appear in he coffee table book and the exhibition that tours the Country.

This is an older photo I took of a hedgehog, backlit in the Autumn leaves. It has always been one of my favourites and this year the BWPA gave it a Commended and so it will appear in the book too.

And finally this photo above... One of my favourite photos I have ever taken, and I am so pleased to get this one into the finals. It was Commended and so will appear in the book.

Thanks for your interest, more animal news later in the week.

Friday, 7 September 2012

Meet Timon & Pumbaa

A little while back now I mentioned about two young hogletts that had been found abandoned in a water drain, after being washed away in the floods we had at the beginning of the Summer.

After some careful looking after by foster mum Leonie, Jacky and Steve.... uh, I mean "Timon" and "Pumbaa" are doing extremely well. Not only have they grown up to be healthy hedgehogs, but they are also often seen out for a spell in both the morning and afternoon.

Therefore we have decided to put these two youngsters on display in our Hedgerow section, moving our older resident pair off display to retire in peace and quiet.

Keeper Leonie has done a brilliant job in rearing these two hogletts from only a few weeks old... does this make Kevin their older brother? Or is that just too weird!

Timon and Pumbaa will make great exhibits, and will take on the mantle of being our educational hedgehogs for school and college visits. Their first school will be this coming Monday where I am sure they will excel, having already been great at keeper talks and photography groups.

More new arrivals to be placed on display next week, so keep an eye on the blog for their introductions, as well as plans for new exhibits to be announced over the Winter. Oh, and of course, the BWC photographic competition which is still open for another 2 months... so get your photos in while you can!

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Water Vole help from the SWT

Very exciting news on our water vole front!

As many are already aware, we have been releasing water voles out on to our nature reserve for the last couple of years. The patient among you have been rewarded with a rare glimpse of a wild water vole around the board walk, they seem to be doing well and now the time has come to really push this conservation scheme and try and establish breeding voles around the reserve.

We are working closely with the Surrey Wildlife Trust to monitor the habitat prior and post release of future voles, and will be improving our mink monitoring with the SWT help. With their help we hope to not only establish wild breeding water voles on our nature reserve, but to also eventually help them to navigate up the stream to join the Eden Brook and therefore re-introduce voles back on to this river for the first time!

This will be a joint venture between ourselves and the Surrey Wildlife Trust, and co-operation for neighboring land owners through which the tributary we are on passes.

On our initial surveys yesterday, although not seeing a vole itself, we saw many signs and sightings including feeding remains and droppings that were definitely from a water vole.

This is all very exciting for us here, and I will keep you up to date with what is going on over the months and into next year.