Monday, 25 February 2013

Weekend Openings

Half term opening is over, but remember... we are now open to the public every weekend from now until the end of October. The keeper talk times will be back to our summer schedule, so take a look on our keeper talk page above for the new line up.

Despite the bitterly cold weather last week, we were very busy, and our animals seemed to enjoy the company of some fresh faces around.

We have a new stoat and weasel on display up opposite our polecats, and they have both been absolute stars showing themselves for most of the day.

As always, our otters have thoroughly enjoyed the colder weather. Elwood in particular has been putting on a good show, and has even started playing with his food...

Both our new wildcats have settled in very well, and on the warmer days at the beginning of the week, they were both seen out and about. Later this week I will be introducing McTavish to Kendra.

For those of you that are local to the Centre, check out our local news papers. Both the East Grinstead Observer and the Surrey Mirror are now publishing a monthly column by yours truly. The idea is to have the regular advertising in our local papers, and keep the local people in touch with what is happening at the Centre.

Of course, for all the real up to date news on the animals... this blog is still the best place to be!

Monday, 18 February 2013

1/2 Term Opening

Just a reminder to everyone that we are open every day this week for the February half term, and then continue to be open for every weekend onwards until the end of October.

The weather has been good the past few days, and we have seen many visitors come to the BWC to see our animals. I always think of this half term as the start of our "open season", and a chance to get back in to the swing of things for the weekends that follow. With this in mind, we have moved a few animals around to get used to the public over this week.

A new weasel and a new stoat are on display up opposite our polecat enclosure, both have been out and about quite a bit exploring their new pens, and the stoat in particular seems already to be a favourite with many a people.

Recently we acquired two new wildcats, and McTavish (above two pics) is now also out on display in the main enclosure next to "Kendra". He is a little shy still, but seem to like lying on the top platform in the centre of the pen. He has however shown a lot of interest in Kendra, who has mirrored this affection through the wire, and so I think we will introduce them together a little earlier than originally planned.

A post with three wildcat pics... I couldn't not have at least one snarling!..

Macavity, above, has settled in extremely well and is out quite often through the day. He is already in with one of our females, Iona, and so fingers are crossed for successful mating and a litter of kittens to follow.

Thursday, 14 February 2013

New Keeper: Lucy

Completing our trio of new arrivals in the past week, welcome to "Lucy" our summer keeper for this year.

Every year, as the season gets busier with school group bookings, and the extra days open to the public, we take on a seasonal keeper to help out with the work until the end of the summer holiday. Last year Lucy was here on work experience, and particularly stood out... and dare I say, fitted in to our slightly crazy family and so she was an obvious choice to help out this year.

Yes, that is a normal sized squirrel...

Lucy will be here for three days a week until she finishes her college course, and then for a full five days a week over the summer period up to the end of October. Please say hello to her next time you are here and make her feel welcome.

Head over to the Keeper Page to learn more about Lucy.

Monday, 11 February 2013

New Weasel

The second of our three new arrivals in the past week is a male weasel which has come on loan from Wildwood Trust in Herne Bay.

When I went to collect Macavity, the wildcat, from them a couple of weeks ago I found out that they had three male weasels. We are top heavy with female weasels, so we talked about the possibility of us taking one of their males on loan to help with the breeding this year.

Wildwood agreed, and so I collected one of their males earlier last week on a breeding loan. He will be paired up with one of our females later this year, and if successful we will be passing half of the litter bred here back to Wildwood.

We have been very successful in the past with breeding weasels, and so I hope this will continue. I have named this little chap "Wilson" for his stay at the BWC, so say hello next time you are here.

Friday, 8 February 2013

New Wildcat

This past week has seen us welcome another new wildcat to the family. Last weekend we collected a young male cat, who we have named "McTavish", from the Highland Wildlife Park in Kingussie, Scotland.

Our plans are to eventually introduce him to our female cat Kendra in the hope that they will breed and produce kittens this year.

For now we currently have him housed off display while he settles in, but hope to have him on display for the February half term. Once he is out in his new enclosure, I will try and bring some photos of him to the blog

Saturday, 2 February 2013

Owl Pellets

We have a wild barn owl living at the Centre. She has been here for some time, but recently she has spent a couple of evenings under one of our awnings and so I have had a chance to look at her owl pellets... If you have never looked at an owl pellet before, give it a go... it is an amazing thing to do and I still enjoy it as much today as I did when I was younger.

Above is a barn owl pellet, recognisable due to the darkness of it. Now some people like to soak the owl pellet first before dissecting it. If you wanted to do this, the best way is to place it in a shallow bowl of water with a drop of washing up liquid in it. Leave it for an hour or two and it will start to break up on its own... However, I prefer just to get stuck straight in.

You don't know what you are going to find, so best to where thin gloves. Slowly prize the owl pellet apart with your fingers. What you are looking for is any small bones inside.

You will find there are quite a few in each pellet, such as this one above. Carefully pull these bones out cleaning them as best you can, and place them somewhere safe.

What you are hoping for are either the jaw bones, or skulls of an animals... this will give you the best chance of identifying what the owl ate the previous night.

Above is a couple of skulls found in a pellet a few years ago, you can see the right skull is still fully intact.

Once you have separated out all the bones, you will be left with two piles. The above is all the fur of the owls meal which it couldn't digest, which sometimes can give you an idea of what it may have been, but really it is the second pile you need to look at.

All of these bones where found in the one pellet. You can see all types of bones in there, the smaller ones at the bottom are vertebrae of the backbone. The little thin ones are ribs ,and the odd shaped thin ones on the left are from the skull caps. The larger bones at the top show the shin bone, hip bone, shoulder blade, upper arm, thigh and forearm. The most exciting though are the skulls and jaw bones...

This shows that this owl ate three mammals the previous night. The two larger skulls on the left are from voles and the smaller skull on the right is from a shrew.

From the skulls you can work out whether it is a mouse, vole or shrew. Then from the teeth you can even work out if it is a bank or field vole, a house, wood or harvest mouse or a water, common or pygmy shrew. Difficult unless you know what your looking for, as it is all to do with the ridges and roots of the teeth!

The photo above is a real find. It is a shrew... You can tell it is a shrew from the shape of the skull and the insectivorous teeth. I don't think you will be able to see on the photo, but you can even tell it is a pygmy shrew due to the spacing of the cusps on the lower front tooth.

Even more exciting, and I hope it shows on the blog, but you can see the red tips to the teeth that many shrews have! Why do they have red teeth?... Well it's iron deposits in the enamel, making the teeth harder for all the eating shrews have to do to stay alive, and to help break through what they do eat. Cool huh?