Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Red Squirrel Kitten

Rearing red squirrel kittens is one of the things I hope every year I don't have to do... but at the same time, look forward to if I do have to step in and lend a helping hand.

A couple of weeks ago now, a young female kitten was spotted in one of our breeding pens out of her nest box a little earlier than she should be. I left her in there, hoping that mum would come and collect her, but checking a little later and she was still out and trying to eat some of the seeds.

I left her again to give mum a chance... but on checking back nearer midnight, mum was asleep, and the kitten was curled up and trying to keep warm on one of the shelves. It is possible she wouldn't of survived the night, and so I took her in to warm her up and look after her.

She was at that awkward age... too young to look after herself, but old enough to know that I wasn't her mum... surprisingly however she took to the goats milk extremely quickly! That was as far as it went though.

You may remember in the past, the squirrels I have reared are very friendly and latched on to me at all times... not this one! She is a right character, and once she has taken her milk she wants nothing to do with me at all!

On the plus side, she seems to be thriving, and is taking milk for herself now from a bowl and weaning well on to solid food. She should be a great member of the copse for the summer.

 I have named her "Cinder". You may remember one of my favourite girls a couple of years back called "Flame", because of her red and white tail? Well Cinder has a black and red tail as if it has burnt out... also, it could be short for Cinderella... the forgotten sister... It works on two levels. I like that!

Thursday, 25 April 2013

Tame Fallow join the Herd

 Its been a strange old week, very busy with schools and photographic groups as usual, but with lots of odds and ends jobs to do and finding the time to squeeze in moving a few animals around. I will bring you news next week of our weasels and red squirrel kittens, but for now take note that when you next come to visit us, our four tame fallow deer are no longer in deer corner.

We have tried to introduce our tame fallow to our main herd before, but they never fully settled. Now, with an extra two mates, and with our main buck showing a keen interest in them, we thought we would try again. So far so good, and although they are likely to stay separate from the main herd for some time... at least they seem settled and are not being harassed by the group.

So what does that mean for deer corner?..

Well, it has always been a bit of a dead space, and so over the winter months later this year we are hoping to tidy it all up and create something new. Maybe a clue is above?

Saturday, 20 April 2013

Red Squirrel Kitten's

Already this year we have seen behaviour in both our walk-through enclosure, and our breeding pens, that show we have red squirrel kittens. One or two have even started to make an appearance, but are still all very young.

On top of this, a couple of our breeding sites have also let me know they have kittens too, some for the first time, so it is all very exciting!

The above photo is if an old squirrel I reared called "Flame" a couple of years a go, but some fresh photos will be put up as soon as I have seen them out and about properly... I also have other news about a squirrel kitten, but will bring that to you later next week.

In other squirrel news, yesterday there was a national conference held at Exeter University for like minded squirrel people to get together to talk about the future of conservation for our native squirrel.

Unfortunately prior engagements ment I was unable to attend, but hopefully this helped bring together many people and establish new communication links. I can see this as only being a good thing, and hope all red squirrel lovers can work together to help conserve one of Britain's most iconic animals!

Sunday, 14 April 2013

Heron's on the Nature Reserve

Having taken 16 acres of redundant farmland, and turned it in to a nature reserve, it is no surprise that much "wild" wildlife has decided to make this area of the BWC it's home. We have a vast amount of reptile and amphibian life out there, a small roe deer family that have made it their home, an abundance of other mammals in the adjacent woodland... but it is the bird life that has seemed to really colonise the area.

Most obvious of these are of course the herons. Even before the reserve was built, they used to visit to pick up the left over scraps of fish we fed to the otters. But since the completion of the reserve over five years ago, they have also chosen it as a place to roost.

These, almost awkward, looking birds often look out of place at the top of a thin tree. And when we have 20 or so of them soaring over you in the sky as we take some fish down, it is not unlike a scene you would imagine from the prehistoric era. But when the gently settle on the branches, or slowly glide to the ground  you get just a glimpse in to their beauty and grace.

Herons always seem to lay their eggs quite early in the year, and despite this seasons weather, it has been no exception. In fact, I think our herons have laid earlier than usual! Already we have a few fledglings that are beginning to stretch their wings, and even one or two that have made it to the ground.

The others can still be seen on the odd occasion that they pop their head out of the nest, and if you can't see them... boy, can you hear them! They make a right clattering racket while they are calling for mum and dad to bring them more food.

Next time you are here, do make time just to spend a while down on our wetland boardwalk. If you wait till later in the day in particular, you will get a chance to see these extraordinary birds in action as they feed, collect fish for the youngsters or fend each other off in minor squabbles.

Thursday, 11 April 2013

Harvest Mouse Release

What with the warmer weather beginning to come through, we have started our release for the first batch of harvest mice this year.

Having seen a few around the boardwalk that we released last year, the timing seemed about right, and so we have set up about 20 mice in to our soft release pens. These mice will be let out in to the real "wild world" over the next week or two, after they have had a little time to acclimatise to their surroundings.

Keep your eyes open around the boardwalk next time you are here, as you may be lucky enough to see a real wild harvest mouse out there!

Saturday, 6 April 2013

Adders Emerge

Many of you will already be aware that I have a soft spot for the adder. I think they are a very miss-understood animal, but extremely beautiful in their own right. What with all the cold weather we have been having over the past weeks, I was beginning to wonder when they would emerge for the first time.

A couple of weeks ago, I saw one of them out during a brief warm spell, but had seen no signs since... until today. This morning it looked like all our male adders were up and about, and quite active too. This is the first time I have seen them out properly this year, and with the weather promising to get a little milder, should mean they are out of brumation.

The male adders usually emerge first. They will look a little dull in these photos as they are yet to shed in to their new skins, once this is done then they will feed and start thinking about mating.

The females usually emerge a couple of weeks or more after the males, once they have all shed their skins it is often easy to tell what their sex is by the contrast in their colours. The males tend to have a very dark black zig-zag on a silver or grey base colour, while the females tend to have a less obvious deep brown zig-zag on a more brownish/copperish base colour.

We are still open everyday for another week for the Easter holiday, so if you are planning on coming along... leave a bit of time to see if you can see our adders basking out in the little sun we are getting lately.

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Dissecting an Owl Pellet

We have a wild barn owl hunting and roosting around the Centre, I keep finding owl pellets, and so of course keep dissecting them too. 

After the success of our blog post on dissecting owl pellets, I have had many of you (at least 2 I can remember, one being my brother) asking for a video on how to dissect a pellet. Not wanting to disappoint, I set about it.

So here you are, how to dissect an owl pellet in video form. Keep an eye on the blog over the coming weeks for more exciting videos exploring the dynamic world of owl pellets, and for answers to all your burning owl pellet questions.