Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Polecat Babies

We have polecat babies!

Once again, "Velvet" our main polecat jill has given birth to a litter of kits sired by "Storm". You may remember that last year they had 7 youngsters, all female, 6 of which ended up being released back in to the wild. Well this year she is a proud mum once again.

It is very early days, and I believe them to only be a week and a half old, so we don't know how many she has had and are leaving her to it and not getting involved in any way. But she seems to be quite happy and has been seen moving them from one nest to another as they often do.

Once they are about 6 weeks old they will start to venture out themselves for the first time, not straying too far from the nest, and constantly being dragged back by mum.

I will of course keep you updated as they progress and mature, and if you want to come and see the for yourselves... remember that they probably won't start to leave the nest for another 5 or 6 weeks.

Friday, 24 May 2013

Britain's National Species

BBC Wildlife magazine recently launched a poll to come up with a national species for Great Britain. Just like America has the bald eagle, Russia the bear and Australia the kangaroo... what would be Britain's national identity which shows of our history, character and culture?

Have a look at the website to see ten different animals and plants having their case put forward by different groups, and why not cast a vote too.

The choices put forward are:-

 - Oak tree
 - Badger
 - Ladybird
 - Swallow
 - Otter
 - Bluebell
 - Red Squirrel
 - Hedgehog
 - Water vole
 - Robin

For me?.. Well out of those choices I think it would have to be the oak tree or the red squirrel. My head would probably champion the oak tree for its history, but as an animal man I would lean towards the red squirrel.

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

BWC Competition Winner's Photo Day

Hedgehog in Bluebells ...

Last Wednesday I had the pleasure of spending the afternoon and evening with our BWC 2012 photo competition, Wendy Salisbury. For being the overall winner of the competition, Wendy won an exclusive day here at the BWC where we could tailor the day far more and include things that would be very difficult to get on a normal photo day.

Wendy was keen to come during the bluebell season to photograph some of our animals in the bluebells, and I think we just about timed it right to get them at their peak! As well as the bluebells, we had running otters, access to the pine martens and harvest mice on dandelions... what more could you want?!

Check out these amazing photos Wendy took home with her, and follow the link below to see more of the photos Wendy took on the day.

Little Owl ...

Dear Matt &Izzy

Thank you both so much for the fabulous time I had on my one-to-one photo day earlier this week, the weather turned out to be quite kind to us and we certainly made the best of it !

You both couldn't have been more helpful and it was great to spend such close up & personal time with some of the centre's amazing animals and birds and I really enjoyed picking out great locations to photograph them in.

I have come away with some images that I am really pleased with and that would not have been possible on a normal visit to the centre.

If anyone is in two minds about booking a BWC photo day - do it - you will not be disappointed !

Now all I need to do is try and win again next year to get another chance at a one to one :))))

Thank you again
See you very soon

Long Eared Owl in Bluebells

Monday, 20 May 2013

Dancing Adders

Most of you probably already know how much I love watching our adders dance... it is a beautiful thing, and although this year they have been a little on and off due to the weather, I finally managed to get a few photos and a bit of video of their 2013 dancing.

Three weekends on the trot now, many of our visitors have witnessed our adders dancing. We even had a lucky photo group in a week ago who we managed to get up to the enclosure just as the males were in the height of their action for that day!

This "iffy" weather has helped stretch out how long they are dancing for in terms of weeks, and I wouldn't be surprised if they are still going for it this coming weekend.

For those who haven't seen this behaviour before, or just want to know more about it, check out the video above where I explain this "dance" and why they do it.

Above are a couple of photos from just over a week ago, for my favourite photo of the dance have a look at my photo blog with some more information on how I took it. (just click on the pic of me to the right with a squirrel on my shoulder)

Thursday, 16 May 2013

Marsh Frog

The Marsh frog is one of three, what we call "green frogs", that you can find in the UK, the other two being the native pool frog and the introduced edible frog.

The marsh frog is also introduced, around the 1930's, onto Romney Marsh, and has since spread out over much of Sussex and Kent. Other introductions elsewhere now mean there are small pockets over the country, but still mainly seem to be seen around the south.

There has for some time been much debate over whether this introduced frog has had an impact on our native Common Frog, certainly our common frogs seem to be in decline, but is there any direct correlation  Well, Aidan Mackay, a PhD student at the university of Kent is doing a research project to try and find out, and he needs your help!

Please take a moment to visit his website to get a better understanding of what Aidan is trying to achieve, and if you do see or hear any marsh frogs in the wild, then report them using his sightings form to help Aidan establish whether these alien frogs really are impacting our common frog in the South. It's research like this which is vital for British wildlife conservation, so please do help as much as you can. 

I'll leave Aidan to briefly explain his project below...

"I have recently started a PhD studentship at the University of Kent. My research is investigating whether non-native marsh frogs (Pelophylax ridibundus), are having an impact on common frogs (Rana temporaria) in South East England. The impact of marsh frogs on native species is still a matter of debate. Doubts regarding the negative effects marsh frogs may have on common frogs stem from the fact they have different habitat preferences. However, common frog declines have been linked to the presence of marsh frogs in ponds that are occupied by fish. An integral part of my research will be determining the distribution of marsh frogs so I would be grateful if you can record any sightings of marsh frogs on my website www.marshfrogsearch.co.uk/.  This online resource also includes lots more interesting information about the marsh frog. Your time and help will be very much appreciated."
Aidan Mackay
PhD Student, Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology, University of Kent

Friday, 10 May 2013

BWC Catch up

I mentioned I was going to spread the news of the last couple of weeks out, but with much more news to come I think it best we play catch up now and then keep up to date going forward. So... what has happened?

A couple of weeks a go now our master stag, Albus "Dumbledeer", cast his antlers. Our young brocket still has his, which is a little late, but I imagine he will lose his over the coming weeks. Already you can see that Albus has grown a bit of his new antlers for 2013. In only another 14 weeks, he will have a complete new set ready for the rut later this year. Keep your eyes peeled over the summer to see how they grow.

Albus really is coming in to his own now, and really has taken charge of the group. It is great to see him strutting himself out around the paddock.

Also a couple of weeks a go we introduced two of our weasels together for mating. Pairing up weasels is a tricky task, and required a few weeks before hand of alternating who had access to their outside pen for them to get used to each others scent. After this, the male was slowly introduced in to the females pen over a few days, before leaving them to it.

They are now both getting on extremely well in the hedgerow weasel pens, and both share the whole run. Fingers crossed for weasel babies later in the year.

After repairs on our main otter pond, we have allowed our main pair of Emmy and Elwood to go through to their new home. Currently they still have access to the centre pond too, but over the next week we will be shutting them in to the large enclosure (where they currently spend all their time), allowing us to make a few repairs on the middle pond before using it to hopefully house cubs later in the year.

All of our otters are now of age, so between Emmy and Elwood, and Jake and Lilly, surely cubs are on the horizon once again.

And finally...

Now I know, I know... I said the adders were dancing last week, which they were, and many of you came to see them at the weekend, and they didn't... but I promise you they were.

Therefore, I am afraid to mention it, but they have been dancing again today! I am reluctant to invite you all down to see it incase they disappoint once again, but I have to mention it just so you are aware in case you want to chance a glimpse of this amazing behaviour.

If you do come to see the adders this weekend, just please, don't be disappointed if they don't dance. Their is an element of luck involved, and if last year is anything to go by they were on and off for a month, so hopefully over the next few weeks you will get a chance to see it.

I managed to get a nice little bit of video footage of the dance today, so will get that sorted for the blog next week.

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Richard is leaving

Today is Richard's last day at the BWC before jetting off to Australia for another bout of travelling, later this week. Rich has been a keeper at the Centre on and off for 6 years. Having started part time, he was offered a full time position back in 2008 before taking leave to travel the world a year later. On coming back to the UK, his luck was in as we needed a new keeper, and so we welcomed him back in to the fold.

The pull of places not seen has always been strong for him though,.. and he is getting on a bit now too,.. and so it is to no surprise that he has decided again to take a trip.

Richard is hoping to spend a year or more working and travelling around Australia, following in the footsteps of former keeper Laura.

I am sure Richard will be missed by animals, staff and visitors alike.

Good luck Rich in your travels, and stay safe!

Sunday, 5 May 2013

Hedgehog Awareness Week

Today marks the start of "Hedgehog Awareness" week. This is an annual even organised by the British Hedgehog Preservation Society (BHPS), and aims to raise awareness of the troubles and dangers our British hedgehogs face. This year it runs from Sunday the 5th of May - Saturday the 11th of May.

I think it is very important that we all think about our hedgehogs in this country. While many still think they are a staple part of our wildlife, they are in fact declining at quite an alarming rate... No one is really sure exactly why, and it is likely to be a combination of reasons. Poisons, traffic, increase in predators, and maybe more importantly loss of vital garden habitats!

Everyone can do a little something to help our hedgehogs. Even simple things like ensure garden ponds have an easy route out if a hedgehog falls in, checking the garden before mowing or strimming, moving a bonfire pile before lighting it. The best help would be to allow some of your garden to go wild! Leave a corner a little untidy and natural, maybe create a log pile there too, and if you have co-operation of the community, link gardens together to create a larger habitat for our spiky friends.

For more information on "Hedgehog Awareness Week", what you can do to help, and the work of the BHPS, follow the link below.

We should be acting now if we want to save our hedgehogs... lets not leave it too late to save one of Britain's most iconic animals.

Friday, 3 May 2013

Adders are Dancing

What a busy few days... lots to catch up on, but rather than do it all in one I will post a new story every other day or so, then it gives you all time to keep up with the comings and goings.

Most importantly though... Our adders have started dancing!

Most of you will know, this is a time of year I love! And so any free time I get will be spent with the adders.

I managed to get a couple of record photos yesterday, but have yet to download them, but will bring you fresh photos from the 2013 "dance" and probably a bit of video in a week or two, after I get a chance to get them, and have brought you up to speed on the rest of the news.

In the meantime, make the most of the nice weather this bank holiday weekend and come and see if you can get a rare glimpse of this beautiful ritual.

They don't dance everyday, but there is the chance they may, and usually it will be for half an hour or so before the break, then start again later in the day... maybe three or four times a day. So you have to be a bit lucky to see it, even here, but believe me. It is worth the patience and the wait if you do see it.