Thursday, 31 October 2013

Nature Reserve Releases

Our news of releases continues, with our end of season release of both water voles and harvest mice.

Both have bred well this year, and so over the past week we have introduced a few more of each out on to our nature reserve.

Our harvest mice are not very often seen by the public around the boardwalk, but I do on the rare occasion spot one whilst out and about.

Our water voles on the other hand have been a huge success, and have bred for the second year running out in the wilds of the reserve. The further releases are hoped to encourage them to spread up the stream, and in to our extended area of the reserve.

Sunday, 27 October 2013

Polecat Release

We successfully bred two litters of polecat kits earlier this year. Storm and Velvet once again had a litter, this time of only 2 kits, but they followed on from last years litter in proving to be the most beautiful polecats you have seen! They certainly take after their mum... sorry Storm.

For the first time this year, our second pair of Cassius and Mags also successfully bred. Mags gave birth to seven kits earlier this year.

Last weekend all of these kits were collected by Lily and Steve at Ferret Rescue. They have been taken off to meet up with other polecats bred in collections, and will be part of a release program run and coordinated by Lesley Harmer, the Polecat studbook keeper.

Monday, 21 October 2013

Master Albus

As promised, a few photos of Albus controlling his herd of hinds! Albus is in top form at the moment, roaring throughout the day and night, and Olivander is not even getting a look in. Whether they will clash antlers is in the coming weeks is anybodies guess, but I think Olivander may leave it a year before he gives it a good go.

Albus is working hard to keep all the hinds with him, a difficult job, especially when we put some food out for them and they all want to come and feed.

At the same time, he is very alert as to where the other males are. If they get too close, he will set on a chase to push them away from the group. You can see from the photo above that Olivander is still quite a bit smaller than Albus. Not surprising, as he is a couple of years younger, but understandable as to why he may sulk off this year until he is a bit stronger.

Olivander is definitely next in line though, and the other brockets don't stand a chance. Is nice to think Olivander is Erics son too, so in a few years he certainly has the genes to rule the paddock.

Having seen off the other males, Albus is strutting his stuff and sniffing the air to see if any females are in season yet... they won't be though, not for a few weeks.

Albus Dumbledeer really is our new Master Stag now, and he is looking the part too. He should put on a good show for anyone coming to see us over the half term week next week.

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Deer Rut

The red deer rut is beginning to take place, and Albus has been very vocal over the last few mornings. It is a little later than usual, and still not in the full swing of things... yet have I seen them clash antlers, but it is certainly getting that way.

I will try and get some photographs of Albus and Olivander when things really start to get going, but for now I thought you might like to see this little sequence below that I used this year for a couple of our BWC talks.

These are from a couple of years ago of our old stag "Eric", and one of my favourites "Alfie". Simply put the rut is when the stags compete with each other, in a show of strength and stamina.

They will size each other up, often parallel walk with each other and if it comes to it... roar! If neither backs off, then eventually they will physically clash with their antlers. Trying to push and drive each other away.

It is very rare that a deer would die as a result, but injuries can happen. You can se how close to the eye the tines above are!

Eventually the victor bellows out his dominance, and then the next phase begins.

Throughout the rutting period the stags will display a lip curl behaviour, sometimes called the "flehmen" behaviour. This is when the males are sniffing the scent, to see if the females are in season.

If they are, it is time to make yourself smell good!.. And so the stag will urinate on himself and the ground, thrashing his antlers in the urine soaked ground to cover himself in his scent whilst decorating his antlers with grass and twigs.

Time to go off and see if the new smell works...

... and knackered after all the hard work! Not surprising though, as the stags rarely eat or sleep for the weeks of the rut, and usually it will only be one stag which mates with all the hinds in a small group.

All the effort is worth it though, as eight and a half months later, and the hinds give birth to a single calf each!

We are entering our quiet season in terms of animal news, and having posted a lot about our conservation work last winter I am reluctant to recap unless it is fresh news. But fear not... there will still be lots of updates with out wildcat kittens, of course our new otter cub which will soon be venturing out and a few fun little posts which I hope some of you will find interesting and or amusing.

Friday, 11 October 2013

Kitten and Cub Update

An update is needed me thinks, before we start on the more autumnal blog posts for the year!

Above is a photo of Emmy's otter cub... it is confirmed that she has had the one, and it is looking very fat and healthy. Normally otters would have two or three in a litter, but being a first time mum, it is not surprising to see just the one.

If I had to guess, I would say it will start venturing out of the holt in a couple of weeks! But to be sure, wait till I post some pics on the blog here, then you will know it is a bit more likely to be seen.

Kendra's kittens have been a bit more elusive, especially around me, but I finally managed to get a couple of snaps for you. Above is mum with one of her three kittens. Below is one of her kittens before she followed mum's suit, and ran away from me pretty quick!

Why does Kendra not like me?.. Well, I am the one that usually catches and moves the kittens on from her, once they are at that age. She remembers well, which is a shame for me, and a job that I need to do again this coming week. These kittens are due their health checks, micro chipping, dna testing, sexing and flu jabs. Not an easy task!

Finally I thought you may like to see a more recent photo of Iona's three kittens. They have settled down extremely well, and are stars for both the keeper talks and photographic days. From the back we have Cormack, Glen and finally sister Heather.

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Red Squirrels on Tresco

News from Tresco is that the squirrels are settling in extremely well... I hope to bring you some photos taken by the residents over there in the coming weeks, but for now I have posted the official press release from the Countryside Restoration Trust who initiated this project. We have had a lot of good feedback, and enquiries, over the last few days thanks to this little project.

"The Countryside Restoration Trust (CRT) has just played an important part in setting up a new Red Squirrel population on the island of Tresco in the Isles of Scilly. The CRT was instrumental in arranging conservation collaboration between Tresco Island, the British Wildlife Centre, in Surrey, and the Royal Naval Air Service at Culdrose, in Cornwall.
Chairman of the CRT Robin Page says: “It has been a fantastic operation. Last week a Sea King helicopter from the RNAS at Culdrose dropped off red squirrels at Tresco as part of a training flight. Helicopters from Culdrose fly close to the Scillies virtually every day and so a red squirrel drop made sense for everybody – especially the squirrels – saving them the stress of a long sea journey. There are now 20 red squirrels on Tresco. They settled in quickly and have already been released. With comfortable squirrel boxes erected in trees and feeding stations to ensure adequate early food, the initial signs are very promising.
This is so important for red squirrel conservation and if successful the Tresco red squirrel introduction could set the standard elsewhere. Other islands such as Mull and the Isle of Man, with no grey squirrels, like Tresco, would seem ideal for red squirrels. Nearer to the CRT’s headquarters in Cambridgeshire, I believe that there is a large area of East Anglia, in Norfolk and Suffolk that could be cleared of grey squirrels to make a realistic red squirrel re-introduction possible”.
Mike Nelhams, Curator of Tresco Abbey Garden says: “Red squirrels seem to be quite sociable little creatures and have settled in well. If breeding takes place in the spring then it is possible that Tresco could supply squirrels for the attempt to re-introduce red squirrels to Cornwall. It is all very exciting”.
David Mills from the British Wildlife Centre says: “The whole thing has worked very well and if the introduction proves successful we hope that this can trigger more special projects. At the British Wildlife Centre we captive breed red squirrels. It is fantastic that they can then be released safely into the wild. The red squirrel needs all the help it can get and we are delighted to give it a helping hand on Tresco. If the opportunity arises to put red squirrels on Mull, and the Isle of Man, we will be very keen to help”.
The red squirrel is one of the most endangered wildlife species in Britain. It is at risk because of habitat loss, the advance of the grey squirrel which is more aggressive and which also passes on squirrel pox, almost harmless to greys and fatal to red squirrels, and inadequate grey squirrel control courtesy of Defra, English Nature and “conservation” charities such as the RSPB, the National Trust and the Woodland Trust.

The current British population of the red squirrel is about 140,000. The grey squirrel population is almost certainly close to 3 million."