Friday, 30 May 2014

New Mink

Last week we had a new arrival to the Centre. A young female mink, who we have called "Mindy"... or Mindy 2 for those that have been following us for a while.

Our old female mink died of old age at the end of last year. Having originally been caught in the wild, we offered her a safe home rather than the alternative... of course when from the wild it is difficult to know the age of the animal.

Our new Mindy, above, was captive bred by the Westcountry Wildlife Photography Centre. Isn't she beautiful? This stunning photo of her above was taken by Sean Weekly, and I have linked his flickr photo stream to the image and his name. If you have time, check it out for some more incredible photos of our animals!

Mindy is still settling in, and currently mainly active in the evenings. But I am sure it will not be long until she is out waiting in the afternoon for her food along with Mork.

Just to pre-empt the question... No we do not breed our mink. Mork has been neutered. The reason why we keep our mink here on display is to educate the public and school groups who visit about their destructive and invasive behaviour, and why it is so important to control them in the wild.

You have to admit though, she is a beauty!

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Red Kite

Red Kite - Ray Braim

Last week we hosted a special afternoon and evening for members of Foto-Buzz, a fairly new online photographic group run by Andy Rouse. They spent some time photographing both our mammals and owls, but the highlight for me happened at around 5pm...

Whilst moving on from one area of the reserve, we spotted this red kite above flying very low. Red kite sightings are still quite rare in this area, and I normally see perhaps one or two every year.

This year however I have seen one, possibly the same one, half a dozen times already.

Red Kite - Ray Braim

Last week this red kite put on an awesome display. For a good fifteen minutes he was flying very low over the reserve in front of the second car park. He was giving the herons a bit of grief, and getting a bit of grief from the crows, but the best thing was watching him pick up fish that we put out for the herons on the fly, eating it whilst in the air, and then going back for more!

I didn't have my camera with me, and refused to run back to get it... there was no way I was going to miss seeing this. Luckily foot-buzz member, and friend of the Centre Ray Braim was on hand and managed to get these great shots in very difficult conditions.

I will keep my eyes open for if the kite returns, regular feeds for the herons may well attract him back in, and who knows... in a few years we may have very regular visitors or even a resident on the reserve.

Sunday, 25 May 2014

New Aviaries

Our new display aviaries are finally done... there is a little bit of tidying up to do in the centre island, and we still have to build our off display pens around the back, but the owls have their new homes, and have been moved in ready for Bank holiday tomorrow and the following week.

These new aviaries really do make that corner of the Centre look smart. The design of the pens was thought out with consultation with a few bird of prey/falconer experts. In particular, Julian Ford of Huxleys Bird of Prey Centre in Horsham gave us a huge amount of time and advice in planning out the owls new homes.

Once the simple design was done, we did what we always do, and built on it to come up with something a bit more special. All the pens have been furnished to mimic similar wild habitats. Owner David Mills took control with this, and put his artistic flair to good use to really create something.

Over the last couple of days we have moved the owls in. It will take a little time for them to settle, and for us to get in to new routines of them now being on display, but even today they seemed comfortable in these aviaries.

Some of our flying owls are on display now too, so you can see them even before they come out to perform. Here you can see Hedwig in his tundra themed pen, looking cool!.. get it, "cool"... arctic tundra... arctic... where its cold... oh dear

Archimedes above and Ethel below seemed have found a favoured perch already, and seemed to enjoy looking out at the people coming and going.

Have a good look next time you are here. The new aviaries really show off our owls well, it is now easier to see them, more comfortable and better for the owls and hopefully a little easier for us to manage too.

Friday, 23 May 2014

Members Evening

Make a note in your diaries. Saturday the 5th of July is this years annual Members Evening here at the BWC. This means that any members can come along and see us between 5pm and 8pm, for an extended evening.

Not only will you get to see the centre at a quieter time, but you will be able to mingle with the staff and see extra talks not done during the day.

As always, I am afraid I will not be planning the talks until a few days before, but i am sure it will be a great evening and just as successful as in previous years.

I will remind you all nearer the time, but make a not of the 5th of July now, and I hope to see many of you here.

Why so many pictures of owls?.. Well, our owl aviaries are now complete and I will be moving the owls out on display over the weekend and next week. I will do a proper post on it then, but come along and see them. I would imagine they will all be occupied by the end of next week and the breeding owls will be out by Bank holiday Monday.

Finally, I have set up a "sister blog" link above in the tabs. It is a place to share more photos of around the Centre, with out distracting from the animal news here. It is something that many people have asked for, and so I hope you enjoy looking at it.

If you just want to keep up with the BWC news, then have no fear... all information will still be on this main blog. It is simply extra photos that will be on the sister blog. I will explain a bit more when I launch it in a week or two.

Monday, 19 May 2014

New Keeper Update

Our new keepers have been here for what feels like ever, and I mean that in a good way... No really I do... Honest...

Three months ago they started, all bright eyed and bushy tailed, eager to please and with a desire to learn. They were pleasant young people with great potential and sound minds, and after just three months with the rest of my team... well, best not go there. Let's just say they are doing great!

Daisy, Little Tom and Meg have settled in so well. It must be no surprise that I was a little concerned with such a big change with half the team being new and not knowing what they are doing, especially as it was at the beginning of our busy season, but I could not of asked for more from the three youngsters.

They really have picked things up quickly, have had great praise back from the schools they have taken around and delivered some inspiring keeper talks. It has certainly made my job easier, but the hard work has only just begun. All three of them know that they still have a lot to learn, and a lot of experience to gain.  In this job it is a constant learning curve, with us all always picking up new things.

All of the keeping team, old, older and new are dedicated to the good work that we do, and all of them are happy to do the extra bit when needed, all to help spread the good word about British wildlife, educate the masses and contribute to vital conservation projects.

Without our team of keepers, we could not do all we do, it is a low paid job but the reward is the passion for the work we do, the bonds we form with the animals and with each other. We are like a second family, helping each other learn, leading all through the trials and celebrating the victories.

I love you all *sniff *sniff

Now wheres the tissues...

Friday, 16 May 2014

Water Vole Babies

Our water voles on the display island have been on top form over recent weeks, and we may have the answer to why... Babies!

Last weekend one of our regular visiting photographers saw a young water vole at the end of the day and called me over, sure enough it was a kit and not many weeks old. This is great news, and it is nice to see this new family breed out on the island as many others have done in the past.

We are not sure how many are out there, but the ones we have seen are looking in very good health... as are the adults. These youngsters will stay out on the island for the rest of the season, before possibly being released on to our nature reserve.

Our breeding pens off display are also doing well, with several water vole kits currently out there. We are hoping to use these to continue our success of water vole releases on our nature reserve by encouraging them to spread further up the tributary through our reserve.

If you want to try and see our youngsters on the island, the best time would be either first thing or last thing in the day. These are the times when it is a little quieter around that area of the centre, and so they are a little more relaxed in showing themselves..

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Tractor Ted

Today, "Tractor Ted" where here to film some of our animals for one of their new dvd's. They had great fun following one of our schools around, and managed to get some good footage of our otters, water voles and mink... all for their section about rivers and waterways. While here they also got some film of some of our other animals for fill in bits.

Sunday, 4 May 2014

Red Squirrel Kittens

Yes, I know... I am re-hashing old photos for the third or fourth time, but I haven't had time to get you fresh photos of our new kittens and you'll just have to "make do"

But, our red squirrel kittens in the walk-through enclosure are now just beginning to emerge. They seem to be more active in the morning, and especially around the squirrel talk time. If you are planning on coming to see us tomorrow or next weekend, they are currently in a nest box in the second release pen... so that would be the best place to start looking.

Our squirrel kittens in our breeding pens are going from strength to strength, and we have good news from a few of our holders who have kittens already too. Looks like it will be another good year for us and red squirrels.

Remember we are open tomorrow, Bank holiday Monday, so do come and see us if you get the chance.

Thursday, 1 May 2014

Harvest Mice Release

With the nicer, warmer weather over the past few weeks, we really have given our harvest mice release a real boost.

We have released more down on our nature reserve, around the boardwalk,  and hope they will survive and begin to spread on their own. The nature reserve has been surveyed by the Surrey Wildlife Trust, and has been deemed suitable habitat for a release programme for harvest mice.

We will continue to release mice out there this year, and hope to get the SWT or a student to do a population survey over the summer to see id they really are thriving. It is hoped that if they are, then in the future we can release harvest mice in other areas of our 26 acre reserve, and over the course of a good few years, really create a nice safe haven for them out on our reserve.

Our water vole releases have been exceptional, and we have a colony around the boardwalk which are seen almost everyday! We hope that in the future this will be true for harvest mice too.