Sunday, 27 July 2014

New Aviaries for the Birds of Prey

Recently we have been working on some off-display aviaries for our owls and birds of prey. These are aviaries that we can use to move one of our owls off display if we ever need to... if they become ill, if a new owls come in before moving on to display etc.

A few of these aviaries are on display as you walk over towards our wetland boardwalk, and so we decided to put some of our birds of prey in these ones. Here you will see a buzzard, peregrine and kestrel. Our kestrel is still quite flighty, but is still settling in. We will give him a couple of days to see how he goes, but if he remains unsettled we will move him back to an off-display aviary.

This is Jack, the peregrine, above. He has settled in well, and is still flown at certain times of the year. Once the summer is over, we will have the time and weather to plant these new aviaries up a bit, and make them more pleasing to the eye.

Friday, 25 July 2014

Summer Opening

Just a reminder to you all that we are now open to the public for the summer holidays. That means we are open everyday until the 2nd of September!

If you get the chance, why not come and see us and see all that had been happening. You will get to see the polecat kits growing and playing, the red squirrels in our walkthrough enclosure, deer youngsters running around the deer park as well as all the usual animal antics going on.

Hope to see some of you here over the coming weeks.

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Red Deer Calf Update

We have many young deer out in our deer paddock at the moment. It all starts getting a little confusing as they are called different names for different species, so we have fallow deer fawns and red deer calves!

The fallow fawns are still a little shy, but the red calves are beginning to gain confidence and are starting to come over with the adults when we call them for feeding. 

It doesn't take too much to startle them though, if they do run off you often see just one of the females going to look after them while the others feed before going back to see them.

We currently have seven red deer calves and four fallow deer fawns. I would imagine that will be it for this year, but occasionally we have had a later youngster from a female who was covered late in the breeding season.

The two main males are still doing well. Olivander is a little further back in this picture than Albus, but even still you can see the size difference between the two. The rut may be a little one sided this year.

I am still taking a photo a week of Albus's antler growth, and we are nearing the end now. I will post these up here when he has finally shed his velvet.

Remember we are open to the public every day from tomorrow until the end of the Summer holidays. Keep your eyes open for the deer fawns and calves while you are here, they may well be sheltering in the shade of the trees at the back of the paddock.

Friday, 18 July 2014

Wildcat Haven

Over the past week the new "Wildcat Haven" website has been officially launched. Those that have visited the Centre will already know about the fantastic work they are doing to help save our last remaining cat in Britain, but if you want a reminder or just to read about it first hand, click on the link in their name. The new website is much easier to browse through, and gives great information on not only the conservation efforts which they are working towards, and have been for many years, but also the cats themselves. 

The Wildcat Haven is something we support wholeheartedly, and it is good to see that there are people out there who are actually doing something to try and save them rather than leave it till too late!

In other wildcat news, but continuing on with conservation efforts. One of our female kittens, Isla above, will be moving to the New Forest Wildlife Park next week to pair up with one of their males for the breeding programme. As part of the conservation work going on, we are part of the studbook which monitors all captive wildcats and the purity of those. Isla moving will not only give us more space to breed more kittens here, but also allow the NFWP to breed these cats, all which may possibly have a vital role in the future in releases in to the Wildcat Haven.

Isla is a beauty of a cat, and I personally will be very sorry to see here leave.

More cat pics under the "More BWC Photos" tab above.

Friday, 11 July 2014

Dormice Filming

A couple of years ago we were approached by the Surrey Dormouse Group (SDG) about filming some of our common dormice. The SDG have had some success in filming wild dormice, but some of the things they wished to capture on film proved to be very difficult to obtain in the wild. One of these things was nest building.

So, with our help, we set up a in box camera which detected movement to with it on, and then left it and waited to see what would happen. Sure enough we saw the dormouse come and go, so on a mild string of nights we removed half the bedding, and left it running again. The dormouse obliged by building  nest with the hay in her box and some fresh material.

With this success, we continued, and on the next row of warm, mild nights, we gave her an empty nest box and lots of fresh natural material such as hazel and honeysuckle. What resulted was some beautiful footage of her building a nest out of these natural materials, a little out of focus in places, but still a very unique experience to see.

But why am I telling you all this now? After a brief hiatus, the SDG are back to try and improve on the footage they managed to get a few years ago, and maybe even try and go better and get some young dormice activity on camera.

Unfortunately they left it a little late to set it up on our breeding dormice, we didn't want to risk upsetting them during their season, but we were able to set it up once again with one of our single dormice to see if we get any more, and better, nest building action!

The dormice we use for the recording are educational dormice, ones that are no longer part of the breeding programme, but deemed unsuitable to return to the wild. But by helping us with this video recording they are just showing us another insight in to their secrete worlds and helping all learn more about these amazing little animals.

Once the footage has been collected, I will put a video or two up on the blog, and in the mean time I will try and get SDG to release the older footage for you to see. Fingers crossed, hopefully I will be allowed to share it... It really is great footage!

For more recent photos of our dormice, have a look on our sister blog by clicking on the tab at the top of this page "More BWC Photos"

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Hampton Court Palace Flower Show

On Monday this week, one of our hedgehogs "Turbo" had the important task of being a hedgehog ambassador at the Hampton Court Palace Flower Show. Turbo was borrowed by Pat Morris to help launch the British Hedgehog Preservation Societys and Peoples Trust for Endangered Species "Hedgehog Street" Garden, with the aim to bring the decline of the hedgehog to more people.

The show is open this week, but Monday was the press day. As part of the show, one of the garden exhibits was designed by Tracey Foster for the BHPS and PTES. The aim is to show people what can be done in their own gardens to help create valuable habitat for our declining hedgehogs.

The garden has been designed with areas of wild grass, ponds with sloping sides, compost heaps, log piles, different plants, feeding areas, hibernation box and perhaps most importantly holes in the fences which would allow the hedgehogs to roam from garden to garden, as well as other friendly hedgehog bits and pieces.

Major Adrian Coles, founder of the British Hedgehog Preservation Society and now a Chelsea Pensioner was also present to help with the press call.

Hopefully this exhibit will help enthuse people to change the way they keep their gardens, and make them a little more friendly for hedgehogs. The hedgehog was voted Britain's most popular animal last year by the readers of BBC Wildlife Magazine, but without some simple changes which we can all do in our gardens, they are at risk of declining even further than they already have in recent years.

Monday, 7 July 2014

Members Evening

Little Tom with a Little Mouse - by Ingrid Nicholls

It seems everyone was excited about Members Evening, maybe a little too excited in some cases!..

Thanks to everyone who came to see us on Saturday evening, and spend the extra hours after we normally close to see some rare talks, attend more feeds and mingle with the keepers and other members old and new.

The evening was a huge success as always, and we have had much positive feedback already so thank you all again for coming and for your continued support of the work we do. We truly do appreciate it and are very pleased you enjoyed your evening here.

Harvest Mouse - by Shane Standbrige

As always, the evening kicked of with our usual Welcome and Centre update, informing everyone of our plans for the future, recent changes, and going through what to expect during the rest of the evening.

Harvest Mouse - by Ray Braim

We started of with our Harvest Mice down in the Dell. This has proved a popular talk in the past, and had not been done for a couple of years, so we thought we would bring it out again. Not only did this give members an up close and personal look at these adorable little mammals, but also allowed for some great photo opportunities which many members took.

 Stoat - by Dave Burden

A later evening feed of our wildcats and otters was next on the agenda, before moving up to our polecats and stoats for another keeper talk not usually given during our open days. 

The polecats were on good form, but it was the stoats that truly shined. These amazing little predators really made themselves known, and I hope we managed to enthuse some of you with who incredibly skilled and fascinating these mammals really are! 

We finished up with extra feeding sessions with our foxes and pine martens before retiring for the night. 

 Water Vole - by Sean Weekly

One of the best things about members evening though is just the extra opportunities you get to see all the animals at one of their busiest and most active times of the day. The water voles in particular put on a great show, as you can see from this photo above. Rather ironic as I was thinking of doing a water vole talk, but decided against it leaning towards polecat kits for being more reliable... and of course they were very shy on the night!

Anyway, thanks once again to all who came and thanks for all your support and kind words for and about the Centre. 

Friday, 4 July 2014

Polecat Kits: Update

Mags' kits are really beginning to become a bit of a handful for her now. We first saw sightings of them above ground a week or so a go, but they have now really found their feet!

They are a lot less wobbly, and are very confident in exploring their home. It is great fun to see them run all over the pen, and especially around feed time when they are all vying for the food at once.

Mags is being a brilliant mum. This is her third litter, and she really has the hang of it now... good job with eight little ones to look after.

She likes to keep them all in one place, and so even with the kits now half the size of her, she is still dragging them back to the nest one at a time. Usually by the time she has got one or two back, another one or two have left again to go exploring! Eventually she gives up and just leaves them to it.

They will stay here over the summer, and then in the Autumn will go on to a release programme to help the continuing spread of wild polecats.

Below is a short video clip of the kits taken only yesterday, and for more photos of the youngsters don't forget to click on the "More BWC Photos" tab above.

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Members Evening; this Saturday

A reminder for all the members of the British Wildlife Centre... This Saturday is our annual "Members Evening". For those of you that are members of the "Friends of the British Wildlife Centre", you are able to stay behind after 5pm when the rest of the public go, for an extra few hours at the Centre in the evening.

We will remain open until 8pm, and of course there will be some extra talks and feeds as usual.

The evening will kick off with the usual "Welcome Talk" at 5.30pm in our reception area, and then you will be free to wander around the Centre and meet with other members and our keepers.

There will be an extra couple of talks on animals not usually included in our talk schedule, and an extra couple of feeds for you to see the usual favourites up close.

Of course, as usual, the keepers will be around for you to talk to and ask questions if you so wish... including our three, not so newbies now, Tom, Daisy and Meg.

Are there any clues in these photos to the events of the evening?.. Who knows... No really, who knows... As usual I will sort a schedule on Friday depending on the animals and weather. But rest assured it will be a good, fun evening no matter what.

Looking forward to seeing a lot of you here, members old and new, for another eventful evening.