Monday, 29 September 2014

Youngster Update

A bit of a picture post for you today, but also an update on some of the youngster that were born here at the Centre over the year.

Another bumper year for us with red squirrels, and another release programme lined up for net month. Some of you may have already heard of Mersea Island's plans for re-introducing red squirrels in to this corner of Essex, and they have asked as this year if we would be willing to help in terms of supplying squirrels. I will tell you all more about it in a separate post when the squirrels are collected, but it is an exciting project for us. The island has been deemed suitable with supplementary feeding, and it seems that many of the residents are keen to put up feeders etc to continue to help the reds.

Our water voles continued to breed well, and although were not seen as often on our island, the number of sightings around the reserve has increased to almost daily. Fantastic news for our project, and means we can continue to spread the release further down our reserve.

Our baby adders are doing fine, although are very shy. They will hibernate here before finding new homes in the new year.

One of our biggest excitements was our water shrews having a litter of pups... Well, they currently have a second litter meaning water shrews everywhere! We hope to breed more shrews next year, and many of this years young will be going onto other collections.

Our harvest mice have continued to breed really well, and we have helped many other groups start or expand their collections for breeding. They are slowing down at the moment, but we may be able to fit in one more release before the cold sets in on our reserve. Sightings of our wild harvest mice have also been up this year, showing that this has been a successful release to.

And our polecats are now all big and strong and ready to venture out in to the wild. They will be collected for release soon, and a new breeding pair will be joining the team at the Centre to continue our efforts with their conservation.

Monday, 22 September 2014

Red Squirrel Collection

Over the past couple of weeks, we have been welcoming to the centre many of the red squirrels that have beed bred as part of our breeding group, and a few new squirrels from other collections too which will be added to our program to supply some new blood.

We have still to welcome a few more in the coming weeks, but then we will be in a position to sort throughout them all and strengthen our breeding stock here as well as allocate the ones which will move on to new homes... including many which will be released back in to the wild.

It is always a manic time of year for us with this may squirrels on site, but also an exciting one of knowing what is coming up around the corner. This year we are helping to supply squirrels for a project closer to home, and helping along with another breeding group based elsewhere. I apologise for being so secretive at the moment, but soon, very soon hopefully, I will be able to tell you where this years release will be.

Watch this space.

Friday, 19 September 2014

British Isles Wildcats

A thought that crossed our minds the other day was our Scottish Wildcats!.. What if Scotland goes independent?

Our remit has been, and will always be, to house and display animals that are currently found living in the wild of Great Britain today. If Scotland had voted for independence, would this of meant we were looking after our first exotic animal? Would we have to think about moving them on?

I don't fully understand the whole United Kingdom, Great Britain, British Isles differences... but would leaving the UK mean leaving Great Britain too, but if so surely they would still be part of the British Isles... We could get away with still keeping them then I guess?..

Of course this is all in jest, but led to a very rare political discussion amongst the keepers one morning tea break!

As you know, we took a hiatus from breeding our wildcats this year, and having still not had our kittens from last year re-homed it looks unlikely we will have space to breed them next year.

A real shame with all the conservation work currently going on, but if things change and we or other collections have space then we will continue with the success we have had with breeding these rare animals. 

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Frodo and a Butterfly

Frodo and Butterfly - by Kevin Brown

An unusual post today, and not really news, but I just had to share these photos with you all!

At the weekend, Lucy came back after her fox keeper talk saying how in the middle of it a butterfly landed on Frodo's nose. Apparently he hardly reacted at all, just stayed there a little confused, before shortly after the butterfly flew off again.

This is one of those, dare I say it... magical moments. I would have loved to of seen it with my own eyes, and was so hoping that someone managed to get a photograph of it, so you can imagine how excited I was when I looked on Flick yesterday and came across these amazing photos by Kevin Brown.

Frodo and Butterfly - by Kevin Brown

Kevin managed to capture the moment perfectly, and these couple of photos are two of my favourites he took. Brilliant!

I used to be a little obsessed with Flutterbyes.., eh I mean Butterflys, when I was younger... but am a little rusty now, but I think the one that landed on Frodo's nose is a Speckled Wood. Please correct me if I am wrong.

Well done to Kevin Brown for taking these photos, what great timing, and thanks to him for allowing me to share them with you all on this blog. I have linked Kevin's flickr page under his names and photos above so click on one of those links to see more of these photos he managed to take of Frodo and the butterfly, and some of his other photos too.

Monday, 15 September 2014

Polecat Babies

Our polecat babies are doing very well, and as most of you know now, have been separated from their mum... Mags... to give her a break. Later this year we will be having a little bit of a shake up in terms of our polecats. The mother of the litter, Mags, will be moving on to another home. This will allow us to house a new and young breeding pair here at the Centre for next year.

We will still be keeping Storm and Velvet. Although they didn't breed this year, and it may be due to Velvet now getting on a little, they are a great pair and have been here most of their lives.

So this leaves our kittens... We sexed these over the weekend, and of the eight we have two were males and six were females! And boy were they feisty!!! Great news of course, as they will eventually be released back out in to the wild to help support wild populations. I will let you know more when they are collected.

Friday, 12 September 2014

Thinking of Rutting

It is nearing the time of year when our Red Deer start to think about rutting. If you had asked me a few weeks a go if there would be any clashing of antlers this year, I would have said no... Look at the photo above and you can see there is still quite a size difference between our master stag Albus and his challenger Olivander.

However, Olivander has been standing up a little to Albus recently, and so who knows. He may decide to give it a go, especially if he is as feisty as his dad Eric was, or he may wimp out when Albus really starts to get going.

Either way, Albus will certainly put on a good show himself, and will be flehming, chasing and roaring as much if not more so than previous years!

I will update when more action begins to occur, but they are beginning to think about it!

Tuesday, 9 September 2014


Spare a thought for our British badgers today...

Today the second phase of the four year badger cull starts, despite not only all the opposition and evidence against the cull. But also despite the independent monitoring of last years phase showing that it was ineffective and inhumane!

So what is different this year... well, this year they don't have the independent monitoring!.. I'll just let that sink in for a bit..

Yep, you read it right, last years independent monitoring reported that the cull was ineffective and inhumane. So the answer?... Continue this year anyway, but don't have the independent monitoring!

The cull is a hugely controversial topic, and I won't bang on about the reasons why I think it shouldn't go ahead/won't work... If you want to see that, go back through the archives to around about March last year I believe. But for those unsure on what has happened since the first trial, here is a brief outline.

Last year as part of the trial, nearly 1,000 badgers were culled in each of Gloucestershire and Somerset. Neither of these numbers reached the 70% target deemed necessary to help reduce TB in cattle herds in those areas.

The cost per badger culled was estimated at £4,000... that is per badger!

The independent monitoring reported that the cull would be ineffective in controlling TB in cattle, and that the cull was inhumane with many badgers suffering.

This year the cull will not have the independent monitoring, although it will be monitored by Natural England.

Last week the government announced plans to trial some vaccination of badgers in areas around the cull zones in an attempt to create buffer zones.

Now don't get me wrong. Britain has the highest rates of bovine TB in Europe, and it is a huge problem resulting in over 26,000 cattle being slaughtered last year resulting losses into the many millions of pounds! But surely it can be seen that culling badgers is not the answer. 

Arguments are there that New Zealand has greatly restricted bTB with culling, but they also have tighter movement and control regulations.

Ireland has reduced bTB with culling, but bTB has also reduced in Northern Ireland where currently no culling has taken place.

Wales has reduced cases of bTB by nearly 50% with tighter testing, and are trialling vaccination for badgers.

Previous trials in England showed that in most areas where badgers were culled, an increase in bTB was shown with the increase of infected badgers moving. In those areas where bTB was decreased, it was such a small percentage it was thought negligible.

Recent DEFRA reports show that tighter bio-security measures do reduce the risk of bTB spread in cattle.

And last years independent monitoring has reported that the cull is ineffective and inhumane!

But something does have to be done... An effective vaccine for cattle which is recognised by the EU is still believed to be about ten years away, and this is a the farmers livelihood at stake! Farmland is responsible for a vast amount of our countryside, and is vital habitat for many of our animals. People talking about boycotting farmers and their produce winds me up as much as the controversy over the badger cull. 

They do need our help, and something does have to be done, it is just that all scientific evidence leads to the badger cull being ineffective and yet the government choose to ignore this and continue to go ahead with it. 

Anyway, think of it what you will, but this is what our badgers think of the cull...

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

BWPA 2014 Awards Ceremony

I have just got back from the awards ceremony for this years "British Wildlife Photography Awards", and am very pleased to say that I had one of my images, a tawny owl flying over some bluebells (above), commended and so appearing in the coffee table book now in its 5th collection.

Firstly thanks to all who came up to me and said hello while there, it seems the BWC is very well recognised now especially as a place for photographers to come and visit.

Secondly, if you are interested in photography and/or British wildlife, try and find time to get to the exhibition. It is currently in the Mall Galleries in London until this Saturday, the 6th of September, before touring around the country as usual... for dates of where and when it will be check out the BWPA website.

The exhibition is great, and seems to get better and better each year and with more amateurs making the grade which is fantastic. I can't think of any other competition which can show such quality and variety in our British animals, and really show our wonderful wildlife to its beautiful best! I will certainly be supporting this competition for as long as it runs.

As always, Chris Packham was on top form presenting the awards, and it was worth the trip just to hear his passion and enthusiasm for all British wildlife and photography.

Monday, 1 September 2014

Pip The Squirrel

This is "Pip the Squirrel" created by David Mills, owner of the British Wildlife Centre. So who better to introduce you to Pip than the man himself, let me hand you over to David...

"The reason I created the Centre initially was to show visitors some  of the wildlife which lives all around us, that is seldom seen and little is known about, with the hope that they might want to help save it for future generations - 'Conservation through Education"

In order to appeal to very young children and inspire them to 'Connect with Nature', we have taken that concept a stage further. I have now created and developed with the help of a small dedicated team of professional wildlife film makers a cartoon red squirrel character - 'Pip the Squirrel' - who interacts with the animals living at the Centre.

We are hoping to produce a whole series of DVDs featuring Pip and our animals all filmed here at the Centre. The first DVD is now available (see Pips website - and the second one is in production and will be out in the spring.

I know that we have entered a very crowded market place for this age group of children, but I am confident we have something which is both appealing and educational to young people and their parents alike!" - David Mills, BWC Owner and Creator of Pip the Squirrel

Watch the trailer above for an idea of what Pip is all about, and then have a peek at the video below for more of a teaser... the clip below features one of our keepers Izzy... Hello Izzy!

To see more clips of Pip, and the animals from around the Centre, head over to Pip the Squirrels youtube channel... he even has a Facebook page to keep up with and of course his website to learn more about the series, how it was created and to order a copy of series one. 

Thanks to David for his guest post today, and enjoy watching the clips... Toodlepip!