Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Wildlife Pond

As you come in to the Centre, just on the right hand side past our giant hedgehog, we have a small area which we plant up as wildflower every year. Not only does this give this area a bit of colour, and welcome you all to the Centre, it also provides vital habitat to much of our wildlife.

I will post photos when it is in full bloom, but for some that were not aware... behind these wildflowers we have a small wildlife pond. It is only the size of approximately four dustbin lids, but just goes to show what you may be able to do even in your own back garden to help wildlife. We have recently given this pond a little bit of a tidy, ready for the new spring to arrive.

While tidying the pond we realised our bird feeders were a bit beaten from the years of use, so have replaced these with new ones for the birds to enjoy. Hopefully we can get the camera working on these again and have the feeding birds shown on the screen in the coffee shop like we did many years a go. Our DVD has proved popular, but is a little out of date now :-)

What with the wildflower, bird feeders, wildlife pond and areas of this section left unmanaged and untamed... it just goes to show that even on a small scale you can create a wildlife haven for wildlife, you don't have to go to the extremism of our 26 acre nature reserve. Just leave a corner of your garden un tidy and see what turns up!

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Red Squirrel Ropes

Just a few photos to show you that our red squirrels love the new rope we put up for them last week!

Some of you may remember the ropes we had up when we first opened the walkthrough enclosure... They worked well, but due to funds were not of the best quality, and due to time were perhaps not put high enough to make a real visual effect.

A couple of years a go now the old rope had deteriorated enough that it had to be removed, and we have wanted to replace it ever since... but to do it on a better scale.

This year we were in a position to do this. 220 metres off rope was ordered in one large coil, and a team of four off us struggled to unwind and thread this through the trees of the Copse. We wanted to get it done in one length, and wanted to put it up higher, and hopefully you agree the effort was worth it. It really does look amazing in there.

It didn't take long for the squirrels to start using it. I was in there yesterday morning for half an hour and had about 12 squirrels buzzing around and darting back and forth along their new aerial runways!

Come and have a look at some point if you get the chance, and don't forget we are open every day this week for half term.

Sunday, 15 February 2015

1st Adder Sighting of 2015

You know how much I like our adders, and so I just had to nip back post this photo to share with you of our first adder sighting of 2015! Taken about midday today.

I was walking out of our red squirrel enclosure, after failing to get a photo of one of our squirrels on the new ropes we have put up, and saw a photographer photographing something in our adder pen... I thought he can't possibly be photographing nothing, and sure enough when I had a look in he pointed out one of our male adders happily basking in the sun!

So there you go, the milder weather of the past two days has brought one of our adders out today... if this weather continues we may well see the other two males make an appearance too. Keep your eyes peeled.

Friday, 13 February 2015

Feb Half Term, Opening

Don't forget.. next week we are open every day of the week, as well as the usual weekend, due to half term!

The last few weeks and months have seen us make the most of the quieter time, in terms of bookings, to get on top of some of the tidying of the enclosures. Throughout the year we keep on top of it all, but are limited in time, so over the winter days we can make use of the extra time to really give it all a fresh start for the new year.

Trees have been trimmed back in all the enclosures, the nature reserve has been tidied and the water vole island has had a bit of a sorting too.

While the snakes are hibernating, it allows us to give their enclosures a spring clean too without disturbing them. The adders above is now ready for their dancing in a couple of months...

...and hopefully the grass snakes is a little clearer. Still providing them with plenty of cover, but making it a little easier for you to see them too.

I've just realised the choices of photos were possibly not the best... the water voles and snakes may not be active enough to reliably see them for a good few more weeks :-)

But our Highland cows are... they have settled in really well, and are now out on our nature reserve. The best place to view them from is wetland board walk. But if they are too far off in the distance, then a quick trip to our second car park offers another place to see them from.

And our red squirrels are as busy as usual, especially around the morning feed at 10.30am. This past week we have introduced a huge network of ropeways, over 200m worth, for them to explore and enjoy another way of traversing their walkthrough enclosure.

Maybe see you over half term.

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

New Polecats

We have had a few new polecat arrivals over the last few weeks. I am sure you all remember Mags and her kits, well her kits have now been successfully released in to the wild and Mags is going in to retirement. Our other pair... the male Storm sadly passed away a little while a go, Velvet being an old girl now, we decided to let her retire too. So this has given us space for two new pairs of polecats.

So we have welcomed Whitstable and Oriel, who are currently off display. They have yet to be paired up, but we will do so over the coming weeks, and then hopefully they will become our new young breeding pair.

Our second pair is Billy and Roxie, you can see Billy above in the photo. They are happily living together but are not a proven breeding pair... Fingers crossed they may too have a litter this year. But either way Billy has been great in coming out for people to see him.

Keep your eyes open for them next time you are here.

Monday, 9 February 2015

January's Photo of the Month

"It's good to share" by Moi Hicks

You were expecting a kingfisher weren't you?...

Now there were an abundance of brilliant kingfisher shots this month, with the visit of our resident wild female kingfisher to our main otter pond. A real nice variety too... some good close ups, some hunting, some placing her in the habitat. But what caught my eye the most were a few photos of some unusual things to see... I saw a photo of the kingfisher cough up a pellet, one of our red squirrels nose to nose with one of our muntjacs, but my favourite was this one above of a magpie sharing Emmy's fish, taken by Moi Hicks.

What a great spot! Often the wild herons and magpies come down at the end of the day to pick off the scraps of fish left on the bank by our otters, and occasionally I have seen a magpie perch in a tree above an otter waiting for them to finish... but this is the first time I have seen a magpie brave enough to hop down right next to one of our otters, and then just help themselves to the fish while the otter is still eating it! What makes this photo even better for me is that you can see a bit of the fish in the magpies mouth.

Great capture Moi! To see more of Moi's photos, follow the link in her name under the photo to her flickr photo stream.

Hope you like my choice for January, and keep your eye on the blog for new animal arrivals later this week.

Friday, 6 February 2015

Photo of the Month

Following on from our Competition announcements, let me introduce you to what I am hoping to do this year to share some of the wonderful photographs taken from around the British Wildlife Centre by our visitors.

I have already mentioned, that it is a real shame that we are not running out competition again this year. Having set it up 5 years ago, it had grown year on year, receiving over 600 entries last year and international recognition! However, the decision has been made to put it on hiatus, so with this in mind I have been trying to think on what I can do to still showcase some of your images. This is where my "Photo of the Month" idea has come from...

We have 12 photos in our visitors gallery from the winners and runner-ups of our competition, therefore next year we will have 12 empty frames... one per month you could say! So what I will be doing is choosing my favourite photo that I have seen that month and sharing it with you all here on this blog (with the photographers permission of course).

There are a lot of place that photos of our animals crop up... flickr, 500px, instagram etc, and although I do look at all these from time to time, it will of course be impossible for me to see them all. Therefore if you have taken a photo you are particularly proud of, why not email it in to the Centre.

I will be looking for photos that catch my eye and make me look at it longer. They may not necessarily be the best photo of that month I have seen, but will be one that stands out for one reason or another. The first photo of one of our new arrivals, a photo showing off some unusual behaviour rarely seen, or just a simple but good animal portrait... anything goes as long as it was taken here at the British Wildlife Centre.

Each month I will share this photo with the photographers permission, and link back to their website or gallery. It will also then take up a place in our coffee shop gallery for 2016!

At the end of the year I will ask a professional photographer to pick their favourite out of the 12, and that person will win a photographic day voucher to redeem here at the Centre.

So there you go. If you have any ideas let me know, but I am hoping this will be a nice way to keep the visitors gallery going in the coffee shop, and still showcase some of your lovely photos. My January photo has already been chosen, and will be posted early next week!

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

BWC Photo Competition. OVERALL WINNER!

"At home with a Muntjca" by Zena Saunders

Congratulations to "Zena Saunders" for winning our 2014 Photographic Competition with her image of a Muntjac in Copse.

With over 600 entries, shortlisted down to a final 60, professional wildlife photographer David Llyod chose his category winners, from which we picked this beautiful photo taken by Zena as the overall winner. Zena wins an exclusive photographic day here at the Centre, where she will be the only photographer here, allowing us to taylor the day more to what Zena is looking for.

David Llyods comments were... "This was a clear winner, while the others were also good, this one stopped me longer than the others. The colours are wonderful, and the natural frame of the grass, tree trunks and branches above complete this image of a muntjac in it's environment. The wider field of view is often as important as the subject itself."

My thoughts... "A beautiful photograph of one of our most overlooked animals and showing you don't always need the animal to fill the frame to make the shot. The colours are vivd, the lighting is stunning and the overall composition is just right, placing this animal in her habitat perfectly. A standout photo from the start, and a deserved overall winner!"

Well done again to Zena. You, and all the category winners and runner ups, will here from us shortly with information on your prizes etc.

Sunday, 1 February 2015

BWC Photo Comp, "ANIMAL PORTRAIT" Winner!

Here we are, the final category to be announced, and the most entered category with over 150 photographs submitted. And no surprise... who doesn't like a good animal portrait! Thanks to David for choosing the winner.

So here we go, the WINNER of the "ANIMAL PORTRAIT" section of our competition...

"Barn Owl" by Peter Karry

David says - "This one was one of about four really good ones and it was hard to pick one winner. It is the composition, soft colours, and very complimentary background that made this the one to pick."

Congratulations to Peter! Peter wins a membership to the BWC for a year and his photo above will be in our coffee shop gallery for 2015!

And my runner up?..

"I've got my eye on you" by Helen Hooker

Could it be any other? This caught my eye right from the start. A stunning portrait of the worlds most photographed fox. Not only is this a technically good photo, it has also caught not only the impression of the sly old fox, but the personality of the individual... Frodo... all in this look. Brilliant!

Look out for Helen's photo in our coffee shop gallery, alongside Peter's and the other 10 chosen pictures. 

So, well done to Peter and Helen once again. Thanks to David Llyod for choosing his winners, and all that is left is to announce the overall winner in a couple of days. Good luck to the 6 category winners!