Saturday, 28 March 2015

Easter Half Term

The Easter break for schools is now with us, and this always signals the start of Spring for me and all at the Centre. For the next two weeks we are open to the public every day of the week, as well as the weekends and bank holidays.

Easter is often a busy time for us, with lots of people wanting to get out of the house and enjoy the (hopefully) nice weather and longer days... don't forget, clocks go forward tonight! Easter also tends to be when we start thinking about longer days for us... we can enjoy the next couple of weeks of being open, and then the long days for the keeping team begin. On top of the 90 school children a day, our photographic groups visit after staying until 8pm when the evening light begins to fade. All good fun of course.

So in the lead up to Easter, as in previous years, we have had a change around with the water voles on display. A new family are now on the display island, four of them, which we placed out there at the beginning of the week. Already they are settling down and coming out to feed while we have been watching. It will take a little time for them to get used to cameras, but they will as in previous years, I took this one above this morning... so you can see, getting used to them already.

As always with the water voles, first thing in the morning and last thing in the afternoon are the better times to try and spot them... and be patient! Don't wander off after a few seconds having not seen one. Take your time, and hopefully you will be rewarded with a glimpse of one of our most endearing mammals!

Another yearly thing we tend to do is put up hammocks for our polecats. Normally for the summer, we decided to put them in place a little earlier this year. Our previous polecats have loved them, often seen with all the kits laying in them in the summer afternoons, so it will be interesting to see if our two new pairs take to them this year.

We have also spotted our first few heron chicks out on the reserve... more to follow on this next week, but keep your eyes peeled to their nests if you do decide to visit this weekend.

So there you go... Don't forget, we are open every weekday as well as the weekends and bank holidays for the next two weeks of Easter. Hope to see some of you here :-)

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Polecat Update

A little while a go now we welcomed two new pairs of polecat to the Centre. Billy and Roxie are an unproven breeding pair, and were placed on display straight away... they had been living together for some time.

Our other new pair, Whitstable and Oriel, had yet to live together . They have been off display since they arrived last month, but a couple of weeks ago we slowly introduced them to each other and have now moved them on display. They have been moved in to the main enclosure up by our badgers and snakes, and we have moved Billy and Roxie in to one of our Hedgerow enclosures.

Whitstable, pictured and the top, and Oriel, just above, have settled down really well. Whitstable has been out for the public since day one in his new home, but it has taken Oriel a little longer to get used to people being around... still, now she is out and about most afternoons too.

The males are always bigger than the females, and this is very obvious with these two... Whitstable is a big lad! They are both last years kits, and we are hopeful they will becoming a breeding pair for us here to continue the work we help with in breeding polecats.

Friday, 20 March 2015

Buster Update

Most of you will know we had an otter cub born here at the end of last year which we named Buster. Buster was the only cub in the litter, when usually otters would have two or three. Being the only cub means he has had all the attention from mum, and this shows in the rate at which he is growing and building in confidence.

Buster is often the first one out for talks these days, and is very quickly catching up in size with his mum, Emmy. he is still obviously the cub though... appearing a little chubbier, and still very much a cub like face.

I think he is going to be a big otter, and take after his dad Elwood! He is already taking after his older brother Franklin. After most talks, you can usually see Buster and Elwood having a fun ten minutes chasing each other around the enclosure, and playing in the water... just as Elwood used to with Franklin. Definitely worth hanging around after the talks for a chance to see that!

Once Buster is old enough, around the end of this year, he will be separated from his parents and re-homed at another collection.

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Adder Update

I had made a note to give you a brief update eon our adders tomorrow, but excitedly ran back to my office to do it today as I have just seen one of our female adders out for the first time this year!

We have two females and three males. The males always emerge a couple of weeks before the females do, and I have seen all three. They all look in really good health, great news of course. Today I have seen the larger of the two females, again looking very healthy, and so I imagine the other female will be spotted over the coming days.

The three males have begun their first shedding process since leaving hibernation. Their skin goes very dull and almost with a grey sheen, and their eyes cloud over making them rely on their other senses for a few days. I would imagine they would have shed by the weekend, and will be looking at their best... a time I always look forward to as that is when you can get some really stunning photos of them.

Then of course the real fun begins... It will only be a couple more weeks and I would expect the females to shed and then the "dancing" will begin! Looking up the dates from last year, it was the second week of April when they seemed to display this behaviour regularly, but of course it could be anytime... but I will let you know as soon as it starts, and try and share some pictures with you.

Saturday, 14 March 2015

Pine Marten; Drogo

I thought I would update you on our new pine martens, Daenerys and Drogo...

Well, Dany is still off display and very, VERY shy. But she is absolutely beautiful! Later this year we will move her on display, and I will try my best to get her more confident for you to see. If she turns out half as friendly as our others, we will be on to a real winner.

Drogo though is turning in to a little star. Being moved in to our main pine marten enclosure, opposite the wildcats, he has quickly settled in. Normally out and about in the afternoon, and certainly around feed time, and often during the rest of the day you will see him with his head resting on the entrance to his nest box... surveying the to's and fro's of the Centre.

Now that the evenings are beginning to get a little lighter, I have started to spend a bit more time with I'm and see if we can get him a bit friendlier. I am starting by just trying to get him used to people being in there with him, and used to a camera looking at him and making a noise.

So far so good... he has his off days of course, but we are making progress and that is the important thing. In fact I think he is going to turn out to be a real poser!

Sunday, 8 March 2015

Polecat Release Videos

Do you remember our polecat kitts from last year? They were successfully released back in to the wild at the end of last year, and I mentioned then that I may be able to share with you some video footage of them around their release pens recorded on night vision camera. Well I am now in a position where I can do that, so take a look at the couple of videos below.

One is off a couple of them leaving one of their soft release enclosures, and the other shows one returning to one to take advantage of the extra food put out while they settle in to their new wild life.


Sunday, 1 March 2015

February's Photo of the Month

"Red squirrel and Muntjac" by Ashley Buttle

Lot's of good feedback, and a lot of you coming up to me at the Centre saying you think the photo a month could be a good idea. Thanks for the support...

So, it is now March and therefore time to share my photo of the month for February!

Another one from flickr. It was very hard for me to pick one this month, some great photos of Buster our otter cub playing in the mud, the first photos of our adders emerging this year, and a beautiful portrait of one of our red squirrels on flickr that I particularly liked, but I went back to the 1st of February when this photo above was taken by Ashley Buttle.

What a beautiful photograph! So often our muntjac deer are overlooked in this enclosure due to our squirrels buzzing around, and rarely do I ever see the two interact with each other. But this photo captures a rare moment of the two species nose to nose while the red squirrel was eating a seed. Not only does this show a lovely moment to have witnessed, but Ashley has captured it brilliantly with great composition and timing.

Well done Ashley! Your photo will be in our gallery next year in our coffee shop. To see more of Ashley's photos, follow the link in his name below the photograph to see his photo stream on flickr.