Saturday, 30 July 2016

Pine Martens

Things have been pretty busy here the past week or so, lots of new youngsters around, the beginning of our summer opening period, and getting ready for our Countryfile Live presentation next week. (More on that later).

So I was thinking, what can I share with you on this blog, then I realised... I hadn't put up a picture of a pine marten for, ooh... at least two weeks :-)

It is that time of year of course where we put our pine martens together for mating. Once again we have introduced Bonnie and Clyde, once again they been seen (and heard!) mating over the past few weeks, and once again we now have the long wait of delayed implantation to see if it has been successful.

Fingers crossed as always, although this pair never have produced a litter, getting them together and mating is successful in it's own right with how territorial an aggressive they are with each other.

Next year we will have two pairs to try with. Bonnie and Clyde of course, and our newer pine martens Drogo and Danaerys who will both be at that age where we can start thinking of mating them.

Saturday, 23 July 2016

Summer Holiday Opening

Just a quick reminder to you all that with the local schools breaking up for the summer holidays, it means we are now open everyday of the week until term time starts again in September.

Lots to see here at the moment, all the youngsters are growing fast. Our wildcat kittens are getting bolder and bigger all the time, the polecat kits are beginning to be seen a lot more out and about and little Percy is starting to show some adult feathers coming through.

Hope to see a lot of you here in the coming weeks.

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

Introducing "Percy"

Say hello to Percy, our new long eared owl!

Percy was hatched out here at the Centre about 3 weeks ago, by our pair of breeding long eared owls. Much like his older sibling Leo, we decided to take Percy away to rear to join our educational and flying team.

Little Tom has been honoured with the task of being mum, but maybe it's best to say he is just a proud dad!

Percy will be living with Tom for the next 7 weeks or so while he matures and grows. Once old enough he will start his flying training, and come to live here at the Centre with all our other owls. By the end of the summer, or certainly shortly after, he will be part of our flying team for the displays.

If you visit us over the summer, and Little Tom is on duty, keep your eyes open as he may well be walking around with Percy getting him used to meeting people.

Friday, 15 July 2016

Members Evening

"Harvest Mouse" by John Phillips

Members Evening has come and gone, and it was another success... in fact, it was the busiest Members Evening we have had to date, so thanks to all who came and supported the night and spent the evening with us here.

The evening allowed us to stay open until 8pm for you all to wander around in the later light, and enjoy the animals at arguably their best time of day. We started off with the usual welcome talk, and Centre update, and then the first "extra" talk was an old favourite and much requested... Harvest mice.

It seems you all love the harvest mice, and it may well end up being a staple of the evening in years to come. Of course, photo opportunities were available after the talk as well for the budding photographers out there.

"Polecat Kits" by Stef Morris

Our other special talk for the night was all about polecats and stoats. We were lucky, and Oriel even brought her kits out to see us, and Susie the stoat was a star as always.

"Stoat" by Zena Saunders

As well as the talks, the keepers were on hand to chat to, and were walking around with various animals. Extra feeds for some of the favourites such as otters and pine martens took place between the talks. All in all, a great evening, even if we do say so ourselves.

"Pine Marten" by Dave Burden

Thanks again to all who came and made the night special, and thanks to all the members for their continued support of the Centre and the work we do!

Thursday, 7 July 2016

June 2016: Photo of the Month

"Adder" by Cathryn (redcat09)

June has been a busy month... polecat kits galore, wildcat kittens getting bolder and more playful by the day, young Leo not so young anymore, squirrel kittens in the Copse... I could go on, but what has been a bit of a surprise attraction these past few weeks are our adders.

The adders!? I hear you cry... Well, yes. No babies around, long past their dancing, in fact all they have been doing is laying there, but a couple of them have got in to a habit of laying there at the top of the gorse bush... beautifully in the light, and perfectly eye level for you budding photographers.

There has been some great photos shared on Instagram under #britishwildlifecentre and on our twitter feed recently, but flickr and email still seems to be the most popular way of us seeing your pics. And on looking through these, one in particular grabbed my attention and I fell in love with.

I am a sucker for a good portrait, and Cathryn (redcat009 on flickr), has taken a great portrait shot of this adder basking in the sun! The clarity is amazing, almost allowing you to reach in and touch the animal. Beautiful blurred background makes this snake stand out, and the green haze in the foreground adds extra depth to the image. The detail Cathryn has managed to capture in the eye, and the scales in particular, is remarkable offering another insight to the allure and elegance of this most miss-understood animal. Well done Cathryn.

Cathryn's photo will be part of our coffee shop gallery next year, and she will be in with the chance of winning a photo day here at the Centre.

"Oriel and Kit" by Cathryn (redcat09)

Not only photographing our adders, but Cathryn also managed to get some lovely pictures of our polecat kits on display. Follow the link in her name to see some more of her photos on flickr.

"Cuddly Toy" by Natasha Jefferies

And you remember I asked you last time to check our Natasha Jefferies page on flickr? Well did you?..

If not, you're missing out. She has a fantastic collection of photos of our wildcat kittens emerging from the den and playing with each other, nicely documenting their growth. Some stunning pics of the kittens jumping on mum and causing trouble, but my favourite had to be this one of a kitten playing with mum's tail.

Sunday, 3 July 2016

"Leo" all grown up

Say hello to "Leo"!.. My, hasn't he grown? From an ugly little ball of fluff (yes sorry Meg), to a beautiful elegant long-eared owl.

Owls develop quickly, looking like an adult in only about ten or twelve weeks. It is important for the chicks to mature quick, as they need to learn to fly and hunt for themselves as quick as possible. Many owls mate for life, and so when a female is looking after her chicks the male hunts for himself, the female, and the youngsters... a lot of hunting to do!

Owl chicks tend to grow through their hard feathers on the wings and tail first, the sooner these arrive the sooner they can learn to fly. They begin to edge out of their nest and hop along a branch, this is where our term "branching out" comes from. Flapping their wings they begin to build strength, and even hop up and down in place and stretch their wings a lot.

The facial disc develops at a similar time, again... vital for their hunting skills in locating prey, and then they can begin to practice. Finally the rest of their adult feathers emerge, usually finishing with the loss of a bit of chest fluff and the top of their heads.

Have a look at Leo's development over the past few weeks. He is practically there now, with maybe just a bit more height in his ear tufts to go. Fully grown in 12 weeks... amazing!

He is now living at the Centre, giving foster mum Meg a break at home, and will be on display in a week or so in one of our aviaries. In the mean time the flying lessons begin, and hopefully he will be joining our flying team for the afternoon displays come the Summer holiday opening.