Thursday, 25 August 2016

Black Rats

Phew, what a hot spell we are having a the moment, and the animals are struggling a little. Not spending too much time in the heat of the sun, they are making more use of their underground dens and shaded areas.

This makes our "Keeper Talks" all the more vital for you to see our animals. I am sure many will still be visible outside our talk times, you may just need to be a little more patient than normal, but certainly at the talks you should see everything while we feed, before they slink off again in to the shade.

"So why a photo of a black rat Matt?" I hear you ask...

"Well" I would answer, "That's not just any old black rat... that's Kelvin!"

Kelvin is one of a few new black rats that arrived at the Centre last week. Some of you may have noticed a decline in numbers recently, mainly due to age, and so an injection of youth and new blood to minimise inbreeding was needed.

Kelvin and his mates came to us from friend of the Centre, Dr Steve Havers. Hopefully they will settle and breed with ours, and in the new year we will begin to see our numbers begin to increase. Kelvin is the boldest of the newest arrivals, and over the past few days has always been the first down to feed, and happy to feed in front of the public. If you visit in the morning, keep your eyes open for him in the barn, and you may well get to see him.

Thursday, 11 August 2016

Countryfile Live! 2016

Last Thursday, David and I were invited to Countryfile Live to present to their visitors on their main Big Barn stage. It was a huge honour, as only 2 of the 27 presentations given over the 4 days the show ran, were given by "outsiders". All other slots were filled by the Countryfile presenters, or other BBC presenters.

An oak barn was purpose built for the event, which held 300 people seating plus lots of standing rooms. We expected a big screen, but were told at the last moment we only had two smaller screens and two repeater screens for people further back. These worked ok, but not ideal as our presentation was structured with a large backdrop screen in mind.

We followed Matt Baker and Adam Henson in the morning slots, and left the stage for Rick Stein to start the afternoon talks. It was very busy, as was the show overall, but a huge opportunity to get our message across to a new audience.

David started by introducing the Centre, and talking about how he grew up and worked on a farm... eventually converting his farm in Surrey in to what we know as the British Wildlife Centre today.

I talked about our education work and conservation work, highlighting particular breeding programs and how important it is that we do what we do, and how important British wildlife is.

To keep it light and interesting, but also get our message across, we kept it fairly laid back and switched between the to of us speaking. David covered our nature reserve, red squirrel breeding program and finished our session with our plans for the future and his plans with Pip the Squirrel.

And I used the rest of my time to talk about photography and filming, and introduce the crowd to some of the animals we have at the Centre. Our presentation was very picture led, with moving images to show of the beauty of our animals. Overall it went down extremely well, we received a lot of good feedback, and there is already talk about us going back next year.

Thank you to the many well wishes we had before we went, and special thanks to those of you that came to support us in person. I recognised many faces from around the Centre, and apologise to those I didn't get to to thank in person on the day.

Tuesday, 2 August 2016

July 2016: Photo of the Month

"Harvest Mouse" by John Phillips

July has come and gone all too soon, but we have had a lot of highlights... perhaps mainly our Members Evening which was enjoyed by many. As in the past, the stand out stars of the night were our harvest mice. Entertaining while we talked about them, and posing while you photographed them. With their success, it only fair that they take the slot for our July's photo of the month. I have shared a few here, but it is the photo above that will take a place in our gallery next year, and be in with the chance of winning a photographic day here at the Centre. 

John Phillips has made the most of this opportunity to take a cracking shot of one of our harvest mice. We set them up beautifully on natural props, but it is by no means easy to capture them in a nice pose as they are always on the move. Couple this with other people and distractions in the background John has done extremely well to isolate the mouse allowing him to really stand out. The mouse eating adds a little something to it, and is different to the many poses we normally see. Well done John. 

Have a look at some more fantastic photos taken of our harvest mice down below, and as always click on the names to see more great photos by the photographers. 

"Who you looking at?" by Christine Sweet

"Harvest Mouse" by Helen Haden

"Harvest Mouse" by Karen Jones