Friday, 29 December 2017

Year End

The year is drawing to a close and I hope you all had or are having a fun and enjoyable festive season.

The winter is always a time for us to get on top of some of the "unseen" jobs that need to be done, and make plans for the following year. So what is in store for 2018?

Some of you may have already noticed that our social media presence is growing, more about this below, but from the Centre and animal side of things we have a few ideas we are developing.

New expansions to our pine marten enclosures have seen a new pen been built, and the runways extended. Hopefully soon in to the new year our female, Daenerys, will be on display in the new enclosure where she will be able to talk to our others through the wire in preparation for breeding next summer.

New arrivals are on the cards, both feathered and furry and maybe even some scaly.

Developments are underway for a new section in our red squirrel walk through enclosure, something our owner David Mills is very excited about. More news on this when it nears completion, hopefully in time for Easter.

On top of all this, our maintenance team will be kept busy with some of these new projects, and keeping on top of the odd jobs around the Centre. Our coffee shop will be offering a new menu with a re-organised kitchen, and the office staff will be pushing our social media presence...

With this in mind, a reminder to you all that you can follow us on facebook and twitter... linked in the side bar to the right, and the office have now set up an instagram account for the Centre. To see us there, look for @britishwildlifecentre

This blog will have a slight revamp in the new year, nothing major... and many may not even notice, but I will still be bringing you all the big animal news from around the Centre here so do keep in touch with the Keepers Blog to keep up with how all the animals are doing at the Centre.

So, all the best to you all for the new year, thank you for your continued support of the Centre and the work we do for British wildlife conservation, and we all look forward to seeing many of you here during 2018!

Saturday, 23 December 2017

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas to you all, and a very happy new year to come. Don't forget that we are open to the public from next Wednesday, the 27th, though till Wednesday the 3rd of January. So if you need an excuse to escape the family, want somewhere to go to walk of the Christmas dinner or just fancy catching up with how the animals are then please do come along to see us.

What can be seen?.. Well hopefully our otter cubs will begin to be seen out a little more often. Next week will mark them being two months old, which is usually when we see them wander out on their own a few times.

Photo by Gary K Mann

Some very lucky people got to see one of our cubs last weekend though, when one ventured out of his holt. One of our members, Gary, managed to take these great photos... and more can be seen on his flickr page if you follow the link in his name above.

Photo by Gary K Mann

This little one as out a week or so earlier than we would of expected, and has not been seen out since so probably just lost his way on this occasion (don't worry, we have checked since to make sure he is still alright).

Photo by Gary K Mann

You can see how small he is next to my boots. He came out right on time for the keeper talk, pure coincidence. Mum, Emmy, is a great mum and knows what she is doing... but was ignoring him on this occasion. Maybe because there were lots of people around watching, maybe because there was food around, or maybe he had been wandering off all night and she was fed up.

Photo by Gary K Mann

Whatever the reason, I decided to put him back to bed myself. Usually I would of left him for Emmy to collect in her own time, but he was out early, making a right racket and beginning to cause some worry among those watching the talk.

In the afternoon he popped out again, this time mum was very quick at grabbing him and taking him back herself! She has since been giving them swimming lessons this week, and they were seen being moved from one holt to the other this afternoon.

Fingers crossed for lots more sightings next week, as they begin to explore and gain confidence.

Friday, 15 December 2017

Mice, Voles and Ermine

The "quieter" weeks allow us to spend some time sorting a few things out around the Centre, ready for the new year. A lot of enclosure clearing and maintenance, which helps keep us all warm in this cold weather.

Last week we avoided the snow many of you had, but we did get a lot of cold, cold rain... so we averted our attention to the under cover section and went in to our hedgerow. There is not too much we can do we the lack of greenery around, but we were able to rejuvenate our mice and vole enclosures with some fresh stock which we have had housed off display!

Bank voles at the top, and yellow neck mice above. These, as well as others, can now be seen more readily through our hedgerow section. They do use the run system, but in the colder weather will spend more time in the display cubes. Best time to see them is in the morning shortly after they have been fed... and nearer the end of the day when it is a little quieter.

What else can be seen these last few days before Christmas?.. Well, two of our new keepers Clare and Millie saw one of our otter cubs out the other day! But this is by no means a regular thing, and I would say is still a little early for it ti become more routine.

However, one of our stoats is beginning to turn ermine. If you remember, Susie went white last winter during the colder spell earlier this year. This winter, she has started to turn earlier, and still as beautiful as ever. Best chance to see her is at the end of the day around feeding time... shortly after the owl display at 3pm.

Friday, 8 December 2017

Photo of the Month: November 2017

"Heron with Dragonfly" by Celia Mulhearn

As the temperature drops, only one thing jumps to a photographers mind this time of year... SNOW! Will it snow at the Wildlife Centre this winter? And if it does, can it snow enough to make a lovely back drop for some snowy images of our animals, but not too much that you can't get here to take those photos!

Whether we have snow or not, almost certainly we will have frozen otter ponds at some point over the next couple of months. Another great photo opportunity with our otters, who love to play above through and under the ice. Who knows, we may even see the cubs on ice this winter too. 

Anyway, on to last month and photo of the month. Some good ones to look through, and we chose this unusal one above of one of our wild herons on the reserve with a dragonfly in it's mouth. Taken by Celia Mulhearn, who also took another one of the photos below of a yellow neck mouse... two animals not often photographed here. 

As always see below for some more images shared through November, and click on the names to see more photographs taken by the photographers. 

Saturday, 2 December 2017

Otter Cubs

Look at what we found in the otter enclosure earlier this week... Baby otters!

We have been keeping this one a little quiet, but Emmy and Elwood had a litter of cubs at the end of October half term. A few weeks before we noticed Emmy getting a little "rounder", and she was beginning to act a little different too... pushing away Elwood and her older cubs a lot more.

We moved the older cubs off display to give Emmy more space, and sure enough a week later she gave birth to two little cubs. Otters do not have a set season, and can give birth any time of year, but Emmy has always had her litters at the end of Autumn... and what a pro... the cubs begin to emerge at around two months, which coincides with our open week after Christmas!

This week they were 4/5 weeks old, so it was time to give them a quick health check. Our zoo vet, Alan, came in to help and microchipped them and sexed them at the same time. I am pleased to say they are both plump and healthy, and we have one little boy and one little girl!

They are still very young, and so Emmy will be keeping them well hidden in the holt. She will occasionally move them from one holt to another, but they will not begin their swimming lessons until they are a couple of months old.

Just a reminder that they will not be on view until they are around 2 months old. This is when Emmy will begin to teach them how to swim, and Elwood will begin to play with them. I imagine this will be around the Christmas open week... but of course will update you on here when they do start coming out a bit more regularly for you to see.

Wednesday, 29 November 2017

New Keeper: Jamie

This week we welcomed the newest member to our keeping team... Jamie.

Jamie has recently finished a seasonal placement at the New Forest Wildlife Centre, following on from completing his degree in Zoology. I am sure he will settle in quickly here, and be able to build on this little bit of experience he has to develop and learn new skills, and gain a lot more experience to help him progress in his zoological career.

I am sure you will all make Jamie feel welcome here, as you always do with any new member of the team. Do say hello to him next time you visit.

Thursday, 16 November 2017

Badgers on the Move

Remember the badger cubs we had earlier this year?.. Well they have been growing well and quickly off display over the last few months, all while our maintenance team have been busy expanding our outside badger enclosure.

By taking a little area of the Copse, hardly used by the squirrels, we have been able to link a new digging area to our existing outside badger enclosure via a tunnel which passes underneath the boardwalk.

An inside area provides a sleeping area for the new badgers, and having been introduced at the weekend, they now have access to the grassy area for the first time. As you can see, they are having a great time destroying all the hard work put in by doing what badgers do best.

Over the winter we will be alternating who has access to each outside area, between our new badgers and old, swapping bedding materials and allowing them to talk to each other through a divide system. Over time we are hoping we will be able to allow them all to live together. Easier said than done, but it would be nice for them all to have free roam of both enclosures!

The winter time has always been the best time of year for us to catch up on some of the bigger jobs and plans we have for the Centre, and this year is no different. Finishing the badgers is a start, and a few other things are in line which we will be able to share with you soon.

Monday, 6 November 2017

Photo of the Month: October 2017

"Red Squirrel" By Brett Watson

We are now entering our quieter time of year, with the evenings drawing in and the temperature dropping. For a lot of our animals this means they will be a little less active, but on the plus I think that most of them are far more photogenic. Nice thick winter coats, bushy tails and vibrant colours.

Last month the photographs seemed to cover a real range of our animals, with more being shared of our animals in the "Barn and Hedgerow" section which was great to see. We did see quite a few wide angle photographs too, and it was the photo above taken by Brett Watson of one of our friendly red squirrels which we chose to be in our coffee shop gallery next year.

As with the others, Brett's photo will be in with a chance of being selected to win him a photo day here at the wildlife centre.

Here are a couple of other photos that were shared by our visitors last month.

"House Mouse" by Zena Saunders

"Stealth Otter" by Jeni Bell

"Red Squirrel" by Gary Chisholm

As always, click on the link in the names above to see more of their photographs.

Tuesday, 31 October 2017

Goodbye to Little Tom

Last week we said goodbye to one of our keepers, Little Tom, who after nearly four years of being with us has decided to move on for a new challenge. If you don't recognise him above, then try picturing him with a beard... and seeing him through tears of laughter as you try to control yourself during one of his hilarious keeper talks... no?,.. oh, tough crowd.

Tom was a great asset to us over the years, and helped the Centre to develop and grow throughout that time. He will be missed, as will Des and Troy, his jokes, and his singing.., eh, well maybe not his singing.

We wish him all the best in his new role at Godstone Farm, and the new challenges and skills that will offer. Being just down the road, I am sure he will keep pop in and keep in touch.

Saturday, 28 October 2017

Keeper Vacancy

This weekend, (until midnight Monday 30th October), is the final weekend that we are accepting applications for our "Keeper" position we currently have open. 

Are you passionate about British Wildlife?..

Can you pretend to be a tree?..

Can you teach the savage wildcat to dance in synchronization?..

Are you a pro at taking selfies?..

Well if you can say yes to the above, or at least the bit about being passionate about British Wildlife, and think you can get along with this crazy bunch of people, head over to our website to find out more details for the position available and how to apply.

Monday, 23 October 2017

Red Squirrel Releases

A few weeks a go we supplied a dozen more squirrels to Caldey Island for their releases over there. These joined the few we sent previously over the last couple of years, and it is hoped they will establish a healthy little population with the help from the island residents. 

We are well known for our island releases, working closely with other conservation groups to establish pockets of wild red squirrels where they are safe from grey squirrels. We couldn't do all the hard work ourselves though in terms of breeding the animals, and do this with the help of several other holders. 

We manage a breeding group, including many local agricultural colleges and private holders, who look after squirrels for us and breed them to supply kittens for the releases. This along with the many we breed here on site are the basis of keeping the group going, helping out other groups around the country with swapping bloodlines, and of course providing squirrels for our releases. 

Above you can see three squirrel kittens that were bred this year at the Berkshire College of Agriculture, this lovely bit of footage taken by Nick Shelley. Once old enough and fending for themselves, kittens like these come back to us before they move on to their new life.

So, how are our ones doing on Caldey at the moment?.. Well it is still very early days of course, but so far signs are good. Here are a couple of photos we got sent last week to show how they have been settling in and finding their way  around. 

Saturday, 14 October 2017

Polecat Release

Our polecats have done really well again this year, and both our females Oriel and Cassie had litters of kits. Cassie has been off display most of this year with our male Billy, and had 5 kits. While on display in our main enclosure Oriel and Whitstable had 4 kits, which I am sure many of you have seen grow, play and mature over the summer. 

Above is one of Oriel's daughters, taken a couple of weeks a go. Isn't she gorgeous?!?... Really takes after her mum, who I think is the prettiest polecat I have ever seen. Really sleek and dark with the classic face mask. 

And this is one of Oriel and Whitstable's sons. Another handsome chap. You can see how they have grown over the summer, all big and healthy and ready for their next move. 

Here are the other two, and below two of the kits with mum Oriel at the front...

Last weekend Ferret Rescue Surrey came to collect them, along with Cassie's kits, and took them off to be released in to the wild. As with previous years, they are soft released to give them a real good start at "wild" life and the Ferret Rescue Surrey team do a fantastic job in monitoring them and keeping an eye on how they cope once our on their own.

So, Oriel is looking a bit more relaxed now with out the youngsters constantly playing and annoying her. Now that they have gone, we have been able to move Whitstable back out on to display with her.

Hopefully they will continue their success, and have another litter next year.

Saturday, 7 October 2017

Photo of the Month: September 2017

"Snarling Wildcat" by Andy Lowe

September is over, and so it is time to share some more visitor photos with you. We had a lot of wildcat photos pop up over the internet this month, many of which were of our kittens, but it is this photo above of their dad "Macavity" showing off what wildcats are best known for that we chose for our photo for September.

This photo was taken by Andy Lowe, and you can see more of his work by following the link in his name. Andy's photo will be on display in our coffee shop gallery next year, and he will be in with a chance of winning a photographic day here at the Centre if selected by our professional judge at the end of the year.

Below are a few more pictures from last month.

"Wildcat Kittens" by Moi Hicks

"Black Water Vole" by Cathryn (Redcat09)

"Rutting Deer" by Irene Ford

Wednesday, 27 September 2017

Red Deer Rut

Our red deer are beginning to think about rutting, and the last few days has seen our master stag Albus Dumbledeer start to roar. Nothing too impressive, but signs of things to come over the coming weeks.

It could be a good rut this year, with our second stag Olivander closer in size to Albus than before and with a nice wide spread of antler. He certainly thinks he may have a chance, and has even rounded up the females for himself a few times as you can see below.

Still  not in the full flow though. A few more days and they will start bellowing out, and possibly in to next month we may see some clashing of antlers.

Friday, 15 September 2017

New Keeper: Millie

Welcome to our newest member of the keeper team... Millie.

Millie has just joined us to help with all the daily routines and looking after the many groups that come to see the animals. She has recently graduated from Plumpton College where she studied Animal Management, and is now looking forward to getting stuck in to a career working with animals.

I am sure you will all make Millie feel welcome when you see her around the Centre.

Sunday, 10 September 2017

Red Squirrels to Caldey Island

We have had another successful year with our red squirrels this year, several litters of kittens born in our off display pens and at our other holders sites. As with all out kittens, we redistribute them around our breeding group, and then look at the possibility of re-introducing them out in to the wild.

This year we have several kittens that can be sent to the wild, and as with our previous releases, we are continuing with the idea of introducing them to islands where there are no grey squirrels to affect them.

Last week we sent a dozen squirrels over to Caldey Island in Pembrokeshire. These, along with a few others from previous years, we are hoping will settle and mimic the success we have had on other islands such as Tresco.

So far so good, and hopefully we will be able to share with you news of how they are doing over the winter.