Friday, 25 May 2018

Owlet Update

"Hey Matt!"

"Yes Meg?.."

"Who's an owls favourite sportsman?"

"I don't know Meg?.."

"Mohammad Owli!"

An update on our owl chicks, in short... they are all doing well. The two tawny owls we were a little concerned with have come on leaps and bounds, they have grown a lot as you can see above, and have now been handed over to Meg to hand rear and train to fly. 

The slightly larger and older one has been named Ash, and the smaller one Oakley. They are very steady already, and I am sure will be a hit on our owl days and talks in the future.

Of all our little owls, the two we took to help keep the tawnies warm are also becoming little stars. Fagin above still thinks he is a tawny owl, and likes to snuggle up with Ash and Oak when they are all in on the same day.

Izzy has taken on Fagin to rear, and as with all our others, will train him to be part of our education team.

Our other little owl, Athelstan, is being reared by Tom. All these young owlets go home with the keepers at night to feed and keep them company. But when they are working, the owlets will be here, and so the keepers will often walk around with them for you to see.

Tom's got double the duty with this special little one... This, um, cute little fella is a barn owl chick which came from Osney Farm Lodge. He may not look the prettiest at the moment, but they soon grow to be one of the most beautiful of our British owls!

"Indy" by Jo McConnell

And our long eared owl chicks?.. Well they are all doing extremely well in there new homes, and it is great to be able to see how they are getting on. This is one of them, now called Indy, who went to Tandridge Hill Farm to help with the special needs adults who visit.

"Hey Matt!"

"Yes Meg?.."

"What's an owls favourite food?"

"I don't know Meg?.."

"Vole -au-vents and Micecream!"

Friday, 18 May 2018

New Aviary

We are currently building a new aviary behind our owls, and on the way towards our nature reserve. It is nearly there, with just a bit of dressing to do, and eventually it will be the new home for a pair of ravens we have been rearing.

These ravens were bred nearby by a corvid rescuer, and had to be taken to hand rear from a young age. Keen to find them a good home we were offered a a pair, and how could you say no to there pretty faces!

Being so young, they have been imprinted on to humans, and so will be quite comfortable being on display. They seem to thrive on human interaction, and always "talk" to us when we are working with them.

Noisy, and always hungry, they are growing extremely fast! Having spent the first few weeks in my office with me, they are now housed off-display in a small aviary while their new display aviary is being built. 

While off-display they can get used to stretching their wings and building up their stamina. We can also begin a little training with them, so that when they are on display they should settle quickly.

We will let you know when they are on display, probably another 2 or 3 weeks, and I will get some pictures of what they look like now. They are big! but very gentle...

Sunday, 13 May 2018


We have had another successful year with our owls, and all breeding pairs have produced clutches of chicks. This means we have long-eared, tawnies and little owl babies. They are all all doing well at the moment, but we did have a bit of worry with some of them.

Our long eared owl pair, Quil and Embry, have been successful for a few years now... usually having two clutches a year, so we weren't surprised that they had another clutch this year. Our first owls born of the season, three beautiful chicks, and all gone off to new homes already.

They stayed with us while we made sure they were all healthy and well, and then were donated to good homes all with close links to us here through current and former keepers. It will be nice to be able to stay in touch and see how they settle in, develop and grow. 

Having tried for a couple of years, this is the first year our tawny owl pair have produced a clutch of eggs and sat on them. Three chicks hatched out, but unfortunately despite the male taking lots of food to the female, she wasn't feeding the chicks. It's always a difficult decision, as you want the mother to learn what to do, but keeping a close eye on them it was soon apparent that they weren't going to survive unless we stepped in earlier than we usually would. We took two chicks away to rear, with the third unfortunately not making it.

Our little owls are pros now, and having had a few clutches in the past, this is the first time two years in a row they have produced. Four chicks hatched this year, and to help the two undersized tawnies we took to rear, we removed the two largest little owls to help keep them warm in the nest.

The other two chicks will be removed when we usually take them so they can be reared and imprinted.

Friday, 4 May 2018

Dance of the Adders 2018

The adders are dancing!..

Yesterday afternoon our two male adders were spotted 'dancing'. They didn't stay at it long, but it was a sign of things to come... and one of the signs for me that Spring is finally here.

Most of you will already know how much I look forward to this time of year, and seeing this beautiful ritual dance between rival males, and I was beginning to wonder if we would have much of a dance at all this year with the weather being as up and down as it has been. But, nearly a month later than last year, our boys finally put on a show.

Today, they have been off and on all day, and in front of our lucky group of photographers who were booked in. I managed to spend some time with them, and a lot of the time they were dancing directly on top of one of the females.

The 'dance of the adders' as it is known, is a competition between rival males. It can be between any number, and the males writhe their bodies together and try and force each other to the ground in a show of strength. They will often raise the first third of their body off the ground in trying to do this, and twist and turn with each other almost tying themselves in knots trying to get the upper hand. 

All while doing this, they never bite, it is just a show of strength and stamina. Their motion is often quite twitchy and jerky during this time, almost hypnotic to watch, and so they create these beautiful shapes with their bodies hence why it is called the dance of the adders. This 'dance' can last from anywhere between minutes and hours, and is often repeated on and off over a few days.

Of course all our animals here are true professionals, even our adders, and so they have timed this years dance to coincide with our bank holiday weekend! As always no guarantees, but hopefully they will display a few more dance moves over the next couple of days.

If you are planning on visiting this weekend, do make sure you spend some time with the adders. If you do get a glimpse of this behaviour, it will be worth your time, and if not then just appreciate them for the miss understood and docile animal they are.

If you can't make it in this weekend, or want a preview, here is a short clip of them dancing from this afternoon.

See you by the adders :-)

Wednesday, 2 May 2018

Photo of the Month: April 2018

"Molly the Weasel" by Dave Burden

What's this?.. Only second day in  to the month, and I am already posting the photo of the month for April?!. Yep, but don't worry, I am very well, I am just a little ahead of myself and with some exciting news of youngsters around to come next week, wanted to get these photos shared before we are in to the middle of May.

Lots of great pictures sent in to us and seen online over the last few weeks, but we went for this photo of Molly the Weasel taken by Dave Burden to be our Photo of the Month for April. Dave's photo will be in our coffee shop gallery next year, and he will be in with a chance to win a photo day here at the Centre next year if chosen by our professional judge as their favourite of all 12 images at the end of the year.

As always, a few more pictures below including a couple of unusual shots of an adder yawning and  hedgehog looking as though it could be sniffing the flower, plus one of the first photographs of our Daenerys out on display.

"Adder Yawning" by Moi Hicks

"Hugo the Hedgehog" by Mike Crowle

"Pine Marten" by Paul Stuart