Tuesday, 30 October 2018

Winter Opening

Just a reminder for you all, now that October half term has been and gone we are on to our winter opening times. From now till the end of January, we close an hour earlier on public open days, so are open from 10am - 4pm.

The shorter days time wise, and light wise, means the last keeper talk of the day is now at 3pm with our flying owl display. Due to our badgers and pine martens being a little less active this time of year, their talks have been removed from the schedule until next spring.

The other talk that makes way is our hedgehog talk, due to them hibernating. But this has been replaced with our polecats for their staring moment during the winter.

Tuesday, 16 October 2018

Red Deer Rut

Our red deer are in the full swing of rutting season. Olivandeer, our main stag, looks likely to become "Master" stag this year and has been strutting and roaring around the deer park for quite a few days now! 

This time of year is always the best time to see our deer... even without clashing of antlers, just the intricacies of the way the stags watch and behave around each other is really interesting. The way the more dominant stags body changes, with their throat filling out while the rest of their body becomes physically drained with the effort they put in to securing top position of the herd. 

The sights are amazing, but the sounds and smells need to be experienced too. The sounds of clashing antlers when in full swing if more than one stag thinks they are in charge, the sounds of the stags bellowing out their roar... and the smell!... Boy, I have said before, but will say again... I wish we could convey the smell of our deer park at this time of year across to you though the blog! It really is something. A musty, testosterone filled aroma that hits you from some distance away!

And this is what it is all about... the hinds. Isn't she a beauty? The stags compete with each other to become the dominant stag who gets to mate with the females during the mating season. 

The rut usually lasts around 3 or 4 weeks at the end of September, beginning of October. During this time the male rarely eat or sleep, and so not only are they showing off their strength, but it is a test of their stamina too. Throughout the rut they will try to group the females together with them, while at the same time keeping all other rival males away.

Olivandeer has been extremely vocal the last couple of days in particular, and will most likely continue for another week or so. There will be little if any clashing of antlers this year, as none of our other stags can match him yet in size. But clashing of antlers will almost certainly be heard when our fallow bucks rut...

"Fallow Deer" by Steve Liptrot

Fallow deer tend to rut a little later than the reds, and our two fallow bucks have already had a few practice tussles in preparation as you can see from this photo above, taken by Steve a couple of weeks a go. I expect them to really go for it this year, and it will be interesting to see who takes the top spot. Norman, our white buck, has the size and experience. But Vinny, our younger buck, has the stamina and youth on his side.

Saturday, 6 October 2018

Photo of the Month: September 2018

"Water Vole" by Robert North

We have had a great number of really good photos shared over the past month, and a real variety of animals within. This time we have gone with the above photo of one of our black water voles, taken by Robert North, as our photo for September.

Robert's photo will be in our coffee shop gallery next year, and be in with a chance to win our photographic day if chosen at the end of the year by our professional judge.

As ever, links to more photos from each photographer here are within their name under the image. Below are a few more from September that caught our eye.

"Otter" by Mandyhib

"European Badger" by Steve Liptrot

"Yawning Adder" by Phil Sheer

Monday, 1 October 2018

New Mink, Malfoy

A few weeks a go we welcomed a new animal to the Centre. One that may not be welcome to all, but is still important for the Centre. This is "Malfoy" an American mink who was found/rescued and handed in to a local vets. His future was to be put down, being an invasive species they can not be released out in to the wild, but the vets contacted us to see if we could offer him a home here.

Usually the answer would of been no, but with our old male mink passing away earlier this year, it meant we did have a space for him. The vets were kind enough to castrate him for free for us, and having arrived a few weeks ago he has now been introduced to our female Mindy on display.

The vets named him Malfoy, and of course being a Harry Potter name we kept it :-) Whether you like mink or not, you have to admit he is a handsome devil. Very dark and sleek.

I occasionally get asked why we have mink here at the Centre. As I always say, as a Centre we try to represent the wildlife that is out in the wild of this country today. This means the ones that shouldn't be here too. We need to educate about why mink shouldn't be here and the effect they have on our native wildlife.