Saturday, 21 December 2019

Merry Christmas!

A very happy Christmas to you all, and best wishes for this holiday season and the new year.

No snow this Christmas for us, but rain... lots and lots of rain! I've never known it so flooded here, but the animals are safe and we are coping.

Don't forget we are open for ten days from the 27th of December, so if you need an excuse to walk of your Christmas dinner, escape the family for an afternoon, or just want to come and see if you can spot our new otter cubs have their swimming lessons, then please do come and see us and say hello.

Saturday, 7 December 2019

Otter Cubs

Well, we've been keeping this one a little quiet as always, but with some people suspecting the news with the less frequent sightings of Emmy, and then some photographs showing them being moved by mum, I guess it's time to announce we have some otter cubs!

Otters do not have a set breeding season, and can give birth anytime of year, but our mature female Emmy seems to always pop them out in Autumn. This year is no different, and the last weekend of the October half term she gave birth to two cubs.

We have been keeping a close ear on the holt to make sure they are alright, and then last week at four weeks old, it was time to sex them, microchip them and give them a closer look over with our vet to make sure they are healthy and happy.

As with last year, we have one male and one female, still tucked up with mum... but she will occasionally move them from holt to holt so keep your eyes open. If you don;t see them, you will certainly hear them at certain times of the day when they are calling out for feeding.

Emmy always seems to time her litters well, and once again this later year birth means they will most likely be having their swimming lessons and more frequent sightings around Christmas and the new year... just when we are open to the public for a week, well done Emmy!

Tuesday, 3 December 2019

Photo of the Month: November 2019

"Hedgehog" by Kev Wyatt

This month we have gone for this beautiful photo of "Snoophog" the hedgehog in a little autumn leaf set up for our November photo of the month. It was taken by Kev Wyatt on one of our photo days.

Well done Kev, your photo will be part of our coffee shop gallery next year, and you will be in with a chance to win a photo day here at the Centre if your photograph is chosen as the photo of the year by our professional judge.

As always, more photos from the last month are shared below, and if you click on the link in the photographers name you will get to see more photos taken by them.

"Roe Buck" by Robert North

"Fox" by Steve Liptrot

"Otter" by Fiona Turnball

"Badger" by Becky Johnson

Friday, 8 November 2019

Dormice and Hibernation

A few weeks ago we had our quick dormice pre-hibernation checks to make sure they were all OK for the winter, and confirm how many kits we have bred over the summer. Good news!.. Both our pairs have had large litters of dormice, and so we have many babies to prepare for release next year.

As part of the Common Dormouse Captive Breeders Groups (CDCBG) we, along with many other holders across the south, breed dormice as part of the studbook for release out in to the wild. Once out of hibernation next Spring they will all be collected up and released back in to the wild in collaboration with the Peoples Trust for Endangered Species (PTES).

We do have two species of dormice in the UK. The native, calm, small and adorable hazel dormouse above. Below is the larger, bitey and much more erratic edible dormouse that was introduced to the UK.

You can really see the size difference with both in the hand like this. Both species of dormice are entering, or have already started, to hibernate for the winter. Despite what many people think, only 3 of our mammal types hibernate... the dormice, hedgehogs and bats.

Other animals such as our badgers and squirrels don't hibernate, but do often slow down their activity to less time out of their nests while the days are shorter and weather is colder.

Of course another animal that tends to disappear over the winter are our adders, they will brumate during the winter months before waking up again ready to dance in the Spring.

With these changes in mind, and the shorter colder days upon us, we now close an hour earlier at 4pm and are on to our winter schedule for keeper talks, listed under the tab at the top of this page.

Monday, 4 November 2019

Photo of the Month: October 2019

"Fox" by Steve Miller

Some foxy images for you this month, and we chose the one above taken by Steve Miller to be our photo of the month. Steve'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 if selected by our professional judge at the end of the year.

A couple more fox photos below, and a great action shot of our fallow deer antler locked.

"Fallow Rut" by Jackie Launders

"Basil the Fox" by Karen Gooda

"Flo the Fox" by Mike Crowle

Friday, 1 November 2019

Weasels on TV

Did you all watch the Natural World:Weasels: Feisty and Fearless last week? If not you can catch it on iPlayer. It was an hour long programme focusing on a family of stoats, but talking about a few of the other members of the weasel family. 

Well, for those who did, you would of seen some of our animals on it, as some of the filming was done here. Two of our weasels, including Molly above, stared in some of the close ups and more intimate shots. 

Our stoats were also featured, as was Elwood below in a very brief passing shot in the introduction bit to the weasel family. He did a beautiful action shot of running, no stunt double needed. 

Other weasels were filmed such as our polecats and pine martens, but they didn't make the cut... in fact they ended up using American martens! Blasphemous!

Not that our pine martens mind though, they are on to bigger and better things. This weekend the first episode in the "His Dark Materials" series airs on Sunday night, BBC1 at 8pm. The animals that appear are cgi, and the team responsible for this visited us to get some film footage of some of our animals moving to be able to accurately replicate this back in the studio.

While here they filmed our foxes and harvest mice among other animals, but the main star was Drogo one of our pine martens. He was captured to help create the movement for one of the main characters, Panteleimon, Lyra Belacqua's daemon, when in his pine marten form.

Friday, 25 October 2019

Fallow Rut

This past week has seen a lot of action with our deer rutting. The reds have slowed down, but our fallow are beginning to warm up. Above is a short video clip catching the end of the action after a good 15 minute bout.

Our two bucks are fairly evenly matched this year. Norman, the white buck, has been the lead for the last few years but the challenger, Vinny, is really going for it and trying to become the master buck.

Early signs are that he will prevail! He has the does rounded up, and is currently successfully keeping Norman away.

A lot of "barking" and strutting around the park, he is putting on a great exhibition.

He really does look shattered though, and maybe he has timed it a little too early. Norman with his experience may well still come in and take control once Vinny has worn himself out. Time will tell.

Saturday, 19 October 2019

Deer Rut

It's that time of year when our deer are really putting on a show!.. Rutting season is in full flow and at the moment there seems to be a clear winner for our reds.

Albus (Dumbledeer) has been putting on a real good show, posturing around the park and roaring away. The sound is incredible, and easily heard around the Centre, but what always gets me every year is the smell!.. You really have to come and experience the musty smell to appreciate what I mean.

So far Albus has managed to keep the other stags away from the heard, and he is clearly still larger than our second stag Olivander, and so I think he will comfortably be in charge for the mating season.

The rut is a real test of stamina. The stags rarely eat or sleep during the rut while trying to keep the other males away, and the females with them. Their necks fill out and scent glands become more obvious below their eyes. We have not seen much clashing of antlers this year, but this hasn't stopped the frequent roaring and posturing of Albus, clearing showing everyone he thinks he is in charge!

Fallow deer tend to follow the red deer rut by a few weeks, and they are beginning to strut about and bellow out there bark! It seems our younger buck Vinny has decided to try and take control. He has pushed our older white buck Norman out of the group, and got all the females grouped up with him.

This youngster will be too young to try to take control, but our much more experienced white buck is likely just biding his time. He knows the females aren't ready yet, and will probably put up a good challenge when the time is right and the newbie Vinny has wasted a lot of his energy.

Time will tell who will be master buck this year, it will be a close call I think, and possibly some good actual antler clashing rutting going on over the next couple of weeks.

Saturday, 12 October 2019

New Roe Buck

Meet our new roe buck, Rowan.

Rowan arrived earlier this week from the Wiltshire Wildlife Hospital where he had been rescued as a young buck. Having been there so long, he has become too steady around people to release back in to the wild, and having a lone doe here who needs company it made sense to offer him a home here.

Rowan has settled in extremely quickly, he now has access to a large copse area which offers plenty of natural cover and hiding spots, and has very quickly met up with our female Chestnut. He sticks to her like glue at the moment, unsurprisingly as she is probably the first other roe deer he has been able to interact with properly for a long time. Given time he will gain some independence, but will never be to far from her. So if you see her, keep your eyes open for him.

Here is Chesnut, a real beauty hey? The roe is one of two native deer to the UK, the other being the red deer. One of my favourites, the roe deer is a sleek stunner, very secretive and usually found on their own, pairs or very small groups. They are however the most common deer we have in this country.

Keep your eyes open for the pair of them. They will be a little harder to spot than our main herds of red and fallow, but it will be well worth it when you do see them!

Thursday, 3 October 2019

Photo of the Month: September 2019

"Wildcat Snarling" by Robert Murray

Often when looking through the photographs that have been shared on social media, there seems to be trends on what has been photographed. Maybe some see one they like then share a similar one they have taken too?.. All good for us that enjoy seeing photographs of our animals, and these past few weeks it seems to be snarling wildcats that have been popular. 

We chose this photograph above by Robert Murray as our photo for September of Braveheart doing what wildcats do best! This photograph will be in our coffee shop gallery next year, and in with a chance to win a photographic day here at the Centre. 

As always, more photos below, and click on the link in the names to see more pictures taken by these photographers. 

"Barn Owl in Flight" by Phil Sheer

"Practicing his scary lion routine" by Amanda Collins Eade

"Yellow neck mice eating" by Karen Jones

"Marsh Frog" by Steve Liptrot

Saturday, 7 September 2019

Owl Update

Do you remember our three owl chicks we reared earlier this year? Well these ugly little balls of fluff have now grown and matured in to these beautiful owls! This past week they all took part in their first photo shoots, and all did exceptionally well, so will be rotated with the rest of our educational team on future owl photographic days.

They are also all now fully graduated members of our flying team, and will be taking their turns in our afternoon displays when open to the public. Well done owls!

And well done keepers for doing such a great job rearing them. Clare reared the owl with no name (Arya) the tawny owl above. Izzy reared (Owl) Pacino the little owl below, and Millie reared Kate (Wingslet) the long eared owl at the bottom of the post. Don't worry, it will be the last time we let Millie name anything :-)

You can catch our owl display as the last talk at the end of each open day, and occasionally they can be seen out and about during the day with one of our keepers.

Tuesday, 3 September 2019

Photo of the month: August 2019

"Water Vole" by Steve Heggie

After the summer of the water voles, it had to be a water vole photograph we chose for photo of the month. Now back on in their main display, they are having a whale of a time, in and out of their tunnels, running over the bank and spending more time in the water than any of our previous groups out there! Best times to see them are shortly after opening, and in the afternoon around the owl display time.

So, for photo of the month, we chose this lovely picture above taken by Steve Heggie of one of our voles poking his head out of the tunnel. Steve has a lovely little set of the voles on his flickr, so click on the link in his name to see some of the other he took. The photo above will be in our coffee shop gallery next year, and of course in with the chance to win the photographic day here next year too. 

More photos below, and links in all the names to see more pictures by the photographers. 

Saturday, 24 August 2019

Water voles back home

After a long staycation in the grass snake enclosure, our water voles are back where they belong on their island display.

The water vole island display has recently been renovated, and while this was happening we placed 5 youngsters in to our grass snake enclosure (after taking them out) so they could be visible over the summer opening.

The voles settled down well, and many visitors enjoyed seeing them, but it was never a long term solution with the enclosure not being ideal for a permanent home for water voles. Now that their real home is ready, we have caught them up and put them back where they belong.

It is lovely to see them back home, and I have spent the last few evenings watching them explore and run around. Our water vole enclosure is one of our most well known displays, and it is easy to see why... A large area with plenty of natural burrowing areas and food to supplement what we give them, surrounded by water deep enough for them to swim and dive, multi species with the sticklebacks, pond life and common frogs which we have added back in too and all raised to make it easier for you keen photographers and anyone interested to see them.

As always with our voles, mornings and later in the afternoons are when they are more active. So for the best chance to see them head along shortly after we open, or around the owl talk time when it is a little quieter.

As for our grass snakes?.. they will be back on display in a couple of weeks after we have tidied up the mess the water voles have left behind!.. This will give them plenty of time to settle before brumation.

Here is a little video clip of one of them enjoying being able to swim again properly! Taken by keeper Meg.