Tuesday, 30 April 2019

Herman the Heron

We have a heronry of wild herons out on our nature reserve who have come in completely on their own accord. Before and while the reserve was being designed and built they would visit most days, and even before the reserve was finished but after the main water ways had been created they decided to make the move permanent.

Each year they are very successful in rearing chicks, and over the last few weeks if you head down on to our boardwalk you would hear the constant chattering of the chicks calling for food.

Our local fish monger donates his waste fish to us to feed our otters with. Any scraps from this, or which we don't want to feed the otters, goes out for the herons to come down and supplement their wild diet they will be finding around the reserve.

Often these herons visit our otter ponds at the end of the day too to see if there are any scraps off food left over in there. One youngster from last year is particularly friendly... Let me introduce you to Herman, as we have affectionately named him!

Herman visits almost daily, and really is very bold... maybe too bold for his own good as our otters have been known to take a heron before. So far however, they seem to be ignoring each other and getting on with their own lives. Herman does seem to be a bit more aware of his surrounding too compared to some of the others.

He really has become a bit of a star in his own right, and it is not an unusual sight to see him on one of the islands (or even feet away from me one day) during out otter talks!

Keep your eyes open for him next time you visit. He is around most of the day, but tends to visit the otter ponds around the talk times and end of days feeds.

Friday, 26 April 2019

Dancing Adders

OK, OK, this may be a little rushed, but I am very excited!... Our adders have been dancing!

Keen followers of the blog over the years will be well aware that I have a soft spot for our adders, and that I particularly look forward to their beautiful "dance" every year. I was only talking to a couple of members over last weekend saying I think it will be any day now they start, and luckily for some of your who visited on bank holiday Monday, that was the day.

Apparently they had been at it a while in the morning too, but it was in the afternoon that keeper Aaron spotted them at it and gave me a shout. Of course, I rushed up to see them, and it was as entrancing as ever. I was initially disappointed that I had put off cutting the grass in anticipation of them dancing, but as it happens I think that really added something to their display!

The "dance of the adders" is a display of strength and stamina between rival males, competing over nearby females. The raise and entwine their bodies together, trying to force the other to the ground all with out ever biting each other. A hypnotising spectacle that should make even the more fearful of people admire them.

This happens on and off, sometimes for minutes sometimes for hours, and usually over a period of a few days/weeks. The slightly cooler weather this week has halted them a little, so fingers crossed for some more action this week. It will definitely be worth you keeping an eye on the adder enclosure this weekend if you do decide to visit, just incase they decide to go at it again!

If you haven't seen this behaviour, and can't get to visit us, have a look at our old youtube videos of them dancing in past years... or look over on our facebook page for a video of it taken by keeper Meg.

Here he is, what a handsome devil!.. I think he was losing at the days end, but it is not all about strength, stamina comes in to play too... so I am sure he will have another go soon.

They could dance anywhere within the enclosure, but best place to look first is around the log pile and grasses back against the grass snake enclosure. This is usually where the female is laid up, and them males tend not to go too far away from her.

If you do visit this weekend, good luck and fingers crossed! Hopefully you will get to see the beautiful dance of the adders.

Monday, 15 April 2019

Otters Playing

If you have managed to see us over the last week while we have been open, hopefully you have had the chance to see our otter cubs playing. If not, or if you are planning on visiting one day this week, keep your eyes open!

Our two young otter cubs, Otto and Bea, seem to be at that very playful stage at the moment. Running around the banks, jumping in and out of the water, playing with their food by tossing it in the air or tumbling with it in the water, and perhaps most dramatic of all play fighting in the water.

This can be seen at various times of the day, whenever really takes their fancy, but most days this week they have had a good playful spell straight after the morning otter keeper talk at 12. After a bit of food, Otto and Bea have been playing in the water while mum and dad finish off their food, and then on occasion one of both of them will join in with the youngsters until they tire themselves out.

Here are a few photos from the last few days...

Otto looking very pleased with himself for finding a reed root to play with.

If you do visit over the next few days, try to make it to the morning otter talk and hang a round for a bit afterwards. Hopefully you won't be disappointed, and they will carry on with the little routine they seem to be in these last few days.

Saturday, 6 April 2019

Red Squirrels back out!

Guess who's back, back again, red squirrels are back... tell a friend!

A reminder to you all that with Easter holidays upon us, we are now open every day for the next two weeks and the bank holiday on the 22nd. This is a great time of year to visit, with the animals beginning to get a little more active as the weather warms up and the days get longer.

The big news for this Easter?.. Our red squirrels have full access to their walk through enclosure once again!

For the past 6 months we have had our main display squirrels temporarily shut in to their holding pens in the walk through enclosure. Originally this was for a little maintenance and management reasons within, but while they were all caught up we thought we should take the opportunity to re-design the boundary fencing strengthening it against the elements, and making it a more long term solution.

Now with the new fencing, we have opened up the release pens within the walk through and allowed the squirrels back out in to their full enclosure. They have taken to it as if they had never been away, and already are exploring and looking to build their own dreys. This morning squirrel talk we even had a few come over for some food, so it will not take long for them to remember the routine of talks.

The squirrels no doubt will be the big draw for the next two weeks, but we have a lot of other exciting things happening this time of year. Our adders have been out for a couple of weeks now, emerging from brumation, and will be thinking of dancing soon. A bit of warmer weather will hopefully kick start this beautiful ritual off.

Our wild herons on the nests have got chicks, always one of the first youngsters to be seen each year. Good views from our wetland boardwalk of the parents bringing fish back to the nests, or a little tip... our second car park offers a good view of the nests from a different angle.

After our introduction of the three young badger cubs to the main sett over the winter, they have all settled down and are beginning to get a little more active in the afternoon. Stanley, our new male, and Toby have developed a bit of a bromance, and are regularly out in the afternoons. Honey, our older female, is beginning to venture out too for the talks and another few weeks will see them all a bit more reliable as usual for that time of year... and maybe even the other two youngsters may begin to pick up the routine. 

Our nocturnal house has been a bit more alive too recently, but a little less predictable with the weather still being a bit up and down. You may be lucky to see our dormice, bats and hedgehog in there... but a few more weeks are likely needed to make these sightings more frequent. If you want to guarantee a hedgehog sighting though, don't forget our hedgehog talk in "The Dell" at 1pm each day we are open this Easter holiday.

Of course, our otter cubs are still as fun as ever, and growing fast! Out a lot of the day now, they are regularly seen playing after the talks.

So, come and see us this Easter.

Wednesday, 3 April 2019

Photo of the Month: March 2019

"Playtime" by Steve Liptrot

That time again has come around quick to choose a photo of the month, and last month we were really spoilt for choice, lots of great pictures, and a real range of animals. We decided to go with this fantastic photograph above of our two otter cubs playing, taken by Steve Liptrot, to be our photo of the month for March. Well done Steve! This photo will be part of our coffee shop gallery next year, and be in with a chance to win a photographic day here at the Centre. To see more of Steve's photos, follow the link in his name.

Below are a few more pictures that caught our eye last month, and again as always, follow the link in their names to see more of their photographs. 

"Ted the fox" by Daklutzz

"I looked at you, you looked at me" by Paul Stuart

"Young otter playing" by Robert North

"Fantastic Mr Fox" by Andrew Kernan

"Cute squirrel whiskers" by Steven Colton