Thursday, 11 February 2016

January 2016: Photo of the Month

"Red Squirrel in the Snow" by Christine Sweet

February is well underway, and I keep getting asked if we are still going to be choosing a "Photo of the Month" for this year. Well, I think I will be... it seem the photo competition will not be running once again this year, and so to keep sharing photos and keep a gallery going in our coffee shop there will be a 2016; Photo of the Month!

This year I may well share a couple of images each month, as there is always so many to choose from, and then have one of those selected for our gallery next year and a chance to win a photographic day here at the Centre. So I guess we better start with January!, and as you can probably guess we a had a lovely selection of snowy images taken during that brief spell of light snow earlier this month. 

Of these I have chosen the photo above, taken by Chris Sweet, of one of our red squirrels in the snow as our January photo of the month. This is a beautiful photo making the most of the light snow, and in a natural setting. The greens and whites really make the squirrel stand out, and the snow is crisp and clear. I really like the way Chris has captured the snow on the squirrels whiskers, and love the droplet of melting snow on the forehead. Great eye contact from this iconic mammal helps make this my photo of the month. Well done Chris!

Chris's photo will be on display in our gallery next year, and she will have the chance to win a photographic day here at the Centre if selected at the end of the year by a professional photographer. 

"Otter in the Snow" by Gary K Mann

We had a lot of cracking snow shots shared over the past month, including these two close ups taken by Gary K Mann.

"Fox in the Snow" by Gary K Mann

Both the Elwood the otter and Flo the fox seemed to enjoy the snow, and Gary has really managed to capture the setting that day and make it look like there was a lot more snow here than there actually was.

"Squirrel in the Snow" by Phil Jennings

But it was the squirrels which were the stars of the day. They really made the most of the snow, and provided some great opportunities for the few photographers that decided to venture out in the cold to see us. One of who was Phil Jennings who took this fabulous portrait of one of our squirrels!

As before, click on the names of the photographers to see more of their work.

Saturday, 6 February 2016

New Polecat

Finally! Here she is... Worth the wait though, isn't she beautiful?!

This is our new female polecat, "Cassandra" (uh, yeah... don't ask.) But you can call her "Cassie" for short. Cassie has come to us to pair up with Billy for the new season, after his older mate Roxie had been moved on to retirement to 'Ferret Rescue Surrey'. Hopefully they will get on well and produce a nice litter of kits.

Of course we still have Whitstable and Oriel on display in the main pen, so potentially could have two litters of kits to offer to the release programme later this year. Exciting stuff!

Cassie came to us via the breeding programme having been born at the New Forest Wildlife Park. She is still very shy, so you will have to be patient if you want to try and see her, but it won't take her long to settle. Currently housed in the enclosure next to Billy's, we will open up the divide between the two over the next week to see how they get on.

Don't forget, if you do decide to come and see her we are now open until 5pm for our main season. This means we are back to our usual schedule of 'Keeper Talks'. You can remind yourself of these via the tab under the header above. It does mean we no longer do a scheduled talk on polecats, but it also means that pine martens are back so, you know... every cloud and all that :-)

Monday, 1 February 2016

Polecat Release

You may have heard rumors that we have a new polecat?.. Well, yes we do... but not this one above. Above is Whitstable who has been with us for a while now, and successfully sired many kittens which have gone on to be released.

So why a picture of him? Firstly, our new female polecat is being very shy at the moment, and I have yet to take a photo of her. Secondly, I thought you may like to see some videos from the post monitoring cameras of the polecat release last year.

Whitstable sired these kittens, see... there was a link there to the photo above... His kits from lat year, along with others in the breeding group, were collected and released by 'Ferret Rescue Surrey'. They do a great job, along with the studbook holder, in organising and collecting the polecats. And along with their band of volunteers have successfully soft-released many polecats over the years.

These camera traps are just part of the post release monitoring they do, and have been successful recently in capturing some lovely clips of these polecats out in the wild.

Most activity has bee seen at night, unsurprisingly, but even a little bit of daylight action has been seen. 

So, hope you enjoy these, and I will introduce you to our new female polecat as soon as I (or any one else visiting) manages to get a photograph of her. She will be paired up with our other male, Billy, in the hopes of them mating later this year. We have yet to name her, but some names in the air include Crystal, Piper, Ocean, Jean... see where the keepers are going with this! Or maybe even Cassandra... yeah, thanks Tom! 

Of course I am very disappointed, as none of these are 'Game of Thrones' related. 

Thursday, 28 January 2016

2015: Photo of the Year!

Congratulations to Ashley Buttle who wins last years photo of the year competition, being selected out of the 12 photos of the month to be our overall winner and win a photographic voucher to be used on one of our photo days here!

Ashley's charming photograph was selected from the 12 by professional wildlife photographer Heather Angel. Heather is a renowned wildlife photographer, having won many awards in Britain and abroad. She selected Ashley's photograph stating:

"The photographer has not only captured a touching moment but also one rarely seen between two different sized mammals. Unique is often miss-used, but in this case it may well be an unique capture of a red squirrel happily continuing to feed whilst a muntjac nuzzles it. Congratulations to Ashley Buttle."

Congratulations indeed to Ashley! Chosen as our February image, it has always stood out as being something a bit special. We look forward to welcoming Ashley here in the future on one of our dedicated photographic days.

Many thanks again to Heather Angel for choosing her favourite from the final 12. To see some of Heather's work take a look at her website by following this link: Heather Angel Photographer You will get to see some stunning images taken from around the world, and a great blog offering tips for your own photography. Check out Heather's 'Shooting Silhouettes' in particular for some stunning shots! If you like what you see there, why not follow her on twitter. Heather posts regular updates under @angelantics

Monday, 25 January 2016

Daisy Leaving

You may remember that 2 years a go the keeper team had a bit of a shake up with three new young keepers entering the fold. One of these was Daisy, and after 2 years of experience she has now decided the time is right for her to move on and further her career in conservation.

Daisy arrived bright eyed, bushy tailed and with a smile on her face and left... well, exactly the same! Always approachable by visitors, always giving the up most care to the animals and always with her bubbly (if slightly crazy) personality.

Daisy was an asset to my team, displaying the rare qualities of being able to both care for our animals to our high standard and engage with the public on all levels and experience. She is moving on to work in environmental conservation, and returning to college part time for some additional training.

Daisy's last day here was last Friday. She will be missed by the team and all the animals here, as well as many of the members who regularly visit us. We all wish Daisy the very best in her new job and career, and hope she doesn't forget to come and see us in the future and let us know how she is doing.