Monday, 20 October 2014

CPS+ Wildlife Experience

Today and for the next couple of days we will be hosting a Canon Professional Services (CPS+) experience day. What this means for the Centre is we will be welcoming around 60 photographers each day to listen to two of this countries best wildlife photographers, Danny Green and Mark Sisson, as well as offer them some opportunities to take some pictures of our animals with some Canon equipment.

From the photographic point of view, these guests will be split in to smaller groups to rotate around some of our mammals including our red squirrels, foxes, otters and wildcats. A second session for each group later in the day will focus on our owls, with a few portraits and a couple of them flying too.

It will be a busy few days, but nothing that we and the animals are not used to, and they all get a day off on Friday while we prepare for our Autumn half term opening next week.

Monday, 13 October 2014

Red Deer Rut

This weekend has seen our master stag Albus really begin to assert his authority! Although no clashing of antlers has taken place, he has been posturing, stamping feet, flehming, roaring and all the other behaviour associated with red deer at this time of year. 

Our port younger stags are constantly being pushed away from the rest of the herd, and have now formed their own little bachelor group.

The two young brockets certainly won't challenge, and even Olivander on the left is still a bit smaller than Albus so may not give it a go... however, I have seen him look at him few times so you never know. Once Albus has grown weary and tired, he may see it as an opportunity to try his luck. I don't think he will get far though.

Albus is busy not only with keeping the other males away, but also keeping all the females with him. He is doing a good job though and they all seem to follow him around.

I really wish you could post "smells/scents" on the internet, because our deer paddock is so strong at the moment... especially driving out there yesterday in to the thick of it to get a couple of pics. Albus really has gone above and beyond this year in making sure he smells right, and the paddock has his scent. It is like a deep musky smell, very strong odour, which you will almost certainly get a whiff of if you spend a few minutes down on our deer platform over the coming weeks.

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

New Weasel

Last week we welcomed a new weasel to the Centre. Let me introduce you to "Dr Ray Deangelo Harris"... don't ask!

Dr Ray was hand reared up North, and came to us through the Mustelid Rescue Centre based in Manchester. Andrew Gray there is an expert in smaller mustelids, and a friend of the Centre. This little one was too tame to be released back in to the wild and so came here for a home where he could be used to educate the thousands of school children that visit every year, and hopefully be a stud to breed with our female "Houdini" next year.

You can see how friendly he is above! He has been moved in to our hedgerow pen where he gets to see all the tours that come to see us, and has a larger enclosed outside pen which the keepers can go in to with him to play with him and keep him friendly.

While he has been moved in there, Houdini has been moved up to the photographic weasel pen opposite the polecats. This is where she used to live, and so settled in very quickly, and was out posing for photographs over the weekend as she always used to.

If you are coming to see our weasels, Dr Ray is out and about quite a lot throughout the day and Houdini is much more of an afternoon girl.

Monday, 29 September 2014

Youngster Update

A bit of a picture post for you today, but also an update on some of the youngster that were born here at the Centre over the year.

Another bumper year for us with red squirrels, and another release programme lined up for net month. Some of you may have already heard of Mersea Island's plans for re-introducing red squirrels in to this corner of Essex, and they have asked as this year if we would be willing to help in terms of supplying squirrels. I will tell you all more about it in a separate post when the squirrels are collected, but it is an exciting project for us. The island has been deemed suitable with supplementary feeding, and it seems that many of the residents are keen to put up feeders etc to continue to help the reds.

Our water voles continued to breed well, and although were not seen as often on our island, the number of sightings around the reserve has increased to almost daily. Fantastic news for our project, and means we can continue to spread the release further down our reserve.

Our baby adders are doing fine, although are very shy. They will hibernate here before finding new homes in the new year.

One of our biggest excitements was our water shrews having a litter of pups... Well, they currently have a second litter meaning water shrews everywhere! We hope to breed more shrews next year, and many of this years young will be going onto other collections.

Our harvest mice have continued to breed really well, and we have helped many other groups start or expand their collections for breeding. They are slowing down at the moment, but we may be able to fit in one more release before the cold sets in on our reserve. Sightings of our wild harvest mice have also been up this year, showing that this has been a successful release to.

And our polecats are now all big and strong and ready to venture out in to the wild. They will be collected for release soon, and a new breeding pair will be joining the team at the Centre to continue our efforts with their conservation.

Monday, 22 September 2014

Red Squirrel Collection

Over the past couple of weeks, we have been welcoming to the centre many of the red squirrels that have beed bred as part of our breeding group, and a few new squirrels from other collections too which will be added to our program to supply some new blood.

We have still to welcome a few more in the coming weeks, but then we will be in a position to sort throughout them all and strengthen our breeding stock here as well as allocate the ones which will move on to new homes... including many which will be released back in to the wild.

It is always a manic time of year for us with this may squirrels on site, but also an exciting one of knowing what is coming up around the corner. This year we are helping to supply squirrels for a project closer to home, and helping along with another breeding group based elsewhere. I apologise for being so secretive at the moment, but soon, very soon hopefully, I will be able to tell you where this years release will be.

Watch this space.