Friday, 11 August 2017

Adder Babies


To some they may not be the cutest, but to me they are still adorable... Adder Babies!!!

Earlier this year we had the dancing between the males, and the mating of both females. This doesn't always mean there will be a litter of youngsters, and usually it is every two or three years that the females will reproduce, but with our last litter two years a go and one of our females growing in size rapidly over the early summer, we thought this may be a year of little ones.

Sure enough, yesterday saw the first ones being born. We have only seen 3 at the same time, but there may well be more with female adders often having up in to double figures in one litter.



Baby adders are usually called "Neonates", but I prefer the more endearing "Adderlings". I haven't been able to get photos of this years yet, so these are from our last litter.

Unlike many reptiles, adders give birth to live young... or at least appear to depending on how technical we want to get. In essence they emerge from the mother in a very soft membranous sac which they quickly escape from. They are tiny in size, but perfectly formed like a mini adult. Difficult to see in the first photo, but in the one above you get a better idea of scale (pun fully intended) of the youngster pictured against the scales of the mother.

Venomous and independent from day one, extra care is now taken when cutting the grass in their enclosure. They are so small they are difficult to spot, so take some extra time looking when you are next here if you are hoping to see them.



In other, non BWC news, it has recently been discovered that there are two separate species of grass snakes in the UK... bringing our wild number of snake species up to 4, along with the adder and smooth snake.

A Professor Uwe Fritz, with the Seckenberg Research Institute in Germany, has been studying grass snakes and found reproductive barriers between two originally thought to be sub species, enough to separate them as full species.

The new species is currently known as the Barred Grass snake, and differs from the common grass snake in being a duller greyer colour compared to the olive green colour of the grass snake. The barred grass snake has more distinct dark bar markings on the length of the body, and perhaps most noticeably has a much duller and less obvious collar as opposed to the grass snakes striking yellow band behind it's head.

So, there you go. I think from memory we have had both types here in the past, but will have a look through some old photos to see. Maybe another snake pen is now required, personally I prefer the original olive green grass snake with the beautiful yellow band.


Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Photo of the Month: July 2017

"The mouse, the fly and the teasel" by Helen Haden 

Another month of an amazing amount of photographs being sent in and shared, many of which were taken on our members evening on the very 1st day of the month, and many of those being of our harvest mice... so no surprises that we have picked out a few of these to show you.

Of them all though we went with the photo above taken by Helen Haden of one of our harvest mice during members evening. If you look close enough, you will see a surprise model in the picture with a little fly sitting on part of the teasel, brilliant!

Some more fantastic pictures to share with you below, many of our harvest mice, most from our members evening at the beginning of the month, and one of those being of our very fast pine marten Drogo. Brilliant work to get him standing still for a second. As always, click on the link in the photographer names to see more photos by them.


"Sweet little harvest mouse" by Ros Wood 


"Harvest Mouse" by Sarah Louise Orme


"Pine Marten" by Lillian


"Weasel" by Gary K Mann
As with every months photo pick, Helen's photo will be part of our coffee shop gallery next year and be in with a chance of winning Helen a photo day here at the Centre. 

Sunday, 23 July 2017

Summer Opening


This weekend sees the start of our Summer opening for the school holidays, this means we are now open every day during the week, as well as our usual weekends, until the 3rd of September. We then go back to just weekends until the next half term. 

I have been told by the office that we seem to have a road closure coming up north of us on the A22... not ideal being one of our main routes of access, but apparently there is a fairly simple diversion. More details on our website https://www.britishwildlifecentre.co.uk/planyourvisit.html

Don't let this put you off though, lots to see these coming weeks. 



Our new badger cubs are settling in very well, and although not currently on display, you will get to see their new enclosure being designed and built at the end of the copse.



The family of water voles we introduced you to last week have made themselves at home on our display island, and we have had a few recent sightings of wild ones out on the reserve too... I even spotted a harvest mouse out there last week among the reeds around the boardwalk, so keep your eyes peeled!



New stoat and weasels are just a few of the many new arrivals we have had this year, most now out and about and ready for you to see.



Our conservation team of highland cows are currently in our deer paddock, helping to keep the  grass in check before it runs away from the deer. 



And still a couple of youngsters that are still being reared, and can still be seen out and about with a keeper during the day... including Betty one of our long eared owl chicks. Look at her stunning eyes!

Hope to see many of you here over the next few weeks.

Saturday, 15 July 2017

Black Water Voles and Black Rats


Some more new arrivals to introduce to you, this time of the rodent variety, and ones that may seem quite similar at first appearance... but are in fact very different. First off, take a look at some of our new water voles.



You may notice something a bit different... Yes, he has black fur! It is thought that wild Scottish water voles have a different ancestry to our ones down South, and many wild water voles in Scotland are black in colour. Derek Gow at the West Country Wildlife Centre does amazing work with water vole conservation, and donated a small family of water voles to us including some of his black ones from Scottish lines.



This little family have been put out on to our display island, with our older vole "Walt" coming off display to retire. This is another of the youngsters, this time a brown one, enjoying his breakfast... "Hungry for Apples?"

They are still settling in, but do come out. Best times to see this new family are first or last thing during the day... but you will need to keep quiet and move slow until they get used to the hustle and bustle of being on display.



Our other new arrivals are some black rats. Very similar looking to our black water voles, but more angled features, longer face, larger ears and a very long tail. These have been introduced to our barn enclosure, with our older black rats retiring off display.

Once again, as with our voles, it will take a little while for them to settle, but it won't be too long until they are as visible as our other rats.



Unlike our black water voles, that look the same as brown ones although maybe a little smaller. Black rats do differ in look to our brown rats, being a different species. Black rats are sleeker, with a pointier nose, longer tail and larger ears compared to a brown rat. They are much more agile looking, and this reflect in their more agile behaviour. I would say they are a prettier looking rat too!

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

New Keeper: Clare


I alluded to another new arrival at the end of last week, and this time it is of the human variety... This week we welcome Clare to our keeping team.

Clare has recently finished studying at University, and was looking to venture in to the world of wild animal keeping and conservation work. Having worked part time at a pet store, Clare was looking to move on to something where she will learn more and develop her animal keeping skills. Clare has also volunteered for Drusillas education department, making her an ideal choice to join our team which mixes both the husbandry of animals and direct education work with thousands of school children visiting on pre-booked groups each year.

Good luck to Clare, I am sure she will fit in and settle quickly. Do say hello to her when you are next here, and make her feel welcome.