Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Polecat Kittens

Oriel has five strong and healthy kittens, and they are really beginning to come out and explore and play in their enclosure. Usually I would of expected them to have been seen earlier than this, but I think mum has just been a bit over protective in keeping them under ground... Now they are bigger, they are much more of a handful for her, and I guess she has just given up trying to keep them hidden away :-)

All good for us and them... we get to see them play and run around, and they get to learn to look after themselves and prepare for the big wide world. Later this year they will be released as part of the breeding program.

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Baby Update

The summer holidays are upon us, and from tomorrow (Wednesday the 22nd of July) we will be open to the public every day until the Wednesday the 2nd of September. 

Our new arrivals this year could not of timed their development better, as they are all ready to be out in their new enclosures for you to meet. Our red squirrel kittens are all pretty much grown up now in their walkthrough enclosure, and it will be difficult to tell them apart from the adults. 

Most obvious at still being this years young are our deer. We have both red deer calves, and fallow deer fawns like the one above. They are at the age now where they have started to venture over for feeds and talks, so I am sure you will get to see them if you decide to visit over the coming weeks. 

Ygritte, one of our new weasels, is now old enough to be moved in to her new home. She has been introduced to the second half of our "hedgerow" weasel pen. Being as friendly as she is, she will be ideal for school children to see along with her neighbour weasel Dr Ray.

Over the summer we hope she will settle and get used to Dr Ray, so that next year we can pair them up for breeding.

Another new weasel, Neve, has been introduced to one of our outside photographic pens opposite the polecats and next to our older and more established weasel. She is a real character, so try to spend some time with her if you can.

Samwell, our stoat, was introduced to our "hedgerow" stoat enclosure at the end of last week. He has settled well, and today we opened up the main section for him to explore too. As with Ygritte, he is very friendly, and so will lbw ideal to show school groups who visit... and to show them the difference between stoats and weasels.

Oriel's polecat kitts are old enough now to be feeding for themselves, and venturing out to explore... although not as often as our previous litters. They are still quite shy, but if you spend a bit of time at their enclosure you will get a glimpse of them running over the mounds and through the tunnels.

The best time to get a sighting is in the afternoon. Once fed, you can often see them chasing mum while she tries to store the food away.

Tyrion, the little owl, is not so little anymore... he, or quite possibly a she, is a "big" little owl! Yesterday he had his boots put on for the first time, meaning he will be able to come out to meet and greet the public over the summer.

He will slowly be introduced to the display talks over the summer. His training is currently going really well, so hopefully by the end of the summer he will be a fully qualified member of the flying team!

Sunday, 19 July 2015

National Zoo Keeper Week

I was made aware today that apparently it is "National Zoo Keeper Week" in America, from today until next Saturday the 25th.

Is this something that takes place around the world? I don't know, but I certainly hadn't heard of it before. So maybe it should be... After all, it is the zoo keepers that are the back bone of any good zoological collection. Yes, all members of staff play an important role, don't get me wrong. But it is the animals that are the key, and who is it that makes sure they are safe, well and happy?.. the keepers! :-)

Often larger zoos have full educational departments to do "animal talks" and to guide school groups around. They may even have professional photographers to lead all their photographic days. Here at the BWC, it is the keepers that take on board all of this too... We are animal carers, educators, presenters, rehabilitators, veterinary assistants, record keepers, inventors, builders, gardeners, trainers, budget managers, health and safety officers, first aiders, cleaners, conservationists, researchers, dieticians... I could probably go on :-)

Not to mention the danger we put ourselves in on a daily basis!

We all love it though. None of this is a complaint, and please take it in tongue in cheek way it is meant. It is true that we work longer hours than our contracts, we work for very little pay, and often very dirty and smelly jobs! But we do what we love!

How many people can honestly say they look forward to going to work each day? How many people often go in to work on their days off just to help out? How many people don't complain about staying longer hours if needed? How many people get to express their passion for something they truly love everyday? How many people get to hand feed a pine marten every day! Again, i could go on :-)

Man I love my job!

So maybe we should have National Zoo Keeper Week over here too!

So what could anyone do to show their appreciation for zoo keepers throughout the UK?.. Oh, I don't know...

I do know that we like cake though :-)

Baby animal updates coming next week!

Thursday, 16 July 2015

More youngsters!

I promised you updates on how our new arrivals where getting on... and I'll get there... really I will... but first I ought to let you know about a few more youngsters that we now have at the BWC.

We now have more baby red squirrels running around, and a pair of hogletts (baby hedgehogs) which Big Tom is currently looking after. Both very exciting of course, but I am more excited about this little one above...

A baby weasel... She has been reared by Izzy, and will be on display for our summer opening starting next week. We have named her Ygritte, and she really is an adorable little thing. Female weasels are said to be able to fit through a wedding ring!.. and they are really small... but I think that may be a slight exaggeration, unless it is a small weasel and a large wedding ring :-)

Updates on the others to come, and don't forget from next wednesday we are open everyday for the Summer holidays!

Monday, 13 July 2015

Water Vole Research

We often get asked by students about research projects they can do at the Centre, and as long as it is not detrimental to the animals or the way the Centre works, we can usually help out. Currently we have a student of Nottingham University testing out a new surveying technique for water voles out on our nature reserve. 

As you know, we have an abundance of voles on the reserve, all showing good field signs... coincidently the Surrey Wildlife Trust is actually running a course on water voles and their field signs here today... So Nick Mason, from Nottingham University, wanted to set up some water vole rafts on the reserve to monitor their activity. I will leave him to explain it a bit better...

"I am a Masters student at Nottingham Trent University studying Biodiversity Conservation. My dissertation is a study into the effectiveness of rafts as a survey method for determining the presence or absence of water voles. The water voles use the rafts as territory markers and leave droppings on them. Therefore, if you have droppings on the raft, you have water voles. We are hoping to prove that this method is more efficient than the current survey method, using field signs such as feeding piles, footprints, burrows and droppings. The field sign survey often takes a lot longer than the raft survey and also requires more skill in identifying the field signs. Additionally, many of these field signs can easily be missed, especially when the water voles are at a low population density. The raft survey should be able to detect water voles at these low densities. 
My dissertation is part of a nationwide project, being led by Dr Richard Yarnell, to compare detection rates from traditional field sign and latrine-raft surveys at sites across regions of England to discover which method is most effective at detecting water voles. The data will provide an estimate of the current distribution of water voles across the selected regions and lead to survey guidelines that can be used by practitioners to reduce the chance of reporting false absence." - Nick Mason

So far Nick has seen many field signs of water voles, good news for us that our population is doing well, so hopefully they will co-operate and help him with his dissertation!