Saturday, 14 October 2017

Polecat Release


Our polecats have done really well again this year, and both our females Oriel and Cassie had litters of kits. Cassie has been off display most of this year with our male Billy, and had 5 kits. While on display in our main enclosure Oriel and Whitstable had 4 kits, which I am sure many of you have seen grow, play and mature over the summer. 

Above is one of Oriel's daughters, taken a couple of weeks a go. Isn't she gorgeous?!?... Really takes after her mum, who I think is the prettiest polecat I have ever seen. Really sleek and dark with the classic face mask. 



And this is one of Oriel and Whitstable's sons. Another handsome chap. You can see how they have grown over the summer, all big and healthy and ready for their next move. 



Here are the other two, and below two of the kits with mum Oriel at the front...



Last weekend Ferret Rescue Surrey came to collect them, along with Cassie's kits, and took them off to be released in to the wild. As with previous years, they are soft released to give them a real good start at "wild" life and the Ferret Rescue Surrey team do a fantastic job in monitoring them and keeping an eye on how they cope once our on their own.



So, Oriel is looking a bit more relaxed now with out the youngsters constantly playing and annoying her. Now that they have gone, we have been able to move Whitstable back out on to display with her.



Hopefully they will continue their success, and have another litter next year.

Saturday, 7 October 2017

Photo of the Month: September 2017

"Snarling Wildcat" by Andy Lowe

September is over, and so it is time to share some more visitor photos with you. We had a lot of wildcat photos pop up over the internet this month, many of which were of our kittens, but it is this photo above of their dad "Macavity" showing off what wildcats are best known for that we chose for our photo for September.

This photo was taken by Andy Lowe, and you can see more of his work by following the link in his name. Andy's photo will be on display in our coffee shop gallery next year, and he will be in with a chance of winning a photographic day here at the Centre if selected by our professional judge at the end of the year.

Below are a few more pictures from last month.


"Wildcat Kittens" by Moi Hicks


"Black Water Vole" by Cathryn (Redcat09)


"Rutting Deer" by Irene Ford


Wednesday, 27 September 2017

Red Deer Rut


Our red deer are beginning to think about rutting, and the last few days has seen our master stag Albus Dumbledeer start to roar. Nothing too impressive, but signs of things to come over the coming weeks.

It could be a good rut this year, with our second stag Olivander closer in size to Albus than before and with a nice wide spread of antler. He certainly thinks he may have a chance, and has even rounded up the females for himself a few times as you can see below.



Still  not in the full flow though. A few more days and they will start bellowing out, and possibly in to next month we may see some clashing of antlers.

Friday, 15 September 2017

New Keeper: Millie


Welcome to our newest member of the keeper team... Millie.

Millie has just joined us to help with all the daily routines and looking after the many groups that come to see the animals. She has recently graduated from Plumpton College where she studied Animal Management, and is now looking forward to getting stuck in to a career working with animals.

I am sure you will all make Millie feel welcome when you see her around the Centre.

Sunday, 10 September 2017

Red Squirrels to Caldey Island


We have had another successful year with our red squirrels this year, several litters of kittens born in our off display pens and at our other holders sites. As with all out kittens, we redistribute them around our breeding group, and then look at the possibility of re-introducing them out in to the wild.

This year we have several kittens that can be sent to the wild, and as with our previous releases, we are continuing with the idea of introducing them to islands where there are no grey squirrels to affect them.



Last week we sent a dozen squirrels over to Caldey Island in Pembrokeshire. These, along with a few others from previous years, we are hoping will settle and mimic the success we have had on other islands such as Tresco.

So far so good, and hopefully we will be able to share with you news of how they are doing over the winter.

Sunday, 3 September 2017

Photo of the month: August 2017

"Eagle owl" by Tony Walker

August is the only month of the year that we are open to the general public every day, and it has been a busy month this year... Lot's of people coming to see us, and lots of you bringing your cameras.

It has been a real mix of animal photos that we have seen over the past month, our new weasels being arguably the most photographed, but it is this beautiful photograph or Ethel our eagle owl which we have chosen for photo of the month. Captured by Tony Walker.

Tony's photo will be in our gallery next year, and he will be in with the chance of winning a photo day here at the Centre if his pictured is picked out by our professional judge at the end of the year.

See a few more pictures below, and as always you can click on the names to see more photographs taken by these photographers.


"Weasel" by Linda Kent

"Weasel on watch" by Lillian

Tuesday, 29 August 2017

Goodbye to Rich


Last week we said goodbye to one of our keepers, Richard. Rich arrived for his third spell of work here about a year and a half ago, but has been with us on and off in between his many travels around the world, for the past ten years.

Rich has been a valued member of our keeping team over the years, and has helped the Centre to continue to grow and inspire many visitors about the wildlife living all around us... including his favourite, the tabby cats... er, I mean, Wildcats.

Rich has now decided it is time to move on and further his career, learn new skills, and pass on his knowledge to a new audience. He is going back to college! But this time as a lecturer to train young aspiring students in animal handling.

We all wish you the very best Rich, don't forget about British wildlife, and maybe bring your future groups to the Centre to show them around.

Friday, 25 August 2017

Summer Update


It has been a busy old summer for us this year, lots of visitors, lots of young animals around, lots of new changes taking place or at least planned for the future and new faces around the place helping to look after it all.

We have had a very successful year in terms of baby animals, and it may not be over yet... we have just started to introduce our new weasels together in the hope that they may have a late litter this year, and once again we have put our pine martens together in the hopes of kits next spring!



Our current youngsters are all doing extremely well. We have been able to extend our releases on our reserve this year with both the harvest mice and water voles. Red squirrels are in preparation for their release in the autumn as are our two litters of polecats. Plus many more little ones being the centre of attention with the visitors, including our new baby adders and still a favourite our otter cubs from the end of last year... Dolores and Bernard.



We have plenty of plans of for the future too, many of which we hope to put in place over this coming winter. A lot of general up keep, but a few new things for you to see too. We will keep you updated with progress of course, but one thing you probably have seen already if you have visited in recent weeks is the extension to our badger sett.

We are extending the outside part of their run by double the size, and giving them access to it via a tunnel under the walkway. This will give them a lot more space, and allow us to introduce the cubs to our main group. At the moment it looks a bit like a building site, but in a couple of weeks it will be landscaped and grassed with a few small trees planted. After some time for it to all take and settle, it will be opened up for the cubs.

Oh and how could I forget, another new venture coming soon...


video

"It's virtual reality, it's the future!" David F Mills

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.



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.

Friday, 7 July 2017

Photo of the Month: June 2017

"Hugo the Hedgehog" by David Jacobson

I love the summer here at the Centre... all the youngsters are at the age where they are beginning to show themselves, the longer lighter evenings allow us to get more work done, and it brings more photographers to the Centre meaning more photos of our wonderful animals being shared.

Lots of great shots seen and sent in this past month, our wildcats continuing to be very popular as are our hedgehogs. In the end we picked this photo above taken by David Jacobson as out photo of the month for June. It is a fun photo showing Hugo during some unusual hedgehog behaviour, self anointing himself during a photo day!

Below are some more pictures that caught our eyes. 


"Wildcat Snarl" by Brian Coles


"What does the fox say?" by Simon 


"Summer Hedgehog" by Kirsten Asmussen


"Kendra's Kittens" by Gill Penny

Well done again to David, whose photo will appear in our gallery in the coffee shop next year, and who will be in with a chance to win a photographic day here at the Centre. As always, click on the names above to see more of the photographers pictures.

More new arrivals next week, and some stunning photographs already being shared from our Members Evening which may well be seen here next month. 

Sunday, 2 July 2017

Members Evening


Many thanks to all the members who came and spent the evening with us last night. Yesterday was our annual Members Evening, where we stay open for a few more hours to allow members to enjoy the animals in the later, summers light.

It is always a great evening, and we always enjoy allowing you to see the animals during this quieter time, when they are often more active.

Yesterday we put on some extra feeds with the more popular animals, and a couple of extra talks we don't usually do on a normal day. Harvest mice are always popular, so once again we arranged a set up to allow everyone to see them up close and out of their enclosures... also allowing some great photo opportunities for those keen photographers who regularly visit.

Our second extra talk for this year was about our stoats and weasels, where we were able to introduce you to our new arrivals one the past few months.



For those that weren't here last night, we have had some new rescues arrive at the Centre that have needed a new home. 3 weasels and a stoat. Our new stoat came from Folly Wildlife Rescue, where he had been hand reared by one of our members, Margaret. She has done such a great job, that he is now full of health, and extremely friendly. She named him "Columbus", and you can no see him in our hedgerow enclosure. Columbus is such a poser, as you can see in the photo above, and has already met many school groups in his short time here.

Shortly after Columbus arrived, we had a call from a gentleman in Oxford who had accidentally ran over a weasel carrying a baby... Unfortunately the mother died, but miraculously the baby survived. He brought the weasel down to us to look after, and she has now become arguably the friendliest weasel we have ever had. We named her Ginny (Weasley).



I have often told people that female weasels aren't much bigger than a pack of polos, so set up a photo to show this with Ginny performing admirably.

As well as Ginny, two new male weasels have joined our team too... Wilfred and Wallace. Wallace joins Ginny in our hedgerow enclosure, where we hope they will become a breeding pair next season. Wilfred, who is pictured at the top of this post, has moved up to one of our photographic pens opposite our polecats You can see how well he poses already! He will eventually be paired up with our other female weasel, Nina.

So lots of mustelid movements happening, more to come too which we will share over the coming weeks.

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Polecat Kitts


Both our breeding pairs of polecats have given birth, and the kits are at that age where they are beginning to come our and explore... although very slowly.

Cassie is currently off display with 5 little ones to look after. Oriel, above, is on display in our main polecat enclosure looking after 4 kits.



The kits have so make the occasional appearance, but are still a little shy like this one hiding behind the grass.



You can see they are catching up to mum in size very quickly, and this little lad quickly dragged her back in to their den rather than have to come out in to the open even more.

Best time to see them will be around their feed times... currently first thing in the morning, and just after the badger talk in the afternoon.

And for you members out there, don't forget our annual Members Evening this Saturday the 1st of July, 5pm- 8pm.