Monday, 15 September 2014

BWC Open Day

Flo the Fox

I am currently in the process of writing three articles about the BWC in terms of photography. One showing the opportunities a photographer can have if they come along when we are open to the public, another showing what we can offer a photographer on one of our dedicated photographic days, and yes... you guessed it... the last one all about our owl photographic days.

To do this I wanted to obtain all the photos I used from the actual day, as if it was that experience we offer that I was attending. I joined in on our owl day last week for article number three, have booked in to one of our normal photographic days later this month, and went over to work on an open day during the summer spending the day with my camera...

... well, two days actually. I had to cheat on the open day one, as I kept getting called away to do jobs and talk to people.

Anyway, here are some of the better photos I took on the open days. I will be choosing a handful of these to illustrate my writing later this month.

Red Squirrel

I made sure I was at the Centre as if I was going there as a member of the public for a day out with my camera. If I was to go to a zoo or wildlife centre, my main aim would deb to try and get some nice portraits of the animals, and to spend the whole day there to enjoy what they had to offer.

Our first talk is the red squirrels at 10.30am. Unfortunately for the two days I was there with my camera, the weather was not great. Once was showers on and off, the other was very overcast, but still the opportunities were great... not that I am biased :-)

I got lucky with where he squirrel decided to eat her hazelnut above for a nice quirky shot.

Red Squirrel

The squirrels were not on the best form on the day I was there, but I still managed to get a few photos I was pleased with. Even changing angle slightly as above gave me a better angle for something a little different.

Red Squirrel

For those that have seen a lot of my photos, you know I like space... It's nice to give the animals room to breath in the frame, but I also get nagged by Liza in the office for blank space to put text on! This now follows me even in my own photography.

Squirrel with Tom

Perhaps the best thing with the squirrels are the way they interact with people and the keepers. This is one of our squirrels sat on Tom's shoulder while he was talking to a member of the public.


After the squirrels I moved on to the fox talk. I got there a bit late, having spent too much time with the squirrels... You really need to follow the talks to get good views of the animals, but more so turn up a little early. The animals are likely to be out waiting, and you get a better chance to position yourself to where you want to be. I was off at an angle, and it made it trickier to photograph through the wire, but in the end I managed to get some photos of Frodo peeking through foliage.


Perhaps my favourite of the foxes that day, Frodo... most photographed fox in the world!


The wildcat talk was next, and I am not going to lie, this is difficult... very difficult from a photography point of view on an open day. You can focus through the netting, but the angle is all wrong. I went down on the flat by the door to get a lower angle, but then backgrounds were difficult. I had to be happy with closer framed head shots, and to get something a bit more interesting I waited until just after the had eaten to get some licking lips action.


I love our otters, and made sure I got there a little earlier than when the talk was about to start. This gave lots of time to get a few portraits.


And a few pulled back with a bit of the habitat in them.

Otters Playing

Something I usually tell the public after the talk is to hang around for ten minutes. Often the two boys start to have a bit of rough and tumble, and it is amazing to see. I got lucky... they did start to play with each other which is not unusual, but what was lucky is they where right out in the open. I stayed there for quite a while, and this was my favourite of that session.

Fallow Fawns

Just down from the otter ponds is our deer platform for the deer talk. I made sure I was there a few minutes early, as once the deer are over eating they are too close for me and you end up shooting down on them. Getting there early allows you to photograph them running over for there food. I got a quick snap of our four fallow fawns together.

Red Deer

And then managed to get Albus trotting over, leading the herd, to see what was on offer.

Tawny Owl

I missed out the hedgehog talk. It is possible to get photos of them, but it is more geared towards showing the hedgehogs off to people and allowing them to get up close and personal to learn more about them. I therefore took that time to grab a quick bite to eat, and have a walk around. Our new aviaries offer limited opportunities for photographs, but due to there habitat themed pens at the right angles you can get something.

Owls "Out and About"

Of course our owls are often out and about on a walk, and I couldn't resist a quick snap of these two above in this composition.


And then the classic close up of Ethel which everyone seems to do.

Roe Deer

A little time to wander around is good, it gives you a chance to see the other animals we have not with a keeper talk. First thing I always recommend the water voles, and keep an eye out for the snakes too, I spent my spare time with the roe deer.


Some of our talks are repeated. I made sure I was back at the foxes in time to get a better position, and once again photograph Frodo.


Likewise with the wildcat repeat, I waited at our other enclosure to get some close ups of Macavity through the wire. This above photo was through the inch mesh, and from behind the standoff barrier... all these photos were taken in conditions exactly as what our members of the public have when they visit us. It goes to show with the right setting etc, you can avoid the barriers and wire.


I skipped the otter talk in the afternoon, knowing I would be back there for the main feed, and went to wait up by the badgers. While there I spent some time with our stoats.


Our stoats are often out waiting around the badger talk time, knowing they will be being fed soon.


Likewise with our polecats.


And then off to the badger talk to get some photos of them. The badgers are great, and there are not many places you get to see them out in the open in the daylight. The thing you need to watch out for are the backgrounds. The way our pen is set up, it is easy to get the green tin in the picture. therefore you need to be at the right angle, or focus on close ups as I did on that day.

Pine Marten

I wasn't expecting anything with the pine martens. Bonnie's pen is dark, and they are quick, and the wire mesh is tight. I had to go and see them of course though, any excuse, and was happy with this one above.

Daisy with Ethel

Last up for out keeper talks is the owl display. I didn't even bother trying with flying owls... I am sure it is possible in its very limited way, but knowing that our display is geared up with the public in mind and not photographers I though I would focus on the keeper interaction again, and get them flying the owls.


At the end of the day we have the last few feeds to do. Many people leave after the owls, and so it is often quieter and the animals a little more active. Tips for you all... red squirrels and water voles at this time are good! I went to the otters for their main feed. Purely just to watch, but I took a few snaps at the same time.

One of the great things about the centre it the other wildlife around. Out on our boardwalk/reserve as you would imagine, but even just around the centre. I found this spider below eating a fly, so took a few pictures of that too!


May I remind you all that all these photographs were taken in conditions our members of the public have on an open day. I did not enter any enclosures, I did not cross any stand off barriers and had no favours from the keepers. I will admit to one advantage though. Even in plain clothes, a lot of the animals ran over to me and looked at me while I was outside.

In conclusion, and yes I am very biased, but I really think what we have on offer from a photographic point of view, even on an open day, is brilliant! I doubt many similar places out there could beat us. To come away with a mix of photos of different animals is great. I would keep in mind spending the whole day here, and following the talks. From a visiting photograph point of view, if I was to return, I think I would chose just a few of the animals and spend more time at there enclosures waiting for something a little more different/unusual to happen to photograph, but I would very much look forward to doing so!

Thanks for looking.

Friday, 12 September 2014

Red Deer

Red Deer Stag, Cervus elaphus

Our red deer are nearing the rutting time of year. If you had asked me a few weeks a go if I thought any action would take place this year, I would have said no... but little ol' Olivander has been standing up to Albus a bit over the last few days, despite being quite a bit smaller, and so who knows. They may actually clash antlers this year!

Flehmen Response

The rut usually starts around the end of September, and lasts for a few weeks where the stags rarely eat or sleep... they are just concerned about the other males and females and what they are doing. During this time they can lose a lot of condition, but soon pile it back on again over the winter and following spring.

Flehming in the Morning

The above two photos show one of our older stags, Eric, doing what is called "flehming" or the flehmen response. It is a behaviour where the deer curls its lips back, and inhales. Quite often after sniffing the ground where a hind has been. This response passes the pheromones in the air into an organ above the roof of the deers mouth, called the vomeronasal organ, allowing him to tell if the females are ready to mate.


During this time the males, or stags, display their dominance over the rest of the herd. Usually by sizing each other up and "roaring". At the centre this roaring can be heard from the other side of where there deer are, it really is loud!


The more dominant stags gain fuller necks during the rut, and the scent glands below the eyes get larger... sometimes even visibly spraying scent out.


The stags will try to chase each other away from the main group of hinds...


...and sometimes anything else which they feel may be a threat!

Bachelor Group

This leads to a bachelor group of younger males on the edge of the herd.

Red Deer Herd

And the dominant stag with the females. 

Clash of Antlers

Sometimes another stag will not be so easily chased off, and antlers may clash. The deer are then trying to push or drive each other away showing they are strongest. Often it is a test of stamina.


It is rare that deaths or serious injuries occur, but they can get close to causing some damage.

Showing Dominance

And the victor quickly goes back to expressing his dominance.


Once the main stag, he needs to impress the ladies with his own unique scent! Usually by spraying urine over himself.

Decorated for the Females

They will also urinate on the ground, and thrash their antlers in it to cover the antlers with their scent and any bits of grass and vegetation.

Extra Ornaments

If we put any branches out in the paddock, they will decorate themselves with these too.


Then off to impress the hinds and see what they think.

Checking out

At least one of them was impressed!.. At the end of the rut, the dominant male will mate with the females.


A tiring job, but he has worked hard for his right and it is worth it...


... a little over eight months later, and he will have some of his calves running around the paddock with him.

Hopefully there will be some clashing of antlers this year, but even if not there will still be a lot of the other rutting behaviour to come and see... roaring, flehming, chasing etc. 

Cold Shoulder

I particularly like this one... Albus roaring at one of the hinds, and he just standing there completely ignoring him :-)

Thanks for looking.

Tuesday, 9 September 2014



Spare a thought for our British badgers today as the second year of the four year trial cull begins. If you haven't come to this blog from the BWC blog, then head over there to find out more about it. This is just to show off some pictures of badgers without the negativity.


We currently have two badgers at the Centre, above is our female Honey.


When first discovered they were thought to be a member of the bear family, but are in fact the largest member of the weasel family living in the UK.


The badger is one of the worlds fastest digging mammals.

Mushroom, mushroom

How did that get in here?..

Badger, Meles meles

Half of their diet is made up of earth worms, and they can eat over 200 in one night while looking while out foraging.

Badger cubs

Even from day one they have the classic black and white striped face they are so well known for.

Young Badger

It is that classic marking they have that makes them one odour most iconic animals! Even if you have never seen a badger before, most people know they have a black and white striped face... and it is the logo of the Wildlife Trusts.

Young Badger

Rarely seen out in the day, they are a very shy, secretive and nocturnal animal. Our badgers having been hand reared come out in the afternoon to forage and play, and are visible in their sett during the mornings and winter.

Badger in the Snow

Despite what many think, badgers do not actually hibernate. They cut down their activity a lot, and spend far more time underground keeping warm during the winter months, but do still venture out to look for food.

Winter Badger

Badgers have a delayed implantation. They can mate anytime of year, but will always give birth early the following year usually around the end of February early March.

Badger through a Fish-eye

I had to finish on a fish eye photograph didn't I. It seems the ones I take with this lens are love it / hate it photos.

Thanks for looking.