British Wildlife Centre

15th March 2013
In: Trips
I had read about the British Wildlife Centre on many occaisions and always though that it would be a wonderful place to visit even though it involved a 170 mile journey from home to get there! So finally I decided that I just had to go. It was with great excitement then that I booked a hotel (cheapest I could find on the thinking that it was for only one night and how bad could it really be!) and booked a day off work (Feb 14th) so that I could spend a whole day with British wildlife.

Worried a little on the day I was due to drive down (had more snow) but by the time I left there was none to speak of and as I drove further south it disappeared completely and the evening became a dry, clear and cold one. Arriving at the hotel (will spare the owners by not naming it here!) I parked in the large secure car park (not!) and booked myself in. I was led to a cupboard on the second floor which alarmingly turned out to be my room for the night! I then needed to get my gear and overnight bag out of the car which I did manage to do but after several trips in the dark over a car park full of holes (most of which had been nicely topped up with water by the days rain!).

After a good nights sleep dreaming of foxes and stoats (a bit odd I know!) I awoke to a (cold) breakfast which after being replaced was relatively harmless. Then off to the BWC - so keen I was there an hour early so got my kit together and reviewed the days objectives. I knew that I wanted pictures of a stoat sticking its head up as they do, foxes (any as I had not taken any before), badger as again had not seen a live one and a harvest mouse (which are the most adorable of little creatures).

The day was actually a lot better than I had expected - there was a good group of friendly photographers and the keepers were obviously interested in their work. The visit started off in the walk through red squirrel enclosure (where one jumped onto my back). Others had them on their lenses or trying to find food in their camera bags! We had a week in Northumberland to see these animals but this was much closer (and there were more of them). Foxes next - a rather timid male fox and a lively vixen (who nipped my elbow). Foxes close up are gorgeous and I love their colour! The wildcats were not playing today sadly so we then moved on to a hedgehog - not seen one in the wild for years. Used to see them all the time (mostly flat on the road) but when I was a child I do remember them being very common. This one was placed on the ground (very natural) and then on a large log (very not natural and it kept slipping off).

It was then time for lunch so I had a wander in the barn and hedgerow area - lovely setup for mice with old boots and pots for them to crawl in and out of, and also lots of runs for stoats and weasels. After lunch the owls arrived - we had a barn owl and a tawny owl on the same log as the hedgehog was placed earlier and then onto a post. Managed to get a lovely shot of a tawny owl on the log.



Had always wanted a barn owl photo with it looking out around a tree



Once finished with the owls and harvest mice we were escorted past the otters to the deer. Now most people were very reluctant to venture beyond the otter enclosure so time with the deer was minimal as the keepers realised I think that nobody was left with them - all having transferred to where the otters were. This was a highlight of the day but at the same time the least realistic - the otters were fed with chicks and the keepers seemed to delight in getting the otters to launch themselves into the water (when in reality they would just slip in silently). I had to confess that I did get a shot (not for a great otter pic but more for the challenge of doing it!)



We were rapidly approaching the end of our session now and we moved onto the polecats (cat meat smeared on to a stump) not good for photos and stoats and weasels (same thing with cat meat). While the keepers were trying to coax the badger out I went back to the polecats and stoat and got some more realistic shots of them including one with its head sticking up



The badger finally emerged and I got a few shots before spending some more time with the house mice



and then it was time to leave.

All told it was a lovely day which I thoroughly enjoyed - lucky with the weather as apart from a few showers it was dry and bright. The BWC does a wonderful job especially with its conservation work which is much needed in our over crowded island. For more information and to book a photography day click here

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