Thursday, 25 February 2010

New Bleeding Heart arrives and the Egrets have landed!

Craig, one of our two headkeepers has been on his travels again! Earlier this week he drove to Waddesdon Manor in Gloucester to exchange one of our male Bleeding Heart Doves for a beautiful female in order to introduce an important new bloodline into our breeding group in the Tropical House. These birds originate in the Philippines where they live in tropical rainforests. The name 'bleeding-heart' comes from the patch of red on the breast of these birds. Otherwise they are grey above and paler buff below.

Craig also travelled to the Cotswolds to collect five Little Egrets, kindly donated to us by Cotswold Wildlife Park. These birds occur naturally in Southern Europe, overwintering mainly in Africa and the Middle East. As this photo indicates they have mainly white plumage, with an area of blue-grey at the base of the bill. The sexes look alike. They grow long, white nuptial plumes when breeding, have blackish legs and unusual yellow toes.

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Guinea Fowl Twiggy helps herself from the feed bucket!

For those of you who've visited Seaview Wildlife recently you'll know that our Park comedians are a large flock of noisy, nosy, free-roaming Helmeted Guinea Fowl. They rush around the pathways, following Keepers and visitors, always looking to be centre stage! Their insistent squawks, more often associated with the African bush, regularly interrupt Keeper talks and the gentler calls of the other birds!

This photo shows the slimmest of the flock - we've named her 'Twiggy' - helping herself from a feed bucket. She's always keen to eat yet never gains any weight. When not in a wheelbarrow-load-full of duck grain, Twiggy spends her time following the Keepers around, hopping in and out of feed buckets and hoovering up Flamingo pellets from the prep room floor!

Monday, 22 February 2010

Winter Floods affect feeding schedule at the Park!!

If anyone was driving or working on the Isle of Wight or in Hampshire during the last 2 days you'll have been aware of the downpours we've experienced - it just hasn't stopped raining! As a result the lower area of our Park is completely flooded - what was a pathway around the lower lake is now all lake! Nothing stops our courageous Keepers however - feeding of wildfowl took place by canoe this morning!! This photo shows Craig, Tracy and Jake all in good humour quite enjoying the saying 'whatever floats your boat'!

Thursday, 18 February 2010

Altogether now - joyous collaboration of Cranes!

As mentioned in last week's Blog, Craig, (one of our Headkeepers), recently drove to Belgium and the Netherlands to collect selected Cranes for a new breeding programme here at Seaview Wildlife.
Over the past few days the Cranes have been adjusting to their new surroundings. Located in enclosures neighbouring those of their new mates, there has been much interest and obvious eagerness for closer contact expressed by all the Cranes. So, this morning, 18th February, we took the plunge and allowed the introductions to start..... we were ready to intervene at the first sign of aggression ......but, the great news is that blending of birds has gone better than we could have imagined!!

Image above shows our new female Crowned Crane. Shes' only a youngster and compared with our mature male has quite unremarkable plumage. We were concerned that our male, who has been on his own for some time now, may overwhelm her, or even attack her. However, on the contrary - he became immediately protective of his new mate, preening her and then opening his wings to warn the Keepers to keep at bay .....

Within the first five minutes the two Crowned Cranes were eating together - the male immediately accepting his new lady friend. Both birds seemed to be extremely relaxed in each other's company. The Keepers watched with anticipation - we all agreed that to see such eager acceptance and integration is one of the highlights of our job and makes everything so worthwhile!

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Jules' trip to South Africa

Near the end of our South African adventure we spent three days at The Cavern in the Drakensberg. A place of scenic splendour! There's a great choice of walks and horse rides in the surrounding area - it's also a wonderful place to relax and restore - great meals, a beautiful setting and lots of fresh mountain air.

White Rhino - once almost extinct in the wild, now thriving in reserves such as Hluhluwe and Umfolozi.

Spotted Hyena (left)
Young male Nyala (above)

Leopard - captured in my lens during a night drive - a rare sighting - so a real treat!

Two young Nyala males, vying for top position - only a mock fight - but preparing for more serious confrontations as they mature.

Mother and young Impala - there's a tenderness in their interaction that really touched me.

It's not only the 'Big Five' that are magnificent. I love the different species of antelope, their gentle, delicate limbs, their big soft brown eyes, their incredible alertness. These Impala gathered together in such a way that there's a cluster of ears in this image that I really like!

Seeing 'The Big Five' (Elephant, Buffalo, Rhino, Lion and Leopard) is thrilling. We were lucky enough to see four of the five - only Lion eluded us on this trip! We had an incident at dusk, whilst out on a night drive, when we encountered a herd of Elephant with young babies. The Bull Elephant in the group started to charge our vehicle .... the size and speed of these mammoth creatures makes you realise how vulnerable we are as intruding humans in a poncy-tin-can-car - our adrenaline pumped, we slammed into reverse, and got out of his way!

The magic of being back in the African bush is difficult to convey in words. Breathing in the fullness of the experience; awakening all our senses - feeling the heat; smelling the richness; hearing the calls of the wild; tasting the fruit and ofcourse seeing birds, animals, snakes and insects in their natural environment. Each morning we greeted the early dawn and after the customary coffee and rusks, ventured out for a bush walk or drive - to be amongst the creatures big and small.

From the Cape we flew to Durban and then drove through to the heart of Zululand to the game reserves of Hluhluwe and Umfolozi. This is our bushcamp - unfenced - so many wild animals wander through the camp both during the day and at night. There's a notice on the wall requesting that visitors never leave their children unattended .....

I took this shot at Spier Wine Estate in the Cape - they have a Cheetah sanctuary where the main focus is on increasing awareness of the plight of the Cheetah in Sub-Saharan Africa. It is a critically endangered species mainly due to persecution by livestock farmers.

The drive from Hermanus to Somerset is so picturesque it's almost indescribable! This photo gives a taste of Cape coast's unspoilt beauty.

This is the view of Hermanus in the Cape - looking towards the direction of Gansbaai.

I've just returned from a wonderful two week trip to South Africa where I went to re-connect with some old friends and to enjoy both landscape and wildlife photographic opportunities! I lived in South Africa for many years (only returning to my roots in England in 2002). This was my first trip back in 6 years - with my partner who had never been to Africa before! We started in Somerset West (photo left taken from my friend's patio) - how's that for a view from your table.......

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Who are you kidding - butt you're not a girl .....??

This image (above) of Basil says it all - a look of shock and horror at the arrival of his new mate (right) - not his anticipated caring, curvaceous female companion, but instead a frisky, feisty, four month old kid with real attitude! His name is Olly and we think he's exceptionally cute .... and Bas will too once he's got over the initial shock of it all!!

Friday, 12 February 2010

Ventnor TV visits Basil!

Well you never know who may be reading the lonely hearts Basil's case it was Luisa from Ventnor TV!

After reading Basil's ad in the County Press, Luisa decided to come and see Basil for herself as well as visit some of the other animals at the park. Ventnor TV is a volunteer based project used to create interest in local news and events on the Island!

Head Keeper Tara was interviewed by Luisa and her very well behaved son who happily fed the Wallabies, whilst Basil who was not so well behaved persisted in head butting me! I also introduced Luisa to 'Dippy' our friendly Humboldt Penguin and also our beautiful Chilean Flamingos that were bred at the park last season.

Apart from the howling icy wind I think Luisa and her son got the footage they were hoping for so if you would like to see Basil misbehaving please check out Ventnor TV at in the coming week!

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Fern's Valentine surprise Trip to New York

Ssssh.... We had to keep a big secret around here for many weeks! Fern one of our very hard working members of the animal care team had a very big surprise today ! A Valentine surprise trip to the Big Apple!!

Fern's boyfriend Ed told her it was just a few days in the New Forest.....

Little did she know that today she was going to be whisked to Heathrow en route to one of the most exciting cities in the World!
Her text to Lorraine today was....OMG! I'm at Heathrow waiting for a plane to New York. I can't believe you kept this a secret from me....

The girls back here are wondering if Ed is that amazing and remembered to pack all the right clothes for her! It is one thing walking in the New Forest for a few days but going to New York for six days...and another thing....we wonder if he will propose???!!!....... Have a great time guys x

Shanklin Primary School visit!

It's been yet another busy week for Head Keeper Tara and some of our cute and scaly friends from the park!

This week Shanklin C of E Primary school was visited for a second time and pupils had the chance to meet 'Priscilla' our female Bearded Dragon as well as 'Collin' the Cockroach and 'Fluffy' our female Giant New Zealand Rabbit.

Unfortunately as cute as 'Willaby' our albino Wallaby looks in the photo, he was unable to join his friends on our school trip, no doubt he would have enjoyed all the attention but I'm not sure whether I would have enjoyed trying to catch him up again to take him home!

Once again the children loved the hands on interaction with the animals and even the
Hissing Cockroaches have some new found fans!

New arrivals!

This week, Senior head keeper Craig made a long (and very tiring!) journey to the Netherlands to pick up our latest arrivals.

The Park has had for quite a while now a lonely Male African Crowned Crane and two Female Demoiselle Cranes. It was decided that as these birds are becoming rarer in captivity and not many collections are breeding them that we should pair them up....and this is what the trip was all about!

It was no easy task as we couldn't find any surplus cranes of the right sex in this country, so that is why Craig ended up going all the way to the Netherlands to a specialised crane breeding farm, where he chose the two new birds.

The two Cranes Craig collected were only bred last year so they are juvenille birds. They will probably be too young to breed this season but we have high expectations and hope that they will breed in the near future.

Whilst on the continent, Craig also collected a Male Greater Kiskadee flycatcher. We have a female in our Tropical House so it is also a relief to find her a mate and hopefully we can breed from this pair. It is important that we do this as we are one of the only Zoos/Wildlife Parks in the U.K to house these birds, so breeding them would be an incredible achievement.

Monday, 8 February 2010

Easter Wildlife Quiz Trail at Seaview Wildlife

Easter event: 2nd April - 5th April, 2010

The Park hold their biggest event of the year over the Easter weekend. The Great Mystery Wildlife Quiz Trail is hugely popular with children and adults! Visitors collect their FREE entry form at the entrance reception and hunt for all the fun, educational wildlife clues hidden around the Park whilst following the popular 'hands-on' programme of wildlife events with informative keeper presentations.

Each child receives a delicious creamy easter egg if they have found all the answers and the star prize is a giant easter basket full of goodies! Come along and join in the fun at our beautiful multi-award winning Park this easter.

Friday, 5 February 2010

Craig's Road Trip to the Netherlands

Over the last few months the team have been searching high and low for the elusive Crowned Crane and the even more elusive Demosielle Crane. It seems that they are like 'gold dust' in the UK!

At the Park we currently have one lonely Male Crowned Crane in need of a mate and two 'spinster' female Demoiselles! Craig our head keeper has been lucky enough to source these rare birds for pairing and is currently on a road trip to the Netherlands and Belguim to collect them.

Hopefully with all travel arrangements going to plan they will arrive safely at the Park on Monday where the new introductions will begin... Will keep you updated!......

School Visit to Wootton Primary

After head keeper Tara contacted many Island schools offering interactive presentations the response has been very positive. One of the first schools visited this week was Wootton Primary School where Tara and Fern took along some of our furry and slithery friends to meet the children!

It was a busy morning for our keepers!

Cornelius our Corn Snake and Horatio one of our cute ferrets behaved impeccably when they met over 100 pupils! The children really enjoyed the interaction with the animals and we look forward to many more school visits in weeks to come.

Thursday, 4 February 2010

The boys get their 'claws' round a tasty treat!

Our three lucky Asian Short Clawed otters get their claws round some tasty Velvet Crabs very kindly donated by 'Captain Stan's' fishmonger in Bembridge.

As you can see the boys are eager to tuck into their crabby treats which makes a nice change from their normal breakfast of chicks and shell on prawns!

In the wild these otters would primarily eat crustaceans such as crabs found in rocky crevices and muddy river banks of South East Asia. So its great to see them working for their breakfast as they would in the wild as normally by now they would be back for seconds!