Monday, 30 June 2014

Harvest Mice

Harvest Mouse, Micromys minutus 

Firstly, thanks to all of you who came up to me over the weekend and said how much you are enjoying this new blog. It seems you are happy for lots of photos, and so with that in mind here is another plethora of pictures for your perusing pleasure!

Izzy found some fresh green corn in my old kennels last week, so I jumped on the chance of a bit of harvest mouse photography. I had something definite in mind... I won't say what, but I will say one of these got pretty close. Unfortunately the corn has now been tattered by the birds (yep, I didn't store it very well), but if I get the chance in the future, and get the shot I wanted, I will post it up.

Close up in the Corn

Harvest mice are great, and as I always tell people... even if you have an aversion to mice you can't help but think these little ones are adorable. They have the latin name Micromys  minutus, very apt for a mouse so small. Harvest mice weigh around the same amount as a two pence coin!

Harvest Mouse in the Corn

I took a few with a small bunch of the corn, and tried with a couple of mice at once too. It worked okay, but I preferred what I was getting with just one mouse... and although it is more obviously a set, preferred also the ones with a single stem of corn.

Placement of the Mouse

I had Tom on hand one evening, and Lucy one afternoon to help with the set up. It is possible for me to do it alone, and the way we do it minimises the risk of losing the mouse to negligible levels, but it is nicer and easier for me if I know I don't have to worry about keeping an eye on the mouse while setting up etc.

Harvest Mouse Washing

We always use more than one mouse which we can rotate if necessary, and at any signs of upset or discomfort on the mouses part we swap them... and if needs be call the shoot to an end. But when they just settle in and wash themselves as above, you know it will be a good shoot. This is one of my favourites of the first evening. Just a simple portrait.

Harvest Mouse on Corn

And I like this one showing of the prehensile tail so well...

Exploring the Corn

... as does this one too. They really make the use of this extra "limb" to the full.

Pole Dancing

While climbing up and down the stalk, when they suddenly turn to change direction they create some great shapes. It is almost as if they are pole dancing.

Pole Dancing

Great skills, and they do it with such ease.

Harvest Mouse Adaptations

Another of my favourites, showing off their adaptations. The tail once again, but also the feet. They have opposable thumbs on their hind feet that make it easier for them to grip on to the stalks.

Pole Dancing

And another showing the tail. The harvest mouse is the only mammal in Europe to have an prehensile tail. This means they can use it like an extra limb to grip on to things, they can even hang just from their tail and take their full weight if needed!

Harvest Mouse

Another of my favourites... yep, sorry, the fisheye was out again.

Below are a couple of old favourites...

About to Pop

A very old one above, showing a pregnant harvest mouse days... possibly even hours before giving birth. Being so small to start with, they really do blow up in size. This one had a particularly large litter and was almost the size of a golf ball!

Secret Keeper

Possibly still my favourite harvest mouse photo I have taken. The mouse is actually washing her face while delicately balancing between the stalks of corn, but it looks like she may be holding in a secret desperately trying to get out. This photo was commended in the BWPA 2012 (Collection 3).

Thanks for looking.

Saturday, 28 June 2014

Pine Martens

Bonnie; Pine Marten, Martes martes

Where do I start?.. Umm...


Okay. I appreciate there is a lot of photos here, but I wanted to show them all. I'll try to keep future posts to a few less photos than this, but can you blame me... look how beautiful pine martens are!

Above is one of the first photos I ever took, literally in the first 50 I took with a DSLR. It was a Canon lent to me by Gary K Mann, a member of the BWC. I wanted a souvenir photo of Bonnie, and this was the best I got... and still my favourite to this day! Yes, it is slightly out of focus on the face (focus is on the log), and there is a plank running through her back, but I love the pose and it shows "my" Bonnie!


It only seems fair to introduce our other three martens too, so here is Clyde above.


Above is Buttons, our elderly pine marten, and first ever pine marten I saw in the flesh.


And finally, Hamish, small for a male but with a big personality... He really ttys to dominate through the wire with the others.

Me with Pine Martens - by Izzy Coomber

This is my favourite photograph of me, taken by Iz, of me feeding Bonnie and Clyde while they were in together a few years a go.

Bonnie, Old BWC Leaflet

The rest of the photos will just be of Bonnie or Clyde, they are by far the friendliest of them all. Although the others do hand feed, these two are happy to come out and spend more time with me while I am in their enclosure.

Above is an early photo of Bonnie, one of the first taken with my first camera, a Nikon D90. It was used as the cover of our leaflet 4 or 5 years a go now.

Award Winning Clyde :-)

This is the first photo that ever won an award!.. Best photo in the West Hoathly village county fair, don't knock it, it won me 50p.


A few of Bonnie now, it is very difficult to get a decent photo of our pine martens... they move extremely quickly, their pens are quite dark and not ideally set up for photography. This is why a lot of my photos of them are wide angle. I waiting to get that really good portrait photo I have in my mind!


A softer shot which is used a lot for our publicity, seems to be one of Liza's favourites.

Beautiful Bonnie

A peeking shot, showing of Bonnie to her beautiful best when she is in full winter coat.

Bonnie in a Tree

This is Bonnie peeking out of a hole in a tree. It is a set I took in to her pen a few years a go to try and get something looking a bit more natural... It didn't really work, but this was the best of the series.

Close-up of Bonnie

Close up of Bonnie, one of the more unusual ones I have of her.

Curious Clyde

Clyde showing off their inquisitive nature. They are such curious animals, and often tilt their head to one side like a dog when trying to take everything in.


These few are of Clyde, the one above taken only a couple of weeks a go.

Peeking Pine Marten

Having the backgrounds so close, and wire often in the way, it leads to lots of close ups like the one above.


These two are from a recent shoot with Clyde, looking a little scraggly as he had just started to moult.


I was quite pleased with them though, and manage to take them in some softer evening light... always seems to help lift an ordinary photo.

Close-up of Clyde

This is an oldie, but possibly the first photo of Clyde I took that I was pleased with. It shows him just before his spring moult, his old winter fur bleached blond while spending so much time in the runs under the sun.

Bonnie with an Egg

We sometimes offer our pine martens eggs, and it is great to watch how they carry them off and try to crack in to them. On one occasion I watched Bonnie for a good while rolling an egg up the back at the back of her enclosure, and then letting it roll down again to hit the ground. Once it had cracked she started lapping it up.

Fisheye of Clyde

Had to include one taken with the fisheye lens :-)

Clyde Keeping an Eye on Me

And my current favourite, and new only taken 5 hours a ago. Love the look he is giving me.

Below I have included a video I uploaded last summer. Ignore the commentary, it is old and we have not just split them up... we have just introduced them, but thought you might like to see Bonnie and Clyde hand feed.

Anyway, apologies for so many, if you managed to get this far, thanks for looking, and I'll keep the posts shorter in the future. It's just that... 


Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Fallow Deer

Bambi the Fallow Deer

I have briefly mentioned in passing a couple of times now about a new project David is working on. Although he is keeping it separate from the centre, it does have strong links with the BWC... as you would imagine, and does involve our animals in a big way. In brief, it is a children's dvd, the trailer for which can be seen on our BWC Website home page. I imagine he will ask me to do a blog post on it near it's official release, so I will mention more about it then.

As part of the project, he wants to have an accompanying book for children with basic photos and he has asked me to take them for him. So, a few weeks a go, I received a list of six animals (one for each episode of the first series) and several photos of each of these animals that he needed. A lot I already had in the back catalogue, certainly good enough for what he needed, but it made me realise I had a distinct lack of photos of our fallow deer.

Fallow Deer Grazing

So, I spent a couple of afternoons and evenings with our fallow deer, a long wish list of photos and instructions to keep it basic and not get too arty! The things on the list were things like close up of head showing ears and eyes, doe on her own, fawn on it's own, buck on his own, fallow deer grazing, fallow deer browsing etc etc

Above is one of the ones I took of a fallow grazing, and one of my favourites from the shoot.


Close up of a fallow tail. I managed to take several from different angles for all on the list, to give David options to which ones to use.

Close-up of Deer Browsing

So for a browsing fallow deer, I got a close up like above.

Deer Browsing

One further out to show the whole deer, and again from different angles to offer different options.

Deer on Hind Legs, Browsing

And even managed to get one of the deer on it's hind legs. They are obviously staged as I am sure you have all worked out already, and just out of frame on the right hand side was either Tom or Izzy holding the branch... but for a children's book it works fine.

Matt Photographing Deer - by Tom Binstead

This is a photo taken by Tom. Bambi, one of our tame fallow deer, constantly getting in the way... but she did make for a great tripod for some of the photos :-)

As mentioned above, news of this DVD will be on the main blog over the summer I would imagine. Below are some of my past favourite fallow deer photos.

Fallow Deer, Dama dama

This is one of my favourite photos of a fallow doe, I particularly like the lighting and colour.


I told a lie... this isn't a past one, this was on the shoot the other week with Tom helping. Fish eye portrait of a fallow grazing.

From the Mist

Our master buck walking out of the mist.

Fallow Reflection

A little portrait of one of our fallow deer drinking at the ditch, showing her reflection.

Jackdaw on Buck

And this is great... probably one of my worst photos technically, but still one of my favourites. It shows a jackdaw pulling the fur from the back of our buck while he was moulting, to take it away for nesting material. Great behaviour, and hopefully I will be able to document it better over the coming years.

Thanks for looking

Sunday, 22 June 2014

Evening Pics from (20/21).06.2014


If you haven't already, have a look at the main blog (linked above in the tabs) for new about our new litter of polecat kits which have just started showing themselves. I took the pictures of them a couple of evenings ago, and the ones you see are the only semi decent ones I got, but while out I took a few off some of the other animals too. Big Tom, Lucy and Meg joined me on Friday for some photography.

Above is Franklin, our otter cub, who must be close to ten months old now. When mature enough we will move him in to the centre pond and possibly find him a mate.

Franklin the Otter

Another of Franklin, and another of him with his mouth open. A playful thing he does occasionally when with the others. You can see how nice the light was, with some of the grass reflecting off his upper lip.


This is Cormac, one of three kittens born to Iona last year. You can see how he has matured over the last few months in particular. Difficult to make a wildcat look "wild" unless it is snarling, but sometimes you can just get that look in the eyes which gives it away as wild animal. We were very lucky to get some nice warm light during our evening on Friday.


This is Frodo, an old boy now, and aurally the most photographed fox in the world... see his photo all over the internet. He is currently on the Epsom ink cartridge packaging and advertising the Daily Mail British Wildlife Photo Competition (ironically, as they are not allowing images of animals in captivity to be entered!)

Susie the Stoat

Yesterday evening I stayed behind to do a little photography on my own. I wanted brilliant sunshine for what I was after, but alas it disappeared by 5ish. Still, the light was good, and my first call was my new favourite girl (well, after Bonnie), our new stoat.

I am really after a photograph of her, or any stoat, where you can see the tail to show the difference between a stoat and a weasel tail. This is very difficult to do though... The above photo I like, and if the tail was in view, then thats the kind of thing I want. The closest I got where the two below.


Not great, but at least its something.


I prefer the pose in this one, but the tail is even less obvious... although still there. More practicing required. I'll get there one day.

Biscuit the Fox

I think we all, myself included, often forget the other animals not involved with the keeper talks... photographically speaking of course, they are all cared for equally.

I went in with Jake and Lilly, our otters, who were great fun. I didn't get any photos as I was too busy laughing to myself and playing with Jake... I haven't done that for a good year, and realised how much I missed it. I will get some of him soon though to show you.

Above is one of our oldest foxes, Biscuit, looking a little worse for wear at the moment due to age and moulting.

Ellis the Fox

And these photographs, above and below, are of Ellis... a young cub we had brought in which was reared by an former keeper Katie. Isn't he handsome? I mean, he's no Frodo, but then who is? (Sorry Katie :-) )

Wide Angle of Ellis

Thanks for looking