Ten years ago David Mills set up the British Wildlife Centre near Lingfield in Surrey as a non-profit organisation to encourage people to find out about our native wildlife. Although close to Gatwick Airport the centre is a peaceful home to around forty species, from mice to badgers, each housed in settings that reflect their natural environments. The BWC continues to develop and expand – what would be new for this visit?
On the morning of the meet the M25 “car park” delayed many journeys but did not deter some brave souls who arrived at the centre before opening time!! Already in the tea room these stalwarts greeted Terry and Sharon with a sea of smiling faces, some familiar and some new. David came out to welcome the group and explain that the recent spell of cold weather had caused the stoats to turn white. This news sent a ripple of excitement through the ephotozine photographers and there was a general move towards the stoat (or more correctly ermine) enclosure.
Nothing! No movement on this chilly, grey morning – and who could blame them . . . and then, just there, a brief glimpse of a little brown nose! Another head popped up – and another! But they disappeared too quickly for most of the assembled photographers to get a good image. We missed Sam, a BWC keeper and an old friend, who had a day’s holiday but luckily her sister, Louise, was on hand. Louise saw the problem, fetched a tin of cat food and smeared it (with her fingers!!) over and around the logs in the enclosure to lure the ermine out. What opportunities there were then for excellent images - thank you, Louise – what a cacophony of shutters!! And next door the weasels provided still more entertainment and challenges for the photographers.
Other contenders for photographic attention that day were the foxes and otters in their new enclosures; the mink, polecats, red squirrels and badgers; the red deer, fallow deer and muntjac not to mention the kestrel, buzzard, snowy owls, mice and rats. The boardwalk is weathering well and there was the usual flock of wild grey heron to see, numbering a dozen or more, in with the deer.
Sharon kept vigil in the tea room as promised but sadly had no opportunity for an e-bay sale, thanks to Cheryl the Peril’s early warning on the thread!! However, she was rarely alone thanks to so many people coming in for tea or something to eat and stopping by for a chat.
Daylight was fading before four o’clock but this didn’t stop the shooting. The multitude of flash guns created a lightning storm and passing visitors still had to negotiate a winding route to avoid tripods left in the middle of the paths with no hazard warning notices!
At last, in the late afternoon and gathering dusk, people said their goodbyes and began their return journeys. For some, the day ended with a welcome meal out before travelling home on roads much clearer thankfully than they had been in the morning.
It was good to see you all: David Hopkins, Kev Lewis, Chris Taylor, Alan and Jenny Benson, Clint Newsham, Clive Burow, Jeremy Cridland, Tim Boyle, Nick Hobbs, Maggie, Arnie Gothard, Michael Brace, Stuart Holland, Jess Webster, Phil Beale, Jeff, Mike Taylor, Sharon and Terry.
Many thanks to Terry and Sharon and here’s to next year . . . what will be new then?