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Neatly clipped yew, woven willow, scruffy privet, mixed hedges of several species including hawthorn, blackthorn, hazel, field maple, spindle - and other combinations - hedges in town and country provide at least temporary lodging and corridors for small creatures, and at best, in a bushy mixed hedge, a varied structure for small mammals, birds and invertebrates to move through or shelter, nest and forage in.

 

By autumn the blossoms that adorned mixed native hedges in May and June - earlier in the case of blackthorn - have ripened into tempting purple, black and red berries, scarlet hips, burgundy-coloured haws, acorns and hazel nuts. Last month we celebrated these fruits and the biodiversity of mixed hedgerows.

 

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Hawthorn – a common hedgerow plant

 

Our annual Hedgerow Harvest event took place in Wildlife Garden, with talks in the Attenborough Studio and additional activities in the Investigate Centre on 6 October. We also introduced a similar event away in Kent at the end of October - held jointly with the Friends group of Whitstable Museum and Gallery. Here’s how we celebrated:

 

As well as showing off our mixed native hedges in the Garden we held activities and displays about native hedges. In previous years woodland conservationist, Rob Graham, has demonstrated hedge-laying but now that all the hedges in the Garden have been laid, we invited visitors to help plant a new mixed hedge to replace a single species hedge - the yew hedge that Carrie and Ayana surveyed and wrote about in our September blog.

 

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Rob demonstrating hedgelaying in the Garden -  a method of creating a stock-proof barrier and a haven for wildlife
© Photoshot, Natural History Museum

 

We introduced our visitors to some for the animal species that benefit from hedgerows. Some were Museum specimens such as those in the OPAL bug hunt which was a popular and fun introduction to the different groups of invertebrates, including butterflies, beetles and bugs, and a helpful aid to identifying insects in hedges next spring and summer.

 

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Visitors studying for the OPAL bug hunt in the Wildlife Garden

© Photoshot, Natural History Museum

 

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OPAL Bug hunt at Whitstable Museum

© Lydia Heeley

 

Some were crafty paper-made peg animals.

 

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Around 80 peg dormice were made!

© Sean Hanna

 

Unfortunately, there was no chance of live dormice in the Garden but Sean, one of our volunteers, created a lively and informative display about this endangered species and their disappearing habitats, and had a captive audience making paper dormice to take away.

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   All about dormice - display in the Wildlife Garden

© Photoshot, Natural History Museum

 

At both events the celebrity guests were hedgehogs...

6 Hedgerow Harvest 071012-077 (Custom).JPG'Sue Kidger Hedgehog Rescue' visited the Wildlife Garden

© Photoshot, Natural History Museum

 

 

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Loraine from Kent Wildlife Rescue introduced Whitstable visitors to rescued hedgehogs that are unable to fend for themselves

© Lydia Heeley

 

...and bats in Whitstable where Hazel from the Kent Bat Group introduced them to a keen audience.

 

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Eden and Ella meeting a pipistrelle bat

© Lydia Heeley

 

 

But food foraging is not just for the wildlife.

 

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Rosehips, sloes and crab apples

 


During the Nature Live session in the Museum's Attenborough Studio we learnt about wild food from Marcus Harrison, which was  followed by a hedgerow plant tour of the garden with Roy Vickery. And, in Whitstable, Jo Barker led a walk in the community allotment to find some of the contents of these hedgerow living larders and medicine cabinets. A food table at both events displayed a wide range of food and drink from berries, nuts and nettles.

 

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Display of harvest from local hedges with tasty food and drink from Whitstable Farmers' Market and local shops

© Lydia Heeley

 

Additional activities using resources found in hedges and associated plants included :

 

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Identifying seeds with the use of a microscope

© Lydia Heeley

 

Making fishing floats from the dried pith of elder trees.

 

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A fishing float made from elder pith

© Lydia Heeley

 

Discovering the many colours using natural plants as dyes.

 

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Ruth demonstrating colours from plant dyes in Whitstable Museum

© Lydia Heeley

 

And making seasonable bird feeders.

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Rupert making an apple bird feeder in Whitstable Museum.

© Lydia Heeley

 

 

Hedges are still in celebratory mood with leaf colours slowly changing to yellow, browns, pink and russet while squirrels, birds and mice in our Garden are busy foraging berries and hips and haws and burying nuts in earthy larders.

 

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Rosehips in the Wildlife Garden

© Derek Adams

 

You can find out more about this beautiful season with Fred Rumsey on his autumn wildlife walk on Hampstead Heath below - and then get outside and see for yourself!

 

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On a summer’s day in the Wildlife Garden and the Museum grounds, you might find several hundred different kinds of insects. If you count the individuals, including the honey bees and ants, then maybe thousands. Who knows, they might even outnumber the daily throng of human visitors to our galleries and exhibitions.

 

Indeed, there are more species of insect in the world than any other  group - experts have named over 1 million. (Some entomologists even  estimate 10 million species.) And not a day goes by for us humans, I’m  sure, without an encounter with at least one or many of them.

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Discover insect life this weekend in the Wildlife Garden as you  explore the meadows by the ponds. There are displays, activities and  tours and also talks in the nearby Darwin Dentre to join.

Come along on Saturday and Sunday, 2 and 3 July, to Insect Weekend in the Wildlife Garden and Darwin Centre and meet some of this multitudinous and diverse group. Find out about the buzzers, flutterers and crawlers from bees to beetles and damelflies to butterflies and moths.

 

On both days, there will be lots of fun activities for all ages, and many displays to explore.

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What will you see at Insect Weekend under the microscope? And tread carefully by the ponds, froglets are about. Select images to enlarge

Recent sightings in the garden includes lots of butterflies, from large white to comma, holly blue and speckled wood varieties.

 

Tiny froglets and toadlets are emerging from the ponds, so you'll need to tread carefully in the grasslands by the ponds. And don't forget the hundreds of tropical butterflies to see next door on the East lawn in our Sensational Butterflies exhibition.

 

Another highlight of the weekend event on Sunday will be botany expert Roy Vickery's tour of the garden about the 'forgotten uses of wild plants'. The 30-minute tours start around 1.45 and 3.15.

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Spiders are distant relatives of insects but that doesn't seem to bother them when it comes to their dietary requirements. Not sure what would escape this spider web photographed recently in the Wildlife Garden!

Visitors will get an insight into the insect diets of other creatures like bats, spiders and frogs. Apparently, at last month's Bat Festival in the Wildlife Garden, a lttle pipestrelle  bat spent nearly an hour flying over and around the main pond, in  pursuit of midges and other small insects. It caused a bit of a stir! And the Wildlife Garden team will be doing a bat survey on Saturday.

 

Max Barclay's Beetlemania talk and his collection highlights on Saturday are sure to be popular and another talk on Sunday, Caught in a Trap, will reveal the secrets of collecting insects. Both free talks are in the Attenborough Studio at 12.30 and 14.30.

 

Find out about the Wildlife Garden online

What is an insect?

Insects (from the Latin insectum) are a class of living creatures within the arthropods that have a chitinous exoskeleton, a three-part body (head, thorax, and abdomen), three pairs of jointed legs, compound eyes, and two antennae.

 

Find out more about insects and spiders on our Nature Online pages

 

Every day we get enquiries about identifying strange looking insects on our online Identification forum

 

Join the OPAL Bugs Count survey - an amazing 204,205 bugs have already been counted so far.

 

Read the Bug Count launch news story and find out the 6 minibeasts to look out for

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Last year's Bat Weekend and its stars (see below) was one of our most popular events in the Wildlife Garden in 2010. And this year will be battier and better, because we're celebrating the Year of the Bat.

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Our Bat Festival this weekend on 4 and 5 June promises to be a great family day out. You can go on the bat bed and breakfast trail through the Wildlife Garden to find out what insects they eat and where they sleep, try out things like bat box building, make willow bats and do other batty crafts, as well as see bat specimen displays. I've also heard a rumour there will be bat-shaped shortbreads on the refreshments stalls.

 

If you head over to the nearby Darwin Centre, you can learn about echolocation and bat detection in the Angela Marmont Centre for UK Biodiversity. And in the Attenborough Studio there are two free bat talks at 12.30 and 14.30 on both days.

 

baby-bats.jpgJune is a particularly active month for bats because it's when the young are born, so it's a good time to find things out about them.

 

As in past years, the Sussex Bat Hospital and the Bat Conservation Trust will be joining us over the weekend and telling us about what they've been doing to help our bat community.

 

About 25 per cent of the world's bats are threatened with extinction. At least 12 species, such as the Puerto Rican flower bat, have already become extinct. That said, there are more than 1,100 species of bats worldwide, making up around  one-fifth of all mammals. And new bat species are

still being discovered.

 

The United Nation's Year of the Bat campaign is spearheaded by the Convention on Migratory Species and EUROBATS. It aims to highlight the unique role bats play in the environment and stress the urgency for global bat conservation. Historically bats have had a bit of a bad press - think Dracula, vampire bats etcetera - and the campaigners also want to give bats a fresh image.


So don't miss our festival, bats are depending on you to show support. And it's free.

Bats
  • are one of the most widely distributed groups of mammals. Flight has enabled them to live almost everywhere in the world. Bats are most numerous in the tropics, and Central and South America are home to almost one-third of the world’s bats. Indonesia has 175 species of bats while here in the UK we have 18 speciesbat-book.jpg
  • can be as big as a small dog or as small as a bee. The largest bats are the flying foxes with wingspans of up to 2 metres and a body weight of 1.5 kilograms. At the other end of the scale is the bumblebee bat or Kitti's hog-nosed bat, weighing only 2 grams – the world’s smallest mammal
  • are not blind
    • help replenish our forests and sustain other important eco-systems from deserts to wetlands. Through insect control, bats reduce crop damage and slow down the spread of disease. Many foods, medicines and other products are created thanks to bats, (including shortbread bats no doubt!)

    If you want to delve further into the world of bats, the Museum has just published a new edition of Bats by bat expert Phil Richardson.






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    If you want to discover some real stars of the night this Bank Holiday Weekend - as opposed to the festival rockers or carnival kind - flock to our Wildlife Garden for Bat Weekend on Saturday and Sunday, 28 and 29 August.

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    Three species of bat have been seen flying and feeding in the Museum's Wildlife Garden (Common pipestrelle, above, Soprano pipestrelle, and Daubenton's bat). Live bat photos here and below © Hugh Clark, Bat Conservation Trust

    We join the European Bat Weekenders in a celebratiion of bats, giving 1000s of people across the country the chance to find out more about bats. The Bat Conservation Trust is urging everyone to go out and see and hear bats in their natural enviroment.

    Brown-eared-bat-log.jpg

     

    Highlights at our own weekend event include a bat treasure hunt round the garden, hands-on demonstrations from bat experts, including bat box building, and lots of batty crafts. Come and see a display of insects that bats feed on and visit the Bat Conservation Trust information tent on the front lawn. We have teamed up with the Bat Conservation Trust, our Centre for UK Biodiversity, and the OPAL team to bring you the event.

     

    Batty talks are being held on Saturday and Sunday in the Attenborough Studio. See some of the speakers' featured bat specimens in the Darwin Centre atrium after the talks at 13.15 and 15.15.

     

    Fingers crossed for some sunshine. Last year, we had a really popular event here (pictured below).

     

    Find out more about our Bat Weekend. If you can't make it here, see what bat events are near you.


    Any sightings of bats made over the weekend can be shared online on the Interactive Big Bat Map. Look out for the common pipestrelle (in flight above) and the brown long-eared bat (above right).

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    On Saturday, also watch out for the scary-looking Daubenton's bat featured online as our Species of the Day.

     

    I leave you with a few bat facts:

     

    There are 18 species of bat in the UK, 17 of which are known to breed here, accounting for more than a quarter of mammal species.

     

    It is estimated that a pipistrelle bat can eat up to 3,000 insects in a single night! There are few other nocturnal insect-eaters, and a single insect-eating bat may eat 100s of insects a night.

     

    Human activities have by far the greatest influence on bat populations. Loss of habitat for roosting and foraging has caused declines in bat populations. Intensive farming practices have led to a reduction in the abundance of insects which the bats rely on as their only food source.

     

    Find out much more about bats on the Bat Conservation Trust website. Youngsters can join the Young Batworkers' Club, learn batty facts and find fund things to do.


    Click on the images to enlarge them. Thanks to the Bat Conservation Trust for the live bat images.

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    The sun is shining, at least in my head, which is good news for the second of our summer After Hours.

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    Tonight, as well as the late night opening of the Deep Sea exhibition and the Darwin Centre, we have a special free event out on the Darwin Centre Courtyard terrace – Round the World Ping, which is part of Ping! London.

     

    We’ve had a ping pong table out on our East Lawn for the past week now, but tonight it’ll be out on the Courtyard Terrace for what promises to be a highly entertaining experience. Come along and have a bash, or just have a drink and watch the sun go down.

     

    Last Saturday, our ping pong table was in action for the very amusing Passport to Pingland challenge, at which a national table tennis coach and a colleague came along to oversee several hours of ping action from our visitors. We had all styles of play then, most uniquely from the keen little 2-year old boy, see below, who had to stand on the table to see over the top of it!

     

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    Table tennis is a great fun game. Although following my tragic failure this week to reignite my previous Olympic-level talent, I shall be giving the table a miss. But I look forward to seeing everyone else having a good time this evening. Find out more about Ping! at the Museum on our website.

     

    Our After Hours Up Close & Personal Tours of the Deep Sea exhibition and the Wildlife Garden are proving popular. Caroline Ware, our Wildlife Garden manager tells me that she is looking forward already to the August tours, when there might be some bats in in the garden as the later tour, 20.00, will be around sunset. And do drop in on Adrian Rundle’s fascinating Fossil workshop in the Central Hall – we had some very enthusiastic comments from participants at the June After Hours.

     

    Watch this space next week for some news about an exciting new After Hours event on the last Friday in September, After Hours: Science Uncovered.

     

    This takes place on the night of 24 September, when all across Europe, millions of people will be attending an amazing science festival night. It's an annual EU event, and we are absolutely thrilled to have the opportunity to take part this year. Make a date in your diary now.

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    Our Wildlife Garden is taking part once again in London's Open Garden Squares Weekend on Saturday and Sunday, 12 and 13 June.

     

    Special treats lined up for visitors include the chance to meet a bat expert and to get more acquainted with our family of moorhens (left) and the rest of our busy pond community in the garden.


    The Wildlife Garden's freshwater ponds are home to many species of plants and animals. If you're lucky at the weekend, you might spot the little moorhen chicks and azure damselflies competing for attention with the likes of diving beetles and common newts.

     

    Our bat expert, Sean Hanna, will be in the garden both days, revealing lots of fascinating bat facts. Incidentally, did you know that brown long-eared bats, like the cutie in the picture below (click to enlarge), have such good hearing they can hear a ladybird walking on a leaf...long-eared-bat-600.jpg

     

    Garden photographer Sue Snell will be signing copies of her new book, The Garden at Charleston, on Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning at the event. Sue has been photographing this artistic and quintessentially English garden at Charleston, beloved by the Bloomsbury Group, for the last decade,

     

    Other highlights of our weekend event will include leaf rubbing and seed identification activities and stalls selling refreshments and wild flowers plants. The event is free.

     

    Find out more about the Open Garden Squares Weekend event in the Wildlife Garden and visit the official Museum page on the Open Garden Squares Weekend website

     

    Make the most of this weekend to also visit other rarely-open or little-known London gardens. This year there are 200 London gardens taking part in Open Garden Squares Weekend. You can find out who's taking part at the Open Garden Squares website

     

    More to follow up online

     

    Some bat secrets are revealed on our website.


    If you're interested in more pond facts, have a look at our Freshwater ponds webpage


    Browse our visitors' Wildlife Garden webpage

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    Batty about bats in Nature Live

    Posted by vanessab77 Sep 15, 2009

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    My bordering-on-obsessive love for bats has grown since I started working at the Museum. I was already fascinated by the large, fruit-eating flying foxes but now appreciate just how diverse this group of mammals is, having seen the enormous collections of hundreds of different species, most of them smaller than a sparrow.

     

    Horrible news today that the beautiful Christmas Island pipistrelle is almost certainly doomed to extinction. Recent attempts to capture some of these tiny bats for an Australian conservation breeding program, have sadly failed.

    http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/nature/christmas-island-bat-months-from-extinction-1677667.html

    Hopefully our batty Nature Live events will continue to show people how important these animals are and help prevent future losses to bat biodiversity