Skip navigation
You are here: Home > NaturePlus > Blogs > Tags

Blog Posts

Blog Posts

Items per page
0

The weather was glorious for our annual Big Nature Day on Saturday 13 July. Over 4,000 visitors joined us to explore the best of British wildlife in and around the Museum, and soaking up the best of the British heatwave too.

30 kids-microscopes-garden.jpg03 boy-girl-examining-pond-finds.jpg

Examining insects and pond life at the outdoor displays in the sunny Wildlife Garden - among the most popular activites at this year's Big Nature Day. Select all images to enlarge them.
11 child-snake-close-up.jpgTiny hands get a close encounter with the smooth snake which was brought along by the Amphibian and Reptile Conservation group.

Lucy Robinson, the Museum's citizen science manager and worm charming aficionado, reports back with the day's highlights:

 

'The marquees and Wildlife Garden were packed with over 30 stands showcasing wildlife as diverse as dragonflies, ferns, snakes and insect-eating plants. The Spotty Dotty puppet show attracted lots of the younger visitors with ladybirds and insect friends.

15 garden-activity-1500.jpg45 worm-charming-rules.jpg

Left: The Spotty Dotty puppet show entertained the young ones and taught them about ladybirds and more. Right: Lucy reading out the worm charming rules before the teams got stuck in.

'Our worm-charming competition on the front lawn featured some fierce rivalry, but sadly no worms (who were sheltering deep underground from this hot weather!). Neither fork-twanging, stamping or even music could bring the worms to the surface. However, people could see and hold live worms at the Earthworm Society of Britain's stand in the marquee, so they didn't go away too disappointed.

42 worm-charming-front-lawn-digging.jpg

Worm charming competitions on the front lawn in full sway - participants could twang forks, stamp and make music.

 

'Some unusual and intriguing things the visiting nature groups brought included carnivorous plants from the South London Botanical Institute, a large metal hedgehog sculpture from the People's Trust for Endangered Species, and some live reptiles courtesy of the Amphibian and Reptile Conservation trust.

39 weird-display-stalls.jpg25 insect-mask.jpg

The People's Trust for Endangered Species stand showed off a fabulous hedgehog sculpture and invited hedgehog mask-making.

'One of the challenges of organising the event was how to keep the reptiles cool on such a hot day – we had to freeze lots of ice packs and wrap them in fabric in their tanks to give the reptiles a cold area where they could cool off when not entertaining our visitors.

17 garden-ladybird-trail-spider.jpg06 bug-collecting-garden.jpg

Left: Discovering unexpected animals on the ladybird hunt. Right: Spider expert Tom Thomas from the British Naturalists Association leading the spider safari in the Wildlife Garden.

'Making pipe cleaner dragonflies with our dragonfly curator Ben was also really popular (they made over 400 dragonflies before they ran out of materials!). And the spider safari through the Wildlife Garden led by expert Tom Thomas from the British Naturalists Association, along with some fabulous face and body painting.attracted many fans.

10 butterfly-painted-face-girl.jpg05 boy-microscope-stall.jpg

Fantastic and original face painting was a hit with families as was zooming in on invertebrates.

'Visitors told us the best parts of the day were seeing the wildlife specimens and meeting all the different nature societies. Kids raved about being able to look through the microcopes, touch the snakes and make lots of things.'

 

Thanks Lucy. We were also told by our Wildlife Garden team that over 60 insect hotels were made by enthusiastic young visitors, using recycled plastic bottles which they filled with reeds from the Wildlife Garden pond.

24 insect-boy-close-up.jpg29 kids-dressed-up-tall.jpg

Other kids' favourites included the Amateur Enomologists' Society's New Guinea spiny stick insect, the chance to become the Museum's latest specimens on display (right), and dissecting owl pellets (below) with the London Natural History Society.

47 Big-Nature-Day-2013_13072013_41145_0122.JPG

And the Species Recovery Trust shone the spotlight on some of the UK's rarest species... starved wood sedge, pictured below.

38 starved-wood-sedge.jpg

Roll on the next Big Nature Day in 2014.

 

Get more involved in the UK's nature activities and local wildlife that matters to you

 

Explore the Wildlife Garden this summer and go pond dipping

0
They may be small and spotty, but ladybirds were certainly one of the most photographed and collected creatures on our Big (and blustery) Nature Day at the Museum. Actually, this may cause our scientists a bit of concern because many of the ones found were the invasive harlequin ladybirds, Harmonia axyridis.
ladybirds-composite.jpg
A selection of ladybird photos taken on Big Nature Day. Top row: All harlequin ladybirds, first is a larva. Bottom row: Left, an orange harlequin; middle and right, a 7-spot ladybird emerging from its pupa - its yellow colour turns to red in about 24 hours.

On the day hundreds of visitors, including many excited children and myself, joined in the Big Nature Count, a bioblitz of the Museum's Wildlife Garden. Researchers and volunteers were out and about with traps, nets and  cameras, conducting samples of wildlife in the 24-hour nature census. A  big malaise trap tent had been set up for flying insects, light traps  for moths and pitfall traps - little jars in the ground - to attract   ground beetles and slugs.

 

We were celebrating the International Day for Biological Diversity on 22 May. It was sure to be a busy event. With over 300 plant species in the garden there is a lot to attract a wide variety of insects.

Watch the Big Nature Day highlights in this video

The meeting point was the Base Camp tent outside on the Darwin Centre Courtyard, where groups could follow Big Nature Count guided tours with our Museum scientists. But many people simply made their own trails through the Wildlife Garden.

 

Inside the Base Camp tent, scientists sorted through the samples collected. There were lots of things to see, like a huge stag beetle that I even let run across my hand.

sorting-samples-base-camp.jpgeggs-leaf.jpg

Base Camp: Visitors and researchers sift through samples collected and get hands-on. Right: Investigating plant galls on a sycamore leaf, the red swellings are the plant's defensive response to attack from mites. Select all images to enlarge them

Out in the Wildlife Garden on our discovery trails, we stopped at various tables dotted around the meadows and ponds. Here, helpful experts suggested places to search. On the tables were displays of creatures and samples already collected. My favourite place was the pondlife table. I got rather attached to a shy toad.

 

Heading into the Darwin Centre atrium after our garden adventures, we had some of our photos printed and added to the Photo wall (below left). After that, it was off to the Specimen Roadshow (below right) to marvel at Ed Buller's flies and wasps, Sandy Knapp's vegetable extravaganza and some 'mucky' soil identification tests.

photo-wall-cropped-2.jpg

 

Because of the gusty weather, there weren't many moths collected in the traps set the night before. And the

recent dry spell meant the worms decided to stay underground. Emma Sherlock who led the worm charming sessions said:

 

'There were lots of people, but not many worms sadly. Strangely the winning worm charming technique was the stamping while playing the tamborine... hmmm!'


big-nature-day-specimen-roadshow.jpgOur entomologists, however, were excited to discover an unusual fly in the day's bioblitz. The little drab wood soldier fly, hasn't been seen before in the Wildlife Garden. Read the news story about the unusual fly found in the Museum's garden bioblitz.

 

All in all, hundreds of plant and animal species were found in the Big Nature Count. Most of the creatures collected were set free after they had been recorded, but a few individual specimens will be kept in the Museum's collection because they are important for research. It will take a bit more time to identify everything and interpret the findings so we can understand more about our local wildlife, but we hope to have a final count shortly.

 

Look out for a video account of the day coming soon.


Find out more about the Wildlife Garden

 

Learn more about harlequin ladybirds


Get involved in British natural history

bug-white-flower.jpg
Here's one of my favourite photos taken at the Big Nature Day of a flower beetle, Oedemera lurida, feeding on the pollen of an ox-eye daisy.
0

There's no doubt about it, when you join us for our Big Nature Day extravaganza this Sunday on 22 May, you'll get your hands dirty.


But that's pretty essential if you're going to help our scientists and wildlife experts in the Big Nature Count to find and identify how many different species of plant and animal there are in our Museum Wildlife Garden. It's a 24-hour census - or a bioblitz race for those familiar with the term -  to celebrate International Day for Biological Diversity and International Year of Forests, as well as the start of the UN's Decade on Biodiversity.

worm-large.jpg
Can you handle it? Find out which worm charmer to be on Big Nature Day with our experts in the BBC film clip on our website

As Stuart HIne, manager of our Centre for UK Biodiversity says: 'We have many visitors to the Wildlife Garden, from our regular human ones to more unusual visitors such as honeybees, damselflies and hawkmoths. In fact, since the garden opened in 1995, we’ve recorded more than 2,000 different species and it would be great to know what's about on Sunday.'

 

Along with the regular Big Nature Count guided tours, worm charming (above) will be a popular highlight of the day. There are two sessions at 12.00 and 15.00. The recent rain should help lure the worms to the ground's surface. Although we're hoping that the sun will shine gloriously on the day, of course.

ladybird-7-spot-575.jpg598px-Feldmaikäfer_(Melolontha_melolontha)_w_4.jpg

Spot the spots on the ladybirds you find and watch out for cockchafer May bugs on the Big Nature Count guided tours. Select images to enlarge

Other garden action includes the Bugs Count, Tree Hunt, moth trap checking, investigating pond life, and check out the Bee Tree.

 

Inside the Darwin Centre, head over to the Specimen Roadshow to identify your favourite specimens (or bring in a picture) and there are nature talks in the Darwin Centre's Attenborough Studio.

hawkmoth-tree-1000.jpgoak-leaf-2.jpg

Look around and above, plants and trees may hide moths (like this Poplar hawkmoth, left) and butterflies. There are eight common trees in the Wildlife Garden to identify. Select images to enlarge

Take pictures on the day

Most important of all, though, bring your cameras or have your mobile phone to the ready to snap the species you do manage to spot. With these, you can help us create a spectacular Photo Wall in the Darwin Centre atrium at the Interactive Media area. You can print your pictures here for the display or upload them with your comments to our Big Nature Day guestbook on the computers available or at home afterwards.

 

Big Nature Day is a free, drop-in event that will appeal to all ages, but you'll need to book on the tours and worm charming sessions.

 

When you arrive at the Museum head for the West lawn or Darwin Centre atrium where you'll be directed to the Base Camp in the Darwin Centre Courtyard, the hub for the day's activities, and where you can see lots of special displays.

 

Keep up to date on our Big Nature Day website for the Big Nature Count tours schedule and latest information

 

Get prepared for the activities on Big Nature Day by watching some great how-to nature videos on our website

 

Explore the Museum's Wildlife Garden

 

Discover what else is on for the International Year of Biodiversity

 

Visit our newly-launched Decade on Biodiversity website

home-film.jpgforests.jpg

Yann Arthus-Bertrand film treats at the French Institute on 22 May and on the International Year of Forests website

If you want to see an amazing nature documentary by The Earth From Above photographer Yann Arthus-Bertrand, head over to the nearby French Institute for a special free screening of Home at 18.30. Our Museum botanist Sandy Knap is introducing the film. Although it's free you need to book a place on their website.

 

Find out about booking for the special screening of Home at the French Institute

 

You can also catch a glimpse of Yann's special short fiilm for the International Year of Forests on the official website

 


0

Last week, we joined the likes of Mica Paris and Twiggy at a glitzy awards ceremony to receive 2 top tourism awards for the Best London for Free Experience and the Best Family Fun. We won both these prestigious Evening Standard People's Choice awards, which form part of the BT Visit London Awards, for the second year in a row.

 

The ceremony took place at the theatrical Bloomsbury Big Top (shown below) on 8 December to celebrate the best of tourism in the capital. The event was hosted by TV presenter Neil Fox. Olympic gold-winner Dame Kelly Holmes presented the Outstanding Achievement Award to winner, Twiggy.

visit-london-awards-mica-2.jpg

Our head of Visitor Services Sandy Clark and Head of the Formal Learning team Aby Tinkler - pictured here with Mica Paris who performed on the night - were there to accept the awards.

 

Sandy told me: "To be voted by our visitors as the best in these two categories is a fantastic achievement and a great honour. And a huge thank-you should go to all those visitors who voted for the Museum in these awards

 

"For me the People's Choice awards gives approval from our visitors to what we do and how we do it, and that is something that all of us in our industry aim for.

 

"Winning these awards was made all the more rewarding and humbling because we up against such a high calibre of attractions.

 

"The whole of the Natural History Museum team should be congratulated for all their hard work in making the Museum such a popular and exciting place to both work and visit."

 

It's been a great year for the Museum's visitors with a record number of more than 4.5 million people enjoying our galleries so we must be doing something right.

 

Read the news story to find out more the Museum's visitor attractions and the Visit London Awards

 

The week before, the Museum hosted this year's Green Awards ceremony where it was announced that the UN's 2010 International Year of Biodiversity campaign had won the Best Green International Campaign Award. Over 450 organisations including the Natural History Museum are part of the IYB-UK partnership, so this was another honour for us.

 

Read the news story about the Best Green International Campaign Award

 


1

Phew, hot off the press, we've just released tickets for our October evening event.....Biodiversity: The Next Step

 

If you enjoyed the Big Nature Debate, or you're interested to know more about biodiversity, why it's important and what's being done to conserve it, then this is the event for you!

 

We've got some fantastic speakers and the event will be discussion based, so there'll be lots of opportunity for you to ask questions and discuss your ideas and concerns.

 

Details below or look on our website.

 

Biodiversity: The Next Step

 

Why is biodiversity important? In this, the International Year of Biodiversity, are we any more aware of its significance in our lives, and the fact that it is declining at an unprecedented rate?

This October, the United Nations is holding a global conference to discuss the continued decline in animal and plant species and set new targets to prevent a global disaster. But is it too late? We have already failed to meet the targets set in 2002. Will this time be any different?

Join us and hear from the following invited speakers:
Prof Geoff Boxshall (Merit Researcher, Zoology Department, Natural History Museum)
Peter Unwin (Director General for Environment and Rural, Defra)
Tony Juniper (Writer and environmentalist)
Prof Tom Burke (Environmentalist and Environmental Policy Adviser to Rio Tinto)


Take part in the discussions as we consider what needs to change, and how the goals set by the UN in Nagoya will influence both our own future and that of global biodiversity.

Part of Nature Live Nights.

Tickets £8 each (£7.20 members) plus £1.50 booking fee. Please book online, visit an information desk or phone 020 7942 5725.
0

I'm completely in awe of trees. Especially the trees that flourish, magically, amidst the concrete and bricks, and the metal, rubber and glass of London's busy streets, where I live and work.

 

So I'm very happy to be telling you about our new online Urban tree survey. This nationwide survey, that launched on Friday 16 July, will be one of the biggest tree surveys ever.

Cercis_Siliquastrum_Trunk_and_Blossom.jpg

A Judas tree in Cambridge © Andrew Dunn. This was our Species of the day to mark the launch of the Urban tree survey.

Although we know a lot about Britain's rural tree population, relatively little is known about the trees in urban areas. We're being invited to record particularly what's in our private gardens and local streets and parks of urban Britain, so our scientists and botanists can build a picture of what trees are growing where, and also find out how the urban tree population is changing.

 

Our survey focuses on 80 different types of tree normally associated with an urban environment.

 

I'm told that one of our most widespread trees is the sycamore, and in urban areas, the closely related norway maple may be as common or more so. These species were introduced to the UK. But we don't have actual numbers for the most common trees, only data on which are most widespread.

 

There are lots of resources on the Urban tree survey website to help with tree identification and advice on how to take part in the survey.

 

I recommend watching the Identify trees video first, which shows you what things to look out for to identify your trees correctly. Especially enjoyable because it's filmed in Holland Park, one of London's best parks in my opinion.

 

trees-leaves.jpgTo record your findings on the survey, choose an area you want to survey first, and think about the things you'll need to consider before you start recording your trees. For example, are the tree leaves hairy? Are they needle-like or scale-like, broad or lobed? What about fruits or cones? Petals, twigs, bark and importantly what does it smell like? The Tree identification key which you can download and take with you, will help with all this. You can check your identification using our online interactive identification key.

 

Read the news story about the Urban tree survey for some fascinating facts about the survey and our knowledge of trees.

 

Explore the lovely Judas tree Species of the day that marked the launch of the survey and is the main photo above. It's also featured in the survey. Now where did it get its name, I wonder?

Are these leaves from an elder or ash? Check your tree knowledge on the survey's ID key chart

The Urban tree survey will run for 3 years and our Cherry tree survey launched this spring is part of it.

 

Leaves image © Università di Trieste, Dipartimento di Biologia. Photo: Andrea Moro

0
yellow-bee-1000.jpg
Bee happy this year. Bombus distinguendus © D Goulson

Get fit. Give up cigarettes and alcohol. No chocolate. Move... Resolutions, resolutions. How about sparing a thought for a species every day?


To celebrate the fact that 2010 is the International Year of Biodiversity we're bringing you news each day of a different species that our Museum scientists feel important to draw to your attention.


So 365 days, 365 species.

 

From the tiniest algae and bacteria to powerful plants and mighty whales, each species is written about by a Museum scientist. A different species' fact-file will be published on our website and announced on the homepage each day. Some will features video clips too.

 

On New Year's Day we launched our Species of the Day online. We paid homage to the much-loved great yellow bumblebee whose survival here is under threat because of habitat changes and the loss of deep flowers. You can find out more about great yellow bumblebees and their conservation on the Bombus distinguendus species fact-file.

 

Our bumblebee expert Paul Williams explains, ‘Species of the day is a great opportunity for people to find out aboutsea-urchin-490.jpg what we can do to help valuable species that are facing challenges from man-made environmental change’.

 

But it's not just endangered species that will be featured. Some scientists have chosen species which are part of their research or that have particularly interesting or unusual behaviour, or because of their value to science or economic impact.

 

Read the Species of the Day news story and have a look at what we have featured online already on Species of the Day. Today’s little wonder is the strong-muscled sea urchin, Eucidaris metularis (shown right). Did you know that sea urchins have been around for the last 150 million years?


Watch out, there are some really bizarre and quirky organisms coming your way.

 

Species of the Day is part of our involvement in the 2010 International Year of Biodiversity in the UK. It also highlights the work of the Museum’s many scientists who work here behind the scenes.