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Wildlife Garden springs into action

Posted by Rose Mar 27, 2014

See what's bursting into life and who's out and about in the Museum's Wildlife Garden in our spring photo gallery below. Everyone who works behind the scenes in the Wildlife Garden team, including some very shaggy helpers, is busy getting the meadows, pathways, ponds, sheds and greenhouses ready for the garden's opening to the public once more, from 1 April.

 

It's also the time of year that the garden and its different habitats require special attention with all the new life in abundance. Frogs have been getting matey and mallards have been checking out the pond's moorhen island.

 

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The Museum's Wildlife Garden opens its gates to the public once again from 1 April with its first public event, Spring Widllife, on 5 April to herald the start of the Easter holidays.

 

The garden will be the focus of lots of fun and nature-filled activities, planned through the coming spring, summer and autumn seasons. And as usual we'll be hosting regular, free monthly weekend events starting with Spring Wildlife on Saturday 5 April.

 

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Pretty red crab apple blossom caught on camera a couple of weeks ago.

 

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Glowing cowslips appearing in the meadows.

 

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Our Greyface Dartmoor sheep, who usually visit from the Wetland Centre in the autumn, have been staying for a few days to graze down the meadow grass. It's the last chance to do this before wild flowers start coming up. By nipping the spring grass in the bud there will be more light for the flowers to come through.

 

mallards-bird-island-1500.jpgMallard visitors exploring the moorhen island lookout on the pond.

 

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Frogspawn was spotted in the garden's pond around 17 March.

 

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Wood anemones have recently come into flower.

 

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Violets on the hedge banks.

 

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Sweet-smelling gorse bushes in the early morning spring sunshine.

 

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White blackthorn blossom perks up the pathways.

 

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Behind the scenes in the garden's greenhouse, staff and volunteers have been preparing seedlings.

 

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The latest green roof in the garden atop the sheep shed was created last autumn. The sloping roof is planted with stonecrops and plants such as thrift, sea campion and sea lavender. More about green roofs coming later in the season.

 

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Alfred Russel Wallace the collector stands watch in front of the Wildlife Garden. His statue was unveiled here last November to commemorate his centenary.

 

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This weekend will no doubt be a busy one for the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition in our Waterhouse Gallery. The exhibition closes here at the Museum on Sunday 23 March. However, it's at the later time of 20.00 GMT as we've extended opening for the last day (last admissions are at 19.15 so you have time to view the exhibition).

 

On Saturday, the exhibition also stays open a little later until 19.15, so book your tickets now if you don't want to miss out. On both evenings, you can also dip into tapas at the bar in the Deli Cafe between 17.30 until 19.30. Check out the exhibition page for more details.

 

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Light path by Charlie Hamilton James, runner-up in the Behaviour: Birds award category, WPY 2013 competition. Select images to enlarge.

 

Making one last tour of the gallery this morning, I noticed the tiny details in this vivid shot of a kingfisher taken by Charlie Hamilton James in Gloucestershire. The focus may be the motion blur of the bird's dazzling feathers, but look closer and you'll spot a tiny fish in its beak and another attentive kingfisher far away in the distance (the other parent). That's the joy of seeing these unforgettable photographs close up and so beautifully lit in the gallery.

 

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The magical kokerbooms by Ugle Fuertas Sanz, commended in the Botanical Realms category, WPY 2013 competition.

 

Stars twinkling over kokerbooms on one enchanted night in Namibia is another one - the image comes alive when you stand in front of it. You're beamed into that dream sunsetting scene.

 

To come across a family of endangered Amur leopards in Russia's Kedrovaya Pad Nature Reserve is a rare and extraordinary sight. Valeriy Maleev's composition of the staring leopards caught in the act among the deer carnage, and blending into the pale jagged rocks, has incredible impact close up.

 

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Survivors by Valeriy Maleev, runner-up in the Gerald Durrell Award for Endangered Species, WPY 2013 competition.

 

The exhibition of these 100 award-winning images is already on its UK tour, so even though it closes in London this weekend, it will open in Edinburgh and Cardiff shortly with more venues to follow. The 50th competition winners will go on show in the Waterhouse Gallery later in the year in October.

 

If you've entered the 50th competition, check out the jury who have now started their selection process, with the final judging rounds due in April.

 

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From newly-discovered species to common wildlife, a new free exhbiition showing the work of women artists over four centuries, opens at the Museum in the Images of Nature gallery. These women painted for pleasure, to generate income, and as Museum employees or scientists. The exhibition's unveiling on 8 March marks International Women's Day.

 

Today there are probably just as many women natural history artists as men, and they particularly dominate the contemporary botanical art scene. But in the past their contributions went largely unnoticed.

 

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This watercolour of owls, possibly spotted owlets, is by Olivia Tonge, c1908-1913, the daughter of an explorer who filled her sketchbooks with illustrations of flora and fauna on their travels. On show in the Women artists exhibition in the Images of Nature gallery.

 

'Women artists deserve to be celebrated in their own right, and this exhibiton seeks to do so. Even when they drew for pleasure, these women understood the importance of depicting their subjects with scientific accuracy. This has given us an incredibly rich collecton of artwork that is still used by contemprary scientists,' says Fiona Cole-Hamilton, Museum interpretation developer for the exhbition.

 

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Left: Mandarin duck by Sarah Stone, watercolour on paper c1788. Stone depicted specimens unknown to science and her works are important scientific records. Right: fried egg jellyfish, barrel jellyfish and moon jellyfish by G W Dalby, watercolour on board c1960.

 

More than 60 female illustrators are featured in the exhibition, from different periods, backgrounds and social classes. Are there any differences in subject or style between the male and the female visions of nature, I wonder? Some of the illustrations I've had a sneak peek at are executed with such intense pattern-like finesse.

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Various British seaweeds by Barbara Nicholson, watercolour on board c1970-1977. The image portrays the UK's ecology and biodiversity of the time. About 650 species of seaweed live in British waters.

 

Andrea Hart, Special Collections Librarian, who helped create the exhibition and the accompanying book, gives some background:

 

'Many of the artworks that we hold in the Museum collections by men were carried out on voyages of discovery or for scientific purposes and so to some extent there is quite a set way of drawing these. The Dutch floral painters were very similar in style regardless of their sex. So no, I don’t actually I think there is a visible difference (not with our Museum artworks) to say that they were completed by a male or female.

 

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Heathland by Barbara Nicholson (1906-1978). Watercolour on board c1970-1977. On show in the gallery's second rotation.

 

'It's also to do with what is required from the artist. Barbara Nicholson’s Heathland, pictured above, is beautifully intricate. But it was specifically commissioned by the Museum to show different types of ecosystems and habitats and not to focus on an individual subject like with most of the other artworks held.

 

'I'd say it's true that women did find it harder to achieve success or get their work recognised in the scientific arena especially during the 18th and 19th centuries. But others chose to work in obscurity or just draw for their own pleasure.

 

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Horse fly, c1906, by Grace Edwards. Watercolour and ink on paper. Edwards' work is part of the Museum library's collection of more than 100 illustrations of blood-sucking flies.

 

'My favourite is probably Grace Edwards' blood-sucking fly, which will be in a forthcoming rotation. Her watercolour has surprising detail and for such a small, but pain-inducing subject! We have more than 100 illustrations of African and oriental blood-sucking flies which Grace drew with immaculate precision on card no larger than 7 x 9 centimetres. I'm looking forward to the challenge of mounting 16 of them to go into the gallery for the fourth and final rotation to show in early 2015.'

 

The exhibition of women artists has four rotations in the Images of Nature gallery. The current pieces are displayed until the end of June when they will be replaced by new illustrations. Over the next 12 months the gallery will showcase more than 60 female illustrators. You can gain more insights into this collection in the accompanying book.

 

The Images of Nature gallery is located in the Blue Zone off Dinosaur Way.

 

Find out about the Women artists exhibition in Images of Nature

 

See more images from the first rotation in our highlights slideshow

 

Women Artists book

 

International Women's Day official website

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Farewell to William Blake's God, Atlas, Cyclops, Medusa, Spaceman and Scientist.

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The faces of the Earth Hall: Atlas, Scientist, Spaceman, Medusa, William Blake's God, and Cyclops (left to right, top to bottom). They're leaving the galleries on 9 March after 18 years at the Museum.

 

On Sunday 9 March, we say a final goodbye to our avenue of statues that welcomes all visitors into the Earth Hall at the Museum's Exhibition Road entrance.

 

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Our avenue of statues in the Earth Hall is soon to pass into Museum mythology.

 

These six statues, representing visions of Earth's past, present and future, have dominated the Earth Hall's atrium since it opened in 1996. They have been photographed countless times as guardians of the dramatic Earth globe escalator which takes visitors and staff on a cosmic journey to the upper floor galleries, including the newly-opened Volcanoes and Earthquakes.

 

It's the end of an era for Earth as we know it at the Museum. But, don't worry, the statues are making way for an exciting new display to be announced later in the year... watch this space.

 

'They are made of fibre glass with interior metal frameworks,' says Trista Quenzer, the Museum's Display and Conservation Manager. 'And I remember they were designed by Neil Potter, an external architect. Like all good architectural concepts, the design started as a sketch on the back of an envelope.'

 

An auction of the statues has just taken place for Museum staff, who will no doubt be making plans for their removal and new homes over the next few days. Front porch? Back garden? Spare bedroom? Gigantic hallway?

 

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Ground control recalls Major Tom. Bye, bye Spaceman.

 

There has also been another significant recent change to the Earth Hall experience ('scuse the pun). No longer will we be lured up the Earth globe escalator to the riffs and spacey vibes of Jimi Hendrix's Third Stone From the Sun track off the classic album, Are You Experienced.

 

It has echoed out into the hall from the globe since the time the statues first arrived. And now it has been replaced with an ambient composition to complement the new light shows emanating from the globe. These were introduced for the opening of the Volcanoes and Earthquakes gallery.

 

The instrumental soundtrack created by the Museum's media technician, Lee Quinn, has been warmly welcomed by visitors and staff who had outgrown the retro rockout. For those of us who might want to re-live those fond memories, there's always a download of Jimi's original.

 

Visions of Earth closes from 10 March to 2 April for the final statue removal.

 

Check our website for news of this and other gallery updates.