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203 Posts authored by: Rose


Dinosaurs by torch light

It was bound to be a success of course. Torch-lit tour of the Dinosaurs gallery, sleeping in Central Hall next to Dippy (our famous diplodocus skeleton), a bugs’ talk and the new Sony PlayStation game to try out. A child’s dream, come true.


The first Dino Snores in association with Sony PlayStation was a sell-out, pretty much as soon as it was announced before Christmas, and attracted lots of media attention. On Saturday 16 January, about 200 over-excited kids descended on the Museum to experience a real Night at the Museum, and find out exactly what goes on when the dinosaurs should be getting their shut-eye.


dino-snores-boy-costume.jpgLIke the boy pictured left, who really got into the dino spirit, Mack Pegram, aged 9, was one of the lucky children there, he loved it:


"It was very very very very very very very very fun! And brilliant because there were lots of fun activities to do and I liked sleeping in the Central Hall because you can look up and see the diplodocus. My favourite activity was the Bugs Bite Back because they talked about loads of cool bugs that were poisonous and venomous. I definitely would like to go again."


And did Dippy, the 26-metre-long diplodocus skeleton, twitch at all as the children slept alongside, I wondered?


Event organiser, Terry Lester, filled me in on the spooky stuff: "Three of us, Matt, Beth and me stayed awake the whole night and kept an eye on Central Hall while everyone was sleeping. At around 3.30am I was looking towards Dinosaur Way and saw a shadowy figure run from the Dinosaur gallery entrance across into Human Biology. We knew it wasn’t anyone from Central Hall, so Matt and I grabbed our torches and in our socks (shoes were removed beforehand so as not to wake the sleeping hoards) and dashed to investigate. Slightly spooked we searched the darkened galleries, but to no avail. Not a soul to be seen (well, not a living one anyhow). We checked with the Control Room and as agreed, they had not been patrolling the ground floor of the Waterhouse building. Figment of a sleep-deprived mind or something more other-worldly?"


Ooooh, weird...


The whole occasion was filled with memorable highlights, as Terry describes:

dino-snores-central-hall.jpg"Seeing the kids entering the museum with such evident excitement (parents sporting resigned looks on their faces), hearing the cheers during the welcome talk, the friendly rivalry between the groups, the screams (of excitement, not terror) from the Dinosaur Gallery during the torch lit trails and the clapping as the lights went out in Central Hall at bedtime were just a few of them.


"Erica McAlister and TV host Nick Baker, who did a talk about bugs - had never met before doing their show, Revenge of the Mini Beasts, but you’d never have thought it seeing them in action, they looked like they’d been working together for years. Couldn’t quite see which one was the side-kick, but I think Erica came off marginally as the one in charge."


"The kids' favourites were the stories about the aggressiveness of killer bees, scorpions and caterpillars," recalls Erica, "specimens of which Nick happened to have hidden in his sleeping bag!"


The next Dino Snores is on 13 February and there are more to come. Adults, don't despair, you can get in free accompanied by 5-6 children, but stay close, because dinsoaurs and bugs are about...


Read the news story about the first Dino Snores. See what Erica McAlister who presented the bugs show has to say in her blog post.


The Ice Rink steams off

Posted by Rose Jan 20, 2010
Snow on snow - an extra bit of magic this year

One of my favourite recollections of the Ice Rink this year was our snowy return to work in the first week of January and seeing our outdoor Ice Rink piled up with snow. The ice marshals were working furiously to, well, remove the ice and snow, on top of the ice and snow. Seemed ironic somehow.

But at the weekend, on 17 January, the Ice Rink closed, as it usually does in mid January. No more will we see skaters gliding by on our way in and out of the Museum. Bye bye festive season.


So what happens to the Ice Rink ice (all 150,000 litres of it)? Well it gets steamed.


ice-rink-dismantle2-500.jpgThe event's project manager, Sherri-Louise Rowe, explained the process: "The glycol - a syrupy kind of concoction used in anti-freeze - that usually goes through the chillers to freeze the ice on the rink, is redirected through the boiler truck, heating the pipes and therefore melting the ice. The melted ice then flows away in the drains under the gardens."


And lots of steam is produced as a result.

Three days after the meltdown, all you can see in this recent picture (left) is a little patch of stubborn ice.


The chillers were turned off yesterday. Today the pipe work under the rink was packed up.


Dismantling continues and the interior of the cafe bar is almost stripped. The outside chalets and catering huts have been taken down.


This year's Ice Rink was a really successful one and we had about 110,000 skaters who visited. It was made especially magical thanks to the exciting snow storms we experienced over the Christmas holidays.


Now it's time to replenish the Museum's front lawns for spring and to welcome the next outdoor exhibition.


The year of the species

Posted by Rose Jan 8, 2010
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.


Our festive highlights

Posted by Rose Dec 18, 2009


It’s snowing in London as I write this, and we’re all wondering if it’s going to be a white Christmas for a change...


Of course, the Museum in winter is always a festive place, whether there’s snow or not. So I thought it was a good idea to recommend a few especially festive reasons why it’s a great time to visit. You can also find more details about these suggestions on our Festive season web pages.


Twinkle, twinkle Look up at the canopy of twinkling Christmas lights in the tall palm trees as you come out of the underground subway tunnel exit towards the Museum, from South Kensington tube station. There are about 76,000 lights I read somewhere, and it really is an unmissable sight.


Skate on Join the skating fun, graceful or not, on the Ice Rink outside the Museum. If you’re not up for the action, there’s always the overlooking Café Bar and viewing platform, or you can just wonder around and grab a burger or ride the vintage carousel.


Dinosaur roar Once inside, the obvious place to head for with the kids is the Dinosaurs gallery and our moving T.rex (although one of my favourite bits are the film posters display featuring dinosaurs and the dino toys exhibit).


Scary and Spacey If the queue for Dinosaurs is mental, then I suggest heading off to Creepy Crawlies or the Earth galleries. The Earth galleries escalator leading up into a giant Earth globe (and higher earthy galleries) is another exciting experience with its huge inter-galactic wall on your left and  spacey Hendrix soundtrack (bet you didn't know it was Hendrix!)

Diamonds are forever The Vault gallery at the end of the historic Minerals gallery on the floor above the Central Hall is dazzling, and it's rather hidden.

Science fiction Go up in the glass lift to Cocoon in our new Darwin Centre and you'll embark on a futuristic trip into science and high-tech exploration. Play with the touch screens throughout to tour to have fun as explorers and scientists. Look out for the Planning a trip interactive game.

Polar chill out  Pop into the Attenborough Studio and watch the beautifully calming Wildscapes short film as you get immersed in arctic scenes and African plains. world Don’t miss the Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition – it is full of gorgeous photos from the winers of the 2009 competition. And some that really capture the seasonal spirit, like the Ice Fox pictured here.


Reindeer story Take the kids to a storytelling puppet workshop like the one about Rudolph the reindeer on 30 December.


Become a scientist Drop in to our Investigate centre in the Museum basement to examine animal, plant and geological treasures like scientists do.


Festive talk Open the mind a bit and join the debate at one of our daytime Nature Live talks. There's a a good wintry one coming on New Year's eve about hunting meteorites on ice.


We've also got some ideas for things you can do online and in your area on our Wildlife in winter web pages.


And of course you can join in or start your own discussions on NaturePlus as well as reading our blogs.


Happy holidays and I'll catch up with you in the new year.

Sleeping with dinosaurs

Posted by Rose Dec 11, 2009


Zzzzz or Roarrr?

One of the Museum's most exciting events for children starts in January when our  monthly Saturday sleepovers are launched.


We adults are jealous, because you have to be 8 – 11 years old to attend, although an adult needs to accompany each group of children, so you can go along as a group leader and get in free. But you have to be responsible!

The first Dino Snores sleepover is on Saturday 16 January 2010 and is in association with Sony PlayStation who are giving kids the chance to try out their new game, which I'm told is fantastic.


Fun activities at your exclusive night at the Museum will also include a torch-lit tour of some of the galleries including Dinosaurs, a live show from TV presenter and naturalist Nick Baker and our own Museum insect expert, with art and crafty things to do too.

But the real fun will be finding out what really happens after dark in the Museum as you bed down in the shadow of our famous Diplodocus skeleton as midnight beckons…


Dino Snores sleepovers are planned for the middle of every month, so if you can’t make the first, there will be more to come.


Read our Dino Snores helpful questions and answers to find out more.


There will be over 2,000 stunning wildlife prints for sale from tomorrow, Friday 4 December, in the foyer of the Museum's Flett Theatre (nearest entrance is Exhibition Road).


The print sale is on throughout the day during Museum opening hours until Sunday 6 December when it ends at closing time.


These are ex-display prints of winning images from previous Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibitions, from 1997 up to and including 2007, that have toured the world. They are on sale for the first time.


From breathtaking landscapes to personal animal portraits, like this cute stoat, you'll get the chance to buy a print from £30 unframed and £50 framed. Art and nature-lovers will be spoilt for choice.


What's so brilliant about this Ermine at home image (which you can buy at the sale) is the contrast of the curious little stoat's ermine coat against the granite and ochre wall behind. Read Swedish photographer Peter Lilja's description of how lucky he was to get the shot.


The annual Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition tours over 60 cities around the world each year. It is a spectacular celebration of the best wildlife photography and goes to museums, zoos, science centres and other venues. Check our website to find out when the 2009 and 2008 exhibitions may be on tour near you.


If you haven't already, visit the Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2009  exhibition currently showing at the Museum. You can buy gorgeous prints from this exhibition in the shop or order them online.


Go wild for Christmas.



250 guests enjoyed the evening atmosphere in the Central Hall at the launch of the UK's International Year of Biodiversity

The International Year of Biodiversity starts officially in 2010, but here at the Museum we celebrated the launch of the UK's Year of Biodiversity on Wednesday evening, 25 November.



We also launched our great new website for IYB-UK (as it's known to those working on it) which will bring together what you need to know about what's going on in the UK.

The Museum is coordinating all the IYB organisations and groups across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland who are joining the biodiversity activities from now through next year. It's going to be a busy but inspiring time.


If you're new to the concept of 'biodiversity', have a look at our news article about the event, featuring a video interview with some of theliz-sharp.jpg speakers including Liz Bonnin (pictured here) who presented the BBC science show Bang Goes The Theory. Biodiversity is a word you'll hear lots about in the coming months.


When the United Nations declared 2010 the International Year of Biodiversity, they asked the world to celebrate the rich variety of life - biodiversity - all through next year. The sad fact is we may be losing species 1,000 times faster than the natural rate because of human activities. So we need to make 2010 count. That's why we've started early.

Marie Clements, our communications officer, was at the event and told me about some of the things that are being planned for the future:


'There will be exhibitions, talks, artworks, citizen science experiments and festivals. People of all ages can get involved. They can join surveys, including dormice, farmyard birds, butterflies, hedgehogs and water. And fun activities like bat walks, bird-watching, honey and apple tasting, orchard visits and tree planting.'


Sounds like a 'biodiversity' of things to mark up in your calendar ahead! To guide you through, use our local IYB events search on our IYB-UK website. (Check back regularly as it is a work in progress.)


From farmers to charities, wildlife rangers to councils, schools and colleges to zoos, museums and botanic gardens, the UK has one of the strongest programmes in the world to celebrate IYB2010.


Celebrate the biodiversity of life we have all around us

While we gear up our local and national celebrations, there will be big decisions and moves to be made on a global scale too. One of the key speakers at last night's launch was Ahmed Djoghlaf from the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), who heads the global campaign. He highlighted the pressing issue of biodiversity loss, describing how, ‘Climate change is emerging as one of the most significant drivers of biodiversity loss.'


It seems fitting that on the same night as our launch, President Obama announced he would attend the crucial Copenhagen Climate Summit which kicks off on 7 December. Some are pinning their hopes on the decisions made at this conference, others are less optimistic. See my previous blog post on the warnings from Pavan Sukhdev at our Annual Science Lecture about the world's disappearing coral reefs.

To explore the wider picture, visit our biodiversity web pages and the 2010 International Year of the Biodiversity website.

A healthy and diverse hard coral reef before any signs of 'bleaching' from acidification

On the evening of 16 November at the Museum's Annual Science Lecture, to a gathering of about 400 listeners, speaker Pavan Sukhdev explained how the severe threat to the world’s coral reefs – on which half a billion people’s livelihoods depend – could be devastating. 'We tend to forget that carbon emissions are also destroying our tropical coral reefs,' he warned.


Governments worry about conservation measures costing money. But the big threat, Sukhdev argued, is that if we don't preserve nature it will make us poorer rather than richer. He called for a shift in our thinking, advising that we put a financial value on the services that ecosystems provide, rather than taking it for granted that these resources are free.


Sukhdev expressed concerns about the decisions that will be made at next month’s Copenhagen climate summit, if governments set carbon dioxide emissions levels. If these are set too high, then oceans will become too acidic for corals to form and we may lose them entirely.


Susan Vittery, our Nature online website manager was at the lecture and was suitably impressed: 'It was a really informative evening. Pavan Sukhdev is an incredibly charismatic speaker who explained complex economic and environmental issues in a really clear, succinct way that everyone could understand. Fascinating.'

Find out more about this inspiring lecture in our news story and video interview.

Pavan Sukhdev
is a senior banker at Deutsche Bank and is leading the UN Environment Programme’s Green Economy initiative which includes The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity TEEB study.

Learn more about the extinction of our coral reefs and how oceans are affected by acidification.


There’s also more on our website about the rich biodiversity of life on our planet and what is being done to protect it in the run-up to the 2010 International Year of Biodiversity.


Watch out for the Museum’s Annual Science Lecture next autumn.



Settling in for his book signing event

Yesterday, Sir David Attenborough spent about 3 hours with us at a book signing event in our Central Hall, much to the delight of 100s of fans.


You had to buy one of his books or a DVD from our Museum Shop to become the lucky owner of a ticket to the signing. This was mainly because his last signing event - where no tickets were issued - was so popular, poor Sir David ended up staying on many hours more than planned, to satisfy the 1000s who turned up on the day.



Queuing up in Central Hall to get our books signed

I joined the queue with some work colleagues to get my newly-purchased copy of his book signed, and to shake the hand of one of the most respected people on the planet. When we arrived at the Central Hall just before 13.00 at the scheduled time for kick-off, it was packed. Visitors had been queuing since 11am in the morning, I heard. Patiently, we wound our way round our famous Central Hall Diplodocus skeleton, in what was to be a 2-hour wait to greet the great man.


It seemed Sir David, clad in a warm-looking maroon jumper (which I envied as it was a little draughty where we were queuing), was saying ‘hello’ to everyone and asking each ‘how are you?’ Snacking throughout on nuts - apparently he asked for nothing more - he must have signed over 600 books and DVDs.


After each person got their book/s signed, they turned and smiled happily.


'It was wonderful to see how much everyone looks up to him as a hero. He took away a large bag full of cards, poems and gifts brought for him by members of the public,' said Jeremy Ensor, the Museum's Head of Retail, who attended the event.


The event was one of five book signings Sir David Attenborough is doing in the UK to promote his new book, Life Stories, published last month. Yesterday alone, 100s of copies of Life Stories were sold.


While we queued, I leafed through my copy of Life Stories. It’s got a quirky personal style and follows Attenborough’s original radio series where he gave us his own insights into the natural world. He talks about his first pet, a salamander, and the creatures that first inspired him like flying dinosaurs and sloths.


I got drawn in to a chapter on ‘Collecting’ where Sir David discusses the maleness of collecting. Actually I’m not so sure about this, women may not get into stamps or fossils as much as men, but then wasn't the greatest fossil hunter a 19th-century woman? Mary Anning. And what about seashells, butterflies, china ornaments, plush toys, dolls, shoes… the things women are traditionally known to hoard. These days I'm sure there are many more women who collect things from nature too. It got me thinking and took my mind off the wait.

Ah well, back to life as they say. And the new series, Life, is currently showing on BBC, so catch it if you can


Last night, while some of us were being swept away by the razzle-dazzle of bonfires and fireworks, the Museum was being swept away at the glittering BT Visit London Awards ceremony in London’s Westfield shopping centre. We collected not just one, but three coveted awards.

- Winner of the People’s Choice Evening Standard’s Best London for Free Experience


- Winner of the gold award for Marketing/PR Campaign of the Year for our brilliant Darwin exhibition campaign


- Winner of the silver award for Business Venue of the Year


Our Director of Public Engagement, Sharon Ament said, 'It is so good to see that we have, once again, been voted by the public as a firm favourite and the quality of our marketing and the Museum as a venue for events is recognised.'


Museum representatives receiving our three awards last night


So thank you to all the visitors who voted us the Best London for Free Experience. We owe it all to you… and the dinosaurs. Keep on coming.

And of course, a really big thank you to Charles Darwin who has been with us every step of the way this year for his bicentenary celebrations, overseeing our exhibition and magnificent Darwin Centre building, and generally being the inspiration behind almost everything we do here.


The marketing image that left its mark

This unforgettable image of the bearded man himself, finger on pursed lips, seen all over tube stations, bus stops, inside the Museum and adorning our very own eye-stopping Darwin exhibition website, will haunt many of us for some years to come.


Dancing on ice at the Museum

Posted by Rose Nov 3, 2009
Ice Age comes to the Museum, once again

In just one day’s time, on 5 November to be precise, we open our popular Ice Rink to visitors. Now in its fifth year, it has become a regular winter attraction at the Museum and in London.


Over the past weeks we’ve been noticing how things have changed outside on the East lawn where our Butterfly Jungle exhibition stood earlier in the summer. The changes seemed to speed up suddenly when the clocks went back.


We can now admire the twinkle of Christmas lights in the tall London plane trees lining the Ice Rink and Museum grounds in the evening on the way home after work.


Last week, the 25-foot Christmas tree was delivered and its lights and decorations were being put up on Friday afternoon. The outdoor catering units have arrived on site and are being set up.


Most importanty, on Friday, 150,000 litres (150 cubic metres) of water was poured into both the main 1,050-square-metre Ice Rink and the smaller 100-square-metre junior rink for younger skaters. This is about half the amount of water it takes to fill a standard swimming pool (10x25m). The water has now completely frozen over and the ice is receiving its final polish today.

This year, the Ice Rink has a friendly new café bar which offers refreshments all through the day and stays open late for drinks at night. The fairground carousel returns for those who fancy a spin and if you just want to watch the action, there’s a great atmosphere on the viewing platform. Students can also take advantage of a special discount on Tuesdays which includes a free drink at the bar.

'Even better than skating in Central Park' said the Evening Standard

If you need skating tips or want to see what's on offer at the Museum's Ice Rink, have a look at our Essential skating information pages on the website. We have a brilliant new video which shows you some highlights. So no excuses, everyone can be a dancing-on-ice star.


Rain, shine or snow, 'tis a magical sight to see the skaters gliding around the Ice Rink outdoors, against the backdrop of our historic Waterhouse building and gardens. I'm sure this year will be as successful and merry as the last.



Autumn in the Wildlife Garden is busy for everyone

It's your last chance to enjoy the beautiful autumn colours in the Museum’s Wildlife Garden, before it closes at the end of the day on Saturday 31 October. It re-opens in spring on 1 April 2010.


But although the garden gate may be closing, you are always welcome to ring our information desk if you want to visit during the winter months. The number is at the top of our Wildlife Garden page on the website.


For those who might not get the chance to come now, here’s a bit about what’s been going on in our garden this autumn.


Most recent sightings in the garden have included several common moths such as the large underwing moth and the brick moth, a determined fox who has often been seen stalking birds, shield bugs and a magnificent kestrel spotted swooping down for a quick snack mouse. Just today, a gorgeous goldfinch has appeared, so maybe we will see more of these lovely birds in the future.


By November the different shades of autumn are completely transforming the Wildlife Garden to a rich palette of yellow, orange, red, pink and brown.


'Please leave us some leaves to hide in'

Leaf raking has been taking place since early October to keep the paths clear for visitors, and to protect the grassland. Fallen leaves are left in hedges and woodland to break down naturally – helped by invertebrates living in leaf litter – and to provide refuges for animals such as toads. Leaf-raking chores have been made easier thanks to a big infux of volunteers from the nearby Imperial College. At this time of year, about 12 people (most are part-time) help look after the garden during the week and another 12-15 assist on weekends once a month. At the moment there is much to do.



The butter-yellow lime leaves were the first to fall and these trees will be the first to stand unclad. The London plane trees towering high above the garden are now turning orange brown. Plane tree leaves are very leathery and unlike our native trees, take ages to break down, so our garden carers have to gently remove them from certain areas and shred them up for re-scattering. (Otherwise they’d smother other plants beneath.) It’s the beech leaves which turn that gorgeous rich toffee colour, while the field maple and hornbeam go golden yellow and rowan pink and red. The wonder and diversity of trees!


It has been a busy time for many of the garden’s animal residents too.


From early autumn, fruits and berries have been ripening and birds and small mammals start harvesting before the winter and seasonal food shortages begin. The earliest berries to mature were rowan – they don’t remain on the trees for long as birds swoop in on them to devour the orange-red juicy fruits. In the hedgerows, blackbirds have been feasting on dark blackberries and bluish-purple sloes.


Cracked shells are everywhere in evidence of hazel nuts and acorns collected by squirrels, wood mice and jays – some are stored and some are eaten.

As well as the general upkeep that autumn changes make necessary in the garden, the wildlife gardeners’ work during the early winter months includes feeding birds, checking nest boxes and making any necessary repairs to the moorhens’ island.

Thanks to the Wildlife Garden team for their updates. Follow the What's new blog for more updates on our winter activities in the garden.

Cry wolf, no... Fly wolf
It’s amazing. You have to go and see The Storybook wolf image at the Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition, open today at the Museum.


The Spanish photographer José Luis Rodríguez took several months to set up the shot of the Iberian wolf leaping through the air over a wooden gate in pursuit of its prey. ‘It was a dream shot,’ says Jose, ‘it took ages to find the ideal location, let alone a wolf that would jump a gate. When I got the shot of my dreams I couldn’t believe it. I think the Spanish can be proud to have such a beautiful animal.’


The fairytale, night-time atmosphere of the photograph was captured with a traditional analogue Hasselblad camera (Jose ditched his usual digital camera for the shot). He spent several months beforehand in preparation and hope, and set up an infrared camera trap as a trigger. Judging by the light, he thinks the image was probably taken at very early dawn. The image is one of a handful of the 95 winning photographs in the exhibition that were not taken with a digital camera.



At the packed press opening of the exhibition yesterday in the Museum’s Waterhouse Gallery, 100s of media photographers and journalists witnessed Jose’s joy at receiving the award. He spoke of his wish to dissolve the superstitions that many Spanish people have for their emblematic wolves with his photograph that shows the agile grace of the creature.


The much coveted Veolia Environnement Young Wildlife Photographer of the Year award went to teenage Fergus Gill for his dramatic Clash of the Yellowhammers picture taken in his own garden in Scotland.





Other striking winners, that will no doubt be pleasing visitors to the exhibition, include the pretty-in-pink ant of Raindrop refresher by András Mészáros, and the proud silhouetted Richmond Park deer in young Sam Rowley’s Royal headgear image. Browse all the winners in our online gallery and choose the one you wish to vote your favourite.


Lots of the images are availalabe as prints in our Museum shop and you can customise them to your preference.


Have a look at some of the early enthusiastic press coverage for the winners:


BBC News


Mail online


The exhibition is also open late on the last Friday of the month (except December).


Spiders galore

Posted by Rose Oct 16, 2009

Is my garden the set for Arachnophobia 3?

Yes I’m lucky enough to have a little patch of green in London, but not so sure at the moment it really is mine. Spiders and their webs have taken it over.


There’s been a lot in the press about the recent record numbers of spiders invading our homes this autumn but for me it’s the garden invasion that’s far more troubling.


Last time I counted there were at least 20 big webs on either side of my garden (it’s small) and that’s without probing deeper into the foliage. As dusk gathers every evening when I’m home from work, I’m out there, torch in hand on spider patrol.


The big golden brown one I first discovered in my garden (shown above) is still my favourite. It just grows and grows (lengthways) and has the most elegant of webs. It has a leg span of at least 2 inches. There are now many more big brown ones which I’ve learned are known as Cross spiders (not because of their temperament I’m assured, but because of a distinctive white cross on their backs). Their real name is Araneus didematus. It’s the females which are the biggest.


I’m not particularly scared of spiders, but last night I started to panic when I came across a huge new swarm of spindly-legged ones crawling over a border bed. These ones are Harvestman spiders, closely related to daddy-long-legs. The Harvestman gang seem to be getting closer to the house then ever before. Should I be worried?


I asked Stuart Hine, our Museum arachnid expert, who’s been busy giving comments to the media on the outbreak. His advice is the same as other experts: ‘Leave them alone and they’ll leave you alone.’ Ok will do. Stuart also explained that “Spiders are most prevalent at this time of year. The trouble is that like spiders, we humans also enjoy warm dry autumns. So we spend more time outdoors and notice more of them.’ Well, I suppose he has a point.

But in the meantime, I’ll be getting the conkers ready, whether spiders are conkerphobes or not! Serious arachnophobes should also have a look at the recent Independent’s article on how to beat the terror.


You can visit the arachnid room in the Museum's Creepy Crawlies gallery and find out just how amazing spiders really are.


Join the Museum's bug forum to identify your spiders.


For that extra scary bit of bedtime reading try a new Arachnids book just out written by another Museum spider expert, Jan Beccaloni.


And did you know there are over 650 species of spider in Britain? But, only a very few of these are spiders that bite. One of the Museum website's most popular news stories uncovers the truth about the UK’s false widow spiders.
Puffin in the snow by Jan Vemeer


If you haven’t already, take a peek at the highly commended images from this year’s Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition in our preview slideshow. From bristling baby orangutans and languid lions to perfect pike and white water waves, there are magic moments captured in these fantastic wildlife photographs from around the world. Come to the exhibition to see all the winners from 23 October when it opens.


This puffin shot has a magical ‘hurtling through the snow’ kind of innocence to it, I think. It was taken by the photographer Jan Vemeer who timed a visit to Norway’s remote Varanger Fjord at the arrival of 1000s of seabirds flying back to the cliffs to breed. 


On the second day of Jan’s visit, the first puffins arrived. He recalls: 'I glanced out over the sea and saw them coming. At that very same instant, it began to snow. There are golden moments in your life you never forget - this is one of them.' Five minutes later, the snowstorm ended.

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