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Big Nature Day was a scorcher

Posted by Rose Jul 23, 2013

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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

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Our Big Nature Day on 27 May is a special kind of celebration and a brilliant day out for anyone who's interested in the natural world, whatever their age. It is the largest free event of its kind in the UK, and this year we've invited more than 50 nature groups from across the country to join us.

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Get bug-faced and hatted for the Insect Parades led by the insect band performing on stilts at our nature festival. Select images to enlarge them

One of the big excitements on Sunday is sure to be the Insect Parade led by the colourful insect band from the Museum's Darwin Centre atrium. In the morning and at lunchtime, children can drop into workshops with the street theatre company Emergeny Exit Arts to make bug-themed hats and then follow the parades - scheduled for 13.00 and 15.30 - through the Museum wearing their creations. Face painters are at hand to help kids look their buggy best.

 

Like last year, there will be marquees on the Courtyard and this is where you'll find most of the visiting nature group displays. 'It's really exciting to welcome so many voluntary nature groups across the country to the Museum - what a fantastic chance for our visitors to meet so many wildlife experts in one place,' says Lucy Carter from the OPAL citizen science project. Popular stands are bound to be The London Wildlife Trust's stag beetles and the Bat Conservation Trust's where they will be investigating bat poo!

 

Worm charming sessions take place under the Courtyard trees and several nature talks will be held in the Museum's Attenborough Studio. A Busy Bee Puppet Show workshop will entertain the little ones in the morning.

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Out in the Wildlife Garden you can get into pond-dipping, bug hunting, ladybird counting, leaf and nettle trailing, and more. We're interested in recording the species found in our garden, so scientists and volunteers will be around to help with finds and identification advice. We'll also be welcoming a group of cub scouts to the garden who are trying out their brand new Cub Scout Naturalist Activity Badge resource (the badge is pictured below).

 

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Over on the West Lawn, look out for the Bee aware display in the marquee and the National Trust's 'shepherd's hut'.

 

And remember, this is the national Be Nice to Nettles Week, so mind where you tread.

 

Big Nature Day celebrates the UN International Day of Biological Diversity and OPAL's nature activities and citizen science projects.

 

More details about Big Nature Day.

 

Find out which nature groups will be at Big Nature Day

 

 

 

Enjoy the video clip below of last year's Big Nature Day

 

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Do you know what bugs are living near you? Are some spiders more common in cities or in the countryside?

 

Help us find out by joining in the new nationwide Bugs Count survey launched today, 8 June, by the Museum and OPAL partnership. The scientists asking for our help want to know what bugs are out there and the differences between what we find in the cities or rural areas.

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Hunt for bugs in soil, short or long grass. Search on paving and outsides of buildings and on plants and shrubs.small-tortoiseshell-butterfly-crop.jpg

On your bugs hunt, keep a special eye out for six specific minibeasts, including the small tortoiseshell butterfly (right), which is in decline. Use the Species Quest bugs sheet to help in your identification.

 

Find out how to join in the OPAL Bugs Count and what resources you'll need

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You'll be surprised at what buggy creatures you can find in towns and the countryside.

 

On the recent Big Nature Count of our Wildlife Garden, we found over 60 species of bugs in a morning and the final count hasn't been done yet. As well as the unusual drab wood soldier fly, Solva marginata, discovered, there was a new Coleophora glaucicolella moth found, not recorded in the garden before. And just the other day, a Museum volunteer out on a field trip in Surrey's Bookham Common, found a population of scarlet malachite beetles, left, one of the UK's rarest insects.

 

Read the news story about the bug count and which six specific minibeasts you should look out for

 

Come along to the Museum's Attenborough Studio this Saturday, 11 June, to hear two Big City Big Hunt talks at 12.30 and 14.30 with our scientists. Afterwards, you can take part in various bug-hunting activities and pick up a Bugs Count pack in the Wildlife Garden.

What's a bug?

The term ‘bug’ is a widely used name for insects. In our Bugs Count we are including non-insect groups such as spiders, centipedes, millipedes and woodlice. These are all collectively part of the group called arthropods and are invertebrates.

 

True bugs are a specific group of insects that include shield bugs, water bugs, aphids, scale insects and others.

 

More bug information

 

Find out about bug identification in our Nature Online section

 

Join the Bug forum

 

Browse our Young naturalists page and enjoy the Big Nature Day video

 

Discover how to identify the Cockshafer May bug and watch the video


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Do you often find yourself taking pictures of the sky and skylines? Then I guess you are someone who takes the weather with you everywhere you go.

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Watching the clouds go by at the top of London's Primrose Hill on a sunny afternoon in October

Even if you don't and just inadvertently snapped a brilliant photograph of 'the weather', there's a new competition to enter.

 

Your photo must be taken in the UK to qualify for the OPAL Weather Photo Competition and you can upload as many as you want. The closing date is 3 May 2011. The winner will receive £100 of Amazon vouchers, a framed photo mosaic of your winning picture and a subscription to theWeather magazine.

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One hour later, further down Primrose Hill, the clouds started to gather quickly

The competition is looking for pictures from all budding photogtaphers of interesting weather scenes, or photos that show how we enjoy or are affected by the weather.

 

Upload your photos to the Weather Photo Competition on the OPAL website

 

If I could enter the competition - which I can't because OPAL is affiliated to the Museum - I might think about submiting these pictures (above and below) that I took last October on Primrose Hill in North London.

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Two hours later, at the bottom of Primrose Hill, the rain came and one rainbow, then two.

It was a gorgeous sunny, blue-skied autumn afternoon and we headed up Primrose hill to be wowed by the panoromic views of the city skyline framed with big white scudding clouds (pictured above). But staying true to our typical changeable British weather tradition, about two hours later, the sky darkened and the rain bucketed down. As we rushed to the bottom of the hill for cover, the rain stopped suddenly and a rainbow appeared, then another. I'd never seen a double rainbow before in the flesh and it was quite something. I just managed to catch the second one on camera before it vanished.

 

The competition launches in Climate Week which the Museum took part in all this week along with lots of other organisations across the country. There are events over the weekend, so see what's on. It's part of the OPAL Climate Survey which is currently running with the Met Office to investigate the ways in which we affect the climate.

 

Read the news story about the Weather Photo Competition

 

Find out more about climate change on our website

 

OPAL is a partnership initiative celebrating biodiversity, environmental quality and people’s engagement with nature.

 

 

 


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We're forever blowing bubbles...

Posted by Rose Mar 4, 2011

Do you want to help with a spot of weather watching by blowing bubbles?

 

A new Climate survey has just begun and one of the fun, easy things you can do to take part is blow bubbles to measure wind speed and direction near the ground.

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But don't worry, you don't have to buy a bubble blowing kit to do this. Just watch the video below and learn how to make your own bubble blower cone using 2 sheets of paper.

 

 

Other cool things to do in the survey include looking out for plane trails  (contrails), watching cloud movement to record wind direction, and recording how hot or cold you feel.

 

Have a look at the Climate survey website to join in. Anyone in England can take part.

 

Read the recent news story about the Climate survey


The Climate survey is being conducted by the OPAL network with scientists from the Met Office and the Royal Meteorological Society. OPAL (Open Air Laboratories) is a nationwide partnership initiative that  inspires communities to discover, enjoy and protect their local  environments. It is led by Imperial College London and the Natural  History Museum is a partner.

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batperson-ally-pally.jpgLondon’s Alexandra Palace Park played host to a Wild Day Out on Saturday 5 June. Natural History Museum and OPAL scientists went on a mission to record as much wildlife as they could in the park over 24 hours, including some strange batmen, like this one. OPAL is the Open Air Laboratories Project network.

 

Over 8,000 people joined in the Ally Pally BioBlitz, making the event a huge success. The final species count is to be confirmed but is expected to be in the region of 700.

 

The bioblitz event was partnered by the BBC who helped to rally lots of local people to assist with pond dips, worm charming, nature surveys and other activities in a bid to record all the plants and animals that live in the park. There were also arts and crafts activities for kids.

 

See some BBC pictures of Wild Day Out

 

For the uninitiated, a bioblitz is a kind of wildlife hunt against the clock, and anyone can join in. It can be a really big event in a large public space or a small one in your garden.


As well as the Ally Pally event, our Museum scientists and OPAL researchers staged another bioblitz at South Devon's Mothecombe Beach on 11 June. Here, local residents, schools and holiday-makers helped scientists record over 700 different species in just 28 hours.

 

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kids-alexandra-palace-bioblitz.jpgBoth bioblitz events are part of our national International Year of Biodiversity in the UK celebrations.

 

There are lots more bioblitzes happening around the country and you can find details on the National Bioblitz Programme 2010 website

 

Find out more about other UK biodiversity events on our Biodiversity is life website

 

OPAL, the Open Air Laboratories Project network, run lots of surveys and citizen science activities you can join in your local area and online. They have a base in our Angela Marmont Centre for UK Biodiversity.


Browse the OPAL website and explore nature

 

Read about a bioblitz in a journalist's back garden conducted by some of our scientists, on the Guardian website


Click on the images to enlarge them.