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25 Posts tagged with the wildlife_garden tag
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A week ago last Friday, we had S'Warm, the National Youth Theatre's mass spectacle, outside in the Museum grounds. The 100s of S'warmers highlighted the plight of the world's honeybees in a dramatic swarming performance, and drew attention to the environmental challenges facing us all as the planet warms up.

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'It was an atmospheric, hypnotic and moving event, beautifully choreographed,' said Laura Harmour our event co-ordinator, recalling the intriguing, surreal sight as S'Warmers descended on our East Lawn for the first part of the performance and gave out sticks of wildflower seeds to visitors.

 

After handing out wildflower seed sticks, the theatre cast moved off in a very, very long line across the Museum car park and over to the main front lawn, where the full contingent of nearly 400 young people completed the main performance of poetry reading, movement and accompanying music. The Wildlife Garden also featured in the drama.


'It  was a real challenge for the National Youth Theatre organisers to get the S'Warmers here as they all came by public transport - in full costumes of paper beekeeper outfits, complete with eerie-looking veils.' said Laura.

 

Our event on 20 August was part of S'warm's week of events across London. Some of the other famous landmarks they swarmed at included the Bank of England and MI6. Find out more about S'warm

 

Enjoy these photos if you missed the performance here. (They remind me of a particularly weird Doctor Who episode.) Click on the images to enlarge them.

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Bats take over Bank Holiday Weekend

Posted by Rose Aug 26, 2010

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.

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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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Bee movie

Posted by Rose Aug 12, 2010
Get a glimpse of our thriving bee colony inside the Wildlife Garden's bee tree in our latest video on the Natural History Museum's YouTube space.honeycomb-up-close2.jpg
In the bee tree video, join Museum beekeeper Luke Dixon as he strolls through the Wildlife Garden and looks inside the bee tree's observation hive to marvel at the colony and its wild honeycomb.

Watch the Wildlife Garden's bee tree video on YouTube

 

Luke reminds us how much we need bees and how important it is to encourage them, especially since the drastic decline in our worldwide bee population.bee-tree-tall.jpg

 

We've been keeping bees here in the Wildlife Garden for about 6 or 7 years and in the height of the summer months our bee colony can be 50,000 strong. Once a bee emerges from its cell it can live between 3 to 6 months depending on the time of year and food available.

 

This summer the bees living in the bee tree, pictured here earlier in June, have had a very successful season and have since extended the honeycomb to the very bottom of the hive.

 

You can also catch up on the bee tree colony's daily progress with our online beecam.

 

As the days get longer they're beginning to settle down for the winter. The male bees, the drones, are being kicked out of the hive and the number of workers is reducing dramatically as the queen stops laying eggs for new offspring.


The honey that the bees have made is their winter stores, to feed on in the long, cold months when there is nothing to forage on outside of the hive. I wonder if there'll be any spare for us?

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Read the earlier bee tree blog.

 

Find out more about the Museum's honeybee species, Apis mellifera.

 

 

Click on the images to enlarge them.

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The big buzz

Posted by Rose Jun 30, 2010

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Hot news from the Wildlife Garden is that our bee tree is now humming with a new swarm of bees which was introduced about a month ago.

 

Caroline, the garden's manager, told me she's been waiting to see how the bees got on before telling everyone. Actually, they are doing really well and will be a star attraction at the garden's Yellow Book Day this Sunday, 4 July.

 

So 'what's a bee tree exactly?' I hear Pooh bear mumbling in my ear. It's a bbeehive-wildlife-garden-1.jpgee hive that's been cut into an 8-foot high ash tree trunk, pictured left. There are now about 15,000 bees in the hive which also houses eggs, young bees and honey. You can find out more about our bee tree at the event on Sunday. A word of advice, when you visit it, open the bark doors very carefully. And make sure to close them when you've had a look, as bees like the dark.

Another highlight of Sunday's event is the chance to meet our resident beekeeper, Dr Luke Dixon. Luke is an expert in urban beekeeping and helps look after the garden's 2 private beehives, which are also new this year and doing well. He will be holding 2 sessions at 12.30 and 14.00 and visitors can don the protective beekeeping clothing to have a look inside the hives.

 

There may be some Wildlife Garden honey to sample too, yummy!

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Other activities on Sunday include pond-dipping and a guide to the garden's native plants. There will be stalls with refreshments and wild flower plants for sale.

 

By the way, did you know that Melissa is Greek for honeybee?


Check out the Museum's Wildlife Garden

 

If you're interested in beekeeping, have a look at the Beekeepers Association website for some handy hints

 

Find out more about honeybees on our honeybees webpages

 

Thanks to Matt for the bee tree image and to Luke Dixon and Kristian Buus for the recent Wildlife Garden beehive images. Click on the images to enlarge them.

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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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We have lots of festivities planned this weekend to celebrate the International Day for Biological Diversity, IBD, on Saturday, 22 May, and Nettle Weekend on 22 and 23 May.

Biodivesity festival at the Museum, 22 May

From painting a new Elephant Parade sculpture and the launch of the Young Darwin Prize for young natural history reporters and Biking for Biodiversity to our science roadshow and live quartet music, our biodiversity day festival here promises a packed programme of events for visitors.

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We've just heard Chris Packham and Martin Hughes-Games (right) from BBC Springwatch are our hosts for the day.

 

During the day there will be various talks in the Attenborough Studio on topics like 'Big, Beautiful Nature' and 'Food Biodiversity', with link-ups to other national festivities.

 

For more details, visit our International Day for Biological Diversity webpage.

 

elephant-parade-painted-tall.jpgMost of our IBD events are focused around the Darwin Centre. This week we officially launched the Angela Marmont Centre for UK Biodiversity, which is in the Darwin Centre, so drop in and see what it's all about if you get the chance.

 

We join over 400 organistations, charities and groups across the UK celebrating International Year of Biodiversity. The fun has already begun this week with highlights including walking with wolves, taking part in BioBlitzes, and Scottish Highland safaris.

 

Find out about events taking place across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland on the International Year of Biodiversity in the UK website.

 

Read about Elephant Parade at the Museum in my earlier blog.

Nettle Weekend in our Wildlife Garden and across the Museum, 22 - 23 May685px-Urtica_dioica06_ies.jpg

As part of our biodiversity celebrations and the national 'Be Nice to Nettles Week', we are also hosting Nettle Weekend on Saturday and Sunday.

 

Many of us tend to be put off by nettles from an early age, but the merits of the common nettle should be discovered anew. For starters, without stinging nettles, the caterpillars of peacock, small tortoiseshell and red admiral butterflies would miss their favourite food plant.

 

Nettle-based activities, food and drink in the Wildlife Garden, a yurt on our West lawn showcasing nettle herbal medicine and textiles, and the nettle quiz are a few of the many highlights over Nettle Weekend. You'll discover the history and value of nettles and there are talks with nettle experts in our Attenborough Studio. Find out about Nettle Weekend.


You can learn some fascinating stuff about nettles and their stings on the official nettle website and look out for our Urtica dioica (common nettle) Species of the Day on Sunday, which is Nettle Day, when we examine the nettle's taxonomy, uses and habitat.

   
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We have a family of foxes living in the Wildlife Garden. They've set up a breeding den, called an earth, tucked away under the garden shed in the private part of the Wildlife Garden.

And now, we've got our first foxcam set up to follow our foxy lodgers scampering around. There are about 3 to 4 little cubs that have been spotted so far. They come out to feed on earthworms, beetles and other tasty snacks.

As I write this blog in the afternoon, one cheeky cub comes out to pose as if to say 'hello, watch me, I'm on camera'. What a show-off!

You can use the foxcam day by day and get a glimpse of the fox cubs growing up. The Wildlife Garden staff tell me that they are most active early in the morning and early evening about 6ish. So we recommend catching up with the foxcam at these times to get a good glimpse, but then I just saw my cub in the middle of the afternoon. Also on camera, you may spot pigeons, squirrels and the legs of humans too.

Our Wildlife Garden fox cubs were probably born in late March. Over the summer months they will play, explore and gradually begin to fend for themselves by joining their parents on night-time hunts. By September the cubs should be fully grown.

For a sneak peak of a fox cub appearance on our foxcam, have a look at our YouTube foxcam clip from 26 April.



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April fools and Easter treats

Posted by Rose Mar 31, 2010

As far as we’re aware there weren't any April Fool’s Day pranks at the Museum today, but we are holding a fun Nature Live event at 14.30 about Fossils, Freaks or Frauds? Come along and join our Museum experts and try being a scientist yourself. You can help identify fossils and decide if they’re real or frauds.

 

Actually it’s not always easy for even the best palaeontologists to spot hoaxes, as history proves. Remember the Piltdown Man? This great story of the fake skull that fooled scientists as the 'missing link' between apes and early humans, was told in last week’s episode of the BBC documentary Museum of Life. If you want to know more, have a look at our Piltddown Man website.

 

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The 1st of April is also worth celebrating because if marks the opening of our Wildlife Garden, shown left, which has been closed over winter.

 

Recent news from our wildlife gardeners is that although the garden’s rabbit has not been seen lately, there have been sightings of fresh droppings on the newly-laid meadow turf, so maybe there’ll be a special appearance for Easter. While the garden’s daffodils are fading, primroses, cowslips, violets and bluebells (just) can now be seen. Long tailed tits, a heron, jay, and nesting blue tits have been spotted alongside our usual feathery friends. The frogs and toads exhausted themselves with a frantic 3 days of mating in the sunshine last week. And there's still frog and toad spawn visible. Oh and the fox is about.

 

There are events coming up in the next 2 weeks in the Wildlife Garden including our first lunchtime recording plants session on 7 April, and Yellow Book Day on 11 April with a felt bird sculpture installation by Anne Belgrave. Browse our Wildlife Garden website for details.

 

Easter events at the Museum

Over the Easter weekend we have some special free talks in our Attenborough Studio which run at 12.30 and 14.30 each day.

 

On Good Friday, find out about the original Easter islands and their famous giant statues, the Moai, pictured below.easter-island.jpg

 

On Easter Saturday, we've got the Egg-stinct: Fossilised Eggs From Prehistoric Times talk where you'll discover about the eggs from dinosaurs and other extraordinary creatures.

 

And in our Easter Sunday special, we take a closer look at the biology of the egg in The Most Perfect Thing in the Universe talk.

 

When you're in the Museum, remember to catch our amazing egg display in the Bird gallery.

 

Arrive early if you are planning a trip here, as we do anticipate queues over the Easter school holidays.

 

Have an eggs-cellent Easter.

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Evolve magazine's latest issue features Douglas Palmer's new illustrated guide to evolution. © Peter Barrett

This month the second issue of Evolve, the Museum’s new full-colour magazine, hits the shelves. It’s now on sale (£3.50) in the Museum shop and online, where you can also subscribe to it annually.

 

old-lady-moth_400.jpgThe first issue of Evolve came out in October 2009 when it evolved from Nature First, the Museum’s Members-only magazine, and doubled its size to 72 pages. The extended format allows scope for bigger, more wide-ranging features, and more regulars updates about Museum events and our Wildlife Garden, science in the field, and the Forgotten Naturalists series. It's also packed with colour photos (like the one opposite of an old lady moth from our gardens outside).

 

Museum Members still receive Evolve free as part of their benefits package.

 

So how’s the new magazine doing?

 

I spoke to Helen Sturge, Evolve’s senior editor, to find out what feedback she’s had. The response has been amazingly enthusiastic, says Helen:

 

'It’s fast becoming a hit. I received a really positive welcome for Evolve’s first issue, with sales well above our projected figures. Letters and comments flooded in.

 

evolve2-cover-400.jpg‘Readers said they really enjoyed the amazing photography and variety of content. In particular, Philip Hoare’s feature on the whales of London received much praise, as did the article we ran on how research into the brain size of dwarfed mammals is helping us to understand more about a recent species of human discovered in 2003.

 

‘We also had letters from editors of other magazines congratulating us on our "wonderfully strong design" and "first-rate quality".'

 

Each issue takes around 4 months from commissioning articles to final design. Evolve is actually designed in-house by Steve Long in the Museum’s Design Studio (who many Museum staff will know).

 

Issue 2 (right) highlights include a kick-off to the 2010 International Year of Biodiversity with a feature about the rich tapestry of life around us, why it is so important and ways to join in. And an exclusive piece from the science writer and author of Evolution, Douglas Palmer, about how illustrating the fossil past helps us picture the history of life. It features wonderful images from the book's artist, Peter Barrett.

 

‘I would also recommend author Karolyn Shindler’s article as she follows in the footsteps of pioneering fossil-hunter Dorothea Bate, journeying to Majorca and the final resting place of a mouse-like goat, Myotragus; and don’t miss naturalist and presenter Nick Baker telling us why he is inspired by

the Natural History Museum,’ says Helen.

 

weevil-ring-400.jpgOne of my favourite pieces in the new issue is the article about 'Birds and people' by natural history writer and ornithologist, Jonathan Elphick. It’s a fascinating cultural look at the many ways birds affect and enrich our lives and art, with some extraordinary photos. For bird lovers, there’s a Birds and people project you can get involved in. In another excellent piece, I discovered how wonderful weevils could be (200 years ago someone even set one in a gold ring) and how to spot these beaky beetles.

 

Get hold of a copy of the new Evolve if you haven’t yet.

 

Helen and her team also put together our quarterly children’s magazine, Second Nature for Members.

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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.

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'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.

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