Give and Gain Day 2014
Last week, as part of Give and Gain Day 2014, we had 50 volunteers from the Lloyds Banking Group helping with a number of projects here at St Fagans. Some helped with the Gardening Department, some helped the Historic Buildings Unit while some assisted with a project alongside the Alzheimer’s Society. Myself and Bernice had the help of 11 volunteers to build a dead hedge in the woodlands near the bird hide.
We had been planning on building a dead hedge in near the bird hide for a while, for a number of reasons. A dead hedge would act as a screen for approaching the bird hide, meaning that birds on the feeders would be less likely to be scared by the approaching visitors. A dead hedge also acts as a wildlife corridor, giving cover to a wide variety of wildlife as they move through the woodlands. Visitors had also begun cutting through the woodland, and one section of the dead hedge was to act as a deterrent meaning visitors would be more likely to stick to the paths.
The first task of the day was the sharpening of the fence posts. The posts are needed for structure and need to be driven firmly into the ground. Creating the sharp end obviously makes this much easier. After creating pilot holes, the poles were then driven into the ground using a sledge hammer. Once the posts were in place, we could then begin to assemble the dead hedge.
A dead hedge is built up of dead woodland material. Over the past couple of weeks I have been asking the gardeners and farmers here to help by collecting any trimmings and off cuts and delivering these to the bird hide for use in this project. Everyone was incredibly helpful, and we ended up with a vast pile of material… or so I thought. Dead hedging takes a lot of material, so along with some of the volunteers I headed into the woods to do a bit of clearing to gain more material.
After lunch, we headed up into the woods near the site of Bryn Eryr, the Iron Age farmstead currently being built. This area has previously been cleared so there was a lot of cut material for us to collect. This was loaded into a trailer and taken over to the bird hide. The afternoon finished with us using this material to finish the dead hedge. As an artistic final touch, we used some lime cuttings to add extra height and a certain je ne sais quois to the finished hedge.
As these pictures show, the day was a huge success! The weather could not have been better and I think everyone enjoyed themselves. The 2 sections of dead hedge we wanted to build got done, and I’ve already earmarked some projects for future volunteers! The amount of work done in a day was incredible, it would have taken me and Bernice a lot longer to do without the help of the volunteers. A huge thank you to everyone who helped us and the other projects too!
Big Garden Bird Watch
Last weekend was RSPB’s annual Big Garden Bird Watch, the world’s largest bird survey! On Saturday I joined in the fun by making fat ball birdfeeders with some of the visitors to the museum. Inspired by the Big Garden Bird Watch, I spent a little time this week in the bird hide at St Fagans. Here are a few photos of what I saw…
Did you take part? What birds you see in your garden? Remember to report your findings to the RSPB - Big Garden Bird Watch
Keep in touch with the wildlife at St Fagans by following on Twitter
On Wednesday 30th October, National Museum Cardiff came alive for a haunting day of Halloween fun. Curators (and witches!) from the Natural History department filled the main hall with spooky specimens from our collections to share with the public on a busy half term day.
The botanists made a real impression by opening up the Herbarium and creating a spooky graveyard of deadly plants. This was a real hit with the children who left repeating some of the delightfully ghoulish names to their parents such as “Stinking Hellebore!” and “Bloody Cranesbill!”
The Fungus table had a case of wonderful wax models where you could match each fungus with its creepy name, such as the Trumpet of Death, Scaly Tooth and Witch Heart. Children, and adults, could make their own fungus with the colourful modelling clay provided, creating some amazing new species!
Two witches stirred their potion in a cauldron alongside an eerie ‘Herbs in Medicine and Magic’ display. All Harry Potter fans would have immediately recognised the famous Mandrake, a plant often used in magic rituals due to its hallucinogenic properties, but there was no need for ear muffs as the real plant does not let out a fatal scream!
Marine and Mollusc curators put out an array of Halloween treats from ghost slugs and dead man’s fingers to blood cockles and pumpkin snails. Visitors enjoyed being able to touch sea urchins, spiny oysters and star fish. The pickled cuttlefish and squid were a real treat and produced a great mixed response, from awe to disgust, from children and adults alike.
The giant bloodsucking mosquito model dominated the Entomology stand whilst a witch displayed a table of British bats, from the largest Noctule to the smallest Pipistrelle.
Geologists enticed visitors with ‘fossils in folklore’, including echinoderms that were thought to be ‘fairy loaves’, and ‘dragon claws’ that come from dinosaurs. Those brave enough stayed to see the ‘Hell, Fire and Brimestone!’ stand which revealed specimens of larva, ash and volcanic rocks.
The Open Day was underpinned with an educational trail provided by the Education department. The trail took children around all of the displays, answering questions on blood stained petals and thunder stones, fungal fingers and tails of worms, to name a few. It was an excellent way to get families involved and encouraged children to interact with the curators. The trail proved to be extremely popular with 170 families taking part.
For those who wanted to know more, there was a scary ‘Dragons’ tour in the Evolution of Wales gallery and two behind the scenes tours of the Biology and Geology collections.
The day was a real success with 3127 members of the public coming through the museum doors. So, if you didn’t make it this time keep your eyes peeled on the ‘What’s On’ guide for more upcoming Natural History Open Days throughout the year.
Blog by Harriet Wood
An experiment of bulbous proportions!
Hi! I'm Professor Plant and I'd like to welcome the six and a half thousand young scientists across the UK that are taking part in the Spring Bulb for Schools Investigation this year!
Twelve thousand bulbs will be planted and monitored as part of this long term climate investigation being co-ordinated at Amgueddfa Cymru - National Museum Wales. If there was a world record for the most people planting bulbs simultaneously, (in several locations) we could smash it!
All the bulbs have been counted up by our fantastic volunteers (see the pics) and are steadily being delivered to the 150 schools across the country. I'd like to welcome each an every pupil and teacher who will be working on this project!
- Take a look at the map to see where the bulbs are being sent across the UK
- If you haven't already received my letter please follow this link
- Before each bulb is planted, each pupil must also adopt their bulb and promise to care for it. If you want to know how see this link
If you are wondering where the bulbs came from and how they got to your school - please read then read on y friend Baby Bulb is going to explain:
"My bulb buddies and I come from a nursery plantation in Manorbier, near Tenby in Wales, it's called 'Springfields'. We didn't spring from the fields, but we were picked and loaded onto a van ready to go to our new homes. At first I was a little afraid, but then when I met Professor Plant at the Museum I understood that I would be cared for by a nice young person and that I have an important job to do. We have all been selected to help us understand how the weather can affect when my friends and I make flowers. My parents before me grew here too, Springfields have been growing us 'Tenby Daffodils' for about 25 years, and we are one of the two daffodils that are native to the British Isles".
Just a few weeks until planting now! I can't wait!
Beachwatch 2013 - a great success
On Saturday 21st September Amgueddfa Cymru ran their annual Beachwatch event. This involved fantastic family science activities in the morning attended by 41 members of the public and seven members of staff. Participants looked at strandline and rockpool animals and seaweeds as well as fossilised corals and snails. Inspired by the fossils and shells that they had seen, the children went on to create wonderful pieces of artwork using Plaster of Paris on the wet sand of the beach.
After lunch, the volunteers gathered to clean the beach and do a litter survey recording all the items they found. The beach clean was attended by 59 volunteers including many of the families from the morning activities.
The results will be sent to the Marine Conservation Society who will collect the data from this beach and hundreds of other UK beaches that were cleaned this weekend. As well as making the beach safer for people and marine life, the Marine Conservation Society also use the data to find out where beach litter comes from and contribute to marine conservation.
As you can see from the photo we found a lot of rubbish including 9 tyres, half a canoe and a traffic cone! A huge thank you to our wonderful volunteers, Ogmore Beach now looks even more beautiful!
3 days to Beachwatch!
BEATCHWATCH – Saturday 21 September
10.30am – 12pm. Amgueddfa Cymru staff will be running fun family activities for the public to help them learn about the biology and geology of Ogmore beach. They will be looking at rock pools, strandlines, rocks and fossils along the shore.This year we will also have a fun ART activity involving plaster of paris and seashells. These morning activities are now fully booked, but you can still come along in the afternnoon to help out with the beach clean.
1pm – 2.30pm. Help with the Marine Conservation Society’s annual beach clean (Open to all).
Where: Ogmore Beach, Vale of Glamorgan. Meeting on the beach at Ogmore beach car park – down the ramp in front of the lifeguard centre.
Suitable for all ages, hope to see you there.
A batty summer at St Fagans!
I don’t know about you, but I cannot believe how quickly August flew by! It seems as if it was only yesterday that schools were breaking up, but now it is already time for us to welcome school visits again for a brand new school year!
This summer was slightly different for myself in St Fagans. Due to the redevelopment project we have lost use of the Tŷ Gwyrdd eco house, so our summer events this year had a slightly more nomadic feel than normal! It was nice to visit other parts of the museum and to explore some of the wildlife found in different places.
In total this summer, around 1000 people took part in a variety of nature activities within the museum, from minibeast bug hunts in the woods to our very popular twilight bat walks around the site.
The summer began with us re-opening the bird hide at its new location near Hendre Wen barn. After initial worries of whether we would attract similar numbers of birds as the previous location, I was very relieved after spending 30 minutes in the hide and spotting 11 different species. Hopefully we will continue to attract such a wide variety of birds to our feeders. The bird hide is open every day, so on your next visit be sure to pop in and see what you spot!
In August we had a bit of a bat scare at the Tannery. The Tannery building is home to a roost of rare Lesser Horseshoe bats. A small electrical fire broke out one morning in the room directly below the roof space where the bats normally roost. Thankfully a quick response from South Wales Fire and Rescue Service ensured that the fire did not spread. Luckily, the bats had flown to an area of the building unaffected by the fire. The story even made it onto the BBC website! Thanks to Anwen for the pictures!
The bats have now returned to their normal roosting spot and they seem to have been largely unaffected by the event. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for our bat camera which is situated in the building. A combination of smoke and water damage means that we will have to replace the camera, which we will be doing as soon as possible!
Bats at St Fagans seem to be going from strength to strength. We have 11 of the 18 British species known roosting within the museum grounds, including the elusive Nathusius Pipistrelle bat which has been found roosting in 2 of our buildings. Previous to this, there were only 2 known roosting locations for this species in the whole of Wales. This story also made the news recently!
This year we held 3 Twilight Batwalks, all of which booked up well in advance. Thanks to all who came and apologies to anyone who tried to book but were unable to! Next year we are planning on having 4 walks throughout August, with the possibility of more depending on demand! If you came on one of our batwalks, or took part in any nature events this summer, please let us know what you though, either by commenting here or sending an us an email!
Finally a big thanks to our new team of volunteers who helped out over the summer! Having an extra pair or two of hands during workshops and events is invaluable and means that we can offer a better experience to our visitors. I look forward to working with you again in the near future!
Rhondda Super Scientists
Williamstown Primary School pupils, in the Rhondda Valleys, were awarded first place amongst the sixty three Welsh schools taking part in the Museum's Spring Bulbs for Schools investigation this year.
The class of Super Scientists won a fun-packed nature trip to St Fagans: National History Museum where they were awarded certificates. As part of the day trip they studied newts, looked for mini-beasts, watched bats and built giant nests in the woodland!
Professor Plant: ''They all had a great day and should be very proud of how they represented their school. The standard was very high this year, the schools are getting better and better at recording and logging their data. Williamstown did extremely well with their recording and really got involved in the project from the start last November until the end in the spring - which came very late this year!"
Alison Hall, Teacher at Williamstown Primary: "The pupils said it was the best day out they had ever had - they loved viewing the bat roost in particular! In terms of the investigation, the children have have loved the whole process from planting and recording to measuring and waiting for the first bloom to appear. It has been great for improving their science, numeracy and ICT skills. We are now really enthused about nature and the environment and are keen to set-up more outdoor investigations in our school grounds".
If you would like to take part in this project next term - please complete the on-line application form: http://www.museumwales.ac.uk/en/1738/
To see our teacher evaluation report - follow this link: https://scan.wufoo.com/reports/spring-bulbs-for-schools-evaluation-report/
As you can see from the evaluation question below the project is very cross-curricular:
Spring Bulb for Schools: Results 2005-2013
The ‘Spring Bulbs for Schools’ project allows 1000s of schools scientists to work with Amgueddfa Cymru-National Museum Wales to investigate and understand climate change.
Since October 2005, school scientists have been keeping weather records and noting when their flowers open, as part of a long-term study looking at the effects of temperature on spring bulbs.
Certificates have now been sent out to all the 3,979 pupils that completed the project this year.
See Professor Plant's reports or download the spreadsheet to study the trends for yourself!
- Make graphs & frequency charts or calculate the mean.
- See if the flowers opened late in schools that recorded cold weather.
See how temperature, sunshine and rainfall affect the average flowering dates.
Look for trends between different locations.
Facebook Professor Plant
Daffodil Drawing Competition 2013
I announced the Winners and Runners Up of the Daffodil Drawing Competition a couple of weeks ago, and now their fantastic drawings are now up on our website for you all to see!
In this competition I was looking for botanical illustrations – these are pictures of plants drawn in a scientific way. This means I was looking for beautiful pictures but they also needed to have clear labels to show the different parts of the Daffodil.
1st, 2nd and 3rd prize winners will receive a bird watching kit with mini binoculars. Runners Up will receive flower seeds for the garden.
Click here to view this year’s Winners and Runners Up.