The Peregrines look as though they will be taking up residence again this year on the Clock Tower of City Hall. In response to increasing day length they are becoming more territorial, sweeping up and down Cathays Park and taking the odd side-swipe at the Gulls.
A Herring Gull is really too big for even a female Peregrine, though females can be as much as a third bigger than males. Even so, the Gulls know to keep out the way and treat their much faster neighbours with respect.
I once kept watch on a Peregrine nest on a cliff in the Pyrenees. One afternoon four Griffon Vultures flapped heavily in for an afternoon siesta. A Griffon has a wingspan of around 2.5m, whilst even a big Peregrine might only measure just over a meter from tip to tip. Nevertheless, those four Vultures soon changed their mind about the afternoon nap. With screeching cries the Peregrine on the nest soon called in its mate, who came in for a stoop. It actually appeared to graze the most exposed Vulture’s back with its claws, and all this even before the Vulture had time to twist its neck round to see the incoming attack. With a quick flick the Peregrine served back, and ruffled the feathers of a neighbouring Vulture. Although the ripping beak of the Vulture could have torn the Peregrine apart, there was no way it was going to be able to bring it into play. Confident of success the first Peregrine was then joined by its mate from the nest, who soon doubled the attack rate. The Vultures withstood about five minutes before launching off the cliff to fly further down the valley where they might hope to find some repose.
Sea Lion Island
For the last 2 days, we have been out on Sea Lion Island, the southern-most outpost of all of the islands. Once again, we ended up on a flight that landed over an hour after low tide, even though the tide was at 4pm! This was very frustrating but we were straight out as soon as we could, and down on the nearest patch of shoreline to see what we could do. My trusty trowel had been replaced with a coal shovel, the best I could manage at short notice but it would have to do. Although the shore was the kind I knew would be poor for worms (favoured by penguins) we had a go. No luck. At the end of the bay were some rock ledges with a few rock pools with some sand and algae not yet being affected by the rising tide. We suddenly started finding a (very) few worms under the sand in the pools and then I also noticed some small casts as well (see photo 1). This spurred us on to keep looking and at least come away with something (photo 2). We eventually ended up with a small pot that turned out to be slightly more diverse than expected with at least four different species represented (not bad for a fairly bare rock pool and only just over a dozen animals). The most common animal in the pot was an animal known as Boccardia, which is very hardy and often found in the higher shore environments here (photo 3).
The following day dawned windy and wet and the tide was not until nearly 5pm. This gave us plenty of time to peruse the island, see the sights and check out the coastline as the island is only around 5 miles long. I had been here before a few years ago and had already sampled some of the rocky shores on the south side so was more interested in trying to get something from the northern coasts. Shortly after we set off the rain started, although not too heavily. On one of the first shores we visited we found a male sea lion (photo 4), fast asleep. A fantastic sight and one I had not seen before so that improved our mildly damp spirits. By lunchtime, the rain had become persistent and not so light anymore. Our waterproofs were holding out but both pairs of feet were increasingly squelchy. As we turned to follow the north coast back up the island, we found ourselves heading into the wind. Suddenly life felt a little unfair. Most of the shores we had seen were either inaccessible below vertical cliffs, clean boulders in equally clean mobile sand with no life beneath or solid rock ledges, scoured clean by sea and weather. We eventually fought our way back to the bay we had started at the night before, but this time a couple of hours before low tide to find it being pounded by waves. We dug a few holes but there was nothing apparent. After a brief sit down to stare vacantly at the shore while being eyed up by an obviously nesting pair of caracaras who just as obviously didn’t want us there, we decided to head directly across the island to the opposite, sheltered shore and try there instead. We then walked the length of the shore, digging small holes every so often like itinerant squirrels, as the tide slowly ebbed out. Still nothing. We crossed back to the other shore and walked the length of that too, just to say we tried. Salvation came in the form of washed up kelp bladders that were encrusted with the small coiled tubes of spirorbid worms that were still alive (photo 5). We finally allowed ourselves to retire to the lodge, peel off our boots and wring out our socks.
Today was even windier and I have to admit the will and strength to fight my way through it had gone. Our flight back after lunch was short with an even shorter take-off and landing thanks to the wind. Tomorrow I have to pack all of my samples up and make sure they are ready for sending home before doing the same for myself.
Brendan is tasked with the job of finishing off the blog for you, giving a non-biologist’s view of fieldwork and worms and the delights of getting involved with both for the first time. Then it’s an early start on Friday before the long haul home.
A Window into the Industry Collections - January 2015
The New Year has seen a number of interesting objects enter the industry collections.
This teddy bear was manufactured by Wendy Boston (Crickhowell) Ltd. The company was founded in 1941 in Crickhowell (near Abergavenny) by husband and wife Wendy and Ken Williams. They had moved from Birmingham during the Blitz, and Wendy started making toys for friends and family whilst her husband was away. This bear was purchased circa 1963/64 for the donor when he was a baby, and living in Llanelli. It wears a home knitted cardigan, and the donor as a young child had a matching larger version. We also have in the collections a poodle pyjama/nightdress case manufactured by the same company. However, teddy bears were the dominant and by far the best know product and so we are fortunate to have been donated an example with a good Welsh provenance.
My last month’s Blog featured a Lesbians & Gaymen Support the Miners fund badge from 1985. This ‘Pits and Perverts’ t-shirt compliments this, and was manufactured to promote the film ‘Pride’ (it has ‘In Cinemas 12th September’ printed on the back). The film tells the amazing true story of how a group of gay men and women raised funds to help families affected by the miners’ strike.
Towards the end of last year we were donated this First World War memorial plaque. It commemorates men who had worked at Guest Keen & Nettlefold's Rogerstone Steel Works and the adjacent HP Wire Nail Works. The plaque is currently on display, until 15th March 2015, in the exhibition ‘Working for Victory’ at the National Waterfront Museum, Swansea (see photograph below).
Finally these two metal plates were recovered from Cardiff Docks in the 1990s. They both come from an early 20th century crane manufactured by John Williams & Sons (Cardiff) Ltd. at Globe Foundry, Cardiff for use in the docks. These are an important pair of makers’ plates, as we only have a small number of plates from Welsh-manufactured machinery. They also complement a set of foundry tools from this company and an electric battery delivery truck used by the company for local deliveries.
Curator: Industry & Transport
Follow us on Twitter - @IndustryACNMW
Saad Metwali is visiting the museum for a few months. He is an Egyptian studying in Saudi Arabia at King Saud University, Riyadh towards a Masters thesis on leafhopper taxonomy. He is spending time in Natural Sciences working with Dr Mike Wilson on leafhopper identification and taxonomy. This is his first time outside of the Middle East - it might have been better to come in the summer! He has carried out fieldwork in the mountains of SW Arabia and found many species not previously known in Arabia. Our insect collections at National Museum Cardiff are important for the study of this region.
Natural Talent Apprenticeship Scheme
Liam Olds has joined the Department of Natural Sciences for a year as part of the Natural Talent apprenticeship scheme. This scheme is now funded by the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, and has operated in Scotland for some years and been successful in training people in identification skills associated with wildlife and conservation. The scheme has now widened to the rest of the UK and six apprenticeships have started this year. Liam will be working with us on Colliery Spoil Invertebrates and learning how to survey and identify a wide range of species that might be found on these iconic Welsh habitats, as well as working with others who are interested in preserving some of these sites.
@Dyddiadur Kate – “Tywydd mawr iawn”
Rhoddir llawer o sylw i’r tywydd yn wythnosau cyntaf @DyddiadurKate. Cymysgedd o law ac eira trwm sy’n disgyn yn ardal y Sarnau yn Ionawr 1915 – tywydd nodweddiadol ar gyfer yr amser yma o’r flwyddyn.
7 Ionawr: Tywydd mawr iawn. Disgwyl Mr + Mrs Hughes Parc yma ond yn ormod tywydd. Ein tri yn mynd ir Cyf. Gweddi. Pwyllgor "Cymdeithas y Tarw" ar ol y Cyf. Gweddi. Mam a finnau yn galw yn Penffordd wrth ddod adref.
Difyr yw gweld nad oedd y tywydd garw yn atal pobl rhag mynychu’r capel!
Mewn erthygl ym mhapur newydd Baner Ac Amserau Cymru ar 16 Ionawr 1915 fe ddywedir mai “Rhagolygon pur annaddawol sydd i’r tywydd yn ystod y pedwar mis cyntaf…”
Felly, fel Kate, edrychwn ymlaen at y gwanwyn!
Paddleworms and Trowels
Today was packed full. Brendan managed to get a dive in before we had to head down to Walker Creek for an afternoon tide. The shore dive went from near Gypsy Cove, not far out of Stanley and involved a short off-road drive to the shore before the divers had to pick their way down across the rocks to get into the water (photo 1). Apparently visibility was reasonable at around 6m and Brendan’s present to me this time consisted of a bag of sand and a couple of bags of ‘stuff’ scraped off the rocks. Unfortunately, Brendan found his way into my bad books by admitting to have lost my ‘dive trowel’. This tool has been great for sediment sampling while diving, as well as shore sampling when not possible to take a spade. Admittedly, the trowel was a cheap plastic one, however the not so cheap brass clip attached to it was another matter!
After the dive, we headed straight off to Walker Creek, which was a 2.5 hour drive south, almost to the opposite end of the island. The shore turned out to be another hard-ish one (photo 2), which was a little disappointing at first, but the collecting turned out to be quite productive. We found some very large orbiniid worms (20-30 cm in length) and an area where there were abundant scaleworms, under more than two thirds of the stones turned over. With the drive back a long and bumpy one, we stopped after an hour so that I could sort through and ‘fix’ (with formaldehyde) the worms and label pots. I have learnt in the past that worms do not enjoy long, bumpy car journeys and break up (particularly more fragile specimens) by the journey end if this is not done.
No shore sampling was planned for today, however, Brendan has managed to get out on 2 different shore dives while I sorted through previous samples, changed formaldehyde to alcohol (a better, less toxic, long term preservative but not as good for the initial fixation) and generally caught up on fieldwork and specimen notes. At lunchtime, the divers returned bearing gifts (even without a trowel). The dive had been on a local Phragmatopoma reef. This is a type of marine bristle worm called a sabellariid (photo 3) that builds hard tubes of sand and can create a reef-like environment around itself. In the UK, other worms of the same family create reefs both on and offshore and are known as ‘honeycomb worms’ due to the appearance of the reef they create. Many other species often inhabit these reefs as well. I was presented with some examples of the reef, some scrapings from rocks and a very large, green paddleworm (photo 4: Eulalia magalhaensis) over 20 cm in length. Another two species of paddleworm, not yet identified, were also found within the samples. These often-colourful worms are very photogenic and I managed to get some good photos of these as well (photos 5 & 6). All in all, a successful day, even without any shore sampling. Loss of the trowel was forgiven!
@DyddiadurKate – Willie Jones a’r “hen elyn marwol”
Yn ei dyddiadur ddoe, soniodd Kate am farwolaeth gwr ifanc o Landderfel:
25 Ionawr 1915 – Diwrnod braf iawn. Marwolaeth Willie Jones Llandderfel yn 35 oed. Bob Price yma min nos. David Roberts Pentre ag Humphrey Davies yma min nos.
Yn ei harddull arferol, dyw Kate ddim yn ymhelaethu am farwolaeth Willie Jones. Ond gyda diolch i adnoddau digidol gwych y Llyfrgell Genedlaethol, gallwn wneud hynny heddiw. Cyhoeddwyd ysgrif goffa i Willie Jones yn Baner Ac Amserau Cymru ar 6 Chwefror 1915. O’r erthygl hon, cawn wybod iddo farw o’r diciâu – un Cymro ymysg y 41,800 a fu farw o’r haint yng Nghymru a Lloegr yn y flwyddyn honno.
“Wele un etto o feibion Cymru wedi disgyn i’r bedd yn gynnar trwy yr hen elyn marwol, y darfodedigaeth. Cafodd bob gofalaeth a allasai cyfeillion a pherthynasau eu hestyn iddo. Bu am ysbaid mewn ‘Sanatorium’ ac i bob golwg dynol gallesid meddwl ei fod wedi troi ar wella, ond amser byr a fu cyn dechrau diboeni drachefn.”
Roedd y diciâu yn ofid mawr yng Nghymru ar ddechrau’r 20fed ganrif, ac ar gynnydd yn ystod y Rhyfel Byd Cyntaf. Penderfynodd yr Aelod Seneddol David Davies – Yr Arglwydd Davies o Landinam yn ddiweddarach – bod angen “crwsâd” yn erbyn yr haint. I’r diben hwn, yn 1910 sefydlwyd Cymdeithas Goffa Genedlaethol Cymru (Edward VII Welsh National Memorial Association), gyda Davies yn llywydd arni. Gallwch ddarllen mwy am hanes y Gymdeithas ar wefan Archifau Cymru.
Yma yn Sain Ffagan, mae blwch yn y casgliad a ddefnyddwyd yng Ngorffennaf 1914 i gasglu arian er budd y Gymdeithas. O’i amgylch mae’r adysgrif The King Edward VII Welsh National Memorial Association – Crusade againt Consumption – No Change – 21 July 1914, 22 July 1914, 23 July 1914.
ladies in waiting
Our pregnant ewes came in from the field just after Christmas for extra care, shelter and food - this is important for strong lamb development. The ewes were all scanned in the New Year so that we can separate them into two groups: those expecting a single lamb in one group, twins or triplets in the other. The blue and green marks on their backs are the farmer’s code for whose got what inside them.
There are currently about 100 breeding ewes in the flock and we expect 150+ lambs. Our ewes are 2 years old the first time they lamb. The gestation period for a sheep is 5 months - the ewes come into season in September and we put our rams in the field in with the girls on 1st October. This means lambing will commence in the first week of March. We choose this schedule in order to have lambs on show in the Museum's fields for Easter.
So for the next few weeks they’ll be loafing around in the shed eating and sleeping….
Sunbathing, and generally being pampered.
Somewhere in amongst them is Poopsie, one of our bottle fed lambs from two years ago. She got the name after pooping all over my leg the first time I fed her.
Sometimes hand reared lambs will stay very tame, but Poopsie has merged back into the flock. Just occasionally though, there’s a look in the eye that makes me think ‘maybe it’s you……’
The Big Garden Birdwatch
Hello Bulb Buddies,
There is an exciting scientific survey being conducted this weekend, and your help is needed! It’s called the Big Garden Birdwatch and is organised by the RSPB, a conservation charity that help to look after our wildlife. You can help by registering online here: https://www.rspb.org.uk/birdwatch/ and downloading an information pack. You then spend one hour this weekend documenting the birds that visit your garden or a green space near your home. The information pack on the RSPB website has a guide to help you identify the birds! Then, upload your findings to the RSPB website so that they can feed into the nationwide survey of bird populations, aimed at providing an insight into how our feathery friends are doing in the wild!
The Big Garden Birdwatch has been running since 1979! You can find out about previous results here: https://www.rspb.org.uk/birdwatch/previous-results/ . An annual, nationwide survey is a fantastic way to spot changes in bird populations. This is important, because if we know that numbers of a certain bird are dwindling, we can start to look at why this is happening and make changes that will help those birds to survive. An example of this is the Starling. The Big Garden Birdwatch has shown an 80% decrease in the Starling population since 1979. The RSPB has been raising awareness of what we can do to help these birds, such as keeping the grass in parts of our gardens short so that Starlings can more easily reach the grubs and insects they feed on near the roots of the grass.
Here are some ideas on how to attract birds to your garden: http://www.rspb.org.uk/news/387868-top-10-bird-feeding-tips-this-winter . And some fun, bird-related activities: https://www.rspb.org.uk/birdwatch/family-fun/ .
St Fagans National History Museum and National Museum Cardiff will be hosting Big Garden Birdwatch activities this weekend! If you want to be involved here are links to the What’s On guides for more details:
I’d like to send a big thank you to those of you who sent your weather data in last week. I’m looking forward to this weeks data and finding out whether it has been warmer or colder and how many of you have had snow or hail!! Remember, if you send all your data in and let me know online when your plants have flowered, then you will receive Super Scientist awards and be in for a chance to win a Nature Trip!
Keep up the good work Bulb Buddies!