, 29 January 2015
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.
23 January 2015,
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……’
15 January 2015,
In between Christmas and New Year our girls came in from the fields for pregnancy scans.
And the scores on the doors are……
We have three breeds of sheep at St Fagans and they’re all on the Rare Breeds List:
and Black Welsh Mountain.
We’re expecting our babies to start arriving in March,
so keep an eye on the website for more details nearer the time.
27 October 2014,
What is an aria? That was the question posed by Music Theatre Wales Director, Michael McCarthy to kick-off this very exciting collaborative project. The Make an Aria scheme is a partnership between Music Theatre Wales (MTW) and the Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama (RWCMD) giving young composers an opportunity to have-a-go at opera. This time, they are using St Fagans Castle and the Museum’s collections as their inspiration. A group of composers from RWCMD teamed with creative writers will ‘make an aria’ from scratch.
So where do you start? A speed-dating session was a good way to establish the best creative match for composer and writer. When everyone was paired-up, curator Elen Phillips gave an introduction to the material for the arias – the story of St Fagans Castle during the Great War.
The Windsor-Clive family of St Fagans Castle were at the centre of events during these turbulent years; Lord Windsor as chairman of the Welsh Army Corps and Lady Windsor as President of the Red Cross Society in Glamorgan. Grief-stricken by the loss of their youngest son, Archer, who was killed in action, they opened the Castle grounds to set-up a hospital run by volunteer nurses or VADs.
The stories were brought alive by looking at objects from the Museum’s collections; a nurses’ uniform from the hospital, a delicate necklace made by one of the wounded soldiers and a field-communion set used on the battlefield. At this point we were joined by members of the Armed Forces community, the 203 Welsh Field Hospital Medics who gave us a completely new take on some of these objects and stories. It just proves that working collaboratively can bring some unexpected and rewarding results. We will continue to work with the Armed Forces in co-curating some of the exhibits in the new galleries at St Fagans but that’s another blog for another day.
We then led the composers and writers on a tour of the Castle and grounds; the old site of the WW1 hospital, the Italian garden where the soldiers recuperated and the greenhouses where the land girls may have worked. Any of these locations could be the setting to perform the arias in the summer of 2015. I think that everyone left with their heads bubbling with ideas. All we can do now is wait.
14 October 2014,
We were joined this Saturday by two more of our I Spy…Nature drawing competition winners and their families. The winners were shown around the mollusc (shell), marine invertebrate and vertebrate collections as part of their special behind the scenes tour by museum curators Katie Mortimer-Jones and Jennifer Gallichan. The visitors were able to select draws from the mollusc collections to look in and saw a Giant Clam and a cone shell known as Glory of the Seas (Conus gloriamaris), a once sort after shell found in the Pacific and Indian Oceans, to name but a few. Next onto the fluid store, where we keep our fluid preserved specimens such as marine bristleworms, starfish, crabs, lobsters and fish specimens. Lastly the tour finished up in the Vertebrate store where we keep some of the Museum’s taxidermy and skeleton specimens. After the tour, the winners were given their prizes of natural history goodies from the Museum Shop.