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Valentines Day for Peregrines

Barbara Mireille Brown, 18 February 2015

It was Valentine's Day for Peregrines too

Valentine’s Day is traditionally the day when birds start to pair up and our Clock Tower Peregrines seem to be no exception.

Thursday the 12th of February saw Mrs Peregrine (the bigger of the two birds) clearing out a possible nest site very high up on the tower. Although we could only see her back and tail feathers, it was clear she was busy, as leafs and small twigs were spirally down behind her, occasionally hitting Mr Peregrine who was perched nearby, maybe overseeing operations.

Friday the 13th saw more action as Mr P left the Tower in a swift hunting flight mid-afternoon. He was soon back with a Valentine’s Day meal of Pigeon for the female. Offering dinner to your partner works for Peregrines as well as humans!  She didn’t wait for Saturday the 14th though and after a plucking the prey in a shower of feathers, tucked into her meal without any courtship ceremony.

They are often on the tower together now, and I think it won’t be long before they make their choice of nest site and start carrying a few new sticks in to build it up.

Barbara Brown

Opal Community Scientist

rare breeds at St Fagans

Bernice Parker, 17 February 2015

We have three types of sheep at St Fagans, and they are all on the Rare Breed List:


rare breed:
noun: rare breed
A breed of livestock or poultry that is not associated with large-scale commercial farming, typically one that has traditionally been reared in a particular region.


Source: Oxford Dictionaries

Traditional breeds won’t give you the best, or fastest return on your money, unlike modern commercial animals, but they may have characteristics which make them better suited to specific local circumstances, like hardiness, disease resistance or a willingness to work harder to find food! Each breed might not offer the complete package to a modern farmer, but they are part of the library of genetic material that we need to protect to ensure a sustainable future for Welsh farming.


So if you’re in the mood for some sheep facts – you’ve come to the right place!
Eyes down for a game of Rare Breed Bingo…


Hill Radnor (listed as ‘at risk’)

A rare breed Hill Radnor sheep at St Fagans 


Developed over the years to suit the Radnor Hills and is probably typical of the old Welsh tan-faced sheep that used to roam the hills. Reference was being made to the breed as far back as 1911 and a Breed Society was formed in 1949. The breed remains very much confined to the Radnor/Brecon area of Wales and there are very few flocks in the rest of the U.K.
Key Characteristics:
Size: Medium ewes- 50-55kg, rams- 70-80kg
Looks: A hill breed but larger and bulkier than a Welsh Mountain.Thick white fleece and a distinctive tan face with an aquiline nose. Ewes are polled, rams are horned.
Hardiness: The breed is hardy and is well suited to life on the hills. Can do well on limited forage.

Llanwenog (listed as a ‘minority breed’)

A rare breed Llanwenog sheep at St Fagans


Derived from the cross of the Shropshire with various local black faced hill breeds in the Teifi valley in West Wales in the late 19th century. The Llanwenog Breed Society was formed in 1957. The breed is still centred in West Wales but has spread throughout the UK. Particular value is placed on its ability to survive in harsh upland areas as well as to make the best use of richer lowland pastures.
Key Characteristics:
Size: Medium - ewes- 55-60kg, rams- 80-90kg
Looks: A well balanced sheep with a thick white fleece and characteristic tuft or topknot above the head. The head and ears are black.
Hardiness: The Llanwenog retains some of the hardiness from its hill breed ancestors but is more suited to lowland grazing.


Black Welsh Mountain (listed as a ‘success story’ hooray!!!)

A rare breed Welsh Black sheep at St Fagans


A distinct colour variation of the Welsh Mountain which occurred from time to time in white Welsh Mountain flocks for centuries. In 1920 a Black Welsh Mountain Society was founded to register the breed as separate from the white Welsh Mountain. The Black Welsh Mountain is the only completely black breed of sheep found in the UK.
Key Characteristics:
Size: Small- ewes- 45kg, rams- 60-65kg
Looks: To conform to the breed standard a sheep must be black all over. A small, slender sheep although not as thin looking as a primitive breed. Ewes are polled, rams are horned.
Hardiness:  Can survive on upland grazing where other breeds would struggle and similarly to other Welsh Mountain varieties, the breed will thrive when brought onto richer lowland grazing.


(information supplied by kind permission of the Rare Breeds Survival Trust)

Introduction to Fragile? commissions

Penelope Hines, 10 February 2015

With just under two weeks left of Artes Mundi 6 momentum is building for the next west wing contemporary show at National Museum Cardiff. Fragile? is an exhilarating exhibition of contemporary ceramics that will open in April 2015.

This show includes not only pieces from the collection of Amgueddfa Cymru, loans from artists and institutions but also several exciting new commissions.

So far two teaser videos have been released looking at the work of four welsh artists who have been commissioned by The Derek Williams Trust to create unique pieces for the show.

The four artists are Adam Buick, Claire Curneen, Lowri Davies and Walter Keeler.

and

There are also three exciting ceramic based site specific installations in this exhibition. Phoebe Cummings, Keith Harrison and Clare Twomey are producing pieces that will challenge pre-conceptions about the medium and encourage direct visitor participation.

View this exhibition in our “What’s On” Guide

There are going to be lots of exciting events, workshops and talks based in and around this exhibition. More details will be coming soon!

Adam Buick prepares his Moon Jar

Adam Buick prepares his Moon Jar (Image courtesy of Culture Colony)

ladies in waiting

Bernice Parker, 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……’

counting sheep

Bernice Parker, 15 January 2015


In between Christmas and New Year our girls came in from the fields for pregnancy scans.

The St Fagans flock


And the scores on the doors are……

scan results for St fagans ewes


We have three breeds of sheep at St Fagans and they’re all on the Rare Breeds List:

A Hill Radnor ewe

Hill Radnor

Llanwenog ram


Llanwenog

a group of mixed ewes on a frosty morning

sheep at St Fagans


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.