Insects In Unexpected Places

My wildlife adventures this week turned away from the typical ventures at nature reserves, towards indoor exploration. Matt and I spent a day with my family at the Science Museum and then the V&A Museum, to celebrate a birthday. I am always a big fan of museums as they are such excellent places for learning – whether it be about the natural world, the lives of humans long ago or otherwise. I wasn’t expecting much, if any, nature in this trip, after all we weren’t at the Natural History Museum. But as the title suggests, I was pleasantly surprised.

Before any insects, we found the DNA model made by Crick and Watson (NB: I feel more should have been said about Franklin in the description). After lots of button-pushing and pointing at shiny things by my nephew (a sign of how the rest of the day would turn out – he loves buttons!), we then stumbled across some bees! From what I remember, the one in the middle is robotic bee whose flight is based on the study of honeybees.

Skip ahead through galleries about atmosphere, household goods and wooden doors, plus some delicious lunch (surrounded by very loud children!), and we get to the Glass Gallery in the V&A Museum. My nephew amused himself, and the family, by running around laughing and looking for buttons to push or stairs to climb. In between being amused by his antics, I took the opportunity to look at the various objects on display. There was plenty of wildlife to be found – as ever, artists being inspired by nature. I think my favourites are the first three – jellyfish, vases and the branch, though I was awed to see work from mosaic tiles from 1-2C AD!

I was intrigued by whether I could find any insects among the collection. There were flowers, trees and birds a-plenty, but I felt certain there must be some insects in there, even if only the usual butterflies found in artwork. I asked the gallery attendant / volunteer, but they didn’t know. So what next? Well, obviously attempt to examine every object in there for insects – a challenge and a half, but I was going to go around and browse anyway, so why not make said browsing a bit more detailed? I was rewarded for my efforts, and many times over. Whilst the insects weren’t normally the main feature on a glassware (or pottery), nonetheless, they were there. Also, a cute snail too.

All in all, a lovely day out with the surprising, but pleasant, appearance of insects and nature within the galleries.

It’s A New Life For Me

Two weeks can fly by, but here we are again. I believe I am settling in well here in Cambridge – working at Wimpole, attempting to do some gardening, and more baking!

At the beginning of this fortnight, there were still plenty of misty mornings and evenings. These were particularly dramatic at Wimpole, especially when the sun was setting behind the trees. I managed to catch some nice photos, although the churchyard one is rather spooky!

A few interesting invertebrates seen – a ladybird, something I don’t know and what looks like the pupal case of something? I believe the ladybird is a Harlequin (Harmonia axyridis).

On a different note, huzzah! I have ticked off another of my 2015 Wildlife Resolutions and it was wonderful! I have finally managed to visit the Grant Museum of Zoology, full of fascinating specimens to peer at and read about. But first, I peered at wildlife near the bus stop in Cambridge, including a rather soggy bumblebee! Poor thing. You can see it isn’t impressed at my peering – in the second photo, it is raising its leg as a warning sign to me. Wonderful behaviour of bumblebees, showing such politeness.

And so, onto the Grant Museum – glass jars of things (sometimes said things were made of glass which was very clever), mounted skeletons (including a quagga, which is an extinct subspecies of the plains zebra, Equus quagga quagga), and a walk-in closet type thing filled with microscope slides. What more could one want?

Well, except a glass jar of moles of course …

Onto the next day, where I needed to steel my nerves as I was giving a talk at the Orthopterists’ Meeting. Yikes! Unlike many of the other speakers, I am not an academic. In fact, I am not even an expert on Orthoptera (the grasshoppers and crickets)! But having discovered how fascinating these insects are earlier this year, I put myself forward to give a talk on how I got into them and how to get more young naturalists into insects. After all, a challenge is good for one’s self? It was good fun, lovely to meet the other attendees and match some faces to Twitter handles!

Back at Wimpole later in the week, and I had the chance to meet some of the animals down on Home Farm, including some gorgeous Shire horses and adorable piglets. I do so love pigs, they are fantastic animals!

A quiet day at the Garden Gate ticket office was soothed by the presence of the White Park cattle who I cannot resist taking photos of! They are gorgeous! Apparently this breed can be traced back to 5BC?! Also keeping me company were a variety of birds, again I couldn’t resist taking photos!

The quietness wasn’t to last for long as it was soon time for the Christmas Craft Fair at Wimpole! We were incredibly busy in the Ticket Office, but in the late afternoon we had a bit of a lull and I was able to have a quick wander around. Nothing really cried out to me to be bought, but I did see this wonderfully decorated gin! I mentioned to the stallholders that it would go down well at entomological meetings, so let’s see if they take that on board. I didn’t buy any of the gin (though tempted) as Matt and I have some sloe gin stewing currently.

15 targets for 2015

In the typical wildlife blogger fashion, I have put together some wildlife resolutions for the next year. I chose 15 for obvious reasons, though part of me feels like I should put together 25 since I celebrate that age in only a few months. Maybe I’ll see if I can add any extra 10 – any suggestions for what they could be? Perhaps to see a specific moth species (nothing too difficult such as Silurian though please!), or to reach a certain number in my pan-species listing?

Anyway, these are the ones that I’ve come up with. Some may be quite a challenge, but some should be quite easy to do. I’ve not set myself anything unrealistic because that would be just silly! I’ll see how the year goes, and if they’re too easy then I’ll set myself some more difficult targets for 2016! (Or if you think they’re too easy, you can suggest some more difficult ones for my possible extra ten resolutions!)

Wildlife to see

  • See 2 new species of butterfly
  • See an otter (not just spraint!)
  • See a kingfisher
  • Go on at least one birding twitch
  • Continue with the moth-ing (Obviously! Hopefully sort out getting a MV trap)

Skills to gain

  • Start learning scientific names properly
  • Learn how to pin insects (so that naturally dead insects that I find can be used for educational purposes)
  • Learn how to clean my bones collection (especially the badger skull)
  • Generally improve identification skills across a range of taxa

Things to do

  • Get into the top 20 on iRecord Butterflies
  • Record wildlife seen (and submit data obviously), including compiling a year list and life list for birds
  • Visit Grant Museum of Zoology (London)
  • Pick up more litter!
  • Launch my not-so-secret project
  • Write an article for a non-wildlife focussed magazine / newsletter / blog