Sunday, 12 January 2014

A new year, new things!

Hello and happy new year to all my readers. I hope you had a safe and happy one, I, being the party animal I am, was tucked up in bed by 10pm with a horrid cold. But never mind, could always be worse.

I hope santa brought you lots of nice goodies, he was very good to me bringing me lots of stuff to use in the new year, including a small webcam for my indoor bumblebee nest box project. A wonderful book on bumbles was also given, allowing me plenty of reading time to learn all about them. I got some lovely entomology related T-shirts too among many lovely things. But the biggest surprise gift of all was the gift of lovely camcorder from the wife, who, was so impressed with the success of this blog, thought that a positive next step would be a video log (vlog). Or at the very least, I can bring you some good video clips from out in the field in future blogs. Now don't despair dear reader, the blog won't stop because of the vlog, if the vlog idea works, it will run in conjunction with the blog, hopefully. So just watch this space as I've got a few things in the pipeline!

New beginnings

Well the new year is well under way by now and there are many things in the pipeline at the moment including my new volunteer job with the wonderful SuffolkWildlife Trust. This is something I look forward to getting stuck into, as I love to inform and educate people about the wonders that surround us (hence the blog). This new venture will allow me to do that hopefully. there is much in the planning stages at the moment for 2014 and I will share things with you as and when they happen. In the meantime, please click on the SWT link above and explore the site. There are many new projects happening that you can be involved with and your involvement really does help nature. There's also many events for the year you may want to stick in your diaries, there's something for everyone!

On the subject of new beginnings, I came across this subject the other day, Phenology! Not to be confused with phrenology, which is the study of the head, phenology is the study of the times of natural recurring phenomena such as the first buds on a tree, or the first butterfly seen. Records like this go back hundreds of years to the 1600's and give us an important insight not only about nature, but our climate too. After all, much (if not all) of nature is linked with temperatures, sunlight hours etc. So these records of first sightings, really help us to monitor trends and how seasons, climate and many other things are changing. Anyone can do this and you can monitor as much or as little as you like, you don't even have to wander out past the garden gate. You can do it all from your garden if you wish and you can read more about it here.

Another new beginning is my Youtube channel. Yes, as I said earlier, wifey bought me a camcorder for Xmas, so what better way to put it to use, than create my own channel and share my videos with you via it. 

One of my first 'trial' clips comes from waking up one morning last week, when my cold woke me at the wrong 4 o'clock (yes, there's two). Seeing that the night skies were clear, I decided to pop out and make the most of the situation. Destination was going to be Pin Mill on the banks of the Orwell River, but I never made it that far because as I rounded a bend along the bank hugging road, I came across this wonderful view.

Rich morning sunrise on the Orwell.
As you can see, it really was a lovely sight and also gave me the ideal view to try out my new present with a small time-lapse video of the sunrise.

The birds in the foreground, in case you're wondering, are Canadian geese (Branta canadensis). Like I say, it's only a short video, but I hope to be bringing you much more content along a similar vein in the future.

The River Orwell really is a beautiful place once you get outside Ipswich with lots of biodiversity for all interests and some wonderful photographic opportunities too. Just this morning, me and wifey woke up to the coldest morning of the year so far, a -3.2ºC on my weather station at 7:30am, so maybe this is the first inkling of a real winter approaching??? Either way, it's nice to get out even for just a small walk. The river looked like a mill pond and I was able to grab this shot of the Orwell bridge nice reflected in the river below.

Orwell bridge from the east bank of the Orwell.
It was so nice to see this stillness which was only broken by the eerie sound of waders along the shoreline. Please don't ask me what they were, you know birds are not really my strong point, especially water birds. However, I did find my first bug of the year whilst looking for any fossils in parts of the bank that had fallen away in the storms of late. It was a Harvestman, of what species, I'm unsure, as I was with the wifey who is not fond of such things. For those of a similar disposition to the wifey, a picture of it does follow at the end of this blog, however, it is in a very uncharacteristic pose for a spider and that's because it IS NOT a spider despite having 8 legs. Where spiders have two main body sections, an abdomen and thorax, a harvestman does not. It basically has one body section.  Harvestman only have two eyes unlike spiders which have 4-8 eyes. 

Talking of bugs, this leads me on nicely to my latest acquisition. As many of you know, last year saw me inning and mounting insects that I had found deceased and I've always marvelled at the drawers  in museums full of diverse insects. These entomological cabinets are not cheap and prices usually start at several hundred pounds and rising steeply upwards from there into the thousands. That was until Dafyyd Lewis of the Amateur Entomologist's Society, posted a link on the group's Facebook page of a old cabinet being sold by London's Natural History Museum no less. The description was as follows:
"This is an open 20 drawer rack in veneered hardboard, with 20 lightweight 'Oberthur' drawers of the kind used at the Paris Museum; drawers are made in the European style of reinforced card, lined with papered cork, and glazed, with a lift off glass lid, and two brass handles. The drawers are from the Charles Oberthur Collection and date to the 1930s. Drawers are 'continental' depth, i.e. will take a full length pin.

This represents a very reasonably priced bulk storage option for a large collection, a teaching or university collection, or a non-entomological collection requiring glass topped drawers for display

Collection from Natural History Museum, South Kensington."

Thankfully, to say, I won the item and drove all the way down to London to collect it. It now sits happily in my office awaiting some restoration.
New (old) cabinet awaiting some restoration.
The drawers still have all the old markings of their life attached on and in them.

Original labels

As you can see, I'm going to have some hard decisions to make, as although they are covered in history that tells something of the lives of the drawers. Some of them do need loving attention. 

For those who are wondering who Charles Oberthur was, he was the son of a French amateur entomologist and printer. He was one of two sons who both became entomologists with Charles studying lepidoptera and his brother, René, studying coleoptera.

Charles Oberthur (
So there you go, I have a wonderful piece of entomology history sitting right next to me in my office. The first thing that I need to address though, is finding someone with a largish freezer who would be happy for me to pop down every now and then to place a couple of drawers in the said freezer for a day. This is to make sure that any museum beetles ( a destructive beetle that loves dead insects and wood) are killed off. Anyone got a freezer then?

I will keep you posted on the restoration process and hopefully, not before too long I'll be able to start storing some of my collection in them.

So, what with building a new moth trap, a bumblebee nest and now restoring an entomology cabinet, I'm going to have my work cut out for the foreseeable future. All that remains for me to say is, till next time folks, keep happy, keep safe.

And just before I go, here's that picture of a harvestman I spoke of earlier. Take care

Harvestman, also know as daddy- long-legs. I wonder why?

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