Monday, 21 May 2012
My International Day for Biodiversity
Unknown Wales was the title of the conference hosted in Cardiff by the National Museum and organised together with the Wildlife Trusts of South and West Wales. My job, together with Geoff Gibbs, was to promote Natur Cymru at the event, which was on the nearest Saturday to the UN’s International Day for Biodiversity.
Over 1700 people walked through the museum doors and ten of them signed up to become subscribers; a good result for us and them we hope. Other participants provided all sorts of wonders. I enjoyed watching a man from the museum feeding tasty treats to a table full of carnivorous plants, carefully placing a woodlouse into the open mouth of a hungry plant. By the end of the afternoon the plants were well stuffed and fast asleep. On the next stand was a beautifully restored ichthyosaurus skull, discovered at Penarth, and recently acquired by the museum; the skull was good but it was the enthusiasm of the museum staff which brought it to life, highlighting amongst other things an ammonite in its eye. Stars of the show were the two slow worms on the Flat Holm stand – they seemed to relish the attention, gracefully moving around the keeper’s fingers and flicking out their tongues.
After lunch I took a break, while Geoff took charge of the stand, and enjoyed two of the day’s seven lectures. Paul Kay’s photographs of marine fishes from around the Welsh coast were spectacular; he was able to coherently explain the finer points of differentiating between seventeen different species of goby! Paul is an advocate of photography for identification purposes as opposed to killing fish for analysis. I enjoyed listening to Vaughn Matthews from the Wildlife Trusts reporting back on a project to monitor the degree to which Tir Gofal had benefitted brown hares and water voles. Unless I missed a slide it seems, depressingly so, that Tir Gofal measures resulted in no significant improvements.
I drove the 150 miles back to Snowdonia and, after a bite to eat, took our dog for a walk. There was a noisy commotion high up in a Scots pine as resident crows shoved a young tawny owl off a branch. It spiralled to the ground in front of our barn and the crows swooped down upon it. We ran to scare off the black devils but we too must have looked threatening and baby owl did a pathetic, downhill glide into some reeds. Once more the crows attacked and we had to chase them away.
It was lying flat, looking pathetic, struggling to keep its eyes half open ... what to do? I tried to get it into a cardboard box as a temporary safe haven but, once again, baby owl sparked into life and managed a fifty metre horizontal flight to beneath the low hanging branches of a willow. I watched for a while to check the crows had not seen or had lost interest and that seemed to be the case.
After dark I followed my ears uphill to Campbell’s Platform, on the Ffestiniog Railway overlooking the Scots pine, and listened to the plaintive calls of two young tawny owls calling out for food. Hopefully one of them was my rescued owl, my real contribution of the day for international biodiversity.