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Cymru Anhysbys - Unknown Wales, our evening of talks about Welsh wildlife hosted by the Museum and the Wildlife Trust for South and West Wales, was held on 29 October this year. It was special not just because it was entirely digital for the first time, but also because it was the 10th anniversary of the event. As part of the celebrations, we shared nature-related activities for families including a quiz which was set in our natural history collections, and a nature photo competition.

On the evening, our natural science curators gave quick-fire talks showcasing the museum collections and their work. We heard about sponges and sea squirts, 200 years of geology in Wales, Xylella and the meadow spittlebug, as well as alien molluscs rafting on plastics from the Caribbean!

We welcomed Roger Thomas, former director of the Countryside Council for Wales who asked us how we, Homo sapiens, can stay off the endangered list. Isabel Macho, biodiversity officer for Carmarthenshire Council, explained the high value of bogs in environmental engagement and in combating climate change. A call to arms for nature in Wales by Iolo Williams gained support on social media:

“Neges ysbrydoledig gan @IoloWilliams2 heno yn #CymruAnhysbys #UnknownWales Di-flewyn-ar-dafod, penderfynol, positif. RHAID i ni wneud hyn.” (Inspirational message from @IoloWilliams2 tonight at #CymruAnysbys #UnknownWales Outspoken, determined, positive. We MUST do this). @elenbendduen

With eight talks, and a special message from Iolo Williams, we had a record audience for the 10th anniversary of Cymru Anhysbys - Unknown Wales!

During lockdown our curators released weekly photo bingo cards for people to find and take photos of animals, plants and other things from nature. This #NatureOnYourDoorstep campaign was inspiration for the Unknown Wales photo competition. For the competition, we asked people to share their photos of nature taken during lockdown, and tell us the story behind them.

The entries we received have highlighted how nature has kept many of us going through the lockdowns and unsettling times of 2020. People appreciated nature during their daily exercise, and started noticing nature more as traffic and human noise decreased. Nature contributes to our daily sense of well-being, and lockdowns lead us to focus on what is close to home, especially the nature on our doorstep.

We received some amazing entries, however, 15 year old Edwyn Bywood’s photo of a Sparrowhawk was chosen as the winner by the judges. They said, this is literally ‘nature on your doorstop’! A very engaging photo with the Sparrowhawk looking straight at the viewer.

Edwyn shares his story: “One day I was in bed and heard a commotion, I looked out and there were feathers everywhere and a big female sparrowhawk holding its collared dove prey near the back doorstep. I took a lot of pictures but this is my favourite.”

Alan Underwood’s photo of Migrant Hawker dragonflies was highly commended, especially from a technical detail standpoint. “Late summer and down amongst the reeds at the pond’s edge Migrant Hawkers perpetuate the circle of life in their elegant mating wheel. It’s how dragonflies do it - if you are lucky enough to catch them at it!”

The first runner up was Megan Williams, aged 12 for her photo of a buttercup. Megan tells a story that may be familiar to many of us: “In lockdown my family and I went on family walks in the area around my house. We never went far but I discovered loads of places we never knew were there.  We were too busy before with my mum and dad’s jobs and our activities to appreciate what was on our doorstep.  We have decided as a family to make sure that we carry on going on these walks and spending family time when this horrible pandemic is over so at least something good will have happened from it.”

Saharah Uddin, aged 11, was the second runner up for her photo of a family of ducks she has been keeping an eye out for since the start of lockdown. “The photo shows her favourite duckling (named Daisy Duck) shaking water off after diving into the river to join her family. Daisy was originally the smallest duckling in the family so Saharah made a point of going out every evening with some food. And now she is a very healthy little duckling with a feisty personality.”

Below are further stories and images of nature from lockdown that were shared with us for the competition. If you wish to share your stories, follow @CardiffCurator on Twitter and use the hashtag #NatureOnYourDoorstep. For those who missed the evening of talks for Cymru Anhysbys-Unknown Wales, you can take a look back at the tweets from the evening via the Twitter Moment.

Ruth Jones: “Roedd y falwen yma yn amlwg yn hoff iawn o'r car tegan oedd wedi'i adael allan yn yr ardd gefn dros y cyfnod clo.  Efallai ei bod eisiau gwybod sut deimlad oedd teithio ar 100 milltir yr awr tra fod pawb arall ar "lockdown", ond ar ol cael y profiad mae'n amlwg wedi troi ei chefn arno a phenderfynnu mai bywyd hamddenol malwen ydi'r bywyd gorau wedi'r cwbwl.”

Jo Jones: “With the New Lock Down starting today I couldn`t believe my good luck when this beautiful Sparrow hawk decided to sit and have a rest on a log in my garden. What was so unbelievable was being able to grab my camera and take the picture before the Sparrowhawk flew away! These birds nested nearby during the first Lock down which gave so much of our Wildlife the peace and space to thrive.  Every cloud does have a Silver Lining and there will be better days to come in the future.”

Sarah Phelps: “Lockdown did give us the opportunity to embrace what outdoor space we did have, however small, and we planted vegetables and wildflowers in whatever pots we could find. We loved to see the bees, butterflies and other insects that the wildflowers attracted. The photograph gives a little snapshot of the beautiful flowers that came out of our small pot and I love how I have caught the old coal mining tip in the background. Our flowers are still growing strong and new colours are emerging every week even during these cold Autumn days. They have definitely brought colour into our lives when we needed it the most.

Willem van de Koot: “During one of my fieldwork trips at a site called Tyn y Bryn I spotted this beautiful patch of Bristly Haircap (Polytrichum piliferum) in the morning sun. Just the way it caught the sunlight, combined with the lovely highlights provided by the striking red newly forming sporophytes makes this one of my favourite pictures I have ever taken. Also the fact that its thriving in such a rough environment between the slate rocks shows how tough these often overlooked plants really are, something they have in common with the Welsh people.”

Ruth Symes: “An Orb Weaver spider emerging from its retreat at Garn lakes Blaenavon. During lockdown I became interested in macro photography and explored the area photographing insects.”

 

 

Katherine Slade

Curator: Botany (Lower Plants)
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