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The sea is a mysterious place – millions and millions of gallons of water home to marinelife both above and below the sea’s surface. I am at my most relaxed and chilled when I am on a boat watching anything from dolphins to birds. And a bird you can almost guarantee to see is the Gannet. It is huge, very white and definitely my favourite.

Image of a Gannet by Richard Towell Flicr

Its’ long body, pointed wings with black tips and summery yellow head make it unmistakable. The bill is the Gannet’s most important tool. When they find a shoal of fish they hold their wings back and become a straight, pointed dagger. Dropping at speed, they plunge the water, catch their fish and rise to the surface to eat their prey within seconds.

This year I went out on a boat to see thousands of Gannets breeding on the small island, Bass Rock, in Scotland. It was certainly a sensory experience. The smell (very smelly and fishy!), the sight (a spectacle), the sound (a grating cacophony) and the taste (seasalt on your lips).

If you’d like to see your own Gannet watch from a coastal vantage point looking out to the horizon, get out onto a special boat trip or if you don’t like boats watch young Gannets currently still in their nests at Bempton Cliffs in Yorkshire.

If you’re out and about on a nice sunny day and notice what you think is a pretty red and black butterfly it is actually the Cinnabar moth (Tyria Jacobaeae).

The Cinnabar moth (Tyria Jacobaeae) was originally named after the bright red mineral ‘cinnabar’ once used by artists as a red pigment for painting.

The adult moth has two bright red spots and red stripes on its forewings and scarlet hind wings with charcoal edging. Moths are split into 2 broad groups – the macro moths (large) and the micro moths (small). The Cinnabar is a macro moth and has a body length of 20mm and a wingspan of between 32mm – 42mm. Although this is a predominantly nocturnal moth it can also be seen during the day.

Cinnabar moth (Tyria Jacobaeae) © Clare Dinham

Life cycle

Females can lay up to 300 eggs, usually in batches of 30 or 60 on the underside of ragwort leaves. When the caterpillars (larvae) hatch they feed on the around the area of the hatched eggs but as they get bigger and moult (instars) they mainly feed on the leaves and flowers of the plant, and can be seen out in the open during the day.

Caterpillar

Caterpillars are feeding from July – early September and are initially pale yellow but soon develop bright yellow and black stripes to deter predators.

Cinnabar moth caterpillar (Tyria Jacobaeae) © Roger Key

The caterpillars feed on poisonous ragwort leaves. The poision from the leaves is stored in the caterpillars body (and even remains when they are an adult moth). Any birds or other predators that ignore the caterpillars bright warning sign will be repulsed by how foul they taste.

Numerous caterpillars on one ragwort plant can reduced it to a bare stem very quickly. They are also known to be cannibalistic.

The caterpillars overwinter as pupa in a cocoon under the ground. The adult moths emerge around mid May and are on the wing up until early August, during which time males and females will mate and eggs are laid.

Distribution and Habitat

The Cinnabar moth is a common species, well distributed throughout the UK and has a coastal distribution in the northern most counties of England and Scotland. Due to its toxicity to livestock Ragwort is being controlled in many areas across the UK. A study carried out by Butterfly Conservation and Rothamstead research in 2003 showed that although the distribution of the Cinnabar moth has remained roughly the same between the study period of 1968 – 2002 their numbers have dropped dramatically due to the persecution of their food plant Ragwort.

Cinnabar moths are found in typically well drained rabbit grazed (short sward) grassland including sand dunes and heathland and lots of other open habitats such as gardens and woodland rides.

Moth trapping

Cinnabar moths are attracted to moth traps which is the main way of recording moths. A moth trap is essentially a light trap which is set in the evening just before dusk and left on throughout the night. Any moths found within the trap can be studied the following morning and released without harming.

Moth trapping using a light trap © Clare Dinham

National Moth Night

Moth night is an annual event carried out across the country aimed at raising the awareness of moths among the public. This year it was carried out from the 21st – 23rd of June. Click on this link to find out more about National Moth Night

With thanks to Buglife for their contribution. To find out more about Buglife visit them at;

 www.buglife.org.uk

www.facebook.com/pages/Buglife-The-Invertebrate-Conservation-Trust

www.twitter.com/Buzz_dont_tweet

Ceri is working to raise awareness for wildlife conservation through art. She studyied Zoology at Cardiff University and has worked on projects to protect and study British wildlife which has inspired her work. We pariculalry love the Long tailed tit designs!!!

Website: PlanetCeri.Wordpress.com

Facebook/PlanetCeri

Long-tailed tit – digital artwork by Ceri Mair Thomas

 

Long-tailed tit – digital artwork by Ceri Mair Thomas

 

smoothnewt in watercolour – Ceri Mair Thomas

Short-eared owl – digital art by Ceri Mair Thomas

Tom Hird AKA The Blowfish

Hey Guys! Blowfish here, and those fantastic people at Meet The Species have given me freedom to blog about whatever I fancy! HA HA HA HA! The FOOLS! Don’t they know how much The Blowfish can gabble about crabs, waffle about whales or speak about sharks!? It’s a wondrous prospect and so full of choice, but I thought I’d tell you guys and gals about one of my fave marine creatures found in the UK. He’s small, he’s bland but he really packs a punch! Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you… the Dog Whelk!

Nucella lapillus, the Dog Whelk, can be found up and down the coast of the UK and if you saw him, you’d just assume he was another boring old snail, going about his business just munching on algae and slime. A dangerous mistake to make. This sniper of a snail is a ruthless predator and is certainly not squeamish. Its favourite prey is mussels. Although mussels might be considered a sitting duck (after all, they hardly move), they do have a super tough shell that even a human can have problems cracking.

So how do you make a meal of a mussel? Well, the dog whelk is not afraid of using a little chemical weaponry. There is a special patch on the whelk’s muscular foot that secretes a powerful acid that will start to dissolve the mussel’s shell. Backing up this acid attack, the dog whelk produces his most devastating weapon, a radula. All molluscs have radula and they are very wonderful things. A radula is essentially a long conveyor belt of teeth. In algal grazing molluscs, the teeth are flat and evolved for grinding, but in predators like the dog whelk, the teeth are long, curved and dagger sharp! Using the radula like a chainsaw, the whelk starts to saw through the acid-weakened shell. But the worst is yet to come!

Once the shell has been breached, the living mussel inside is slowly shredded to pieces by the buzzing radula. It can take up to a week for a dog whelk to eat a single mussel! However, one mussel’s sacrifice might not always be in vain. Chemicals given off by feeding dog whelks stimulate the surrounding mussels to defend themselves. Using strong sticky adhesive threads called byssus, the mussels will bind the dog whelk to the surface of the rock, holding it fast and leaving it to face a long drawn-out end.

You see! All this hardcore drama! All occurring right under your nose! So next time you’re down on the beach, don’t go looking for the fast scuttling crabs, or the darting actions of fish, why not spot the Dog Whelk and his slow but deadly methods! Great stuff!

Cheers

Blowfish

To read more about Reptiles, Amphibians and Marine Life, you can visit the Blowfish’s blog here; www.school-of-fish.co.uk/blog

Or to contact Tom (Hird AKA the Blowfish) please visit; http://www.atwenterprises.co.uk

Many thanks for your great contribution Blowfish!

For the past 18 months in which we’ve been ‘Meeting the Species’, we’ve duly noted that nature, in its many weird and wonderful forms, shouldn’t be limited to being recorded in black & white. We’ve explored many different ways of recording our findings, through photography, audio, and video. We also love the idea that using art not only to record nature but using art to connect and engage with your natural surroundings and the wildlife in it. Luckily for us some of the most captivating artists can be found right here in the world of blog, and here’s one of our favourites!

Katie Vernon (Indiana, USA) takes leaves out of nature’s many pages. Her projects capture a simple essence of structure & form in nature and the unique beauty of wildlife around her. Here’s what happened when ‘Meet the Species’ get the opportunity to ask Katie about the inspiration for her artwork…..

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MTS: So Katie… What is the connection between your art and your interest in nature?

Katie: The most obvious connection lies in the fact that I was a florist for a few years. It was easy to be inspired to draw/paint floral images when I was surrounded by them. I love drawing animals because I think they can be more expressive than drawing humans (and drawing humans has never been by forte). I have always been more drawn to nature than cities- put me in a mountain range and my heart sings, put me in a crowded city and my senses become overwhelmed. (although I do love some good people-watching)

MTS: Where does you passion for nature come from?

Katie: My mom always wonders where I got the ‘outdoorsy’ gene from. I always loved playing outside as a kid, then in high school we had a gym class that exposed me to climbing, kayaking, and camping-and I was hooked! I’ve done a 28 day course with NOLS (National Outdoor Leadership School) in Wyoming, am married to an Outward Bound instructor, and find that the more time I spend in nature, the more I love (and crave) it.

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MTS: Are there any green spaces or natural locations near you which particularly inspire you?

Katie:  I currently live in the awesome town of Bloomington, Indiana. It’s a great little liberal town with so much to offer, but I am unfortunately not inspired by its natural surroundings. I think I have been spoiled by spending lots of time out west in places like Yosemite, some of the more remote areas Yellowstone, and so many other places with absolutely breathtaking overlooks, pristine mountain streams, and wildlife more majestic than a squirrel. (no offense to the cute squirrels in Bloomington) Since my job is very portable, we will be moving in a few years and have our sights set on places like Oregon, Idaho, or even New Zealand.

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MTS: Do you have a favourite animal or plant you like drawing?

Katie: Lately I have enjoyed drawing botanicals that aren’t necessarily flowers and I always love drawing bigfoot and brontosauruses.

MTS: What is your favourite season?

Katie: definitely fall. I love being outside without having to wear a million layers or breaking a major sweat. The crisp air is at the same time invigorating and soothing- it makes me want to go for a hike and then come in a sip on some hot cocoa.

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 MTS: What materials do you use?

Katie:  I use a combination of materials in my work- pencil, acrylic, gouache, and ink. I also use a tablet sometimes and I do a lot of collaging on the computer.

 MTS: Describe your art style in 3 words?

Katie: Whimiscal, quirky, in-development

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MTS: So….Any projects on the horizon?

Katie: 3 months ago I gave birth to our first little girl- Juniper. So that’s my main job for a bit, but I am in the very early stages of working on a few children’s products (games/puzzle) with Chronicle Books. I also have a new etsy shop (KatieVernon) for my current work that isn’t strictly floral fauna (like ChipmunkCheeks). And lastly, I have a small online shop called Good Voyage that a friend and I opened earlier this spring (good-voyage.com). It combines our love for adventure, the outdoors, and design. We are currently working on our fall/winter products!

Thanks Katie… We wish you all the best with your future projects!  If you like Katie’s work, then here’s where you can find her:

Website:www.katievernon.com

Blog:www.katievernon.blogspot.co.uk

Etsy Shops: www.etsy.com/shop/KatieVernon or www.etsy.com/shop/ChipmunkCheeks

Facebook: Katie Vernon Illustration

Twitter:@katievernon

Pinterest: www.pinterest.com/kyvernon/

Instagram: kyvernon

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A stirring thought from Hugh during his talk at Wilderness Festival: one of our Meet the Species feature events

To see more of Hugh, please visit his website or follow him on Twitter