Posts Tagged ‘Animals’

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!



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!


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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…..


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.



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.


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.


 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


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:



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

Facebook: Katie Vernon Illustration


Pinterest: www.pinterest.com/kyvernon/

Instagram: kyvernon


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A full day of furry fun comes to a close and I hoped you’ve enjoed all the amazing footage of our apprently media friendly mammals. We had a greta impromtue field lecture from Hugh Warwick on Hedgehogs, brilliant bats on this International Bat Weekend and remarkable footage of our British Mammal Species.

What’s on tomorrow?

Tomorrow is the final day of the Final Lap and we will be celebrating the great success of the last 18 months of Meet the Species. Can we get closer to completing our species list? Will those autumn fungi and late flying moths finally make an appearance? Who knows, but we’ll continue to fly the flag for wildlife and celebrate all of the weird and wonderful things that we’ve discovered along the way.

It may be the end of the road for us…but for YOU! You can keep on recording wildlife and meeting species and our pal Ed Drewitt will be telling you how!

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Pine Marten and Fallow Deer, caught on night camera!

And this Pine Marten feeding in daylight.

For more amazing wildlife footage visit, www.youtube.com/user/KindroganFSC

This video is courtesy of KindroganFSC on Youtube….All footage filmed at Kindrogan, Perthshire in Scotland. Many thanks chaps!

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Did you guess what Mammal species this morning’s picture was of? It’s a…. Long Eared Bat Pup!

Brown long-eared bats, as their name suggests, have strikingly large ears. These large appendages are three quarters the length of the bat’s head and body. When resting, the bats fold their ears and hold them backwards. They have a slow and fluttering flight, often close to the ground, which makes them vulnerable to predation from domestic cats. In the summer, they roost in tree holes, bat and bird boxes and attics. In the winter, they hibernate in cellars, tunnels and caves, usually alone.

Click here for some great BBC videos & information on Long-eared Bats.

Long-eared Bat Pup

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Dr Nancy Harrison, a Principal Lecturer at Anglia Ruskin University, tells us about the many fascinating snapshots into the secret lives of the mammal kingdom they’ve caught on a hidden camera they’ve set up in their gardens.

“Most of my cameras are set up so I can watch nest boxes that are part of a long term study on problems faced by garden birds breeding in urban habitat. (You can find out more about Nancy’s studies into garden birds on the Cambridge University Botanic Garden web site.)

I am interested in predation on my study birds – and the cameras have alerted me to the danger from jays which sit on top of a box, and nab begging chicks when they put their head out of the hole.   But when I downloaded the first camera traps I used,  I was surprised to see a muntjac with fawns, and badgers walking around.  The footage was based on a series of nights I set the trap on a tree near the badger sett, to see if it was occupied!  I have never used bait, but the sett is clearly a good active site.  I have put cameras out in other locations where I have only seen evidence of the odd wood pigeon.  I think the discovery of the badger family at the CUBG sett is the best thing I’ve ever found using camera traps.  The worst was when I used one if my back garden and discovered a very large rat!

We are using camera traps of various designs on our course – using them to study the behaviour of animals.  We now run an MSc programme , including a module on how to use camera traps for scientific investigation.

For more information, please visit MSc;



I am glad more folk will be able to see some of the great wildlife stalking the garden at night.  There’s one clip of a fox cub.  Just a fleeting appearance, but interesting to see how many creatures come in to see what is happening at the sett.”

With great thanks to  Dr Nancy Harrison, the Anglia Ruskin University & Cambridge University Botanic Gardens for their kind contributions.

And here are Nancy’s wildlife clips;

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