Last week I tried something a bit different for the Friday mystery object. Instead of giving you a few different views of a skull or whole animal, I offered just a small detail:
I hope the challenge proved fun for everyone who tried to figure this out. There were quite a few correct answers, although I think it was quite a challenge.
In fact, it was a challenge issued to the 5th class of St. Laurence’s National School by the Sallins Biodiversity Group in their excellent #MapOfLife2022 project.
Here’s what Gavin Brangan has to say about it:
For many children, the Dead Zoo is their first experience of being struck by the wonder of nature up close and in person.
In #MapOfLife2022 wanted to bring as many facets of that experience to the school and local community. On Wednesday, 5th Class in St Laurence’s had a video tour and workshop given by the education department of National Museum of Ireland – Go Extinct!
Joanne Murray, a local artist, based her art workshops with Senior Infants and 3rd class in the school on the specimen drawers containing insects. To cap it all, we’ve invited the children to find Paolo’s mystery object on the ground floor of the virtual tour of the museum.
If you’ve been following this blog for any length of time, you’ll know that one of the reasons I’ve kept it going for so long (this is its 13th year!) is the community that has developed here and the opportunities the blog offers to help people engage with objects from the natural world and the stories they can tell.
In this case, I thought sharing this beautiful feather pattern would help me tell the story of an extremely rare visitor to Ireland – the Great Bustard Otis tarda Linnaeus, 1758.
This particular bird is a female that somehow ended up in Castletown, Berehaven, Co. Cork in the winter of 1925. At this point in time the Great Bustard had been extinct in Britain for over 90 years and was not to be seen again until they were reintroduced to Salisbury Plain around 2007, so it couldn’t have come from Ireland’s closest neighbour.
It’s more likely to have come from France, Spain or Portugal, meaning it was off course by over 1,000km. I haven’t found any records of particularly big storms in the winter of 1925, but often it will be something like that which brings a migrating bird so far off track.
These birds like dry open grassland, with plenty of insects to feed on. Ireland is probably too wet for them to become established, although with a changing world climate that could possibly change in the future.
This is the interesting thing about nature – it changes constantly. What we think of as being normal is actually just what we’re used to seeing in the span of our lives. This is why it is so important to understand biodiversity over time – to see how it’s changing and to work out why it’s changing.
Museums like the Dead Zoo have specimens collected by people over the last 250 years and the activities of community groups doing projects like #MapOfLife2022 can help feed into that preserved knowledge and add a new level of understanding of the natural world today.
I think it’s especially important for young people to have an opportunity to get involved with this sort of thing, since they will be our future naturalists, life scientists and museum curators. This is why the efforts of people like Gavin, and teachers like Ms Hennessy and Ms Scott are incredibly important and deserve recognition.
To wrap up, I recommend taking a look at the photo journal of the #MapOfLife2022 events to see the young and old of Sallins getting involved in Biodiversity and natural history.