Sloe gin – my recipe

Sloe gin - my recipe
My first batches of sloe gin are ready to drink and are tasting pretty good so I think I can rough out my recipe now. Picking … Start scouting for sloes in hedgerows at the end of September – look for bushes with plenty of healthy fruit – not shrivelled, dry berries. Sloes should be ...

Review of commercial sloe gins

Review of commercial sloe gins
This winter I have been making liqueurs with hedgerow fruits – things like sloe & damson gins and vodkas but also variations with hawthorne berries, white bullaces, quince and crab-apples. As part of my research I decided to rigorously “test” some of the commercial competition – brands such as Gordon’s, Greenall’s, Heyman’s and Sipsmith all ...

Christmas in Dorset

Christmas in Dorset
Have just come back from a lovely, relaxing trip to my parent’s for Christmas … lots of chatting, eating and (a little) drinking, all in the beautiful surroundings of deepest Dorset. Mum treated us to a massive array of delicious food and we all pitched in as much as possible. Then when it wasn’t raining ...

A few ultra-close shots of tiny tachinids! 2

A few ultra-close shots of tiny tachinids!
It’s not often that you get this close to the very rare and tiny Microsoma exiguum (3mm), Cinochira atra (2mm) & Catharosia pygmaea (4-5mm). I have been playing around with a Schneider Componon 35mm f4 lens – a new acquisition from eBay for £16 posted. When reversed on bellows and racked out to about 90mm ...

Some more stacking … 1

Some more stacking ...
Here are a few Pelecotheca (Cryptocladocera) sp. stacks. The technique involves taking about 30 photos, each at a different focal point in the specimen and using a macro-rail to slowly move the camera backwards or forwards. The focused parts of each photo are then combined using software called Zerene Stacker (Pmax setting) to make the ...

Science Uncovered!

Science Uncovered!
Last Friday I had the pleasure of helping out at the Natural History Museum’s yearly “Science Uncovered” event. For one evening the museum opens its doors until late into the night and scientists that normally work behind the scenes come out to show the public what their work is all about. On our stand (“Taxonomy ...

Last year’s tachinids all identified – finally! 1

Last year's tachinids all identified - finally!
I have finally finished going through the tachinids that I caught last year and putting names to them. It wasn’t as hard as it might seem because most of them were common species that I am very familiar with but it was still quite time consuming: The top box is full of tachinids, with a ...

Monty Wood’s neotropical workshop

Monty Wood's neotropical workshop
This weekend has been a real treat for me and I have learned so much. All due to the visit of Monty Wood, who took some time off working at the BMNH to visit me and work on my neotropical material. Monty has been identifying huge numbers of specimens and passing on as much of his ...

A new arrival from Peru!

Today I received a very exciting parcel of peruvian tachinids from John Smit and Menno Reemer. The samples were taken during the last half of 2009 in the Sachavacayoc Centre, Tambopata river region. This is a very species-rich part of the world with a very interesting fauna to me. I will probably take another few ...

Tachinid workshop – 13th February 2010

Today Matt & I ran a tachinid identification workshop at the BENHS collection at Dinton Pastures. This was the 4th or 5th year that we have done this but it was still very well attended with a variety of people from experts to complete novices. The day started with a brief run-through and PowerPoint of ...

2009 accessioning finished!

After 3 days of frantic reorganization in the Palearctic collection I have finally accessioned most of the tachinids I caught or was given last year – approximately 400-500 specimens! 😀 This included batches from: southern Bavaria (donated a long time ago by Dr Donald Quicke from a sample collected by Dr M. Kuhlmann) Galicia in ...

Birds galore!

It has been very ‘birdy’ in the last few days. Yesterday I went to a local lake with my girlfriend and we saw a really superb Red-crested Pochard – a possible released species but still quite unusual. Then today, while having our breakfast we saw 2 new garden species – a flock of 4 Redpoll ...

The OPAL cabinets are complete!

The OPAL cabinets are complete!
At long last I am very pleased to say that the OPAL cabinet project is finished! Yesterday I collected the final batch of drawers from Max at the NHM in London and slotted them into place – as in the photo 😀  The observant amongst you will notice that I have only 36 drawers in ...

New unit trays

New unit trays
Whilst at the NHM last week Max Barclay kindly sorted me out with some new unit trays for the OPAL-funded cabinets. I have spent a few days transferring the collection over to the new trays and this is the result: I’m sure you’ll agree, they look really professional and they fit much better than the ...

It’s all gone white out there…

It's all gone white out there...
Southern England had another blanket of snow last night – about 40cm in my area, which is the most snow I have seen since I was a child. Of course, the town was pretty much at a standstill and most people didn’t go in to work because our infrastructure just isn’t set up for this ...

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!
Last night we had one of the heaviest snow storms in many years and I woke to about 15-20cm of snow blanketting everything. Several friends have said they took hours to drive home from work last night and it seems that many people had to abandon their cars on the main road, rather than try ...

Estonian tachinids

Estonian tachinids
I have finally finished identifying and databasing the majority of Villu’s Estonian tachinids! 🙂  There were just short of 200 European tachinids and lots of interesting species that were new to me – some of which are shown below. I still have to work on the French Guianan material but I will probably just bring ...

The cabinets have arrived!! 6

The cabinets have arrived!!
I have just spent a really fun day with 2 friends of mine, Becca & John, driving up to the Natural History Museum (NHM) in London to pick up the OPAL-funded insect cabinets!! 😀 Max & Howard were away in Peru on a NHM jolly but Paul Brown stood in for them and looked after ...

Pheeewww! I’ve just finished sorting batch 3

Pheeewww! I've just finished sorting batch 3
I like to split the processing of Malaise trap samples into several distinct phases. The first phase is to empty the tubes of insects suspended in alcohol into individual tupperware trays and then work through them, splitting out the groups that I am interested in (mainly tachinids) and that I collect for friends. The tachinids ...

Third French Guianan batch arrives! 2

Third French Guianan batch arrives!
Newsflash – the third batch of flies from Jean Cerda in French Guiana has arrived. Looks like a really big sample too so I am keeping my fingers crossed for plenty of fun this winter!  More news to follow as I work through them 😀