I am very grateful to representatives of Wicken Fen and Buglife (The Invertebrate Conservation Trust) who have helped me to find out about this beetle. Sadly, perhaps, it is not the rare Crucifix Ground Beetle. It seems instead to be theNecrophorus vespilloides, a member of the Silphidae family or burying beetle.
Matt Shadlow of Buglife replied to me with the following message:
Unfortunately this is not a Crucifix beetle (Panagaeus cruxmajor). There is a certain resemblance, but the photo is a much bigger species, a type of burying beetle. While the Crucifix beetle (Panagaeus cruxmajor) and its close relative Panagaeus bipustulatus (which is commoner but still very rarely encountered) are predators of small insects or snails, the beetle you have seen is associated with dead animals, most commonly mice. A male and female burying beetle will meet up at a carcass and form a bond, they then defend the mouse from rivals as they dig out the soil form underneath the animal so that it sinks underground. At the same time the beetles allies the little mites that they carry around jump off and eat any fly eggs that have been laid on the body. Once it is underground the beetles create a chamber on top of the mouse and the female lays her eggs. When the larvae hatch out they sit in a 'nest' and beg for food. The male and female beetles help their young by partially digesting the mouse and feeding it to their offspring. Eventually the larvae pupate and the parents leave. These are four species of burying beetle (Nicrophorus spp.) with colour patterns like this and we would need to see the colour of the antennae and the shape of the legs to know which it is.
You are not the first person to get excited by potentially finding the Crucifix beetle.
I hope this is useful, if you would like to support our work conserving populations of endangered invertebrates please go to http://www.buglife.org.uk/joinus/
Cheers Matt Shardlow
Director Buglife - The Invertebrate Conservation Trust 170A Park Road Peterborough PE1 2UF
01733 201210 079 21 700151
www.buglife.org.uk Conserving the small things that run the world.
Matt thought I would be interested to hear about Darwin's encounter with a TRUE Crucifix Ground Beetle in 1846. You can read the 'unsavoury' account in Letter 109 on the Darwin Correspondence Project site.
STOP PRESS: a message from Sean McHugh, Communications Officer of Wales Biodiversity Partnership (published here with his permission):
Thank you for your recent email. I submitted the details to two experts
and here is their conclusion:
'I believe it is a sexton beetle, Nicrophorus humator, similar markings
to the Crucifix ground beetle Panagaeus crux-major, but the latter is a
saltmarsh/fen specialist, only known in Wales from either side of the
Burry Inlet, and not recorded on the Gower side since 1912'.
'Sexton Beetle. Although the elytra markings are similar there is also a
white stripe on the thorax (the thorax is also a different shape) and
there's a dead mouse there'.
A key observation is the dead mouse; Nicrophorus humator lays eggs
beside corpses of small mammals and birds which she buries.
However, it's a great field observation & we need more insect
observations to be reported. Take a look at the Local record Centre
sites, for the Swansea area it is covered by Sewbrec
(http://www.sewbrec.org.uk/) where you can submit online records and
find out more about recording & training. Also, take a look at our
website (www.biodiversitywales.org.uk) to see how you can become
involved in Welsh Wildlife.
WBP Communications Officer
Wales Biodiversity Partnership
c/o Wildlife Trust of South & West Wales, Fountain Road, Tondu, Bridgend, CF32 0EH
So the picture has changed, and I can no longer say that I discovered a Crucifix Ground Beetle, but at least I now know more about it. Incidentally, I thought the name 'burying beetle' rang a bell from somewhere. Those who know me will be familiar with my passion for 'things Cornish'. It suddenly dawned on me that there is a delightful book, set in St Ives, called 'The Burying Beetle'. My posting has come full circle - and has rotated around to literature once more!
Right: Chough in Pembrokeshire (taken with a zoom lens). Copyright Caroline Gill 2008
How many of you enjoy poems about birds? For some of us, our acquaintance with birds in poetry began with Edward Lear's splendid, if distinctly unconventional, owl in the pea-green boat. More recently I have fallen in love with some of the poems by Edward Thomas: his owl poem is particularly poignant.
If like me, you enjoy the flutter of feathers as you turn the pages of a poetry volume, I would thoroughly recommend from the field book by Carol Thistlethwaite. The author speaks with authority when she writes about the 'slender hips' of the water rail and the 'straw-bent legs' of the avocet, for Carol has worked as a field teacher for the RSPB at the Ribble Discovery Centre.
from the field book is crammed, end to end, with the jizz on birds. Meadow pipits are to be found alongside the red-legged partridge, and pied wagtails perch opposite the wren. There are occasional illustrations: I particularly like the Common Tern, with its simplicity of line. This bird pops up again on the cover, but you will need to look carefully to spot it!
snipe is a concrete poem: it literally covers the page. black-headed gulls, another concrete poem, is playful in tone. Poems of all shapes and sizes flit across the pages and somehow manage to fit between the covers of this delightful volume.
The final poems encompass the theme of darkness: we encounter the striking image in Barn Owl of the 'phantom with the weight of life hooked in its claws'. This creature could hardly bear less resemblance to his benign cousin, the 'elegant fowl', who sang to his 'small guitar'!
If you would like to experience the jizz for yourself, you might like to buy the book!
Definitions of poetry intrigue me. As soon as poetry is pinned down, it has a habit of slithering its way out of its straitjacket, or so it seems to me. I have decided that it would be revealing to blog links to articles that include some of these definitions. So here goes:
I also like the Reverend Gideon Cecil's description in his letter about Martin Carter, National Poet of Guyana: 'One of the delights of Carter’s poetry is its rendering of profound philosophical thoughts locked in magnificent imagery.' From Letter to the Editor in the Stabrook News. Tues 5 Aug 2008.
There are some good 'poetry definition' nuggets in this piece of advice for poets in Africa fromAnis Haffar. The writer refers to Albert Camus, the Nobel laureate, reminding us that we are “obliged to understand rather than to judge”.
Photograph: Copyright David Gill 2008 (click photo to enlarge)
My husband, David, and I were out walking along a footpath in a wood near the Swansea Valley in South Wales, UK on a sunny Saturday afternoon, 26 August 2008 at about 4pm, when we came across this beetle. The beetle was 2-3 metres from the river bank, and was moving about among the dead leaves at the base of a tree. There were very small black insects scuttling about in the vicinity (and the photograph seems to show a dead mouse, which we had not noticed).
I would love to identify the beetle, and would be grateful for any expert assistance here: do drop me a post on the blog if you can help with the identification. When and where, I wonder, was the most recent sighting in Wales?
I looked on Google Images, and began to wonder whether it could be a Crucifix Ground Beetle. I gather that these have been found at Pembrey, South Wales, in the past; but that they are rare. I also looked on the excellent ARKive site.
Hi while I am not an expert, that sure does look like one to me. Also add to the visual record, your description of the habitat sounds right too. Not that there is that much known about the beetle, no one knows what its habitat requirements are but these are the same conditions that the National Trust Entomologist found for the population in Wicken Fen and are the same conditions here in Chopwell Wood.
It is likely that there are other populations out there, they dont think they are lost as they know where they are, its the Entomologists that have lost them.
Well personally I think its fantastic news and well done you for taking the time to look it up.
Aeronwy Thomas in USA Aeronwy Thomas has been in the USA. The BBC has reported on her inaugural Dylan Thomas walking tour in New York, arranged by the Wales International Centre (WIC). Swansea poet, Peter Thabit Jones, joined Aeronwy on a recent USA tour. Peter has an excellent website.
I missed posting a blog on the anniversary of the death of Robbie Burns (21 July 1796), but this seems an appropriate moment to make amends. I discovered an article about the making of a replica of the printing press that would have been used for the printing of Burns' poetry. You may like to visit the National Burns Collection site. The Writers' Museum in Edinburgh contains more information about the poet. The Burns National Heritage Park site has more information.
Those of you who have visited my blog before, will know that I am a John Buchan fan. My husband, David, has been writing on British archaeologists who were working for military intelligence during WW1. He asked me to proof-read his latest chapter, and I queried the term contre-espionage, which he had spelled with one 'n' (i.e. one 'n' in espionage).
Imagine my amusement when we discovered that according to the OED, one of the early references is to be found in John Buchan's novel, Mr. Standfast (1919). Take a look at chapter XIII, The Adventure of the Picardy Château. (p.281 in my Nelson 1948 edition).
The quotation is as follows:
A sensible man would have gone off to the contre-espionage people and told them his story.
The OED advocates the use of contre-espionnage, but apparently it is quite in order to use counter-espionage.
The plot of Mr Standfast concerns the Ottoman Empire in WW1. One of Buchan's contacts was David Hogarth, the former Director of the British School at Athens, who was in charge of the Arab Bureau in Cairo. The term contre-espionage was used by Frederick W. Hasluck, a member of Hogarth's team in Athens.
I was particularly struck by this article as an ancestor of mine, Stanley Hughes le Fleming, was instrumental in designing the garden in the grounds of nearby Rydal Hall. He was living at Rydal Hall at the time of the 1881 Census. Thomas Mawson was responsible for the development of the Italianate terraces at the beginning of the last century.
The American Lune is my poetry form focus for the week. The lune was created by Professor Robert Kelly. Apparently the right hand 'edge' of the poem should - to some extent - resemble a crescent moon. I challenge myself (and any blog readers) to have a go. The lune's syllabic count for its 3 lines is 5-3-5.
The Jack Collum adaptation consists of 3 lines, with a word (not syllable) count of 3-5-3.
The Telegraph Online (20 June 2008) reports that the enlightened Borough Council in Tunbridge Wells has decided to do away with the word 'brainstorm' in favour of the - more politically correct - term, 'thought-shower.'
According to The New Statesman (25 October 1999), an anonymous inner city GP was aware, way back in 1999, that the term 'brainstorm' was less than acceptable ('banned'). 'We must now thought-shower,' he remarked.
This is not a competition, but take a look at the readwritepoem blog. .
This is a competition: Grist. Judge for poetry: Simon Armitage.
The Caroline at Coastcard Blog counter is now registering 1000.
P.S. It was good to be reminded that Michelle Lipman won the Bath Spa Poetry Competition some years ago with a 3 line Haiku. When it comes to poetry, the right words in the right order can count for more than the quantity!
It made me wonder how we would go about rating our own nominated wild place: would it be on the grounds of association, atmosphere, natural beauty, peace, wildlife ... or would it be more in terms of that indefinable 'wow factor', or perhaps a sense of belonging (or otherwise)? Do we like our place to be kept a secret, or do we want to shout about it to the world?
Wendy Webb, founder of Norfolk Poets and Writers (NPW) and editor of TIPS for WRITERS, has brought out issue 67 in memory of a wonderful writer and faithful supporter of the small press poetry scene, Margaret Munro Gibson. I will always associate Margaret with the colour blue (which happens to be my favourite colour). In my opinion, she was a true maestro when it came to the art of writing Haiku in the English language.
The current edition of TIPS includes poems by Alison Chisholm, Norman Bissett and Bernard M. Jackson, to name but three familiar names. It advertises theMargaret Munro Gibson Memorial Poetry Competition 2009 for a 'quality poem not exceeding 20 lines'. It also lists details of the current Norfolk Poets and Writers' Open Summer Poetry Competition 2008.
Having thought about lighthouse poems and the [Robert Louis] Stevenson family of lighthouse builders yesterday, I came across an interesting article about railway poems [and the engineer, Stephenson] in The Guardian blog on books. Adlestrop by Edward Thomas has to be one of my favourite poems in this category. Anne Harvey has prepared a fascinating anthology of works by other poets who have wished to make their own response to this popular poem. The title is Adlestrop Revisited, and it is published by Sutton. It contains tributes by John Betjeman, Dannie Abse and Simon Rae, to name but three.
On the subject of railway poems, Peggy Poole edited an anthology (published by Cassell) called Marigolds grow wild on platforms. And still on the subject of Edward Thomas, Anne Harvey has also edited a collection of poems 'for and about Edward Thomas', called Elected Friends. The publisher is Enitharmon.
I only discovered today, thanks to an email bulletin from Academi, that here in Wales we are nearing the end of the first ever Give a Book Week. This is part of the National Year of Reading, and the theme for July - somewhat topically in the light of recent news stories concerning the Queen's English Society - is 'Rhythm and Rhyme'.
I note that one of the recommended books is Singing in Chains: Listening to Welsh Verse by Mererid Hopwood and published by Gomer. This is an intriguing and well produced book (aimed, perhaps, at those who are not fluent in Welsh) about the fascinating 'Welsh bardic craft' of cynghanedd. It comes with a CD.
I have attempted a couple of 'englyn' (in English, hence the inverted commas), and know just how tricky it can be to strive for the nearest linguistic equivalent of cynghanedd. You might like to look at Zoë Brigley's Teaching Blog on the subject of cynghanedd and englyn.
I like to write with one eye on the lighthouse outside my window. I can't see it today as there is too much cloud, so I have posted up a Coastcard picture that I am working on.
Virginia Woolf's groundbreaking book, To the Lighthouse, hit the literary scene in a big way; but what are our favourite lighthouse poems?
One of the most well-loved ones has to be Flannan Isle by Wilfrid Wilson Gibson. There is a good BBC site on the mystery surrounding the lighthouse men. The lighthouse is situated about 15 miles to the west of the Hebridean island of Lewis.
When I was on Skye, I caught glimpses of Lewis, and the quality of the northern light (between heavy showers) was very evocative.
Treasure Island was one of my top children's adventure stories (and probably still ranks high among my favourite works of fiction). I had not realised until I visited the lighthouse on the tiny conservation island of Eilean Bàn, halfway between Skye and the Kyle of Lochalsh, that Robert Louis Stevenson came from such a dynasty of Scottish lighthouse builders.
While I was on Skye, I visited the Clan Donald Centre at Armadale, with its Study Centre and award winning Museum of the Isles. The museum incorporates poetry, including the work of six Gaelic poets by the name of MacDonald. The poems are interwoven into the 'tartan fabric' of the display, which covers a spread of several centuries. It is not so much that the poems help us to interpret the significance of individual objects, but rather that they enhance the viewer's overall experience of the museum and the story it sets out to tell.
There is an excellent virtual tour of the museum on the Armadale site. A beautifully produced glossy guide is available. It includes a number of the poems. I particularly like the poetic construction of Clan Donald's Incitement to Battle on the Day of the Battle of Harlaw, 1411 by Lachlainn Mor MacMhurich.
Left: the scene of a Rag Day recitation of Homer's Iliad (in Greek), The Quadrangle, University of Newcastle upon Tyne, 1982.
I have long been interested in the relationship between art and literature (and between art and poetry, in particular). I enjoy novels, like The Girl with a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier, which develop out of a painting. I love ekphrastic poetry, which draws its inspiration from works of art. I am currently reading Burning Bright, in which Chevalier's characters have a [fictional] encounter with the poet and artist, William Blake.
I am also fascinated by the relationship that can develop between a museum object and a poem. As a Newcastle graduate in Classical Studies (with options in Archaeology), I was delighted to receive a copy of the recent poetry book by Maureen Almond, Recollections (Flambard Press). It contains 28 poems about the Roman items in the Museum of Antiquities at Newcastle University. The museum building is about to close, and the collection will be amalgamated with those from other local institutions to form the Great North Museum. The volume is beautifully produced, with glossy photographs. Almond's poems represent a mixture of formal and more open styles. They help us to appreciate the objects in the light of their historical and social contexts.
Most northerly visitor: in Sweden Most southerly visitor: in Chile Most westerly visitor: in California, USA (& Honolulu, 9 July) Most easterly visitor: in Singapore (& Newcastle, New South Wales, 10 July))
I was introduced to John Buchan books at school, and have loved them ever since. I was delighted to buy a copy of 'The Battle of Glencoe' (John Buchan) some weeks ago, when we had lunch in Glencoe, on our way to Skye.
Many have read 'The Three Hostages' and most people have watched 'The Thirty-Nine Steps' (in one version or another), but who has read a book by John Buchan's son, William - the 3rd Lord Tweedsmuir - who died on 29 June 2008? There was an obituary in The Times on Friday 4 July. It is my aim to get hold of a copy of 'The Rages of Time', a family memoir by William Buchan. I would also like to find a copy of his novel, 'Kumari' about India in the 1930s.
One of my treasured books is 'A Buchan Companion' by Paul Webb (Alan Sutton Publishing, 1994). It is an invaluable guide to the novels and short stories. Buchan also wrote verse: I have a copy of his 'Poems, Scots and English', published by Nelson and Sons.
Speaking of 'The Thirty-Nine Steps', we learn (or are reminded) in the obituary that the steps were 'a wooden staircase' down to the beach in Broadstairs. I live in Wales, and was fascinated to find another flight of steps with the same name. These, of course, link the small Pembrokeshire city of St Davids with its cathedral. This flight is - or was - apparently known locally as 'The Thirty-Nine Articles'. You may care to take a look at thenumber 39.
I was delighted to attend a very popular course this morning on the Sonnet. We considered Shakespearian sonnets, Petrarchan sonnets and modern day sonnets. We looked at sonnets that corresponded exactly to a prescribed form, and sonnets that had developed out of a traditional scheme of rhyme and metre.
I knew that sooner or later I would feel obliged to mention the current debate over the age-old question of what constitutes a poem, sparked most recently by The Queen's English Society. This seems as good a prompt as any! Poets the world over have read the article in The Observer (13 April 2008), and many of the editors of poetry magazines have made a response. I was particularly keen to read the editorial by Fiona Sampson in the current edition of Poetry Review (Volume 98, No 2, Summer 2008), the flagship journal of The Poetry Society.
I wonder where Haiku and other international forms of 'traditional poetry' fit in!
We were out visiting an archaeological dig in Carmarthenshire last weekend, when I spotted this fine red kite. It was late in the afternoon on an indifferent day, but there were evidently enough thermals up above to keep the kite soaring gracefully overhead.
Only last week I spotted a red kite much closer to home. We see kites quite frequently; and it is easy to forget that until a few years ago, the future of this beautiful bird was truly in the balance.
I have attempted two red kite poems to date. Gwyneth Lewis, the first National Poet of Wales, has written a particularly striking piece, 'Red Kites at Tregaron' in the seren anthology, Birdsong, compiled by Dewi Roberts. The volume also includes the poem, 'Red Kite over Heol Nanteos' by Mike Jenkins.
Two questions: 1.) If you were given one word to sum up the red kite, what would it be? My choice, of course, is 'majestic'. 2.) Leslie Norris wrote a powerful poem about the buzzard (see Birdsong). For myself, I find it hard to get excited about buzzards: does anyone reading this feel a fascination for these birds; and if so, why?