12 Jan 2010

A Visit to the Ulster Museum's Skin Collection

Last week I went with Anthony McGeehan to look at some skins belonging to the Ulster Museum. We were looking specifically at Great Spotted Woodpecker Dendrocops major. We met the Curator of vertebrates Angela Ross in a very snowy Sainsbury's carpark before she took us to the building where they were held. The idea was to see whether the birds they held were of Scandinavian or British Origin.

The birds can be distinguished by the bill measurements. The bird above came from the Crom Estate in Fermanagh from around 1959. It turned out to be a British bird.

We also had a look at this bird below which had been collected in England.

The Museum has a large collection of birds in cases and it was from this that I learnt that there was a family called Shiels who were taxidermists, they were founded in 1856 by James Sheals . He was later joined by his two sons Alfred and Thomas. The Sheals family produced some of the finest mounted birds and mammals in the world at that time. Alfred Sheals was regarded very highly and prepared many of the skins in Lord Rothschild's collection at Tring. He also prepared many skins for the Cairo Museum. The collection includes a number of mounted birds collected in the early 1800s by the famous Irish naturalist, William Thompson This link lets you download in PDF format William Thompson's Natural History of Ireland .

It was an interesting morning and I would like to take this opportunity to thank Angela for her time showing us these items.

I forgot to say there is a new Irish Bird Blog it's called Cork Dude-ing by birder Owen Foley.

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