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The Nature Collection For British Wildlife

Peacock butterfly

The Nature Collection

A unique collection of natural history objects relating to our local British wildlife: birds, mammals, fish, reptiles, amphibians and insects. A rare opportunity to examine local animals, inside and out!

The exhibits are perfectly cleaned and preserved. Intriguing. A joy to see and explore for children and adults of every age.

Sea bream, jawbone and teeth

Since 2010, the Nature Collection has been displayed at the Royal Geographical Society, the London Wetland Centre, The Royal Parks, Orleans House, Ham House and at many local wildlife events. It has been explored by more than 26,000 children in primary schools and nurseries in SW London and Surrey in science workshops, connecting local wildlife with topics in the national curriculum.

The display contains hands-on exhibits such as animal skins, antlers, skulls, wings and feathers which can be picked up and touched, as well as display cases for the more delicate objects like bird skeletons and insect specimens. There are also, photo display boards which celebrate UK animals, plants and habitats.

As to size, the display can cover 10- 12 trestle tables, each 2m long, filling a school hall. It is also possible to restrict the size down to a smaller display, if necessary.

The Nature Collection: Index

Grass snake, skin

Click below, to go directly to a section.

The main photo shows Barn owl feathers

Field vole skull, with a daisy
Rib cage from a Mole

Bird Skulls

Bird Skulls

Bird skulls illustrate brilliantly the adaptations for diet and methods of feeding.

Bird skulls in the collection include:

  • Tawny owl, Little owl
  • Mallard duck, Shoveler duck
  • Rook, Crow, Magpie, Jackdaw
  • Wood pigeon
  • Parakeet
  • Robin
  • Goldfinch
  • Great tit
  • Dunnock
  • Chiffchaff
  • Blackcap
  • Treecreeper
  • House martin
  • Woodcock, Snipe
  • Kestrel
Tawny owl
Shoveler duck
Jackdaw
Wood pigeon
Kestrel

Main photo shows the skull of a Ring-necked parakeet.

Back of a Jackdaw's skull
Underside of a Song thrush's skull
Colourful tip of a Moorhen's beak

Bird Skeletons

There are many bird skeletons (complete or partial) in the display, including

  • Tawny owl, Little owl, Barn owl
  • Kestrel, Sparrowhawk
  • Magpie
  • Jackdaw
  • Woodcock
  • Parakeet
  • Wood pigeon
  • Blackcap
  • Chiffchaff
  • Treecreeper
  • House martin
  • Robin
  • Dunnock
  • House sparrow
  • Great tit
  • Green woodpecker, Great spotted woodpecker
  • Swan
  • Mallard

It is fascinating to compare the different sizes and to look for the adaptations. For example, some birds have much longer wings or legs, some have a deeper rib cage and breastbone.

To learn more, click Bird Skeletons.

Mallard

Mallard, Fringe around the beak, to trap food

Mallard, Neck vertebra, showing the holes for the spinal cord and arteries.

Mallard, Tail vertebrae

Mallard, Breastbone like the keel on a boat

Jackdaw

Jackdaw, Spine and rib cage

Jackdaw, Ribs

Jackdaw, Hip joint

The bird skeleton is similar in many ways to a mammal skeleton, with a skull, spine, rib cage and the arrangement of bones in the wings and legs.

House sparrow

House sparrow, Skeleton

Sparrow, Spine and ribs

Tawny owl

Tawny owl, Skeleton

Tawny owl, Spine, rib cage and pelvis

Tawny owl, Spine

Birds' Feet

The Collection includes feet from a Swift, Wood pigeon, Song thrush, Green and Great spotted woodpecker, Barn owl, Tawny owl and Little owl, Kestrel, Sparrowhawk, Crow, Jackdaw, Magpie, Robin, Goldfinch, House martin, Treecreeper, Dunnock, Chiffchaff, Blackcap, Wren and Mallard duck.

Wood pigeon, Mallard duck, Green woodpecker, Little owl, Magpie and Song thrush

Feathers

There are all kinds of feathers in the Collection, as well as the complete skins of a Kingfisher, Snipe, Woodcock, Jay, Treecreeper, House martin, Starling, Mandarin duck and Magpie.

There are wings from a Mallard duck, Teal, Pheasant, Barn owl, Little owl, Tawny owl, Sparrowhawk, Green woodpecker, Great spotted woodpecker, Robin, Great tit, Goldfinch, Chiffchaff, Dunnock, Blackcap, Wren and Parakeet.

Tawny owl
Magpie, tail
Jay, wing

Taxidermy

The Nature Collection has some taxidermy, or stuffed birds, which gives you the chance to examine the birds at your leisure and appreciate their beauty.

There are some taxidermy birds:

  • Tawny owl
  • Robin
  • Chaffinch
  • Jackdaw

Pellets

Barn owl pellet containing Mole claws

There is a display of pellets from a Barn owl, Tawny owl, Little owl, Kestrel and Sparrowhawk.

There are display cases showing the contents of pellets, especially the tiny bones of small mammals. To find out more, click here. Small Mammals

Replica Bird Eggs

The Collection includes cases of replica birds' eggs, from a Tawny owl, Little owl, Kestrel, Peregrine, Magpie, Greenfinch, House sparrow, Blackbird, Song thrush, Great tit, Robin and Green woodpecker.

Replica Magpie egg
Fox

Mammal Skulls

Mammal Skulls

Mole, Skull

Mammal skulls in the Collection include

  • Red dee, Fallow deer, Roe deer, Muntjac deer
  • Rabbit
  • Fox
  • Badger
  • Stoat
  • Grey squirrel
  • Brown rat
  • Hedgehog
  • Mole
  • Field mouse
  • Field vole
  • Common shrew
Fallow deer skull

There are several antlers from Fallow and Red deer, including two covered in 'velvet'. Also antlers on the skull of a Muntjac deer and tusks from a Chinese water deer.

Fallow deer, antler

To find out more about the skulls and teeth of our UK mammals, click here. Mammal Skulls and Teeth.

Stoat

Children might enjoy this link! Whose skull is this?

Rabbit skull
Brown rat, Skull
Grey squirrel, Skull
Hedgehog, Skull
Fox, Skull

Mammal Skeletons

The Nature Collection has skeletons from many different UK mammals:

  • Fox
  • Badger
  • Rabbit
  • Grey squirrel
  • Hedgehog
  • Stoat
  • Brown rat
  • Mole
  • Field vole
  • Field mouse
  • Common shrew
  • Pygmy shrew
  • Pipistrelle bat

Hedgehog

Hedgehog, Skull

Hedgehog, Spine and ribs

Hedgehog, Tail bones

The individual bones are such beautiful shapes! See the bones of a Brown rat, for example.

Brown rat

Field vole

Field vole, Skull with a daisy for size!

Field vole, Pelvic bones in a pea pod!

Field vole, Pelvis and spine

Field vole, Shoulder blade

Field vole, Underside of hind foot

It is fascinating to compare the same bones in different animals, e.g. the shoulder blades.

Field vole (as small as a daisy petal), Grey squirrel, Hedgehog, Brown rat and two slender blades from a Mole!

Ribs!

Mole, Hedgehog, Field mouse and Brown rat

Fore feet!

Mole, Shrew, Field mouse and Stoat

For more photos and a guide to mammal skeletons, click here: Mammal Skeletons

Mammal Skins

Badger

Animal skins are lovely to touch and interesting to examine up close. There are often many more colours and textures on an animal, than you first think.

The Nature Collection has skins which you can touch, from a

  • Fallow deer
  • Fox
  • Badger
  • Rabbit
  • Grey squirrel
  • Mole

Children might enjoy this link: Whose Skin Covering Is This?

Fox Skin

Mammal Taxidermy

Taxidermy, or stuffed animals, provide the opportunity to examine our local wildlife up close. Small mammals especially, are so fast it is rare to get more than a glimpse of them, in the wild.

Field mouse

Together with their skeletons, The Nature Collection has taxidermy models of a

  • Hedgehog
  • Mole
  • Field vole
  • Field mouse
  • Pygmy shrew

Fish

Chub fish, Scales
Sea bream, Vertebrae

Fish bones are beautiful and incredibly intricate. The fish bones in the Collection are from fish which we buy to eat. There is also a Pike skull, showing the rows of sharp teeth!

Click here to see more: Fish Bones

Hake, Vertebra

Reptiles

Adder
Grass snake, Skin

Snake skeletons are so different to mammals and birds, having just a skull, spine and ribs.

Grass snake, Vertebra
Grass snake, Bones

There are Grass snake bones in the Collection, as well as the shed skin of a Grass snake and the whole skin of an Adder! There are also skins and bones from two Grass snake hatchlings and a mummified Slow worm!

Adder, Skin

The Collection contains some hatched egg cases, from a Grass snake. They were found inside a fallen Oak tree.

Grass snake, Egg cases

Children might enjoy this link about Life Cycles!

Amphibians

Common Frog

The Collection includes a skeleton of a frog. It is interesting to compare with the other skeletons. Frogs have a very short spine, no ribs and huge feet!

Frog, Skeleton

There are also mummified froglets and a small toad!

UK Insects

Butterfly wings

There are all kinds of insect specimens in The Nature Collection. There are display cases for

  • Butterflies
  • Moths
  • Caterpillars (freeze dried)
  • Cocoons
  • Flies
  • Bugs
  • Grasshoppers
  • Beetles
  • Bees and wasps

For butterflies, all the common species are there: Peacock, Red admiral, Comma, Large white, Brimstone, Silver washed fritillary, Skippers, Blues, Small copper, Orange tip, Speckled wood, Small Heath, Meadow brown, Ringlet, Painted lady and many more.

A huge selection of moths. Also, cocoons from the Silk moth: not a UK species but interesting to see.

Case of UK moths

There is a display case showing several different species of bee, wasp and hornet and a wasps' nest and hornets' nest.

For beetles, you can see specimens of Stag beetle, Lesser stag beetle, Violet ground beetle, Minotaur beetle and Dor beetle.

The Angela Marmont Centre at the Natural History Museum, London, houses a vast collection of UK insects. Click here to see amazingly detailed images of some insects in the Collection! Butterflies and Moths. Other Insects.

Exotic Insects

Exotic beetle

As well as UK insects, the Collection has extensive displays of large, brightly coloured exotic insects, which give a glimpse of the amazing wildlife to be seen, in other countries.

Exotic Insects: beetles, wasp, Sunset moth and grasshopper
Lantern bug
Jewel beetle

Susanna Ramsey, Collector & Photographer

I am Susanna Ramsey and I have a unique collection of natural history objects relating to British Wildlife.

During 2010-2018, I took my Nature Collection into local primary schools to display and run workshops for over 26,000 children, linking the exhibition to science topics in the National Curriculum such as Adaptations, Bones, Classification, Food Webs, Habitats, Life Cycles and Local Wildlife.

In 2018-2020, I worked with the leading schools' catalogue, TTS, to create a range of Educational Resources for primary schools, nurseries, after school clubs and families. To find out about these products, see below.

in 2021, I worked with the Primary Science Teaching Trust (PSTT) to create some free, downloadable resources for the Early Years Foundation Stage. Click on the Resources tab.

So much still to discover!

The photo above shows some of the 40 cards in the Classification: Natural History pack.

Exhibits and Thanks

Almost all of the animals in my collection were either found by myself, Susanna Ramsey, or donated by friends and family to The Nature Collection, as an educational resource. Huge thanks for all the tiny, carefully-wrapped bundles of feathers and bones, to Steve & Sam Read, John Lock, Chris Matcham, Franko Maroevic, Tim Howard, Jan Wilczur, Simon Richards, Peter Veniard, Paula Redmond, Phil Davis, Bob & Sally Black, Jo & Frank Sheppard and Katie Ramsey. Many of these people are naturalists and experts in their field; I am indebted to them too, for all that they have taught me about our local wildlife.

Over the years, I have been lucky enough to be a regular visitor to the Angela Marmont Centre for UK Biodiversity at the Natural History Museum, London. The huge collection of British insect specimens, stored in row upon rownof metal, floor-to-ceiling cabinets has been a massive inspiration to me. There is something infinitely satisfying about the way every species has its own box, within a drawer, within a cabinet and that each can be found within minutes, by the care and expertise of the staff. To witness the incredible number of UK species of moth, beetle, butterfly, fly, grasshopper etc, is mind blowing and I feel so privileged to be able to visit and photograph some of the specimens!

I have used the photo stacking equipment at the Angela Marmont Centre to take highly-detailed photos of some of the specimens to put into slideshows for my primary school workshops. When I was young, I always wanted to be an archaeologist and it was my ambition to work in a museum; to sit in the Centre, using the equipment and handling the specimens, listening to the chatter of the experts at work, has been a dream come true. I am so grateful to the staff at the Centre for their encouragement and for always making me feel so welcome.

Thanks also to Tonja Grung, of Made from the Dead Taxidermy, for sharing her incredible knowledge, patience and skill. I will never forget our amazing sessions on bird taxidermy.

Many of the delicate skeletons were cleaned to perfection by a colony of flesh-eating, dermestid beetles, skilfully managed by Edward de Geer.

Please note: Tawny owls are endangered species and are protected in the UK. The Tawny owl skeleton was retained with the approval of the Animal & Plant Health Agency (APHA) by obtaining the appropriate, Article 10, CITES certificate.

BRITISH WILDLIFE LEARNING RESOURCES

If you know children who are interested in nature, are a teacher, or would like to learn more about British Wildlife yourself, explore the range of British Wildlife products recently created by The Nature Collection and the leading schools' catalogue, TTS.

The Classification: Natural History pack features 40 small photos of animal skeletons, skulls, feathers, insect specimens and much more, all from The Nature Collection!

The products are perfect for use in primary schools, nurseries, after school clubs, forest schools or at home with friends and family. Click on the links below to find out about each product.

Look & Learn Cards: British Birds, Mammals, Minibeasts

Food Webs Activity Pack

Classification: British Wildlife & Natural History

Identification Wheels: British Birds, Mammals & Minibeasts

Discovery Bags: British Birds, Mammals, Minibeasts

Playground Signboards: Birds, Mammals, Minibeasts

From left: Birds ID Wheel, Classification:Natural History Pack, Look & Learn Packs
Created By
Susanna Ramsey
Appreciate

Credits:

Susanna Ramsey