...back from SVP that is. The meeting in Bristol was for the 69th meeting of the Society of Vertebrate Palaeontology. I met some fantastic people and had an odontocete of a time (that's a toothed whale).
The day after I arrived in Bristol I went to the Zoo which was walking distance from my guest house in Clifton, at the very top of the hill. The zoo features such bizarre and unusual creatures as keas (Nestor notabilis), Inca terns (Larosterna inca), aye-ayes (Daubentonia madagascariensis), American paddlefish (Polyodon spathula), Bornean white-bearded gibbons (Hylobates agilis albibarbis), three species of lion tamarin (Leontopithecus rosalia, L. chrysopygus, L. chrysomelas), pink pigeons (Nesoenas mayeri) and mongoose lemurs (Eulemur mongoz). Photos are being edited and will probably appear on here at some point, and definitely on Facebook...
I also went to the City Museum in the afternoon, seeing various galleries of British wildlife, world wildlife, dinosaurs, extinct marine reptiles, minerals and local geology. Amongst the highlights were a Plateosaurus engelhardti skeleton, amazing material of Scelidosaurus harrisonii and Thecodontosaurus antiquus, a full skeleton of a male Irish elk (Megaloceros giganteus) and lots of nice ichthyosaurs, plesiosaurs and a pliosaur.
The meeting started on the Wednesday and went on until Saturday. Lectures included themed symposia on marine reptiles, synapsids, the evolution of birds and other topics, and there were three sets of talks running simultaneously. I wish I could have split myself into three: as a result of not being able to do that, I missed quite a lot of talks. I'm not allowed to say a lot about the subject matter, but there were lots of new species described, a fair few new genera, and even some controversial new theories on dinosaur taxonomy. Posters (for more on which see Zach Miller's post...) were held in another building, with the temperature of an oven.
I met lots of cool people, and I could name a few, but I won't. You know who you are, if you're reading this and were at the conference. I went there with an open mind, and left with an even more open one. I gleaned lots of advice from people, and to all of those I am eternally grateful.
On Sunday, after stopping briefly at the Avon Gorge to see some peregrine falcons (Falco peregrinus) and ravens (Corvus corax), I left Bristol to visit Slimbridge Wetland Centre. I was instantly shocked by the stark difference in size and layout to the sister site in London, but of course Slimbridge was there first. The variety of anseriform, phoenicopteriform and gruid birds is outstanding and can hardly be summarised in a blog post, but I'll try.
All six species of flamingo, that's the greater (Phoenicopterus roseus), Caribbean (P. ruber), Chilean (P. chilensis), lesser (Phoeniconaias minor), puna (Phoenicoparrus jamesi) and Andean (P. andinus) flamingos, are present; cranes of the Eurasian (Grus grus), demoiselle (Anthropoides virgo) and grey crowned (Balearica regulorum) varieties too. I was not expecting to see a beautiful pair of southern screamers (Chauna torquata), a distant relative of ducks, geese and swans.
Of the rest of the Anseriformes, most of the genera and species are represented, with such oddities as the freckled duck (Stictonetta naevosa) and Cape Barren goose (Cereopsis novaehollandiae) of Australia, all of the extant shelducks (Tadorna tadorna, T. tadornoides, T. cana, T. ferruginea, T. radjah and T. variegata), blue-winged geese (Cyanochen cyanopterus) and white-backed ducks (Thalassornis leuconotus). And loads more besides.
Have you checked out the new service offered by the BBC? Known as 'Wildlife Finder', it is an archive of video and audio footage from the BBC Natural History Unit which is being made available to all on the Internet. Already there are almost 400 species represented, and it is growing. You can find animals based on species, distribution, habitat or behaviour. It should be available worldwide, unlike the annoying BBC iPlayer which has programmes only for a limited time, and is limited to the UK. I'd love to know what people think of it... if you can access it of course.
The British Wildlife: L will be a bit late, but it is coming. It's been a hell of a week and have recently received some bad news which I am still dealing with.