Thursday, 29 April 2010

Spot the Rattlesnake!

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Can you spot the timber rattlesnake Crotalus horridus in the photograph below?

This rattlesnake's excellent camouflage is one reason why it’s a good idea to wear gators and tread carefully when visiting the woods of upstate New York. Timber Rattlesnakes are potentially one of the most dangerous snakes in North America with enough venom to kill a person. Fortunately they have a relatively mild disposition and before striking, will hold their tails high and rattle like mad to try and scare you off. If you do get too close they may strike in defence.

Rattlesnakes are sit-and-wait predators - they wait for prey to come to them. They find a suitable place, which might be alongside a track rich with the scent of mouse urine, and then they coil up like a spring. They are capable of waiting, silent and still, for several days until a mouse comes along, at which point they have enough pounce in their coils to strike up to two thirds of their body length. Instantly injecting enough venom the mouse is dead before it hits the ground.

Thankfully most snakes tend to only inject venom when they are feeling peckish. Otherwise it's a bit of a waste. So if you are bitten by a timber rattlesnake the bite is usually 'dry'... but still painful, and definitely a reason to go straight to hospital.

To reveal the location of the rattlesnake in the photo click the image below. You can see the sequence from 'Life in Cold Blood' below. This is the first time a wild rattlesnake strike has ever been caught on film.

Photograph taken by James Brickell on a shoot for 'Life in Cold Blood'

Timber Rattlesnake sequence from Life in Cold Blood

Monday, 26 April 2010

Dr Who & The Carboniferous Geology of Ogmore

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I may feel a little let down by the predictable plot-lines, big holes in story believability and naff reincarnations of aliens (notably the mutlicolured Darleks) in Dr Who, but atleast you can always count on good 'ol geology!

I was watching 'The Time of Angels' episode yesterday. If you excuse the predictable moments in which solitary and naive looking guardsmen where killed by the 'Weeping Angels' like the red-shirts from Star Trek, it was actually one of the rare episodes to which I was glued... and what's more it had notable geology for me to attempt to impress my girlfriend with!

I instantly recognised the filming location from the near-perfect horizontal bedding in the cliffs in the background of the post-titles scene. What was the planet of 'Alfava Metraxis' to Dr who, is the beach of Ogmore, South East Wales, to me. It's worth a visit for its excellent Carboniferous limestone cliffs and platforms which jutt out to sea. This limestone dates back about 335 million years to a time when Wales was situated close to the Equator and was covered by warm, shallow tropical seas.

Dr Who made excellent reference to the two-headed Aplans which inhabited 'Alfava Metraxis' but sadly he overlooked the rugose corals and large brachiopod fossils that were under his feet!

Above: The Aplan Temple in the Carboniferous Cliffs. Screenshot from 'The Time of Angels'

Left: The cliffs as seen at Ogmore
Photo Source

Left: Rugose Solitary Coral
Photo Source

The large brachipod Delepinea Photo Source

More information on Ogmore & its geology:
BBC South East Wales Walks
Ogmore-by-sea geological website
Photographers Guide to Ogmore

Talk: Lyme Regis Fossil Festival

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I'm looking forward to a beautiful weekend on the Jurassic Coast for the Lyme Regis Fossil Festival. I'll be speaking at the Masonic Hall at 12:00 midday on Sunday 2nd May. Come along to hear my tales of filming fossils on the Dorset beaches to exploring the giant crystal cave of Mexico. I will also be sharing some of my wildlife adventures... so it should fit quite nicely with the 'Dead... and Alive' theme of this years festival!

Lyme Regis is one of the best places along the Jurassic Coast to explore modern biodiversity and the conservation of rare habitats, the history of life on our planet and the links between biodiversity and geodiversity. Come along to the festival and help celebrate 2010, the international year of biodiversity.

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Open Music Archive - Music in the Public Domain

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Open Music Archive is a collaborative project to source, digitise and distribute out-of-copyright sound recordings. The archive is open for anyone to use and contribute to. A useful resource if you are looking for public domain music for your films. Public Domain means that all intellectual property rights have expired and that the work may be used by anyone for any purpose.

Thursday, 8 April 2010

Big Fat Bloodsucking Leech

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I was quite surprised when this swollen beast dropped out from between my toes!
Filmed during our 'Chasing the Monsoon' expedition in South India, 2009.

With thanks to my good friends Kalyan Varma, Mandanna Dilan & David Heath.

Sir David Attenborough to present 'Flying Monsters' 3D

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Sir David Attenborough is about to take his career into a whole new dimension, by making Europe's first programme specifically for 3D TV. The legendary broadcaster has signed up to write and present Flying Monsters 3D. The programme will be broadcast later this year on Sky 3D, a new channel available to existing Sky subscribers through their current HD set-top box. Read more here

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

University of Derby Talk: 'A walk on the wild side'

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On Monday 19th April I'll be going back to my old University to give a talk. It's open to all although you may need to contact the Geology society in advance. You can contact them and find out more at the event page on Facebook

'Paul will betalking through some of his personal highlights - such as filming (and surviving) the Giant Crystal Cave, being surrounding by thousands of horseshoe crabs and migrating birds, tracking geese in the arctic... he'll also give an insight into the making of a natural history series.'

Thursday, 1 April 2010

Wildlife Wind-Ups on BBC Wildlife Finder

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'It's not only humans that like a good joke, animals play all kinds of tricks on one another in their attempts to gain an advantage. Based around the April Fool tradition, this collection of videos features the weirder side of nature where it's not always easy to tell what's real and what's not. Watch animals play practical jokes on each other and on us, and look back at some real gems from the archives where we've tried to fool you in a wildlife world that's often stranger than fiction.'

Visit the BBC Wildlife Wind-Ups collection

(BBC Wildlife Finder clips are only viewable inside the UK but other information and images can be seen)

Remember this one? Flying Penguins!

Wonders of the Solar System: Aliens

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This week, Professor Brian Cox descends to the bottom of the Pacific in a submarine to witness the extraordinary life forms that survive in the cold, black waters. All life on Earth needs water so the search for aliens in the Solar System has followed the search for water.

Soaring above the dramatic Scablands of the United States, Brian discovers how the same landscape has been found on Mars. And it was all carved out in a geological heart-beat by a monumental flood.

Armed with a gas mask, Brian enters a cave in Mexico where bacteria breath toxic gas and leak concentrated acid. Yet relatives of these creatures could be surviving in newly-discovered caves on Mars.

But Brian’s 6th Wonder isn’t a planet at all. Jupiter’s moon Europa is a dazzling ball of ice etched with strange cracks. The patterns in the ice reveal that, far below, there is an ocean with more potentially life-giving water than all the oceans on Earth.

Of all the Wonders of the Solar System forged by the laws of nature, there is one that stands out. In the final episode of this series, Brian reveals the greatest Wonder of them all.

Written & Produced by Michael Lachmann
Assistant Producer: Laura Mulholland
Series Producer: Danielle Peck
Exec Producer: Andrew Cohen

for further details, please visit programme link below

Here's a hilarious spoof of the opening titles to the series... (contains swearing)