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A snippet from my volunteer work on the ‘Dedicated Naturalist’ Project, helping to decipher and digitise, record and publicise the life’s work of naturalist extraordinaire, Dr Mary Gillham. 

Love them or hate them, you have to admire Mary’s poetic description of the brown rats (Rattus norvegicus) she saw during a walk along the banks of the River Taff, between the Queen and Wood Street bridges in Cardiff city centre, on 27 October 1979.

Sleek brown rats obviously well fed can be viewed from a little riverside grandstand where the human scent above the expected level instigates only momentary peering of beady eyes and twitching of whiskers. Rats have acquired their inauspicious aura only by being carriers of human diseases and frequenters of human sewers. Whose fault? Ours or theirs? Viewed dispassionately here their weavings between the straight sturdy canes of Japanese knotweed resembles that of a jaguar in a primeval forest, their more intricate passage through tall cocksfoot like lions in elephant grass. There are pickings in plenty, both local and river-borne.

I have retraced Mary’s path along this river bank many times in 2016 and not seen any rats. Good thing or bad thing?

160414 brown rat

Mary Gillham was also a talented artist – this is one of her drawings

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