Saltmarsh: Interview with Clive Chatters

Saltmarsh is the 5th and latest addition to the British Wildlife Collection. In this passionate and eloquent book, Clive Chatters celebrates some of our most beautiful and exceptional saltmarshes, bringing to life this mysterious and ever-changing habitat. To celebrate its publication, we recently chatted to Clive about the book and about conservation of saltmarshes in the UK.


Author, Clive Chatters

Your book is incredibly well-researched and is packed with fascinating details on the history, ecology and management of saltmarshes in the UK. However, if you were to be faced with an audience of people who know absolutely nothing about saltmarshes, their beauty or their value – what are the key things you would tell them to inspire and pique their interest?

Talking about Saltmarshes is no substitute to joining the audience on a short walk and experiencing the landscape first-hand. In a modest stroll one can share the reek of the mud and the companionable cry of waders. The breeze will bring minute particles of brine to our lips, a piquant introduction to a habitat so alien from our own. I would hope that such a stroll would leave people wanting more.

Saltmarsh by Clive ChattersSome of the most enjoyable parts of the book for me were the historical accounts of the saltmarshes; finding out how both common people and nobles, together with the shifting political framework throughout the ages, influenced the landscape of our country. Is history a particular passion of yours and do you think that an understanding of a region’s history is important for current and future conservation decisions?

Our encounters with wildlife are just snatched insights into the lives of countless other species. Britain’s landscape has co-evolved with people, we are a part of our nation’s native fauna. By understanding how that relationship has developed we can better understand our place in the world and so appreciate our responsibility for the consequences of our actions.

Saltmarsh by Clive ChattersTo quote from the end of your book, “all habitats and landscapes are subject to change”. However, saltmarshes are arguably under the influence of a greater range of factors in comparison to many other habitat types; with short- and long-term fluctuations in tides, sea level rise and land subsidence in addition to the inevitable human impacts of agriculture and land development. For these reasons, do you think that saltmarshes are uniquely difficult to provide a conservation plan for?

Nature conservationists are asked to master a host of interactive challenges. There are common themes covering all habitats and species  that focus on safeguarding interconnected landscapes and securing the wherewithal to allow ecological processes to progress unimpeded. In saltmarshes this usually means making spaces for tides and sediments to move and for the vegetation to develop in the presence of large grazing animals. Saltmarshes are particularly demanding as they shift across the landscape at a rate that can outpace our ability to manage change. If we fail then human life and property are at risk and the diversity of the natural world is diminished.

Saltmarsh by Clive ChattersAs a long-term naturalist with a rich and varied career, what do you think (or hope) will be your most important legacy to conservation?

All any of us can do is hope to leave Britain’s wildlife in better heart than when we first grew to know it. To me success is measured by rejuvenating conditions in which wildlife can cope with whatever changes are yet to come.

The research and writing of Saltmarsh must have been an immense undertaking. I’m curious what is next for you? Are there plans afoot for further books?

I enjoy writing as it helps to marshal the results of my curiosity into a semblance of order. If others enjoy what I’ve written then there are many more stories to tell.


British Wildlife Collection

Saltmarsh was published as part of the British Wildlife Collection; a series of books, each covering an individual aspect of British natural history. From the first publication in 2012, they have covered such diverse topics as mushrooms, meadows and mountain flowers, and books have been written by some of Britain’s finest writers and experts in their field. Filled with beautiful images, these wide-ranging and well-researched titles are a joy for any naturalist who is passionate about British wildlife and landscapes.

Browse the complete British Wildlife Collection

Hedgehog Facts and FAQs

This article will provide you with lots of fascinating hedgehog facts; learn about their natural history and behaviour and find out how the hedgehog is faring in Britain. Discover ways to make your garden attractive to these spiny creatures and other ways to get involved with hedgehog conservation and monitoring. Plus, get tips on some further reading and view a great range of hedgehog houses and other gifts.

Hedgehog Facts and FAQs. Image by Milo Bostock.
The hedgehog is a unique and much-loved garden visitor in Britain. Image by Milo Bostock via Flickr Creative Commons (CC by 2.0)

Hedgehog natural history and biology

The hedgehog found in Britain has the scientific name Erinaceus europaeus. This is the same species that can be found around Europe and, with the exception of some of the Scottish islands, they are present almost everywhere in Britain. Hedgehogs have even adapted well to urban habitats where they feed and nest in our wilder areas, parks and gardens. In more rural areas they utilise woodland edges and hedgerows where food and nesting spaces are plentiful.

A fully grown hedgehog measures approximately 260mm from nose to tail and can weigh in excess of 1.1kg, although this may be considerably less at certain times of year. The body of the hedgehog is covered in 25mm long spines which provide protection from predators: when threatened hedgehogs will roll into a tight ball with their more vulnerable face, belly and limbs tucked carefully inside.

Hedgehogs are omnivorous, feeding preferentially on beetles, caterpillars and earthworms, as well as slugs and snails. For this reason they are often referred to as the ‘gardener’s friend’. During the night they will travel long distances, eating as they go, before finding somewhere safe and sheltered to sleep during the day. A single hedgehog may travel up to 2km in a single night!

Between November and the end of March, hedgehogs hibernate to conserve their energy, as there is very little food available for them during these months.

Current status of hedgehogs in the UK

In the mid-1990s the JNCC produced a review of British mammals, in which the population of hedgehogs in Britain was estimated at 1.55 million. Since then citizen science schemes such as the BTOs Breeding Birds Survey and Garden Birdwatch, together with PTES’ Mammals on Roads and Living with Mammals have all contributed data to the picture, reporting significant declines in both rural and urban areas.

This picture is a cause for concern, not only for the hedgehog itself but because, as a generalist species, their presence is a good indicator of ecosystem health. Their declines suggest a loss of key soil invertebrates and important landscape features such as hedgerows as well a reduction in habitat connectivity.

As a result of these declines, the hedgehog was made a priority species in 2007 as part of the UK Biodiversity Action Plan.

Encouraging hedgehogs in your garden

Many modern gardens are designed to be aesthetically pleasing but are not hospitable for local wildlife. Tidy lawns and well maintained fencing, although neat to human eyes, provide little to attract the humble hedgehog. However, there are a few simple tips you can follow to make your more garden more appealing to them:

• Attempt to keep some areas wild and overgrown, as this will provide secure nesting and feeding spaces.

• If you have a garden fence, cut a hole at the bottom measuring 13 x 13cm as this will allow hedgehogs to pass through on their nightly wanderings. You could also remove a brick from the bottom of a wall or dig a channel underneath.

• Try not to use pesticides or slug pellets, as these are poisonous to other animals as well as slugs.

• Provide a shallow dish of fresh water along with some dog or cat food, some chopped unsalted peanuts or some sunflower hearts.

• Make or buy a hedgehog home. This will provide a safe and warm space for hedgehogs to hibernate throughout the winter, and also for a female to raise her young in the spring and summer.

• Take care when mowing or strimming your lawn, particularly if your grass is very long to begin with.

Other ways to help

• Contribute to Hedgehog Street’s Big Hedgehog Map – by pledging to make a hedgehog hole in your garden wall or fence then registering this on the map, you can contribute to the network of hedgehog-friendly gardens that is being created all around the UK. You can also report a hedgehog sighting for addition to the map.

• Join the British Hedgehog Preservation Society – as well as raising awareness of hedgehogs and the challenges they face, the BHPS also helps to fund research into hedgehog behaviour and provides financial support to hedgehog carers.

• Take part in a citizen science project – schemes such as the BTOs Breeding Birds Survey and Garden Birdwatch, together with PTES’ Mammals on Roads and Living with Mammals surveys, provide essential data about our local wildlife, all of which would be impossible to collect on such a large scale without the help of 1000s of volunteers.

Recommended reading

Hedgehogs

Hedgehogs
Pat Morris

Presents scientific and down-to-earth information about one of Britain’s best-loved wild creatures, the bumbling and endearing hedgehog. The principal ‘popular’ book on the hedgehog for over thirty years.

 

Hedgehog

Hedgehog
Hugh Warwick

The Romans regarded it as a weather prophet, and modern gardeners depend on it to keep their gardens free of pests. Hedgehog explores how the characteristics of this small creature have propelled it to the top of a number of polls of people’s favourite animals.

 

The Hedgehog

The Hedgehog
Pat Morris

This Mammal Society booklet is written by UK hedgehog expert Pat Morris. It includes lots of general information on the biology and behaviour of the hedgehog.

 

 

Hedgehog houses and gifts

From left to right:
Hogitat Hedgehog House and Care Pack
Igloo Hedgehog Home
Hedgehog Nest Box
Eco Hedgehog Feeding Station

From left to right:
Hedgehog Feeding Bowl
Hedgehog Mug
Hedgehog Soft Toy

 

Echo Meter Touch iOS 11 Firmware Update

Wildlife Acoustics have recently been investigating a problem where first generation (black) Echo Meter Touch units are not working with devices running iOS 11. They have now developed a firmware update which will fix this issue.

Affected models will need to be returned to one of the Wildlife Acoustics service centres: these are located in the US, Australia and the UK. The update will be performed free of charge and your device shipped back to you as quickly as possible.

Only modules with serial numbers greater than EMT00494 are affected. Second generation (red) Echo Meter Touch 2 units are not affected.

Please use the following links to download a return form:
US and Australia repair form
UK repair form

Once units have been updated, any further alterations to the firmware will be able to be performed using a normal app update.

As a gesture of goodwill, Wildlife Acoustics will be donating US$10 for each module that is repaired before 31st January 2018, split between Bat Conservation International and the Bat Conservation Trust.

 

pH Meter Calibration and Maintenance

pH Meters
A pH meter is a key part of the field and lab worker’s tool kit.

Modern pH meters are extremely efficient and provide highly accurate results if they are well looked after and correctly calibrated. A key part of this is taking care of the pH electrode. In this post we will discuss how you can maintain the accuracy and lifespan of your equipment by following correct pH meter calibration, cleaning and storage guidelines.

The main components of the pH meter are the glass electrode and reference electrode which are housed together inside a thin glass membrane. The pH meter calculates pH by measuring the difference in potential, or voltage, between the two. A well cared for electrode will last for up to two years, although use at very high temperatures or with abrasive chemicals may reduce this. It is also important to make sure that you have the correct meter for your sample type: for example, a pH meter designed for use in soil samples will have a different electrode type to one which is designed for liquids.

To maximise the lifespan of your electrode and ensure that it provides consistently accurate readings, a small amount of care and attention is required. Below we answer the most common questions relating to pH meter calibration and care.

How do I calibrate my pH meter?

193227pH meter calibration requires two or more pH buffers. A buffer is a solution of known pH which is used as a standard to ensure the electrode is producing accurate results. The most commonly used buffers are pH 7.0, 4.0 and 10.0. Some pH meters will require two buffers for calibration whilst others require three or more. If you are using only two buffers then you will begin your calibration with the pH 7.0 solution and then use either pH 4.0 or pH 10.0 as your second buffer, depending on whether your sample is acidic or alkaline respectively.

The instructions provided with your meter will detail the calibration process. In general, this will involve dipping your electrode into a buffer and waiting for the reading to stabilise. You will then adjust the pH meter to read the correct pH on the display or, if your meter features automatic calibration, it will automatically adjust itself. This process is repeated with the following buffer(s) until the process is complete and the meter is ready to use. Always remember to rinse your electrode in distilled water between different buffer types and make sure to read your manual carefully before calibrating the meter for the first time.

Buffer solutions are available to purchase in 500ml bottles or as packs of 20ml sachets. Sachets are ideal for infrequent use or for use in the field.

How do I clean my pH electrode?

227513Cleaning your electrode will ensure that it stays in optimum condition and will help to maintain accuracy and efficiency. To use a cleaning solution simply place your electrode in it for 15 to 20 minutes then rinse with distilled water and store as recommended below. For pH meters which are designed for use in soil, a cleaning solution for soil deposits is available which will help to eliminate all impurities and residues which are left on the electrode after use.

How do I store my pH electrode when not in use?

180243When your pH meter is not in use the electrode should be kept immersed in storage solution. This stops the electrode from drying out and keeps it clean and protected until required again. Most pH meters come with either a specially designed cap, into which a small amount of storage solution can be added, or they come with a storage bottle which can be topped up with solution. Make sure to check the level of the storage solution regularly as it will evaporate over time. If the electrode is allowed to dry out then it will no longer function correctly and will have to be replaced.

Take a look at the NHBS website for our full range of pH meters, buffers, cleaning and storage solutions. For replacement electrodes, please contact us to discuss your requirements by phoning +44 (0)1803 865913 or emailing customer.services@nhbs.com

 

Moth Night 2017

Silver Y (Autographa gamma)
Viewed up-close, moths show a dazzling range of colours and patterns as well as a wonderful variety of wing and body shapes. The Silver Y (Autographa gamma) is named for the metallic silver mark on its forewing. Image by Oliver Haines.

What and when is moth night?

Moth Night 2017 takes place from Thursday 12th to Saturday 14th October. Organised by Atropos and Butterfly Conservation, this annual event aims to increase public awareness of moths and also to provide an organised period of recording by moth enthusiasts around the UK. The theme of the 2017 Moth Night is “Ivy and Sugaring”.

Why “Ivy and Sugaring”?

During September and October, ivy blossom provides a major source of nectar and pollen and so attracts a wide range of insects including honey bees, late-season butterflies, hoverflies and moths. Searching ivy blossom by torchlight is therefore a useful way of finding and surveying moths at this time of year and can be particularly productive between mid-September and mid-October. Sites should be scoped out during the daytime and then visited again at least one hour following dusk, using a torch to locate and identify the moths.

Sugaring is a useful technique for attracting moth species that may not be easy to catch using a moth trap. (It is also a good alternative if you don’t have access to a light trap). It involves painting a tree trunk or wooden post with a sweet sticky mixture and then going back after dark to see what has arrived. As many moth species feed on nectar, sap and honeydew, the sweet sugaring mix is particularly attractive to them. This useful guide from Butterfly Conservation includes a recipe, as well as lots of information about other methods of surveying moths without a moth trap.

How do I take part in Moth Night?

You can take part in Moth Night in any way you choose. If you have a moth trap then you can run this in your or garden or further afield. If you don’t have your own trap then you can look for moths that are attracted to your windows from the house lights, go for a walk to search local ivy blossom, or you might want to attend or organise a public event. For details of events in your area, take a look at the map on the Moth Night website.

Where and how do I submit my sightings?

Records of the moths you have seen should be submitted via the Moth Night online recording form. All of this information will be incorporated into the national dataset, helping to providing a comprehensive view of moth populations and distributions around the country. Full details and a list of FAQs about submitting your results can be viewed on the Moth Night website.

Help! What species of moth is this?

A good moth guide is invaluable for both the beginner and seasoned moth enthusiast. Below you will find a list of some of our best-loved moth ID guides:

Moths of Great Britain and Ireland

Field Guide to the Moths of Great Britain and Ireland
Paul Waring & Martin Townsend  

Alongside the comprehensive text descriptions, moths are illustrated in their natural resting postures. There are also paintings of different forms, underwings and other details to help with identification.

 

Moths of Great Britain and Ireland

Concise Guide to the Moths of Great Britain and Ireland
Martin Townsend & Paul Waring

This is a great practical solution for every active moth enthusiast and is ideal for use in the field. Concise field descriptions written by leading moth experts Paul Waring and Martin Townsend feature opposite colour plates illustrated by Richard Lewington.

 

Micro Moths of Great Britain and Ireland

Field Guide to the Micro Moths of Great Britain and Ireland
Phil Sterling & Mark Parsons

The most comprehensive field guide to micro-moths ever published, making this fascinating and important group of insects accessible to the general naturalist. It describes all the families of micro-moth and covers 1033 species with beautiful art and photographs.

 

Britain's Day-Flying Moths

Britain’s Day-Flying Moths
David Newland, Robert Still & Andy Swash

This concise photographic field guide will help you identify any of the 155 day-flying moths found in Britain and Ireland. Combining stunning photographs, authoritative text, and an easy-to-use design, Britain’s Day-Flying Moths makes a perfect travelling companion.

 

Can you recommend a moth trap?

For an introduction to the main types of moth traps and answers to our most frequently asked moth trap questions, take a look a the NHBS Guide to Moth Traps. We have also included a list here of some of our best-selling traps.

6V 12V Portable Heath Moth Trap

6W 12V Portable Heath Moth Trap

This small compact 6W moth trap runs from a 12 volt rechargeable battery with a minimum rating of 12Ah. The trap is lightweight and can be fully dismantled for easy transport.

 

 

Flatpack Skinner Moth Trap with Electrics

Flatpack Skinner Moth Trap with Electrics

Constructed from FSC certified European birch plywood, this trap slots together easily without the need for any tools. It has a 240V lighting system fitted and includes a 25W blue black bulb.

 

Mobile 15W Actinic Skinner Moth Trap

Mobile 15W Actinic Skinner Moth Trap

This trap is particularly suitable for garden use. Easily assembled, it folds flat for storage or transportation. It is designed so you can access the catch whilst the bulb is still on.

 

Twin 30W Actinic Robinson Moth Trap

Twin 30W Actinic Robinson Moth Trap

The Robinson is the traditional design of moth trap, and offers maxiumum catch rates and retention. This trap is particularly suited to unattended overnight operation.

Our full range of moth books and moth traps can be viewed at nhbs.com

Made by NHBS – The Ichthyoplankton Net

These bespoke nets, made by NHBS, are being used by ZSL in an ongoing project to monitor juvenile and larval fish populations in the Thames.
The Ichthyoplankton Net

Earlier this year we were contacted by the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) who were interested in working with us to make a bespoke aquatic survey net.

Their specifications required the net to have a square frame with a four point bridle and connections for a flow meter. It also needed to have a diving vane which would ensure that it could be towed stably at a set depth, and a screw on cod end with a bag made from 53µm and 250µm mesh. Following these guidelines, our engineer and seamstress got to work and within a couple of weeks a detailed specification was agreed. The nets were then manufactured and two were sent to ZSL in February.

First draft of the net design

Several months later we were delighted to receive some photos from Anna Cucknell, who manages ZSL’s work on fish conservation in the Thames, showing the nets in use.

 

 

“It was great to work with NHBS, who listened to our specific needs to design bespoke sampling nets for juvenile fish, and used their experience to adapt our designs to fit our needs. Our juvenile fish surveys on the Thames are the first of their kind, in scale and resolution and we hope the results from which will be applicable in the Thames and further afield to help drive conservation and better management of our estuaries for all fish species”.
Anna Cucknell, Thames Project Manager, Zoological Society of London

Ichthyoplankton Net in the Thames
Nets are towed both at the surface and at a depth of two metres. Combined with data from seine and intertidal nets, these surveys provide a comprehensive picture of larval and juvenile fish populations.
Fish Conservation in the Thames

The nets we made for ZSL are being used for an ongoing project to monitor the use of the Thames by juvenile fish.

The Tidal Thames is home to more than 100 fish species including many that are commercially important such as Dover sole and European seabass. It also provides critically important habitat for rarer species, including European smelt and European eel.

Like most estuaries, the Thames provides invaluable spawning, migratory and nursery grounds but, despite this, the region is poorly studied. The ZSL project hopes to remedy this by providing essential information about the health of fish populations in the estuary, and to assess how these are affected by water quality and local developments.

Boat-based sampling for juvenile fish

The project, funded by Tideway, involves both boat-based and foreshore sampling and, excitingly, also provides an opportunity for volunteers to get involved via its citizen science scheme. Volunteers can help with a variety of tasks including measuring, identifying and counting the fish.

For more information about the Tidal Thames fish conservation project, head over to the ZSL website

Interested in getting involved? Sign up here to volunteer.

Have a bespoke project in mind? Contact our engineer, Thomas to discuss your requirements (email thomashk@nhbs.com or phone 01803 865913).

 

UK Fungus Day 2017

King Bolete - Bernard Spragg
Also known as the Cep or Penny Bun, the King Bolete is widely distributed throughout Europe. Image by Bernard Spragg via Flickr Creative Commons (CC by 2.0).

What is UK Fungus Day?

The 2017 UK Fungus Day will take place on Sunday 8th October. This event is organised to raise awareness and educate the public about the importance of fungi, and also to bring together scientists, artists and naturalists who are involved with fungi as part of their work or hobby.

On the 8th October a range of public engagement activities involving science and the arts will run concurrently across the UK and will include fungal forays and talks by scientists as well as craft workshops and events for children.

What have fungi ever done for us?

The fungi are a group of eukaryotic organisms that include the yeasts, molds and mildews, as well as the larger mushrooms and toadstools that we more typically associate with the name. They are abundant worldwide and play a vital role in ecosystem processes. Most trees and plants rely on a symbiotic relationship with fungi around their root systems whereby the fungi provide key nutrients to the plant, in return receiving sugars that are produced by the plant’s photosynthesis. They are extremely important for the recycling of dead matter and help to make vital nutrients available for new growth. Humans also rely on many types of fungi for food or medicine – imagine a life without bread, beer or penicillin. A certain type of fungi is even used to flavour chocolate!

How do I get involved in Fungus Day?

On the 8th October a series of events will be held around the UK at botanic gardens, museums, science centres, universities and nature reserves.

Interested in the science and biology of fungi? Why not head along to a talk by an expert or researcher? Want to learn to identify mushrooms and toadstools in the field? –  join a fungal foray and see the spectacular specimens that are popping up everywhere this autumn. Are you into arts and crafts? There’s even something for you – go out and meet some of the artists that are inspired by (or even use!) fungi in their work.

To find out what is happening near to you, check out the interactive map on the UK Fungus Day website. Or, if you are interested in organising your own event, download the Fungus Day complete resource pack.

Take a look at our blog on Planning a Fungal Foray for some tips on planning your own ID expeditions.

Can you recommend some good fungi books and field equipment?

Below you will find a great selection of fungi field guides, as well as some other interesting reads. For those who want to take their identification skills to the next level, we have also included a selection of hand lenses and microscopes.

The Fungi Name TrailThe Fungi Name Trail: A Key to Commoner Fungi
FSC | Pamphlet

A key to some of the more easily recognised fungi present in Britain’s woods and fields. The name trial takes you through a series of yes or no questions to help you identify your fungi.

 

Collins Fungi Guide

Collins Fungi Guide: The Most Complete Field Guide to the Mushrooms and Toadstools of Britain & Ireland
Stefan Buczacki | Paperback

Nearly 2400 species are illustrated in full colour, with detailed notes on how to correctly identify them, including details of similar, confusing species.

 

Mushrooms and Toadstools of Britain and EuropeMushrooms and Toadstools of Britain & Europe, Volume 1
Geoffrey Kibby | Hardback

Volume 1 illustrates the non-agarics including, puffballs, stinkhorns, earthstars, coral fungi, polypores, crust fungi, chanterelles, tooth fungi, boletes, Russula and Lactarius.

 

Mushrooms

Mushrooms
Roger Phillips| Paperback

Set to become the essential illustrated mycological encyclopedia for the next 25 years, this book is also clear, user friendly and will appeal to a wide range of readers. Unsurpassed in both illustrative and descriptive detail.

 

MushroomsMushrooms
Peter Marren | Hardback

Written in Marren’s inimitable style, Mushrooms provides a refreshingly candid view of the diversity of fungi and our relationship with this intriguing group, exploring such subjects as the naming of fungi, their importance in natural ecosystems and fungal forays.

 

Other recommended fungi books:
The Mushroom at the End of the World
Mycorrhizal Planet
Teaming with Fungi
Where the Slime Mould Creeps

Opticron Hand Lens

Opticron Hand Lens 23mm 10x Magnification
Excellent and affordable 10x lens.

 

Belomo Triplet Loupe

Belomo Triplet Loupe Hand Lens
High quality triplet lens.

 

 

Dino-Lite AM4113T

Dino-Lite AM4113T USB Digital Microscope
USB microscope for viewing and saving images on your computer.

 

 

Red Squirrel Awareness Week

Red Squirrel Awareness Week runs from 23rd September to 1st October. If you are lucky enough to live near a population of these captivating mammals, now is a great time to venture out to see them.

Red by herdiephoto
The diminutive red squirrel has a distinctive profile, with its tufted ears and bushy tail. Red by herdiephoto is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

The red squirrel (Sciurus vulgaris) is smaller than its grey counterpart and, as the name suggests, has reddish-brown fur and tufted ears. They are most often found in coniferous forests where they feed and nest high in the tree canopies. More than 75% of red squirrels in the UK reside in Scotland, with only a few small populations surviving further south, most notably in the Lake District, Northumberland, Lancashire, Anglesey, Dorset and the Isle of Wight.  The red squirrel is classified as a priority species in the UK’s Biodiversity Action Plan.

The map below shows some of the best places to go to see red squirrels. If you’re lucky enough to spot one, don’t forget to report it to the local Wildlife Trust, as these sightings provide valuable data on how the squirrels are faring.

If you don’t live near to any red squirrels then there are plenty of other ways to get involved. Adopting a squirrel provides vital funds for improving and protecting red squirrel habitat and for essential surveying and monitoring. Or you can watch them from the comfort of your armchair with the Scottish Wildlife Trust’s Wildlife Webcam.

For more information about Red Squirrel Awareness Week, check out the Wildlife Trusts website.


Red Squirrel Books and Gifts

Red SquirrelsRed Squirrels: Ecology, Conservation and Management in Europe
Paperback | July 2015

 

 

 

On the Trail of Red Squirrels

On the Trail of Red Squirrels
Hardback | Oct 2013

 

 

 

Belinda

Belinda: The Forest How Red Squirrel
Hardback | June 2017

 

 

 

 

Red Squirrel Nest Box

Red Squirrel Nest Box
FSC Timber

 

 

Red Squirrel House

Red Squirrel House
Plywood

 

 

 

Red Squirrel Soft Toy

Red Squirrel Soft Toy
Suitable for ages 0+

Bowland Beth: An Interview with David Cobham

Bowland Beth dramatises the short life of an English hen harrier between 2011 and 2012 and immerses the reader in the day-to-day regimen of her life. Interweaved with her story is the larger tale of the species fight for survival under the constant threat of persecution. In this article our book specialist, Nigel Jones, talks to the author, David Cobham, about the plight of the hen harrier and his hopes for the future of this glorious bird.


David Cobham
The Author of Bowland Beth, David Cobham.

There are numerous organisations and NGOs in the book who want the same outcome for the hen harrier, but who seem to be in conflict as to how to achieve their aims. What strategy do you think would enable all these groups to speak with one voice; do you think this would help when confronting powerful lobby groups such as the landowners and their connections in government?

The problem lies in some organisations wanting an outright ban on driven grouse shooting. That is not going to happen as has already been demonstrated. What we all have to work for is a system of licensing driven grouse moor shooting. Controlled by DEFRA a driven grouse moor would be licensed to operate and granted the subsidies that are substantial.  If a case of illegal killing was proven in court the license for driven grouse shooting would be revoked for 3 years. I believe this would get a majority backing.

The hen harrier in your book is named Beth. I encounter some people who disapprove of naming animals, they claim this is anthropomorphism and inappropriate to conservation.  What would you say to those people?

Mark Avery in his review of my book saw exactly what I was trying to do. Ring numbers or tag numbers are impersonal. By giving them names it makes us feel closer to the birds. The news that Bowland Beth has died is much more heart wrenching than that 834759 has died.

Sadly, I have never seen a hen harrier. Your description of them is written with such a passion akin to awe that I am now determined to see one of these birds for myself. What chance does an everyday person like myself have of seeing a hen harrier in the wild?

A survey last year reported that there were 4 breeding pairs of hen harriers in England – none of them on grouse moors. The best time to see hen harriers is in the winter when there is a considerable influx of hen harriers from the Scandinavian countries. They pitch up from October on the east of England and can be seen as they come into roost in reed beds on the coast or in damp areas with shelter from silver birches inland. They return north to breed in mid-March.

The landowners say they need to make an income from the moors, and driven grouse shooting is the only way they can do this. They will put the case for local employment and, like the debate around foxhunting, accuse opponents of not understanding ‘the countryside.’ Do you think a ban on driven grouse shooting is the only way to force the landowners hand, or do you think working alongside landowners to assist with techniques such as brood management and diversionary feeding is the best way to proceed?

Brood management is just one of six measures in DEFRA’s save the hen harrier project. It is a concession to the grouse moor owners. This is how it will work. First, when a nest is found on a grouse moor, diversionary feeding must be tried. This involves feeding day old chicks during the six week period when hen harriers take grouse chicks. They are placed on a plank supported by trestles about 30 metres from the nest. Trials at Langholm showed that this method reduces chick predation by 86%. If another hen harrier nests within 10 km of the original nest then brood management comes into play. The clutch of eggs is removed and hatched in an incubator. They are taught to feed. When they can feed themselves they are placed in an aviary out on the moor. Monitored by experts they will be given a “soft” release and continue to be fed until they are self sustaining.

If the trial is shown to fail due to illegal killing it will cease immediately.

I’m quite cynical about this. I think a lot gamekeepers won’t allow a hen harrier to nest on their moor and furthermore there are not enough hen harriers breeding on grouse moors in England to justify this procedure.

There are some conservationists that advocate adopting a more laissez-faire approach to extinction, moving priorities to bio-abundance rather than biodiversity and accepting that extinction and invasive species are part of the evolutionary process. What are your thought regarding this way of thinking?

I quote directly from my book. An extract from The Diversity of Life by Professor Edward O. Wilson: “We should not knowingly allow any species or race to go extinct. There can be no purpose more enspiriting than to begin the ages of restoration, reweaving the wondrous diversity of life that still surrounds us”. The hen harrier was extinct as a breeding bird in England in 2013. Its fate lies in our hands now.

Despite the hen harrier being a totem and emblematic of a battle between conservationists and those wishing to preserve a ‘rural way of life;’ a quick straw-poll I conducted indicated little knowledge of the bird. However, with more knowledge, I believe the majority would care about the hen harrier. How can the plight of the hen harrier compete in a media blizzard of often superficial and meaningless content?

When Bowland Beth was shot we believe she had just found a mate. Her femur was fractured, six of her tail feathers cut through and her femoral artery nicked. She picked herself up and flew unsteadily off, streaming blood behind her. Her vision blurred and she crashed into heather. Don’t tell me that birds don’t feel pain. She must have been in exquisite pain. I know about pain. I broke my femur last October, and lay there for six hours before I was found. That is the bond I have with Bowland Beth.

Do you believe satellite tagging is a good way to monitor hen harriers, and if so why?

Illegal killing of hen harriers continues. There is an arms race – sophisticated satellite tagging versus state of the art weaponry. Since 2007 36 hen harriers satellite tagged by Natural England have “disappeared”. Bowland Beth was one of them. The Hawk and Owl Trust satellite tagged two hen harriers last year. The male, Rowan, was shot last October in the north of England. His leg was smashed and he was able to fly some distance before collapsing in the heather. Sorrel, a female, is alive and well and flourishing in Scotland.

Protecting the hen harrier requires dedication, passion and commitment to the cause of conservation, often from volunteers working long hours in all weathers. What would you say to inspire a future generation of conservationist to take up the baton?

To watch a young hen harrier successfully fledge from her nest and set out into the unknown is the start of a Great Adventure. Sharing this knowledge with other weary volunteers who have probably not seen anything all day re-invigorates them, gives them the impetus to go out again and search for that elusive V-shaped image of a hen harrier, searching up and down, for its favourite prey, short-tailed field voles.


Bowland Beth: The Life of an English Hen Harrier, written by David Cobham and illustrated by Dan Powell, is published by William Collins and is available in hardback.

 

Great British Beach Clean 2017

2014 Great British Beach Clean - Port of Dover
The Great British Beach Clean, organised by the Marine Conservation Society, takes places each year in September. (2014 Beach Clean by Port of Dover is licensed under CC BY 2.0).

The Great British Beach Clean, organised by the Marine Conservation Society and sponsored by Waitrose, takes place every year in September and is part of the larger Beachwatch programme of events which run throughout the year. The GBBC incorporates both the Great Channel Islands Beach Clean and the Great Northern Irish Beach Clean and this year it runs from 15th – 18th September.

This four day event consists of a huge number of organised clean-ups which will take place all around the UK, Northern Ireland and the Channel Isles. During these events, teams of volunteers work to collect litter from 100 metre long sections of beach, recording the number and types of items found as they go. Any litter which is branded with a company logo is also recorded, as well as items which obviously originate from other countries.

The data collected during these events is collated by the Marine Conservation Society in an annual report. This information is used to raise awareness of the issue and to create campaigns and lobby companies to tackle the litter problem at the source. The data also feeds into the International Coastal Cleanup and is shared with other organisations and academics who are studying the problem of coastal pollution.

Want to get involved? Visit the Marine Conservation Society website to search for an event near you and sign up as a volunteer. If you can’t find any events near to where you live, then why not organise one yourself? Full step-by-step guides are available for both organisers and volunteers.

Follow the Marine Conservation Society on Twitter or visit their Facebook page.


Bestselling Beach Guides:

The Essential Guide to Beachcombing and the Strandline

The Essential Guide to Beachcombing and the Strandline
Paperback | September 2015
This book will answer your questions and satisfy your curiosity about the treasures found cast up on the beach strandline, whether it is a beautiful seashell, a spent egg-case, a frond of seaweed or an exotic ocean voyager.

 

Collins Complete Guide to British Coastal WildlifeCollins Complete Guide to British Coastal Wildlife
Paperback | June 2012
Discover over 400 species of animals and plants found in the coastal regions of Britain and make the most of your explorations. This informative book is illustrated with beautiful photographs throughout, and is the perfect seashore companion.

 

Seaweeds of Britain and IrelandSeasearch Guide to Seaweeds of Britain and Ireland
Paperback | June 2017
This photographic guide aims to de-mystify seaweed identification for the non-specialist. Produced as part of the Seasearch project which offers training in the identification of marine life and habitats and encourages recording by volunteers.

RSPB Handbook of the Seashore

RSPB Handbook of the Seashore
Paperback | May 2013
This useful handbook will help you to identify and learn about the life cycles and anatomy of the species you discover at the seashore. It also features information on the tidal cycle and conservation and climate change concerns as well as advice on where to look for specimens.

 

The Rocky Shore Name TrailThe Rocky Shore Name Trail (Waterproof)
Unbound | April 2016
An eight-panel laminated fold-out chart designed to help you identify the seashore animals, lichens and seaweeds that you are most likely to see in the UK. It also describes some of the major environmental factors that influence them.

 

Browse the full range of Marine Fauna & Flora books and our selection of rock pooling equipment.