Trail Cameras: A Comparison

Trail cameras are an invaluable piece of equipment for those seeking to monitor wildlife as it is when there are no humans around. Unlike typical cameras, trail cameras are designed to be left in a particular location to capture photographs or video footage of passing animals. Thanks to infrared imaging technology, most modern trail cameras will also allow you to capture images of nocturnal animals under low light conditions.

The best trail cameras can endure a range of tough weather conditions and extreme temperatures due to weatherproof casing and a robust design. Their small size and camouflaged casing allow these cameras to blend into their surroundings and remain relatively inconspicuous. Most trail cameras can also be fitted with a python lock or security box to protect against damage or theft.

At NHBS, we sell a wide range of trail cameras and, like all products, there are advantages and disadvantages depending on the model and brand. To compare the trail cameras in our range we have prepared categories based on several of the key factors to consider when buying a trail camera. All recommendations found here are our opinions and views may differ on which cameras are best for each category.

Beginner Camera 

Browning Strike Force HD Pro X 

With a fast trigger speed, strong picture quality and robust design the Browning Strike Force HD Pro X performs well across all major categories. While not quite reaching to heights of some of our more advanced cameras in terms of picture quality, this economic camera is perfect for those looking for a starter camera or for high quality at an affordable price. 

Picture Quality

When considering image quality, keep in mind that manufacturers sometimes inflate megapixel ratings through interpolation, a process by which pixels are digitally added to the image. While on paper photos have a higher megapixel count, the image quality is not improved. This is a marketing gimmick which eats up storage and generates longer recovery times.

While our top picks for picture quality both use interpolation, it is the quality of the photographs and footage produced by the camera which we base our opinion on.

Browning Recon Force Elite HP5

With crisp and clear daytime pictures and excellent night-time imagery, the Browning Recon Force Elite HP5 wins the top spot for picture quality. Video footage produced by this camera is of equally high quality as shown by recordings from our own team:

This camera is significantly cheaper than its close competitor, the Bushnell Core DS-4K. Another factor in this camera’s favour.  

Bushnell Core DS-4K 

A closer runner up, the Bushnell Core DS-4K likewise demonstrates superb picture quality. An advantage of this camera is the longer battery life when using the video capture setting, permitting longer deployment in the field, together with a world-beating 4K video resolution.  

Night Footage 

The nighttime capabilities of modern trail cameras are a key draw for many users. Using infrared technology, most trail cameras can capture photographs and videos of elusive nocturnal animals whose movements are normally challenging to monitor. 

Browning Spec Ops Elite HP5 

While the Browning Recon Force Elite HP5 and the Bushnell Core DS-4K perform well at night, if you are looking for a trail camera specifically designed to excel in low light conditions, the Browning Spec Ops Elite HP5 is a safe bet. This camera displays superb nighttime video and photographs with excellent clarity and contrast. A stealthy camera with top of the range trigger and recovery speeds, the Spec Ops Elite HP5 benefits from a no glow IR flash which allows it to remain inconspicuous in the presence of easily startled nocturnal animals.  

Browning Dark Ops Pro DCL 

Equipped with Radiant 6 Night Illumination Technology and a longer flash range than the Spec Ops Elite HP5, the Browning Dark Ops Pro DCL produces outstanding nighttime footage; the trade-off is a significantly reduced battery life and inferior daytime picture quality compared to the Spec Ops. 

Trigger Speed 

The trigger speed is the amount of time between the camera detecting movement and a photograph being taken. For those looking to monitor larger animals a quick trigger speed is of secondary importance; however, trigger speed is very important when monitoring small fast-moving animals where a small difference in trigger speed might mean the difference between capturing a picture of the animal or not. 

Browning Spec Ops Elite HP5 

Here the Spec Ops Elite HP5 stands out from the crowd yet again. One of the top cameras in our range, its lightning-fast trigger speed of 0.1 seconds makes this camera a perfect choice for those monitoring even the quickest creatures. The Spec Ops Elite also boasts a swift recovery speed of 0.5 seconds, granting the ability to rapidly capture multiple pictures of an animal in the camera’s detection range.   

Battery Life 

Browning Patriot   

The Browning Patriot is not only one of our best all-rounders, performing well in all categories, but also the camera in our range with the longest battery life. Depending on the settings used (videos use up more battery power), this camera can last for over a year in the field without changing batteries.  

Browning Strike Force HD Pro X 

Another well-rounded camera, the Strike Force is also a strong performer when it comes to battery life. 


Durability – Reconyx HyperFire 2 HF2X 

A strong favourite amongst researchers operating in extreme environments, the Reconyx HyperFire 2 HF2X offers unparalleled resilience and longevity. We tend to recommend this camera for use in tough conditions as it can operate in temperatures of -29° to +50°C and comes with an impressive 5-year warranty. The more expensive Reconyx UltraFire XR6 has the benefit of improved picture quality; however, this trail camera carries a shorter 2-year warranty and slower trigger speed.  

A Reconyx camera being used to monitor penguins at Brown Station, Antarctica.
Cellular and Solar Cameras 

Needing to go out to your trail camera when you want to change batteries, check photos or change settings can be time consuming, especially if your camera is in a remote location or if you have multiple cameras set up in different areas. Cellular and solar functionality save valuable time by reducing the frequency with which you need to physically interact with your trail camera. The trade-off is reduced image quality when compared to cameras without these features in a comparable price range. 

Cellular – Spypoint LINK-MICRO-LTE 

The Spypoint LINK-MICRO-LTE enables remote access to photos and settings by utilising cellular networks. It comes with a pre-activated SIM card, the free Spypoint app and a free monthly data plan allowing you to transfer up to 100 images per month. If you need to transfer more photos, choose from Spypoint’s affordable monthly payment plans. 

While excellent for those wishing to leave their trail cameras in remote locations, remember the cellular features of the camera require a network connection to function, so ensure that you place the camera in a location with signal. 

Please note, we cannot guarantee that cellular functions of the link series cameras will work outside of the UK 

SolarSpypoint Solar-Dark Trail Camera  

The Spypoint Solar-Dark Trail Camera comes with a compact solar panel attached to the top of the unit which provides the camera’s lithium-ion battery with an indefinite power supply when placed in sufficient sunlight. This negates the need to regularly replace the trail camera’s batteries, saving valuable time.  

Cellular and Solar – Spypoint LINK-MICRO-S 

You can even combine features with the Spypoint LINK-MICRO-S. The built-in solar panel and cellular function allows you to leave the trail camera in the field for longer periods of time with minimal physical interaction.  

Please note, we cannot guarantee that cellular functions of the link series cameras will work outside of the UK. 

Recommendations and Accessories 

A few important tips and accessories can go a long way to getting the best experience out of using your trail camera. 

Use lithium batteries 

Many new users elect to use alkaline or standard rechargeable batteries in their trail cameras and find that their camera is not working as expected. Lithium batteries are capable of giving off a stronger surge of energy. Most trail cameras are therefore designed to be used with lithium batteries; accordingly, we offer a bundle when purchasing a trail camera which normally includes eight lithium batteries. Using the wrong type of batteries is among the most common reasons for why a trail camera is not functioning correctly. 

Rechargeable alternatives are available which perform well with trail cameras. 

Python Mini Cable Lock 

The versatile Python Lock with an 8mm diameter and length of 180cm is ideal for securing equipment and can be used with almost all our trail cameras.  

Security Boxes 

These tough and sturdy security boxes will help protect your trail camera from theft and damage. Double check that the security box you are purchasing is compatible with your trail camera model.  

Explore our complete range of trail cameras on our website or check out our Watching Wildlife Guide on how to choose the right trail camera for further information on trail camera features.   

This Week in Biodiversity News – 14th November 2022


Between 2003 and 2019, almost a quarter of Sweden’s remaining unprotected old-growth forest was logged. These rare and ecologically valuable forests are rich in biodiversity and are some of the last remaining areas where we can see how northern landscapes may have looked before humans began altering them. If logging continues at the same rate, all of these old-growth forests will be lost within the next 50 years.

Pollinators, such as bumblebees, are much less likely to land on flowers that have been sprayed with fertilisers and pesticides, as they can detect changes in the electric field around the flower. It was previously thought that the chemicals may affect the insects’ vision and sense of smell, but recent research has now proven that this is not the case. Spraying the plants with chemicals significantly reduces the amount of feeding that the bees undertake.

New discoveries

A tiny species of clam has been found at Naples Point, in southern California, that has never before been encountered in the wild. Prior to this discovery, our only knowledge of this species was from fossil records, and it was presumed to be extinct. This diminutive mollusc, described in 1937 from fossil remains as Bornia cooki, has a shell which is only 10mm wide and a bright, white-striped foot which is used for burrowing.

Climate change

A new review, published in Ecological Monographs, has warned that the effects of climate change on insects is likely to ‘drastically reduce our ability to build a sustainable future based on healthy-functional ecosystems’. Compiled by a team of 70 scientists from 19 countries, the report describes both the short- and long-term prognosis for insects as bleak, and stresses that urgent action at both a personal and policy level is required.

A new analysis from the groups Global Witness, Corporate Europe Observatory and Corporate Accountability reported that 636 fossil fuel lobbyists are registered to attend the COP27 climate talks – a figure that is up 25% from last year. This shows a worrying rise in the influence of the fossil fuel industry at these critical climate talks.

There is increasing concern that the Arctic ocean is becoming warmer and saltier due to climate change. Referred to by oceanographers as ‘spicy’ water, these increases in temperature and salinity are a problem, as they create a layer of water that tends to sit on the surface and not mix with the cooler, less salty (or ‘minty’) water below. This then impacts the formation and maintenance of sea ice.

Citizen science

Keen citizen scientists in the UK are being asked to contribute to a huge study looking at changes in mammal activity in response to climate change. The MammalWeb network, which was founded in 2013 at Durham University, will utilise images from camera traps deployed by members of the public around the country to build a comprehensive picture of the UK’s mammal populations. In doing so they hope to gain better insights into the policies and interventions that are needed the most to conserve these populations.


A new technique developed at the Université de Montréal (UdeM) and the University of Minnesota will allow scientists to gain insights into how species of plant that have been preserved as dried specimens in herbaria interacted with their environment when they were living. By learning more about traits such as leaf structure, chemical composition and water content, it is hoped that more information can be gained about how plant communities have changed over time, and how we might help them to thrive in the future.


In the Field – Kite APC Stabilised Binoculars

Kite Optics has always been a provider of high-quality optics, and we were thrilled to be given the opportunity to test a pair of stabilised binoculars from their range. The Kite APC Binoculars are purported to be ideal for watching birds and other wildlife. The big draw is the construction and ability to stabilise the image for more accurate observation.


Opening the box, you find a neck strap, carry case, instruction manual and the binoculars themselves. The first impression of the binoculars is that they look and feel ready for anything. The binoculars’ rubber casing provides an incredibly easy grip while giving you the feeling that they could withstand a little rugged handling.

To start with

Before using the binoculars for the first time you need to take the necessary first steps, as you would with any pair of binoculars. Adjust the dioptre ring to take care of any sight needs, alter the width of the eyepieces if needed (which was simple as they are linked together mechanically to create a single round image when looking through the eyepieces) and insert some batteries.

This is essential to get the full impact of what these binoculars have been designed to give you. It should be noted that the manufacturer clearly states that you should not use rechargeable batteries in this product. As with all electronics that may be put away for periods of time, you should also not leave the batteries in the binoculars while stored. Though you only need to use two batteries to run the stabilisation, there is a compartment for another two batteries, effectively giving you double the length of use while out in the field by swapping over tired batteries with the spares.

To access the battery compartments, you need to look at the front end of the binoculars. On either side of the lens, you will see recessed openings with plastic lids that have flip-out handles. It was a little fiddly at first to get hold of these, but once raised, opening the compartments was easy. When replacing the lids on the compartments you cannot over-tighten them. When screwing them shut, you will reach a positive stop.

How we tested them

Originally the plan was to take the binoculars out on a boat to view birds, seals and dolphins. However, in the timeframe, it wasn’t possible as the weather stopped the trips going out. An alternative was to take the binoculars up to a local reserve in Devon, Berry Head. An ideal location for watching the sea traffic, scanning the water for cetaceans and viewing the local guillemot colony that is nesting on the cliffs, along with other pelagic species.

The objective here was to see how well they handled the windy conditions and the distance to the subject both on the water, in the air and on the cliffs.

What we found.

With a relatively clear and bright day to start with and a medium wind, it was easy to break the test down into three areas based on subjects. Walking to the edge of the headland, I started scanning the sea. Plenty of gannets were around in a couple of sea locations and, while watching them, they started to dive. Initially, I left the stabilisation off just to get a good understanding of how they felt based on having to compensate for any shake with my hands. It quickly became clear that was quite tiring on the wrists and fingers while keeping the image as steady as possible. These binoculars can be quite heavy, though you should take into account that they contain stabilisation technology. Turning on the stabilisation, using the horizontal dial, and raising them to view, I was amazed at the change in the viewing experience. If you have ever used a more recent phone to shoot video, you will understand the concept of the gimbal mechanism that is deployed in the binoculars. The image became a lot smoother, even with irregular gusts of wind. Being able to track the birds not only in flight but as they dived made the experience much more informative. While watching the gannets, the extra magnification enabled me to view them angling their heads to the side to look down on the sea while searching for fish.

A fortunate moment occurred while the birds were diving. Something I had hoped to test on a boat occurred with the appearance of a cetacean. There are five different cetacean species off our coast in Brixham. The one that is most difficult to spot because of their surfacing behaviour is the harbour porpoise. Typically, you get a fleeting glance as they surface and then they are gone, reappearing after some minutes in a different location. Harbour porpoises are more solitary in their behaviour which can also add to the challenge. But with the sharpness, contrast and stability of the binoculars I could scan around the area the birds were feeding and note any surface disturbance, sometimes pre-empting the moment the porpoise surfaced. This coupled with the clarity of the optics gave me the chance to identify the species, recognising the small angular dorsal fin before it submerged again. It should be noted that there was a slight chromatic aberration around the edges of the image, but this was outweighed by the image quality where it counts.

The final test was to visit the opposite side of the reserve and use the vantage point across the cove from the nesting colony. This is some distance away on the cliffs, so again I decided to turn off the stabilisation and try to look at the guillemots before switching it on. To provide a comparison I shot a couple of videos through the eyepiece to show the stability of the binoculars before and after activating the stabilisation. It’s apparent that, if you were trying to assess colony size, you could quite easily carry out a census using these binoculars.


These binoculars are built to withstand a good level of environmental bashing! With a waterproof construction (IPX7) and the rugged covering, I wasn’t afraid to use them out in the elements. The clarity of the view through the binoculars provided a level of confidence in judging the scene and the species within. Contrast and colour were well represented, which is incredibly important when bird watching as this will be the difference between identifying one species over another. The stabilisation was a real game changer, especially for identification purposes. I would feel good about using these on a boat to be able to survey cetaceans as when you halt the boat, the rocking on the sea would make this an ideal advantage for scanning the water. Good thought has been put into the design of the controls, with a large horizontal focusing wheel easily accessible and controlled using the tips of fingers. The stabilisation switch has been designed not to intrude on the use of the binoculars. Turning the stabilisation on lets you forget about the need to activate them. When you aren’t using the binoculars and they are in a vertical position, around your neck, for example, the stabilisation goes into sleep mode, improving the battery life. I would mention that they are quite heavy, without the stabilisation you could get fatigued trying to compensate to keep the image static, but with the stabilisation active, I know the stress on the hands would be less.

The Kite APC Binoculars can be found here. Our full range of Kite Optics binoculars can be found here.

If you have any questions about our range or would like some advice on the right product for you then please contact us via email at or phone on 01803 865913.

The NHBS Guide to UK Lichens

Lichens are composites of two or more different organisms, an alga or cyanobacteria living among the filaments of a fungus species. It is a symbiotic relationship where the fungal partner, also termed the mycobiont, makes up the body or ‘thallus’, and the algae or cyanobacteria is the photosynthetic partner, or photobiont, providing nourishment. There is debate as to whether this symbiotic relationship is mutualistic, where both parties benefit and neither is harmed through this interaction, or a type of controlled parasitism, where the mycobiont is ‘farming’ the photobiont for the sugars produced by photosynthesis.

There are over 1,800 species recorded in the UK, and 17,000 species worldwide. There are three main categories of lichen body types: crustose, fruticose and foliose. Crustose lichen are species that form thin, crust-like coverings that are tightly bound to the surface they’re on. Fruticose lichen form coral-like bushy or shrubby structures with a holdfast, a root-like structure that anchors it to trees, rocks or other surfaces. Foliose lichen are species that have a flattened, leaf-like thallus with an upper and lower cortex, the surface layer or ‘skin’ of the lichen, and attach to surfaces by hyphae with root-like structures called rhizines. There are other growth forms, such as leprose (a powder-like or granular appearance), squamulose (scaly), filamentose (stringy) and byssoid (wispy). These can also be divided into numerous subtypes.

Lichens are an important food source for many species, such as deer and goats, and are used as building material for birds nests. They occur from sea level to high elevations, tolerating many different environmental conditions. They grow on a wide variety of surfaces, from tree bark, leaves, mosses, rocks, gravestones, roofs, soil, bones and rubber. The general guidance for identifying lichens is to look at growth form, colour, habitat and substrate type and distribution. You should also look for the presence or absence of certain structures such as rhizines, soredia (scale-like reproductive structures), isidia (column-like outgrowths of the thallus) and apothecia (a cup-shaped structure containing asci, spore-bearing cells). A hand lens and a guide that covers other lichen species will be useful for identifying these.

Spot tests can be performed, which involve placing a drop of a chemical, such as potassium hydroxide or sodium hypochlorite, on different parts of the lichen. Any colour change, or lack thereof, can be used for identification when following dichotomous keys for lichen species. Care should be taken when using chemicals, however, particularly in the natural environment, due to the damage they can cause.

Some species are harder to identify in the field and require microscopic examination or further chemical testing. Additionally, there may be variations in appearance due to weather conditions or the condition of the lichen. Its colour can change when the lichen is wet or in poor condition, for example, or the growth form can appear different if the lichen has begun to disintegrate.

Elegant Sunburst Lichen (Xanthoria elegans)

Distribution: Widespread, but most frequently found in upland areas.
Growth type: Foliose
What to look for: This is a small lichen, typically no more than 5cm wide with lobes that are less than 2mm broad and closely pressed against a surface. Their upper surface is orange, with a white lower surface, a cortex (skin), and attached with short, sparse hapters (peg-like structures on the lower surface of lichen). Soredia and isidia are absent but apothecia structures are common.

Björn S… via Flickr

Common Greenshield Lichen (Flavoparmelia caperata)

Distribution: Widespread, more common in the western and southern parts of England, scarce in northern and central Scotland.
Growth type: Foliose
What to look for: This is a pale grey species that turns yellowish-green when wet. The lower surface is black with a brown margin and black, unbranched rhizoids that attach it to the substrate. Its lobes are rounded, around 3–8mm wide, with patches of soredia. The lobes are often wrinkled in appearance, particularly in older specimens.

Paul Morris via Flickr

Hooded Rosette Lichen (Physcia adscendens)

Distribution: Widespread
Growth type: Foliose
What to look for: Hooded rosette lichen is a pale grey species, with lobes up to 2mm wide that are curled into a hood shape. They have cilia, thin projections from the margin of the lichen, which progress from pale to black at the ends. Soralia are usually abundant and disc-shaped apothecia can also be present. The lower surface is white to greyish. They are attached to surfaces by rhizines, which can be white to black.

Hedera.baltica via Flickr

Hoary Rosette Lichen (Physcia aipolia)

Distribution: Fairly widespread
Growth type: Foliose
What to look for: This species is pale, from white to bluish-grey. It has white-rimmed apothecia that have black centres. Soralia and marginal cilia are absent. The lobes also have distinct flecks of white called pseudocyphellae. It grows in well-lit habitats, usually on fences or trees, often in the nodes of branches.

Gilles San Martin via Flickr

Common Orange Lichen / Yellow Scale (Xanthoria parietina)

Distribution: Widespread
Growth type: Foliose
What to look for: This species is a yellow-orange coloured lichen that can appear greener when wet. It is a leafy lichen with flattened lobes that are between 1–4mm in diameter. Its lower surface is white and has pale rhizines or hapters. Similarly to X. elegans, soredia and isidia are absent but yellow or orange apothecia are usually present. There is a cortex that is made of tightly packed fungal hyphae, which can be thicker in more exposed locations and is thought to protect the lichen from evaporation and exposure.

Udo Schmidt via Flickr

Monk’s Hood Lichen (Hypogymnia physodes)

Distribution: Widespread
Growth type: Foliose
What to look for: The thallus is grey to greenish-grey, with inflated lobes that lift at the tips. These inflations can burst open, displaying the floury soredia inside. They may have black dots, called pycnidia, near the lobe tips. Rhizines are absent and the lower surface is wrinkled with a light brown margin, darkening towards a black centre. They may have apothecia, which occur on short stalks and have a red-brown disc.

Björn S… via Flickr

Many-forked Cladonia (Cladonia furcata)

Distribution: Widespread, particularly in heathland, healthy turf and on dunes.
Growth type: Fruticose
What to look for: This species has an upright secondary thallus, called the podetium, which can vary from grey-green to brown. This forms loose mats, and the finer branches are erect and sharply pointed. Soredia are absent, with few to no squamules (scales). They may have small, green areolar patches set into or raised on the cortex surface. The podetia become darker brown and glossy with age. Pycnidia, the asexual fruiting bodies, are small, brown and are found on the branch tips. This species has apothecia, which are brown and occur in extended clusters at the ends of podetia.

Jason Hollinger via Flickr

Lasallia pustulata

Distribution: Scattered distribution, mainly in parts of Wales, south- and north-west England and scattered areas of Scotland.
Growth type: Foliose
What to look for: The thallus of this species is a pale grey or brown when dry but becomes brownish or yellowish-green when wet. It has convex pustules across its upper surface which often appear darker in colour and are covered in a powder towards the centre. The margins of this species are often ragged and can be darkened by the presence of black isidia. The lower surface can be grey, brown or black, and have corresponding depressions to the pustules on the upper surface. Rhizines are absent and this species is attached to substrate by a stalk.

Dry state: Jacinta lluch valero via Flickr
Wet state: Björn S… via Flickr

Oakmoss (Evernia prunastri)

Distribution: Widespread
Growth type: Fruticose
What to look for: They primarily grow on oak trees but can be found on the trunk and branches of other deciduous trees and conifers. This species is flat and strap-like, highly branched (forked) and bushy, forming large clumps when growing together. When dry the thallus is rough and the colour can vary from green to a pale greenish-white. When wet, they appear dark olive-green to yellow-green and are rubbery in texture.

Björn S… via Flickr

Pink Earth Lichen (Dibaeis baeomyces)

Distribution: Widespread in Scotland and Wales, scattered throughout England, more common in the north and west.
Growth type: Fruticose
What to look for: Pink earth lichen have bulbous pink apothecia that are around 1–4mm in diameter, set on stalks up to 6mm tall, although these are not always present. The thallus can vary in colour between grey or white, occasionally with a pink tinge, and can appear greenish-grey when wet. They are coarsely granular and are sometimes covered in small, white balls up to 1mm in width, with small powdery areas.

Jason Hollinger via Flickr

Yellow Map Lichen (Rhizocarpon geographicum)

Distribution: Widespread in Scotland and north-west England, and the upland areas of England, Wales and Ireland. Less common in the East Midlands, East of England and the South East.
Growth type: Crustose
What to look for: This is a bright yellow to yellow-green species, with a cracked thallus, flat, black apothecia and bordered by a black line of fungal hyphae. This lichen grows in patches adjacent to each other, giving the appearance of a map.

Björn S… via Flickr

Recommended books and equipment

Lichens: Towards a Minimal Resistance

The result of several years of investigation carried out on several different continents, this remarkable book offers an original, radical and, like its subject matter, symbiotic reflection on this common but mostly invisible form of life, blending cultures and disciplines, drawing on biology, ecology, philosophy, literature, poetry, and even graphic art.


Lichens: An Illustrated Guide to the British and Irish Species

This book provides an invaluable guide to identifying the British and Irish species both for the amateur naturalist just starting to study lichens and the more advanced lichenologist. It offers the environmentalist and ecologist a concise work of reference, compact enough to be used in the field.


FSC Wildlife Pack 20: Lichens

These colourful and widespread organisms can be seen all year round. Featuring six of the FSC’s popular fold-out charts: lichens on twigs, churchyard lichens, urban lichens 1 and 2, rocky shore lichens and lichens of heaths and moors

Each pack includes a card-sized magnifier, so you can get in even closer to the details.


Opticron Hand Lens (10x 23mm)

Observe the finer details of your specimen with this high-quality 23mm doublet lens, the most commonly recommended magnifier for all types of fieldwork.


All prices are correct at the time of posting, but may change at any time.
Please see for up to date pricing and availability.

The NHBS Guide to UK Mosses

Mosses belong to a group of plants called bryophytes. Comprising the mosses, liverworts and hornworts, there are over 1000 species of bryophyte in Britain and Ireland, which is around 58% of the species found in the whole of Europe.

Although often overlooked, mosses are fascinating to study and are structurally both complex and elegant. When seen through a hand lens or microscope they have details that easily compare in beauty with those of their larger plant cousins.

In this article we’ll introduce you to a handful of some of the commonest and easiest to identify mosses that you will find in the UK. If you’re interested in learning more, we’ve also provided a list of excellent field guides and books at the bottom of the guide, along with some helpful links to other online resources.

Why are mosses important?

Mosses are one of the first plants to colonise bare ground. They provide important habitat for invertebrates, particularly those fond of a damp environment such as slugs and woodlice. A healthy mossy environment will also be attractive to larger animals who feed on these invertebrates, such as frogs and toads, and will provide shelter to a diverse range of microscopic organisms, including nemotodes, rotifers and tardigrades.

Mosses can hold a huge amount of water and so play a crucial role in mitigating flooding during periods of intense rainfall. Sphagnum moss in particular can absorb up to 20 times its weight in water, and is instrumental in slowing the flow of rainwater from the hills and moors and reducing the risk of flooding in downstream towns and cities.

Did you know?
  • Mosses have stems and leaves but no true roots or advanced vascular systems. This is why we only have small mosses and not ones that are the size of trees!
  • There are around 20,000 species of moss worldwide and they are found everywhere except for in the sea – even in Antarctica!
  • Unlike flowering plants, mosses produce spores rather than seeds and flowers. Spores are produced in a small capsule which grows on a long stem called a seta.
  • Mosses require damp conditions for reproduction – this is because the male cells require a film of water in order to reach the female cells and fertilise them.
Common UK mosses

Rough-stalked feather moss (Brachythecium rutabulum)

Brachythecium rutabulum. Image via Wikipedia Commons.

Also known as ‘ordinary moss’, rough-stalked feather moss is one of our most common moss species, and can be found growing widely in woodlands, lawns and at the base of hedges. It is yellow-green in colour and has branching stems with pointed oval leaves. Shoot tips are generally pale and glossy. Curved, egg-shaped capsules are frequently produced.

Common haircap (Polytrichum commune)

Polytrichum commune. Image via Wikimedia Commons.

Also known as marsh hair moss, common haircap is one of our tallest species of moss and can form clumps up to 40cm in height. Found in damp, acidic areas such as heaths, bogs and moorland, it can also be found near to streams and rivers within woodland. Plants are bright green, fading to brown with age, and often grow in compact clumps. The stems are tough and wiry, and its leaves are narrow and spear-shaped. When viewed from above, each individual stem looks star-like. In the summer it produces brown, box-shaped capsules.

Swan’s-neck thyme-moss (Mnium hornum)

Mnium hornum. Image via Wikimedia Commons.

Swan’s-neck thyme-moss is abundant in acidic woodland on logs, rocks and soil. It has upright stems which are 2–4cm tall, and leaves which are approximately 4mm in length with a toothed border. Frequently produces capsules on the end of 2.5–5cm long stalks. Capsules have a pointed tip.

Common tamarisk moss (Thuidium tamariscinum)

Thuidium tamariscinum. Image via Wikimedia Commons.

Common tamarisk moss is very distinctive and forms loose mats of fern-like shoots which range from yellow-green to dark green. Individual leaves are triangular or heart shaped, and the stems can be green or red-brown. It forms capsules only occasionally in the autumn and winter. It commonly grows on neutral soil in woodland, hedges and damp grass.

Sphagnum moss (Sphagnum spp.)

Sphagnum capillifolium. Image via Wikimedia Commons.

There are more than 30 species of sphagnum moss in the UK and they can be very difficult to tell apart. Although each plant is small, they often grow together in dense mats to form large areas of spongy carpet. Sometimes referred to as ‘bog-mosses’, they can be beautifully multi-coloured and thrive on peat bogs, marshland, heath and moorland. They also have an important role in the formation of peat bogs.

Common striated feather-moss (Eurhynchium striatum)

Eurhynchium striatum. Image via Wikimedia Commons.

Common striated feather-moss is common in lowland woodland, particularly those with a high clay soil. It often forms cushions or mats that can cover large areas. Leaves are triangular or heart-shaped with finely toothed margins and have wrinkles that run down the length of the leaf (you may need a hand lens to observe this identifying feature). Spore capsules are only occasionally present, but have a beak-shaped tip.

Recommended reading

A Field Guide to Bryophytes

This field guide covers 133 species of moss and liverwort encountered in most UK habitats, using non-specialist terms to help identify them on over 100 full-colour pages. Twelve flow-charts help identify species by the habitat they occur in. All proceeds from the sale of this book go directly to the conservation program of The Species Recovery Trust.


Mosses and Liverworts of Britain and Ireland: A Field Guide

This invaluable guide features hundreds of colour photographs and black and white drawings, both of whole plants and with distinguishing features magnified. It also includes notes on how to identify and distinguish plants from similar species, alongside distribution maps and habitat notes.



Guide to Mosses and Liverworts of Woodlands

Mosses and liverworts can form quite an extensive part of the woodland flora, carpeting the ground and covering tree trunks and branches. This guide covers seven liverworts and 16 mosses commonly found in woodlands. Photographs of plants in the wild and brief identification notes are provided to aid identification.



Moss: From Forest to Garden: A Guide to the Hidden World of Moss

In Moss you’ll discover the key moss varieties and where they can be found, as well as the cultural history of moss both as a garden plant and its uses in traditional handicrafts. Take a tour of the best moss gardens in Japan, the UK and the US, and meet people who share their passion for these plants.


Useful links

British Bryological Society (BBS) – The BBS supports anyone interested in the study and conservation of mosses, from the absolute beginner to the experienced researcher. They host field meetings, organise recording and research projects, and publish an academic journal as well as a popular membership magazine.

Mosses and Liverworts of Town and Garden (pdf) – This downloadable leaflet will help you to identify some of the most common species of moss and liverwort with the use of a hand lens.

Universal nest bricks

Many UK bird populations have shown a dramatic decline since the 1970s and 80s, with species such as starlings (Sturnus vulgaris), house sparrows (Passer domesticus) and swifts (Apus apus) declining by over 50%. This is thought to be due to changes in land use and agricultural practices impacting food supply and the availability of suitable habitats. Changes in architecture have meant a reduction in important nooks and crannies that are utilised as nesting sites by species such as swifts, reducing reproduction rates in urban areas.

Providing suitable nest boxes has been shown to help increase reproduction rates for many species, helping to boost populations. Stephen Fitt and Mike Priaulx, members of the Swifts Local Network: Swifts and Planning Group, discuss the concept of ‘universal’ bricks, the British Standard key requirements on the inclusion of nest boxes within housing developments and current calls for a more specific national policy regarding these features.

Universal nest bricks

A British Standard BS 42021:2022 for integral nest boxes was published in March 2022. This sets out requirements for numbers, location, dimensions, materials, entrance hole size, and an administrative process to demonstrate implementation on site. This will enable integral nest boxes to provide nest spaces for a wide variety of species, such as house sparrows, starlings, swifts, house martins, and blue and great tits.

The standard also covers nest cups for house martins and swallows.

House martin using a Schwegler swift brick by Hugh Hastings and the Duchy of Cornwall

Some species-specific integral nest boxes are quite inflexible. Sparrow terraces, for example, are rarely fully occupied and are unpopular with other species. Deep nest bricks, such as those designed specifically for starlings, could cause a swift to become trapped within it.

Although swift bricks were designed initially to allow swifts to nest, these are now considered a ‘universal’ nest brick as set out in the NHBC Foundation report: Biodiversity in new housing developments: creating wildlife-friendly communities (April 2021). Section 8.1 Nest sites for birds (page 42) states: “Provision of integral nest sites for swifts is through hollow chambers fitted into the fabric of a building while in construction. Although targeting swifts they will also be used by house sparrows, tits and starlings so are considered a ‘universal brick’.

Swift by Simon Stirrup (Cambridge Bird Club)

The British Standard sets out key requirements for integral boxes as follows:

  • The number of integral boxes in housing developments – at least one per residential unit on average.
  • The numbers of the above installed in larger buildings – to be proportionate to the mass and design; there is not necessarily an upper limit.
  • In all but exceptional circumstances the entrance holes of all integral boxes should be 30mm x 65mm minimum to enable starlings to enter.
  • The entrance hole should be located close to the base of the box to avoid birds becoming trapped within.

This ‘universal’ nest brick concept has also been described in an article by CIEEM, which references a January 2022 paper on this subject by the Swifts Local Network (SLN).

Local policy legislation has also begun to recognise this line of thinking, for example the Westminster Environment Sustainable Planning Document (February 2022), which in particular calls for: “‘swift bricks’ within external walls…Swift bricks’ are also used by house sparrows and other small bird species so are considered a ‘universal brick’. Integrated nesting bricks are preferred to external boxes for reasons of longevity, reduced maintenance, better temperature regulation, and aesthetic integration with the building design” (Species and Habitats, page 49).

The results from Duchy of Cornwall monitoring programmes confirm that by installing high numbers (an average of one per residential unit) of “‘swift/universal boxes’ in new-build developments, approximately 50% showed signs of occupation after five years, so it is highly likely that they will all be used during the lifetime of the building(s) they are situated in.

Swift chicks inside a ‘universal brick’. Image by Dick Newell.

Many conservationists would like to see either a numerical value in the Biodiversity Net Gain methodology for these features for wildlife, or a separate strand to the national policy requiring these to be specified. The BREEAM environmental assessment has been following a similar approach for more than a decade.

Such features are already demanded by specific policies in some Local Plans, but other plans are still being published with no such requirements.

CIEEM highlight in the June 2019 issue of their In Practice journal the value of swift bricks to a wide range of small bird species, and provide readily available best practice guidance on the implementation of the bricks, including a recommendation for one nest space per dwelling on average (in accordance with the BS 42021:2022, and following on from RIBA guidance Designing for Biodiversity published back in 2013). While some local authorities such as Brighton are implementing this guidance, others rely on numbers derived from ecologists’ and planning officers’ advice, which can be very variable.

Some developers, Taylor Wimpey being one example, are publishing their own policies for biodiversity measures such as the installation of integral nest bricks.

Defra are developing a simplified Small Sites Metric for Biodiversity Net Gain, and the consultation on this held during autumn 2021 may provide a glimpse of the future as it asks about including a value for bird and bat boxes in the metric, although this has not appeared in practice as yet.

To find out about the swift nest boxes we sell at NHBS, check out our website.

This Week in Biodiversity News – 31st October 2022

Climate Change

100 universities in the UK have pledged to divest from fossil fuels, equating to 65% of the country’s higher education sector. The Fossil Free campaign, led by students, has been active since 2013, with the first institution, the University of Glasgow, announcing its divestment in 2014. Coventry University has become the 100th. Together, the endowments now unavailable for fossil fuel companies are worth more than £17.6bn.

Key UN reports published recently are warning that the world is close to an irreversible climate breakdown. The reports state that global greenhouse gas emissions must fall by about half by 2030 to meet the internationally agreed target of limiting heating to 1.5C or below, but they are still rising. This news comes ahead of the announcement that profits from the world’s seven biggest oil firms increased to nearly £150bn so far this year.


The threatened Barberry carpet moth has seen a boom in numbers in a forest in Dorset, with the population trebling in four years. Experts found 50 larvae in Blandford Forest during their most recent survey, compared to just 14 in 2018. The moth was almost extinct in the 1980s, limited to just a single location in the UK. This drop was thought to be due to Barberry bushes being removed by farmers. Both Forestry England and Butterfly Conservation began planting Barberry plants in woodlands and along the edges of farmland in 2007 to try to repopulate the species.

The Center for Biological Diversity is suing National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries in the US, as it says the organisation is not protecting endangered Pacific humpback whales from entanglements in drift gillnets. The lawsuit claims that, in the past two fishing seasons, about 12 humpbacks were caught in the California-based drift gillnet fishery, violating the Endangered Species Act. Several other lawsuits have been launched in recent weeks to protect wildlife, including one for the lesser prairie chicken and another for the streaked horned lark.

30% of forests in Sierra Nevada, USA, disappeared between 2011 and 2020. The historic droughts and wildfires that plagued California for more than a decade have severely impacted woodlands. More than half of mature forest habitats and 85% of high-density mature forests have either been destroyed or transformed into low-density forests. These areas usually contain high levels of biodiversity, with a range of different types of trees, but the increasing loss of these mature forests is threatening this biodiversity.

New discoveries

Six new rain frog species have been discovered in Ecuador. Scientists discovered all six species on the eastern slopes of the Ecuadorian Andes, in two national parks, within a 20km-radius of deforested areas. There are more than 550 different Pristimantis frog species across Central and South America. All six have been recommended to be added to the IUCN’s red list of threatened species.

A new species of mammal has been found in mainland Britain for the first time. The greater white-toothed shrew, usually found across western parts of Europe as well as the Channel Islands of Guernsey and Alderney, was spotted in Sunderland in 2021. The dead specimen was examined using a DNA test to confirm its species. There is other evidence that this species has been here for a while, with remains found in owl pellets in Ireland in 2007 and photos dating from at least 2015. Research is currently underway to discover how these shrews may have arrived.


A new study has found that bees ‘count’ from left to right. There is a much-debated theory that this direction is inherent to all animals, including humans. However, as the opposite direction has been found in people from cultures that use an Arabic script, it has been suggested that there is a cultural element involved. The study, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal, found that after being trained to associate numbers with a sucrose reward, honey bees ordered numbers in increasing size from left to right.

A bar-tailed godwit has set a world record with a 13,560km continuous flight from Alaska to southern Australia, taking 11 days and one hour. The satellite tag recorded the flight of the five-month-old juvenile bar-tailed godwit, which was over 500km longer than the previous record. Juveniles migrate separately from adults, who make the journey up to six weeks earlier, as the juveniles use the extra time to fatten up for the long migration. Bar-jailed godwits can shrink their internal organs to make more space for these extra fat stores.

Hybrid songbirds are found more often in human-altered environments than in natural areas. A new study, published in Global Change Biology, found that hybrids of the black-capped and mountain chickadee, two common North American songbirds, were more likely to be found where humans had altered the landscape in some way. The study looked at observational data from the citizen science site eBird, as well as DNA samples from 196 black-capped and 213 mountain chickadees at 81 sites in North America. While they found a positive, significant correlation between hybrids and areas where humans have disturbed their habitat in some form, the study did not determine why these hybrids were more common in these areas.


The UK government has delayed its publication of clean water and biodiversity targets, breaching its Environment Act. The targets, which will underpin the country’s nature recovery were meant to be released on 31 October, ahead of the COP27 UN climate talks in November. The delay in publication means the delegation will not have targets to present to other countries. This is stated to be due to the “significant public response” to Defra’s consultation on nature recovery, with no date set as to when the targets will be published. This adds further concern to a number of environmentalists, as the government is currently reviewing over 500 pieces of environmental legislation by the end of next year under the retained EU law bill. If, by the end of this period, any bill has not been amended or retained by parliament, it will fall. Many critics are suggesting that it is unlikely the government will be able to review the thousands of EU laws required within this time.


An analysis has found that scrapping nature-friendly farming payment schemes could worsen river pollution in England by up to 20%. Recent sources suggested that the previous government was looking to remove nature restoration from the upcoming scheme intended to replace the EU’s area-based payment scheme for farmers. 86% of rivers in England were deemed to not be in a ‘good ecological condition’, with agriculture being the reason why 40% of water bodies in England failed to meet this status, according to the Environment Agency.

Book reviews recently featured in British Wildlife

British Wildlife has featured book reviews since the very first magazine back in 1989, and every review included in issues since 2018 is available to read on the British Wildlife website. These reviews provide in-depth critiques of the most important new titles in natural history publishing, from nature-writing bestsellers to technical identification handbooks. They are all authored by experts in relevant subjects, ensuring an honest and insightful appraisal of each book featured. Here is a list of the book reviews included in recent issues of British Wildlife, all with links to take you directly to the full review.

1. Silent Earth: Averting the Insect Apocalypse by Dave Goulson

This reader found the book literate, persuasive, sympathetic, and based both on sound science and on a willingness to grapple with the realities. Goulson is the best ambassador for small life that we have.”

– Peter Marren, BW 33.3 December 2021. Read the review here



2. Slime: A Natural History by Susanne Wedlich

To say that this is a fascinating story of a neglected subject does not really do justice to it. It is a well-researched and surprisingly genial encounter with this oozy, sticky world, written with a journalist’s sharp eye for a good story.”

– Peter Marren, BW 33.4 February 2022. Read the review here



3. Wild Fell: Fighting for Nature on a Lake District Farm by Lee Schofield

Wild Fell is an exhilarating tour of Lee’s patch, with side excursions to Scotland and Norway and the Italian Alps for insights into the abundance which nature is bursting to give us. His writing, like the extinct, extant and envisioned landscapes he describes, is studded with moments of immense beauty – you can almost smell rock and moss and nectar, hear butterflies and grasshoppers flit and whirr, feel the shadow of a great wing passing between you and the sun.”

– Amy-Jane Beer, BW 33.4 February 2022. Read the review here

4. Peak District by Penny Anderson

Readers of the book in the future may know, and in the penultimate sentence they are posed a question about the region: ‘Is it still highly distinctive and special?’ We cannot know their answer, but we can be sure that they will learn a great deal about the Peak District, and probably much about us and what we think about the area today. They will certainly have a good book in their hands.”

– Anthony Robinson, BW 33.5 April 2022. Read the review here

5. Field Handbook to British and Irish Dandelions by A. John Richards

This new BSBI handbook is quite something. The modern miracle of colour printing allows every dandelion species to be reproduced in colour, and with up to five images per page, and at an affordable price.”

– Peter Marren, BW 33.5 April 2022. Read the review here



6. Wild Green Wonders: A Life in Nature by Patrick Barkham

As British Wildlife readers know, Barkham dispenses with literary glitter to get to the heart of an issue, straightforwardly, sometimes understatedly, even modestly, but with an infectious charm and, I think, an innate generosity. I like his writing very much. It informs, it reads well, it takes you to unexpected places, and leaves you thinking afterwards. This is good journalism.”

– Peter Marren, BW 33.6 May 2022. Read the review here

7. Ants: The Ultimate Social Insects by Richard Jones

Seasoned myrmecologists will probably want this review to answer one fundamental query: ‘I’ve got “Donisthorpe”, do I really need another book on ants?’ The answer is, in my opinion, a resounding ‘Yes!’”

– Adrian Knowles, BW 33.6 May 2022. Read the review here


8. After They’re Gone: Extinctions Past, Present and Future by Peter Marren

“After They’re Gone reminds us that environmental change is constant, and sometimes dramatic enough to wipe out millions of species.”

– Laurence Rose, BW 33.6 May 2022. Read the review here




9. Alchemilla: Lady’s-mantles of Britain and Ireland by Mark Lynes

“The author leaves us in no doubt that he is captivated by these plants, and he pays tribute to his predecessors, Max Walters and Margaret Bradshaw, who sorted out British Alchemilla taxa for the first time.”

– Peter Marren, BW 33.7 June 2022. Read the review here


10. British Craneflies by Alan Stubbs

I would strongly recommend this book (and the others in the series) to anybody wishing to broaden his or her natural-history interests and keen to gain new and exciting perspectives on the sites, habitats and landscapes which they visit.”

– Steven Falk, BW 33.7 June 2022. Read the review here


11. Trees by Peter Thomas

“But it is an excellent and comprehensive book, and highly recommended for all those professionally involved in trees, concerned about trees, or wishing simply to understand more about trees. It will certainly keep me supplied with a sufficient understanding of them for the next 40 years.”

– Jonathan Spencer, BW 33.8 August 2022. Read the review here


12. Cornerstones: Wild Forces That Can Change Our World by Benedict Macdonald 

Benedict Macdonald, author of the eye-opening and influential Rebirding (see BW 31: 154), is passionate about restoring wildlife at scale by allowing natural processes a freer hand; first and foremost, then, his new book is aimed at building support for this approach to conservation.”

– Ian Carter, BW 33.8 August 2022. Read the review here


13. Birds and Us: A 12,000 Year History, from Cave Art to Conservation by Tim Birkhead

This is modern science at its best and liveliest. It is also a gem of cultural history that could have been written only by someone who is personally immersed in the world of birds. You come away with a renewed sense that birds are wonderful, not least in the way they capture the human heart as well as the head.”

– Peter Marren, BW 33.8 August 2022. Read the review here

Since its launch in 1989, British Wildlife has established its position as the leading natural history magazine in the UK, providing essential reading for both enthusiasts and professional naturalists and wildlife conservationists. Individual back issues of the magazine are available to purchase through the NHBS website, while annual subscriptions start from just £40 – you can subscribe online or by phone (01803 467166). Visit for more information. 


It’s tree planting season!

Autumn and winter are the ideal time for tree-planting. Image by LightFieldStudios.

Late autumn and winter are the ideal time for planting trees and hedgerows. In this article we provide lots of tips for the first time tree-planter and point you in the direction of heaps of helpful information to ensure that your trees and shrubs get off to the best start this year.

Why is winter the best time to plant trees?

During the winter, trees are mostly dormant. This means that their aerial parts are not actively growing. However, below the ground is a different story. Trees use this period of dormancy to create an expansive root network which will work hard throughout the year to provide the plant with plenty of water and nutrients. Planting the tree during the late autumn and winter gives it plenty of time to build up a strong root structure in time for spring. Soil also tends to be softer and moister during the colder months, which helps the tree to expand and grow its roots.  Plus, there is much less competition from weeds and grass, so your sapling has a better chance of establishing successfully.

Which species should I plant?

The species of tree you wish to plant will depend largely on where you want to put it. Is it going to be part of a hedgerow or will it stand on its own? How much space do you have, and how big is the tree likely to grow? For example, if you are planting in a small garden, you don’t want a tree that will grow too large or where it will end up shadowing your own or someone elses land or house. Don’t forget that a tree’s root system can grow much larger than its canopy, so planting near to buildings can become a problem later down the line.

A good rule of thumb is to take note of the trees that are growing and thriving locally, as these will be species that are suited to the local conditions. Choosing native varieties is also important, as these will help to support lots of wildlife such as birds, bees and butterflies. There are more than 60 species of native tree and shrub in the UK, so there’s plenty to choose from!

Where do I get my tree(s) from?

Trees and hedgerow plants are widely available from garden centres and tree nurseries. Make sure to check that trees have been grown in the UK, as trees imported from overseas are at risk of being contaminated with exotic pests and diseases. Trees of different ages will be available and your choice will depend largely on your budget and means of transportation. The main types are:

Transplants – Young seedlings that have been started in a tree nursery then dug up, ready to be transplanted in their final location. You may hear these  referred to as a ‘whip’ – this is a transplant that doesn’t yet have any branches. (As the name suggests, this can look, rather unpromisingly, like a slim twig).

Standard – A larger tree which has a head of branches. Usually these trees will be over two metres in height, meaning that transportation can be more of an issue.

Heavy standard – Similar to the standard, these trees will also have a head of branches but will be older and larger; usually over three metres in height.

Semi-mature – These are well-established trees which are likely to be at least 10-15 years old. They tend to be four metres or more in height and so are generally more suited to commercial or larger-scale planting projects.

Transplants and whips are likely to be sold either in their own containers or with bare roots. Standards, heavy-standards and semi-mature trees, however, are usually ‘root-balled’ which means that their roots will be covered in soil and then wrapped in hessian for safe transportation.

Another option is to grow your own trees from seeds collected in the wild. As well as being hugely satisfying, this option has the benefit of being free! The Conservation Volunteers website has lots of information on collecting, extracting, sowing and growing your tree seeds, including a comprehensive handbook that is free to download.

Larger trees require a pit to be big which is large enough for the roots. Image by LightFieldStudios.
How do I plant my tree?

Trees should be transplanted as soon as possible after purchase. For small trees you can simply use a spade to cut a T-shape in the soil, pressing in the spade to the same depth as you wish the roots to go. By peeling back the turf at the central point of the T, you can insert your transplant or whip and then press the turf back into place, making sure that the soil is well packed around the roots. Hedge plants can be planted using the same technique, either in a single or double row. Plants should be placed around 30cm apart in a single row or 50cm apart in a staggered double row. Applying a thick layer of mulch around the base of the tree will help to conserve moisture and prevent weed growth – but don’t let the mulch touch the tree itself, as this can encourage mould and decay. You may also need to fit a tree guard if you are planting young trees in an area where animals such as deer or rabbits could be a problem.

For larger trees, you will need to dig a hole that is large enough for the roots to spread out. If the soil is poor you may wish to dig a larger hole and then add some good quality compost before planting the tree. Tease out the roots if they are compacted or wound up and then place the tree gently in the hole. Once you have back-filled the hole with soil, it is important to ‘tread-in’ the plant so that the soil is firm around the base and roots. Apply a layer of mulch in a 1m diameter around the tree after removing any grass or weeds if necessary.

All newly planted trees should be watered immediately.

What now? Do I need to look after my tree?

Although the hard work is now done, it is important to check on your tree at least once a year to make sure that it is growing and thriving. Particularly with young trees, it may be necessary to water regularly in the summer or during any particularly dry periods. During the first three years it is also worth weeding by hand around the base of the tree to minimise competition for water and nutrients. Applying a thick mulch will also help to control weeds – leaf litter, lawn clippings or composted bark are great organic options.

Further information

National Tree Week – In 2022 National Tree Week takes place on 26th November to the 4th December. Take the opportunity to get involved by planting your own tree, or get in touch with your local Tree Warden Network to see if there are any organised tree plantings happening where you live.

Autumn Seed Harvest HandbookThis great handbook from The Conservation Volunteers provides all the information you need to collect, process and plant a tree from seeds found in your own neighbourhood.

Twigged!This great booklet from the Woodland Trust provides lots and lots of information on our native trees and how to recognise them throughout the year.

Royal Horticultural Society websiteThe RHS website has a wealth of information on tree species that will help you to choose the right kind for your garden or planting project.

Recommended reading

Collins Tree Guide

The Collins Tree Guide is a definitive, fully illustrated guide to the trees of Britain and non-Mediterranean Europe, containing some of the finest original tree illustrations ever produced. Within each tree family there is a list of key species and a guide to the most important features to look for.


The Field Key to Winter Twigs

The Field Key to Winter Twigs offers a striking new approach to the identification of over 400 wild or planted trees, shrubs and woody climbers in the British Isles. It allows any diligent enthusiast to reliably name a woody plant, normally within three turns of pages and often within a minute of study.


The Tree Name Trail

Produced with the support of the Forestry Commission, this 12-page laminated fold-out chart contains a full-colour illustrated key to the leaves, twigs, fruits and seeds of the commonest broadleaved and coniferous trees of Britain and Ireland.


Tree-Spotting: A Simple Guide to Britain’s Trees

A beautiful and captivating insight into the wonderful world of trees, Tree-Spotting burrows down into the history and hidden secrets of each species. It explores how our relationship with trees can be very personal, and hopes to bring you closer to the natural world around you.

Living Planet Report 2022

WWF’s 2022 Living Planet Report on
What is the Living Planet Report?

The Living Planet Report, compiled by WWF in association with the Zoological Society of London, is the most comprehensive study ever undertaken on the changes in global biodiversity and planet health. Using datasets from almost 32,000 populations of 5,230 species across the planet, the document details how global wildlife populations have changed since 1970, and how these vary between continents and species groups. Utilising recent developments in mapping analysis techniques means that the speed and scale of biodiversity change can now be seen much more clearly and on a finer scale than ever before, allowing us to pinpoint the areas that are suffering most and where nature is contributing most to our lives.

As well as documenting the data, the Living Planet Report aims to show that positive change is still possible, and that the key drivers of biodiversity loss and habitat destruction need to be addressed with great urgency. The final chapter of the document, ‘Building a nature-positive society’, discusses how there is no one-size-fits all solution to the biodiversity crisis, and that transformational change will be required across all areas – production, consumption, finance and economics – before we start to see a beneficial effect on nature.

Key points from the 2022 Living Planet Report

• Changes in the Living Planet Index, which tracks trends in population abundance of mammals, fish, reptiles, birds and amphibians, has revealed that populations have declined by an average of 69% between 1970 and 2018.
• Freshwater populations have been hit the hardest, showing an average decrease of 83% over this period.
• Latin America and the Caribbean showed the biggest decline in species abundance (-94%), followed by Africa (-66%). This is in comparison to a relatively moderate -18% recorded in Europe.
• Land-use change is still the most significant driver of biodiversity loss. Unless we make serious efforts to control the impacts of climate change, however, this is likely to become the most dominant cause within the next few decades.

Looking forward

“We know that the health of our planet is declining, and we know why. We also know that we have the knowledge and means to address climate change and biodiversity loss”.

In the final chapter of the Living Planet Report, we are reminded of the recognition by the UN in July 2022 that it is a human right to live in a clean, healthy and sustainable environment. With this in mind, it is clear that the current climate and biodiversity crises are also human rights crises, and our world’s most vulnerable people, wildlife and places are already bearing the brunt of these.

It is also clear that the changes required to ‘bend the curve’ of biodiversity loss will need to be nothing short of transformational and system-wide. They will need to impact all aspects of the way we live, including our means of production and consumption, the technology we use, the things we finance, and our entire economic systems.

Within the report, Costa Rica is lauded as a inspirational environmental giant due to the changes made to its constitution in 1994. Since then, 30% of the country has been designated as national parks, 99% of its electricity comes from renewable sources and reforestation has doubled the amount of forest cover from 25% in 1994 to 50% today. Looking to examples such as these as inspiration for what can occur with large-scale systemic change is key to realising the dream of a healthy environment for all.

The ultimate message provided by the Living Planet Report is that, while there is still time to act, urgency is required. Solutions will need to be applied globally by governments, businesses, local communities and Indigenous Peoples with the aim of reversing biodiversity loss by 2030, and achieving complete recovery by 2050. The UN Convention on Biological Diversity’s COP15 is a huge opportunity for world leaders to commit to rapid and effective action in order to secure a nature-positive, equitable future for everyone.