Handbook of the Mammals of the World, an interview with the series creators

The final volume in the Handbook of the Mammals of the World series will be published in October 2019.

The first volume was published over a decade ago and Volume 9: Bats completes this hugely important reference series to the mammals of the world.

 

We asked publishers Josep del Hoyo and Albert Martinez to share their thoughts about the conception, production and fruition of this and the earlier Handbook of the Birds of the World series.

1. What inspired you to embark on the Handbook of the Mammals of the World series?
JOSEP: Well, in this case, our inspiration was very clearly the series’ predecessor: the Handbook of the Birds of the World (HBW). When we started on the Handbook of the Mammals of the World (HMW), we had already published 12 volumes of HBW and the results were encouraging, both in terms of enthusiastic reviews and commercial success. So, we thought it would be worthwhile to try to produce a sort of “sister series” covering all the mammals of the world. We saw it as natural that there should be a Handbook to properly treat all the animals forming part of the same Class to which we, as humans, belong. We were aware that while the number of professionals dedicated to mammals were high, that the number of amateur people interested in the group would be much lower than the equivalent public in birdwatching, so the series would be commercially riskier. But we were convinced of the project’s importance for science and conservation, so we decided to look for some support to make it happen.
We were extremely fortunate to find this support in the form of two Chief Editors for the series that were essential for its success. On one hand, celebrated primatologist Russ Mittermeier joined the project, bringing his own knowledge to the series, as well as achieving important funding, most notably from Conservation International, to get the project off its feet. Russ also enlisted the involvement of IUCN, International Union for Conservation of Nature, further emphasising the importance of conservation in the series, and drawing from the expertise of many of the IUCN Species Survival Commission (SSC) Specialist Groups.
On the other hand, Don Wilson, at the time Chairman of the Department of Vertebrate Zoology and Curator of the Division of Mammals at the National Museum of Natural History of the Smithsonian Institution, generously volunteered his time and effort to help the project, and this continued throughout the series in many different facets. For example, Don’s help was especially useful for finding and contacting the specialists to author the chapters, as well as for providing a strong taxonomic base with his book Wilson & Reeder (2005), Mammal Species of the World. A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference (3rd ed).
We are very grateful to both Russ and Don, and to the other Chief Editors and external supporters who made the project possible.

2. Volume 1 was Carnivores, a very charismatic order of mammals; when this was published in 2009, did you already know how many volumes the series would contain, and in what order they would be published?

ALBERT: We proposed Carnivores as an exploratory volume to study the viability of the project as we felt that it could be one of the volumes with the greatest interest for the readers.
When the first volume was published and once it was proven that the series was viable, we agreed shortly after with the Chief Editors, Don Wilson and Russ Mittermeier, on the total number of volumes in the series—eight—and their order. In the first preparatory meetings it was quickly decided not to follow a strictly phylogenetic sequence, and so, for instance, walruses, seals, and sea lions were treated along with the rest of sea mammals and not in the Carnivores volume.
The most important departure from the original plan was the need to split rodents into two volumes: Volume 6 and Volumes 7, in order to maintain the level of detail that had characterised the previous volumes. This decision was made after direct consultation with HMW subscribers (of 1840 respondents, 92% favoured two volumes). So, the series was extended from eight to nine volumes.

3. Could you provide a rough idea about how much hard work goes into publishing a single volume in the series?
ALBERT: The work is immense and summary numbers for the series are impressive (c.8000 pages, 443 colour plates, 5300 photos, 6400 range maps, 10,000s of references), as is the number of the people involved: 312 authors of texts, 10 artists, and more than a thousand photographers from all over the World.
The editing process for a single volume lasts between one-and-half and two years, it begins with the commission of the different families to the authors of texts and the plates to the artists. The in-house editing phase has lasted about a year in the last volumes. The first three volumes appeared with a cadence of two years, but from HMW4 on we have managed to publish a volume per year without fail.

4. Is there a certain family or order of mammals you are particularly fascinated by?
ALBERT: It is difficult to choose, but maybe Carnivores, Hoofed Mammals, or Primates. Also Marsupials as they are really exotic and give us a very clear idea of the big conservation threats that face island species or species with reduced ranges. Looking at the distribution maps you become very aware of the high number of species with tiny distributions and those that only survive thanks to strict conservation measures.

5. What challenges did you face along the road to completion of this series?
ALBERT: During the 11 years of editing the HMW series (2009–2019) and with so many people involved, we have faced all kinds of difficulties with authors, artists, and editors (illnesses, accidents… and even Brexit at the end!). Especially complicated has been the instability in the taxonomy with habitual last-minute changes in the final stages of the editing process (e.g. new species described, rearrangements in the sequence of the species due to improvements in the knowledge of phylogenies, etc), which have forced us to completely redo already laid-out families many times. Despite such challenges, I want to highlight the impressive enthusiasm and dedication which all the participants have shown for this project.
It is very rewarding to see the commitment and effort that many experts have put into the project, having themselves seen in the HMW series an important achievement in their field of work. The selfless collaboration that we have received from a multitude of specialists not directly involved in the project has helped us in many ways, like providing material to allow the artists to draw rare species.

6. What do you hope will be the legacy of the Handbook of the Birds of the World and the Handbook of the Mammals of the World series?
JOSEP: Since we finished the HBW series some years ago (2013), we now have a better perspective on what this legacy may be. We have some indications that show that HBW, which covered all the birds of the world for the first time ever, represents a “before and after” in knowledge and interest in birds. It is true that before HBW there was a good deal of interest in birds in parts of the world like Europe, North America, Australia or South Africa, but in many other parts of the world, including in Tropical Regions with the richest biodiversity, there was a clear lack of even the most basic information. So we think the existence of the series has helped a bit to balance this situation, and has been an influence so that now many more people are interested not only in birds of their own country, region or local patch, but also at the global level, which we are convinced is good, eventually, for conservation.
With the HMW series, which we are just finishing now, we think similar effects will appear. While with birds the interest across the families was more or less regular, mammals have an added complication that some groups receive much more attention than others. So we think that the volumes dedicated to groups like rodents and, especially, the last one dedicated to bats, will be important for bringing together the knowledge that was much more disperse and less accessible, in a single, comprehensive treatment. This will also show where there are still gaps in the knowledge to encourage further study.

7. How do you feel about the imminent fruition of over ten years of publishing the Handbook of the Mammals of the World series – do you have any new projects in the pipeline that you can tell us about?
JOSEP: Well, we have several big projects that we are studying carefully, but we are also aware that the number of people interested in other groups of biodiversity is many times smaller than those interested in birds and even in mammals. But a number of good possibilities do exist, particularly if there is an awareness that such coverage gives a push to the knowledge and conservation of the group.

Meanwhile, we are still very busy with birds and mammals. For birds we published the HBW and BirdLife International Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World in two volumes and we are already working on the equivalent illustrated checklist for the mammals. Also, given the important patrimony we hold of the illustrations of all the birds of the world, we have started the Lynx and BirdLife International Field Guides Collection, which is producing good results, and we hope we can pursue a similar line with mammals. In this way, the two Handbook series can help us create field guides to countries for which they are none, thus, raising awareness and knowledge, which in turn can lead to greater local conservation.

HWM, Volume 9: Bats and the complete Volumes 1 to 9 are available at a special pre-publication price until the end of September

Handbook of the Mammals of the World, Volume 9: Bats
Oct 2019 *124.99 £144.99
The final volume in this monumental series profiles the world’s bat fauna.

*Pre-publication price applies to orders until 30th September 2019

 

Handbook of the Mammals of the World, Volumes 1 to 9
Oct 2019 *999.00 £1250.00
The whole set for under £1,000: this offer is available for a limited time only..

*Pre-publication price applies to orders until 30th September 2019

 

Browse all volumes in the Handbook of the Mammals of the World series

Browse all volumes in the Handbook of the Birds of the World series

 

Biodiversity News

 

Safe haven for rare frog

The conservation of a Critically Endangered frog species has received a boost after a number of individuals were released in their native home in the Caribbean following a captive-breeding programme. The Mountain Chicken (also known as the Giant Ditch Frog) is considered a local delicacy, hence its unusual name, and a combination of hunting, habitat loss and, more recently, the arrival of the deadly chytrid fungus has resulted in a collapse of the population. The new release site on Montserrat is a large, carefully-controlled enclosure, with breeding pools that are maintained at a temperature too high for the survival of chytrid.

Climate change and birds

Fifty years’ of ‘citizen science’ surveys have found that climate change is affecting around one third of breeding bird species in Britain. Of 68 species studied, the population trends of 24 were linked to changes in temperature and rainfall. Climatic trends appear to have driven notable increases in the populations of thirteen species, including Corn Bunting, Goldcrest and Long-tailed Tit, but they are also responsible for declines of more than 10% in populations of Cuckoo, Little Owl and Reed Warbler.

New electric eels

Research has revealed the existence of two new species of electric eels in the waters of the Amazon basin. Scientists examined genetic characters, geographical distribution, and physical appearance of specimens from across the Amazon and found that the electric eel, which was thought to be one of a kind, is in fact comprised of three separate species. The ‘original’ electric eel, E. electricus, appears to be restricted to northern highlands, while the two new species, E. voltai and E. varii, occupy the southern highlands and the lowland Amazon basin, respectively.

 

Author Interview: Caleb Compton

Caleb Compton, the creator of the hugely popular @StrangeAnimals on Twitter has recently released A Book of Rather Strange Animals – a collection of one hundred remarkable animal specimens from around the world. We recently asked Caleb some questions to learn more about his inspiration about this project and more. Caleb’s book has also been featured on the 2019 Summer Recess Reading List for Parliamentarians.

  1. Tell us a little about your background and how you got interested in the weird and wonderful?

My interest in the natural world started from a young age. As a child, I used to read books about unusual animals and watched a lot of nature documentaries (my favourites were those narrated by Sir David Attenborough). I started researching strange lesser-known animals after I finished school, and had the idea of creating a Twitter account to showcase these fascinating species. So I set up the @StrangeAnimaIs Twitter account in 2013, where I posted facts and pictures of these obscure creatures, pointing out any conservation issues associated with them. I started my biosciences degree the same year, at the University of Exeter, and specialised in animal biology in my final year. My modules included marine biology, ecology and animal psychology, and my dissertation title was based on the decline of pollinators and the government’s response to this ecological crisis. I was fascinated learning about these topics and it grew my passion for the subject.

  1. Your book is full of very different animals – how do you come across such an eclectic group of animals?

I originally started the research for my book back in 2013, when I first created my Twitter account. Over the years, I have discovered many animal facts and pictures, which I post on @StrangeAnimaIs. When I started planning my book, I went through all my previous tweets and picked out what I thought were the weirdest animals. I wanted a range of species in the book, including an even mix of amphibians, fish, birds, reptiles, mammals and arthropods. After making a list of all the species I wanted to write about, I set about finding as much information as I could on each animal, trawling through websites, books and scientific papers. Using the reference material, I compiled notes on these animals and then typed them up in the format of my book.

Lesser Hedgehog Tenrec by Steve Priest
  1. What was the biggest challenge in writing the book?

My biggest challenge was staying focused whilst writing. About halfway through the book, I was struggling to carry on and lost my motivation. By this point, I had been writing in my free time for almost four months and it was getting too much, and I didn’t have much time to myself. I decided to take a break, and didn’t do any writing for a few months. That was what I needed and when I went back to it later, I was a lot more motivated, and managed to finish the rest of the book over the next couple of months.

  1. Many of the oddities that depict a strange animal are useful adaptations, what is your most memorable of these adaptations?

There are quite a few animals in the book that have some really fascinating adaptations. My three favourites are probably the Suriname toad, aye-aye and the isopod Cymothoa exigua.

The Suriname Toad is a unique amphibian from South America, which has developed a rather interesting method for raising its young. After mating, the male implants the fertilised eggs into the female’s back, where they settle into pockets. Skin grows over the eggs, keeping them safe until they hatch weeks later as fully formed frogs.

The Aye-aye is an endangered primate from the island of Madagascar. They have an incredible adaptation for finding food, where they tap their elongated middle finger on branches and listen out for the vibrations. When they detect a grub, they will bite a hole in the bark with their rodent-like teeth, and insert their finger to skewer the grub. This foraging method is called percussive foraging and it’s extremely rare in mammals.

The parasitic isopod Cymothoa exigua has a horrifying lifecycle, where they enter the gills of fish as males. Here, one of them will develop into a female, and travel through the fish into its mouth. Then the isopod causes the fish’s tongue to atrophy and fall off, and then attaches itself to the newly formed stump. From now on, the isopod acts as the fish’s tongue (it’s the only known parasite to completely replace a host’s organ), grinding up food for its host and feeding on scraps of food.

Bush Dog by Steve Priest
  1. Your Twitter feed is full of great information, do you have any advice for anyone wanting to start up a successful twitter profile?

I would say the best way to grow an account on Twitter is to come up with a good theme for the account and then post regular content that fits in with that theme. Go for something that you are passionate about, because if you’re not interested in it, then others won’t be either. Interacting with followers and similar accounts is also a great way to increase engagement. Another piece of advice I would give is to stick with it, even if the audience growth is slow! My account had just 200 followers for a good part of a year, but I kept going and eventually this audience grew to over 40,000. Combined with my other accounts @NatureIsWeird and @Extinct_AnimaIs, I now have a combined reach of 200,000 people.

  1. Do you have any future projects or aspirations?

I have actually just started writing my next book, which is going to be about lesser-known extinct animals. This is going to be based on my other Twitter account, called @Extinct_AnimaIs and will feature a range of obscure animals (not just dinosaurs) that once roamed the earth. There are so many bizarre creatures, it’s actually hard to believe that some of them actually existed. After doing some research into extinct species for my Twitter account, I have become fascinated by them and I would love to share this with people. I think this is a perfect time to get another book out there, after the success of A Book of Rather Strange Animals.

I am also looking at getting into a career in conservation, and hope to secure a role in this area soon.

A Book of Rather Strange Animals: Highlighting the Wonders of Evolution and the Extraordinary Diversity of Life

With fascinating descriptions of nasty feeding habits, bizarre mating rituals and shocking defence mechanisms, you will marvel at both the splendour and gruesomeness of nature.

£12.99

New Bushnell CORE Trail Camera Range

Bushnell trail cameras are renowned for offering excellent picture quality in fast, robust cameras. With their latest range, Bushnell have built on their existing reputation making significant improvements to the design and specifications to provide even more versatility and truly exceptional footage, all with the same lightning quick trigger and recovery speeds.

Camera speed and responsiveness

The key metrics used to discuss the speed of a trail camera are trigger speed and recovery speed. The trigger speed determines how quickly a camera responds to an animal passing in front of the passive infrared (PIR) sensor and takes a photo or starts recording, and the recovery speed determines how quickly the camera can reset to take a second image or video. Trail cameras have traditionally focused on the still image trigger speed but not quoted the recovery speed, meaning that a camera can take an initial image quickly but miss footage before a second image is taken. With trigger speeds as low as 0.2s (still images) and an astonishing recovery rate less than 1 second, the CORE cameras really will capture all the wildlife passing by.

Picture and video quality

The Bushnell CORE range has two models, the 24MP CORE Camera and the Dual Sensor 30MP CORE Camera. The entry level models take high quality 24MP still images and high resolution 1920 x 1080 (30fps) video. The Dual Sensor (DS) models have two lenses, one dedicated to daytime images and the other to night-time images. The result of this is outstanding 30MP picture quality and 1920 x 1080 HD videos taken at 60fps, which combine to produce exceptionally sharp video footage, particularly noticeable at night.  

LED type

Each of the CORE models has two LED options, Low Glow and No Glow. Low Glow models emit a slight glow when the infrared LEDs are triggered, which is generally invisible to wildlife but appears as a faint glow to human eyes. No Glow cameras have an infrared flash that is invisible to humans and wildlife. The night-time flash range is better in Low Glow models (30m for Low Glow models as opposed to 24m in No Glow Models), and the footage from Low Glow models is sharper at night. We recommend that you consider a No Glow model if your trail camera is to be used in a public area, however, as the invisible flash makes them less obtrusive.

Battery life

The battery life on the CORE models has been dramatically improved from previous models, with more efficient circuitry to reduce power consumption. The result of this is that the 6 x lithium-ion AA batteries in the CORE models will last around 9 months in the field (taking still images only), or the CORE DS models will last an impressive 12 months in the field.

Bushnell CORE Low Glow Trail Camera 119936M
#247180

 

  • 24MP images
  • 1920 x 1080 HD video
  • 0.3s trigger speed
  • 36 x Low Glow LEDs
  • LCD B&W text screen
  • £209.95 (inc VAT)

 

 

Bushnell CORE No Glow Trail Camera 119938M
#247177

 

  • 24MP images
  • 1920 x 1080 HD video
  • 0.3s trigger speed
  • 36 x No Glow LEDs
  • LCD B&W text screen
  • £219.95 (inc VAT)

 

 

Bushnell CORE DS Low Glow Trail Camera 119975M
#247182

 

  • Dual Sensor lenses for optimal daytime and night-time footage
  • 30MP still images
  • 1920 x 1080 HD video at 60fps
  • 4 x Low Glow LEDs
  • 0.2s trigger speed
  • 2” colour viewing screen
  • £299.95 (inc VAT)

 

Bushnell CORE DS No Glow Trail Camera 119977M
#247181

 

  • Dual Sensor lenses for optimal daytime and night-time footage
  • 30MP still images
  • 1920 x 1080 HD video at 60fps
  • 4 x No Glow LEDs
  • 0.2s trigger speed
  • 2” colour viewing screen
  • £329.95 (inc VAT)

 

Accessories

Python Lock

AA Lithium Batteries


SD Cards

 

International Bat Night – A guide to watching bats

What is International Bat Night?

Last weekend, more than 30 countries celebrated International Bat Night. This annual celebration of bats and bat conservation saw events running throughout the country. We went out with a few of our favourite entry-level bat detectors to listen for bats around the Devon countryside. If you missed out on an event, or perhaps you’ve never been on a bat walk before, below we have some information on how you can watch and help your local bats yourself.

How can I help bats?

It is easy to encourage bats into your garden and there are many things you can do to help your neighborhood bats. Changing the way you garden and putting up a bat box can help tremendously. Have a read of our guide to helping your local bats for some ideas and inspiration.

How to watch bats

If you want to go out and watch bats yourself this weekend, you may not have to travel as far as you think. Bats live all over the UK in the countryside, towns and cities. Head down to your local patch of woodland, park or even your own back garden around sunset and watch the sky. Some bats fly quite high in the sky around the tops of trees, others fly lower, even at eye level. If you have a large pond, river or lake nearby, watch the surface of the water and you might see a Daubenton’s bat skim across the surface catching insects. Warm, dry and relatively still nights are best when it comes to bat watching. You are more likely to see bats around sunset and sunrise and they can be seen between March and October. 

An Introduction to Bat Detectors

To really immerse yourself in the world of bats, it is worth using a bat detector.

Bats use calls for communication, navigation and hunting but these are at frequencies above that of most human hearing. So even if you’re watching dozens of bats above you, you’re unlikely to be able to hear their calls. Bat detectors are devices that convert these ultrasonic calls into audible sounds and because different bat species call at different frequencies, bat detectors can even help you identify which bat is calling. Bat detectors are great fun to use and can help you learn a lot about bats. There are several different types of bat detectors on the market, at varying prices and with varying features. We’ve highlighted some of our favourite, entry-level bat detectors below.

Magenta 4 & Magenta 5 – Heterodyne

Our most popular range of beginner detectors are the Magentas. The Magentas are incredibly easy to use with a frequency dial to allow you to tune to a certain frequency, a front-facing speaker so that you can hear the converted bat calls, and a volume dial. They use a method of call processing called Heterodyne which works by tuning to one frequency at a time. The only difference between the Magenta 4 and the Magenta 5 is that the 5 has a digital display of the frequency that you are tuned to whereas the 4 has the frequencies on the tuning wheel which is lit by a small light. You can use Magentas with headphones and even record the outputted calls with a recorder (available separately).

Batscanner – Super-Heterodyne

The Batscanner is one of the easiest detectors to use, automatically scanning the whole frequency range and adjusting accordingly when it detects a bat, displaying the peak frequency on the digital display. This means you don’t have to tune anything and you won’t miss a bat because you’re tuned to the wrong frequency. The call output is clear and the Batscanner intelligently filters out non-bat low frequency calls giving you a clean, noise-free output.

Baton & Duet – Frequency Division

The BatBox Baton is perhaps even more simple to use than the Magentas, with just 1 button operation – the on/off button. You do not need to tune this detector – it will automatically detect all frequencies simultaneously as it works through ‘frequency division’, where all ultrasonic calls are divided by a factor of 10, pushing them into the human hearing range. Audio is played through the front facing speaker and when the Baton is plugged into a computer, you can see sonograms (visual representation of bat call) on the software included with the Baton.

The BatBox Duet is a similar but more sophisticated detector that is great if you want to take your bat detecting to the next level. It used two modes of call processing: with heterodyne, you can tune the detector with the frequency dial and this is displayed on the backlit screen, much like a Magenta, but the detector also processes the ultrasonic sounds in frequency division mode and this can be captured using an audio recorder (available separately).

Echo Meter – Full Spectrum

The EchoMeter is a completely different type of bat detector but one that is very popular and has many amazing features, ideal for all levels of bat enthusiasts. It plugs into a compatible phone or tablet and with the help of a free app, turns your phone/tablet into a fully functional bat detector. The app displays live sonograms of bats and an intelligent algorithm identifies the most likely bat species based on the calls, all in real-time. The app can GPS tag your sightings and you can record, replay and download bat calls.

Other useful equipment and books

Listed below are some great kit and books to get you started or develop your knowledge on bat detecting and bat watching:

DIY bat detector
£24.98
If you have some basic soldering skills and fancy having a go at a DIY project, our DIY Bat Detector Kit has everything you need to build your own, simple heterodyne bat detector.

 

Zoom Handy Recorder: H1n
£95.00
This small, handheld audio recorder is ideal for plugging into your bat detector and recording the bat calls you are hearing. Recordings are stored on an SD card and can then be viewed on a computer to analyze further.

 

Petzl Tikkina Headtorch
£19.99
This handy headtorch will keep your hands free when you’re trying to change settings or navigate in the dark. The Petzl Tikkina has a bright, clean 250 lumen beam and has a simple, one-button operation.

 

A Guide to British Bats
£3.50
FSC’s ‘A Guide to British Bats’ is a fold out, laminated guide to help you identify bats through physical appearance and call frequency.

 

British Bat Calls: A Guide to Species Identification
£31.99
This practical guide is perfect for learning more about bat detectors and bat species identification. It covers topics such as how bats use sound, bat detection methods,  analysis software, recording techniques and call analysis.

 

The Bat Detective: A Field Guide to Bat Detection
£24.99
This field guide is perfect for beginners wanting to start learning how to identify bats from their calls. As each topic is explained references are given to the relevant tracks on the CD. The 48 tracks found here are the first ever compilation of British bat recordings on CD.

Top ten books and wildlife equipment for summer

 

NHBS has collected together our summer best sellers in this top ten list of must have books and 10 essential wildlife products for summer and added as many special offers as we can.

So here are the Top Ten Books and Equipment for the Summer:

 

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Telescopic Pond Net
£32.99

Sweep Net
£24.50

Spring Frame Butterfly Net
£26.50

 

Bat Box Duet Detector
£255.00

Elekon Batscanner
£219.00
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Browning Strike Force HD Pro X / Kit
£149.99

Triplet Loupe Hand Lens
20x/10x
£36.50/£32.50

 

Compact 20W Actinic Heath Moth Trap
£149.00
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Hawke Optics Nature Trek Binoculars series
£132.95
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Petzl Actik Headtorch
Available in 3 colours
£33.95

Rocky Shores
Hardback| Feb 2019| £29.99 £34.99The Garden Jungle
Hardback| Jul 2019| £14.99 £16.99
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Photographic Field Guide to Insects of Southern Europe and the Mediterranean
Flexibound| Sept 2017| £27.50
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Bat Roosts in Trees
Paperback| Oct 2018| £39.99

Field Guide to the Orchids of Europe and the Mediterranean
Paperback| May 2019 £26.99 £29.99

Oceanic Birds of the World
Flexibound| Aug 2019| £19.99 £26.99

Fungi of Temperate Europe
(2 Vol. Se
t)
Hardback| Aug 2019| £74.99 £94.99
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Field Guide to the Ladybirds of Britain and Ireland

Paperback| Nov 2018| £24.99

 

Garden Birds
Hardback (signed) | Jul 2019| £47.99 £59.99
Paperback| Jul 2019|
£27.99 £34.99

New Flora of the British Isles
Flexibound| Feb 2019| £59.99 

 

Author Interview: Gavin Thurston, Journeys in the Wild: The Secret Life of a Cameraman

© Gavin Thurston.

Award winning Blue Planet II and Planet Earth II cameraman Gavin Thurston took some time to sign copies and answer our question about his new book, Journeys in the Wild and his adventures filming the world’s most charismatic animals in spectacular and remote locations.

 

 

© Gavin Thurston.

1. Could you tell us a little about your background and how you got interested in filming and photographing wildlife?

 

 

My first childhood memories are when growing up in Petersfield in Hampshire. A green and leafy part of England. My sister and I used to go and stay with my grandparents who lived near the village of Selbourne close to the South Downs. This was home to the 18th Century literary naturalist Gilbert White. My Granny had a shared interest in nature and had great knowledge of the wildflowers, butterflies and trees of the area. I believe it was her enthusiasm that set the seed to grow a passion for nature in my inquisitive young mind.  As a young frustrated artist, I found an outlet in photography, and later on, in moving images, combining the two passions to spend much of my career filming wildlife.

© Gavin Thurston.

2. What inspired you to write your book?

Mostly due to my career. I have had so many wonderful experiences and adventures around our planet. I have witnessed more of nature’s wonders than anyone has the right to do. When I told stories to family or friends the most common response was ‘You should write a book!’. So, before I got too decrepit to remember the details, I tried to get on with it. It’s only when I was contacted out of the blue by commissioning editor Emily Barrett, from Orion Publishing, with a book offer, that I signed a contract and then had to bloody well get on and finish it!

© Gavin Thurston.

3. What contribution does wildlife photography and filming make to conservation?

Hopefully the films I work on help to instill in viewers both an interest and then a passion for the natural world. Just as my Granny did for me by showing me the beauty and intricacies of nature firsthand. Once someone takes an interest in what wilderness and wildlife we have left, then there’s more chance that they will take measures to reduce their impact on Earth. The more passionate and driven viewers may well then go on to either donate, campaign or volunteer on conservation projects. It’s only once we know what is out there and why we stand to lose it, that an informed audience can then make a choice on how to stop the decline of habitat and biodiversity.

© Gavin Thurston.

4. If someone was inspired to pursue a career filming wildlife, what advice would you give them to get started?

Spend as much time observing nature as you can. Get outside and see it for yourself. Explore and discover. Take photographs, or if you have the talent, then sketch the natural world. Britain has an amazing variety of species. Animals and insects are playing out life and death dramas all around us daily. Teach yourself how to document these engaging stories. Most teenagers have a smart phone these days, and most of these phones have pretty good cameras for photos and videos. Get out there and use them. Discover the natural world and your hidden talent.

© Gavin Thurston.

5. What is your favourite habitat to film in and why?

I can’t say I can pin down a favourite habitat. I love nature’s variety. Whether that’s dark, dense tropical forest or a rugged coastline, snowy Arctic expanse or vast sandy desert. All I can say is that I’m a big fan of truly wild places. The less human influence or signs the better.

© Gavin Thurston.

6. What is the biggest challenge when filming wildlife in the field?

The biggest challenge is to do the animals and habitats justice on screen without affecting or influencing their often already difficult lives.

 

© Gavin Thurston.

7. When writing your book and looking back over your career, was there one incident or animal encounter that stood out as exceptional?

 

 

I have experienced many extraordinary animal encounters, so it is difficult to single out one. There are a few in my book, so read ‘Journeys in the Wild’ and judge for yourself!

 

© Gavin Thurston.

8. Have you got any future projects planned that you can tell us about?

In this age on non-disclosure agreements I can’t say too much about future projects. I can hint though at one project I’ve been working on for the last year with Sir David Attenborough. It is conservation led, and hopefully will have far reaching influence on how we humans need to change our habits to try and restore natural balance on our planet. Watch this space…

Gavin signed copies of  Journeys in the Wild The Secret Life of a Cameraman for NHBS: order now while stocks last

Hardback| August 2019| £13.99 £16.99

 

Further Reading

Gavin’s book, Journeys in the Wild, is out now and available from NHBS.  If you want to discover even more about filming wildlife: BBC Wildlife Documentaries in the Age of Attenborough explores the history of wildlife television in post-war Britain and Untangling the Knot, Belugas & Bears by acclaimed wildlife cameraman, Mike Potts are both published in November.

 

 

Author Interview: Jens H Petersen and Thomas Læssøe, Fungi of Temperate Europe (2-Volume Set)

Authors,  Thomas Læssøe and Jens H Petersen have spent the last five years creating the wonderful two volumes set: Fungi of Temperate Europe. They have taken the time to answer our questions about this monumental and daunting project.

Could you tell us a little about your backgrounds and how you got interested in mycology?  

 

We both dived into the mycological forest sometime in the late seventies and subsequently studied mycology at the Danish universities of Aarhus and Copenhagen. Since then, we have both tried to make mycology accessible to a broader audience, both through countless excursions and mycology courses and through books and photography (the present work includes photographs from the very first years of this 40 years period). Check also the book, The Kingdom of Fungi by Jens H. Petersen.

Two volumes, totalling over 1,700 pages must have a been a considerable undertaking; can you let us know a little of the process and how long it has taken for this book to come to fruition? 

 

We have worked with the books for five years. Firstly, we made a long list of taxa we wanted to include and Jens started to develop the first identification wheels. We had the first dummy layout in summer 2015 and made the first version of the wheels for the Basidiomycota during autumn 2015. The asco wheels and the layout of the species pages followed in 2016. By summer 2017 we had a layout ready, but without text.

While Jens did wheels, layouts and photo-shopping Thomas produced the Danish texts online in our Danish Fungal Atlas database (www.svampeatlas.dk) and these were more or less finished during spring 2017. Then followed the long process of proofreading texts and editing them into the layouts. By summer 2018 this was finished and we started to do the translation into English. Fortunately, we had a couple of skilled UK copy editors who corrected mistakes and improved the language. The English edition was ready in April 2019.

The whole process was terrifying with respect to size which no one involved realised before they were deeply immersed in the books. The solution was to keep a tunnel vision most of the time, and just try to finish the one little piece of the puzzle in question and only on rare occasions emerge to the surface to look around and consider the distance to the goal line.

Who do you envisage using Fungi of Temperate Europe – what readership is it aimed at? 

Everyone with a basic knowledge of fungi.

The book uses ‘form group’ to identify and present the fungi rather than exclusively strict taxonomic groups; what influenced you to use form groups and fungi wheels?  

 

 

Scientists using modern DNA methods tend to split fungal genera into more and more narrow entities. As these are based on base pairs they may be absolutely devoid of morphological characteristics and thus impossible to work with for non-scientists. Thus any attempt to approach fungal identification in a strictly phylogenetic way will fail. It is for example impossible to construct a well functioning identification key to genera of fungi (we have been there several times, tried that and failed). This lead us to develop the multi-access computer key MycoKey (www.mycokey.com) and now later to try to convert the learning from MycoKey into book form.

What was your most surprising discovery whilst researching Fungi of Temperate Europe?  

That fungi are difficult but beautiful.

What is the biggest challenge when studying fungi?  

That fungi are mostly invisible to the naked eye unless they develop fruitbodies and when they do, the morphological plasticity of these fruitbodies is baffling. Thus good pictures are often worth more than detailed, lengthy descriptions.

After such an endeavour you surely deserve a rest, but have either of you got any future projects planned that you can tell us about?  

 

We are working on a book with new identification keys to Danish Basidiomycota. The overall structure of this will be built on the form group identification wheels from the present work but the species keys will be dichotomous, analytical keys with lots of illustrations. We believe that the two projects will supplement each other.

We would both like to dive deeper into the world of Ascomycota and possibly return to tropical mycology.

Fungi of Temperate Europe (2-Volume Set)
Aug 2019 £74.99 £94.99
The culmination of five years work from authors, Thomas Læssøe and Jens H Petersen

OUT NOW

 

 

NHBS Guide to small mammal survey equipment

Small mammals are common and widespread across many of our terrestrial ecosystems. They play a crucial role in ecosystem food-webs as key prey species for many carnivores and are also useful as indicator species for agricultural change and development. Consequently, surveys of small mammal populations can be a useful tool for ecologists, researchers, and conservationists alike.

Small mammals are most commonly monitored through the use of live traps. These allow a range of species to be monitored simultaneously and also allow biometric data such as weight and sex to be collected. In addition, estimates of population size and structure can be calculated using capture-mark-recapture (CMR) techniques. However, other more passive monitoring techniques such as dormouse nest tubes, hair tube, and footprint tunnels are also available. Below we will take a look at some of the most popular small mammal survey equipment.

Longworth Traps

Longworth traps have been widely used in the UK for many years. They are made from lightweight yet durable aluminium and have been consistently well documented in scientific literature and ecological reports.

The trap consists of two parts: a tunnel which contains the door tripping mechanism, and a nest box, which is attached to the back of the tunnel. The nest box provides a large space for food and bedding material to ensure that the trapped animal is comfortable until release. The sensitivity of the trigger mechanism can be adjusted depending on the target species, although Pygmy shrews have been known to be too light to trigger the mechanism. The door can be locked open for pre-baiting for ease of use.

The Longworth trap comes as two options: with a shrew hole or without a shrew hole (Please note that shrews are a protected species so ensure you are aware of the relevant laws in the country in which you are trapping).

Sherman Traps

Sherman Trap

Sherman traps are another popular live-trap which can be folded flat for ease of transport and storage. They work by a trigger platform which causes the entrance door to shut when an animal runs into the trap. Sherman traps are formed of one compartment and because of this, it can be difficult to add food/bedding into the trap without interfering with the trigger platform. The traps may also distort over time with repeated folding. Sherman traps come in a variety of sizes and lengths so that you can find a trap to best suit your target species and can be purchased as either an aluminium or galvanised version which is more resistant to rusting.

NHBS Water Vole Trap

If you are looking to trap and survey water voles, we offer a water vole trap which comprises an extra large (XLK) Sherman trap with its rear door removed and an attached nesting compartment. This trap is suitable for water vole survey, such as capture, mark, recapture studies, as well as water vole relocation projects.

 

Footprint Tunnel

Footprint tunnels are a less invasive method of surveying small mammals. Species presence/absence can be determined by examining the footprints made by mammals that have walked over an ink pad to reach the bait left in the tunnel. This method is especially useful for determining the presence of hedgehogs that are not otherwise easily ‘trapped’. The tunnel comes with a UK mammal footprint identification sheet; however it may be difficult to distinguish between some species of smaller mammals.

Squirrel Hair Traps

Squirrel hair traps are another non-invasive survey method that is designed for red squirrel survey. When squirrels pass through the baited trap, their hair is collected on sticky tabs within the tube. These hairs can then be analysed to determine whether red squirrels are present in the area.

 

Dormouse Tubes

Dormouse nest tubes are a cheap, easy and very popular method of determining the presence of dormice within a habitat. The tubes consist of a wooden tray and a nesting tube. Dormice make nests in the tubes and it is these that are used as indicators of their presence in the habitat. Dormice are legally protected in the UK and must not be handled unless you have a licence to do so. Nest tubes can be set up and checked without a licence until the first evidence of dormouse activity is found. After that, only a licensed handler can check them.

Dormouse Footprint Tunnel

Dormouse Footprint Tunnels offers a very low disturbance method of detecting dormouse presence in a habitat. Dormice passing through the tunnel have to cross over inked pads which cause them to leave characteristic footprints on the card or paper inserts. The Suffolk Wildlife Trust and CIEEM have suggested that footprint tunnels may be a more effective survey tool within scrub and hedgerow habitats than dormouse tubes, and equally as effective in high canopy woodland.

Accessories

Listed below are some of the essential accessories which are required for surveying small mammals:

Small Mammal Holding Bag
£2.50

Pesola Light-Line Spring Scales
From £35.00

Pesola PTS3000 Electronic Scale
£126.00

Heavy Duty Extra-Large Polythene Sample Bags
£0.70 per bag

Animal Handling Gloves
£5.69 5.99

Marking Flags
£2.50 for 10

Field Guides and Books

There are many excellent field guides and books available which can greatly assist with reliably identifying and surveying small mammals in the UK.

Live Trapping of Small Mammals
Paperback| Jul 2019| £7.99
Published by  The Mammal Society, this compact guide is the essential text for anybody looking to survey small mammals in the UK. It contains detailed practical instructions on survey methodology, complemented by colour photographs and illustrations.

Britain’s Mammals
Paperback| Apr 2017| £17.99
The perfect companion for anyone interested in watching mammals. This field guide combines concise descriptions of species life-history and distribution along with detailed colour photographs to help you reliably identify the mammals of Britain and Ireland.

The Analysis of Owl Pellets
Paperback| Apr 2009| £4.99
This handy booklet provides information on how to identify and analyse the undigested small mammal remains found in owl pellets.

 

Britain’s Mammals 2018
Paperback| Jun 2018| £17.99
This review uses more than 1.5 million biological records to provide the best available assessment of population size, geographical range, temporal trends, and future prospects of the 58 British terrestrial mammal species.

A note on licensing

Please note that some small mammal species are protected by law (e.g. shrews and dormice in the UK) and you must obtain a license from Natural England, Scottish Natural Heritage or the Natural Resources Wales if you set traps with the intention of trapping any species of shrew. Please ensure you are aware of and meet the requirements of any relevant laws in the country in which you are trapping. Please visit https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/survey-or-research-licence-for-protected-species for more information.

Penguin Random House South Africa: Publisher of the Month for August

Penguin Random House South Africa is the leading specialist Natural History publisher in southern Africa. Written by the region’s respected authorities in their fields, they are essential reading for anybody visiting, or fascinated by its unique and spectacular flora and fauna. In 2015, Random House Struik  and Penguin Books South Africa merged to form Penguin Random House South Africa and their publishing out-put has been going from strength to strength.

Recent and forthcoming

 

 

 

 

Recent publications have included: an update to the Field Guide to Common Trees & Shrubs of East Africa, a new title describing South Africa’s Scorpions and a guide to Fungi of South Africa and one for the region’s Dragonflies, both published soon.

Bestsellers

Our top five bestselling Penguin Random House South Africa titles:

SASOL Birds of Southern Africa
Paperback| Oct 2011| £12.50 £15.50
Meticulously illustrated, with labels pinpointing key differentiating features. Distribution maps show the relative abundance of a species in the region and also indicate resident or migrant status.

Stuarts’ Field Guide to Mammals of Southern Africa
Paperback| Oct 2017| £13.99 £16.99
Detailed descriptions of each species, offering insight into key identification characters, typical behaviour, preferred habitat, food choice, reproduction and longevity.

 

Field Guide to Succulents of Southern Africa
Paperback| August 2017| £14.50 £17.50
User-friendly, richly illustrated field guide features more than 700 southern African succulents, focusing on the most interesting and commonly encountered species.

 

Field Guide to Butterflies of South Africa
Paperback| August 2005| £15.99 £18.99
The introduction discusses biology, behaviour and anatomy, and a comprehensive section on individual butterfly species provides a wealth of information.

 

Baobabs of the World
Paperback| August 2016| £9.99 £12.99
An extraordinary and majestic tree found principally in Madagascar, and peripherally in Africa and Australia.

 

We are delighted to feature Penguin Random House South Africa as our Publisher of the Month for August and look forward to them continuing to publish books celebrating southern Africa’s remarkable wildlife heritage.

And, with some great price offers in August across all their UK distributed titles, now is a great opportunity to discover South Africa’s flora and fauna.

All price promotions valid until August 31st 2019