Going to Bat for Bioacoustics: How Acoustic Monitoring is Helping to Save Bats – Webinar Round-up

Recently, Wildlife Acoustics and Bat Conservation International partnered together to host a webinar highlighting the use of bioacoustics in bat conservation across the globe. The webinar featured three case studies tackling the impacts of white-nose syndrome, habitat loss and climate change with the help of bioacoustic technology. Here, we provide a summary of these case studies and the applications of acoustic monitoring in these investigations. 

Florida USA, Dr. Melquisedec Gamba-Rios 

Endemic to the region, the Florida Bonneted Bat (Eumops floridanus) is increasingly threatened by habitat loss from sea level rise and destructive development. This species has one of the smallest ranges in Southern Florida and utilises old tree cavities and large, open spaces for roosting and feeding. Dr. Gamba-Rios and his team sought to identify critical habitat for this endangered species using bioacoustics, hoping to support their fragile populations.  

The team used acoustic recorders to identify key roosting and feeding areas for the species. Interestingly, they found that Miami’s zoo, golf courses and tropical parks had high numbers of Florida Bonneted Bat calls. The research showed that the large, open areas surrounded by forest and absence of artificial light of these locations provided an ideal foraging space for the species. 

Since these bats require older, cavitied trees, the habitat of the group is at risk as development increases. Plans for water park construction were proposed on a key site for this species, however the evidence gathered here was used to challenge the proposal, resulting in its rejection to protect key bat habitat. In March 2024, over 1.1 million acres of critical habitat were designated for the species in Florida, including foraging areas in urban habitat and over 4,000 acres of Miami Pine Rocklands. Federally protected species are known to be twice as likely to move toward recovery than those without protection, so the designation of these spaces is incredibly important in securing the future of this species.  

Shows a small brown bat with closed eyes, it is held in a blue blanket in daylight
Florida Bonneted Bat by Florida Fish and Wildlife via Flickr

Nyungwe National Park, Dr. Jon Flanders 

Last seen in 1981, the Hill’s Horseshoe Bat (Rhinolophus hilli) was considered a ‘lost’ species in Rwanda.  In January 2019, a group of scientists and researchers, including Dr. Jon Flanders, set out on a 10-day expedition in Nyungwe National Park, looking to rediscover this elusive animal.  

Nyungwe National Park rangers played a key role in the early stages of this project, identifying caves and key habitat for bats in the area. The rangers conducted acoustic monitoring using SM4 Acoustics to identify foraging and roosting areas, collecting over 260,000 files of acoustic data. Eight of these recordings successfully detected the calls of the Hill’s Horseshoe Bat, found in small, defined ranges. During the 10-day trip, the team worked relentlessly to catch, measure and collect DNA samples from bats using mist nets and harp traps in these locations. The team successfully captured two Hill’s Horseshoe Bats and confirmed the capture of this critically endangered species with museum archive specimens. The expedition highlighted the spectacular diversity of Nyungwe National Park which features a large number of rare and endemic species, and these findings reinforce the parks importance as a biodiversity hotspot.

A brown bat is hanging upside down. it has white fluffy mould covering its wings and face
Little Brown Bat with white-nose syndrome by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service via Flickr

White-nose Syndrome, Dr. Amanda Adams 

White-nose syndrome is a cold-loving, infectious fungal disease found in bats. The fungus manifests in a total skin infection, most visible around the muzzle of the animal. This infection is responsible for significant mortality in several species, where the infection causes bats to wake often during hibernation – burning their fat stores, causing dehydration and starvation. Infected bats can expend up to twice the amount of energy as healthy individuals during hibernation, severely impacting their ability to survive the winter. Because of this, six million animals have succumbed to this infection so far, impacting 12 out of 44 species found in the USA.  

Dr. Amanda Adams sought to use bioacoustics to enhance the management of foraging habitat to support these species through hibernation. The team used the Song meter mini to search for the presence of bats and observe their feeding behaviours. They found that feeding behaviours were observed up to three times more in prey patches, and this allowed researchers to designate feeding habitats for affected species. The survey will be used to inform vegetative management on passing corridors, aiming to increase the productivity of foraging areas to support the health of infected bats.  

The Going to Bat for Bioacoustics webinar provided an engaging insight into the applications of acoustic monitoring in bat research, showing how the technology can be used to support bat conservation. To learn more, the Wildlife Acoustics website has a range of training courses and webinars. Upcoming events can be found here 


Author interview with Richard Rickitt: Beekeeping for Gardeners

Beekeeping for Gardeners book cover showing a beehive in a garden behind a rose bush.

This beautifully illustrated book provides a comprehensive gardener’s guide to sustainable beekeeping. It reveals the pleasures and benefits of keeping bees in gardens of all sizes in both rural and urban areas, explains the practicalities of this widely enjoyed hobby and lists the top performing plants that will help your colony thrive. Beekeeping for Gardeners also discusses the hobby of beekeeping within the wider environment and questions how it can meet the needs of all species of pollinators, as well as it’s potential contribution to the local ecology.

Richard Rickitt portrait.Richard Rickitt is an award-winning author as well as co-editor of the UK’s best-selling beekeeping magazine BeeCraft. He has been an avid beekeeper for over 20 years, maintaining numerous hives for both commercial and private clients as well as his own, looks after the bees at the National Arboretum, and teaches beekeeping courses across the UK as well as abroad.

Richard recently took the time out of his busy schedule to talk to about Beekeeping for Gardeners, including what inspired him to write a book aimed at gardeners, what the future of Honey Bees in Britain looks like and more.

Bee getting pollen from a blue flower.
© Richard Rickitt

Firstly, could you tell us a little bit about yourself and what prompted you to write a beekeeping book aimed specifically at gardeners? 

I grew up on a Somerset smallholding, so my heart is in the countryside. I always loved wildlife and my bedroom was like a miniature Natural History Museum filled with bird’s nests, animal skulls and a menagerie of frogs, newts, caterpillars and anything else I could catch and keep. One day I peeked through a garden hedge to spy on an old beekeeper at work. The white hives, sparkling clouds of bees and puffing smoker seemed mysterious and magical. I suspect that I have a very romanticised image of the scene in my mind, although even now when tending my bees I am often struck by what a bucolic activity it can be. Later, I learned beekeeping at my secondary school which had an excellent rural studies department – I’m not sure if such things exist anymore, which is a terrible shame. I went on to work in film and television special effects, but after moving from London to Wiltshire about 18 years ago, I took up beekeeping again. I became increasingly involved in the beekeeping community, eventually becoming co-editor of BeeCraft, the UK’s bestselling beekeeping magazine, which is now in its 105th year.   

I wrote a book aimed at gardeners because many of the people attending my beekeeping courses are already gardeners and want to know more about the bees that they see visiting their flowers. By starting out as gardeners, new beekeepers are already doing one of the most important things that anyone can do for bees; providing them with the resources and habitats that they need. But sometimes a little extra knowledge and small changes in the way you garden can make a huge difference to the sustainability of your local bee populations. For example, some species of solitary bee depend on a single, specific variety of flower.  

Keeping honey bees dovetails very nicely with gardening; it’s a seasonal activity done mostly in good weather in spring and summer. Time spent in the garden can be time spent tending both plants and bees, enjoying watching them develop and interact through the year. Gardeners enjoy choosing what plants best work in their garden and if you are a beekeeper there can be the added pleasure of planting specifically for bees and seeing them make use of what you have provided. There are practical benefits too; fruit and vegetable crops will be better pollinated, resulting in more and higher-quality produce. And, of course, there can be the reward of a crop of delicious honey and even wax with which to make candles or cosmetics. Like gardening, beekeeping is a lovely hobby to share as a couple or family – each person often finding their own areas of interest, and sharing the work, discoveries and pleasures. 

So, my book is for anyone who loves gardens and is interested in learning about and helping bees of all kinds. They might want to create a beautiful garden with the most appropriate plants, habitat and nesting opportunities for wild bees, or take things further and keep a hive or two of honey bees. 

Beekeeping for gardeners internal page showing an image of a solitary bee on a flower on the left hand page and text about solitary bees on the right hand page.

I really liked how the book provided not only a comprehensive guide to beekeeping on a small scale but is also an exceptional resource of information on growing flowering plants and creating habitats for bumblebees, solitary bees and insects of all kinds. Do you think traditional beekeeping advice has tended to be very focused on the Honey Bee itself with less of an emphasis on providing the habitat it requires to thrive? 

Beekeepers have always very carefully noted which plants flower near their bees, as well as the quality and quantity of honey that their bees produce as a result. However, the presence of such resources has generally been taken for granted; the beekeeper only having to look after the bees while it was assumed that nature would provide the rest. Increasingly, because of habitat loss, climate change and pollution, the necessary resources aren’t always there. Today’s beekeepers therefore have to think not only about caring for their bees, but also about caring for the environment in which their bees live. That includes growing more of the right plants but also considering whether their bees might have a negative impact on the local environment and the other species it supports. Most beekeepers begin their hobby for environmental reasons and try have a positive impact. 

How do you think beekeeping fits within the broader context of conservation, given that the honey bee is considered by some as not native to Britain and may spread diseases to or compete with other important wild pollinators? 

This is a great question involving several complex issues, so I’m afraid it requires quite a long reply. 

The first point is the erroneous but increasingly commonly held belief that the honey bee is not a UK native species. The oldest fossil of a true honey bee (Apis species) comes from Germany and is about 25 million years old. The distribution of such bees, along with all species of plant and animal, will have fluctuated drastically over the millennia in response to changes in geography, environment and climate. However, when the ice retreated at the end of the last ice age, some 10,000 years ago, what is now called Britain was still connected to the European continent. This allowed the spread northwards of animals and plants. Honey bees naturally live in tree cavities and undoubtedly would have spread into Britain as trees began to grow here. Then, when sea levels rose about 6000 years ago, Britain became an island. This is the cutoff point at which species already established and subsequently isolated here are generally considered to be native. That would certainly have included honey bees as well as the hundreds of other species of bumblebee and solitary bee that we now consider to belong here. So, I think there is no doubt that honey bees are in fact native. Indeed, there is archaeological evidence of the presence of honey bees in Britian dating back thousands of years. For example, the remains of venison cooked with honey were found in Bronze Age artifacts recently unearthed in Peterborough. There is no such archaeological evidence for the presence of any species of solitary bee or bumblebee in Britain at that time, although I wouldn’t question that most of those are also native. For more about the evidence of the honey bee as a native species, I would recommend reading an academic paper by Norman Careck of Sussex University. 

Bee flying to land on a yellow flower.
© Richard Rickitt

Many of the bumblebee and solitary bee species found in Britain are also found on the continent and are considered native in both places. However, the honey bee, also naturally present on both sides of the channel, is currently claimed by a few people to be non-native in Britian. This contradictory claim only seems to have come about in the last decade or so and is perhaps partly because of a history of commercial importation of honey bees from the European mainland into Britian. Such imports have been made for three reasons; firstly, because in the early twentieth century many of our wild and managed honey bee colonies died as a result of a disease then known as the Isle of Wight disease – so much so that the production of pollinated farm crops was thought to be threatened; secondly, it was thought that the slightly different genetic traits of honey bees from elsewhere could be used to produce more disease-resistant and productive honey bees in the UK; and thirdly, because commercial beekeepers whose bees pollinate crops in spring often require new queens to replace those that have died over winter – and the British climate makes it impossible to raise new queens here until later in the season. The result has been an influx of honey bee queens from Europe. These bees are the same species as has existed here for thousands of years (Apis mellifera) but they have evolved into regional subspecies because of the slightly differing environmental conditions where they live. Honey bees living in Italy will experience a very different climate and flowering plants to those living in Scotland, for example. The result is that many of our honey bees now have a mixture of genes hailing from different places.  

Some hobby beekeepers today are against the importation of honey bees and increasingly favour what are known as local bees. These are bees raised from colonies that survive and thrive in a relatively small geographical area, without the addition of new genetic characteristics from bees imported from abroad or elsewhere within the UK – they are ecotypes. The actual genetic makeup might be a mixture of all sorts, depending on what is already in an area, but studies have shown that, over time, the native genetic element tends to dominate. There are some areas of the UK where the genetics of local honey bee populations are very highly native. However, as climate change worsens, adaptability will be key to the survival of all species of animal and plant; it might be that genetic traits from imported honey bees are what eventually give our honey bees the ability to survive in unstable climatic conditions. In my book, I urge beginner beekeepers to buy new bees and queens from a local beekeeper who has kept the same bees in the same place for decades, these honey bees will probably be best suited to your area. 

Now for the second part of the question, which is also complicated but I will try to keep things brief. There are several diseases that appear to be shared in one form or another by various types of bee. Research into these diseases, their effects and transmissibility, is at the early stages with very few definitive conclusions at the moment. One disease, called nosema, is a kind of fungus that affects the gut of a bee. This is found in both honey bees and bumblebees. It is thought that this first evolved in butterflies, and has since been passed on to bees, which can be spread from one species to another perhaps by sharing the same flower resources. One of the biggest threats to honey bees is the presence of varroa, a tiny parasitic mite that can spread various pathogens when feeding from the bodies of developing honey bee pupae. It’s not yet clear which of these pathogens can spread to other species of bee which are not in themselves hosts to varroa.

There are a lot of uncertainties, and it is by no means clear that honey bees are a significant disease danger to other species of bee, or the reverse. However, it highlights the importance of beekeepers fully understanding the biology and lifecycle of honey bees, and their diseases and predators. This will enable them to keep healthy bees that are better able both to resist diseases and minimise the chances of spreading them to other species. Reading my book is a good way to begin understanding how to keep healthy honey bees, and indeed if beekeeping is really for you. After that, I strongly suggest joining your local beekeeping association and signing up for a training course.   

Finally, and referring to the first part of your question, you asked about where beekeeping fits into conservation more broadly.  The fact is that because beekeepers generally do a good job of looking after them, honey bees are not currently under threat – despite being subject to many of the same pressures as solitary bees and bumblebees. There was a great deal of worry some years ago when huge numbers of honey bees died for largely unknown reasons, but those problems are now generally under control. We shouldn’t be complacent, however; there are still a great many threats to honey bees and the climate crisis poses lots of potential problems. 

I consider honey bees to be the ‘gateway bee’. Many people who have never had a very close relationship to wildlife or the natural world are attracted to beekeeping as a fascinating and rewarding hobby – sometimes at first they don’t even understand the difference between honey bees and other bees. Once they are acquainted with honey bees, such people often want to learn more about the other species of bee, ultimately taking part in conservation measures and becoming bee ambassadors, spreading the word about the importance and fragility of bee populations generally and appreciating the importance of plant life and biodiversity in general. 

Beekeeping for Gardeners pages 176-177.

Beekeeping within the UK appears to be a thriving pastime and, throughout the Covid pandemic in particular, it seems that many were inspired to take it up as a hobby. Could we reach a situation where we have too many beekeepers? 

It’s thought that in the UK there are about a quarter of the number of honey bee colonies there were in the 1950’s, and far fewer than might have been present naturally a few thousand years ago – a natural density of about one colony per square kilometre is estimated by renowned bee scientist, Professor Tom Seeley. But although we may have fewer honey bees now, we also have a hugely degraded environment that is much less capable of supporting bees of all kinds.   

There was a huge drop in the number of beekeepers and bee colonies in the mid-1990s, with membership of the British Beekeeper’s Association (BBKA) dropping to just 7000. When the media began to highlight the problems being experienced by honey bees, particularly due to so-called colony collapse disorder, the number of beekeepers began to rise again. As you say, numbers increased somewhat during the pandemic, too. Today there are about 27,000 members of the BBKA. That number seems to be levelling off and I wouldn’t be surprised if it has reached a peak. There are new beekeepers every year, of course, but people also drop out of the hobby at about the same rate as they join.  

I think it is unlikely therefore that we will have too many beekeepers overall, but I do think that the distribution of beekeepers and their bees is a matter of possible concern. Beekeeping has become popular in large cities, and although suburban areas with their dense patterns of small gardens containing a wide variety of plants – not to mention parks, allotments and railway embankments – can provide plenty of bee habitat, city centres are often extremely poor places for supporting bees and other pollinators. The trend for putting beehives on top of city centre office buildings is highly questionable when there are so few flowering plants nearby. There are also a few rural areas with particularly fragile populations of rare bee species where it might be unwise to keep honey bees. A very high density of honey bees in any area could increase the chances of disease transmission – as discussed in the previous question. These are all issues discussed in my book. 

Overall, I believe that thoughtful beekeeping is environmentally beneficial. Although you can place bee hotels in your garden and plant gardens to attract bees, there is nothing quite like learning about and witnessing the extraordinary lifecycle of a honey bee colony for opening people’s eyes, minds and hearts to the breathtakingly complex and beautiful natural history of bees and pollinators in general.   

Bumble bee on a pink flower.
© Richard Rickitt

With constant monitoring in place for the arrival of pests such as Tropilaelaps mites as well as the current spread of the Yellow Legged Hornet (commonly referred to as the Asian Hornet), are you broadly optimistic for the future of Honey Bees in Britain? 

It seems likely that the Asian Hornet (Vespa velutina) might finally have a toehold in the UK and we could have a small breeding population. Until now, APHA (Animal and Plant Health Agency) and the National Bee Unit have done a great job tracing nests and destroying them, but if the population increases exponentially, it will be impossible to control – as has been the case in France and other places.  

It is hard to say exactly how the arrival of the Asian Hornet will affect British beekeeping although, as with the arrival of Varroa Mites in the 1990s, I suspect there will be a steep decline in the number of people keeping bees. Chris Packham recently said that having Asian hornets might only mean the loss of a few teaspoonfuls of honey, but I strongly disagree with this sentiment. One nest of Asian hornets can consume 11.5 kg of insects in a season – that’s hundreds of thousands of insects. Perhaps people don’t mind if those insects are honey bees, but when the honey bees run out, other bees, wasps, flies, butterflies and so-on could become the target prey. Imagine how that might affect birds and other animals that rely on those insects – not to mention the crops that they pollinate. And bear in mind that one Asian hornet nest can produce 300 queens resulting in hundreds of new nests the following year.  

Tropelaelaps, and particularly Small Hive Beetle, are two other potentially very problematic invasive pests. They haven’t been found here yet and there are import controls and a system of sentinel apiaries to try to prevent or detect their arrival. There are contingency plans to prevent their spread should they arrive but there are a lot of unknown factors. Climate change makes the possible arrival and spread of these exotic species more concerning.  

I’m broadly optimistic about the future of beekeeping in the UK but there will be challenges and changes. 

Beekeeping for Gardeners, page 92-93 showing a close up of bees on a hive.

Finally, although I’m sure your job as editor of BeeCraft magazine, as well as your public speaking engagements must keep you incredibly busy (alongside the actual beekeeping of course!), we’d love to know if you have plans for further books? 

I have lots of ideas for other bee-related books, some practical and some a bit more esoteric. Whether I’ll ever find time to write them, and in particular take the photographs for them, is another matterAt the moment, I’m glad to have finished this book and I am enjoying watching bees and visiting gardens without feeling the need to make notes and take photosalthough my camera is never very far away…

Beekeeping for Gardeners book cover showing a beehive in a garden behind a rose bush. Beekeeping for Gardeners is available from our online bookstore.

How to Choose a Pair of Binoculars

A good pair of binoculars is an invaluable part of any field kit and they provide some of the most memorable wildlife encounters. There is an overwhelming array of sizes and specifications and it can be difficult to choose between them when purchasing a new pair. In this post we will provide a summary of some of the key features of a pair of binoculars, to help you find the best pair to accompany you on surveys, whilst travelling or when enjoying your local wildlife.

Once you have decided on your budget, there are a few key metrics that will help you decide which pair of binoculars will suit you best. With binoculars it really is worth paying as much as you can afford as the glass, lens coatings and specifications improve with every step up in price.


Binocular models generally have two numbers in their description. The first of these relates to the magnification. (For example, 8 x 42 binoculars will have a magnification of 8x). In general, binoculars have a magnification between 8x and 12x. As you would expect, the higher the magnification, the larger objects will appear when looking through them. As magnification increases, the field of view can be reduced and you will need to ensure that you have steady hands or use some kind of support.

Lens Diameter

Larger diameter lenses provide brighter images at dawn and dusk. Photo credit: Paulo Valdivieso – www.flickr.com

The second number in the binocular model description (e.g. 8 x 42) refers to the diameter of the objective lens. Standard size binoculars tend to have objective lenses of 32mm to 42mm whilst lenses in compact binoculars usually measure 25mm. Larger lenses can dramatically improve low light performance and are particularly good for use at dusk or dawn. The trade-off is that larger lenses are heavier. The most popular size of binoculars for birdwatching was traditionally 8 x 42, but with advances in manufacture and lens performance, 8 x 32 binoculars now offer fantastic specifications in a more compact body.

Glass Type

The type and quality of glass have a huge impact on image quality. Image by Bicanski via Public Domain Images

The type of glass used to manufacture the lenses can vastly affect the quality of the image. Two types of glass to look out for are extra-low dispersion (ED) and fluoride (FL) glass. These reduce chromatic aberrations giving clearer and sharper colours and reduced colour “fringing”.


Fringing is the blurring that can occur between light and dark parts of an image. If your budget allows for an upgrade to ED glass binoculars, you will notice a distinct improvement in clarity compared to binoculars without ED glass. Affordable pairs of ED binoculars include the Hawke Optics Endurance ED and the Opticron Explorer ED.

Lens and Prism Coatings

The primary difference in performance and the brightness of images between different pairs of binoculars is often due to lens and prism coatings. Light is lost as it travels across every surface inside a pair of binoculars and the aim of a good pair of binoculars is to keep light transmission as high as possible between the objective and the ocular lens. Lens and prism coatings reduce the amount of light that is lost helping to produce a brighter and sharper image. Lenses that are multi-coated have multiple layers of lens coatings. High-quality binoculars are fully multi-coated which means that they have multiple layers of coating on all lens surfaces. Roof prism binoculars have a particular problem with “phase shift” where the polarisation angle of the prism causes the light passing through to be split into two slightly out of phase beams. This results in an image that has lower resolution and may look slightly blurred. Prism coatings correct this problem by forcing the split light back into phase. Look out for binoculars with Phase Correction (PC) prism coatings.

Dunlin (Calidris alpina). Photo credit: Ron Knight – www.flickr.com
Key Comparison Metrics

Comparing some of the performance metrics of a pair of binoculars can help when deciding which pair would best suit your purposes. In particular, field of view will be useful if you are looking at large landscapes (e.g. whale or sea watching) and close focus is very important if you are looking at insects.

Field of View – The field of view is how wide an image can be seen at a specified distance (usually 1000m). A wide field of view is useful for large landscapes and for fast-moving animals. Models with a particularly wide field of view include all of the Kite Optics range, the Opticron Discovery, Traveller ED and Explorer ranges, the Bushnell Prime and Forge ranges and the Swarovski EL and SLC binoculars.

The Opticron Discovery range of binoculars has a fantastic field of view and great close focus.

Close Focus – The close focus is the minimum distance at which the binoculars are able to focus. People interested in viewing insects using their binoculars would be advised to choose a model with a small close focus distance. Models with particularly low close focus include the Opticron Discovery and Traveller ranges, the Swarovski EL and the Kite Lynx HD+ binoculars.

Weight – The weight of the binoculars is incredibly important, as it is likely that you will be carrying them around for long periods of time. Higher quality models of comparable specification will tend to be lighter than entry-level models, and those with larger objective lenses will weigh more than those with smaller ones. Binoculars that are particularly lightweight and excellent for travelling include the Opticron Traveller range and the Hawke Optics Nature-Trek and Endurance ranges.

Eye Relief – This is the maximum distance from the eyepiece lens that the eye can be positioned at which the full width of the image is visible without vignetting (darkening of the image around the edges). Longer eye relief is useful for those who wear glasses.

If you have any queries regarding binoculars then our Customer Services team and trained Wildlife Equipment Specialists would be delighted to assist on 01803 865913 or via email at customer.services@nhbs.com.

Recommended Models

Entry Level

Kite Ursus Binoculars
Ease of use and excellent build quality in conjunction with a wide field of view and high image quality make this model ideal for beginner binocular users.


Budget Friendly 

Yukon Sideview Compact Binoculars

Lightweight, robust and budget-friendly. These binoculars are ideal for fieldwork in almost any condition.


General Purpose

Bushnell POWERVIEW 2 Binoculars 

A high-power , budget option for birders and other outdoor enthusiasts. Light and comfortable with the option for tripod mounting.  



Black binoculars

Nikon Sportstar EX DCF Compact Binoculars Ultra-lightweight, pocket-sized and weatherproof. Don’t get caught out when away from home with these binoculars.



GPO Passion HD Binoculars
Multi-layer lens coating offers unbeatable image quality for the price, and a magnesium rubberised chassis creates a robust housing for the German-engineered optics.


Top of the Range

Swarovski NL Pure Binoculars
Enhanced optics offer the widest field of view with almost discernible edges all housed within a revolutionary ergonomic housing.


Specialist Models

Kite APC Binoculars 42

Powerful image-stabilising binoculars ideal for use in vehicles or other fast-moving situations.



Hawke Frontier LRF 8×42 

High-quality optics with an integrated laser range finder.  



Swarovski Axio

The expected Swarovski quality with integrated Artificial Intelligence identification features brings binoculars into the AI age.  



Hawke Endurance ED Marine Binoculars 

Ideal for marine surveys, these fully waterproof (IP67) binoculars come with an integrated compass and supplied floating neck strap. 



 Viking Swallow Smartphone Adapter

Two available smartphone adapter options allow users to take crisp and stable shots directly down the lens of their binoculars or spotting scope using most smart-phone cameras.


Banner image features Northern Lapwings (Vanellus vanellus). Photo credit: Tony Hisgett – www.flickr.com

Author interview with Ben Jacob: Orchid Outlaw

The Orchid Outlaw tells the tale of author Ben Jacob’s mission to save some of the UK’s rarest, native orchids. With many facing extinction due to land use change and the climate crisis, while also not being protected by environmental and planning laws, Ben took it upon himself to rescue these threatened plants and grow them in his own kitchen and garden, rather than losing the plants all together. In doing so, he placed himself on the wrong side of the law. This part memoir, part natural history piece shows us how we can all save the world one plant at a time.

Ben Jacob wearing a brown jacket stood by a bank with some orchids growing out of it.Ben works as a University lecturer by day, and as a clandestine ecologist, conservationist and Orchid-saviour by night. It is always a pleasure to meet the authors behind our books, particularly those who are adopting their own approach to nature restoration and conservation, and we were delighted to have the opportunity to talk to Ben in person about The Orchid Outlaw and have him sign our books. We discussed how he first became interested in Botany, his thoughts on the Right to Roam movement, what he hopes the reader can learn from his book and more. Read the full author interview on the Conservation Hub.

Firstly, can you tell us about yourself and how you first became interested in both Botany and orchids?

By day I’m a mild-mannered lecturer (in a subject which has very little to do with science or botany); by night I am a guerrilla conservationist with a focus on rescuing, conserving, and bringing back to the land, our native orchids. The Orchid Outlaw explains the journey I took from a chance encounter with a tropical orchid in a garden centre as a child, which led me, when I was older, to trekking through jungles to look for tropical species, then, and older still, via a mugging, an enforced return to England and a broken back, to encounter Britain’s – and Europe’s native orchids. As I learned more about these species, I realised that my preconceptions about our native orchids and the state of our natural environment were wrong. I became aware of the significant recent decline in orchid populations… and began my unorthodox means of saving them. I tell this story alongside (hopefully) entertaining diversions through history, medicine, man’s changing relationship with nature, Charles Darwin’s discovery of evolution, and a critical exploration of the laws which exist to protect wildlife in this country but which are so full of huge holes that battalions of construction vehicles can rumble straight through, crushing all life before them. Which they do. Daily. Without any legal consequences.  

In contrast, a well-intentioned conservationist (like me) rescuing wild flora or fauna from private land which is about to be turned into a housing estate, without first going through the hurdles required to gain permission from the landowner, risks fines of £5,000 per plant or six months in prison. Do these laws make sense? No. Are they helping sustain a healthy and diverse population of native species? No. So, like any laws which don’t work, someone should stand up to them and do what needs to be done. 

Bee Orchid in some grass.
Bee Orchid (Ophrys apifera) by Oli Haines.

In the past week, the European Council has formally adopted the Nature Restoration law. Do you think this law could have any influence on conservation policy here in Britain, and to what extent do you think it will change people’s attitudes towards our responsibility to protect the natural environment?

In Britain (as elsewhere) 2024 is a national election year so any impact on British political attitudes of a European law will depend to an extent on which party wins. Unfortunately, none of our main political parties have a good track record when it comes to protecting our natural heritage for us and future generations we have seen a rapid decline in numbers across all species and native habitats over many decades presided over by both main parties and a coalition. Of course, for the sake of everyone’s future, I’d like to think this European Council law marks a shift in geo-political will which will pull all national policies into its orbit (fingers-crossed)… but the realist in me suggests that unless meaningful, accountable, well-policed penalties accompany laws, those laws tend to make little concrete difference (consider for example international laws around freedom of expression, asylum, and war crimes, which are broken all around the world every day). 

The Orchid Outlaw highlighted how pre-industry anthropogenic land use is intertwined with orchid distribution, particularly in the UK. How do you think rewilding (which is currently a very hot topic) can be implemented in a way that supports these species that may have benefitted from traditional land management rather than being left to nature? 

The Orchid Outlaw looks a little bit at how native orchids thrived in the habitat niches created on a large scale by man, including hay meadows, and how centuries of people-managed woodland (the clearing of underwood and occasional felling) provided conditions which helped many native orchid species to thrive. Of course, these habitats had existed long before people (meadows had been formed, for example, by large, now extinct cattle, naturally falling trees, and wildfires) so, in many ways, mankind took on the role of these natural forces for his own benefit and, in the process, allowed many other species not only orchids to benefit too. In this sense, ‘rewilding’ is not simply a case of letting an area go wild without any human intervention ironically this kind of habitat is completely ‘un-wild’ unless it is stocked with the right range of creatures which are going to complete the tapestry of life (and death) needed to reach a healthy, natural, sustainable equilibrium. 

Marsh Orchid (Dactylorhiza) by Jo Graeser.
Marsh Orchid (Dactylorhiza) by Jo Graeser.

How can we mitigate orchid loss in a practical conservation framework when vital species-specific symbiotic relationships with fungi are not considered, so these species may not be protected under current schemes?

There are all kinds of gaping holes in our awareness of the world and what really goes on in the soil, which sustains everything, is one of them. Because of this particular hole, soil health has fallen through the gaps of wildlife conservation laws, even though soil, like the sea, is a vast, living, environment containing more life than we can see and it is an environment upon which the world depends. Orchids in particular have a very complex, as yet only partially understood, crucial relationship with certain soil fungi (mycorrhizae). This is because orchid seed germinates unlike that of any other plant. It creates a symbiotic relationship with a specific mycorrhiza in order to then form a kind of hairy blob (a ‘protocorm’) which, eventually, sometimes after many years living underground sustained only by fungus, becomes a flowering plant. This makes orchids important indicators of soil health, because it seems that the mycorrhizae they need are adversely affected by artificial fertilisers and herbicides. In a way then, our orchids have taught me that any conservation framework has to start from the ground literally, the dirt up, because that is the secret to success. If the earth and the microbes in it are right for the plants there and, of course, plants are crucial to any rewilding project then insects, birds, mammals will come and the tapestry of life which orchids introduced to me will weave itself. 

The right to roam movement is growing, especially close to home here in Devon. What are your thoughts on trespassing for the purpose of immersing and enjoying nature that is legally out of reach for the majority of citizens? Following this, if the laws were to change do you think it would affect attitudes towards nature with more people having the chance to be exposed to nature?

Let’s be honest, this is ‘our’ land. Our ancestors built it, fought for it, died for it, are buried in it; it is deplorable that we do not have the right to roam considerately and with respect upon our land. The right to roam exists in Scotland without any major detriment to anybody and the fact that it does not exist in England and Wales says a great deal about the sway the old class system still holds here after all, 0.06% of the population owns half of rural England and Wales and much of this land distribution extends back to the days of feudal lords. For centuries, no one has done much to change this status quo.  

Obviously, allowing people the chance to experience nature is a great way of changing attitudes to it… but a lot of the land we can roam in Devon is still unavailable to those in inner city areas, so a shift in awareness towards our natural world our natural heritage, formed over thousands of years and which we should be proud to pass on to our children – is not solely about opening up rural land. The recent pandemic made many people far more aware of how important being outside in nature is to our wellbeing whether in a park or allotment or an uncut verge with a bench to sit on and wild flowers buzzing with insects and flickering with butterflies. So, while the right to roam is important, I think wider appreciation of the real value of nature will be helped by allowing nature to be more present everywhere in everyone’s life from green roofs, wild parks and county farms, to unmown verges and tree-lined streets smothered in bird boxes… 

Miltary Orchid on the right hand side of the photo in a field of grass.
Military Orchid by Charlie Jackson, via flickr.

What do you hope the reader can learn from The Orchid Outlaw? 

On the one hand, I like to think that The Orchid Outlaw takes a reader on the same journey of discovery I went on, with orchids as my guide, opening my eyes to so much I hadn’t known. One of the biggest wake-up calls orchids gave me was the inadequacy of our wildlife laws and the massive, underreported decline of some our native flora. Orchids also taught me about the important microfauna all around us, the complex nature of soil, the history of botany and herbalism, and of course the fascinating world of native orchids themselves the magical co-evolution that has occurred between orchids and their pollinators, the fact that some species never need sunlight, that others grow a metre tall and smell of decay, and some can live to be over a hundred years old… and a great deal more.   

On the other hand, and perhaps more importantly, I’d like to think that what I do, as unorthodox as it is, shows that you don’t have to be a scientist, researcher, or working for an official institution to make a positive impact for the other living organisms on our planet.

Can you tell us what’s occupying your time at the moment? Do you have any other books in progress that we can hear about?  

Aside from the usual rescuing and reintroducing native orchids, at the end of The Orchid Outlaw I talk about moving to the countryside to an old house which needed and continues to need a lot of attention. So, the garden (which was essentially a forest of nettles) and the lab I started building at the bottom of the garden to propagate orchids (so I no longer need to turn the kitchen into my lab) is largely what occupies my spare time. In any spare moments I am working on a couple of book proposals, both of which relate to elements of The Orchid Outlaw, but, for now, they’re closely guarded secrets! 

Orchid Outlaw book cover showing the title written in yellow, on top of an image of a blue and green orchid on a black background with heras fencing over the top.

The Orchid Outlaw has been published by John Murray and is available from our online bookstore.

This Week in Biodiversity News – 1st July


An ocean-dwelling fungus has been found to break down marine plastic pollutionParengyodontium album has recently been added to the list of four species of plastic degrading fungi. Researchers have discovered the fungus’ ability to degrade polyethylene plastic, the most abundant form of plastic in our oceans, following a period of exposure to UV radiation from sunlight. It is estimated that the fungus can break down polyethylene at a rate of 0.05% each day, and with over 400bn kilograms of plastic produced annually, this discovery has the potential to provide an answer to the problem of marine plastic pollution.

Image by Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument via Flickr

A recently launched programme will aim to restore a 193km stretch of coral reef. Named ‘Ako’ako’a, the project will be one of the first to attempt such large-scale restoration and will focus this effort on the west coast of Hawai’i Island. Due to start in 2025, researchers will identify individuals with desirable traits in the face of climate change, such as high thermal tolerance, fast growth and tolerance to pollution. These selected individuals will then be used to produce larvae with strengthened genetic resistance which will be released during natural spawning periods. With increasing declines occurring over more frequent bleaching events, ‘Ako’ako’a aims to restore ailing reefs across the region.  



Canada is set to ban open-net salmon farming in British Columbia in five years. The announcement follows the government’s decision to transition to closed-containment methods in 2019. With more than half of wild salmon stocks declining in the province, the decision has been made to make a step towards protecting wild pacific salmon populations through sustainable aquaculture and clean technology. The commitment has been praised by many, but there are concerns for significant losses in a $1.2bn industry and disruptions impacting up to 6,000 jobs.  

Iberian Lynx are no longer endangered under the IUCN Red List of Threatened SpeciesLynx pardinus has been promoted to ‘vulnerable’, a triumph resulting from a 20-year conservation programme by the EU, national governments in Spain and Portugal and wildlife NGOs. The population initially plummeted to under 100 individuals due to human persecution, reduced food sources and habitat loss across the region. Now, 20 years later, the population has reached over 2,000 in the peninsula. Over 86% of the current population resides in Spain and experts expect to see a full recovery in its native range over the next century. 

A pale rhino laying down on a bed of grass next to a tree
Northern White Rhino by Heather Paul via Flickr

Scientists have successfully implanted a rhinoceros embryo using IVF techniques for the first time. This breakthrough could prove to be a lifeline in saving the Northern White Rhinoceros from extinction. There are only two surviving females in the world, both based in Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya where they are under 24-hour guard. Proving the feasibility of the technology, researchers can now move to transferring a Northern White Rhinoceros embryo into a surrogate Southern White Rhinoceros. This technology brings the scientific community closer to successfully reproducing this critically endangered species, which would significantly benefit the ecosystem of central and eastern Africa.  



The first Scottish Wildcat kittens born outside of captivity have been recorded in Cairngorms national park. Their birth follows the reintroduction of 19 adult wildcats last summer and has been confirmed using camera trap footage. This discovery marks an important milestone in the efforts to reintroduce the species to Scotland, and they are the first to be born in the wild for more than five years. With significant population declines due to habitat loss and human persecution, this success story is an important turning point for the species and will help to reverse centuries of decline.

A scottish wildcat walking across a fallen tree in the woods
Scottish Wildcat by Chris Parker via Flickr

A subgroup of Gray Whales has undergone a significant decline in body length in the past 20-30 years. The Pacific Coast Feeding Group (PCFG), consisting of around 200 individuals, have decreased in size over the past 20-30 years. Researchers found that the group is 13% smaller than those born before 2000, which equates to around 1.65 metres lost in a mature adult. This smaller size could have significant consequences for the health and fecundity of the group, impacting survival rates of calves and their ability to store energy for growth and maintenance.

Solitary Bee Week 2024

Solitary Bee Week was founded in 2018 to raise awareness of the importance of solitary bee populations across the globe. Now hosted by Buglife, this week-long event hopes to encourage the public to pledge their support for these unsung heroes. Solitary Bee Week 2024 (Monday 1st July – Sunday 7th July) gives us a chance to support these vital pollinators and #EarnYourStripes. 

A hairy mining bee resting on a leaf. It has orange hair on its hind legs and long white hair on its thorax, legs and head
Andrena gravida by Frank Vassen via Flickr

What are solitary bees and why are they important? 

It is estimated that there are between 20,000–30,000 solitary bee species across the world, and the UK is home to 240 of them. Solitary bees do not produce wax or honey, do not form hives, and do not exhibit swarming behaviours – a striking difference to the behaviours we usually associate with bees. They typically nest in underground burrows or in the hollows of plant stems and tunnels, so it is no surprise that we are seeing a downturn in the abundance of the group with increasing urban development and environmental decline.  

As we urbanise, we remove the habitat of these extraordinary pollinators – we are seeing fewer hedgerows and wildflower meadows, which would otherwise provide vital food sources for these insects. Partnered with agricultural intensification, environmental changes are contributing to the significant declines we see in pollinators. Solitary bees are important for pollination, and their loss could be devastating not only to the environment, but for food security worldwide. Solitary Bee Week is helping raise awareness of these insects in the hopes of managing their threats and preventing further declines in the future. 


Image by Buglife


How can I take part? 

From pollinator identification workshops to solitary bee walks, Buglife is hosting a range of events in support of Solitary Bee Week. An interesting highlight of the week, Buglife have collaborated with Hayley Herridge the Pollinator Gardener to create the ‘B-Lines Garden’ to be featured in the Hampton Court Palace Garden Festival – highlighting the importance of insect pathways to provide corridors for pollinators. Find the full week’s itinerary here 


What can I do to support my local bees? 

Solitary Bee Week is the perfect time to pledge your support for local solitary bees.  

Leaving an area of exposed soil and providing bee hotels are great ways to provide nesting areas. Mining bees account for around 70% of solitary species – patches of exposed soil are an excellent way to provide space for this group, where they create underground nesting burrows. For cavity nesting bees, such as Red Mason Bees, hotels are a great way to provide nesting habitat where they will lay eggs in the dry, hollow tubes. Planting wildflowers and nectar-rich plant species is another way to support pollinators by providing an important food source. 

Here we have chosen a selection of products in our range that can support solitary bees in your outdoor space: 

#262715 Solitary Bee Bricks  


#217363 Insect Tower 


#257245 Solitary Bee Nesting Tin 



#264931 Bee Barn Gift Box 


#259552 Solitary Bees (Hardback) 

#261456 Hairy-Foot, Long-Tongue (Paperback) 


#244919 The Solitary Bees (Hardback) 


Author interview with Christopher Hart – Hedgelands

Hedgelands book cover showing an artistic drawing of green hedge leaves on a dark green background, with leaves woven over the white text in capital letters saying 'Hedgelands.'Hedges and hedgerows have long been an integral part of the British landscape and are now considered the greatest edge habitat on earth. Hedgelands shines a spotlight on the hawthorn and hazel of ancient hedges, thorny scrub and the creatures that call this habitat their home, telling you everything you could ever want to know about this wild, diverse and incredibly rich habitat – it may even change your perspective of the humble British hedgerow for good.

Portrait of author Christopher Hart wearing a checked shirt, gillet and flat cap with a large hedge behind him.

Christopher Hart has authored ten literary and historical books that have been praised by both The Times Library Supplement and Sunday Sport. He’s written numerous short stories, essays and reviews on a range of subjects, and has worked as a freelance journalist since the 1990s. Hart now lives on a seven-acre plot in Wiltshire which he is in the process of rewilding.

We recently had the opportunity to chat with Christopher about what inspired him to write a book about hedges, how he thinks we can change peoples perceptions of the humble hedgerow and more.

As a writer of primarily historical fiction, what inspired you to write a book celebrating British hedges?

Well, I’ve had quite a chequered career: as well as the historical fiction thing, I’ve been a Mr Whippy Ice Cream Van Driver, Theatre Critic of the Sunday Times, and Agony Uncle for Time Out magazine. None of which qualify me to write about hedges! But really the English countryside is a lifelong passion, and working on our own patch of seven acres, with intermittent grazing, plus trying to encourage maximum wildlife, has taught me directly how vital hedges and thickets are to the entire system. Then my friend Jonathan did this survey on one of his own restored and re-laid hedges, found vivid evidence of the huge benefits to invertebrates, and said to me, Why don’t you write a book? So that’s how it started.

Jonathan stood in front of his re laid hedge.
Jonathan stood in front of his re-laid hedge, by Christopher Hart.

Hedgerows have demonstrable benefits to the environment, yet are often overlooked and under-appreciated by many. How can we change public perception of and attitudes towards the humble hedgerow?

I think real-life examples always work better than statistics. And maybe demonstrating to people directly how many birds, butterflies etc. flourish in our hedgerows could have a great effect, as could enlarging and protecting hedgerows on amenity land, where people actually go regularly, rather than farmland: allotments, for instance, churchyards, and even school grounds.

How does the historical, manual management of hedgerows compare to the mechanical methods used in some agricultural practices today? And how can we encourage a change to more conservation-centred management in these spaces? 

Like every other farm job, the old manual method of hedge-laying with an axe and billhook is a great art and beautiful to watch – but also very slow and expensive! Unless it could be done by teams of roving volunteers, which is a promising idea. But even flailing can be made instantly more eco-friendly by simply doing it every two years instead of one. That could really help, and as I think Jake Fiennes suggests, would actually save the average farmer around £2,500 a year on diesel alone.

A generous field margin on a productive arable farm showing a wide, long grass border against a flourishing hedge.

Can you share some examples of individuals, organisations or locations that are paving the way for best-practice hedgerow management?

I think all the big conservation charities, like the RSPB, are very aware of hedgerows’ importance now, but there are also some admirable specialists like Hedgelink. And the Devon Hedge Group are terrific, doing direct, hands-on work there. If you want to see a truly spectacular hedge though, don’t miss the massive bristling rampart of the ‘Nightingale Hedge’ at Knepp. It’s magnificent! 

How can we get involved in bringing hedgerows to our local communities, and how may we incorporate a hedge into areas with limited space?

One reader of my book has already contacted me for advice on how the hedges in his daughter’s school grounds could be made more nature friendly, perhaps by re-laying or just allowing to thicken up that’s a great example of what we can do quite independently of farmlands. Another suggestion I have is to ‘rewild’ a typical, slightly overmanaged garden hedge, that might be just mono-cultural beech or holly, and let climbers and creepers into it as well: relax about a bit of ivy, or even bramble, let a few nettles grow, or as we have done, allow some self-sown honeysuckle to trail over your privet hedge. Then go out on a warm summer evening and admire the moths that turn up. If the sight of an Elephant Hawk moth doesn’t convert you, I don’t know what will! 

Man-made thicket full of blackthorn in a field.

What’s next for you? Do you have plans for more nature writing?

I most certainly do. The only difficulty is choosing which one to pursue. In the last year I did some experimental ‘re-bogging’ of a small riverside field that was just too waterlogged to offer good grazing, or any other kind of useful food production. It took me all of half an hour with a spade, diverting a field-side drainage ditch. The result has been a quite spectacular explosion of dragonflies and snipe in the winter. I’d love to write something about that. ‘Re-bogging Britain, or ‘The Joy of Re-bogging. What do you think? 

Hedgelands book cover showing an artistic drawing of green hedge leaves on a dark green background, with leaves woven over the white text in capital letters saying 'Hedgelands.'

Hedgelands is published by Chelsea Green and is available from our online bookstore.

Author interview with Joe Shute: Stowaway

Stowaway book cover showing an old harbour town with boats on the water and four rats climbing up a rope tying a boat to the dock.This tale of rat catchers, crumbling buildings and back alleys delves into the complex linkages between humans and rats, questioning why some animals are accepted while others are cast aside. Joe Shute follows the course of this intricate relationship through history, from those in the trenches to the present day, where an estimated ten million rats live in Britain alone.

Joe Shute author photograph, showing him leaning against a wall in a park with a pair of binoculars around his neck, brown jacket, scarf and hat.Joe Shute is an author and journalist who has a keen passion for the natural world. He is the long-standing author of The Daily Telegraph‘s Saturday ‘Weather Watch’ column, is currently a post-graduate researcher at Manchester Metropolitan University and lives in Sheffield with his wife and pet rats.

We recently had the opportunity to speak to Joe about his book, including his most unexpected lines of enquiry while writing Stowaway, how his own relationship with rats has changed over time, what he plans to do next and more.

What initially drew you to focussing on rats for this book? 

I am particularly attracted to the less fashionable corners of nature writing, I suppose. In particular I have a soft spot for scavengers, of which rats are obviously the greatest of them all. I find it fascinating that wild rats are creatures which have adapted and thrived in our shadow over centuries of human history and yet we still don’t know much about them. I wanted to unpick the rat stories and mythology and folklore attached to rats and see them as an animal in their own right. Because the history of rats is so bound up in our own, I also hoped that focusing on rats would help change my understanding of how humans interact with the world.

Wild Rat climbing up a breezeblock brick in a field.
Wild Rat – Rutland Water by Airwolfhound, via flickr.

What were some of the unexpected lines of enquiry the writing of this book opened for you? 

I knew about the intelligence of rats beforehand but until I started writing the book I hadn’t appreciated the complexity of the inner lives of rats. Numerous studies have shown that rats feel empathy, regret, possess the power of imagination and even enjoy dancing. I also hadn’t appreciated until writing the book how little is known about rats in the wild. Despite being such a familiar animal, we really have little idea about the size of rat populations or exactly where and how they live in cities. Also, I hadn’t fully appreciated just how clever rats are. I visited a project in Tanzania where rats are taught to detect landmines. In the US, scientists have even taught rats how to drive cars. 

Rats have pretty bad PR and this book does an illuminating and erudite job of portraying them with a nuanced and sympathetic appreciation. Why is it important that we scrutinise our relationship with rats?

It’s important to redress our relationship with rats because I believe we are entering a new era of history alongside them. The 20th century was marked by a ‘war on the rat’ with countries committing huge resources to eradicate populations with mostly limited success. This has also had a terrible impact on the natural world, with toxic rodenticides poisoning animals throughout the food chain. This is now changing and various cities such as Paris and Amsterdam are asking whether we might be able to better co-exist with rats. In the UK and elsewhere greater restrictions are also being placed on the indiscriminate use of rodenticides. There are certainly settings where rats are destructive and cause great harm, for example in important seabird colonies where they can devastate nesting populations or indeed when living in someone’s house. But why should they not share our parks and gardens with us?

Wild rat photographed in amongst long grass and damp leaves.
Wild Rat by Airwolfhound, via flickr.

What are some ways in which rats, and our misconceptions of them, hold mirror up to our own behaviours?

I argue in the book that rats thrive where humanity has failed. Industrial farming, where wildness and natural predators have been lost and monoculture of crops exist, provide the ideal conditions for rats. Similarly in urban areas rats flourish among poor sanitation and low quality housing stock and lots of litter. War, waste and a devastated natural environment are all places where you will find rats. If we address these very human problems and behaviours then rat populations will automatically be kept more in check.

What are your hopes for what rat appreciation can offer us? 

I think an appreciation of rats can offer all of us a different perspective on how we interact with nature. When you look at a rat out foraging for food and put aside the cultural baggage attached to it, you see a supremely adaptable creature that can also be very cute! 

Joe Shute with his brown rat on his shoulder.

How has your own relationship with rats changed throughout the process of researching and writing this book? 

I started writing this book as someone with an innate fear of rats. Once I started interrogating this, however, I came to realise that so much of this is cultural – the books I read as a child and urban myths about rats which we all grow up with. To conquer my fears I adopted pet rats, Molly and Ermintrude, who revealed to me so much about the inner lives of rats and are the little beating hearts of my book. So much so in fact that I dedicate Stowaway to them. 

Finally, are you currently working on any other projects that you can tell us about? 

I am currently based at Manchester Metropolitan University’s Centre for Place Writing where I am undertaking a research project on rivers specifically a lost urban river called the Irk in Manchester. I am doing a lot of work with communities, running writing workshops to connect people to the river and the urban flora and fauna which flourishes there. Unsurprisingly, there are a lot of rats along the Irk, but Kingfishers, Dippers and Grey Wagtails too. It is exactly the sort of contested and overlooked environment rich in human history which I love writing about and where I always feel most inspired.

Stowaway book cover showing an old harbour town with boats on the water and four rats climbing up a rope tying a boat to the dock.

Stowaway has been published by Bloomsbury and is available via our online bookstore.

Top 5: Trail Cameras

Trail cameras can be extremely useful tools for ecologists and naturalists, enabling simple non-invasive monitoring of wildlife. Here we feature five of our most popular models, highlighting the key features of each for easy comparison. 

For more detailed information please read our Trail Cameras Buyers Guide. 

#256294 Browning Spec Ops Elite HP5  

Browning Spec Ops Elite HP5 trail camera

A good quality trail camera with fast trigger speed, this model is an excellent all-rounder.

Image quality: 24 mp
Video quality: 1920 x 1080p
Video length: Max 2 minutes
Glow: No glow
Trigger speed: 0.1-0.7 seconds
Recovery: 0.5 seconds
Flash range: 30 metres
Detection range: 24 metres
RADIANT 5 illumination technology


#258744 Spypoint Flex 

#258744 Spypoint Flex trail camera

An innovative low-glow trail camera with cellular transmission to transfer images to a mobile device.

Image quality: 33 mp
Video quality: 1920 x 1080p
Video length: Max 15 seconds
Glow: Low glow
Trigger speed: 0.3 seconds
Flash range: 30 metres
Detection range: 30 metres



#259714 Num’axes PIE1059 Trail Camera

Cost-effective and entry-level, the Num’axes PIE1059 is a robust, no-glow trail camera with great resolution.

Image quality: 32 mp
Video quality: 1920 x 1080p
Video length: Max 30 seconds
Glow: No glow
Trigger speed: 0.6 seconds
Flash range: 20 metres
Detection range: 20 metres
2″ colour screen



#256293 Browning Recon Force Elite HP5

A low-glow alternative to the Browning Spec Ops Elite HP5. This camera is a good all-rounder and is suitable for fast-moving animals.

Image quality: 24 mp
Video quality: 1920 x 1080p
Video length: Max 2 minutes
Glow: Low glow
Trigger speed: 0.1-0.7 seconds
Recovery: 0.5 seconds
Flash range: 39 metres
Detection range: 30 metres
RADIANT 5 illumination technology


#246930 Spypoint Solar-Dark Trail Camera

A super fast, no-glow model, this trail camera features a solar panel providing users with an extended battery life.

Image quality: 12 mp
Video quality: 1280 x 720p
Video length: Max 2 minutes
Glow: No glow
Trigger speed: 0.07 seconds
Flash range: 27 metres
Detection range: up to 33.5m
2″ colour screen




Recommended Reading:

#222466 Camera Trapping for Wildlife Research  

Paperback | June 2016

A guide to the use of camera trapping for most common ecological applications to wildlife research.



#227479 CCTV for Wildlife Monitoring 

Paperback | June 2016

A handbook on the use of CCTV in nature watching, conservation and ecological research.


Restore Nature Now 2024

The Restore Nature Now March took place in Central London on Saturday 22nd June. The march saw the coming together of over 350 charities, businesses and direct-action groups calling on the government to work harder to protect biodiversity in the UK and Restore Nature Now!  Some of the NHBS team travelled up from Devon and joined the estimated 100,000 people that took part in the march. 


‘The Restore Nature Now march felt really galvanizing. It was heartening to walk with so many ecologists, scientists and activists and to dip into conversations about the amazing work people are participating in around the country to lead and assist in nature recovery. I was really moved by the impassioned speeches in parliament square from a host of brilliant speakers, and the sight of three peregrine falcons over Westminster was a potent and magical moment too!’ – Oli


A large puppet bat held by a crowd.
A large bat puppet made by the Bat Conservation Trust.
A vibrant banner to stand up for nature.


‘It felt great to be a part of the march and join so many other people passionate about our nature and wildlife.  The speakers at Parliament Square were inspirational, sadly I’m not sure if our politicians heard them, but we will be back and continue to be a voice for nature.’ Adam

An estimated 100,000 took part in the march.
The march was supported by a range of nature-focused organisations including RSPB, Plantlife and WWF.
The family-friendly march had lots of entertainment and interactive activities.


Restore Nature Now took place to call on political parties to act on the climate crisis and use the upcoming general election as a turning point. Their demands are as follows: 

A PAY RISE FOR NATURE: To facilitate nature recovery, agricultural landowners need more support to make climate-friendly choices, and to do this, Restore Nature Now urged the UK government to double the nature and climate-friendly farming budget.  

MAKE POLLUTERS PAY: Big business significantly contributes to environmental decline and the climate crisis, and to tackle this, organisers asked for new rules and regulations to be introduced to enforce greater contributions.  

MORE SPACE FOR NATURE: Restore Nature Now campaigned for the expansion and improvement of protected areas and called for an improvement of public land and national parks to make a greater contribution to nature recovery. 

A RIGHT TO A HEALTHY ENVIRONMENT: Calling for the creation of an Environmental Rights Bill, organisers are looking for the UK Government to drive better nature decisions to improve public health. 

FAIR AND EFFECTIVE CLIMATE ACTION: To solve the climate crisis, and in turn save nature, more investment is required into effective climate action. 

Restore Nature Now was a fantastic demonstration of hope and a call to action for the UK government. Our staff had an enlightening experience and thoroughly enjoyed the entertainment and talks throughout the day.