Book reviews recently featured in British Wildlife

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

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

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

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

 

 

2. Slime: A Natural History by Susanne Wedlich

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

4. Peak District by Penny Anderson

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

7. Ants: The Ultimate Social Insects by Richard Jones

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

 

 

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

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

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

 

10. British Craneflies by Alan Stubbs

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

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

 

11. Trees by Peter Thomas

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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


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

 

Conservation Land Management: Autumn 2022

From a close look at two very different restoration projects in Yorkshire to the eradication of Japanese knotweed without the use of herbicides, the Autumn issue of Conservation Land Management (CLM) covers a variety of topics and themes relevant to those involved in managing land for nature. Below is a summary of the articles featured in this latest issue.

The first of the Yorkshire-based articles, authored by Sarah Lonsdale of the North York Moors National Park Authority (NYMNPA), describes the River Esk Restoration Project. The River Esk flows through the North York Moors and is the only river in Yorkshire to support populations of the rare freshwater pearl mussel. Agricultural pollution and sedimentation threaten the mussel’s habitat and the Esk’s water quality, however, and the Esk Restoration Project aims to address these pressures through habitat creation and restoration, farm infrastructure grants and targeted one-to-one farm advice. Sarah describes how, through this project, the NYMNPA has worked with farmers and landowners to reduce agricultural pollution via riparian habitat creation and improvements in on-farm infrastructure. This has involved, for example, the installation of in-field solar-powered water troughs to reduce riverbank erosion caused by livestock trampling and the creation of wide habitat buffers to help reduce the amount of pollutants reaching the river – Sarah describes these and other approaches in more detail, and discusses the future of the project.

Before (left) and after (right) riverbank restoration. Chris Watt (left); Sarah Lonsdale (right)

The second article set in Yorkshire is focused on peatlands. Yorkshire’s peatlands contain 27% of England’s blanket bog and support an abundance of wildlife, but changes in land management, for example through drainage and heavy grazing, have led to their degradation. In this article Jenny Sharman describes the impressive work undertaken by the Yorkshire Peatland Partnership to reverse this trend and restore and rewet Yorkshire’s peatlands. Signs of recovery have quickly become apparent, and Jenny guides us through the process of peatland restoration, which begins with initial surveys to assess the extent of the damage using satellite imagery in preparation for work on the ground where a myriad of approaches are used, from using diggers to revegetate exposed peat to installing timber sediment traps and coir logs to help slow the flow of water and retain sediment. 

Three years after peatland restoration began. Jenny Sharman/YPP

Looking now to a different habitat, Robin Pakeman discusses the management of machair, an extremely rare coastal habitat only found in western Ireland and western and northern Scotland. It develops on shell sand in exposed coastal areas, and refers to the plain behind sand dunes. Human use of machair has a long history, and traditional management combined with specific environmental conditions has produced this wonderfully unique habitat, famous for its spectacular floral displays and bird and insect communities. Crofting, a form of land tenure that only occurs in north and west Scotland, has had a strong influence on Scotland’s machair, and in this article Robin explores the management of both arable and grassland machair, and describes the diversity of wildlife associated with this habitat. 

Machair is known for its spectacular floral displays. Robin Pakeman

The infamous Japanese knotweed is a problematic non-native invasive species in the UK, and the general consensus regarding its control suggests that the use of glyphosate-based herbicides is required. Aston’s Eyot nature reserve, in east Oxford, was previously a rubbish dump, and since it was badly capped in the late 1940s Japanese knotweed established itself there, suppressing the growth of many other plants that would otherwise thrive. To combat this issue, the Friends of Aston’s Eyot, a group formed in 2010 to care for the nature reserve, decided to trial different approaches to management of knotweed. The trial area was divided into three; two of these were to be treated with glyphosate. In the third area knotweed was to be cut and its emerging shoots would be pulled out by hand. Claire Malone-Lee took responsibility for this third area, and in this article reflects on eleven years of manual control and demonstrates that it is possible, particularly on small sites or where knotweed is not overly dominant, to successfully eradicate Japanese knotweed without the use of herbicides.

When the Able Marine Energy Park project on the Humber Estuary was given the go-ahead, Roger Morris was concerned for the internationally important flock of black-tailed godwits that resided there, and the mudflats that they depended on. The final article in this issue, a viewpoint piece by Roger, asks if it is possible to create sustainable mudflats as a mitigation measure, and explains why it is difficult to stop or slow the process of mudflat becoming saltmarsh. He describes the processes behind saltmarsh and mudflat development, and addresses the different approaches that have and can be used for mudflat creation.

In this and every issue you can expect to see Briefing, keeping you up to date with the latest training courses, events and publications, and On the ground which provides helpful tips or updates on products relevant to land management. Other features, such as Review, which can include letters from readers or updates from our authors, also regularly appear in CLM.

CLM is published four times a year in March, June, September and December, and is available by subscription only, delivered straight to your door. Subscriptions start from £22 per year. If you would like to read any of these articles, back issues are also available to purchase individually (subject to availability).

If you are involved in a conservation project and think your experiences could be useful to other practitioners, we would love to hear from you. Feel free to contact us if you are interested in writing for CLM – we will be happy to discuss your ideas with you.

A guide to conservation land management and greenhouse gas emissions

Managing habitats for the benefit of wildlife can often contradict climate priorities. In the Summer 2022 issue of Conservation Land Management (CLM), Malcolm Ausden and Rob Field describe how different habitats and their maintenance impact the climate, and highlight the management practices that provide the greatest climate benefits. Here you can read a summary of the article.

Quantifying the impacts of habitat management on the climate

The influence of different habitats and their management on the climate can be measured by estimating the net flux of the most important greenhouse gases (GHGs): carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide. The contribution of the latter two is usually expressed in terms of the amount of CO2 needed to produce the same level of warming (tonnes of CO2 equivalent; t CO2e), as determined by global warming potential (GWP) of the different gases. A positive GWP indicates a positive warming effect, whereas a negative GWP shows a cooling effect. GWP values are usually expressed in comparison to the warming potential of CO2 over 100 years.

The effects of conservation land management on GHG flux

In the full CLM article, the authors describe the GHG flux of the main types of habitats in Britain, and how this is affected by conservation management. The habitats included are listed below, starting with those that produce the greatest overall warming effect on the climate, and finishing with those that have a cooling effect.

  • Intensive arable on organic soil 
  • Intensive grassland on organic soil
  • Eutrophic/mesotrophic open water
  • Lowland wet grassland on organic soil
  • Intensive arable on mineral soil (incl. emissions from farming operations)
  • Bare peat
  • Oligotrophic open water
  • Heather-dominated drained bog
  • Intensive arable on mineral soil (excl. emissions from farming operations)
  • Lowland and upland heathland
  • Unimproved low-input grassland (incl. LWG on mineral soil)
  • Near-natural bog
  • Improved grassland (excl. emissions from farming/livestock operations)
  • Near-natural fen
  • Mudflat
  • Conifer plantation on mineral soil (managed on a 55-year-rotation)
  • Saltmarsh
  • Dry broadleaved woodland (mean over first 100 years)
  • Wet woodland
  • Dry broadleaved woodland (mean over first 30 years)
Conifer plantations can have a cooling effect on the climate if grown on mineral soil and managed on a 55-year-rotation. Image by Andrew Arch via Flickr.

Intensive arable on organic soil (soils derived from peat) produces the biggest warming effect per unit area, as large quantities of CO2 are released via oxidation of dried-out peat that is repeatedly exposed during the cultivation process. The manufacture and use of nitrate fertilisers and the use of machinery also contributes to significant emissions of GHGs. At the other end of the spectrum is dry broadleaved woodland, particularly during the first 30 years after its establishment. The GHG flux of woodland fluctuates depending on its age, species composition, the density and growth rate of trees, and management. For unmanaged woodland, the net uptake of CO2 is low while trees are small, and planting of trees can even lead to a net release of CO2 as a result of soil disturbance. The rate of CO2 uptake increases during the main growth stage of the trees, slowing as they mature, although carbon does continue to accumulate in the soil.

Ways to benefit both the climate and wildlife

Conservation management can provide climate benefits either by reducing the amount of GHGs released into the atmosphere, or by actively removing them (i.e. carbon sequestration). For example, rewetting drained peatland reduces, and should eventually stop, the release of CO2 that occurs through the drying out and oxidation of peat. Although there is an initial release of methane after rewetting, accumulation of carbon in the peat will resume. The climate benefits per unit area of wet peatland are surprisingly low compared to some other types of habitat, but due to the large quantities of carbon stored within the vast expanse of peat in upland Britain, rewetting drained areas is an incredibly important measure to prevent the ongoing release of CO2, and will also provide a number of benefits for wildlife.   

On organic soils used for arable, the greatest climate benefits per unit area come by creating wet woodland, as this prevents the oxidation of the peat and allows carbon to accumulate during tree growth. There are, however, limited opportunities to create new wet woodland on ex-arable organic soils and to keep them adequately saturated. The next best option is the creation of swamp/fen, which offers far greater climate benefits than agriculturally drained peat soils, even though the habitat itself has an overall GWP100 near to zero.

Swamp/fens offer far greater climate benefits than agriculturally drained peat soils. Image by Liz West via Flickr

The authors look at multiple management approaches and describe the climate benefits of different types of habitat restoration and creation. All the methods listed below are beneficial for the climate, and are ordered here by the magnitude of their cooling effect, from the least to the greatest. 

  • Creating swamp/fen on ex-arable on mineral soil
  • Rewetting drained bog 
  • Creating lowland wet grassland on ex-arable on mineral soil
  • Creating intertidal habitat on ex-arable on mineral soil
  • Establishing broadleaved woodland on ex-arable on mineral soil
  • Creating lowland wet grassland on drained grassland on organic soil
  • Creating swamp/fen on drained grassland on organic soil
  • Creating lowland wet grassland on ex-arable on organic soil 
  • Creating swamp/fen on ex-arable on organic soil
  • Creating wet woodland on ex-arable on organic soil

A large aspect of the management of semi-natural habitats involves cutting and clearing vegetation in order to maintain a particular vegetation structure and to slow or reverse succession. But this means that the amount of carbon accumulated in the soil and vegetation is reduced. In addition, the removal of vegetation is often carried out by using domestic livestock, which release large quantities of methane, by machinery, which is often powered by fossil fuel or biofuel and releases CO2, or by burning, which also releases CO2

Domestic livestock release large quantities of methane. Image by USDA NRCS Montana via Flickr

But there are changes that can be made to management that can help contribute to a habitat’s cooling effect. For example, the amount of vegetation that is removed from a site can be reduced to allow more carbon to be stored in the vegetation or soil. In some instances this can mean allowing a site, such as a swamp/fen, to develop into woodland or scrub. This can contradict conservation goals where maintaining an early successional habitat is the priority, but can be an option for sites that are currently poor for wildlife. 

Another option is to change the method used to clear the vegetation. One way that this can be achieved is by swapping livestock for grazers that release less methane per quantity of vegetation removed. Ponies, for example, produce much lower levels of methane compared to cattle and sheep, although before changing the type of livestock it is important to understand that different livestock have different effects on vegetation structure and composition. In the full article, the authors explore this and other changes that site owners can make to increase the cooling effect of different habitats and their management.

It can be difficult for conservationists and land managers to know how to best manage a site in the interest of both nature conservation and the climate, and in many cases there are trade-offs between maximising the benefits for the two. But as the article demonstrates, there are restoration approaches that can be used that provide significant climate and conservation benefits, and it is helpful to consider and quantify the net flux of GHGs before implementing any changes to conservation management plans.

Other articles featured in the Summer 2022 issue include:

  • Saltmarsh restoration through flash re-creation
  • Measuring conservation success on farmland
  • Viewpoint: Dams without beavers: could beaver dam analogues yield benefits in the UK?

In this and every issue you can expect to see Briefing, keeping you up to date with the latest training courses, events and publications, and On the ground which provides helpful tips or updates on products relevant to land management. Other features that regularly appear in CLM include Viewpoint, a similar length to our main articles, but here authors can voice their own views on various conservation issues, and Review, which can include letters from readers or updates from our authors.

CLM is published four times a year in March, June, September and December, and is available by subscription only, delivered straight to your door. Subscriptions start from £22 per year. Previous back issues are also available to purchase individually (subject to availability).

If you are involved in a conservation project and think your experiences could be useful to other practitioners, we would love to hear from you. If you are interested in writing for CLM feel free to contact us – we will be happy to discuss your ideas with you.

Conservation news highlights from British Wildlife

The conservation news feature has been a fixture of British Wildlife since it first went to print in 1989, and continues to provide a roundup of the most important stories from the world of conservation in Britain and Ireland, covering campaigns, controversies, new initiatives, publications, and policy developments, all accompanied by expert commentary and analysis. 

Here we look back at recent issues of British Wildlife and highlight some of the key stories covered in conservation news, as well as in the main articles, from the past six months. 

February 2022 issue

  • In January, the Environmental Audit Committee issued the output from an inquiry into water quality in rivers. The overarching conclusion was that the ‘chemical cocktail of sewage, slurry and plastic polluting English rivers puts public health and nature at risk’.
  • In 2018, a team from the RSPB discussed in British Wildlife how the Landscapes Review (unpublished at that time) could provide the chance to instal nature at the heart of management of protected landscapes in England. The government responded to the review and opened a consultation; in a recent article David Hampson, Policy Officer at RSPB, analyses the response and highlights opportunities for improvement.
  • On 1st January, Defra issued an updated general licence for bird control in England. This led to further confusion regarding the definition of ‘livestock’ and the timing of when gamebirds are classed as livestock or wildlife.

April 2022 issue

  • The current outbreak of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI), which was first detected in captive birds in October 2022, is the largest and most severe on record and continues to impact captive birds and a number of wild bird species.  
  • There is an abundance of proposals to build new major infrastructure, housing estates, leisure and business parks on open countryside. A report published by the RSPB in February revealed that there were more than 8,000 live planning applications within 500m of an SSSI in July 2021.

May 2022 issue

  • On 13th April the government announced that the benthic habitats of Dogger Bank and three other Marine Protected Areas are to be legally protected from all forms of bottom trawling and demersal seine nets. 
  • An increasing number of raptors, including a White-tailed Eagle Haliaeetus albicilla in Dorset this spring, have been found dead in recent years, having ingested the rodenticide brodifacoum, an anticoagulant designed to kill rats. In 2020, 23 raptors were found across England, while 25 were recorded in the first half of 2021. In previous years the numbers had been in single figures.
  • The new Natural History GCSE was formally announced on 21st April, 11 years since the idea was first proposed.

June 2022 issue 

  • National Highways, together with the Wildlife Trusts, have launched a new £6 million Network for Nature programme that will create and restore habitats across England.
  • The Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill was introduced in May, and will see the replacement of the current environmental assessment process with Environmental Outcomes Reports. 
  • Somerset Wetlands, England’s second ‘super’ National Nature Reserve (NNR), was declared on 19th May, the 70th anniversary of the creation of NNRs.

British Wildlife is a subscription-only magazine published eight times per year: visit www.britishwildlife.com or email info@britishwildlife.com for more information. Individual subscriptions start from just £40 – you can subscribe online or by phone (01803 467166).

The NHBS Guide to UK Hoverflies: Part 2

Hoverflies, of the insect family Syrphidae, are often to be found hovering around flowers and, for this reason, are known as flower flies in many parts of the world. The adults of most species feed largely on nectar and pollen making them important pollinators. Their larvae eat a range of foods; some feed on decaying plant and animal matter whilst others are important predators of aphids, thrips and other insects commonly considered to be ‘crop pests’. Although completely harmless to humans and other mammals, many hoverfly species mimic stinging wasps or bees in an effort to protect themselves from predation.

This is the second instalment in our two part guide to UK hoverflies, in which we cover many of the common species that you are likely to encounter in your garden or local outdoor space. Part one can be found here.

Eristalis pertinax

Distribution: Widespread throughout Britain and Ireland.
Habitat: E. pertinax can be found in a number of habitats, including woodlands, gardens and moorland. 
What to look for: Similar in size and appearance to E. tenax (see The NHBS guide to UK hoverflies: Part 1), the easiest character to use to identify this species is the yellow tarsi (the last segments of the leg) on the front and middle legs. The abdomen tapers towards the end, giving it a triangular shape that can also help to separate this species from E. tenax
Months active: March to November, with peaks in both May and August.
Did you know: This is one of the first species to emerge in the spring, when males can often be seen defending territories in woodland rides and around flowers. 

Eristalis pertinax. Image by Gail Hampshire via Flickr.

The Eristalis genus includes a number of common species that are likely to be encountered in gardens, such as E. pertinax and E. arbustorum. The May issue of British Wildlife magazine includes an article by Roger Morris and Stuart Ball that provides an introduction to the Eristalis genus, and includes an identification key to the ten Eristalis species that occur in the UK. 

Baccha elongata

Distribution: Widespread throughout Britain and Ireland, although less common in parts of Scotland.
Habitat: Prefers shaded spots, such as woodland margins and hedgerows.
What to look for: Although generally overlooked due to its small size, B. elongata is unmistakable because of its long, slender, wasp-like abdomen.
Months active: April to November, with peaks in both May and September.
Did you know: Unlike many other hoverflies, B. elongata is rarely seen basking in sunlit areas but tends to be found in low, shaded vegetation. The predatory larvae feed on a number of aphid species, such as Nettle Aphid and Bramble Aphid.

Baccha elongata. Image by Frank Vassen via Flickr.

Episyrphus balteatus

Distribution: Widespread throughout Britain and Ireland.
Habitat: A wide range of habitats, including gardens and woodlands.
What to look for: Episyrphus balteatus, often known as the Marmalade Hoverfly, is an easily recognisable species and one of the most common hoverflies in the UK  – it won’t take too long for you to spot this regular garden visitor. Each of the abdominal segments has two black bands separated by orange bands. This pattern is unique to this species, but the overall colouration of individuals can vary depending on the temperature at which the larvae develop. 
Months active: Individuals can be recorded in all months of the year, but there is usually a peak in numbers in July.  
Did you know: The arrival of huge numbers of migrants from mainland Europe can sometimes lead to reports in the media of a mass influx of ‘wasps’. 

Episyrphus balteatus. Image by Gail Hampshire via Flickr.

Scaeva pyrastri

Distribution: Widespread in England, Wales and Ireland, but much less common in Scotland.
Habitat: Can be found in a variety of habitats, including gardens and woodlands.
What to look for: White, comma-shaped spots on the abdomen are a key identification feature, but completely black individuals can occur. 
Months active: May to November, with a peak in August.
Did you know: S. pyrastri is a migratory species and its numbers in Britain vary greatly between years.  

Scaeva pyrastri. Image by Frank Vassen via Flickr.

Leucozona lucorum

Distribution: Widespread throughout Britain and Ireland, although less abundant in northern Scotland.
Habitat: Woodland rides and edges, and hedgerows.
What to look for: The black wing clouds and broad creamy markings on the second abdominal segment are distinctive characteristics of this species. Confusion can occur with the similar Cheliosa illustrata, but the yellow scutellum (a shield-shaped segment behind the thorax) of L. lucorum will help with identification. 
Months active: Between May and August, with a peak in May and June.
Did you know: L. lucorum is primarily a spring species, but in some years there is a second generation in midsummer. 

Leucozona lucorum. Image by Gail Hampshire via Flickr.

Helophilus pendulus

Distribution: Widespread throughout Britain and Ireland.
Habitat: A wide range of habitats, including gardens.
What to look for: A very eye-catching hoverfly with pale, longitudinal stripes on its thorax and a yellow face with a dark central stripe. It is possible to confuse this species with H. hybridus, although the yellow markings on the second and third abdominal segments are separated by a black band. 
Months active: Between April and November with a peak in July.
Did you know: H. pendulus is commonly seen basking on leaves and often produces a buzzing sound while doing so. 

Helophilus pendulus. Image by Nick Goodrum via Flickr.

Syritta pipiens

Distribution: Widespread in Britain and Ireland, although less abundant in parts of northern Scotland.
Habitat: A variety of habitats and common in gardens.
What to look for: Despite being a small, slender species, S. pipiens is instantly recognisable by the swollen hind femora. The sides of the thorax are also dusted grey.  
Months active: April to November, but more abundant in late summer. 
Did you know: Male S. pipiens are highly territorial and will force each other to move backwards and forwards until one admits defeat and gives up. 

Syritta pipiens. Image by Chris via Flickr.

Volucella zonaria

Distribution: Widespread in southern England and parts of Wales.
Habitat: A variety of habitats, including gardens and parks in urban areas
What to look for: Britain’s largest hoverfly, this species is often known as the Hornet Hoverfly due to the strong yellow-and-black bands on the abdomen and the impressive size (wing length can be between 15.5mm and 19.5mm). The only other hoverfly that V. zonaria could be confused with is V. inanis, but the latter is largely yellow underneath whereas V. zonaria is chestnut coloured with broad black bands. 
Months active: May to November, with a peak in August. 
Did you know: V. zonaria is a relatively recent addition to the British fauna. It first colonised the south of England in the 1930s and its range is rapidly expanding. The larvae live in the nests of social wasps, such as the Hornet and Common Wasp. 

Volucella zonaria. Image by Tim Worfolk via Flickr.

Sphaerophoria scripta

Distribution: Widespread in England and Wales, but only recorded from the east coast of Ireland and less abundant in northern England and Scotland. 
Habitat: Grasslands.
What to look for: Identifying individual species in the Sphaerophoria genus, particularly females, can be extremely difficult. Male S. scripta can be easier to identify as the abdomen is much longer than the wings and has broad yellow bands, although the markings can vary. Confusion can occur with S. batava and S. taeniata, as these two species also have yellow bands; examination of the male genitalia is the only way to determine identification. 
Months active: Between April and November, with a peak in July and August
Did you know: This is the most common Sphaerophoria species and is often found in grassland. There is no resident population in northern Britain, but numbers are boosted in some years by an influx of migrant individuals. 

Sphaerophoria scripta. Image by Sebastien Faillon via Flickr.

Chrysotoxum bicinctum

Distribution: Widespread in Ireland and southern England, but less common in northern England and Scotland. 
Habitat: Open grasslands and grassy woodland rides.
What to look for: The yellow bars on the second and fourth abdominal segment and the chocolate-brown patches on the wings make this wasp mimic instantly recognisable. 
Months active: May to September, with a peak between June and August. 
Did you know: Members of the Chrysotoxum genus are easy to recognise due to their long antennae which point forwards. Other hoverfly groups with similar antennae do not have the yellow-and-black markings of Chrysotoxum.  

Chrysotoxum bicinctum. Image by Martin Andersson via Wikipedia.

Cheilosia illustrata

Distribution: Widespread throughout Britain and Ireland, although less abundant in the north-east of Scotland.
Habitat: Hedgerows and woodland edges where umbellifers such as Hogweed or Angelica are present.
What to look for: Not an entirely believable bumblebee mimic, C. illustrata has a band of pale hairs at the end of the abdomen and dark wing clouds. It is possible to mistake this species for Leucozona lucorum, but the black face and black scutellum of C. illustrata help to distinguish it.
Months active: April to September, peaking in July.
Did you know: The larvae of this species mine the roots and stems of large Hogweed plants and the adults are often observed feeding on the flowers. 

Cheilosia illustrata. Image by S. Rae via Flickr.

Recommended books and equipment

Britain’s Hoverflies: A Field Guide
£17.99 £24.99

A beautifully illustrated photographic field guide to the hoverflies of Britain, focusing on the species that can be most readily identified.

 

 

British Hoverflies: An Illustrated Identification Guide
£37.50

In this classic work by Stubbs and Falk, 276 species are described. Their identification is made easy by the extensive keys which incorporate over 640 line drawings.

 

60ml Collecting Pot
From £0.35

These small sampling containers are made from see-through polypropylene and have secure screw-on lids. They are ideal for the temporary storage of specimens.

 

 

Opticron Hand Lens (10x 23mm)
£12.95 £14.95

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

 

Sweep Net
£31.99

This high-quality sweep net is designed for catching insects and other bugs from long grass and shrubs

 

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

The NHBS Guide to UK Hoverflies: Part 1

With approximately 7,000 species, the Diptera (true flies) are one of the biggest insect orders in Britain and Ireland, second only to Hymenoptera (the bees, wasps and ants). Of these species, over 280 belong to the family Syrphidae, the hoverflies. Known as ‘flower flies’ in other parts of the world, hoverflies are frequent visitors to flowering plants and are a familiar sight in our gardens and woodlands, and a wide range of other habitats. You would be forgiven for mistaking a hoverfly for a bee or wasp, as some species are amazing mimics in terms of both their appearance and behaviour, although some are more convincing than others.

Hoverflies are important, and often overlooked, pollinators, and their larval stages are incredibly diverse. Some larvae are predatory, feeding on aphids or eating grubs within the nests of ants, social bees or wasps, while others feed on the roots, stems or leaves of plants, or on dead and decaying organic matter, such as rotting wood or material collected in rot holes in trees.

Although many hoverflies are brightly coloured or distinctively patterned, there are plenty of inconspicuous species that resemble flies in other families. The first step is therefore to determine that a fly is in fact a hoverfly. In general hoverflies lack the strong bristles we see in other flies, such as the house fly, but the key characteristic is their wing venation. Unlike other flies, hoverflies have a ‘false vein’ on their wing, and although this is a difficult feature to get an eye for initially, it can be obvious in good photos and becomes easier to spot with practice. Another clue is in the name; hoverflies are remarkable fliers and many species are able to hold their position in flight for an incredible length of time.

Hoverfly identification can be difficult, and in some cases it is necessary to inspect a specimen under a microscope for a positive ID. There are many garden visitors that are more straightforward, however, and with a good field guide, a hand lens and a camera to take clear photos with, you can easily get started in learning more about this attractive group of insects. There are fantastic resources online too, such as the UK Hoverflies group on Facebook, which provides help with identification and allows members to share their observations.

This is the first of two hoverfly identification guides, and in both of these blogs we will be covering the more common species that you are likely to encounter in your garden or local patch.

Eristalis tenax

Distribution: Widespread throughout Britain and Ireland. E. tenax is thought to be the most widespread hoverfly species in the world.
Habitat: A wide range of habitats including gardens, woodlands and meadows.
What to look for: A convincing honey-bee mimic that can be easily told from other species of Eristalis by three obvious characteristics: a thickened, curved hind tibia; a broad, dark facial stripe; and vertical stripes of dark hairs on the eyes.
Months active:
Present throughout the year, but most frequently recorded between February and April, and June and November.
Did you know:
Females hibernate over the winter, and males are increasingly being recorded hibernating during warmer winters in southern England. The aquatic larvae, or ‘rat-tailed maggots’, live in wet, decaying vegetation

Eristalis tenax by gailhampshire via Flickr

The Eristalis genus includes a number of common species that are likely to be encountered in gardens, such as E. pertinax and E. arbustorum. The May issue of British Wildlife magazine includes an article by Roger Morris and Stuart Ball that provides an introduction to the Eristalis genus, and includes an identification key to the ten Eristalis species that occur in the UK.

Myathropa florea

Distribution: Widespread throughout Britain and Ireland.
Habitat: A variety of habitats, but found in woodlands especially.
What to look for: Similar to some Eristalis species, Myathropea florea is a distinctive black-and-yellow species with a bat-like pattern on its thorax, although this can vary and cause confusion in less clearly marked individuals.

Months active: April to October.
Did you know: Like other species in the Eristalini tribe, M. florea larvae are known as ‘rat-tailed maggots’ and are found in wet hollows containing decaying vegetation, although they have been reported making use of any containers holding water and dead vegetation, such as buckets or water butts.

Myathropa florea by Alastair Rae via Flickr
Syrphus ribesii

Distribution: Widespread throughout Britain and Ireland.
Habitat: A number of habitats including woodlands, gardens and hedgerows.
What to look for: Females can be easily identified by their completely yellow hind femora, although males are harder to distinguish from two other common Syrphus species, S. torvus and S. vitripennis. Male S. ribesii can be separated from S. torvus by their bare eyes, but a microscope is needed to reliably separate males of S. ribesii and S. vitripennis

Months active: From March to November, with peaks in May–June and July–September. 
Did you know: Male S. ribesii will emit a noticeable humming noise from tree canopies, caused by vibrating their wings at a high frequency when resting. 

Syrphus ribesii (Female) by Martin Cooper via Flickr
Merodon equestris

Distribution: Widespread in Britain and Ireland, but less abundant in parts of Scotland.
Habitat: Often recorded in gardens and urban areas.
What to look for: A hairy bumblebee mimic that has swollen hind femora with triangular projections – a characteristic unique among bumblebee mimics. M. equestris can occur in a range of colour forms to mimic different bumblebee species. 
Months active: Between April and September, with a peak in late May and early June.
Did you know: The larvae develop in the bulbs of many different bulb-forming plants, but they are especially associated with daffodils and can be a pest in some cases. They are thought to have been introduced to Britain in the 19th century in daffodil bulbs. 

Merodon equestris by Orangeaurochs via Flickr
Platycheirus albimanus

Distribution: Widespread throughout Britain and Ireland.
Habitat: Woodland edges and hedgerows, and often seen in gardens.
What to look for: Females are easier to recognise due to their yellow legs and silver spots on their black abdomen. Males tend to have bronze-coloured spots, a front tibia that is significantly broader at the end, and front femora that have distinctive clumps of long hairs. It is possible to confuse males with similar species such as P. aurolateralis, P. scutatus, and P. splendidus, and so close examination of the legs is required. 
Months active: Between March and November, with peaks between May and June, and July and August.
Did you know: A common garden visitor, particularly in spring, P. albimanus is often found in low vegetation such as nettles or brambles.

Platycheirus albimanus (female) by S. Rae via Flickr
Platycheirus albimanus (male) by Martin Cooper via Flickr
Eupeodes corollae

Distribution: Widespread in Britain, although less abundant in northern Scotland.
Habitat: Recorded in almost any habitat, from gardens to mountain tops.
What to look for: Males and females are quite different in appearance, but both have broad yellow markings that reach the edges of the abdomen. The males also have an obvious genital capsule. 
Months active: March to November, with a peak between July and August.
Did you know: E. corollae is found in a wide variety of habitats. An influx of migrants or a mass emergence of individuals results in a peak in numbers in midsummer.

Eupeodes corollae (male) by S. Rae via Flickr
Eupeodes corollae (female) by gailhampshire via Flickr
Melanostoma mellinum

Distribution: Widespread throughout Britain and Ireland.
Habitat: Grasslands. 
What to look for: It is easy to confuse this species with M. scalare, and so close examination is required. In females, the top of the head is a shining black with very narrow dust spots by the eyes, while the abdomen has distinctive yellow markings. Males have a relatively short abdomen and the second and third segments are as wide as they are long. 
Months active: April to October, with peaks in May–June and July–August. 
Did you know: This is one of the most common hoverfly species in the UK and is often recorded from grasslands, although it can also be found in high numbers in the uplands such as on moorland or mountainsides. 

Melanostoma mellinum by Martin Cooper via Flickr
Chrysogaster solstitialis

Distribution: Widespread in Britain and Ireland, but rare in parts of northern Scotland.
Habitat: Woodlands, road verges and hedgerows.
What to look for: A small, dark hoverfly (even the wings are dark) with bright red eyes. Confusion can occur with other Chrysogaster species, or even small house flies.
Months active: May to October, with a peak in July and August.
Did you know: A common woodland species, particularly in damp and shady locations. C. solstitialis is often seen in concentrated numbers on umbellifers such as Hogweed and Angelica. 

Chrysogaster solstitialis by Lukas Large via Flickr
Rhingia campestris

Distribution: Widespread throughout Britain and Ireland.
Habitat: Woodlands and field edges, but found in a variety of habitats.
What to look for: The long snout and orange abdomen make this an unmistakable species. The only potential for confusion is with the UK’s other Rhingia species, R. rostrata, but the dark edges of the abdomen and overall darker colouration of R. campestris are distinctive.
Months active: April to October, with peaks between May and June, and August to September. 
Did you know: The long snout allows R. campestris to feed on plants with deep tubes, such as bluebells, which other hoverflies cannot use. The larvae breed in cow dung, although other breeding habitats are also thought to be used as adults can occur in high numbers where there are few or no cattle. 

Rhingia campestris (male) by S. Rae via Flickr
Sericomyia silentis

Distribution: Widespread in Britain and Ireland, although absent from central England and scarce in south-east England.
Habitat: Acidic, boggy habitats, such as wetlands and heathlands.
What to look for: A large wasp mimic with distinctive black-and-yellow banding – it is very unlikely that this species would be confused with any other hoverfly. 
Months active: May to November, with a peak in July.
Did you know: This is a very mobile species, which is often found far from breeding sites. It visits a range of plants, but seems to have a preference for red or purple flowers, such as Devil’s-bit Scabious. 

Sericomyia silentis by Frank Vassen via Flickr
Ferdinandea cuprea

Distribution: Widespread in Ireland, Wales and southern England, but rarely occurs in high numbers.
Habitat: Woodland.
What to look for: Easily recognisable, F. cuprea has a metallic, brassy abdomen with grey longitudinal stripes on the thorax. The thorax also has strong bristles on its side, which is quite uncommon for a hoverfly.
Months active: March to November, with a peak in June.
Did you know: F. cuprea is rarely seen visiting flowers, and is more likely to be seen basking on tree trunks, wooden posts or even telegraph poles.

Ferdinandea cuprea by Frank Vassen via Flickr



Suggested reading and equipment:

Britain’s Hoverflies: A Field Guide

£24.99

 

 

 

 

British Hoverflies: An Illustrated Identification Guide

£37.50 

 

 

 

60ml Collecting Pots

£0.35

 

 

 

 

Opticron Hand Lens 23mm 10x Magnification

£12.95 £14.95

 

Sweep Net

£31.99

 

 

 

All prices correct at the time of this article’s publication.

Environmental DNA for Ecologists

In the Spring 2022 issue of Conservation Land Management (CLM) Dr Helen Rees, Director of the Biotechnology group at ADAS, provides an introduction to environmental DNA (eDNA) analysis and its potential uses in conservation. Here you can read a summary of the article.

Animals naturally shed DNA into the environment via, for example, faeces, saliva, urine and skin cells, and this DNA (collectively known as eDNA), can be extracted from environmental samples, such as water, sediment and soil, for genetic analysis. It is possible to screen for species-specific DNA in these samples, and its successful detection determines the recent presence of the target species at the site from which the sample was collected. eDNA analysis therefore offers a non-invasive method for ecological surveys, and as DNA can persist in the environment from a few days to a couple of weeks, it can be used to indicate that a species has visited a site even after it has moved on.

Pros and cons of the technique
30ml ladle used to collect water samples. Image credit: Claire Baker

One of the main advantages of eDNA analysis is that the target species does not have to be caught, disturbed or even seen to get a positive identification. Not only is this method less invasive for the animal, but it also saves the surveyor a great deal of time in the field when monitoring species that are elusive, rare or require a licence to survey. It can also be a cost-effective method in comparison to traditional techniques, mainly due to the simplicity of collecting samples and the low-cost sampling equipment used.

eDNA analysis has proven to be a robust technique, but errors can occur. If there is any cross contamination between samples either in the field or the laboratory, for instance, this can lead to false-positive results, and so a carefully controlled laboratory set up is imperative to prevent contamination during the different stages of eDNA analysis.

How eDNA analysis is used – great crested newts
Water samples added to tubes of preserving fluid. Image credit: Claire Baker

One of the most well-known examples of how eDNA is being used in the UK is for the detection of the great crested newt. A study commissioned by Natural England and led by the Freshwater Habitats Trust demonstrated a detection rate of 99% for eDNA testing, but only 76%, 75% and 44% for bottle trapping, torching and egg searching respectively. eDNA techniques are particularly useful when used on ‘borderline’ ponds where the presence of great crested newts is unlikely based on the habitat. In this instance, a negative eDNA result quickly confirms this assumption, but traditional bottle-trapping/torching surveys would need to be repeated multiple times to confirm that newts are absent.

In the full article Helen describes how eDNA analysis works behind the scenes in the laboratory, including an explanation of how the polymerase chain reaction – a key part of eDNA analysis – works and how its results are interpreted. The advantages and drawbacks of using eDNA are discussed in greater detail, and further examples of how this technique is applied to the survey of other species are also given.

Image credit: Helen Rees
ADAS eDNA kits

NHBS has partnered with ADAS to provide you with the kits and analysis you need for the 2022 season. ADAS is the only laboratory to correctly identify all samples in every great crested newt eDNA proficiency test to date, and can also provide analysis to identify bat species from collected droppings. A range of services are available under a tiered pricing system to ensure that you get your results when you need them. Take a look at the kit options below to find out more.

Great Crested Newt eDNA Kit
Each kit includes:

  • Protocol sheet
  • Sterile 30ml ladle
  • Sterile bag
  • Sterile plastic pippette
  • 2 x Sterile gloves
  • 6 x Conical tubes, 2/3 full of preserving fluid

Bat Genotyping (eDNA) Kit
Each kit includes:

  • 8 x Screw top Eppendorf tubes
  • 4 x Sterile forceps
  • 4 x Sterile gloves
  • Sample record sheet
  • Return postage label
Other articles featured in the Spring 2022 issue include:
  • Habitat translocations: risks, advantages and key considerations, by John Box
  • Conserving breeding goldeneye in Scotland through nestbox construction, by Peter Cosgrove, Kate Massey, Dawn Anderson and Donald Shields
  • Godney Marshes: small-scale rewilding in the Somerset Levels, by Alasdair Cameron
  • Consideration for tree management in urban areas, by Steve Cox
  • Review: Author’s update – The new Environmental Land Management scheme

In this and every issue you can expect to see Briefing, keeping you up to date with the latest training courses, events and publications, and On the ground which provides helpful tips or updates on products relevant to land management. Other features that regularly appear in CLM include Viewpoint, a similar length to our main articles, but here authors can voice their own views on various conservation issues, and Review, which can include letters from readers or updates from our authors.

CLM is published four times a year in March, June, September and December, and is available by subscription only, delivered straight to your door. Subscriptions start from £22 per year. Previous back issues are also available to purchase individually (subject to availability).

If you are involved in a conservation project and think your experiences could be useful to other practitioners, we would love to hear from you. If you are interested in writing for CLM feel free to contact us – we will be happy to discuss your ideas with you.

2022 Herpetofauna Workers Meeting: Part 1

Invasive non-native species cost the UK approximately £122 million per year and are a huge driver of biodiversity decline worldwide. There are a surprising number of non-native reptile and amphibian species in the UK, from non-breeding released pet terrapins to established populations of midwife toads, although the impact of some of these species on our native wildlife is not yet fully understood.

The first part of the 2022 Herpetofauna Workers Meeting included a number of talks that discussed the latest research on introduced reptile and amphibian species in the UK, including the Aesculapian Snake in Wales and the Alpine Newt in Northern Ireland. We were pleased to be able to attend and take part in this event again this year, and below is summary of some of the fascinating talks from what was an interesting and informative afternoon.

The Aesculapian Snake

The Aesculapian Snake Zamenis longissimus is a non-venomous species found across southern and central Europe, with relic populations in northern Europe. Although not native to the UK, there are two known introduced populations, one on the grounds of the Welsh Mountain Zoo in Colwyn Bay, Wales, and another along Regents Canal in London. There is also a possible third population in Bridgend in South Wales, but this is unconfirmed as of yet. Tom Major from the University of Bangor is using radio telemetry to study the population at Colwyn Bay to understand how this species is surviving, and he has gained some incredible insights into the ecology of the Aesculapian Snake over the past year.

Aesculapian snake by Mircea Nita via Flickr

While tracking nine adult individuals he found that on average the snakes travel the distance of approximately three and a half rugby pitches, and tend to visit one particular place where they stay for roughly four days before setting off again. This seemed to be anywhere that was warm and dry, from a chapel roof to a compost heap. By the end of the tracking period four individuals were still alive. Buzzards, stoats and cars were the reasons behind a few of the deaths, but one interesting cause was cannibalism – one tracked snake was recorded being eaten by another tracked individual, the first known occurrence of this behaviour in this species.

Turtle Tally

Reptiles and amphibians are becoming increasingly popular pets, but a lack of knowledge of their complicated care requirements or an unexpected change in an owner’s circumstances, amongst other reasons, can lead to the intentional release of these exotic animals into the wild. In order to gain an understanding of the distribution and impact of released pet terrapins in the UK in particular, Turtle Tally UK is a nationwide citizen science project that calls for the general public to submit their own terrapin sightings and photos. During her talk, Turtle Tally project lead Suzie Simpson shared some of the findings since the project began in 2019. Each year since has seen an increase in the number of sightings submitted, and hotspots have become apparent in London, Cardiff, Swansea and Liverpool. Yellow-bellied and Red-eared Slider were amongst the most frequently recorded species, and generally only one individual was recorded per sighting.

Red-Eared Slider by Jim, the Photographer via Flickr

When they are out of water, terrapins are usually spotted on logs, rocks and even litter – any raised platform in a water body that they can use for basking. This also includes the nests of waterbirds, but so far there has been no evidence that these terrapins show signs of aggression to waterbirds, or that they predate on chicks. Some species, such as snappers and soft shells, would be more of a concern, however, and the Turtle Tally UK project aims to continue to collect data to further our understanding about the impacts of released pet terrapins on native wildlife. Egg laying has been observed on occasion, but due to the UK’s cooler climate, reproduction is very rarely successful. However climate change could result in more suitable conditions for breeding in the future.

The Alpine Newt in Northern Ireland

The Smooth Newt is Ireland’s only native species of newt and, with its distinctive orange belly and spotted pattern, it is easily recognisable. In September 2020, a strange looking newt was found in Northern Ireland during a bat survey. With a similarly orange belly, but without the spotted markings on its underside and darker in colour, this particular individual did not match the description of a Smooth Newt. It was soon confirmed that this was an Alpine Newt, a species found in Europe but not native to the UK. The discovery of this species is a particular concern as the Alpine Newt is a known vector of chytrid fungus. Rob Gondola, Ryan Boyle and Éinne Ó Cathasaigh provided an update of the consequent Alpine Newt surveys that took place during the following summer in 2021. Thankfully, all the swabs that were taken to test for diseases have come back negative, and they were able to determine the presence of two established populations. Further surveys and testing are hoped to continue in 2022.

Alpine newt by stanze via Flickr
Our thoughts

There were a number of other talks throughout the conference, from the ongoing study of midwife toads in the UK (another non-native species that was introduced over 100 years ago) to the impact of climate change on UK herpetofauna. This was an enlightening and fascinating afternoon and we look forward to Part 2 of the 2022 Herpetofauna Workers Meeting later on in the year. The date and location of the event will be confirmed at a future date, but any details will be made available on the ARC or ARG UK website. A recording of Part 1 will also be made available – keep an eye on the ARC website for further details.

Cardboard tree guards: a suitable and sustainable alternative to plastic?

In the forthcoming Winter 2021 issue of Conservation Land Management (CLM) magazine Jenny Price and Lyndsay Wayman-Rook describe how the Old Chalk New Downs project in Kent has been trialling biodegradable cardboard tree guards as an alternative to plastic. Here you can read a summary of the article.

The main purpose of a tree guard is to protect newly planted trees from browsing, but they also provide other benefits; they create a more favourable microclimate that helps to promote the growth of young trees and protect the plants from wind, competing vegetation, herbicides and water loss. Wooden and wire tree guards have been in use since the 1820s, but it wasn’t until the 1980s that plastic versions were first used. As a cheaper material compared to alternatives, plastic is now widely used for guards in planting schemes.

It has been predicted that between 1980 and 2020 over 200 million plastic tree guards were used, and with the UK government’s ambitious target to increase woodland cover by 19% by 2050, the rate of tree planting is sure to increase, as will the number of tree guards used. It is recommended that plastic tree guards are removed 2–3 years after their installation, but they are often left behind to degrade in the landscape, which can be both damaging to the wider environment (although the impacts of this are not yet fully understood) and to the tree itself. It is possible to recycle plastic polymer guards, but not if they have already started to break down or are contaminated.

Cardboard tree guards offer a viable alternative to plastic. Lyndsay Wayman-Rook and Hannah Simmons

The Old Chalk New Downs project, hosted by Kent County Council and funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, has been exploring alternative options to plastic tree guards. It first compared the costs of different materials, including plastic, cardboard and biodegradable plastic, and looked at the pros and cons for each guard type. For instance, one of the advantages of a cardboard guard is that it does not need to be removed after installation, but it may deteriorate a lot faster than other guard types, especially in particularly wet areas.

Biodegradable tree guard options Lyndsay Wayman-Rook

It was decided that cardboard guards would be used for this particular project, owing to their no-plastic design and availability. Between autumn 2019 and spring 2021, more than 9,000 trees with cardboard guards were planted across seven hedgerows at three different sites. How these fared was closely monitored, and the success rate of planting was high. One key aspect of this project was to gather feedback from landowners and contractors involved in sourcing and using the cardboard guards, and overall the comments were positive.

In the full article Jenny Price and Lyndsay Wayman-Rook discuss how the cost of tree guards made from plastic, biodegradable plastic and cardboard compare, and provide an in-depth overview of how cardboard guards performed when used for hedge planting, both in this project and in examples from elsewhere. They also include a summary of the feedback received from landowners and contractors, and clearly describe the advantages and disadvantages of different tree guard options.

Plastic tree guards are commonly used in planting schemes. Lyndsay Wayman-Rook

Other articles featured in the Winter 2021 issue include:

  • RSPB Nigg Bay: Scotland’s first coastal realignment
  • Helping to make and document conservation decisions: the Evidence-to-Decision tool
  • The Stage Zero approach – lessons from North America on restoring river, wetland and floodplain habitats
  • Viewpoint: Plant fewer, better: good tree and shrub establishment

In this and every issue you can expect to see Briefing, keeping you up to date with the latest training courses, events and publications, and On the ground which provides helpful tips or updates on products relevant to land management. Other features that regularly appear in CLM include Viewpoint, a similar length to our main articles, but here authors can voice their own views on various conservation issues, and Review, which can include letters from readers or updates from our authors.

CLM is published four times a year in March, June, September and December, and is available by subscription only, delivered straight to your door. Subscriptions start from £22 per year. Previous back issues are also available to purchase individually (subject to availability). Current subscribers can expect to receive their copy of the Winter 2021 issue in the next couple of weeks.

If you are involved in a conservation project and think your experiences could be useful to other practitioners, we would love to hear from you. If you are interested in writing for CLM feel free to contact us – we will be happy to discuss your ideas with you.

British Wildlife Book Reviews

British Wildlife has featured book reviews since the very first magazine back in 1989. These reviews provide in-depth critiques of the most important new titles in natural history publishing, from nature-writing bestsellers to technical identification handbooks. They are all authored by experts in relevant subjects, which ensures an honest and insightful appraisal of each book featured.

Since 2018 every review included in the magazine is available to read on the British Wildlife website. Here are ten titles that have featured so far in some of the recent issues of British Wildlife, all with links to take you directly to the full review.

1. Beak, Tooth and Claw: Living with Predators by  Mary Colwell

“She walked and travelled through the farms and uplands of Britain and Ireland. She talked to people on both sides of the divide – sheep-farmers, salmonfishers, raven-tamers, writers, scientists, conservationists, gamekeepers. She watched her chosen predators in the field and noted how they ‘fit into the landscape’.”

Reviewed by Peter Marren in the June 2021 issue (BW 32.7) – read the review here

2. Broomrapes of Britain & Ireland by Chris Thorogood & Fred Rumsey

“This monograph has been meticulously proofread, and is neatly laid out, well printed and generally excellent. I am particularly grateful to the authors for finally nailing down a violet-coloured broomrape which I found, years ago, growing on the seashore near Sandwich.”

Reviewed by Peter Marren in the August 2021 issue (BW 32.8) – read the review here

 

3. Much Ado About Mothing: A Year Intoxicated by Britain’s rare and Remarkable Moths by James Lowen

“Most of his literary energy lies in individualising the moths. He is a generous and imaginative, and, yes, ‘intoxicated’ describer. The quest has barely got going before we are introduced to the Pale Tussock’s ‘shag-pile furriness’ and the male Muslin Moth’s ‘grey mad-professor hair’.”

Reviewed by Peter Marren in the August 2021 issue (BW 32.8 – read the review here

 

4. Butterflies by Martin Warren

“In summary, I have nothing but praise for this book. Anyone interested in butterflies, and especially those involved with sites where butterflies are a significant presence, should read it. It is beautifully produced and printed.”

Reviewed by Bob Gibbons in the August 2021 issue (BW 32.8) – read the review here

5. International Treaties in Nature Conservation: A UK Perspective by David Stroud et al.

“It is therefore authoritative and densely packed, yet commendably succinct, well paced and easy to read. Inevitably specialist, it is nevertheless a compelling read and will become a worthy source of reference for years to come.”

Reviewed by Anthony Fox in the October 2021 issue (BW 33.1) – read the review here

 

6. Why Nature Conservation Isn’t Working: Understanding Wildlife in the Modern World by Adrian Spalding

“We deliberately choose big, glamorous species to release simply because we like them. Spalding thinks that all this is wrong, that wild species have an existence entirely separate from Homo sapiens in time and space, in their lives, in their habitat, and in their evolutionary and historical past (and future).”

Reviewed by Peter Marren in the October 2021 issue (BW 33.1) – read the review here

7. Human, Nature: A Naturalist’s Thoughts on Wildlife and Wild Places by Ian Carter

“As Ian Carter puts it, the many and varied connections he has with nature play a significant part in making his life feel worthwhile. They have provided the material for the journals he has kept over three decades, and form the substance of this book. His thoughts on the conundrums and contradictions in the way humans interact with wildlife build into a thoughtful and timely look at contemporary relationships between people and nature.”

Reviewed by James Robertson in the October 2021 issue (BW 33.1) – read the review here

8. Ecology and Natural History by David M. Wilkinson

“Although it is clearly written, and eschews mathematics, it is dense with concepts and facts, with a strong whiff of university teaching. It is therefore one of the more technical New Naturalists. But where does it say that nature has to be simple? Its complexity is surely part of its fascination.”

Reviewed by Peter Marren in the October 2021 issue (BW 33.1) – read the review here

 

9. Freshwater Snails of Britain and Ireland by Ben Rowson et al.

“This is a terrific book: a ‘must have’ for anyone who wants to learn how to identify, accurately, freshwater snails in Britain and Ireland.”

Reviewed by Jeremy Biggs in the November 2021 issue (BW 33.2) – read the review here

 

 

10. Britain’s Insects: A Field Guide to the Insects of Great Britain and Ireland by Paul D. Brock

“Its structured approach offers a general illustrated guide to insect orders (such as mayflies, or dragonflies and damselflies), including some larvae. Then, when you reach an order, there is a good introduction and the species accounts are further broken down into sections…”

Reviewed by Bob Gibbons in the November 2021 issue (BW 33.2) – read the review here


Since its launch in 1989, British Wildlife has established its position as the leading natural history magazine in the UK, providing essential reading for both enthusiasts and professional naturalists and wildlife conservationists. Individual back issues of the magazine are available to buy through the NHBS website, while annual subscriptions start from just £35 – sign up online here.