Author interview with Fiona Mathews and Tim Kendall: Black Ops & Beaver Bombing

Black Ops & Beaver Bombing: Adventures with Britain’s Wild Mammals is a captivating and entertaining deep dive into many of the mammals of Britain. Fiona Mathews and Tim Kendall explore mines inhabited by great horseshoe bats, go on overnight stakeouts in search of pine martens and travel from Scotland to the Isles of Scilly in search of their elusive subjects. This book puts animals at the heart of the story, revelling in their peculiarities and exploring the threats to their survival and the struggles that plague their conservation in Britain. The depth of knowledge, witty commentary and obvious enthusiam creates a beautifully written book that is difficult to put down.

Each chapter focuses on a different UK mammal, from wild boars and beavers to red squirrels and grey seals. Fiona and Tim explore the history, ecology and current conservation of these species, focusing on what is threatening them and what should or is being done to protect them. They do not shy away from giving criticism and sharing their frustration when the attitudes of policy makers stand against environmental protection and restoration. In search of answers to the problems that beset our wildlife, the authors reveal the wonder of creatures that are worth fighting for.

Fiona Mathews is a professor of environmental biology at the University of Sussex and the founding chair of Mammal Conservation Europe. Tim Kendall is a professor of English Literature at the University of Exeter and edited Britain’s Mammals 2018. They have kindly agreed to an extended interview with us, where we discuss the role of public education in conservation projects, how climate change may be impacting population recruitment in bats and seals, whether there is hope for the reintroduction of top mammalian predators, and much much more.

Could you tell us how you both became interested in mammals and what inspired you to create this deep dive into the mammals of Britain?

Tim: I grew up right next door to Devonport Dockyard in Plymouth. I was obsessed with spotting mammals as a child, but the only ones I ever saw were grey squirrels. When I was 8 or 9, I wrote a poem for school about seeing a badger, describing the joy and excitement I felt. It was all made up: I didn’t see a live badger until after I left for university. Luckily, I had the good sense to marry a mammal biologist and carry out fieldwork with her, which means that I’ve now seen all but three of our native mammal species.

Fiona: I’ve been interested in mammals for as long as I can remember, but I decided it should become my career after I went on my first bat walk. Black Ops and Beaver Bombing was partly inspired by my work reviewing the population status of Britain’s mammals and drawing up the Red List with the Mammal Society.

The preface, I-Spy, makes an interesting point about the interconnectedness of species as well as the focus of conservation: “If you want to save the barn owl, start by saving the field vole”. Do you believe the focus on ‘charismatic’ species, which are often higher up in the food chain, more often aids the conservation of prey species (such as by increasing or improving habitats) or harms these species by increasing the population of their predators? Should more conservation projects take a more ‘grassroots’ focus, by helping species lower down on the food chain?

We ignore the small species at our peril, and the fact that they’re almost all in decline is deeply worrying. Of course, wolves and wild cats grab the headlines, but if we don’t pay attention to the bioabundant species, everything across the food web is affected. We talk a lot in the book about the Scilly shrew, and if we’d thought anyone would read it, we’d have included a chapter on field voles.

In Chapter 3 ‘On the Trail of the Lonesome Pine Marten’, you discuss the extensive work done to win over the local people before the ‘recovery’ project began. Do you believe the public will become more and more open to these types of projects or will public education always need to play such an extensive role?

The general public is already becoming more welcoming, but the people who control landscapes are a small subset of the population, and they often have their own priorities that they believe (rightly or wrongly) will be damaged by reintroduction and recovery projects. One of the unfortunate things about rewilding is that it’s becoming as divisive as Brexit. We should all be working together to reverse the biodiversity crisis.

Wild mammals only make up between 2–4% of the world’s mammal biomass, decreasing by more than 85% since the rise of humans. In contrast, livestock makes up more than 63% of mammal biomass. How has this drop in wild mammal biomass impacted ecosystems and do you think we’ll be able to repair this?

High intensity livestock production is undoubtedly a massive contributor to biodiversity loss, but we mustn’t perceive farmers as the enemy. We need good farmers producing good food and getting rewarded for sustainable and wildlife-friendly production. Progress towards reforming agricultural subsidies has moved at glacial speed. Our government, like most across the globe, is much too heavily influenced by the lobbying of large agribusinesses which want to preserve the status quo.

In Chapter 5 ‘Hanging Out with Greater Horseshoe Bats’, you mention that Fiona is working on a long-term plan to re-establish the British population of the greater mouse-eared bat. Could you tell us a little bit more about how this process would work?

Fiona: Historically, the greater mouse-eared bat has been found in Dorset and Sussex, but with climate change we would expect its range to shift northwards. There are large and thriving colonies in Brittany and Normandy at the moment. We have to work out whether they will arrive in England under their own steam, or whether we need to give them a helping hand. Translocating bats isn’t easy. I’ve set up a working group at Eurobats to bring together experts looking at the best way forward.

You mention that the greater horseshoe bat population has stabilised and is now increasing in Britain. Why do you think this is happening?

The species is struggling across mainland Europe but it has responded well to a series of mild winters in England and Wales. Organisations like the Vincent Wildlife Trust have done a fantastic job to protect and improve roosts. We should remember, though, that greater horseshoes once had a range that extended to the east of England, and it’s estimated that there was a population of 300,000 at the end of the nineteenth century. The current population is about 4% of that total, which is a remarkable recovery from their lowest levels, but we need to be aware of shifting baseline syndrome before we celebrate the good news too enthusiastically.

Chapter 5 also mentions a new system for monitoring bats, which monitors the flight paths using radio receivers. Do you think that, by highlighting important flight paths, this system will be able to be used to reduce the impacts of new developments?

Although legislative protection means that we now know a lot about bat roosts in buildings, there’s not much point protecting a roost if the animals lack places to forage or mate. New techniques such as static radio tracking allow us to identify important sites and protect them for the future.

As cool weather in spring can have an impact on the growth and development of young bats, has climate change impacted juvenile survival rates and population recruitment?

We know that baby bats grow less well, with short- and long-term consequences, when weather conditions are poor in the breeding season. We would expect to see negative effects from climate change, and this is something we are currently looking at in a European-wide project. The challenge is that few researchers have datasets that span at least 20 years, which is the timeframe you need for analysing these long-term trends. So we’re also conducting other research on shorter timescales to assess whether mother bats are moving around their roosts to select different temperatures.

Chapter 6 ‘Tiggywinkle Goes Rogue’, mentions how ‘tidiness’ harms biodiversity. Do you think the growth in recent campaigns such as No Mow May will help to reduce society’s obsession with garden ‘neatness’?

Yes! It also requires us to hassle our local councils until we outnumber those strange people who complain about overgrown verges. Councils will take the path of least resistance, which should be to do as little ‘tidying’ as possible.

A common threat for several of the species you cover in Black Ops & Beaver Bombing is light pollution. Is there momentum at the moment that would see light pollution effectively combated in the coming years?

No, and the problem is worsened by the fact that lighting is getting cheaper and more intense. It’s frustrating because light is one of the few pollutants that simply disappears as soon as you flick a switch.

In chapter 7, ‘Who Cares What Colour the Squirrels Are?’, you mention that certain conservation strategies, such as the culling of grey squirrels to protect red squirrels, are unlikely to receive funding due to fears of adverse publicity. How much do you think conservation strategies are affected by how palatable they are to the public? Do you think this impacts the effectiveness of some conservation projects?

The biggest issue is the insatiable appetite for novelty over longevity. Nobody wants to fund routine maintenance. You may get grant money to reintroduce water voles, but will you still be funded to cull American mink a decade later?

As storms often lead to the deaths of many seal pups, will the increased occurrence of extreme weather due to climate change have a significant effect on population recruitment for seals on our shores?

We don’t know. In our seal chapter, we call the recovery of grey seals the great mammal conservation story of the twentieth century. Their numbers increased from about 500 during the First World War to well over 100,000, which makes up around 40% of the global population for the species. Storms and tidal surges can wipe out entire colonies of pups in any given season, but thankfully so far that doesn’t seem to have dented their population growth. Shout out to the amazing volunteers who rescue and raise pups for 6 months before they’re strong enough to be released!

The government recently released England’s first Marine and Coastal Wildlife Code, do you think this guidance will significantly help to protect wildlife such as grey and harbour seals from the impacts of visitors? 

Yes. It was long overdue, and it’s vital. Some people will remember seeing the footage of a runner deliberately chasing a colony of seals into the sea in Yorkshire. If that happens to a moulting seal or a pup, they can die. We’re all tempted to take selfies next to wildlife, but it’s rarely a good idea.

This book ends by asking why Britain cannot seem to accept mammalian predators in the way that European countries have. Do you think there is hope for change in attitudes that could see the re-introduction of species such as lynx, wolves and bears within the coming decades?

We end the book in the Abruzzo National Park, 90 minutes drive from Rome, where there are now about 11 active wolf packs and 50 bears. The Cairngorms is ten times bigger, and has roughly the same human population. So much for the argument that we’re a crowded island! So we could and should reintroduce these apex predators, but we have to deal with misinformation from (for example) the current President of the National Farmers’ Union, who claims that lynx would pose a threat to ramblers. No wild lynx has ever attacked a human. Cattle, on the other hand, kill 8-10 people a year in Britain.

Do you have any future plans that you could tell us about?

We’ve just started a podcast, ‘Mammals R Us’ ( We have very different working habits, so our big question is: can we finish another book without getting divorced?

Black Ops & Beaver Bombing by Fiona Mathews and Tim Kendall was published by Oneworld Publications in April 2023 and is available from

Author interview with Lee Raye: The Atlas of Early Modern Wildlife

The Atlas of Early Modern Wildlife is a ground-breaking volume compiling the observations of early modern amateur naturalists, travellers and local historians for the first time. Drawing on over 10,000 records, this book looks at the early modern state of wildlife in Britain and Ireland, the era before climate change, before the intensification of agriculture, before even the Industrial Revolution. The book presents maps and notes on the former distribution of 153 species, providing a new baseline against which to discuss subsequent declines and extinctions, expansions and introductions. This remarkable resource will be of great value to conservationists, archaeologists, historians and anyone with an interest in the natural heritage of Britain and Ireland.

Lee Raye is an associate lecturer at the Open University and a Fellow of the Linnaean Society, specialising in the history of wild animals and plants in pre-industrial Britan and Ireland. We were lucky enough to have the opportunity to speak with them about what inspired them to write this atlas, what the most difficult aspect of creating this book was, what their future plans were and much more.

What inspired you to write this atlas?  

Several years ago I worked for the RSPB. I went on a weekend induction to The Lodge in Sandy, Bedfordshire, and had a walk around with the reserve archaeologist. He explained that, although it was simple enough to know which animals had declined and gone extinct in the historical period, there was a lack of clarity about how and when this happened. I realised that I already had some of the answers he needed. Around that same time, as a research project, I was translating and analysing the records of wild animals and plants from a single 17th-century natural history book, Robert Sibbald’s Scotia Illustrata (1684). That source is really valuable because it was contributed to by so many people and contains so many important records. For example, there are records of the Great Auk, the Bustard and the Angel Shark amongst the animals and Darnel, Shepherd’s Needle, and Greater Water-parsnip amongst the plants. While doing this project, I started making a list of other comparable texts from the same time period, and to my surprise I realised there was a whole understudied genre of them! I realised that if I combined all of these sources together I could give a decent estimate of the distribution of species in the 16th-18th centuries. 

Greater Water-Parsnip by Jeremy Halls via Flickr

Do you think it’s possible for us to restore our wildlife to the condition it was in early modern Britain or has our landscape changed too drastically? 

When we are doing conservation work it’s really important that we have a strong baseline to work against, otherwise we don’t know when we are restoring biodiversity and when we are just adding species to an environment. I think the early modern period is a good choice of baseline for two reasons. First, it comes before some of the most alarming declines in biodiversity which followed trends like the industrial revolution, the 20th century agricultural revolution, and the gamekeeper culls of raptors and mammalian predators of the nineteenth and early 20th century. But it was still a period when all of Britain and Ireland was managed for human needs, including some big cities. Secondly, there are a lot of sources available from the time period, so the Atlas of Early Modern Wildlife could reconstruct the fauna found at the time. But we are never going to be able to perfectly return to that baseline. The islands of Britain and Ireland are even more intensively managed and exploited now, and we need to keep that up to provide for the human population. The early modern period was also a time when there was a temporary climate change, the Little Ice Age, which meant that the so-called ‘northern species’ were doing really well, and the ‘southern species’ had a more restricted range. Modern global heating is going to become much more severe than the Little Ice Age was, and is likely to magnify the differences so that Britain and Ireland in the 21st century is going to have significant differences in its flora and fauna to the 17th century, no matter what we do. 

The distribution trend for the majority of species mentioned in this book was either uncertain or unchanged, compared to 24 increases and 26 decreases. Did this surprise you? 

I knew that there would be lots of uncertainty in the data from the time period, but I was a bit surprised that so few species showed a decline in distribution. We know that we are in a biodiversity crisis now, but the declines in abundance we are currently facing are going to take some time to result in declines in distribution at a regional level, which is the rather crude metric I was able to track in the Atlas of Early Modern Wildlife. It’s also true that there have been official and unofficial reintroductions in the modern period, which have restored species like Beaver, Otter and Greylag Goose across much of their early modern range, meaning that comparing early modern and present distribution hides what happened to these species in between. 

Greylag goose by ianpreston via Flickr

You mention that there was a bias towards recording exploitable species in the early modern period and a bias towards recording birds now. Did this affect which species you were able to include in this book? 

Yes, with the exception of a few species of conservation concern, I included only the best-recorded species in my Atlas of Early Modern Wildlife. That means that there is a bias towards certain groups of species. For example, I was able to map the past distribution of 18 freshwater fishes but only five small songbirds. Don’t ask me about the distribution of the Sparrow or the Great Tit in the early modern period, because my sources don’t offer much data about them! 

What was the most difficult aspect of creating this book? 

The most complicated part of the Atlas of Early Modern Wildlife has been trying to solve the recorder-effort problem. I needed to be able to tell when species were not recorded because they were absent (like the Wolf, which seems to have been extinct in England and Wales already by this time period), and when animals were not recorded simply because not enough effort had been put into recording them (like those Sparrows and Great Tits which no-one really cared about). My solution was to statistically compare how many records I had for each species from different regions of Britain and Ireland with a figure of how well-recorded each different region was in the early modern period. I also used some habitat suitability modelling to try and establish patterns behind absences, but this has been complicated, speculative work! 

Do you have any future plans that you can tell us about? 

I think I could take this project further in the future. It should be possible to map the distribution of wild plants 250-500 years ago, or to join up the distribution of Britain and Ireland’s wildlife with the distribution of wildlife in other parts of Europe from the same time period. But I also want to work a bit more on poetry from the early modern period. There are a few very strange poems written c.1580-1650 that protest environmental destruction and are told from the perspective of animals which I think deserve to be much more widely known. 

The Atlas of Early Modern Wildlife by Lee Raye is due to be published by Pelagic Publishing in July 2023 and is available for pre-order from

This Week in Biodiversity News – 3rd July 2023


A new study indicates that megalodon, the extinct shark species, were warm-blooded. The researchers found that Otodus megalodon may have had a body temperature that was significantly higher than other sharks, more consistent with having a degree of internal heat production similar to that of modern warm blooded animals. The higher metabolic costs associated with this may have contributed to its vulnerability to extinction.

Climate crisis

Heat waves are occurring across North America, leaving millions without power and under heat and air quality alerts. Much of the south and southwest of the US are experiencing temperatures into the triple digits (Fahrenheit), with at least 13 deaths in Texas due to heat-related illnesses. A record-breaking heat dome is covering Mexico and Texas, with some states in Mexico seeing temperatures exceeding 113F. At least 112 heat-related deaths have been recorded in the country so far this year.


Joshua trees are officially protected in California, after the passing of the Western Joshua Tree Conservation Act. This law bans the removal of Joshua trees without a permit, creates a fund to protect the species and mandates consultation on the rule’s implementation with Native American tribes. According to scientists, by 2100 just 0.02% of the tree’s habitat in Joshua Tree National Park will remain viable without mitigating climate change.

A new study has found that bats thrive in restored wetlands. Researchers from the University of Turku measured the impact of wetland restoration on bats. The Hydrology LIFE project has successfully restored more than 5,000 hectares of wetlands across more than 100 locations. The study, which is part of this project, showed that wetland restoration can significantly increase the activity of bats. By monitoring bat activity in 21 sites across Finland over four summers between 2018-2022, the researchers were able to attribute this notable increase in activity to the improved abundance of insects in these areas.

Natural England has designated a Cornish moorland as a nature conservation area. The 59 blocks of land in Penwrith Moors in Cornwall are now sites of specific scientific interest, a move aiming to preserve precious flora and fauna. There has been criticism from farmers, as this would mean further restrictions. Natural England decided this area, which covers around 3,000 hectares, should be designated an SSSI because it is an important habitat for rare birds, plants and insects.

A new funding partnership between Beaver Trust and the Ecological Restoration Fund will help to support the restoration of and co-existence with beavers across Britain. This £150,000 grant will be used to support two key areas of Beaver Trust’s work: releasing beavers into new sites and providing their team with the equipment and resources they need to carry out mitigation and trapping.

Extinction risk

Reef sharks are facing a heightened extinction risk. A new study has revealed that overfishing is pushing reef sharks towards extinction, with a global decline of 63% on average in five of the main shark species living on coral reefs. After studying 22,000 hours of footage from stations across 391 reefs in 67 nations and territories, the researchers found that grey reef, blacktip reef, white tip reef, nurse and Caribbean reef sharks are all in decline.

Rainforest loss accelerated last year compared to 2021, despite the pledge signed by 100 international leaders to end deforestation by 2030. Brazil led in rainforest loss, with a 15% increase over the prior year. The Democratic Republic of the Congo, the country with the second-most rainforest, also had major losses last year, much of which was agriculture related.

Brazilian authorities have announced the seizure of almost 29 tons of shark fins, coming from an estimated 10,000 blue and shortfin mako sharks. It is believed that the vessels used fishing gear specifically for targeted shark fishing, which is prohibited. Shortfin mako sharks were placed on the country’s endangered species list in May and blue sharks are under consideration for inclusion.

New discoveries

The Victorian grassland earless dragon has been rediscovered, having been thought to have been extinct in the wild since 1969. This species was once widespread in the native grasslands west of Melbourne but the population declined due to habitat loss and predation. Zoos Victoria had been actively searching for the dragon since 2017 and, now a surviving population has been found, are working to establish a plan to ensure the species’ survival.

African-painted dogs have been spotted in Uganda after four decades.  The species had become extinct in Uganda in the 1980s but were spotted in the far northeast of the country. In 2020, the population of African-painted dogs was estimated at around 6,000 adults.

Author interview: An Identification Guide to Garden Birds of Britain and North-West Europe

An Identification Guide to Garden Birds of Britain and North-West Europe is a photographic guide to 75 species of bird most commonly found in or over the gardens of Britain and North-West Europe. The text combines scientific facts with affectionate descriptions of the birds’ identifying features, including sex and age differences, habits, nest types, eggs and calls. The introduction contains tips on how to identify birds, how to look after garden birds, which species can be seen throughout the year, a glossary and anatomy details. For each species, there are two or three photographs labelled with distinguishing features where appropriate, a calendar showing the time of year when the adult can be seen and star facts that give further proof of the birds’ fascinating features.

Dominic Couzens

Dominic Couzens is an award-winning nature writer with 40 books and hundreds of published articles to his name. His best-known books include An Identification Guide to Garden Insects of Britain and North-West Europe, The Secret Lives of Garden Birds, Britain’s Mammals (WildGuides) and Save Our Species. Carl Bovis is a nature photographer with a particular passion for birds. The advent of digital photography has given him the opportunity to capture the birds he sees and share them with the world.

We were lucky enough to ask both Dominic and Carl a few questions about what inspired them to produce this guide, what the process was like to assemble it and the importance of providing habitats for birds in our gardens.

What inspired you to produce this introductory guide to garden birds?

Dominic: As a regular Twitter follower I quickly became aware of Carl’s work. What stood out for me was his wonderfully giving attitude, really helping “ordinary” people connect with birds and birdwatching with the use of clever and funny bird photos, as well as wondrous ones. He encourages everyone to get involved and to enjoy nature, and he does it in a unique way.

So from my (Dominic’s) point of view, it was a no-brainer to cooperate with Carl on an entry-level guide to garden birds, with his own special take.

This book follows on from a book on garden insects published with another first-time author, Gail Ashton, last year. In both guides we have used light-hearted introductions and mentioned star facts about each species, to helve delve into the subject’s life.

Blue tit by Carl Bovis

How did you choose which species to include in this guide?

Our subject was garden birds, and since we wanted to cover northern Europe we had a good range to choose from. Most species pick themselves, but the guide will stand or fall on what we include.

This guide is full of many wonderful and illustrative photographs. What was the process like to assemble these? Where there any species that were particularly difficult to attain clear photos of?

Carl Bovis

Carl: I’m known for taking photos of the common birds, a lot of which many serious bird photographers turn their noses up at! So a book about garden birds was perfect for me, as I have taken many photos of them over the last few years and had many to choose from. I also have a passion for catching birds in flight, the shape and angles of their wings and tail fascinate me. Obviously this is an ID book, so perched birds are essential, but we’ve included lots of flight shots too.

It’s very rewarding for me to have my photos in this guide. A couple of years ago I was talking to a serious birder at Steart Marshes and he said to me; ‘your photos of birds are very engaging, but they’d never be in a mainstream bird book’. I didn’t take offence, I like that many of my photos are different to the norm, but at the same time, I’m happy now to have proved him wrong!

It’s also an honour to collaborate with Dominic on this, as before I even knew him personally, I had bought and enjoyed many of his previous books, and had attended one of his fascinating talks on bird behaviour. He is nature-writing ‘royalty’ as far as I’m concerned.

The shy and rarer garden birds were obviously toughest to get clear photos of, especially ones that don’t visit my own little Somerset garden where many of the photos were taken. So birds like Bullfinch, Treecreeper and Redstart were a challenge. If you get them in your garden, consider yourself lucky!

Included with this interview are a few of my favourite photos from the book.

Given the many pressures facing our garden birds, are there any species in this guide that you think won’t be so common in coming years?

Dominic: We have included a number that are declining, such as Marsh and Willow Tits, Chaffinches and Greenfinches. The Lesser Spotted Woodpecker is in serious trouble, and both House Martins and Swifts are on the wane. There are others, too.

Swift by Carl Bovis

But I do think it’s very important to let people just discover and enjoy birds. I hope the book inspires first and foremost.

This guide includes a section on looking after garden birds, giving tips as to how people with gardens can help. How important is it that people make their gardens into good habitats for birds?

Dominic: Gardens are incredibly important for two reasons. They are the best place for people and birds to meet, and for people to get excited about birds and love them.

Secondly, gardens are where everybody can be a conservationist. The overall fortunes of birds and other wildlife often feel as though they are outside our control, but in gardens we can make decisions that directly affect wildlife. If enough people realised how important their backyard decisions were to wildlife, they might be inspired to do more.

House sparrow by Carl Bovis

Are there any plans to continue this series and, if so, which other species groups that you would like to make an identification guide about?

Dominic: Yes, a book on Trees is already well in production. Any others in the series may require us to get John Beaufoy, our publisher, drunk so that we can persuade him to do some more.

An Identification Guide to Garden Birds of Britain and North-West Europe by Dominic Couzens and Carl Bovis is published by John Beaufoy Publishing in June 2023 and is available from

This Week in Biodiversity News – 19th June 2023


A new report has shown that numbers of grassland butterflies across Europe declined by 36% between 2010-2020. The results have huge implications for wildlife, as butterflies are good indicators of other insects, which are vital for ecosystems to function properly. The decline in these species put the future of vital habitats, such as wildflower meadows, in peril.

Research has found that trees have been growing at record-breaking heights in Scotland’s mountains. The research, led by the University of Stirling, showed that a rowan is growing at 1,150m, near the top of Sgurr nan Ceathreamhnan, and a sitka spruce growing at 1,125m on Braeriach. In total, the research found 11 new altitudinal records for tree species in Britain.

Climate crisis

Fears of hottest year on record as global temperatures spike. Preliminary global average temperatures taken so far in June are nearly 1?C above previously recorded June levels since 1979. It is thought that the gathering El Niño event may propel 2023 into becoming the hottest year ever recorded. This naturally recurring phenomenon will likely add heat to the long-term warming conditions already caused by the burning of fossil fuels.

An ‘unheard of’ marine heatwave is currently occurring off the coasts of the UK and Ireland, posing a serious threat to marine species. Sea temperatures are several degrees above normal, with global sea surface temperatures in April and May reaching an all-time high for those months according to records dating back to 1850. Scientists believe that continued high temperatures over the summer could trigger mass mortality in fish and oysters.


Devon’s Wildlife Trust (DWT) is planting a temperate rainforest near Totnes with its share of a £38 million Aviva fund. The 30-hectare site has a 105-year lease, which will allow DWT to plant two-thirds of the land with native tree species. Rainforests of the British Isles have been largely destroyed over hundreds of years, now covering less than 1% of Britain. DWT will create new rainforest close to existing examples of the ancient, wooded landscapes in the Dart Valley and on the southern edges of Dartmoor.

Rare hazel dormice will be reintroduced into the National Forest near Calke Abbey in Derbyshire. This native species has seen a 51% decline nationally since 2000 and is locally extinct in the area. People’s Trust for Endangered Species (PTES), which will release 38 individuals, is working as part of Natural England’s Species Recovery Programme. Since 1993, 1,078 dormice have been reintroduced to 25 different woodlands in 13 countries.

Around 20 captive-bred wildcats are being released in secret locations across the Scottish Highlands. The animals were raised in captivity as part of a breeding programme run by the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, which aims to release up to 60 individuals over the next three years. Scottish wildcats are functionally extinct in the wild in the UK, therefore it is hoped that these reintroductions will help to save the species.

Extinction risk

Campaigners fear that East West Rail will lead to the loss of rare species. A new route between Bedford and Cambridge has been confirmed, with the spokesman for the line saying that chosen route would offer an “environmentally sustainable solution”. However, local campaigners believe the scheme could threaten Red List species, such as skylarks and yellowhammers. They believe an ancient woodland which provides habitats and a local wildlife corridor will be dramatically impacted by the route. The company has committed to a 10% net biodiversity gain target across the whole project, however, and has already established 20 ecological compensation sites across the first stage.

A new study is warning that the mass “sixth extinction” is well underway, with nearly half of the world’s animal species now in danger of becoming extinct. The study, More Losers than Winners, examined global population trends from approximately 71,000 animal species. They aimed to determine how many are at risk due to threats such as loss of habitat, harmful use of pesticides and herbicides, and the long-term impact of the climate crisis. The researchers found that only 3% of animal species were growing, while 49% showed stagnant population growth. 48% showed declining populations.

New discoveries

A new flying gecko species has been discovered in northern India. The Mizoram parachute gecko is one of 14 geckos known to take to the air, using a combination of skin flaps and webbed feet. The researchers hope that this new discovery will highlight the underappreciated biodiversity of northern India and encourage greater efforts to document its wildlife.

The bones of an extinct giant shingleback skink have been discovered in Australia. The research found that Tiliqua frangens roamed Australia during the Pleistocene, around 2 million years ago, before they went extinct 47,000 years ago.  The species was 1000 times bigger than the Australian common garden skink.

Author Interview with Mike Pienkowski: When the Kite Builds

When the Kite Builds…: Why and How We Restored Red Kites Across Britain is an informative and comprehensive examination of the project to reintroduce red kites to England and Scotland. Mike Pienkowski, the chairmen of this project, describes why the decision was taken and how it was implemented, as well as examining the success of the experiment and exploring the outcomes from this success. Chapters cover how nestlings were collected and imported, how the kites were reared, the initial survival after release, education and public awareness, and much more.

Mike Pienkowski

Below is our interview with Mike Pienkowski, where we discuss how he became involved in this project, whether population recovery would have been possible without reintroduction, how the increase in red kites has impacted or enhanced the British countryside, and more. When the Kite Builds… was published in February 2023.

Dr Mike Pienkowski will be signing copies of his book at the NHBS stand, number S107, in Swallow Marquee at Global Birdfair on Saturday 15th of July between 2–3pm.

When the Kite Builds… is a comprehensive overview and analysis of the project to restore red kites to Britain. How did you become involved in this project and why did you decide to write this book?

From the mid-1980s, I was Head of Ornithology at the Nature Conservancy Council (then the UK Government conservation agency). NCC was struggling to implement legislation which it had not drafted, and which tended to give the false impression that conservationists were always negative to others. Among a review of all the projects we needed to meet bird conservation needs, I wanted to include something clearly positive and cooperative. There were at the time three globally threatened bird species which occurred in Britain. One was red kite, whose range was now restricted to Europe, and declining across most of it. Red kites had been common across Britain in the Middle Ages, and valued as the recycling agents of the time, clearing bodies from city and countryside, but had later been exterminated from England, Scotland and Ireland, with just a tiny isolated and interbred population surviving in central Wales involving intense protection. Could we restore red kites across Britain? Colleagues in RSPB had been thinking along similar lines, and we formed a joint project team, which I chaired. From 1984, we researched all aspects and began an experimental introduction in 1989. When this proved successful by 1995, we encouraged others to use our methods in other appropriate locations across the country.

I wanted to document the process, the full story of what one reviewer described as “a mixture of science, politics and luck” – especially as there have been few books addressing all aspects of science-based conservation projects. I had started the book in the mid-1990s – but various things intervened. I went back to it a couple of times and finished it during lockdown. It is actually a much better book now than it would have been 25 years ago, both because we can see the real outcomes and I can be more open now than would have been possible then.

Fully grown kites ready for release. Image credit: Dr Mike Pienkowski

Chapter 10 discusses education and public awareness, especially among landowners and gamekeepers. Do you believe that population recovery would have been possible without reintroduction through extensive campaigns to educate the public to reduce persecution and increase suitable habitats or was the existing population too small to be viable?

I think that the two elements worked together. In fact, we planned in the hope that they would. Although we considered that, in much of the country, illegal persecution was much reduced, making releases viable, we knew that this was not the case everywhere and, especially when the young kites dispersed, that we would probably lose a few to this vile activity (which by far the majority of land-owners and game-keepers deplore). We found that the public were horrified by deaths from such causes, particularly of birds imported to correct previous human errors. We are grateful to the public, police and public health authorities for securing several successful prosecutions. These and the campaigns did lead to a reduction in such activity. This has allowed not only red kites but also other species, such as buzzard and raven, to repopulate some of their former ranges.

There have been reports that the illegal killings of birds of prey have been surging across the UK in recent years. Has this affected the red kite populations, and do you think it will impact the success of any other bird of prey species’ reintroductions?

Despite the overall positive trend in decent decades, illegal killings have continued, particularly in certain regions of the country, particularly those with many moorland shooting estates. Whilst most estates are probably law-abiding, it does not take many to devastate a bird of prey population. This is not limited to reintroduction projects but applies strongly to some species, such as the hen harrier, which would be doing so much better without this activity. In the same areas that hen harriers suffer, individuals of other species, including red kite and buzzard, do not survive long. Such higher mortality is why the red kites released in the Black Isle in the north of Scotland increased in population size at a much slower rate than did those in the Chilterns in the same experimental phase of the project. Despite these problems, red kites in the UK now account for well over 10% of the world population. Hen harriers suffer because they are more restricted in habitat than red kites, and this habitat is the centre of most remaining illegal persecution.

Kite nestling being placed in a travel box in Spain. Image credit: Dr Eric Bignal

How has the increase in red kite populations across Britain impacted or enhanced the countryside?

I may be biased, but I see that most people seem to agree that it is an enhancement. The fact that the red kites increased at a rate at the upper limit of our models shows how well they still fit in, after their absence of over 100 years. In general, it does not seem to be at the cost of other species, The nearest in ecology to them, buzzards, have been spreading as well, as I mentioned earlier. In a few urban areas, there have been complaints about kites diving at people. However, it seems that this has occurred only in certain town areas where some people have ignored our advice not to provide food. This leads to a range of problems for the kites and other humans. Overall, people seem to be delighted to experience such beautifully coloured birds of prey, with their amazing aerobatic ability, due to their huge wing area but relatively small, light bodies.

Kite flying free from rearing cage. Image credit: Dr Mike Pienkowski

Chapter 12 discusses the reintroductions and recovery programmes of other species of wildlife. Are there any species that you hope will be reintroduced to the UK soon?

There is not a one-size-fits-all solution; each species needs individual study, assessment and outreach. I think that beavers have largely proved the case for themselves (with a little help from open-minded humans), and a human-led exercise for white storks seems very promising. I think that the cases are strong for pine marten (especially if, like me, one would like to see the range of red squirrels restored) and for lynx (a medium-sized cat very shy of humans, which might help address the problems that the over-population of deer pose to tree saplings). As the book indicates, there are others waiting in line, once we build further confidence with these. Britain’s wildlife populations are hugely depleted due to human actions, and we now have the methods to bring some back, if we have the will.

What do you believe are the key barriers to successful reintroductions and species restorations in the UK? How have these changed since the red kite restoration began?

Kite boxes on a plane. Image credit: Dr Mike Pienkowski

The red kite restoration faced the problem in attitude that many people thought that such things could not be done, and certainly not in densely populated south-eastern England. That is now overcome. However, we must always start from the objective: reintroduction is one of a range of methods that can be deployed. It is best (and least expensive!) not to lose species in the first place. But we are still doing so, whether it be hen harriers or breeding waders (just staying in the world of birds). We need to reverse the serious habitat changes, such as excessive drainage or illegal persecution, as immediate priorities. Even for those species lost to Britain (or elsewhere) and which we wish to reintroduce, before doing so, we need to ensure that there is suitable habitat. The book gives examples of where habitat needed restoration first. One also needs to meet other internationally agreed criteria including avoiding threat to the source population.

Do you have any future projects that you can tell us about?

Most of my work nowadays is as the honorary Chairman of the charity UK Overseas Territories Conservation Forum. Britain is internationally important for wildlife, but its Overseas Territories (UKOTs) are even more so. However, these are small places, with small human populations and small economies – so they are hugely underfunded. In fact, all proceeds from the sale of ‘When the Kite Builds…‘ are going in support of this charity’s work. UKOTCF encourages others to undertake conservation work in support of UKOTs, such as the marine protected zones of Pitcairn, Tristan da Cunha, Ascension and St Helena, and the restoration of South Georgia and Ascension. UKOTCF’s in-house projects, always with local partners, include both liaison work across UKOTs and projects with individual territories, such as our current project in Montserrat, ‘Adopt a Home for Wildlife’, empowering local residents and communities to take a lead in managing areas to support conservation.

When the Kite Builds…: Why and How We Restored Red Kites Across Britain was published by UK Overseas Territories Conservation Forum in February 2023 and is available from

National Marine and Coastal Wildlife Code

The first national Marine and Coastal Wildlife Code has been launched in England, which will protect animals and habitats by helping people enjoy the coast responsibly. England’s coastline contains vitally important habitats, including sand dunes, saltmarshes and a significant proportion of Europe’s vegetated shingle beaches. The coastline also supports a number of key species, such as 95% of Europe’s grey seal population and 25% of Europe’s breeding seabirds.

This builds on the existing Countryside Code but only applies to England. Scotland, Ireland and Wales have previously produced similar coastal and marine wildlife codes and guidance, which should be reviewed if you are looking to visit these areas.

If a seal is looking at you, you are causing a disturbance. Image by Simon Palmer
What does the code include?

Similarly to the Countryside Code, this new code aims to act as a guide to help visitors act responsibly around marine wildlife. We all have a responsibility to protect our local wildlife. The guidance from the UK government for England is:

1. Be aware of how you could cause a disturbance

Many people may not realise the impact disturbing wildlife can have, but if an animal is repeatedly disturbed, it can lead to stress, injury and even death. You can also displace animals from their preferred habitat, disrupting behaviours such as migration, breeding, feeding and resting. This disturbance can also increase their vulnerability to predators.

The impact of disturbance on seals has been brought to the public’s attention in recent years, with many organisations calling for people to be aware of the damage caused. Disturbances that force seals to flee from haul-out sites into the sea can result in them struggling to put on or maintain weight and unable to properly feed their pups. Seals can also receive injuries such as gashes from sharp rocks or even broken ribs, which can be difficult for a diving species to heal from. Increased vigilance also wastes energy and can reduce the amount of time spent feeding or resting. This increased energy expenditure can increase stress as well as the seal’s vulnerability to disease, reducing overall fitness and increasing mortality rates.

You can disturb wildlife by approaching or touching an animal; crowding, circling, separating or chasing them; feeding them; making noise; or damaging or altering habitats. This can include disturbance by dogs, therefore pets should be kept on a lead or under effective control when at the coast. An easy way to reduce your impact is to remember that if an animal has repeatedly noticed you, you have caused a disturbance and it is best to move away and take a wider berth.

Kayakers straying too close to seals. Image by Simon Palmer

2. Know when wildlife are most vulnerable

There are certain times when animals are particularly vulnerable, such as during breeding seasons, in winter and when they’re resting or moulting. It can be difficult to know when these times are, as they often differ between different species. Therefore, it is important to check signs in local areas, as they should tell you where there are access restrictions, and to research the wildlife in the area you are heading. Local councils, Wildlife Trusts and local harbours or ports may be able to provide you with this information.

For seabirds, ‘bird nesting season’ is officially from February until September, therefore it is important to consider access restrictions, dog activities and the impact you may be having on an area during this time. Certain species, such as ringed plovers and oystercatchers, lay their eggs on open ground such as beaches, with little to no surounding vegetation, and so these eggs are vulnerable to being stepped on. Local councils may put up signs in areas where these species are known to breed to discourage visitors but caution should be taken on any beach.

Ringed Plover nest by Philip McErlean via Flickr

Breeding and pupping season for grey seals can start as early as June in the UK, lasting until January. Pups are particularly vulnerable to human disturbances as this can cause a seperation between the mother and pup or interrupt lactation, potentially leading to pup abandonment. Due to their heavy white coat, grey seal pups can’t swim during their first few weeks and will be left on beaches while their mothers hunt. If disturbed, they are therefore unable to swim away. Addtionally, disturbances that cause stampeeds during pupping season can increase pup mortality rates. You should never approach a seal pup and if you suspect one has been abandoned or is in need of attention, you should keep your distance and call for help.

Other important breeding periods are March to September for seahorses and summer months for cetaceans. Additionally, the September to March wintering season is important for many birds, as they use this time to conserve energy and build up reserves, often for long migrations. Disturbance during this time can reduce their likelihood of survive winter or these migrations.

3. Recognise when you are causing a disturbance

Many people do not have negative intentions and simply wish to appreciate and experience the wonderful wildlife we have along out coastlines. But it is important to recognise the signs for when animals are becoming uncomfortable with your presence.

There are a number of behaviours you can look out for that will indicate a disturbance. For birds, this includes moving away from you, in flight or by walking; flapping their wings at you; and attacking. Seals are more likely to look directly at you, move suddenly from a restful position, suddenly dive into the water, or swim away from you. Cetaceans such as dolphins and whales will slap the water with their flippers or tail, dive away from you, or group together. Other species such as sharks, skates, rays, turtles or seahorses will swim away if disturbed and should not be followed.

If a seal is looking at you, you are causing a disturbance. Image by Simon Palmer

4. Act responsibly

This is the main aim of this code, to encourage people to use common sense and act responsibly. As a rule of thumb, try to stay at least 100 metres away from any wildlife and try not to approach animals from behind or head-on. If you notice any signs of disturbance, you should immediately and calmly move further away.

You should never chase, follow or harass any wildlife. It is important to not feed or touch wildlife either, as you could unintentially be causing serious harm. Other actions such as creating loud noises and using flash photography should be avoided.

5. Use watercraft responsibly

Crafts like boats and jetskis can be a disturbance to wildlife as they can injure animals and create noise both above and below the water. You should slow down to under 6 knots if you notice an animal, stay at least 100 metres away (further if you notice that you are causing a disturbance), and keep even more distance if there are more than two watercrafts nearby. You should also maintain your engine to reduce noise and make sure to launch or moor your craft correctly.

Image by Simon Palmer

6. Enjoy water activities without harming wildlife

It is important to take care not to disturb wildlife when you enter or exit the sea, therefore you should avoid doing this through sensitive habitats, including saltmarshes, mudflats, maerl beds, seagrass meadows and areas where marine wildlife are resting, breeding, nesting or feeding.

7. Report wildlife crime

If you see someone intentionally or recklessly harassing, injuring, disturbing, taking or killing an animal or damaging their habitat, you should report it. Call 101 to report an incident that has already happened, or 999 for a crime in action. Certain actions can incur fines of up to £5,000.

8. Report an injured, distressed or dead animal

If you see an animal in distress or dead, you should not approach or touch it, but report the incident by calling either the British Divers Marine Life Rescue hotline or the RSPCA.

Why is this code needed?

Our coastline and marine life are under serious pressures from a variety of threats, including climate change, disease, habitat loss, reduced food availability (usually due to overfishing), pollution and human activity, all of which already negatively impact marine wildlife. Repeated disturbances can combine with these other pressures, causing reduced fitness and increasing mortality rates.

Image by Simon Palmer
Is this effective guidance?

This code was developed in collaboration with a number of wildlife organisations, including the RSPB, Shark Trust, Whale and Dolphin Conservation and the Cornwall Seal Group Research Trust. It is not a law or regulation but does help to raise awareness of the impacts you can have on coastal and marine wildlife, while also offering practical guidance to minimise or even eliminate these impacts. While this is unlikely to prevent those with negative intentions, it does provide a great basis to help educate the vast majority of the public on how to be responsibe around wildlife. With reported disturbance incidents more than tripling in Cornwall alone since 2014, and with the ongoing work to establish the King Charles III England Coast Path (a 2,700 mile waymarked coastal path), this new code is a welcome step towards reducing and preventing incidents.


Defra. 2023. Marine and coastal wildlife code: advice for visitors.


This Week in Biodiversity News – 7th June 2023


A whale shark was observed feeding at the seabed for the first time. This species usually filter-feeds on plankton at the sea surface; this unusual behaviour was filmed by an ecotourism guide. A new study, published in May 2023, proposes that whale sharks actively feed on benthic prey, either in deep water environments or where the abundance of this prey exceeds that of planktonic food sources.

Whale shark filter feeding at the surface. Image by Daniel Gillaspia via Flickr

Irish geneticists have discovered how some species may have been able to survive a mass extinction. Scientists at Trinity College Dublin unearthed a ‘dramatic evolutionary event’ in sturgeon and paddlefish populations. The species’ entire genetic makeup was ‘copied and pasted’ so that it had twice the genetic material it had before, providing more opportunities for mutations and evolution to occur. By strengthening their genetic mix, they might have been able to facilitate their re-establishment after a major mass extinction 200 million years ago.


The River Wye has had its health status downgraded after a wildlife review by Natural England. The status changed from “unfavourable-improving” to “unfavourable-declining”, meaning that the river’s condition is worsening. The assessment showed that the river has experienced declines in certain key species, including Atlantic salmon and white-clawed crayfish. Previous studies linked this decline in condition to intensive chicken farming on the catchment.

River Wye, Hay-on-Wye by Ed Webster via Flickr

The population of white-bellied heron in Bhutan continues to grow. Across 14 habitats, 27 individuals were recorded this year, four more than last year. This critically endangered species has fewer than 60 individuals worldwide and is found only in the Himalayan region in Bhutan, north-east India and Myanmar. As this is a top predator, its presence indicates a healthy ecosystem. Threats to this species and its habitat include fishing, local activities, natural resource extraction, development, ecotourism and timber and firewood.

Extinction risk

The crested myna, endemic to Taiwan, is now threatened by invasive myna species. The foreign crested myna and the Javan myna species are more adaptable and are out-competing the rare, native crested myna, reducing habitat availability. Less than 1,000 Taiwanese crested myna are left in the wild.

New discoveries

A species of butterfly, thought to have been extinct in Britain for almost a hundred years, has been spotted in the countryside outside London. Officially becoming extinct in Britain in 1925, a small number of black-veined whites were seen in south-east London recently, thought by Butterfly Conservation to have been released, rather than returning through natural routes.

Black-veined whites by gailhampshire via Flickr

The oak processionary moth, an invasive species, is thought to be spreading across south-east England. The government has introduced new legislation which aims to control the movement of oak trees in south-east England due to this rise in moth numbers. The toxic moths feed on the leaves of oak trees, affecting the health of oak trees by weakening them, making them more vulnerable to pests, diseases and drought.

Australian Federal and Queensland governments have promised to ban gillnets from the Great Barrier Reef by mid-2027. This fishing practice is harmful to multiple marine species, including dugongs, dolphins, turtles and some sharks. More than A$160 million in funding has been announced to reduce high-risk fishing activities around the area.

Farmers are warning that England’s hedgerows are under threat from funding cuts. The transition to post-Brexit farming payments may mean that schemes to protect hedgerows could be lost. These habitats are vital for a number of species, including mammals, birds and pollinating insects, as they provide both food and shelter. The EU paid farmers under its subsidy scheme to keep hedgerows on their land, but they had to meet certain standards such as not ploughing to the base of hedgerows; not using fertilisers or pesticides within two metres of them; and not cutting hedgerows between 1st March and 31st August without good cause due to nesting birds. The government is ending these requirements by the end of the year.

30 Days Wild 2023

30 Days Wild is the UK’s biggest nature challange. Run by the Wildlife Trusts, this annual event is taking place between 1st – 30th June 2023. The event is suitable for people of all ages and backgrounds and aims to connect people with nature and increase their appreciation of the natural world by asking them to do one wild thing a day for the entire month. A five year review of 30 Days Wild participants found that people felt happier and healthier from taking part, with the effects lasting for at least two months afterwards.

This event has continued to grow, with the majority of participants in 2021 starting that the pandemic made them value nature more. Over two million people have taken part over the last nine years. Last year alone, over 500,000 people took part in the challenge, with popular activities including wildlife-watching, planting wildflower seeds and listening to birdsong.

Key themes of 30 Days Wild

For the first time, each week of 30 Days Wild will have a different theme. These are:

  • Tune into the senses
  • Movement and play
  • Learning and discovery
  • Helping nature
  • Emotional connection to nature.

These themes will take you on a week-by-week adventure, helping to guide you through the challenge to reach the 30 day target.

How to get involved
Bug Box Kit – an easy-to-assemble insect hotel

There are a number of easy ways to get involved in 30 Days Wild. The ten most popular activities in 2020 were: listening to birdsong, exercising outdoors, eating or drinking outdoors, identifying wildflowers, planting wildflower seeds, going on a bug hunt, hugging or admiring a tree, making a wildlife home such as a bird box or bee hotel, going barefoot on the grass and sketching, drawing or painting nature. Other ways to get involved include reading a nature book, exploring a reserve, having a plastic or waste free day, watching a sunrise or sunset, switching to a more sustainable household product, going litter picking or taking a nature photo.

If you’re looking for some inspiration for activities during the month, why not check out some of our guides?

1) Bat Walk

If you’re interested in catching a glimpse of some bats in June, this guide includes the equipment you might need, the best times and places to go, and a general guide of what to do.

2) Hedgehog Watch

Hedgehogs are abundant in urban and suburban areas but are facing some serious threats to their populations. Now is a great time to look for hedgehogs, particularly if your garden is hedgehog friendly. This blog includes ways to improve the attractiveness of your garden to hedgehogs, tips for watching hedgehogs and some great books for further reading.

3) Owl Pellet Dissection

Owls are unable to digest certain parts of their prey, including teeth, bones, fur or feathers. These parts are regurgitated as a pellet, which can be very interesting to dissect. This guide provides information about where to find pellets, how to identify the species of owl the produced it, how to dissect a pellet and how to identify the contents.

4) How to use a quadrat

For those interested in exploring the plant life in their garden or local green space, especially right after No Mow May, this guide can help you. Quadrats are square frames which can be used to survey plants, to gain an estimate of total number of species, species richness, plant frequency and percentage cover.

5) The NHBS Guide to Snorkelling

While the ocean may still be very cold, snorkelling is a great way to experience many of the amazing species that inhabit our oceans. This guide includes advice on planning a trip, the equipment and method, and several species you might see along our coasts.

6) The NHBS Guide to Beachcombing

Beachcombing involves searching along the shoreline for interesting, valuable or even usable objects. It is a simple activity that you can do anytime you are at the beach and is a great way to learn more about your local coast. Its also a great way to help nature if you help to clear any plastic or fishing waste you come across.

7) Tree Planting

While late autumn and winter are the more ideal times for planting trees and hedgerows, you can still get involved at this time of the year. Check out our article where we provide tips for the first time tree-planter and point you towards heaps of helpful information to ensure that your trees and shrubs get off to the best start.

8) The NHBS Guide to Moth Trapping

Moth trapping is a wonderful way to discover the species of moths that visit your garden. This blog includes guidance on the best time for moth trapping, where to put your trap and anything else you might need to know.

9) The NHBS Guide to Rockpooling

Rockpooling is an educational and enjoyable wildlife activity that introduces you to a diverse and colourful world of creatures, usually hidden beneath the waves. This guide includes information on how to plan a trip, which equipment and methods you should use, common rock pool inhabitants and recommended reading.

10) The NHBS Guide to Pond Dipping

This is an excellent activity for children of all ages to introduce them to a wide range of plants, insects and amphibians, but its also perfect for adults who want to connect with nature. Our guide includes tips on what you’ll need, when and where to go, what to do and some great book and equipment suggestions.

11) Gardening for Wildlife

Your garden can be a wonderful oasis for wildlife if you provide the right habitats and food. In this two-part series, we look at how to attract wildlife to your garden by including plants for pollinators and providing food for birds and mammals, and how to create nesting or overwintering habitats.

12) The NHBS Guide to Whale and Dolphin Watching

Catching a glimpse of a whale or dolphin whilst visiting the coast is a uniquely memorable experience and a few hours spent whale and dolphin watching is fun for all age groups. Our blog will help you know when and where to watch cetaceans, how to get started and where to submit any sightings.

Minke whale by jtweedie1976 via Flickr

You can sign up for 30 Days Wild on the Wildlife Trusts website, where you’ll receive a free downloadable or postal pack full of activities, games, wildflower seeds and a calendar to help you plan out your activities. There are also packs for businesses, schools and care homes.

Let us know in the comments what you plan to do for 30 Days Wild!

Recommended reading

Springwatch: Great British Walks: 100 Wildlife Walks Through Our Beautiful Countryside





A Spotter’s Guide to Countryside Mysteries: From Piddocks and Lynchets to Wtich’s Broom






Master of Field Arts






Nature Journaling for a Wild Life







RSPB The Nature Tracker’s Handbook






The Forager’s Calender: A Seasonal Guide to Nature’s Wild Harvests

Author Interview with Peter Wohlleben: The Power of Trees

The Power of Trees: How Ancient Forests Can Save Us if We Let Them is forester Peter Wohlleben’s follow-up to his New York Times bestseller, The Hidden Life of Trees. Throughout this eye-opening book, Wohlleben describes how trees pass knowledge and their ability to survive climate change down to future generations. He is also unsparing in his criticism of those in positions of economic and political power who plant trees solely for logging and virtue-signaling, while continuing to ruthlessly exploit nature.

Peter Wohlleben

The Power of Trees is an impassioned plea for the preservation of nature’s incomparable biodiversity, not just for the sake of the trees, but also for all of us. Author Peter Wohlleben kindly agreed to answer our questions, discussing topics such as what inspired him to write this latest follow-up, the most effective ways to battle misinformation and his current and future projects. His new book was published by Greystone Books in April and is available at

After your highly successful book, The Hidden Life of Trees, what inspired you to write this follow-up?

Research into trees and forests is progressing rapidly. Almost every week, something new and surprising is discovered. Also, I am seeing for myself the way trees in the forest are reacting to climate change. And not all the news is bad. Trees react and learn, they adapt, which gives us hope that they will be around for a long time.

Nach der Veröffentlichung Ihres erfolgreichen Buches, ‘The Hidden Life of Trees’, was hat Sie dazu inspiriert einen zweiten Teil herauszubringen?

Die Forschung zu Wald und Bäumen schreitet rasend schnell voran. Fast wöchentlich gibt es überraschende neue Erkenntnisse, zudem beobachte ich selbst in den Wäldern die Reaktion der Bäume auf den Klimawandel. Und es gibt nicht nur schlechte Meldungen: Bäume reagieren und lernen, passen sich an und machen so Hoffnung, dass es sie auch noch lange geben wird.

In Chapter 1 ‘When Trees Make Mistakes’, you make a very interesting point about how trees growing in a community can support one another through stressful periods, while ones growing away from woodland are ‘on their own’. Given the increasing fragmentation of our woodland habitats, do you think this lack of a network between trees will exacerbate the impacts of climate change?

That’s right. We urgently need larger forests. In Germany, for example, the forest is divided into about 2 million fragments. This reduces the trees’ ability to cool the landscape and create rain clouds. This is why when we rewild landscapes, as the nations of the world agreed to do in Montreal, we should pay attention to creating large contiguous natural areas.

Im ersten Kapitel, ‘When Trees Make Mistakes’, machen Sie eine sehr interessante Beobachtung, dass Bäume, die in Gemeinschaft wachsen, sich gegeseitig in stressigen Zeiten unterstützen können, während jene die nicht in Gemeinschaft leben, ‘alleine’ sind. Wenn man bedenkt, dass der Lebensraum Wald immer mehr zersplittert wird, glauben Sie, dass die Abwehsenheit einer solchen Gemeinschaft einen Einfluss auf die Auswirkungen des Klimawandels haben kann?

Richtig – wir brauchen dringend größere Wälder. In Deutschland etwa ist der Wald in rund 2 Millionen Fragmente zergliedert. Die Fähigkeit, die Landschaft zu kühlen oder Regenwolken zu erzeugen, leidet darunter. Deshalb sollten wir bei der Renaturierung der Landschaft, wie sie in Montreal von den Nationen der Welt beschlossen wurde, darauf achten, große zusammenhängende Naturgebiete zu schaffen.

Copse by ARendle via Flickr

Wood and wood-derived products are so integrated into our ways of life, from building materials to toilet paper, and it is often seen as the more environmentally friendly, ‘sustainable’ option compared to material such as concrete. Do you think it’s possible for us to move towards less destructive forestry practices and still be able to use this material at such a large scale, or will usage need to be adapted as well?

To harvest wood, we need forests, that’s pretty obvious. At the moment, however, the question we always focus on is how we can satisfy our demand for wood, without giving much thought to how the forest itself is going to survive. We need to move the survival of the forest front and center in our discussions. Only then will we be able to answer questions about how much timber can be harvested without damaging the ecosystem too much. Trees, after all, produce biomass to meet their own needs and not the needs of sawmills.

Wälder und deren Produkte sind so sehr in unsere Lebensweise integriert, von Baustoffen bis hin zum Toilettenpapier, welche oftmals als umweltfreundlichere und nachhaltigere Optionen im Gegenzug zu Materialen wie Beton gelten. Ist es Ihrer Meinung nach möglich, dass wir uns weniger zerstörerische Praktiken in der Forstwirtschaft aneignen können und dennoch Materialien in dem gleichen Ausmaß verwenden können wie bisher, oder muss dies auch angepasst werden?

Um Holz zu ernten, brauchen wir Wald – eine Binsenweisheit. Doc aktuell stellen wir immer zuerst die Frage, wie unser Bedarf nach Holz befriedigt werden kann und weniger, wie der Wald überlebt. Deshalb muss das Überleben des Waldes ins Zentrum unser Bemühungen gestellt werden. Erst anschließend können wir die Frage beantworten, wie viel Holz geerntet werden kann, ohne das Ökosystem zu sehr zu beschädigen. Denn die Bäume produzieren die Biomasse ja für ihre Zwecke, nicht für das Sägewerk.

Log pile by Martyn Fletcher via Flickr

COP26 in 2021 produced a pledge signed by over 100 nations to halt and reverse deforestation by 2030, though it only refers to net deforestation, with forest loss being replaced ‘sustainably’. Why do you think the value of ancient woodlands is so often overlooked when policies surrounding climate change are made?

Honestly, I don’t know. Way back around 1800, the world-renowned naturalist Alexander von Humboldt described the importance of forests for cooling landscapes and creating local rainfall. Modern satellite research confirms that old-growth forests are especially good at doing this. And yet, these days, forests are viewed mainly in terms of carbon storage. That’s far too narrow a view.

Bei COP26 in 2021 unterzeichneten über 100 Nationen das Versprechen die Entwaldung bis 2030 einzustellen bzw, rückgängig zu machen, jedoch geht es lediglich um die Netto-Entwaldung und den nachhaltigen Ersatz von bereits abgeholzten Wäldern. Warum werden alteingesessene Waldlandschaften Ihrer Meinung nach oft außer acht gelassen, wenn es darum geht Richtlinien zu erstellen?

Ich weiß es ehrlich gesagt nicht. Schon Alexander von Humboldt, der weltweit berühmte Naturwissenschaftler, hat um 1800 die Wichtigkeit der Wälder für die Kühlung der Landschaft und die lokalen Regenfälle beschrieben. Moderne Satellitenforschung bestätigt, dass gerade alte Wälder dies besonders gut können. Doch aktuell wird Wald überwiegend unter dem Gesichtspunkt der Kohlenstoffspeicherung betrachtet. Das ist viel zu kurz gesprungen.

Image by Noya Fields via Flickr

Part 3: ‘Forests of the Future’ mentions that climate change is often blamed for the impacts of mismanaged forests. What do you believe are the most effective ways to combat this misinformation?

The only thing you can do is to push back. And that is exactly what motivates me in my work. I educate the public about what is really going on so they can decide for themselves what needs to be done. That is why I write books and travel to give presentations, and why I have established a new course (social and ecological forest management) at Eberswalde University for Sustainable Development. My goal is to create an emotional connection between people and trees. Trees make people happy!

Teil 3: In ‘Forests of the Future’ sprechen Sie davon, dass der Klimawandel oft für die Auswirkungen von schlecht geführten Wäldern verantwortlich gemacht wird. Was sind Ihrer Meinung nach die effektivsten Methoden um die Verbreitung solcher falschen Informationen zu vermeiden?

Da kann man nur gegenhalten. Das ist genau der Grund für meine Motivation: Die Bevölkerung über die wahren Hintergründe zu informieren, damit sie selber entscheiden können, was zu tun ist. Deshalb schreibe ich Bücher, deshalb reise ich zu Vorträgen, deshalb habe ich einen neue Studiengang an der Hochschule Eberswalde initiiert (sozial-ökologisches Waldmanagement). Mein Ziel: Menschen und Bäume emotional zu verbinden. Bäume machen glücklich!

One of the main solutions that a number of people are beginning to promote is the stepped back approach of allowing nature to regenerate without serious hands-on management. In a world where people often want to see governments taking action to help nature, do you think this method would be accepted by the public?

There’s no quick fix. People want to help. They want to actively participate in making everything better. But our activities lie at the heart of the problem. It’s difficult for us to step back and simply observe. Nature has been healing itself for hundreds of millions of years and it does this better without any help from us. The solution is to elevate the art of observation. If you visit the same places for years and take photographs, you see how the landscape recovers and changes for the better. This gives people hope and makes them happy! It’s the best cure for “climate depression”.

Eine der Hauptlösungen, die mehr und mehr Aufmerksamkeit bekommt, ist es, der Natur die Möglichkeit zu geben sich selbst zu regenerieren ohne größere Eingriffe. Kann Ihrer Meinung nach in einer Welt, wo Menschen von der Regierung Hilfe für die Natur erwarten, solch eine Methode öffentlich akzeptiert werden?

Das ist ein langer Weg. Menschen wollen helfen, wollen aktiv umgestalten, um alles besser zu machen. Doch unsere Aktivitäten sind ja Kern des Problems. Sich zurücklehnen und zuzuschauen, wie die Natur es seit Hunderten von Millionen Jahren immer noch besser macht, ist schwierig. Der Ausweg: Wir sollten das Beobachten thematisieren. Wer immer wieder dieselben Orte über Jahre hinweg aufsucht und auch Fotos macht, sieht, wie sich die Landschaft erholt und positiv verändert. Das macht Hoffnung und macht glücklich! Es ist das beste Mittel gegen die “Klimadepression”.

Do you have any current projects or plans for the future that you could tell us about?

I’m still writing books of course and I work nationally and internationally with our non-profit organization to prevent illegal clear-cutting and bring back old-growth forests. I also work at our forest academy almost every day ( to tell people more about the wonder of trees. Forests are endlessly fascinating and you never run out of things to discover–I am still learning something new every day.

Haben Sie zukünftig Projekte oder Pläne, die Sie hier gerne besprechen möchten?

Ich schreibe natürlich weiter Bücher, kümmere mich national und international mit unserer gemeinnützigen Organisation um die Verhinderung illegaler Kahlschläge und die Rückkehr der Urwälder. Daneben arbeite ich fast täglich in der Waldakademie (, um Menschen das Wunder der Bäume näher zu bringen. Wald ist so faszinierend, dass es unendlich viel zu entdecken gibt – ich lerne also jeden Tag immer noch dazu.

Answers translated from German by Jane Billinghurst.

The Power of Trees: How Ancient Forests Can Save Us if We Let Them was published by Greystone Books in April 2023 and is available from