The NHBS Guide to UK Bat Identification

Bats are elusive creatures; they are nocturnal, and so you are less likely to spot them compared to other UK wildlife, despite bats making up almost a quarter of our native mammal species within the UK. Some species have experienced severe declines, although current trends indicate that a few of these are now recovering. There is still much to learn about bats, however, and ongoing monitoring plays an important role in improving our knowledge of bat population trends.

Where to find them?

Bats are more likely to be found roosting in natural crevices, as opposed to building nests like birds or other small mammals. They can roost in trees, roofs, or outdoor cavities in buildings such as houses, as well as other natural or manmade structures, such as caves and bridges. As they hibernate during the winter, bats are the most active between April and November, and the best time of day to watch them is at dusk. They’re found in many habitats, particularly woodlands, farmland and urban areas (such as gardens).

Identifying Bats:

There are 17 species of bats that have breeding populations in the UK. They are commonly identified by their calls, as the rhythm, frequency range and repetition rate varies between species. A bat detector can be used to easily identify individual bat species in the field; you can browse our range here. In this article, however, we will be looking specifically at the physical characteristics that aid in the identification of 11 of our more common bat species.

Their size, colouration, nose shape, and the size and shape of their ears are helpful features to look at when identifying them by sight. More complicated identification features include the presence and size of the post calcarial lobe, a lobe of skin on the tail membrane, and the length of the forearm.


The most common species, and the ones you’re most likely to see, are pipistrelles. There are three species, the common pipistrelle (Pipistrellus pipistrellus), the soprano pipistrelle (P. pygmaeus), and the Nathusius’ (P. nathusii), with the first two being the most common and widespread of all UK bat species.

Common pipistrelle by J P via Flickr
Soprano pipistrelle by I. Watson Loyd

ID notes: All three species look very similar, with dark brown fur, a paler underside, and a darker mask-like pattern around the face. Nathusius’s pipistrelles are rarer, and slightly more easy to tell apart due to their lighter underside, larger body size, and furrier tail.

Size: 3.5-4.5cm in length (Nathusius’: 4.6-5.5cm)

Wingspan: 20-23cm (Nathusius’: 22-25cm)

Great and Lesser Horseshoe Bats

Latin names: Rhinolophus ferrumequinum and R. hipposideros

Lesser horseshoe bat by Alexandre Roux via Flickr
Great horseshoe bat by Nils Bouillard via Unsplash

ID notes: Both these species have a fleshy nose shaped like a horseshoe. The lesser horseshoe is much smaller, with greyish-brown fur on its back and a white underside, while the greater horseshoe is larger and has more of a reddish-brown colouration on its back and a cream underside.

Size: Lesser: 3.5-45cm in length, Greater: 5.7-7cm in length

Wingspan: Lesser: 20-25cm, Greater: 35-40cm

Whiskered Bat:

Latin name: Myotis mystacinus

Whiskered bat by Gilles San Martin via Flickr

ID notes: The whiskered bat is quite difficult to distinguish as they are visually similar to Brandt’s bats. They have brown or dark grey fur with gold tips, and a lighter grey underside. They have a concave posterior edge to their tragus, the piece of skin of the inner ear in front of the ear canal, whereas Brandt’s bats have a convex posterior edge.

Size: 3.5-4.8cm

Wingspan: 21-24cm

Daubenton’s Bat

Latin name: Myotis daubentoniid

Daubenton bat by Gilles San Martin via Flickr

ID notes: This bat has brown fur, a paler underside that appears silvery-grey, and a pink face. This species is most likely seen around water as they forage for small flies above and on the water’s surface.

Size: 4.5-5.5cm

Wingspan: 24-27cm

Brown and Grey Long-eared Bats

Latin name: Plecotus auratus and P. austriacus

Brown long-eared bat by Javier Ábalos via Flickr
Grey long-eared bat by Alexandre Roux via Flickr

ID notes: These bats, as their names suggest, have very long, large ears which can be almost the same length as their bodies. These species look very similar, with greyish-brown fur, although the grey long-eared bat has a darker face.

Size: Brown: 3.7-5.2 cm, Grey: 4.1-5.8cm

Wingspan: Brown: 20-30cm, Grey: 25-30cm

Natterer’s Bat

Latin name: Myotis nattereri

Natterer’s bat by I. Watson Loyd

ID notes: The Natterer’s bat has a bare, pink face and light brown and grey fur on its back, with a paler underside. Its ears are quite long, and it has bristles along its tail membrane.

Size: 4-5cm

Wingspan: 24.5-30cm

Bechstein’s Bat

Latin name: Myotis Bechsteinii

Bechstein’s bat by I. Watson Loyd

ID notes: The Bechstein’s bat has long ears which, unlike the barbastelle’s, do not meet at the forehead. Their fur is reddish-brown with a paler, grey underside, and a pink face.

Size: 4.3-5.3cm

Wingspan: 25-30cm

All bat species are European protected species, therefore they and their breeding and resting sites are fully protected by the law. It is important to note that a licence is required for capturing and handling bats, as well as for any activity that may disturb a bat roost, including photography.


The NHBS Introduction to Habitats: Heathland and Moorland

Heathland by Torsten Behrens via Flickr

In our new NHBS Introduction to Habitats series, we will be exploring the various habitats found in the UK. In this article, we will take a look at the first habitat of the series, heathland and moorland. Featuring prominently in famous novels such as Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë and The Return of the Native by Thomas Hardy, heathland is a unique habitat. Originally manmade, it is a product of agricultural grazing and tree clearing practices originating thousands of years ago. Unlike the heathland in countries such as Australia and South Africa, European heathland is relatively low in flora species variety. It is characterised by heather species (Family Ericaceae), but also other plant species such as gorse (Ulex spp.) and bracken (Pteridium spp.).

As this habitat is manmade, it requires management to be maintained. This usually involves a variety of methods such as using grazing animals, removing older species and trees, and controlling the encroachment of scrub. They can even be managed by controlled burning. If neglected, the heathland would be overtaken by successive species and become woodland.

There are several different types of heathland, depending on physical factors such as soil drainage, terrain, and altitude. These types include lowland, chalk, and wooded heath. Lowland heath can be further divided into wet, dry, and humid heath, and upland heath is more commonly known as moorland. The types of species found can vary between these habitats.

What species can you find here?

While there may not be a large variety of flora, the species present all play important roles within the habitat. There are also some iconic species within the heathland.

Bell Heather (Erica cinerea)

Bell heather by Jim Champion via Flickr

Between June and September, bell heather blooms across the heathland, creating a blanket of purple. This species is an important nectar source for many invertebrate species, such as the buff-tailed bumblebee (Bombus terrestris) and the silver-studded blue butterfly (Plebejus argus).

It is similar to another heather species, cross-leaved heath, but the flowers of the bell heather are smaller and occur around the stem, rather than clustered on one side.

Common Gorse (Ulex europaeus)

Common gorse by Hugh Knott via Flickr

Flowering from January to June, this bright yellow plant provides an early source of food for many invertebrates. As a large evergreen shrub, it also provides shelter for many species, including Dartford warblers (Curruca undata) and linnets (Linaria cannabina).

Common gorse is also very similar to two other gorse species, western (Ulex gallii) and dwarf (Ulex minor). The easiest way to identify the species is by the time of year that they flower and their height, as common gorse grows much taller and can reach up to 2.5 metres.

Common Bracken (Pteridium aquilinum)

Common bracken by brewbooks via Flickr

The UK’s most common fern species, it grows in dense groups on heathland and moorland. A bright green during spring and summer months, this species dies back in winter, creating a sea of brown fronds. Bracken is poisonous to grazing livestock, therefore it needs to be cut back to maintain heathland habitats. If left to grow, it can dominate the habitat and out-compete other plant species, such as bell heather, for nutrients, light, and water.

Heath Bedstraw (Galium saxatile)

Heath bedstraw – by H. Ketley

Heath bedstraw is a mat-forming herb found in heathland habitats. It is a fairly common species, found widespread across most of the UK. The white petalled flowers bloom between June and August. This species is a key food source for Britain’s only true alpine butterfly species: the small mountain ringlet (Erebia epiphron).

Key identifying features of heath bedstraw are its square, hairless stem and its white, four-petal flowers that give off a sickly, unpleasant smell.


Heathland supports a large variety of species, particularly invertebrates, but also birds, mammals and reptiles. Several rare species present here are hardly found in any other habitat.

Silver-Studded Blue Butterfly (Plebejus argus)

Silver-studded blue butterfly by gailhampshire via Flickr

This species is found mainly in heathland, chalk grassland, and sand dune habitats, and is almost entirely restricted to southern England. It is a rare species, with the adults appearing between July to September.

This species is sexually dimorphic, meaning the males and females look different. The males (pictured) are blue with a darker border, while the females are brown with red spots along their border. Both have the pale fringe to their wings.

Golden-Ringed Dragonfly (Cordulegaster boltonii)

Golden-ringed dragonfly by Paul Albertella via Flickr

This species, found in heathland, freshwater, and wetland habitats, is easy to identify, due to its distinctive yellow and black markings. Their larvae are aquatic, and so rely on streams or standing water within the heathland to breed. While voracious predators in their own right, they are also an important food source, along with other dragonfly species, for many nesting birds such as the hobby (Falco subbuteo).

Dartford Warbler (Silvia undata)

Dartford warbler by Steve Herring via Flickr

The Dartford warbler suffered a population crash in the 1960s but has since begun recovering. It is a ground-nesting bird, living on lowland heath and relies on gorse for a protective covering. Within the UK, this species is also mostly restricted to southern England. However, there are populations of this species within western Europe, particularly within the Iberian peninsula.

Stoat (Mustela erminea)

Stoat by soumyajit nandy via Flickr

The stoat, also known as the short-tailed weasel or Eurasian ermine, is a small member of the mustelid family, related to otters (Lutra lutra) and the very visually similar weasel (Mustela nivalis). While stoats are slightly larger, the key to discerning this species from the weasel is the tail – stoats have a longer tail with a black tip.

Heathland can also support all six UK reptile species and several of our amphibian species. For more information on those, be sure to check out our NHBS Guide to UK Amphibian Identification and to UK Reptile Identification.

Heathland threats:

Lack of management is one of the main threats that heathland faces. This habitat needs variety, for example, dry heath, wetter areas such as bogs and ponds, patches of older vegetation, and areas of bare, sandy ground. This all improves the biodiversity of the area and helps to strengthen the ecosystem. Without management, these areas could all be taken over by scrub and tree cover.

Clearing for urban development, ploughing, and quarrying also threaten this habitat, and are some of the main causes of heathland loss over the last few decades. Further threats include the expansion and planting of forests, overgrazing, and uncontrolled fire.

More than 80% of heathland in the UK has been lost during the past 150 years, but widespread conservation efforts hope to reverse this. The UK Biodiversity Action Plan, for example, aims to restore 58,000 hectares of heathland, with further plans to recreate 6,000 hectares.

Areas of significance:

Upland heathland or moorland:
– Exmoor, Dartmoor, and Bodmin Moor
– Pennines
– Brecon Beacons
– Other areas such as Yorkshire, Northumberland, Greater Manchester, and the Peak District.

Lowland heathland
– The New Forest
– Ashdown Forest
– South Purbeck Heaths
– Other areas such as Cornwall, Devon, Surrey, and Pembrokeshire

Please note this is not an exhaustive list.

The Big Butterfly Count: NHBS Staff Results

Red Admiral – by G. Hagger

We have reached the end of the Big Butterfly Count 2021, which took place between Friday 16th July and Sunday 8th August. It’s the world’s biggest survey of butterflies and is aimed at assessing the health of our environment by recording the number of our most common butterflies and day-flying moths.

But don’t worry if you didn’t get to take part this year; it is an annual event, so make sure to look out for it next year! To take part, all you need to do is spend 15 minutes counting butterflies on a sunny day. You can count from anywhere you like, such as in the garden or park, in the woods or fields or wherever you find yourself outdoors.  You can submit your results online on the Big Butterfly Count website. For a list of handy butterfly ID guides as well as some tips on how to distinguish certain species, take a look at our previous blog post here

This count is extremely important as butterflies are vital to the ecosystem, as pollinators and within the food chain. Populations have decreased significantly since the 1970s, therefore monitoring butterfly numbers is crucial. We hope that more people have taken part this year, and, as always, many of our staff got involved. Scroll down to see what we found.

We’d also love to see what you’ve spotted if you took part – why not let us know in the comments below. 


Catherine spotted all of these butterflies during her lunch break:

Small White: 10

Meadow Brown: 5

Gatekeeper: 9

Meadow Brown – by C. Mitson
Small White – by C. Mitson






Small Skipper – by O. Haines

Gemma found:

Large white: 2

Meadow brown: 2

Ringlet: 1

Red admiral: 1



Gatekeeper – by H. Ketley
Marbled White – by C. Mitson








Tonie did the butterfly count by the coast:

Meadow browns: 5

Red admiral: 2

Large white: 2

Small skipper: 2

Marbled white: 1

Gatekeeper – by C. Mitson
High Brown Fritillary – by H. Ketley
Speckled Wood – by A. Rietveld








I managed to complete a butterfly count at the end of a hike on Dartmoor:

Small white: 1

Meadow brown: 4

Gatekeeper: 1

Red admiral: 1

Meadow Brown – by C. Mitson

Angeline completed her big butterfly count in Plymouth:

Ringlet: 3

Small skipper: 2

Silver-Washed Fritillary – by A. Rietveld
Meadow Brown – by H. Ketley
Small Skipper – by A. Rietveld








Oli spotted:

Peacock – by O. Haines

Gatekeeper: 2

Small tortoiseshell: 1

Red admiral: 1

Peacock: 1

Ringlet: 1

Meadow brown: 1

Ringlet – by O. Haines


Gatekeeper – by A. Rietveld

Butterfly Conservation

For more information on UK butterflies and how you can help them, please visit Butterfly Here you will find a wealth of information to help you find and identify butterflies and moths.

This Week in Biodiversity News – 18th August 2021

The number of wild beavers is now estimated to be 1,000 across Scotland’s southern Highlands. NatureScot’s survey found that the beavers have established 251 territories, more than double the number found three years ago.

Researchers warn that the loss of shared knowledge between animals could threaten their survival. The absence of North Atlantic right whales from many of their ancestral feeding grounds is suggested to be due to the loss of cultural knowledge – a result of whaling and subsequent population declines. It is argued that understanding this cultural knowledge may be key to the success of conservation efforts.

New habitats for wild bees will be created at six reservoirs in the Yorkshire Dales. The network of pollinator habitats, created by the Bee Together project, will form part of a ‘B-Line’ from Leeds to Lancaster, aiming to reverse the current decline in bee populations.

Global greenhouse gas emissions must peak in the next four years to avoid climate breakdown, according to the leaked draft of a UN report. The draft comes from the third part of a report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, not scheduled to be released until next March.

The Blue Planet Fund delivers the first £16.2m of its £500m budget to restore ocean health and address climate change. This funding will go to five programmes aiming to increase marine protection, tackle plastic pollution and the decline of global coral reefs, and use the UK’s expertise to help respond to marine pollution disasters.

The NHBS Guide to UK Ladybird Beetle Identification

Colloquially known as ladybugs or ladybirds, these species are a well-known part of UK wildlife. Appearing in the nursery rhyme ‘Ladybird ladybird’, as the symbol for Ladybird Books, and in arts and crafts activities at school, they are a familiar sight for most of us from a young age. 

Ladybirds are beetles and belong to the family Coccinellidae. There are 26 species in the UK and they can be found in a variety of habitats such as grassland, woodland, and even your garden. There are several ways to survey ladybirds, for instance a sweep net or beating tray can be used to collect ladybirds, or you can fashion your own ladybird catcher by cutting off the top of an old plastic bottle. Holding the bottle upside down, a stick can be used to tap bushes and trees so that ladybirds can fall in the bottle. Please remember to be gentle and to return them to where you found them, or instead search for ladybirds by eye.

Other useful equipment include a hand lens, a field guide that also includes larval stages, and a pen and some paper to note your identifications. You can help broaden our knowledge of populations and distributions by recording your sightings through iRecord or by using the iRecord Ladybird apps. 

Identifying ladybirds are usually based on colouration and the number and pattern of spots, although these can sometimes vary between individuals of the same species. In this article, we’ll show several species you may encounter when looking for ladybirds.

7-spot ladybird (Coccinella septempunctata)

Distribution: Widespread, common

What to look for: This species has a bright red wing case with seven black spots, and a black and white pronotum (the hard plate behind the head). There is a very similar species named the scarce 7-spot ladybird (Coccinella magnifica). It is difficult to tell the two apart but the 7-spot has slightly smaller and rounder spots.

7-spot ladybird by Martin Cooper via Flickr
22-spot ladybird (Psyllobora vigintiduopunctata)

Distribution: Widespread across England but rarer in Scotland and Wales. 

What to look for: The 22-spot ladybird is one of the smaller UK species. It has a bright yellow wing case with 22 black spots, plus a yellow pronotum with 4 black spots.

22-spot ladybird by hedera.baltica via Flickr
Adonis ladybird (Hippodamia variegata)

Distribution: Scattered populations across Britain, numbers are increasing and can be quite frequent in suitable habitats

What to look for: This species has a more orange-red wing case, with several black spots and two white markings at the front. The number of black spots varies between individuals and can be between 3-15. Their pronotum is black and white, and they have either black or brown legs. 

Adonis ladybird by Lucas Large via Flickr
14-spot ladybird (Propylea quattuordecimpunctata)

Distribution: Widespread

What to look for: This species is yellow, with black, rectangular spots that meet each other, giving it an almost chequered appearance. They can, however, vary greatly in colour and pattern. Their wing cases can have a background colour of cream all the way to a lighter orange. Despite its name, it can have anywhere from 4-14 spots. 

14-spot ladybird by gailhampshire via Flickr
Larch ladybird (Aphidecta obliterata)

Distribution: Widespread in Britain

What to look for: The larch ladybird is a light tan brown, with muted patterning. There is occasionally a dark line along the back of the wing case where the two sides meet, and the occasional speckling of spots. The pronotum is usually a lighter, beige colour with an M-shaped mark in darker brown. 

Larch ladybird by S. Rae via Flickr
Kidney-spot Ladybird (Chilocorus renipustulatus)

Distribution: Found across England and Wales, but only in some parts of Scotland. 

What to look for: The kidney-spot ladybird is black, with two large red spots, one on each wing casing. There is a distinctly flattened rim around the edge of the wing casing. This species is usually found in well-wooded areas – look on tree trunks!

Kidney-spot ladybird by S. Rae via Flickr
Water ladybird (Anisosticta novemdecimpunctata)

Distribution: Widespread and frequent across England and Wales, but not in Scotland or Ireland.

What to look for: This species changes colour throughout the year! It has a more beige colouring, except in April-June when it turns a reddish colour. It is an elongated and flattish ladybird, with between 15-21 black spots. As its name suggests, it is usually found by the water, living in reedbeds and wetlands. 

Water ladybird by AJC1 via Flickr
Harlequin ladybird (Harmonia axyridis)

Distribution: Widespread in England, spreading in Wales, Scotland, and Ireland. 

What to look for: There is a large variation in the appearance of this species. They have brown legs and can have a red, orange, yellow, or black wing casing with up to 21 spots. The black forms usually have between 2-4 spots. Their pronotum may have several spots fused in an M or solid trapezoid shape. They are a large species, at approximately 7-8mm in length. 

Did you know? This is an introduced species and is considered invasive, as it outcompetes our native species, such as the 7-spot ladybird, for resources. It even eats other ladybirds’ eggs and larvae!

Harlequin ladybird by hedera.baltica via Flickr
16-spot ladybird (Tytthaspis sedecimpunctata)

Distribution: Widespread in southern England, occasionally found in parts of Wales.

What to look for: It has a beige colouration, although there are darker forms that appear more yellow or even slightly orange. It can have between 13-18 spots, with three to four fused together forming a line on either side of the wing case. It also has a solid black line down the middle of the wing case, and some spots on its pronotum. 

16-spot ladybird by gailhampshire via Flickr


The NHBS Guide to UK Spider Identification

There are over 650 species of spider within the UK, and although many may find spiders unappealing or even frightening, they are fascinating in their own right. While many spiders are present throughout the year, autumn is the best time to see them outdoors. 

Identifying spiders can often be difficult, as they are very small, elusive, and many species resemble one another. The colouration and pattern of a spider can be a useful way to identify them, as well as other key features such as the structure of their webs. In some cases, it is necessary to take a closer look at the genitalia under a microscope, as this can be the only way to confidently identify certain species. You can also use your location as a clue, as some species are more likely to be found in certain parts of the UK.

To survey for spiders, you can search by eye or you can use equipment such as a sweep net or a sampling tray, and a hand lens can help you pick out features on smaller species. There are also lots of field guides and books available for more information on different types of spiders.

In this article, we’ll show you several fairly common species that you may find in your garden or local green space. 

Garden Spider or Cross Orbweaver (Araneus diadematus)

Distribution: Common and widespread

What to look for: These spiders are greyish-brown or reddish-brown with a white pattern across their back that resembles a cross. They can also sometimes be bright orange. They have striped legs, and females are twice the size of males. 

Garden spider (left and right) by xulescu_g via Flickr
Noble False Widow (Steatoda nobilis)

Distribution: Widespread across southern England, with their range increasing northwards

What to look for: This species can be confused with many other UK species. Their body is dark brown, with variable patterns on their abdomen. Usually cream and dark brown marks that can sometimes resemble a skull.

Did you know? This is a non-native species in the UK and was thought to be introduced in the late 1800s. Despite many rumours, bites from this species are rare, usually occurring when the spider is disturbed. The bites have been compared to a wasp sting, however guidance should be sort if you are concerned about a bite.

Noble false widow by Martin Cooper via Flickr
Common Candy-Striped Spider (Enoplognatha ovata)

Distribution: Occurs throughout the UK

What to look for: The common candy-striped spider has several colour variations. Their abdomen usually has a pale creamish-white background. The pattern on it can be bright pinkish-purple in a V shape pointing towards the head, a solid pinkish-purple triangle, black lines that can be either thick or thin, or a variation of black marks and spots. Their cephalothorax (fused head and thorax) is a pale yellow colour, with a dark line down the middle, and their legs are also a similar pale yellow. In the field, it is incredibly difficult to distinguish this species from a similar species, the scarce candy-striped spider (Enoplognatha latimana). Confirmation of the species usually requires examination under a microscope. 

Common candy-striped spider by Judy Gallagher via Flickr
Goldenrod (Flower) Crab Spider (Misumena vatia)

Distribution: Common in southern UK

What to look for: The goldenrod crab spider has some colour variation, appearing white, yellow or green, They often have red lines on either side of their abdomen. Their abdomen is bulbous and their front legs have a crab-like appearance, hence their name. The female is much larger than the male. 

Did you know? This species can change its body colour to match its background! It takes a few days to occur, but it helps to disguise the spider as they sit and wait for their prey to land near them.  

Goldenrod crab spider by hedera.baltica via Flickr
Zebra Jumping Spider (Salticus scenicus)

Distribution: Widespread

What to look for: The zebra jumping spider can grow up to 8mm, which is surprisingly large for a jumping spider, and they can jump an impressive 10cm. As their name suggests, they have a black and white striped pattern, but it can be hard to tell them apart from similar species of jumping spider. They are usually found on walls, rocks, or tree trunks.

Zebra jumping spider by Chris via Flickr
Cucumber Green Spider (Araniella cucurbitina)

Distribution: Occur throughout the UK

What to look for: Around 4-6mm long, this small spider has a bright yellowish-green abdomen and a pinkish cephalothorax. They also have small black spots along their abdomen. They are very similar to another cucumber spider A. opisthographa, but it can be difficult to tell them apart in the field.

Cucumber green spider by Pavel Kirillov via Flickr
Labyrinth Spider (Agelena labyrinthica)

Distribution: Widespread in southern England, as well as in Wales

What to look for: The labyrinth spider can grow quite large, up to 18mm long. They create long, funnel-shaped webs in long grass and hedgerows. Their abdomen has a pale brown stripe with darker bands on either side, and these bands have several paler chevron markings through them. Their cephalothorax also has a pale brown stripe, with an orange-brown band on either side, and their legs are orange-brown with paler hairs.

Labyrinth spider by gailhampshire via Flickr
Nursery Web Spider (Pisaura mirabilis)

Distribution: Widespread across most of the UK, although less frequent in the north

What to look for: The nursery web spider is quite variable in colour, and can have a grey, dark brown, or yellow-orange body. They have a slender, pointed abdomen, with two dark brown lines running from the spinnerets (silk-spinning organs) all the way to the front of the cephalothorax. They also have pale tear-shaped marks next to their eyes.

Nursery web spider by Dluogs via Flickr


Author Interview: The Handbook of Acoustic Bat Detection

Acoustic detection is a popular and widespread method of environmental assessment, and its use is increasing, driven by the development of increasingly accessible and sophisticated detection devices. The Handbook of Acoustic Bat Detection provides an in-depth understanding of the principles of acoustic detection, study planning, data handling, properties of bat calls, analysis of results, and the manual identification of species. It also includes information on quality assurance, the benefits and drawbacks of automatic species recognition, and the background physics of sound.

We are fortunate to have had the opportunity to ask the authors some questions.

The applications of data derived from acoustic bat detection are diverse and wide-ranging. What motivated you to write The Handbook of Acoustic Bat Detection and what impact do you hope the book has in this field?

In our daily work, we have seen a lot of improper use of acoustic data. Mainly driven by misconceptions regarding the interpretation of acoustic data and quite often due to missing basic knowledge on bioacoustics and signal analysis. With the easy availability of acoustic detectors and the relative simple usage, these problems became more common, especially in consulting activities. Many new “bat experts” appeared in the field basing their work on automatic detection and identification systems. We hope to help such users to gain a basic understanding of bioacoustics and give more experienced users new information to further improve their work. Thus overall we hope to improve the quality of projects based on acoustic data and increase the evidence level.

This book discusses some of the different methods for processing acoustic data, such as zero-crossing. What are the benefits of this method versus full-spectrum analysis?

The main benefit of zero-crossing is the much smaller amount of data produced and the possibility of listening to the recorded sounds directly. Full-spectrum detectors produce much larger amounts of data and do not allow direct listening to the bat calls. Yet, the benefits of zero-crossing are decreasing with cheaper data storage and higher processing power. Thus today one can nearly instantaneously listen to full-spectrum sound resampled to zero-crossing or heterodyne representation in real-time. In our opinion, the real-time data gives more insights into the calls on a much easier-to-understand level, yet we accept that experts can do powerful analysis with zero-crossing data as well.

You have all had many years of experience in this field; how has bat detection and acoustic analysis developed and changed since you first started?

We started working on bat acoustics in the field when only heterodyne or zero-crossing detectors were available. So in our early days, we walked through the field listening for bats. We were already interested in better and more reliable species ID back then. Then the time-expansion system was available as well as the Anabat system. We used time-expansion a lot, but both didn’t work well for our scientific research interests. So we developed with the batcorder a real-time detector that completely changed bat work in Germany within a few years. Back in the beginning, sound analysis of bat calls was something only a few were able to do. Now with fully automated systems, the whole process changed. Surveys can run for multiple months nearly everywhere – not only ground-based but also on wind turbines or off-shore. We collect billions of bat calls a year with these systems and thus are able to learn more about their calls and ecology. Yet this is not always the best, since a lack of bat knowledge often prevents optimal solutions for bat-related landscape changes.

Bat acoustic recording visualised through the Anabat Insight Software 

In chapter 11, ‘Quality assurance of reports’, you provide criteria to improve the quality of specialist reports used in impact assessments, such as which information should be included and the procedures that should be followed. How do you think the previous lack of clear guidelines has impacted bat surveying and, consequently, conservation?

In Germany, quite often surveys were conducted and it was later not possible to understand the low or high results since important information was missing. Also for legal complaints in planning processes, it was quite often impossible to understand how the data was actually sampled. If surveys and methods are well documented, it is much easier to evaluate the planning process and even more to work out optimal sampling schemes for following surveys in the new planning processes.

Now that this book is complete, do you have any future projects you would like to tell us about?

There are many projects – especially since we now face a major green-green dilemma with climate conservation often acting against biodiversity conservation. This especially is visible in the renewable energy sector. So currently some of us are investigating chances to further identify the possibilities of improving bat conservation for planning wind parks and other sources of renewables.

Another project is the ongoing improvement of species identification based on bat calls. We are working on new solutions to give better results.

The Handbook of Acoustic Bat Detection

Available for pre-order: Due September 2021

Paperback | £39.99




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

July Top 10

NHBS’s Top 10 bestsellers July 2021

We love looking back at our bestsellers from the month before and are very excited to share our second Top 10 list, featuring the best of July.

This month, highlights include recent works such as Sphagnum Mosses and Seabirds, as well as some you may recognise from last month’s Top 10, Secrets of a Devon Wood and Insectinside, as recently featured on BBC’s SpringWatch.


seabirds: The New Identification Guide | Peter Harrison, et al.
Hardback | June 2021

In top place this month is Seabirds: The New Identification Guide, a 600-page treatment to all know seabird species. It’s the first comprehensive guide to the world’s seabirds to be published since Harrison’s Seabirds in 1983. This guide contains 239 brilliant, full-colour plates, along with detailed text covering status, conservation, geographic range and more.

Seabirds Publisher, Lynx Edicions, is also our publisher of the month for August!


a field guide to grasses, sedges, and rushes | Dominic price
Spiralbound | April 2016

Field Guide to the Grasses, Sedges and Rushes has moved up the list this month from the 7th spot and is a consistent bestseller for NHBS. This guide aims to simplify the identification of this fascinating group of plants, using characters that are both easy to spot in the field and simple to remember. Over 100 species are described, focusing on key features of both their genus and species.

Read our interview with Dominic Price here.


Sphagnum Mosses: FIeld Key to the Mosses of Britain and Ireland | Martin Godfrey and Karen Rogers
Paperback | July 2021

Brand new last month, Sphagnum Mosses: Field Key to the Mosses of Britain and Ireland is proving to be popular. This short handbook is intended to provide an accessible key for identifying Sphagnum species in the field.

It contains brief descriptions of the more important identification features, plus a guide to the vegetation types that the individual species occupy. As some individual specimens can be problematic, short keys based on microscopic characters are also provided.


Britain’s insects: A Field guide to the insects of Great Britain and Ireland | Paul brock
Flexibound | May 2021

Britain’s Insects remains just as popular this month! This field guide is an innovative, up-to-date, carefully designed and beautifully illustrated field guide to Britain and Ireland’s 25 insect orders, concentrating on popular groups and species that can be identified in the field.


Featuring superb photographs of live insects, Britain’s Insects covers the key aspects of identification and provides information on status, distribution, seasonality, habitat, food plants and behaviour.



Insectinside: Life in the Bushes of a Small Peckham Park | Penny Metal
Paperback | October 2017  

As recently featured on BBC’s Springwatch, Insectinside is a fantastic book featuring hundreds of species of insect that have all been found in Warwick Gardens in Peckham by author, Penny Metal.

We caught up with Penny to ask her some questions about her book – read the full interview here.


Field Guide to the Moths of Great Britain and Ireland | Paul Waring, Et al.
Paperback |  November 2018

The third edition of the Field Guide to the Moths of Great Britain and Ireland is a fully revised and updated version.

This field guide includes beautiful illustrations displaying key features to help with identification. It covers flight season, life cycle, larval foodplants, habitat and more, along with maps presenting distribution information.

The revised edition also contains an introduction explaining how the methods of identifying and recording moths have evolved over recent years.


Ecology and Natural history | David Wilkinson
Paperback | June 2021

The latest addition to the New Naturalist Series, Ecology and Natural History, makes it into the top ten again this month.

Ecology is the science of ecosystems, of habitats, of our world and its future. In the latest New Naturalist, ecologist David M. Wilkinson explains key ideas of this crucial branch of science, using Britain’s ecosystems to illustrate each point.

Read our Q&A with David M. Wilkinson here.

We have a limited number of signed bookplates for the hardback edition, available while stocks last. 


secrets of a devon wood: my nature journal | jo brown
Hardback | October 2020

Another repeat occurrence in this months Top 10, Secrets of a Devon Wood is still high up on NHBS’s list. Artist and illustrator Jo Brown started keeping her nature diary in a bid to document the small wonders of the wood behind her home in Devon. This book is an exact replica of her original black Moleskin journal, a rich illustrated memory of Jo’s discoveries in the order in which she found them.

Jo very kindly agreed to answer some of our questions for a Q&A. Read the full interview here.


A Comprehensive Guide to Insects of Britain & Ireland | Paul  D. Brock
Flexibound | October 2019

A Comprehensive Guide to Insects of Britain & Ireland is a complete, photographic field guide to over 2,300 species of insects in Britain and Ireland – including beetles, flies, ants, bees, and wasps. The clear photograph will assist in the identification of the majority of insects likely to be encountered.

This guide also contains concise text on behaviour, present-day conservation status, and pointers on species of similar appearance. Serious naturalists will welcome notes on areas to look for rarities and information on where to look for additional information on particular insect groups


All the Birds of the World | Josep Del Hoyo          Hardback | August 2020

Another title from our publisher of the month, Lynx Edicions, is All the Birds of the World. With the completion of the famed Handbook of the Birds of the World, this book lists all the birds of the world, allowing readers to browse and compare Earth’s amazing avian diversity between the covers of one volume.



This Week in Biodiversity News – 2nd August 2021

A new conservation tool has been launched by the IUCN that aims to help species ‘thrive, not just survive’. This tool will measure how close a species is to recovering its original population size, rather than focusing on how close the species is to extinction. This hopes to highlight conservation achievements as well as increase ambition for long-term species recovery.

Livestock has been returned to Studland Bay to help with the restoration of sand dunes. In Dorset, a herd of 10 grazing cattle managed by the National Trust are being used to control the overgrown vegetation on the coastal sand dunes at Studland Bay, as part of a project called Dynamic Dunescapes. This project aims to restore 7,000 hectares of coastal sand dunes.

The African wild dog has returned to southern Malawi for the first time in 20 years. An endangered species with only 6,600 individuals left in Africa, this translocation to a reserve in Malawi will hopefully boost the conservation of the species, as it struggles to cope with increasing temperatures.

A rewilding project in Norfolk has revealed several rare plant species. The reestablishment of many lost ponds within Norfolk has led to the discovery of multiple endangered plant species, including one that hasn’t been seen in the county since the early 1900s! These newly flooded wetlands are helping to boost biodiversity in the area.

There is good news for the northern pool frog, which is currently the centre of a project that is reversing its extinction in the UK. First introduced from Sweden to a secret site in Norfolk in 2005, the population has now grown enough that more than 1,000 tadpoles have been released at new sites elsewhere in Norfolk at Thompson Common.

Book Review: A Trillion Trees by Fred Pearce

A Trillion Trees is an optimistic take on the future of the world’s forests, with Fred Pearce believing that the damage humanity has inflicted can be undone, so long as nature is allowed space to recover. The book opens with an introduction to the myth and magic of forests. Through describing a botanical explorer’s conservation of orchids in the rainforests of Ecuador, recounting one of the author’s most memorable forest experiences (getting lost in a wood on the North Downs as a child), and presenting the varied reactions of early European explorers to the rainforests of the tropics, Pearce laments the loss of ‘primaeval wildness’ and the untouched forests of those times. 

Since 1992, Pearce has been writing for New Scientist magazine on the importance of trees, as well as their ownership, uses, protection, and destruction. He has spent his career contributing to multiple well-known publications, writing a range of books, and speaking on environmental issues such as carbon emissions, invasive species, and climate change. Despite forty years of continued reporting on global environmental issues, he maintains optimism for the future and for forest regrowth.

Pearce’s enthusiasm and respect for trees is clear throughout. This book celebrates trees, exploring their importance and the impact they have on the climate, the history of how our relationship with forests has changed, the recovery that is already taking place, and the future role of trees in an emerging community-centred approach to the land. Pearce intersperses topics on the politicisation of forest and climate research, the impacts of deforestation, and the damage of acid rain. He also includes some of his personal adventures, such as his visit to the ATTO, a 325m tall tower in the middle of the Amazon Rainforest, and the exploits of others, such as a bush pilot’s flight along the ‘flying river’ above the Amazon. 

A Trillion Trees champions the role of trees in more than just the fight against climate change, but also in the daily lives of everyday people. The tales of forest regeneration tell of the economic value of trees, through tourism, increased resources, and even ‘inspiration for artists’. Pearce presents the debate of rewilding versus replanting forests, asking who should be responsible for the regeneration of our forests and whether we should be taking an active role at all.  The ‘great forest restoration’, as Pearce puts it, is occurring less due to the many government plans and promises of replanting, and more through the process of rewilding. Where farmers and landowners have stepped back, Pearce notes that nature seems to move in, allowing much of the fields and pastures to revert to shrubland and then to woodland. The return of wildlife soon follows. 

In a world scrambling for solutions to combat climate change, the notion of stepping back and taking a passive role in regeneration may be a daunting one. However, it is not the only solution Pearce suggests. In the final section, Forest Commons, the author advocates for the rights of indigenous people to own and manage the land and forests within their traditional/ancestral territories. The rate of deforestation is far less in areas owned and managed by indigenous people than in other areas, even nature reserves, with communities seeming more resilient against threats such as illegal logging than government-owned parks. 

This book closes by paying homage to the wild spaces near the author’s home in London, their ability to filter out noise and pollution, and the calming, cooling effects trees can have in otherwise overheated cities. After a book full of adventure and debate, the postscript acts almost like the ‘forest bathing’ it discusses, ending the book in a calmer tone that calls for more woods full of darkness and gnarled, twisted yew trees and forests that harken back to the lost primaeval wilderness.