Autumn Hedgehog thoughts

Three’s a crowd?

The noise that a hedgehog makes when crunching dried cat food is surprisingly loud… and when you have two or three sharing the same plate, as I sometimes do, they produce quite a din! Such a din in fact that I can hear their munching and squabbling from my bedroom window – even with the windows shut. But what a satisfying racket! It is a real privilege and a delight to have hedgehogs using your garden. By feeding them and making your garden hedgehog friendly you can take comfort in the knowledge that you are doing your bit to help these beleaguered animals.

In the 1950s, there were possibly as many as 30 million hedgehogs living in the UK, but today there could be as few as 522,000 – that’s a reduction of 97%. Suggestions as to why the population of these enchanting animals has taken such a nose dive include: the intensification of agriculture and the loss of hedgerows (which are important wildlife corridors), the alarming decline of the invertebrates on which hedgehogs feed (almost certainly due to the use of pesticides) and another, perhaps surprising factor, is predation by badgers. It turns out that wherever badgers thrive hedgehogs struggle, especially in areas where there is limited cover. Moreover, we are sadly all too familiar with the sight of squashed hedgehogs on our roads and it is thought that many thousands meet their end in this way each year. Although hedgehogs are very urbanised, their road safety skills remain poor!

Hedgehogs are also struggling with the current trends of homeowners who are turning their gardens into “garden rooms”. By covering our gardens in decking, patio, artificial lawn or tarmac we are reducing their wildlife value including foraging opportunities for the hedgehog. The erection of impenetrable garden fencing only adds to the problem because it does not permit egress from garden to garden. Hedgehogs may roam about 2km and visit up to 20 gardens every night to seek out food sources.  Although surveys suggest that urban hedgehogs might actually be doing better than their rural cousins – these current gardening fashions are not doing anything to promote their cause. Our most popular mammal favours an untidy garden with fences full of holes.

So, what can we do to help the hedgehog?  As I write this blog we are marching through autumn, but hedgehogs are still out and about, trying to put on weight for hibernation. November 5th is approaching and this is a dangerous time for hedgehogs as they often seek shelter within bonfire piles, so please check for hedgehogs before setting yours alight.

You and your garden can become hedgehog friendly by just providing some or all of the following:

  • Make sure that hedgehogs can gain access in and out of the garden. Holes in fences only need to be 13cm square and they will soon be found and used on a regular basis. If you want to neaten off the hole, then consider the Eco Hedgehog Hole Fence Plate which is made from 100% recycled plastic and available at NHBS.
  • Include compost heaps and overgrown areas in your garden as these are a great source of invertebrate prey
  • Do not use slug pellets and pesticides in your garden.
  • Provide a water source for hedgehogs such as a pond with a gently sloping edge, or a simple bowl

    Hedgehog House
  • Provide areas where hedgehogs can spend the daylight hours, hibernate and even produce their young. This can be a simple wood or leaf pile, or if you prefer you could purchase a hedgehog house or shelter of which there is a large range of choices within our catalogue and on the website
  • Make hedgehogs safe; as well as checking your bonfire piles, be careful with the use of lawn mowers and strimmers and make sure that netting cannot cause entanglement – for example, the bottom edge of fruit netting can be raised from ground level.

Of course, hedgehogs also appreciate some help in food sourcing and are quick to make use of our generosity. Feeding becomes particularly important in periods of pro-longed dry weather (such as we had this year) when soft-bodied invertebrates like slugs, snails and earthworms are less likely to be at large. It is also important to put out food towards the end of summer and beginning of Autumn when late born hoglets need all the help they can get in putting on enough fat to sustain them through the winter months. It is worth remembering that a hedgehog needs to weigh about 600g at the start of the hibernation period in order to survive until the following Spring.

Feed hedgehogs on wet or dry cat food and this can be supplemented with items like sunflower seeds, nuts and live or dried mealworms. There are also proprietary brands of hedgehog food available which provide a good balance of the nutrients that they need. But never put out bread and milk! Hedgehogs are intolerant to lactose and bread doesn’t provide the nutrition they need.

Hedgehog Bowl

Put the food out in a bowl or saucer in the same place every night and hedgehogs will soon learn where it is located. Of course, this food may also be found by neighbourhood cats and foxes, so you could try to protect the food by placing it within a shelter.

Browning Strike Force HD Pro X

It is great fun to put out a trail camera positioned near the food source so that you can obtain images and videos of your garden visitors – this is how I discovered that at least three visited my garden!

As winter sets in be on the lookout for hedgehogs that are out and about in daylight. An animal that is showing this unusual behaviour is likely to be a late autumn born youngster and probably starving. These animals need help and should be taken in and fed. It is best to contact your local wildlife hospital or rehabilitation centre for advice in this situation.

Hedgehogs are fantastic little mammals whose ancestors first appeared on this planet at least 52 million years ago. By giving some thought to the ones in your garden you can take comfort in the fact that you are contributing to their continued survival. It is very rewarding to have hedgehogs in your garden and certainly worthwhile putting up with their noisy nocturnal snacking.

 

Our time at Wembury BioBlitz 2019

A local primary school braves the wind on Wembury beach!

As I walked across the Wembury beach car park something caught my eye, a small brown leaf blustered and bumped across the tarmac, battered by the fierce wind. As I focused, I realised it wasn’t a leaf, it was a butterfly! I caught up with the little insect that had temporarily come to halt, and I saw that it was a somewhat ragged looking small copper. Soon it was caught by the wind again and somersaulted unceremoniously onward across the car park.

Minutes later I found myself at the data collection point at Wembury Marine Centre.
“Have you got small copper butterfly yet?”, I asked.
“Not yet”, came the reply “Not many butterflies have been found in this weather!”
The butterfly was faithfully noted down, just like all species would be over the next 48hrs. For this was Wembury BioBlitz 2019.

You may recall that a BioBlitz is a coming together of professionals and a whole host of other interested parties, from school groups to amateur naturalists. The goal is to engage in a period of intense biological survey in order to record as many species that exist within a particular location as possible. As advertised by Emily Price and her interview with Nicholas Helm in a recent NHBS blog, the Wembury Bioblitz 2019 took place on September 27th and 28th and NHBS had been invited to attend.

This was the 10th Anniversary of the first Wembury BioBlitz and also the 25th Anniversary of the Wembury Marine Centre. An extra special occasion for the partnership of organisations that came together to organise the event especially the Devon Wildlife Trust, Marine Biological Association and the National Trust.

Wembury boasts a spectacular stretch of South Devon coastline which is renowned for supporting a rich diversity of wildlife and as such is designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and a Voluntary Marine Conservation Area, so it is an great place for a Bioblitz!

On the morning of Friday 27th September the BioBlitz began and a host of organisers, volunteers and stall holders gathered to start the day’s proceedings, the BBC were there too, filming for Countryfile (the story goes out on October 13th). The weather did not look promising with driving rain and an unrepentant wind threatening to lower everyone’s spirits. However,  everyone pressed on unperturbed with great enthusiasm and as the first eager local primary school groups arrived the day was up and running!

Our beautiful stall

NHBS was there to set up a stall of useful equipment and books such as invaluable field and FSC guides which, like the other stalls, was soon inundated with excited school children. They were particularly impressed with our loan out of hand lenses which were immediately to put to good use! Others gathered around tables that gave the opportunity to peer down microscopes at a range of marine organisms or handle a whale’s rib or a dolphin’s skull!

The BioBlitz included a series of surveys across the key habitats that the Wembury locale offers including, of course; the rocky and sandy parts of the shore, but also ancient woodland, a stream, meadow, the coastal path and cliffs and parkland. Experts led parties out into the blustery conditions to scrutinise these zones and gather as much data as they could.

Hattie using a Video Endoscope to explore a rockpool

Down on the beach, my colleague Hattie had fun with a nice little gadget called a Video Endoscope to take pictures of rock pool life.

Back in the base camp Marquee, we soon discovered that we could contribute to the data collection ourselves as a host of crane flies, rove beetles, pill lice, spiders and earwigs began to explore the stall! News of rock pool discoveries reached us too, including brittle and cushion stars, snake locks anemones, gobies and five bearded rocklings!

By mid-afternoon the school groups had departed and it was time to pack up for the day, although for some there were many more hours of computer data entry and even nocturnal surveys ahead.

A snakelocks anemone and coraline algae found in a rockpool (image taken with Video Endoscope).

The following day the weather conditions initially seemed to have calmed and even the sun made an appearance! We were ready for Day 2. During the night, moth and bat surveys had taken place to boost the figures, but word came through that the overnight species count was a somewhat lowly 120 and a big push was needed if the target of 1000 species was to be achieved. With no school parties around to help this time, this was a day for families to get involved and once again the surveys commenced.
By 3.30 that afternoon, just as the weather vehemently turned for the worse again, it was time to call a halt to the BioBlitz and everyone began to gather for prize giving, species total announcements and chocolate cake in the shelter of the Marine Centre.
At the time of writing this blog, 840 species made the list for the 10th Anniversary BioBlitz a figure which is comparable to the number of species found in 2009.

Taking part in a BioBlitz is a fantastic way to engage in citizen science. They are great fun but are also a brilliant way to collect important data that can be used to gauge how our local biodiversity is coping with all kinds of environmental pressure including climate change and habitat loss. If you get the chance to get involved in one, I urge that you do so ……. and just ignore the weather!

Edit: We’ve received some highlight findings from the events organisers:

  • 2x Giant Gobies were found during the night time rockpool safari
  • Many sightings of a bird called the Cirl Bunting, a once rare species that is now on the up near Wembury!
  • Gannets were seen diving off the Mewstone.
  • The St. Pirrans Crab was found; Wembury is the only UK location outside of Cornwall where they’ve been found!
  • Conger Eel were found during the diving surveys

Top ten books and wildlife equipment for summer

 

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

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

 

fg
Telescopic Pond Net
£32.99

Sweep Net
£24.50

Spring Frame Butterfly Net
£26.50

 

Bat Box Duet Detector
£255.00

Elekon Batscanner
£219.00
h
i

Browning Strike Force HD Pro X / Kit
£149.99

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

 

Compact 20W Actinic Heath Moth Trap
£149.00
gj
hj
k

Hawke Optics Nature Trek Binoculars series
£132.95
fg
h

Petzl Actik Headtorch
Available in 3 colours
£33.95

Rocky Shores
Hardback| Feb 2019| £29.99 £34.99The Garden Jungle
Hardback| Jul 2019| £14.99 £16.99
ssg
asfd

Photographic Field Guide to Insects of Southern Europe and the Mediterranean
Flexibound| Sept 2017| £27.50
safasf

Bat Roosts in Trees
Paperback| Oct 2018| £39.99

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

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

Fungi of Temperate Europe
(2 Vol. Se
t)
Hardback| Aug 2019| £74.99 £94.99
hj

Field Guide to the Ladybirds of Britain and Ireland

Paperback| Nov 2018| £24.99

 

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

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

 

The NHBS Harp Trap

The NHBS Harp Trap 

Earlier this year we were delighted to launch another exciting product manufactured here at our base in Devon. After a concerted period of design and manufacturing effort by our expert Workshop Team, followed by testing and review by ecological professionals, our NHBS Harp Trap was ready for production. The launch of our product into the wildlife equipment market signals the arrival of the only commercially produced harp trap in Europe. 

What is a Harp Trap? 

A harp trap provides an alternative bat survey method to mist netting or the use of bat detectors. They are particularly useful in situations where bats in flight can be channeled through a natural funnel such as above a water course, a cave or mine entrance or a clear area within a forest. 

Harp traps consist of a frame which is either freestanding or suspended, and supports two to four rows of nylon strings. The bats will fly into the nylon strands and then fall unharmed down into a collecting bag below. The catch bag is made from green cotton canvas that is water resistant and breathable and includes heavy duty clear plastic baffles to prevent the bats from escaping. Unlike mist nets, harp traps do not entangle the bats an it has been reported that they can be more effective for surveying bats, potentially capturing higher numbers of individuals. 

The NHBS Harp Trap

The new NHBS Harp Trap is a three-bank trap, meaning it has three rows of nylon line. Our trap has a catch area of approximately 4mand catch bag which is around 60cm deep.  It folds down neatly into a bespoke carry bag and weighs approximately 15kg-full specifications and dimensions are below. The trap takes two people around 10 minutes to assemble and stands on four sturdy, extendable legs and which can be arranged at the height that you need the trap to be. There is also the option to anchor the harp trap with guy ropes in windy conditions. The trap can also be adapted to be suspended if this is required. 

Our trap has a few innovative features designed to make assembly and disassembly easier. Firstly the strings are wrapped  around a winding mechanism which greatly reduces the stress and time-consuming act of sorting through tangled lines in the dark.

 

There is also an extension under the catch bag, which prevents the bats from flying underneath the trap and this doubles as protection for the component parts as it wraps around the disassembled trap when it is stored in its bag. 

Dimensions:

Catch area: 4m2 approximately
Catch area L x W: 180 x 225cm
Length: 180cm
Catch bag depth: 60cm
Catch bag width: 44cm
Weight: 15kg

Folded dimensions (in carry bag)
Height: 46cm
Length: 200cm
Width: 22cm

Operational dimensions
With legs fully retracted:
Height 314cm
Width (at base): 62cm
Length (at base): 230cm

With legs fully extended:
Height: 372cm
Width (at base): 100cm
Length (at base): 252cm

Testing 

As our harp trap evolved, prototypes were trialed and reviewed by ecology professionals; Professor Fiona Mathews of Sussex University and Neil Middleton of Batability. Their expertise and excellent feedback helped us develop our the harp trap to the point that it was now ready to go live. 

The team at NHBS have done an excellent job in coming up with a new and refreshing approach to harp trapping, which shows many innovative and useful design features.  When testing the equipment we were able to demonstrate that it was quicker/easier to assemble than competitor’s products.  We are happy to recommend this harp trap, and will be ordering one ourselves, to be used during our training courses and for bat-related research.   
Neil Middleton, BatAbility Courses & Tuition

The Law 

Harp traps can only be sold to those who are licensed to use them. If you hold such a licence, we will ask to see a copy of your NE, NRW or SNH licence when you contact us about your purchase. If you are purchasing from overseas, we will request details about your institution and research. 

NHBS Manufacturing

NHBS manufactures marine, freshwater and terrestrial survey tools, all carefully designed to meet the demands of researchers, consultants, public authorities and educators in the environment sector. Made by our team of expert engineers, fabricators and seamstresses, our products have become renowned for their quality, durability and affordability.

Find out more about our manufacturing.

Key accessories for using alongside your harp trap

The Petzl Tikka Headtorch has a 200 lumen beam and a maximum range of  60m. It has five lighting modes with both red and white light. It is powered by 3x AAA batteries (included) and available in four colours.

Price: £28.99 £32.00

 

The Kite LED Loupe Triplet Hand Lens 10 x 21 provides crystal clear images which are enhanced with its ring of LED lights. This product may prove invaluable when trying to identify some of the tiny distinguishing features of certain bat species. 

Price: £41.99 

The A4 Portrait Waterproof Clipboard allows you to write in the field without having to worry about the rain. A waterproof plastic covering system helps to keep your paper dry and can be closed over the clipboard with the strong velcro fastener. 

Price: £22.99

Books 

The Bats of Britain and Europe 

Paperback | Sept 2018 

Price: £23.99 £29.99

The Bat Workers’ Manual 

Paperback | July 2012 

Price: £29.99 

 

Field Guide to Bats of the Amazon 

Paperback |Feb 2018 

Price: £24.99 £29.99

 

Please note that prices are correct at the time of publishing and are subject to change at any time. 

The NHBS Guide to Hand Lenses

The possession of a hand lens is one of the defining characteristics of a naturalist.

We use them for everything from peering at beetle genitalia and examining floral characters, to examining the arrangement of teeth in small mammal jaw bones. There are a wide variety of hand lenses on the market so how do you decide which lens is best for you? This article contains all the information you need to make an informed choice.

Glass versus plastic lens?

The optic in a hand lens can be made from glass or plastic. Serious naturalists and professionals will always choose a glass lens. Plastic lenses are generally more affordable and lighter but are of lower optical quality and are more difficult to clean. Plastic hand lenses and magnifiers, however, can be a good choice for schools and young children, for these users have a look at the Hand Held Magnifier.

How many optical elements?

Canon 400mm

An element is an individual piece of glass within a lens. When you look through a high quality camera lens you will typically be viewing what’s in front of the lens through four to six lens elements, as well as other elements used for focusing and zooming (see image below right).

Paul Canon EF 400mm f/4 DO IS USM By Paul Chin

Hand lenses are constructed with one (singlet), two (doublet) or three (triplet) lens elements. Each one is specially shaped to correct for a particular type of optical distortion, so the more elements, the higher quality the image.

 

The highest quality lenses that we offer are the triplet products made by Kite and Belomo. These offer a bright, crystal clear and undistorted view of your subject. The images afforded by these optics will impress the user whatever their field of work is, be it geology, entomology or botany.

 

N.B. There is a brand of hand lens / loupe called “Triplet”. Please note that despite the brand name this popular product has one lens (singlet).

 

If you are interested in obtaining a doublet hand lens you should consider those that are manufactured by Opticron and also Kite. Opticron will be a familiar name if you have ever researched the purchase of a pair of binoculars and their hand lenses provide excellent distortion free magnification at 6x, 10x and 15x.

Magnification

A 10x magnification hand lens will be more than adequate for most purposes. Higher magnification lenses tend to be harder to use but are very useful for viewing extremely small objects. If you are unsure of which magnification you need, or think you may need several different lenses, you might consider the Triple Hand Lens (x3, x4 and x5).

Lens diameter

Large diameter lenses provide a wider field of view which means that they are easier to use but they are slightly more expensive to produce.

How hand leOpticron Hand lens, 23mm, 10x magnificationnses are named

Hand lenses are named in the same way as binoculars, with both the lens diameter and the magnification included in the name. For example, the Opticron Hand Lens, 23mm, 10x Magnification has a 23mm diameter lens and provides 10x magnification.

LED Option

Some hand lenses such as the LED Triplet Loupe Hand Lens 10x 21mm possess LED lighting in order to illuminate the object that you are viewing. This option can greatly improve your viewing experience and can be particularly valuable in low light conditions. Bat workers have expressed how useful these can be when looking for the key identifying features of a specimen held in the hand. Using a lens with LED can reduce stress on the bat because it means that you do not have to point the beam of your head torch directly at the animal.

Using your hand lens

Finally, a quick note on hand lens technique. To use your hand lens correctly, hold the lens close to your eye and then either a) move the subject closer to your eye until it comes in to focus or b) move your head (and the hand lens) closer to the subject until it comes into focus. It’s easy with a little practice so don’t get put off if you find a new hand lens difficult at first. Expect to get close up to what you’re examining – it’s quite common to see naturalists crawling around on the ground to get close to a plant they’re identifying.

Keeping your hand lens safe

It can be very hard to find a much-loved hand lens dropped in long grass or woodland. To prevent this happening, we recommend a lanyard for your hand lens – this has two functions: a) if you have it round your neck you won’t drop it, and b) if you put it down somewhere the bright blue lanyard is easy to spot.

For storage and transport purposes most hand lenses come equipped with either a storage pouch or a plastic case. These enable you to keep your optic safe and reduce the risk of scratches or knocks occurring, especially when it is being carried in a pocket or bag. Spare leather pouches are available for the Triplet Loupe 10x 21mm but these may fit other lenses as well – we are happy to check before you buy.

Our full range of lenses and magnifiers can be found at nhbs.com.