The Week in Review – 7th November

Emperor Penguins
PenguinBot has helped researchers gain crucial information about emperor penguins. Image by Lin Padgham.

News from outside the nest

This week we learned about PenguinBot, a remote controlled “penguin” used to collect information from micro-chipped birds without the need for the stress caused by contact with human researchers.

We read all about arctic ground squirrels, who bulk up on steroids for their winter hibernation period and have evolved to avoid the negative effects of steroids seen in humans and other mammals.

We pondered the question: Is music governed by biology or culture? following this research showing that the male hermit thrush (Catharus guttatus) uses melodies which have the same harmonic intervals used in many of our well recognised music scales -the first time that this has been observed in any animals outside of humans.

Hummingbirds are notoriously beautiful and delicate, so it was intriguing to see a more combative side to these tiny birds and to discover how male aggression has played a role in the evolution of beak shape.

A newly discovered fossil found in Madagascar, described as a huge groundhog-like creature, has provide fascinating insights into early mammalian evolution.

A paper published this week in the journal Science showed us how the Mexican free-tailed bat uses acoustic calls to jam the echolocation of other bats competing for the same prey item.

And finally…zero gravity fun with a GoPro – NASA astronauts submerge a GoPro camera inside a floating ball of water.

New arrivals at the warehouse

Get ready for a brand new year of birdwatching with the Birdwatcher’s Yearbook 2015.

Compact, portable, yet packed with illustrations and information, the Birds of Costa Rica is the only guide you need for this wonderful birding destination.

The EasyLog Professional USB Temperature Logger is a great new addition to the range. This big brother of the EasyLog family is more robust and will last for even longer in the field, recording temperatures of up to 125ºC.

This Double Globe Planetarium is a great way to learn about our solar system. Project planets or stars onto your ceiling and listen along to the commentary. Great for kids (and lots of fun for us adults too).


The Week in Review – 31st October

Blood drop
Extremely rare blood types affect the lives of patients, donors, doctors and scientists around the world. Image by Mattia Belletti.

News from outside the nest

This week we took a Trip Around the World in 92 Minutes with this wonderful collection of images taken from the International Space Station by Chris Hadfield.

From there we took a visual journal on a different scale, and were mesmerised by the winning photos from the Nikon Small World Photomicrography Competition.

In Ethiopia, a tree and shrub planting program which has already transformed the landscape is set to continue following a pledge to restore an additional 15m hectares by 2030.

In this fascinating article we learned all about rare, and extremely rare, blood types, and how these affect the lives of patients, donors and surgeons, as well as the scientists that study them.

This new research has shown that bats hang out with their “friends” when roosting in woodlands, and that social groups are surprisingly distinct.

And finally…this image of the sun, taken from NASA’s Solar Dynamic Observatory spacecraft, helped to get us in the mood for Halloween.

New arrivals at the warehouse

These Zeiss Victory Binoculars are high performance and have a handy one touch rangefinder to measure distance.

The Reconyx UltraFire records 8MP images and 1080p videos. It has invisible night vision illumination and a preview screen, allowing you to view your footage in the field.


The Week in Review – 24th October

Baitfish shoal
The beautiful iridescence seen in this shoal of baitfish provides camouflage in shallow water. Image by William Warby.

News from outside the nest

This week we learned all about the shiny things of the natural world and the underlying structures that create iridescence.

We read about nature’s lovers and fighters: from this fascinating research into the beginnings of sex on earth…to the long drawn out battles occurring between hives of Australian bees.

Providing a new solution for the management of non-native plants, the humble goat has proven to be a great non-toxic approach in the East Coat Marshes of the US and Canada.

We found these rare images of a smallspine spookfish truly bizarre.

It is always fascinating to see the human-like characteristics of our closest relatives, and this new research showing chimpanzees searching for their favourite tool was no exception.

And finally…”A grizzly stole my GoPro!” – This footage from Knight Inlet in Canada made us laugh.

New arrivals at the warehouse

Perfect for Christmas, the Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2015 Desk Diary is now in stock.

Two new additions to the range of FSC fold-out guides: Mosses and Liverworts of Woodlands and Mosses and Liverworts of Towns and Gardens

From the keyring sized Micra to the tool-packed Surge, there’s a Leatherman for everyone.

SteriPEN UV water purifiers are perfect for the traveller or field worker.


The Week in Review – 17th October

Monarch Butterfly
There are difficult days ahead for this fascinating and beautiful species. Photo by Deborah, Flickr Creative Commons

News from outside the nest

We have been keeping an eye on the webcam at Dorset Harbour following announcements that the largest flock of spoonbills ever to be seen in Britain were sighted on the Brownsea Island Lagoon.

The Natural History Museum Wildlife Photographer of the Year Awards are celebrating their 50th anniversary this year, and we were as astounded as ever by the standard of photographs on display.

We read about the plight of the Monarch butterflies, their astounding migrations and the efforts being taken to save them from extinction.

Evolving in leaps and bounds, quite literally; poisonous cane toads in Australia are jumping straighter and farther, allowing this invasive species to expand into new territories at an alarming rate.

We learned some fascinating things about how birds cope with turbulence from an eagle wearing a black box flight recorder.

The beautiful Nature is Speaking series from Conservation International has kept us entranced.

And finally…Raffia the camel became the first animal to be involved with Google Maps in efforts to capture images of the Liwa Desert in Abu Dhabi.

New arrivals at the warehouse

The second addition of British Soldierflies and their Allies contains beautiful photographs alongside illustrations of key indentifying features. It also includes the most up to date information on species’ status.

Sex on Earth is a highly readable work that celebrates and investigates the hows and whys of sex on our planet.

Build-in sparrow boxes are now available in a terraced version, providing space for three nesting pairs. Choose from red or blue brick or face them with your own to perfectly match your building.

The Ltl Acorn 6310 is available with a choice of night vision LED types (standard or low glow) and is the latest addition to the range available at NHBS.


The Week in Review – 10th October

Will our cities be the salvation of these vital insects? Picture by Rakib Hasan Sumon

News from outside the nest

We watched this inspiring film from Mosaic about the Urban Pollinators Project and learned how our cities may be the last refuge of some of our most vital pollinating insects.

And from the very small to the very large, we witnessed the US government sign a contract which saw debt owed by Indonesia to the United States swapped for rhino protection and conservation measures.

We listened to the great podcast “Costing the Earth” which, this week, looked at the impacts of climate change on small Caribbean Islands and their probability of future survival.

This fascinating research from the University of San Diego on cross-species vocal learning in killer whales showed us how these amazing mammals learned to communicate like bottlenose dolphins.

We were excited by the release of the GoPro HERO4.

And finally, we listened to what would happen if the pattern of birds perched on electrical lines were transformed into musical notes.

New arrivals at the warehouse

The new Spypoint SMART Trail Camera utilises Intelligent Triggering Technology which alters the number of photographs taken or length of video based upon the movement pattern detected – now available for pre-order.

These mobile Dino-Lite digital microscopes provide a portable, computer-free microscopy solution

Twenty-eight years following the first edition, the long awaited second edition of the Birds of New Guinea is now in stock

The latest in the New Naturalist series looks at Nature in Towns and Cities


The Week in Review – 3rd October


These once common garden visitors are now a rare sight in the UK. Image by Milo Bostock

News from outside the nest

With news that world wildlife populations have halved in the last 40 years, we were keen to find out which British wildlife species have been most affected.

On a brighter note, we learned all about solar power: from the UK’s first floating solar farm, and solar sunflowers to solar powered beer.

We were fascinated by this video of a rare purple siphonophore, discovered by marine biologists in the Gulf of Mexico.

As many of our summer bird visitors leave for warmer climates, we have been keeping an eye on the radio-tagged cuckoos on the fantastic BTO cuckoo tracker and were excited to observe the first arrivals in the Congo rainforest.

And with birds in mind we listened to Mark Avery talk about the last passenger pigeon and autumn bird migrations.

And finally….we ventured to the hedgerows to stock up on home-made sloe gin.

New arrivals at the warehouse

The Ltl Acorn cameras were an exciting addition to our trail camera range.

Now in stereo – the new Batscanner from Elekon.

The Vascular Plant Red List for England presents, for the first time, a comprehensive list illustrating the status of native plants and archaeophytes in the region.

A Feathered River Across the Sky tells the story of how our passenger pigeons became extinct.


Ladybirds: an interview with Helen Roy, Ecological Entomologist at the BRC

Ladybirds jacket imageHelen Roy, Ecological Entomologist at the Biological Records Centre, is one of a team of authors who have been involved in the revision of this classic Naturalists’ Handbook.

I see from your professional history that throughout most of your career you have been involved in research with ladybirds. What originally drew you to these fascinating insects? Does it stem from a childhood interest?

Ladybirds are fascinating beetles. I can remember, as a small child, observing ladybirds as they emerged from their pupal cases on the vegetables in our garden on the Isle of Wight. Simply magical and I was entranced. Throughout my childhood I pursued my passion for natural history and have been so fortunate to continue to do so through my working life.

What do you feel are the biggest pressures on UK populations of ladybirds at present?

There are many factors that contribute to dynamics of insect populations. In recent decades the effects of environmental change on insect populations has been the focus of my research. It is widely recognised that invasive alien species, climate change and habitat destruction are all major players in the declines of many insects. Ladybirds are no exception. However, there are so many questions that remain unanswered. It is important that we address these questions with robust and rigorous research. We have so much to learn about the many subtle and complex interactions between insects, other organisms and the environment.

Ladybirds internal imageIn your book you state that winter is a very critical period for ladybirds and, during this time, they survive entirely on their own fat reserves. How severely do you think ladybird populations in the U.K. will have been affected by the very long and cold winter we have recently experienced?

Every year winter conditions result in the death of ladybirds – winter is a tough time for ladybirds in Britain. However, they have many amazing adaptations for surviving the adverse winter conditions. Ladybirds recently began to wake up from winter and I am reassured by the observations I am receiving from people across the country, through the UK Ladybird Survey.

The arrival of the Harlequin ladybird in the U.K. has obviously been a very big concern and has been covered extensively in the media. How serious a threat do you feel this is to our native species and are there any viable steps that could be taken to halt the spread?

The harlequin ladybird, Harmonia axyrdis, is an invasive alien species which is predicted to cause problems for a number of insects. It is a voracious predator and not only has the potential to outcompete other insects but also eats the other insects. The 2-spot ladybird, Adalia bipunctata, was a widespread and common species during my childhood. Not so now. I worked with a team of scientists, using the observations received through the UK Ladybird Survey from many, many people (an inspiring number of volunteers), to look at how the distribution of native ladybirds is changing in response to the arrival of the harlequin ladybird. A number of species appear to be declining and the 2-spot more than most. Unfortunately there is nothing that can be done about the harlequin ladybird but it will be interesting to continue to monitor this species and its interactions with other species in the coming years. Additionally the harlequin ladybird has demonstrated the effectiveness of people at recording alien species, and with the rate of new arrivals increasing rapidly people can play an extremely important role in surveillance and monitoring. I invite people to submit sightings through a recording form developed for species surveillance (including alien species) at the BRC.

Ladybirds plateFor any amateur naturalists who are interested in ladybirds and wish to get involved or help in some way, what would you suggest is the best way to do this?

I have been utterly inspired by the contributions that people from across the country make to the UK Ladybird Survey, and indeed many other wildlife surveys, by reporting the ladybirds they see wherever they may see them. Biological recording is a wonderful way to get involved with natural history. I often receive detailed observations from people who have been recording ladybirds in a particular location on a regular basis. This information is incredibly useful. Some people have even been recording the parasites they see attacking ladybirds. Natural history studies are fun, rewarding and an invaluable source of information. Professor Mike Majerus wrote the first edition of this book and we open the revised version with his inspiration: “Biological Science must stand on its foundations in basic observations of organisms in the field: what they do, when they do it, why they do it, and how they have come to do it.” Majerus, 1994

Do you have any plans for further books?

I have a passion for writing. As a teenager I contributed to the newsletter of my local natural history society – I enjoyed writing and I hoped that people would enjoy reading what I wrote. Writing, coupled with my love of natural history, remains very important to me. I will definitely be writing another book… perhaps the parasites of ladybirds, which are almost as charismatic as their hosts, would be worthy of attention?

Ladybirds available now

Buy a copy of Ladybirds

Record your ladybird sightings at the UK Ladybird Survey

Pick up your free copy of the new NHBS Ecology & Biodiversity Equipment Catalogue 2013 which includes survey kit for entomologists