Gift Ideas that Support Wildlife

This festive season, why not consider giving a gift that will also support your local wildlife. Wildlife populations in the UK are facing serious threats and many species are in decline, however there are ways in which we can protect and help at-risk species by creating havens for wildlife in our own gardens. At NHBS we sell a range of products, from bird feeders to hedgehog houses,  that can both bring joy to the recipient and benefit wildlife at the same time. We’ve put together a selection of some of our favourite items for you to browse below. 

Eco Hedgehog Hole Fence Plate

#242607 | £4.99

Hedgehog numbers have dramatically declined in recent years. Creating a hole in a garden wall or fence will allow your local hedgehogs to pass through from garden to garden safely.


NHBS Wooden Bird Nest Box

#254495 | £14.95

Many bird species are struggling to find enough suitable natural nesting sites in the modern environment, but a bird box will provide a warm, sheltered substitute, with protection from most types of predators, helping to improve the chances of breeding success.


Froglio Frog and Toad House

#216744 | £22.99 £32.99

The Frogilo Frog and Toad House provides a safe retreat for frogs and toads in any garden and is handmade in frost-resistant ceramic with a decorative glazed roof.


National Trust Apex Insect House

#251682 | £23.90

The National Trust Apex Insect House is an ideal addition to any wildlife friendly garden. With a variety of shelter types, it offers a perfect habitat for important invertebrates such as lacewings, ladybirds, and even some butterflies.


Bee Brick

#244140 | £25.00 £28.99

Bee Bricks are made in Cornwall in England using the waste material from the Cornish China clay industry.  They provide much needed nesting space for solitary bee species such as red mason bees and leafcutter bees, both of which are non-aggressive.


Echoes Bird Bath

#195520 | £32.99 £43.99

A large and beautifully coloured and glazed bird bath with a ‘ripple’ step design that is both visually attractive and functional by providing extra footing/grip for wild birds.


Defender Metal Seed Feeder

#238813 | £15.95 £17.50

The Defender Feeder’s metal construction is tough, long lasting and offers excellent protection from squirrel damage.  The feeder is available with two, four or six feeding ports, each with a perching ring that allows birds to feed in a natural, forward facing position.



Hedgehog House

#234035 | £32.99 £43.99

Hedgehog numbers are rapidly declining across the UK and providing a refuge in your garden with the Wildlife World Hedgehog House will help to protect hedgehogs from predators and disturbance.

Discover more great gift ideas from the NHBS Best of Winter collection


Pelagic Publishing: Publisher of the Month

Pelagic Publishing was founded in 2010 to fill the publishing gap in practical books available on ecology and conservation, aiming to encourage best-practice in research techniques and highlight the use of technology in wildlife exploration. They publish books for scientists, conservationists, ecologists, wildlife enthusiasts – anyone with a passion for understanding and exploring the natural world. Their books cover ecological survey and evolutionary biology to natural history dictionaries and environmental statistics. We are delighted to announce Pelagic Publishing as our Publisher of the Month for November and December 2021.

Browse a selection of Pelagic titles below, or explore their entire range here.


Wild Mull: A Natural History of the Island and Its People
Paperback | £19.99

Wild Mull guides the reader through the world of the Isle of Mull in its glory, considering every facet of the island’s natural history, diverse species and stories of past, present and future. With superb illustrations and illuminating text, Wild Mull is testimony to the power of wild places and the duty we have to protect and learn from them.


Bat Calls of Britain and Europe: A Guide to Species Identification
Hardback | £49.99

Providing an identification guide to bat echolocation calls for all 44 European bat species, Jon Russ has collaborated with over 40 contributors to make this book the definitive resource for bat conservationists and enthusiasts around Europe.



Paperback | £16.99 £19.99

This comprehensive photographic field guide is the first complete guide to identifying Harlequin ladybirds found in Britain and Ireland.  It also covers all the other 25 conspicuous ladybird species that occur. This clear, user-friendly field guide is ideal for anyone interested in learning how to identify a Harlequin ladybird.


Water Vole Field Signs and Habitat Assessment: A Practical Guide to Water Vole Surveys
Paperback | £21.99 £24.99

An essential guide to those surveying for water voles, this guide is chock-full of practical advice and field photos.  This guide provides detailed descriptions of all the habitats used by water voles, including less typical habitats, with annotated photos to help the surveyor home in on just the right areas to look.


Pollinators & Pollination: Nature and Society
Paperback | £21.99 £24.99

Written by one of the world’s leading pollination ecologists, Pollinators & Pollination provides an introduction to what pollinators are, how their interactions with flowers have evolved, and the fundamental ecology of these relationships.  The author also provides practical advice on how individuals and organisations can study, and support, pollinators.


Human Nature: A Naturalist’s Thoughts on Wildlife and Wild Places
Hardback| £15.99

Ian Carter, lifelong naturalist and a former bird specialist at Natural England, sets out to uncover the intricacies of the relationship between humans and nature. In a direct, down-to-earth style he explains some of the key practical, ethical and philosophical problems we must navigate as we seek to reconnect with nature.


Rebirding: Restoring Britain’s Wildlife
Paperback | £10.99

Winner of the 2020 Wainwright Prize for Writing on Global Conservation, Rebirding was written as the first book with actual solutions for how beautiful and profitable the UK’s countryside could one day look. Rebirding describes why the impending extinction of our cuckoos, turtle doves and honey-bees is entirely avoidable – Britain has all the space it needs for an epic wildlife recovery.

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

October Top 10

NHBS’s Top 10 bestsellers October 2021

We love looking back at our bestsellers from the month before and are very excited to share our Top 10 list for October.

This month we have a range of exciting new bestsellers to share with you, including Wild Mull and the recently published Nests, as well as several popular titles you may recognise from previous Top 10s, such as Seabirds and Silent Earth.


Wild Mull: A Natural History of the Island and its people  | stephen littlewood
Paperback | October 2021

In top place this month is Wild Mull, Stephen Littlewood’s stunning portrayal of the island’s natural history. Now a resident of the Isle of Mull, Littlewood takes the reader on a journey, exploring every facet of the island’s natural history, rich biodiversity and stories of past, present and future. With superb illustrations and illuminating text, Wild Mull is testimony to the power of wild places and the duty we have to protect and learn from them.

Read our interview with Stephen Littlewood


Europe’s Birds: an identification guide | rob hume et al.
Flexibound | October 2021

From the highly acclaimed WILDGuides team comes Europe’s Birds, the most comprehensive, authoritative and ambitious single-volume photographic guide to Europe’s birds ever produced.  Birdwatchers of any ability will benefit from the clear text, details on range, status and habitat and an unrivalled selection of photographs. Chosen to be as naturalistic and informative as possible, the images are also stunning to look at, making this a beautiful book to enjoy, as well as an up-to-date and essential source of identification knowledge.


NESTS| susan ogilvy
Hardback | October 2021

Nests by Susan Ogilvy is an exquisite collection of live-size watercolour paintings that gives one a renewed appreciation of the humble bird’s nest. Her life-size paintings brings to life the various common materials used, including twigs, roots, grasses, reeds, leaves, moss, lichen, hair, feathers and even cobwebs.  Few modern books exist specifically on the subject of bird nests, making Ogilvy’s work all the more precious.


Entangled life: how fungi make our worlds, change our minds and shape our futures | merlin sheldrake
Paperback | September 2021

Winner of the 2021 Wainwright Prize for Writing on Global Conservation, Entangled Life is a truly mind-altering and perspective-shifting book on fungi. In this insightful book, biologist and writer Merlin Sheldrake introduces the spectacular world of fungi and how it has shaped and continues to influence the world we live in.

You can read our Q&A with Merlin Sheldrake here.


British moths: a gateway guide | James Lowen
Spiralbound| September 2021  

British Moths: A Gateway Guide is a wonderful introduction to 350 species of the most common and eye-catching adult moths that you may encounter in the UK. Rather than being grouped in taxonomic order, species are organised by season, and similar-looking moths are placed alongside one another for ease of identification. This is the perfect companion for anyone wanting to learn more about these beautiful and remarkable insects.


A Field Guide to the plants of armenia | tamar galstyan
Hardback | July 2021  

A Field Guide to the Plants of Armenia is a remarkable and significant contribution to the literature of the region. After travelling the length and breadth of her diverse native country, Tamar Galstyan brings together more than 1000 plants in this essential companion. Spectacular photos bring the plants vividly to life, and each entry includes a full plant description to aid identification and an accompanying distribution map.



seabirds: the new identification guide | Peter harrison et al.
Hardback | June 2021

Seabirds: The New Identification Guide, a 600-page treatment to all known seabird species, including recently rediscovered and rarely seen species.  It is 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.



Silent Earth: Averting the Insect Apocalypse | Dave Goulson
Hardback | August 2021

Silent Earth is part love letter to the insect world, part elegy, and part rousing manifesto for a greener planet. Drawing on the latest ground-breaking research and a lifetime of study, Silent Earth reveals the shocking decline of insect populations that has taken place in recent decades, with potentially catastrophic consequences.

Read our extended review.



British Craneflies | alan stubbs
Hardback| July 2021

British Craneflies is a guide to the identification and natural history of 250 species in six families of cranefly. It describes the distribution and habitat of each one, with 128 pages of identification keys illustrated with thumbnail drawings and colour plates showing the markings and wing venation of 180 species. This guide also contains photographic examples of some distinctive and common craneflies, illustrations of the male genitalia for all species of Tipulidae and for most genera of other families, as well as introductory chapters including a full account of the enemies of craneflies.


Secrets of a devon wood: my nature journal | jo brown
Hardback |  October 2021

Secrets of a Devon Wood is a hymn to the intricate beauty of the natural world. 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.


Species Recovery Trust: Q&A with Dominic Price

The Species Recovery Trust is devoted to preventing the loss of some of the rarest plant, insect and animal species in the UK, with their primary aim being to remove 50 species from the edge of extinction by 2050. With a team of highly skilled conservationists and passionate volunteers, the Species Recovery Trust has been doing targeted recovery work for the past 10 years, and many species are now showing an increase in their population numbers for the first time in decades.

Dominic Price

We spoke to Dominic Price at the Species Recovery Trust about how the trust is working to save some of the most endangered species in the UK, some of their success stories, the challenges they face as a charity with COVID-19 and how you can get involved and support their work.



Could you introduce the Species Recovery Trust to us and summarise your main goals as a charity?

The Species Recovery Trust was founded in 2012 with the goal of saving some of the UK’s most endangered species. We cover a small number of species but base our work on a 30-year workplan, allowing us to plan work decades ahead, and start these species on the long and often slow road to full recovery. Our broader goal has been to develop the most cost effective way of doing this long term work, generating as much of our funds as possible through our own commercial activities (training and consultancy)   which would allow us to de-couple from the larger funding streams and sustain the work, however bleak the funding climate may become.

One of your main aims is to remove 50 species from the edge of extinction in the UK by the year 2050. How did you choose which of the 900+ UK species that are currently under threat were the most critical to focus on?

With some difficulty! In essence we started with the IUCN red list and worked our way down from the top. It soon became clear that with certain species, like Atlantic Halibut, we were unlikely to be able to do much from our bases in the English countryside, so we started to focus in on terrestrial species with a limited distribution, and by researching the ecology for those we could see which species were likely to respond well to the sort of onsite habitat restoration work we specialise in. There was obviously a fairly significant political element, in not wanting to tread on any toes of people who were already carrying out established work. So there was much dialogue with other small NGOs and from there discovering the main species that have fallen through the gaps of others work. We currently work on 22 species and have three in development, so still have vacancies for another 25!

There were times when it can be deeply depressing looking at the Red List, with the sheer amount on there, but we knew we would always be a small player and it was just a case of picking a handful and then making sure we did the best possible job to save them, while trying not to feel too despondent about the current mass extinction and the number of species likely to be caught up in that.

What key environmental policy changes do you think would have the biggest impact on preventing species extinctions in the UK?

After 20 years of working in the sector I’m not the biggest fan on policy changes. When I started, the Biodiversity Action Plan (UKBAP) was the big driver. Borne out of the 1992 Rio Earth Summit it was an ambitious and hugely exciting bit of work to be involved in. It then started to become clear that the vast majority of targets would be missed, but instead of examining why this happened and putting more resources into it, it was left to quietly die a death, and over the years has been replaced by a whole new raft of policies and goals. I know there’s people doing amazing work in Whitehall to keep lobbying and campaigning for better policies, but I feel for us as a charity the most meaningful work we do tends to be out in the field, with either a quadrat or a pair of loppers. It’s important to keep your eye on the bigger picture, but sometimes the best place to be is very much on the coalface in the exact location where these species are dying out. This has been also been a personal decision for the members of the team, as we all feel we’re at our best doing fieldwork and not stuck behind a computer!

The work of the Species Recovery Trust is obviously ongoing, but what would you consider to be your biggest success story so far?

Heath Lobelia Site

When we started working on Starved Wood-sedge there were just 32 plants at two sites left in the wild. I had previously been involved with this species through Plantlife’s Back from the Brink programme and knew how perilously close we were to losing this plant from the UK (it went extinct in Ireland in the 1990s and is not faring too well  in Europe). After eight years we now have four sites, and over 330 plants – it is still not ‘saved’ but it’s well away from the brink of extinction. Another great moment was when we took on the management of the last known site in Hampshire for Heath Lobelia. We spent three days with work groups clearing scrub off the site, thinking the most likely scenario was to repair the habitat with a view of one day re-introducing plants, and the following summer 660 plants came up where the seedbank had been regenerated. Sadly, following this disturbance the population has dropped back down to 40, reminding us that a species conservationist’s work is rarely done!

The Covid-19 pandemic has affected individuals, communities and organisations in a myriad of unforeseen ways. How have you been challenged this year and how have you coped with these challenges?

One of our strengths as a charity has been that we draw over half our funding from running training courses. It’s the best money as we can spend it on what we want when we want with no deadlines or funding reports, and if you book onto one of our courses your booking fee could be put to use within a week hiring contractors to manage a site, or paying the mileage for a volunteer to monitor a network of sites. We did have a contingency fund in case one year we couldn’t run as many courses, but never predicated a scenario where we had to cancel every single one of them, so this has obviously hit us hard. However, we are extremely lucky in that when we set the charity up we always tried to keep our running costs to virtually zero; we already all work from home and all of us do other jobs alongside our work for the trust, so in 2020 we were able to effectively batten down the hatches and with the additional help of the amazing furlough scheme we have managed to stay afloat. We’ve also had some incredible support from charitable trusts like the Halpin Trust and Hennock Law Trust, which has been a lifeline in these difficult times.  But at this time no one is sure if training courses will be able to happen in 2021, and there are now so many charities desperately competing for the remaining funding sources, so uncertain times lie ahead.

Are there different ways that people can get involved with and support the Species Recovery Trust? (e.g. options for those with spare money but little time and vice versa).

We are always looking for species monitors – people who take on a site, preferably close to where they live or go on holiday and can do species counts for us each year, and lots of people gain a huge amount of satisfaction of being the person to keep these sites going. If you purchase a copy of the Field Guide to Grasses, Sedges and Rushes (and the hopefully forthcoming Field Guide to Bryophytes) 100% of the profit goes directly to our work. Alternatively, if you’re feeling generous you can sign up as a paid supporter (there’s a free option too) and you’ll get updates of all our work, as well as knowing your money is going straight to saving some of our rarest plants and animals.

You can find out more about the Species Recovery Trust from their website and by following them on Facebook and Twitter. 

Buglife Q&A with Paul Hetherington

Buglife is the only organisation in Europe devoted to the conservation of all invertebrates. Invertebrates are currently facing an extinction crisis.
Today, thousands of invertebrate species are declining and many are heading towards extinction. Worldwide 150,000 species could be gone by 2050 if we do nothing. We spoke to Paul Hetherington at Buglife about the work they are doing to stop the extinction of invertebrates.

Can you tell us a little bit about the history of Buglife and what you consider to be your main goals?

The conservation movement grew during the 1990s, but there was no organisation specialising in invertebrates. This was brought sharply into focus by the creation of the UK Biodiversity Action Plan in 1994, when no organisation existed to fly the flag for invertebrates – to make sure their conservation needs were being looked after. A Feasibility Committee was established to look at the details of setting up an invertebrate conservation body, and ‘A Statement of Need for a New Organisation’ was produced. Twenty of the leading conservation organisations (including the RSPB and Wildlife Trusts) acknowledged that the conservation movement lacked a major spokesman for invertebrate conservation, and welcomed the establishment of one. The result was the foundation of Buglife in 2000, the only organisation in Europe devoted to the conservation of all invertebrates.

Buglife’s aim is to halt the extinction of invertebrate species and to achieve sustainable populations of invertebrates.

We are working hard to achieve this through:

– Promoting the environmental importance of invertebrates and raising awareness about the challenges to their survival.

– Assisting in the development of legislation and policy that will ensure the conservation of invertebrates.

– Developing and disseminating knowledge about how to conserve invertebrates.

– Encouraging and supporting invertebrate conservation initiatives by other organisations in the UK, Europe and worldwide.

– Undertaking practical conservation projects that will contribute to achieving our aim.

Woodland bulb planting event

In an ideal world where funding for conservation was limitless, what would be your top priorities for ensuring the survival of invertebrates and rectifying the damage that has been done to their populations and habitats?

Putting connectivity back into the landscape. Invertebrates are suffering from a plethora of issues: habitat loss, pesticides and herbicides, climate change, isolation of habitat. Connecting up the remaining good habitat is the single most important change for invertebrates as they can escape natural or human made disaster where they live and can migrate to avoid extreme climate change. This is the principle behind Buglife’s B-Lines project that has plotted a route for connectivity between the best remaining invertebrate habitats across the UK.

B-Lines mapping

On your website you feature the famous quote by David Attenborough that concludes with the terrifying line: “…if the invertebrates were to disappear, the world’s ecosystems would collapse.” Do you think that in general we still place too much emphasis on saving what is often referred to as the ‘charismatic megafauna’ and do not value the smaller animals and plants that are the backbone and life support of our world?

A look at how money is invested in saving species reveals that larger mammals are by far the biggest beneficiaries at over £60 per species whilst invertebrates the worst funded at under 6 pence per species. A sad reflection on how humans fail to understand that if we don’t look after the small creatures the big ones will disappear too, bottom-up conservation has far more likelihood of long term sustainability. Yes, tigers and similar have cute cuddly eyes but without invertebrates the food chains that they depend on would collapse and with them the megafauna would go too. Too often we take the invertebrates for granted as something that is just there, small and ‘insignificant’ forgetting that in reality they are small but irreplaceable foundations for the whole web of life that supports the megafauna and people too.

2020 has been an extremely challenging year for most individuals and organisations. How has the pandemic affected Buglife and the work that you are doing?

The Covid pandemic has had a massive impact upon all of us and Buglife have had to be extremely careful with project organisation and financial controls, to ensure that vital conservation work has been delivered safely and that our staff resource has been retained in gainful employment. Ways of working have changed with the closure of offices and a shift to home working for all made possible through recent investment in new IT systems. Most engagement activities have shifted from face to face to online platforms as have meetings to influence policy and media. Some of these enforced changes are likely to have a long term beneficial outcome in reducing our organisational carbon footprint and finding new ways of delivering training and engagement that can reach larger audiences. A few of the impacts have meant works being delayed a year such as surveys for specific invertebrates that are only around for short periods. It should also be recognised that new ways of working can place extra burden on staffing resources as meetings flow on without breaks so we have also looked to bring in external supports for staff when needed. The biggest negative impact has been the closure of most project funders to new applications over the pandemic, making it impossible to establish all the new projects hoped for in 2021.

What would you consider to be your greatest success as a charity?

This is a really tough question as over the last 20 years Buglife has achieved  saving many sites for invertebrates from developments, banning extremely harmful chemicals, persuading governments to adopt pollinator strategies, but for sheer scale, B-Lines mapping completed across the entire UK has got to be the number one achievement, as there is now a route map for future interventions to ensure the long term survival of the small things that run the planet.

Finally, for anyone inspired to get involved in invertebrate conservation, how would you recommend that they do this?

Practical experience of conservation work is as important as qualifications, a sound knowledge of a few groups of invertebrates is a great extra to have but equally important is experience of public engagement, volunteer leadership and above all else an ability to multitask.

You can find out more about Buglife and the work they do from their website and by following them on Facebook and on Twitter

This Week in Biodiversity News – 19th October

Hidden camera’s hugging tiger wins the Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2020 competition. Sergey Gorshkov captured a rare, stunning photo of a Siberian, or Amur tiger, deep in the forest of far Eastern Russia. You can explore more images here

Rewild to mitigate the climate crisis, urge leading scientists. According to research recently published in the journal Nature, restoring natural landscapes damaged by human exploitation can be one of the most effective and cheapest ways to combat the climate crisis while also boosting dwindling wildlife populations.

Environmental groups push to protect vast swathes of Antarctic seas. A coalition of conservation groups is advocating for the establishment of three new marine protected areas (MPAs) in East Antarctica, the Antarctic Peninsula and the Weddell Sea, which would encompass 4 million square kilometers (1.5 million square miles) of the Southern Ocean, or 1% of the global ocean.

Researcher Jacob Kamminga of the University of Twente developed a motion sensor with built-in intelligence for recognizing motion patterns of a wide range of animals. Kamminga’s research on the sensor has found that by recognizing the movements of animals in the wild using attached sensors, it may well be possible to detect if poachers are nearby. 

Froglife: Interview with CEO Kathy Wormald

Kathy Wormald, CEO of Froglife, recently took the time to talk to us about the national charity dedicated to the conservation of amphibians and reptiles. In this insightful and inspiring conversation we talk about some of the threats facing amphibians and reptiles, the ways in which Froglife are addressing these challenges, how Covid-19 is affecting them as a charity, and share simple ways in which you can get involved with amphibian and reptile conservation.

Firstly, can you give us a brief introduction to Froglife and your main goals for amphibian and reptile conservation. 

Froglife is a wildlife conservation charity with a specific focus on the UK’s native reptiles and amphibians and their habitats. We are a practical organisation working on the ground improving sites for our species such as creating wetland habitats, improving grasslands and woodlands and monitoring our species and their habitats. Central to our ethos is to ensure that as many people as possible, from all walks of life, are able to contribute to nature conservation. We deliver our work through three work programmes: Transforming Landscapes, Transforming People and Transforming Research.

If your wildest dreams could be realised, what would you wish for amphibian and reptile populations, both in the UK and internationally? 

To stop decline of amphibian and reptile populations. Internationally amphibians are declining at a faster rate than birds and mammals. To put as much focus on conserving common species as is put on rare species. The lack of emphasis for common species means that many are no longer common. In the UK I would stop the decline of our iconic common toads, decline rates of 68% over the past 30 years. Froglife does have a big focus on common toad conservation but we need to get the whole country behind us.

One of the main problems faced by amphibians and reptiles is mortality and habitat fragmentation due to roads. Can you tell us about the Wildlife Tunnel Campaign and how it hopes to address this problem? 

New property developments require roads and these roads often run through sites that are used by wildlife, if they are protected species then action will be taken to try to help the species, however for non-protected species such as common toads, often no action is required. A lot of wildlife migrate across sites as do common toads. Common toads will migrate to their hereditary breeding pond each year and back to their hibernation sites later in the year. This migration often involves toads having to cross roads, in some cases more than one road intersection. Wildlife Tunnels provide a link between the broken site with wildlife being directed with fencing to cross under the road instead of on the road. We are asking people to sign up to our campaign to ensure that all new developments that will have roads running through wildlife sites must install Wildlife Tunnels (see image at bottom of page for more info). These tunnels need to be monitored and maintained at the cost of the developer.

What would you consider to be Froglife’s greatest success stories so far? 

The people we help to get involved in wildlife conservation, often working with very disadvantaged communities who don’t get the chance to help nature and who live in nature deficient neighbourhoods, their actions help to improve lots of green spaces in neighbourhoods. The amount of successful habitat works that we do that benefit nature and people. The Toads on Roads patrols that Froglife co-ordinates. The many innovative initiatives that we have developed such as our Wildlife Tunnel Exhibition and Virtual Reality Experience and the Wildlife Visualiser App. Opening up new revenue streams for the sector by highlighting to donors that nature conservation does have social benefits and should be funded by social donors as well as those focusing on the environment.

Working with local communities

The Covid-19 pandemic has created a huge number of unforeseen challenges for everyone this year, charities included. How have you been affected and what measures have you taken to deal with the current situation? 

Some of our projects couldn’t deliver activities during Covid-19 which meant that many of our beneficiaries didn’t have the opportunity to get involved. Our finances were impacted by the withdrawal of a lot of grant schemes. We face an uncertain future not knowing of further Covid-19 restrictions and funding opportunities. We took very decisive and quick action to deal with the situation. We developed lots of online content and delivered sessions, workshops and training courses online. We even managed to keep our work with people living with dementia going which meant that at least this group of people were supported during very trying times for them. We successfully secured Covid-19 emergency funding. We have restructured the organisation to ensure that we are harnessing the skill set of all of our staff to help us get through this.

What advice would you give to someone wanting to become more involved with amphibian and reptile conservation in the UK? 

There are many different ways in which people can become more involved: volunteering is great experience for the individual but also helps us so much with our work. There are plenty of varied volunteering opportunities, either getting outdoors and involved with physical site works, helping with our education work, research or fundraising for us. People can also attend our training courses, they are widely promoted on our website and via social media.

You can find out more about Froglife from their website and by following them on Facebook and Twitter.

This Week in Biodiversity News – 5th October

Big Butterfly Count 2020 sees lowest numbers of butterflies recorded in 11 years. The average number of butterflies logged per count was down 34% in comparison with 2019, and the lowest average number of butterflies logged overall since the event began eleven years ago.

In this Philippine community, women guard a marine protected area. Women in the central Philippines have banded together to protect their marine sanctuaries from poachers and illegal fishers. Armed with only paddles and kayaks, these women willingly risk their lives to manage their marine protected area.

Plastic-eating enzyme ‘cocktail’ heralds new hope for plastic waste. The same team who re-engineered the plastic-eating enzyme PETase have now created an enzyme ‘cocktail’ which can digest plastic up to six times faster.

A “nationally scarce” species of bee has been found in Newport for the first time, conservationists say. Buglife Cymru said it discovered a “strong population” of small scabious mining bees at St Julian’s Park local nature reserve last week.

The NHBS Guide to Fungi Identification

Chicken of the Woods by Thijs de Bruin via Flickr

From mould to yeast, fungi are a diverse kingdom with over 15,000 species in the UK. Fungi are made up of different microscopic thread like bodies called hyphae, and collectively hyphae form mycelium. Mushrooms or toadstools are the reproductive, umbrella shaped fruiting bodies of certain fungi. These organisms can be found in almost every natural habitat, but more kinds of macro-fungi tend to be found in woodlands, as they provide a rich and continuing nutrient source and a wide range of microhabitats. 

Autumn is a great time of the year to explore the fascinating world of fungi, as most species enjoy the slightly cooler and wetter conditions. To those familiar with identifying plants, birds and mammals, mushroom and fungi identification can be a tricky task requiring a different kind of approach. However there are some distinct, common species that are much easier to identify than others, and getting a great ID book can really help. In this blog we focus on 10 common, easier to identify types of mushrooms and toadstools found in the UK, alongside some key characteristics and where to find them. 

How to identify:

Some fungi cannot be identified without a microscope, however those in this blog can be identified using macro characteristics displayed by the fruiting body. Most are umbrella or mushroom shaped with gills on the cap underside. Below are some key characteristics to look out for when identifying:

  • Fruiting body – shape, colour and size 
  • Gills – in particular how they attach to the stem, a spore print can also be taken
  • Stem – shape, colour, size
  • Smell and texture
  • Habitat
Mushroom picking and safety

This blog has not been written to be used for finding edible species, please be cautious as fungi can be highly poisonous.

1. Hedgehog Fungus – Hydnum repandum
Hedgehog Fungus by Lynn Martin via Flickr

Other common names: Wood Hedgehog, Sweet Tooth or Pied de Mouton

Identification: In place of gills, this species has spines (stalactite-like projections) under the cap, making it look rather hedgehog like. The spines are paler than the cap, and the cap is creamy, medium-sized and fleshy. Cap is 3-17 cm across. Stem is short and stocky.

Where to find them: On soil among litter, under broad-leaved woodland, in particular with beech or oak, sometimes with other species, including in coniferous woods; often in troops.

2. Giant Puffball – Calvatia gigantea
Giant Puffball by Ciska van Geer via Flickr

Identification: One of the largest fungi in the UK, it is similar in size to a football. The young fruiting bodies are solid, white, thin and smooth and then later turn olive, then finally brown when it opens. When mature it is roughly 20-75 cm across. There is no stem, however it can be connected to the ground by a fine root like filament.

Where to find: Can be found in grasslands, pasture, lawns, commons and roadsides, and can be found in open woodlands, often with nettles and rubbish.

3. Wood Blewit –  Lepista nuda or Clitocybe nuda 
Wood Blewit by Julie via Flickr

Identification: Has a blue to violet tinged cap and gills when young, however older caps turn tan or grey from the centre. Gills are crowded and grow into the stalk and fade to brown as the mushroom matures. The cap is roughly 5-15 cm across, and the stem 5-10 cm tall.

Where to find: Amongst leaf litter in woods, hedgerows and gardens. Can also be found in grasslands away from trees

4. Common Inkcap – Coprinopsis atramentaria
Common Inkcap by Roy Lowry via Flickr

Other common names: Inky Cap

Identification: A grey to fawn cap that is at first egg-shaped and then later bell shaped. The surface is smooth and splits into a few tiny scales from the apex, the edges are often wavy and split. Stem is white and hollow. Cap is around 4-8 cm across and stem is 5-15 cm tall.

Where to find: Very common – wherever there is buried wood.

5. Fly Agaric – Amanita muscaria
Fly Agaric by Derek Parker via Flickr

Other common names: Fly Amanita

Identification: One of the most iconic toadstools depicted in fairy-tale illustrations.  It has a shiny, scarlet red or orange cap with white wart-like spots dotted across. Cap is 8-20 cm across. The gills are white and free, and the stem is swollen with rings of scales.

Where to find: In mixed woodlands and heaths, mostly amongst birch, pine and spruce.

6. Jelly Ear – Auricularia auricula-judae
Jelly Ear by Steve Balcombe via Flickr

Other common names: Jew’s Ear or Wood Ear

Identification: Initially cup-shaped and smoothed, the fruiting body develops lobes in the shape of a wrinkled human ear. Soft, gelatinous and a date-brown colour, but when it dries it is much smaller, darker and harder. Upper surface is velvety, and is attached laterally by a small stalk. Up to 8cm across.

Where to find: Commonly found on living or dead wood of elder, but also recorded on many other woody species.

7. Common Stinkhorn – Phallus impudicus
Common Stinkhorn by Obas via Flickr

Identification: Known for releasing a foul odour to attract flies which eat the spore-bearing slimy head. The foul smell can be detected far and wide, most often before seeing it. Initially it appears like a white egg which feels soft, but then later splits at the apex and a thick, white hollow stem appears with a polystyrene texture. Head is conical shaped, slimy and olive-green topped by a small, white ring. Grows up to 25 cm tall.

Where to find: Among leaf litter in woodlands and also in gardens.

8. Chicken of the Woods – Laetiporus sulphureus
Chicken of the Woods by Thijs de Bruin via Flickr

Other common names: Sulphur Polypore, Crab of the Woods and Sulphur Shelf

Identification: A thick, fleshy, bracket that is fan-shaped and soft to touch. Older brackets become sharp-edged with a dry, chalky texture. The upper surface is initially bright orange or yellow with a velvety touch, this later fades to a creamy-yellow with a smooth, dry surface. The very small pores on the underside are a pale yellow. Bracket is 10-40cm across.

Where to find: Can be found growing tiered mostly on oak trunks but also on sweet chestnut, yew and beech.

9. Scarlet Elfcup – Sarcoscypha austriaca
Scarlet Elfcup by Claire Dell via Flickr

Identification: Are cup-shaped and scarlet, however can also be bright orange. Stems attach to the leaf litter making them appear as hollow bowls lying on the woodland floors. Cups are roughly 4cm across.

Where to find: Although not very common it is reasonably widespread, and can be found in damp, shady areas on decaying sticks and branches. It can be found on the fallen twigs and branches of hazel, elm and willow in late winter and early spring.

10. Beefsteak Fungus – Fistulina hepatica
Beefsteak Fungus by Curiosity thrills via Flickr

Identification: This strange fungus appears like an ox tongue or piece of raw meat and oozes a blood like substance when cut. When young the bracket is soft and moist with a pinky-red upperside and broad margin. Older brackets are a liver-brown and much firmer with a sharp edge. The underside has yellow pores which release red-brown spores and often exude a red, blood like liquid. Brackets are about 8-20 cm across and 3-6 cm thick.

Where to find: Usually found low on the trunk of old, living oak trees and sweet chestnut trees, and sometimes on their stumps.

Recommended Reading/Guides:


Collins Fungi Guide: The Most Complete Field Guide to the Mushrooms & Toadstools of Britain & Ireland


Nearly 2400 species are illustrated in full colour, with detailed notes on how to correctly identify them, including details of similar, confusing species.


Collins Complete Guide to British Mushrooms & Toadstools


By only covering Britain and Ireland, fewer species are included than in many broader European guides, making it quicker and easier for the reader to accurately identify what they have found.



Fungi of Temperate Europe (2-Volume Set)


This lavish two-volume set treats more than 2,800 species of fungi across the region.


Collection by Geoffrey Kibby

Full collection of books 

Geoffrey Kibby is one of Britain’s foremost experts on identifying mushrooms in the field and has published a range of excellent guides/handbooks to mushroom identification.



Grassland Fungi: A Field Guide (Second Edition)


The second edition draws on an additional three years of surveying done over a wider area, adding 23 new species to the 177 already described in the first edition



Bloomsbury Concise Mushroom Guide


This illustrated mini field guide is packed with information on 200 species of fungi found in Britain and the near Continent.




Edible Mushrooms: A Forager’s Guide to the Wild Fungi of Britain, Ireland and Europe


An up-to-date, comprehensive and brilliantly illustrated book on fungi foraging in Britain and Europe. It covers every known edible species, and all the poisonous groups, as well as a few other extremely common ones.


The Fungi Name-Trail: A Key to Commoner Fungi


Key to some of the more easily recognised fungi present in Britain’s woods and fields. The name trial takes you through a series of yes or no questions to help you identify your fungi.


This Week in Biodiversity News – 31st August

‘We’ve covered huge swathes of the UK in tarmac’: how roads affect birds. Rarer birds suffer the most from the network that criss-crosses the country, finds a new study, published in Nature Communications, but kerbside life appears to suit some. 

Madagascar giant frog is a new species, but also a deep-fried delicacy. Two species of giant frog in the genus Mantidactylus from Madagascar have attracted researchers’ attention for their very large size. Now, genetic sequencing has enabled scientists to identify a new member of the giant frog genus Mantidactylus. 

Tiny elephant shrew rediscovered in Africa after 50 years. A little-known mammal related to an elephant but as small as a mouse has been rediscovered in Africa after 50 years of obscurity. The creature was found alive and well in Djibouti, a country in the Horn of Africa, during a scientific expedition.

Newly published research, carried out by staff at BTO Scotland, has investigated the response to wintering waterbirds to drones, and shown that they can be easily scared into flight by drone use. Findings show behavioural responses of non-breeding waterbirds to drone approach are associated with flock size and habitat. You can read the results here.