Author interview: Benedict Macdonald

Did you know that 94% of Britain isn’t built upon, that Snowdonia is larger and emptier than the Maasai Mara National Reserve, or that Scotland’s deer estates alone cover an area twice the size of Yellowstone National Park?  Britain has all the empty space it needs for an epic wildlife recovery.  So what’s stopping it from happening in our country – and how can we turn things around? 

Rebirding: Rewilding Britain and its Birds is a bold roadmap to reverse the decline of bird populations in Britain, suggesting we need to restore ecosystems, rather than modify farmland.

Author, Benedict Macdonald offered his valuable time to answer our questions about his important new contribution to the discussion of rewilding.

Rebirding Author: Benedict McDonald

What inspired you to become so passionate about restoring natural ecosystems?

In 2014, I began writing Rebirding in the certain knowledge that conservation in this country is failing, the birdsong around us is dying out every year, yet we have all the resources, skill and wildlife lobby to turn things around. I hope that in its small way, Rebirding will do for the UK what Sir David Attenborough’s Our Planet is beginning to do for worldwide conservation – to make people realise that nature is essential, profitable and saveable, even now – and that we have all the resources and skill to do so.

Tell us a little about your background and how you became interested in the natural world?

I never remember the moment of first being fascinated by nature, but I do remember that by the time I was five, I would make weekend visits to Berkeley Castle Butterfly Farm and was entranced by watching the butterflies drinking salts from my fingertips, and I began a collection of ones passed to me by the lady running it – after they had died.  Then early trips to the Welsh coast, and Norfolk, transformed that interest into a lifelong love of birds as well.  From there, their plight has drawn me into understanding and studying ecosystems and a far wider understanding of protecting nature.  Since then, my love of the natural world, both as a naturalist and a TV director, has now taken me to over forty countries.

At 14, I first remember telling someone at a dinner party that I wanted to work in wildlife television. Since graduating from university, I’ve been lucky to work on a range of programmes such as Springwatch, The One Show and The Hunt for the BBC.  Last week, aged 31, I attended the premiere of Sir David Attenborough’s Our Planet for Netflix, launching in the Natural History Museum in London. This is the largest conservation series ever made. I work as the researcher and a field director for the Jungles and Grasslands episodes, directing a number of sequences including desert-nesting Socotra cormorants, the secret life of the Alcon Blue butterfly, and the remarkable lives of the world’s only tool-using Orangutans.

In your opinion, what is the most detrimental practice to the wildlife of Britain?

We are often sold the untruth that what happens to British land is necessary for food production. This is almost entirely untrue.  Only the profitable arable farms of the south, and east of our island, provide a bounty of food for our children.  Dairy lawns and sheep farms in fact create tiny volumes of our daily diet relative to the land area they use. For example, 88% of Wales grows lamb, an optional food resource. 

Of the epic wastage, however, the grouse moor is the ultimate. Eight percent of Britain’s land is burned for the creation of 0.0008% of its jobs and a contribution of just 0.005% to our GDP.  For hundreds of years, thousands of beautiful wild animals have been removed, just so that Red Grouse can be turned into living clay pigeons and killed in their thousands once a year.  Even hunters from other countries find this wasteful and disgusting.  This area covers an area twice the size of Yellowstone National Park – blocking jobs and wildlife alike on an epic scale. Hunting estates in Finland or Sweden, by contrast, juggle the ambition of hunters to shoot a few animals with ecosystems of immense beauty and variety.

Wildlife and commerce are often presented as being in conflict, do you think this is a fair assessment, or can land stewardship that favours biodiversity over profit be of economic benefit?

This is surely the greatest imaginary conflict of our time, successful insinuated, perhaps, by the damaging economies that prevent nature from reaching its full economic potential in our country.  In truth, wildlife IS commerce.  Nature IS money. 

Every year, even without a single charismatic megafauna such as Bison, Elk or Lynx running wild in our country, without a ‘Yellowstone’ or ‘Maasai Mara’, the English adult population make just over 3 billion visits to the natural environment each year, spending £21 billion as they do so. In Scotland, nature-based tourism is estimated to produce £1.4 billion per year, along with 39,000 FTE jobs. 

In contrast, the current models of upland farming demand money from us to survive, but they do not reciprocate jobs, income or natural capital – this is life on benefits and there is no future for young people in it.  In contrast, wherever nature is allowed to flourish, it’s capital potential is wondrous.  In 2009, the RSPB’s lovely but very small reserves brought £66 million to local economies, and created 1,872 FTE jobs. This is more than all of England’s grouse moors, but in just a fraction of their land area.

Right now, however, we are just seeing snapshots of how nature can power and rekindle communities. In Rebirding we often look to other countries to see how true ecosystems could transform economies on a far greater scale.   The final myth that we kick into touch is that Britain is short of space, 94% of our country is not built upon. Most of this area does not create essential food supplies – and is jobs-poor.

Is there one single practise or cultural shift that would be of most benefit to restoring natural ecosystems?

The Forestry Commission is the largest single land manager in Britain.  It now needs to split its forests in two – rewilding key estates like the New Forest and the Forest of Dean: cutting down the spruce and replanting with native trees, then, crucially, leaving large native animals such as Beavers, Elk, cattle and horses to become the foresters.  Economies in these forests would be driven through ecotourism revenues and perhaps some hunting.  Elsewhere, timber forests would remain.  It is hard to think of one single decision that could effect a greater transformation on British land than a decision to return Britain’s once world-class oak-lands to our nation.  Another, however, would be if Scotland’s deer estates, which again cover an area twice the size of Yellowstone, could be incentivised to rewild and regrow their trees.  Hunting could remain – but in this regrowing wilderness would be the potential for Elk, Lynx, Wildcats and a huge expansion in woodland species like Capercaillie. 

Are you optimistic for the future of Britain’s wildlife?

Yes – but only if our conservationists act with the same pragmatism and determination as those who have prevented land reform for decades.  In my closing chapter, I’ve argued that whilst farming unions behave with absolute conviction and coherence, our nature charities often simply say that a few more Skylarks would be nice.  Only if we can unlock the economic arguments of nature, and harness the millions of voices effectively, will we see large areas rewilded in our country.  It is the social and economic transformation that nature provides that needs to be realised – but for that, you need space, and power over land.  At that moment, things will change. In my lifetime, I genuinely believe that after many fierce battles, we will see Dalmatian Pelicans flying over Somerset, and huge areas of Scotland, Wales and upland England slowly returned to a wilder state.  But without absolute conviction this is possible, it will never come to pass.

Benedict Macdonald’s book is out now as part of our Spring Promotion

To discover further reading on the past, present and future of the British countryside, browse our collection.

BSBI: Publisher of the Month for April

 

 

 

 

With Spring finally upon us, NHBS are delighted to announce the Botanical Society of Britain & Ireland (BSBI) as our Publisher of the Month for April.

BSBI: Origins and Aims

The BSBI has a long and illustrious history as a publisher of books and periodicals aimed at both professional and amateur botanists. Tracing its origins back to 1836, the society was founded as the Botanical Society of London; from its earliest days, the BSBI has welcomed and supported everyone who wants to know more about the British and Irish flora. The society’s training, outreach and research  programmes continue to support botanists at all skill levels.

BSBI Publications

 

 

 

 

The BSBI publishes a range of botanical books; their BSBI handbooks have become standard botanical field guides, containing identification keys, detailed plant descriptions and useful line drawings, together with information on habitat and distribution. They also publish important stand-alone titles, such as Hybrid Flora of the British Isles and Threatened Plants in Britain and Ireland.

The BSBI have been instrumental in helping to publish John Poland’s critically acclaimed The Vegetative Key to the British Flora and most recently, after years of work, The Field Key to Winter Twigs – both vital reference for field botanists.

Forthcoming Publications: BSBI Atlas 2020

The first atlas of the British and Irish flora was published in 1962. It pioneered the use of ‘dot-maps’ aligned to the OS grid which influence  the hundreds of natural history grid-based atlases that followed.  Work has already started on a third atlas; Atlas 2020  will be published after fieldwork has been completed in 2019. You can find out more, or even get involved by visiting their website.

 

You can browse all the BSBI publications here

Find out more about BSBI

The BSBI is passionate about the flora of Britain and Ireland and encourages everybody to become involved.  If you are a novice and want to get started in botany, their get started page is definitely worth a visit.  And if you want to put your botanical knowledge to use, opportunities for volunteers can be found here.

BSBI’s blog often features interviews with authors such as Kevin Walker, author of Threatened Plants in Britain and Ireland and John Poland (The Field Key to Winter Twigs).

British & Irish Botany Journal

British & Irish Botany is a new online journal from the BSBI. The journal aims to provide a new forum for publishing papers and articles relating to the vascular plants and charophytes of Britain and Ireland.

British and Irish Botany will welcome contributions in a number of formats and you can find out more about this forum here.

 

 

 

 

20% Off Yale University Press Titles

 

Yale University Press are Publisher of the Month at NHBS, and we are offering 20% off all their UK distributed titles throughout March 2019.

A Little History of Yale University Press

Yale University Press was founded in New Haven, Connecticut in 1908 and established a marketing base in London in 1961. Its mission is to further scholarly investigation, advance interdisciplinary inquiry, stimulate public debate, educate both within and outside the classroom, and enhance cultural life. They publish a diverse selection of specialist and general interest wildlife, ecology and environment titles.

Top Five Yale University press titles at NHBS

The Empire of the Eagle: An Illustrated Natural History
Hardback | Nov 2018| £23.99 £29.99
A gorgeous appreciation of eagles, this book will dazzle both eye and imagination.

 

Vietnam: A Natural History
Paperback| Jan 2008| £16.79 £20.99
The first comprehensive account of Vietnam’s natural history in English.

 

Amazing Rare Things: The Art of Natural History in the Age of Discovery
Paperback| Sep 2015| £13.59 £16.99
David Attenborough joins expert colleagues to explore how artists portrayed the natural world during an era of burgeoning scientific interest.

Belonging on an Island: Birds, Extinction, and Evolution in Hawai`i
Hardback| June 2018| £31.99 £39.99
A lively, rich natural history of Hawaiian birds that challenges existing ideas about what constitutes biocultural nativeness and belonging.

 

Burn Out: The Endgame for Fossil Fuels 
Paperback| April 2018| £10.39 £12.99
An insight of what a radically different energy future may look like and how we can prepare for it.

Just Published and Forthcoming

 

 

Yale University Press continue to publish some great books in 2019, from Biodiversity and Climate Change to A Natural History of Beer and Nature’s Giants.

With all UK distributed Yale University Tress titles 20% off until the end of March, now is a great time to browse their range and pick-up some excellent books at great prices.

You can browse all our Yale University Press titles here.   Their publishing output covers a very wide subject range, especially history. So, please let us know if you wish to purchase any Yale titles we don’t list: if they are in-print and available in the UK, we will still be able to offer 20% off during March.

Oxford University Press: Publisher of the Month

Oxford University Press are NHBS’s  Publisher of the Month for February 2019.

Founded in the mid-17th Century, Oxford University Press (OUP) have published some of the most influential environmental books. Nearly 400 years later, OUP continue to release important works as the largest university press in the world. Their diverse repertoire consists of The Selfish Gene, Conservation Drones, Birds in an Ancient World and many more.

Oxford University Press and Natural History Publishing

OUP’s biology and natural history lists can be traced back to the early twentieth century, when a series of classic academic texts from scientific luminaries such as John Haldane and Julian Huxley firmly established OUP as a science publisher. Its reputation grew  with classic titles including Richard Dawkins’ The Selfish Gene.

OUP’s current book list covers a whole host of biology topics from a variety of ecosystems and across the entire taxonomic spectrum, from viruses to humans. It has a particular strength in the fields of evolutionary biology and animal biology and a growing presence in the fields of ecology, epidemiology, biostatistics, conservation biology, aquatic biology and plant science.

Great prices on recent bestselling professional and academic titles

Until 31st march, get great prices on selected bestselling professional and academic titles from OUP.

 

 

 

 

Oxford University Press, highlights from 2018 and forthcoming in 2019

2018 was a great year with titles including: Birds in the Ancient World, illustrating the many different roles birds played in culture; Skeletons: The Frame of Life, diving into how the tiniest seed shrimp through to the gigantic dinosaurs evolved; Conservation Drones, looking at the use of drones in mapping and monitoring biodiversity; an excellent introduction to the many solutions organisms have evolved to see their world, with Eyes to See and a fascinating account on how ancient DNA is rewriting most of what we thought we knew about human history with Who We Are and How We Got Here.

2019 looks just as exciting, with the following titles due soon:

Origins of Biodiversity, due Apr 2019

Making Eden, due Feb 2019

The Smart Neanderthal, due Feb 2019

Carnivorous Plants, paperback due Feb 2019

Browse all Oxford University Press titles

Special Offers on Oxford University Press titles in Backlist Bargains

Discover the numerous OUP titles in our biggest sale of the year – Backlist Bargains, where you can discover great prices on everything from field guides and good reads to monographs and other academic titles.

The Gratis Books Scheme

One of the most rewarding OUP-NHBS collaborations has been in the form of the Gratis Books Scheme. Since 1999, with support and assistance from the British Ecological Society, this scheme has been sending free copies of books to conservationists in developing countries who would otherwise be unable to obtain them.

There are currently two books available in the Gratis Book Scheme, both from OUP. They are Freshwater Ecology and Conservation and  Social Science Theory for Environmental Sustainability.

 

 

 

 

The Mammal Society: Publisher of the Month

With a recent publication reviewing the status of Britain’s mammals, now is a good time to feature The Mammal Society as the NHBS Publisher of the Month for January.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Last year saw the publication of the first comprehensive review of the status of British mammal populations for over 20 years and and the more concise Britain’s Mammals 2018. These works provide vital reference texts for anybody working within UK mammal conservation and both titles express The Mammals Society’s commitment to science-led mammal conservation.

Forty Years of Publishing

To celebrate The Mammal Society, we are offering 20% discount on four of their important titles throughout January.

The Water Vole Mitigation Handbook £19.99 £24.99

Mammals of the British Isles Handbook £27.99 £34.99

How to Find and Identify Mammals £9.99 £11.99

UK BAP Mammals Interim Guidance for Survey Methodologies, Impact Assessment and Mitigation £9.99 £11.99

 

 

 

Future Publications

The Mammal Society aims to continue to publish new and updated titles in 2019 and beyond. We are particularly looking forward to a new edition to the long out-of-print Live Trapping of Small Mammals A Practical Guide which is currently in preparation.

The Mammal Society and NHBS

NHBS are proud to be the official distributor for all The Mammal Society books and are delighted to be able to help them communicate their expertise to passionate naturalists and conservation professionals alike.

From Britain’s Mammals 2018, to The Analysis of Owl Pellets and How to Find and Identify Mammals: browse all publications by The Mammal Society.

 

 

 

 

2019 Mammal Photographer of the Year

Taken a great photo of a British mammal?

Why not enter the Mammal Society’s 2019 Mammal Photographer of the Year competition? The competition is for amateur photographers, it’s free to enter and, as well as the chance of getting some great national coverage, you could win a £50 NHBS voucher or a year’s subscription to British Wildlife magazine, among many other prizes including a holiday! Go to https://www.mammal.org.uk/mpoy/ for more details on how to enter and full terms and conditions. Closing date for entries 1 March 2019.

Mammal Photographer of the Year 2018

2018 Winner: Common Dolphin in Flight by James West

2018 Runner Up: Deer Stag by Alastair Marsh

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Best Natural History Books of 2018

It has been a great year for natural history publishing, with the release of long-awaited texts and surprise best-sellers. From nature writing to ID guides, this list comprises the very best natural history books of 2018 which we feel stand out for their novelty, insight, and accessibility.

Handbook of Western Palearctic Birds: Passerines (2-Volume Set)

£130.00 £150.00

Climate Change and British Wildlife

£29.99 £34.99

Gulls of the World: A Photographic Guide

£27.99 £34.99

Handbook of the Bees of the British Isles (2-Volume Set)

£130.00 £150.00

Wilding: The Return of Nature to an English Farm

£14.99 £19.99

Field Guide to the Ladybirds of Britain and Ireland

Hbk. £37.99 £44.99    Pbk. £19.99 £24.99

Bat Roosts in Trees: A Guide to Identification and Assessment for Tree-Care and Ecology Professionals 

£39.99

Lichens: An Illustrated Guide to the British and Irish Species

Hbk. £34.99 

Pbk. £49.99

Canids of the World: Wolves, Wild Dogs, Foxes, Jackals, Coyotes, and Their Relatives                                      £19.99 £23.99

Sphagnum Mosses: The Stars of European Mires

£89.99

Some of these books have been decades in the making and combine the expertise of leading scientists, illustrators and photographers to reach fruition.  This list offers a small insight into our diverse range of wildlife, ecology and conservation titles, visit our new website to browse the full catalogue.

What was your ‘best’ book published in 2018?  We would love to know: please tell us in the comments section, or just email us at customer.services@nhbs.com

All price are correct up until 31st December 2018.

 

 

 

Field Guide to the Ladybirds of Britain and Ireland:

To the general naturalist, ladybirds are arguably the most familiar group of beetles and an up-to-date field guide has been long overdue. Now, after exhaustive research and diligent illustrations, this brand new field guide covering all 47 species of ladybird occurring in Britain and Ireland is finally available.

 

 

The authors Helen E. Roy and Peter Brown and illustrator, Richard Lewington signing the hardback edition exclusively for NHBS. Available while stocks last…

They also found time to answer a few questions regarding the making of this definitive field guide to the ladybirds of Britain and Ireland.

With all the research, detailed illustrations, and accessible format design of this guide, how long has this project been in the making?

 

As the illustrations of the adults, larvae and pupae were all made from living specimens, collected in the wild, we needed at least two seasons to collect them all, and for Richard to illustrate them.

Ladybirds are a niche set of organisms which can be often overlooked, where did the inspiration to produce this field guide come from?

The brightly coloured ladybirds are an extremely popular group of insects but the small so-called inconspicuous ladybirds are under-recorded. Similarly, the larvae and pupae of ladybirds are less well known. We hope that this field guide, adding to the popular series of field guides published by Bloomsbury, will encourage recording of all ladybirds in all life stages. It is also a celebration of the amazing contributions to the UK Ladybird Survey from so many people.

Field guides can provide an essential tool to assist monitoring and conservation efforts of species. Could you explain why our ladybirds may need to be monitored?

Ladybirds, like all insects, respond to environmental change in different ways. Some species are expanding in range but many others are struggling. Understanding these patterns and trends is extremely important for informing conservation and decision-making. Many species of ladybird are beneficial, providing pest control of common garden and agricultural pests such as aphids and scale insects, and so it is important to consider the changing dynamics of these important species. How ladybirds are responding to climate change is another important aspect that the monitoring data will show.

Each illustration is so detailed, what is the process for reproducing a ladybird so accurately?

Detail and accuracy are the two most important considerations when producing illustrations for a field guide and working from actual specimens, rather than from photographs, is essential. Only then can measured drawings be made for correct anatomical details. Photos can be used as a supplement and museum specimens are also helpful if live material is unavailable.

With each book or field guide you hear of unexpected challenges. What was the biggest challenge in creating this field guide?

 

As the larval and pupal stages of ladybirds are quite short in duration, the main challenge for Richard was having to illustrate them as soon as he received them, often by post. The larvae also needed to be fed, at the same time ensuring the carnivorous species were kept apart, as many are cannibalistic. The inconspicuous species were the most challenging to illustrate as they are tiny, most around 2–4mm long, and covered in minute hairs, which often form diagnostically important patterns on their wing cases.
It has been such a pleasure to work together – we have all learnt from one another along the way. It has been inspiring to hear from Richard about the microscopic details of some of the little ladybirds that had previously gone unnoticed by us.

Helen E. Roy (Author)

Peter Brown (Author)

Richard Lewington (Illustrator)

 

 

Professor Helen Roy’s research at the Biological Records Centre focuses on the effects of environmental change on insect populations and communities, and she is particularly interested in the dynamics of invasive species and their effects on native biodiversity.

Dr Peter Brown is an ecologist and senior lecturer in zoology at Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge. His research focuses on three main areas: ladybirds, non-native species and citizen science.

Richard Lewington is regarded as being one of the finest wildlife illustrators. His meticulous paintings of insects and other wildlife are the mainstay of many of the modern classics of field-guide art, including the Field Guide to the Moths of Great Britain and Ireland and the Field Guide to the Bees of Great Britain and Ireland.

 

Field Guide to the Ladybirds of Britain and Ireland

By: Helen E. Roy (Author), Peter Brown (Author), Richard Lewington (Illustrator)

Paperback | Nov 2018 |  ISBN 9781472935687                    £19.99 £24.99                                                                              Hardback | Nov 2018 |  ISBN 9781472935670                    £37.99 £44.99

 

 

 

 

 

 

Browse all our Ladybird books

 

Landfill: An interview with Tim Dee

Landfill is the story of gulls. Often derided as ‘bin chickens’ these complex birds are a surprising success story, exploiting and enjoying a niche created by our own waste-making behaviours.

In Landfill, Tim Dee has written an honest, funny and intelligent ode to these inquisitive, resourceful and daring birds. Their story is interwoven with our own – it is a nature book for our times.

We asked Tim a few questions regarding his fascination with gulls and his thoughts about these ubiquitous and canny survivors.

Why did you choose to write about Gulls?

I’ve been a birdwatcher for fifty years and grew up in a simpler world of gulls. They were mostly still ‘seagulls’ then – marine species – and there were only a handful regularly occurring in Britain. Thirty years ago – but without me fully clocking it at the time – gulls in Britain got more obvious and more interesting. Gulls became urban birds then, like never before – moving to breed in our cities and feeding on our rubbish dumps and stealing our chips – and they were also taxonomically reappraised so that the few species I thought I knew became a dozen or more species to search for and to learn to identify.  These changes and the ways the birds have continued to live as often the wildest creature closest to our contemporary lives made them interesting to me, troubling even, and I started trying to work out what was going on.

J.A. Baker, the author of Peregrine and perhaps the founder of nature writing once wrote ‘science can never be enough; emotion and sentiment will always rule.’ Public perceptions of gulls range from dislike all the way to loathing. Is there anything that might make us more accepting of gulls and their place among us?

I think they hold a mirror up to us. They have flown in our slipstream in the last 100 years, coming ashore first to feed on fish guts, then following ploughs, and more recently finding life in our leftovers on city streets and rubbish dumps. They have found a way to live alongside us. Most birds have gone in the opposite direction. Instead of admiring the gulls for getting good at various human-like activities (surviving in the jostle of cities, shifting to new places where opportunities arise, making do in strapped times) we have derided them. I think we fear them with a dark loathing and, in an atavistic way, other animals that we see as succeeding.  This is quite wrong. We have made the world the gulls have adapted to and we should look to our own debased and wasteful existence before hating other species for getting on with their lives. They might teach us about ourselves if we could learn how to know them properly. The gullers in Landfill know this and I have tried to write the book for the gulls as much as about them.

Gulls have proved to be adaptable, especially regarding human interaction; what changes have they already accomplished and what do you envisage for them in the next fifty or even one hundred years?

There has been a gull moment and it looks like it is coming to an end. Urban gulls – living in cities and eating our food waste on dumps – are a product of urbanising humanity and the throwaway decades of the 1960s-1990s. Nowadays the large species (herring and lesser black-backed above all) have two largely separate populations – one urban and one still marine. The seaside gulls are threatened species now and not doing well. At the moment the urban birds are still expanding their range and populations (there is remarkably little traffic between the two populations). But food waste recycling is increasingly efficient in the UK and little or no putrifiable waste is soon meant to be arriving on dumps. The food source is ending for the gulls. We don’t yet know what will happen. It seems likely that the numbers of the birds (100,000 pairs of urban herring and lesser black-backed gulls in Britain it is thought) cannot be sustained without this food source. It is good for us to be recyclers and to be less wasteful but the gulls may well not be so pleased.

With their increased visibility in towns and cities, what might be their impact on the urban wildlife that is already established there?

I’ve seen them eating a starling chick, others have seen them eating human hair outside a barber shop. The slum avifauna as it has been called is a dynamic one. Urban human life drives change in the leftover wildlife that can survive in the hectic built up world. Gulls take pigeons. And rats. But it is tough times for all species in these environments. On the rubbish dumps I have visited to ring gulls a super bold landfill red fox will take black-headed gulls if we are not careful to throw the ringed birds back into the air. Marginal living is hard for all. And in these shifting landscapes in states of permanent rebuild no one can tell who is going win out.

During your research for Landfill can you think of one stand-out surprising fact or discovery that you didn’t previously know?

Cities are warmer and safer and more nutritious for gulls than their original habitats; lesser black-backed gulls used to be migratory birds in Britain but seem to be evolving into sedentary birds; Caspian gulls are storming out of Eastern Europe, but are running out of their own species to mate with so are hybridising with others: nothing sits still for long in nature. Evolution is relentless, and the gulls are telling us how it is.

Are there plans for, or are you currently embarking on any new writing projects?

A nicer book in some ways I hope – I am writing about the spring in Europe following migratory birds north from south of the Sahara to the top of Arctic Scandinavia. Spring moves at about walking pace north and it is my favourite time of year. I have tried to walk the season from south to north in time with swallows and wheatears and nightjars and redstarts. And not many gulls, though I love them now too of course.

 

 

 

 

Tim Dee has been a birdwatcher for most of his life and written about them for twenty years.  As well as Landfill, he is the author of The Running Sky and Four Fields and is the editor of Ground Works.

Landfill is part of our Best of Winter collection and is available at the special offer price of £13.99 until the end of December 2018.

Hardback | Oct 2018 | ISBN-13: 9781908213624   £13.99 £15.99

 

 

HarperCollins: Publisher of the Month

With a heritage stretching back 200 years, HarperCollins is one of the world’s leading publishers and has an extensive catalogue covering both fiction and non-fiction. We are pleased to announce that they are our Publisher of the Month for November and December. 

HarperCollins are pioneers in the world of natural history publishing and are renowned for their extremely popular New Naturalist series, iconic Collins Field Guides and a fantastic range of other natural history and popular science titles.

New Naturalist

The New Naturalist series, established in 1945, is arguably the most influential natural history series in the world, and first editions have long been collector’s items. The series has been revitalised in recent years with many more titles planned for the future.

November 2018 sees the arrival of Volume 138 The Burren and in 2019 we can look forward to Gulls and Garden Birds, with The Honey Bee also planned for the end of the year.

We will have a limited number of signed first editions of  The Burren available. Customers with standing orders and pre-orders will be automatically allocated signed stock, but additional copies are limited so place your order now if you would like to guarantee yourself a signed book.

We hope to offer a limited number of signed first editions of future New Naturalist volumes. Priority for these will be given to customers taking out a standing orders for the series:  a standing order ensures you receive all new releases in a series, although they are not a commitment to buy and can be cancelled anytime.  To find out more about setting up a standing order for the New Naturalist series, please contact Customer Services by email: customer.services@nhbs.com or phone 01803 865913.

Collins Field Guides

HarperCollins are famous for the distinctive black jackets on their Collins Field Guides. These are consistently popular with naturalists and ecologists throughout Britain. In fact, the Collins Bird Guide is our all-time bestselling book here at NHBS! Covering Europe and the UK’s flora and fauna, these field guides set the benchmark for quality descriptions, illustrations and distribution maps.

 The Field Guide series also encompasses guides for other locations around the world, the most recent addition to the collection being Birds of the Philippines. These field guides are written by well-known authors and showcase beautiful artwork from some of the world’s best natural history illustrators.

 

Nature Writing and Popular Science

 

 

 

 

HarperCollins also publish a wide range of narrative nature writing; from tales of the perilous lives of seabirds in The Seabirds Cry, a celebration of the geological past in Life: An Unauthorised Biography, poignant wildlife studies in The Great Soul of Siberia to the astonishing intelligence of cephalopods in Other Minds: The Octopus and the Evolution of Intelligent Life

Special offers on HarperCollins books

 

 

 

 

We have special offer prices on most of our HarperCollins books from now until the end of the year.  A perfect opportunity to pick up a gift or to treat yourself this winter.

Handbook of Western Palearctic Birds: Interview with Lars Svensson and Hadoram Shirihai

Handbook of Western Palearctic BirdsThe much anticipated Handbook of Western Palearctic Birds: Passerines has been eighteen years in the making and after extensive research, exhaustive travel and years of dedication, it will finally be available at the end of July 2018. We were lucky enough to catch up with the authors Lars Svensson and Hadoram Shirihai to ask them some questions just weeks before the book is due to be published.

In this exclusive interview, Lars and Hadoram share their ambitions, endeavours and aspirations for this landmark publication.

Eighteen years in the making, The Handbook of Western Palearctic Birds: Passerines is one of the few truly remarkable publishing projects in ornithology. How does this work compare to the Birds of the Western Palearctic series published between 1977 and 1994 by Oxford University Press?

Lars: Let us say that in my case only 15 of these 18 years were spent on the new handbook. I was involved in doing the second edition of the Collins Bird Guide and some other minor projects as well within the time span. But even so, 15 years is a long time for one single book project! Still, if you would ask around among authors behind more ambitious handbooks and group monographs I am sure most would agree that it takes longer than many anticipate to create reference books of this kind. For me, the first edition of the ringers’ guide took at least seven years to create and the Bird Guide about twelve (and then I did not have to paint a single plate; Killian and Dan did that work so excellently!).

The Handbook of Western Palearctic Birds (HWPB) focuses on identification, vocalisations, ageing and sexing, moult, geographical variation and taxonomy, with brief summaries of summer and winter ranges, whereas BWP covers also social pattern and behaviour, breeding biology, population size and food, all in a very detailed and scholarly fashion with local variations and references. You could say that HWPB is tailor-made for the ordinary birdwatcher and twitcher who wants an up-to-date summary of what is known about identification, ageing, sexing and taxonomy of each species. This does not say that it could not be useful also for museum workers and other professionals!

There are a few other important differences. We, Hadoram Shirihai and I, decided it was time for a handbook entirely illustrated with photographs. Camera standards had developed significantly in the 90s, and through the internet more and more brilliant bird photographs were shared. The potential was clearly there to portray all species within a large region with all plumages and geographical variation covered in photographs. Secondly, we thought it was a good opportunity to give brief summaries of the various subspecies that were deemed distinct enough to be upheld. Many subspecies in the contemporary handbooks and checklists we thought were extremely subtle or even impossible to separate from neighbouring subspecies, and we set off to independently check the validity of all subspecies in museum collections. Applying the so-called ‘75% rule’ (meaning that at least 3/4 of all individuals should be possible to distinguish based on morphology) we ended up discarding c. 15% of all subspecies as synonyms compared to other handbooks and major checklists.

Hadoram: At least as I see it, BWP was made some 20-30 years ago when it was still possible to squeeze information into one project – on distribution, population estimates, atlas, ecology, seasonal biology, behaviour, voice, and so on, as well as identification and variation (but with generally only very basic illustrations, paintings) – and to be satisfied with it!

With so much new information on identification, vocalisations, ageing and sexing, moult, geographical variation and taxonomy (and in parallel the development of revolutionary digital photography), an updated modern handbook of these issues was needed.

In order to illustrate these issues properly and fully, it required a lot of space, for 5-49 images per species (depending on extent of variation). Just for the Passerines it required two volumes, that includes c 5000 images, made by some 800 photographers! Surely it then becomes the most complete photographic handbook for any region.

 What was the biggest challenge in accomplishing this benchmark work?

Lars: To assemble the many photographs (there are well over 4000 photographs together in the two passerine volumes) and to achieve full coverage of male and female, young and adult, sometimes also in both spring and autumn, plus examples of distinct subspecies, was of course a major challenge. Hadoram was in charge of this and did a great job, and we got good support from our publisher setting up a home page for the project where photographers could see what we still needed photographs of. Thanks to the prolonged production, many gaps (if not all!) were filled during our course.

But the biggest challenge was undoubtedly to manage our goal to independently examine all commonly described subspecies. This led us to visit about 15 different museums with for me sometimes biannual sessions both in Tring and New York (the two largest bird skin collections in the world) with visits also to Paris, Stockholm, Leiden, Berlin, Copenhagen, Moscow, Almaty and Bonn, to name some other places. Hadoram made targeted visits also to the museums in Vienna and Tel Aviv to seek answers to specific questions. Apart from the considerable expenses for these travels that we took on, the main difficulty was to find enough specimens of some rarer subspecies. Our aim was to examine at least 12 specimens of each sex of each named subspecies. We managed this for the vast majority, and sometimes examined series of each sex in three figure numbers, but for a very few we could not reach the minimum level. However, we did our best and we state sample sizes for all taxa in the handbook.

Hadoram: Lars described in his answers very well, the combined efforts with the museum collections work and building the photographic collections and selections for the project.

I may add that the biggest challenge and achievement of this handbook is that it provides to field users masses of new and updated information on variation that is now – 1. available, and – 2. more visible due to improved optics and digital photography. But at the same time, in a balanced approach and focus about what also observers can see and use. In other words, HWPB provides the observer with much new information that he can see and analyse while examining a bird in the field, or when processing their images back home.

You have worked in the field for many years, what would you highlight as the most profound change to the practice of identifying and recording birds? What will be the biggest challenge for ornithologists in years to come?

Lars: Digital photography and the existence of internet and websites for documentation and discussion of bird images are the main changes compared to when I started as a birdwatcher. This has speeded up the exchange of news and knowledge in a remarkable way. True, field-guides and birding journals keep offering better and better advice on tricky identification problems, and optical aids have developed to a much higher standard than say 50 years ago. But the new cameras with stabilised lenses and autofocus have meant a lot and have enabled so-called ‘ordinary’ birders to take excellent photographs. This has broadened the cadre of photographers and multiplied the production of top class images of previously rarely photographed species. Which of course made HWPB possible. The handbook is a wonderful testimony to the high standard of bird photography today, also beyond the ranks of so-called professional photographers.

The biggest challenge in years to come will be to identify the new species, which are nowadays nearly always the result of taxonomic decisions and splits of an existing species containing rather distinct geographical variation. Thus previous subspecies are elevated to full species, and by the very nature of it they are often look-alikes.

Linked to this is the problem of different species concepts when various authorities or published checklists are consulted. Although one universally adopted taxonomic list could seem desirable for facilitated communication and for consistent conservation efforts between countries, differences of opinion have always had the positive effect of generating more research and interest. So taxonomic agreement is recommendable up to a point.

What’s next for you? 

Lars: I have planned for many years now to revise my ringers’ guide and produce a fifth edition of it. It is now taxonomically obsolete, but works quite well as to ageing and sexing if you asked me. Amazingly, this book has been alone on the market for over 40 years, and only got its first challenger the other year. After all, the first edition was published in 1970. Now a lot of the offered advice could be improved or refined, and I have started to spend time at the Ottenby Bird Observatory to sharpen up my eyes and knowledge again.

And of course there are the non-passerines for HWPB to do as well. I will not be a true retired man for many years to come yet! I am guaranteed an interesting and varied old age!

I also confess to holding a lifelong interest in bird vocalisation, and I do spend time with my Telinga parabolic microphone and recorder trying to obtain missing sounds, or to improve what I already have. A very relaxing way of birding for me, although I cannot help noticing how disturbance from anthropogenic noise is making good recordings harder and harder to achieve.

Then birds are not everything in my life (but much!). I am a keen Bordeaux wine admirer, and I still play some golf. In other words I am not idle. There is not a day in my life that is not full of activities.

Hadoram: Before I get too old…I am now focusing on completing two main projects for the same publisher:

The HWPB Non-Passerines: it will also come in two volumes, but this time around we are inviting a group of expert authors, with the idea to publish one volume every 3 or 4 years.

The Tubenoses Monograph: already more than 20 years in the making. By now I have seen at sea (and often also on land with live birds) all the taxa, including all species and subspecies of albatrosses, petrels, shearwaters and storm petrels of the world (and examined most of the largest collections too). So I am now writing it with my co-author Vincent Bretagnolle and Tim Worfolk (artist) who has already illustrated many of the plates.

Written by two of the world’s most respected ornithologists, this landmark handbook has been highly anticipated for many years and, as of publication, will be the most complete and comprehensive photographic guide to the passerines of the Western Palearctic.

Handbook of Western Palearctic Birds: Passerines (2 Volume Set)

Hardback | #152433
ISBN-13: 9780713645712
Available for pre-order
Due July 2018 
Pre-pub offer £130.00 £150.00