The Vegetative Key to the British Flora: an interview with author John Poland

With re-written keys, additional species, phenology and  many new identification characters, this second edition of The Vegetative Key to the British Flora will be an essential tool for anyone wishing to identify plants when no flowers or fruits are available.

Author John Poland has taken time to answer a few question about the making of this eagerly waited update.

 

John Poland at Hazelslack, Silverdale

Could you tell us a little about your background and how you got interested in botany?

I grew up in urban Lancashire but luckily nature and ‘weeds’ are everywhere. The Lake District was a weekend camping haunt as a child so my curiosity of the natural world never disappeared.
I think the i-spy/Find 50 books that adorned bookshops at the time fostered this interest as I was always hunting for the rarities, sometimes even successfully! Later, local natural history societies and national societies such as the BSBI and Wild Flower Society were great at mentoring and developing more advanced ID skills.
My day job is in ecological consultancy which combines a passion for the natural world with protecting it for others to enjoy. Botany doesn’t always get the prominence it deserves but it plays such an important role in our environment.

Why did you consider producing a second edition of The Vegetative Key to the British Flora and how long has it been in preparation?

The second edition was started the day the first edition was in my hands in 2009! It was a good first attempt, but there is always much to learn and many diagnostic characters were overlooked. This volume aims to correct this by evolving a more definitive ID guide based on 10 years of extensive testing by many botanists. Writing The Field Key to Winter Twigs gave me a new perspective on key-designing concepts so some of these have been applied to the new Veg Key to make it easier for users.

Can you advise on the best ways to use this book?

Always read the keys and never try to pre-empt a question! In this edition, every key has been revised to make ID easier and more accurate.

What kit or equipment can you recommend to aid identification of plants in the vegetative state?

It’s mostly very basic (and inexpensive). A x20 hand lens is best in the field and an x15 LED magnifier is great when working indoors. A measuring loupe is a handy tool and easier to use than a microscrope for fine measurements.

Is there one easy mistake that can be made when identifying plants in their vegetative state?

Perhaps overlooking hair type or presence/absence of latex and stomata. These need careful interpretation but it gets much easier with practice, honest! The key works using obvious characters to start with before getting down to the nitty-gritty. I try to give both simple and technical characters to give the user confidence of getting a correct answer.

Have you got any future projects planned that you can tell us about?

There is always plenty to do in botany. I’m already working on including the entire British Flora. Neophytes are hitching a ride all the time and hortal plants constantly jumping over the garden wall. Perhaps a book on evergreen trees and shrubs would be useful for winter botany but I’m only on the bare bones of that key at the moment…

 

The Vegetative Key to the British Flora: A New Approach to Plant Identification
Paperback,  published January 2020                £24.99 

The second edition of this go-to identification guide is much revised, with re-written keys, additional species, phenology, and many new identification characters.

 

The Field Key to Winter Twigs: A Guide to Native and Planted Deciduous Trees, Shrubs and Woody Climbers (Xylophytes) found in the British Isles
Paperback,  published November 2019             £19.99

A unique identification guide to winter twigs, allowing for rapid species identification.

 

Helm: Publisher of the Month

Christopher Helm’s name has adorned some of the most cherished and authoritative bird books to have appeared anywhere in the world. Starting with the now out-of-print  Seabirds in 1983, a revolution in ornithology publishing began. The Helm stable has since grown into a series of groundbreaking identification guides.  As well as the justly famous Helm Identification Guides, the Helm imprint has expanded to include the Helm Field Guides, Helm Photographic Guides, and Where to Watch Birds series.

With three more fantastic books published in January, we are delighted to name Helm as our Publisher of the Month.

 

 

 

 

 

Over thirty years of ornithology publishing

Handbook of Western Palearctic Birds: Passerines (2-Volume Set)
Hardback| July 2018| £115.99 £150.00
In 2018 Helm published this long awaited 2-Volume Set  which has been among our bestsellers ever since.

We’ve selected more highlights from Helm’s illustrious publishing history below:

 

Birds of Costa Rica                                                                     Paperback| 2014| £16.99 £24.99
The detailed full-colour illustrations exemplify the high standards of Helm’s field guides

 

Flight Identification of European Seabirds
Paperback| 2007| £23.99 £39.99
Essential field guide for watching seabirds, whether it be from land or at sea.

 

Birds of Mongolia
Paperback| Aug 2019| £21.99 £29.99
With a guide to Argentina avifauna planned for late 2020, Helm’s field guides continue to cover increasingly popular destinations for birders, such as Mongolia

 

Antpittas and Gnateaters
Hardback| 2018| £33.99 £49.99
The ultimate reference on these remarkable and beautiful birds and a recent addition to Helm’s authoritative Identification Guide series.  With Birds of Paradise and Bowerbirds and Larks of the World to be published in 2020.

 

Gulls of Europe, Asia and North America
Hardback| 2004 | £32.99 £49.99
The book that that made accurate identification of gulls a realistic possibility for the first time. Still the standard text on the identification of the northern hemisphere’s gulls.

 

Where to Watch Birds in Southern & Western Spain
Paperback| July 2019| £16.99 £24.99
The birding hotspot of Southern Iberia gets an update for this fourth edition in the Where to Watch Birds in Britain and Europe  series

 

The Helm Guide to Bird Identification
Paperback| April 2018| £19.99 £29.99
A supplement to regular field guides for the more experienced birdwatcher, focusing on look-a-likes and other confusing species

 

Wildfowl of Europe, Asia and North America
Hardback| 2015| £23.99 £34.99
An essential reference for anyone interested in the ducks, geese and swans of Eurasia and North America

 

Owls of the World: A Photographic Guide
Hardback| 2013| £26.99 £39.99
An ever popular title in the Helm Photographic Guide Series, the photos are accompanied by concise text on the identification, habitat, food, distribution and voice of these charismatic birds.

To celebrate Helm as NHBS’ Publisher of the Month, we are offering up to 30% off selected Helm books. Browse all Helm books here

 

All price promotion valid until Feb 1st 2020

 

 

Author Interview: Lukas Jenni & Raffael Winkler, Moult and Ageing of European Passerines

The legendary Moult and Ageing of European Passerines returns in a completely revised second edition. This is the must-have reference for bird ringers, ornithologists, and anyone fascinated by feathers.

Bloomsbury’s publisher, Jim Martin has asked the authors Lukas Jenni and Raffael Winkler to share their thoughts about this eagerly awaited second edition.

 

How did the two of you first come to be interested in ageing birds?

Back in the seventies, Raffael was collecting data on skull pneumatization of live birds at the ringing station Col de Bretolet in the Swiss Alps as part of his PhD thesis, and Lukas was a young birder and wannabe ringer. We met at the Basel Ornithological Society, and began to collaborate. At that time ‘skulling’ was a new ageing method; we found as we worked that several plumage ageing criteria were either unreliable or simply wrong. We then started to record more precisely the extent of the post-juvenile moult.

What drove you to keep up your work in counting the moulted and unmoulted feathers of thousands of birds?

We were both fascinated by the large variation in the extent of moult we found, both between species and between individual birds of a species. We wanted to discover the reasons for this variability. And we also wanted to tackle the ‘either/or’ criteria that prevailed for ageing birds at the time – for example, tail feathers might be recorded as either pointed or rounded, but if a young bird had moulted some tail feathers they would have some of each. Ringers were using fixed ‘recipes’ for ageing that did not account for the moult process and its variability.

When did you decide to collate your findings into a book?

Lukas became head of the Swiss Ringing Scheme in 1979, and we both held many ageing courses for ringers, and produced numerous fact-sheets for them. The basis of these was Lars Svensson’s famous Identification Guide to European Passerines; each new edition of this formidable work was eagerly awaited. However, we realised that explaining verbalised differences – for example, such as between buffish-grey and greyish-buff – was a little difficult. It was much easier to teach ringers with the help of wing preparations and skins from the Natural History Museum, Basel. Finally, we decided to take photographs of these elements, with a view to producing a guide to ageing. This eventually became the first edition of Moult and Ageing of European Passerines, which was published in 1994.

The new second edition is publishing in January 2020. This book is more than an ageing guide. What made you develop the sections on moult strategies?

During our work on moult, we realised how complex the moults of passerines are and how incomplete our understanding of moult still is. We felt that a full review is needed for two reasons. First to demonstrate how important moult is in the life of a bird and how moult interacts with other events of the annual cycle. Second to enhance the understanding of the plumage ageing criteria, and to enable ringers to discover new ones.

This will be expanded on in your follow-up book, The Biology of Moult in Birds, which will be coming out in the summer. For Moult and Ageing, how did you take the many excellent photographs of the wings of live birds?

We developed a simple system of a camera with a ring-flash mounted on a tripod, and put the wing of the bird on an oblique grey board, fixed at the wrist with double-sided adhesive tape (we should add that the birds were completely unharmed by the process). This sounds simple, but the tedious part was to put all the feathers and feather vanes in a perfect order, one that satisfied our sense of aesthetic perfection! We then realised that we needed help, and we employed several people over the years to operate as ‘feather beautician’ and photographer.

Physically, it’s quite a big book, and not easy to use in the field. What was the thinking behind that?

We pondered for a long time about this. We finally decided on such a large format so that the reader can see many photographs on one page for direct comparison. A smaller format would have entailed smaller photographs, or continuously turning pages, or both.

How do you think this book will be received?

We were really surprised at the reception for the first edition, how quickly it sold out, and the enormous price second-hand copies went on to fetch. We therefore decided to do a second edition long ago, but it has taken us many years of research, and so has materialised only now. We thoroughly revised the first part of the book about the moult strategies, we’ve included a schematic table of the moults of all European passerines and added pictorial schemes of the various moult strategies, and we have also added 16 new species to the species accounts. The book was printed in Switzerland, so we could supervise the printing. We are glad that the quality of the photographs is now ’pretty good’ (complying with English understatement) or ‘phenomenal’ (following American usage), and we hope that readers will feel the same.

Thank you Lukas and Raffael, and good luck with the new book.

Jim Martin: Bloomsbury Publishing

 

 

 

Moult and Ageing of European Passerines
Hardback,  published 9th January 2020,  £82.99 £94.99

A brand-new, completely revised second edition of Jenni and Winkler’s classic guide, updated and improved for the next generation of ringers and professional ornithologists.

 

Staff Picks 2019

Welcome to our annual round-up of the books and equipment we have enjoyed reading and using this year, all chosen by members of the NHBS team. Here are our choices for 2019!

Browning Recon Force Advantage

I have chosen the Browning Recon Force Advantage as my staff pick as it is my favourite trail camera of 2019. We added the Browning cameras to our range in early 2019 and we have been really impressed with the quality of the cameras and the footage they produce. The Recon Force Advantage records 20MP still images and amazingly smooth HD video at 60 fps, with the night time videos in particular offering a step up in terms of definition. This really transforms trail camera footage and broadens the potential for using them in detailed behavioural observations.
Simone – Senior Wildlife Equipment Specialist

The Seafarers: A Journey Among Birds

This account of Stephen Rutts travels to know the seabirds of the British coastline makes for a rather special debut book, dealing in turn with different species of seabird that call Britain home for a spell of their seafaring year. This book lyrically weaves between autobiographical accounts of wild encounters and cultural and historical insight of our ongoing relationship with these birds, whose fascinating communities rely heavily on our actions. Seafarers at its heart, is a journey of deep re-connection with wild beings and wild places and is a mesmerising, witty and often deeply profound portrait of seabirds.
Oli – Graphic Designer

Painted Wolves: A Wild Dog’s life

This book is an epic, beautiful ode to Painted wolves (though you may know them as African wild dogs or Hunting dogs). Using twenty years of experience in the field, this book introduces us to the wolves of the wild Zambezi Valley and discusses conservation challenges and solutions. Throughout are incredible images, encapsulating the lives of these magnificent animals.
Natt – Sales & Marketing Manager

NHBS Moth Trap

My favourite item has to be the NHBS Moth trap, its super light and very easy to assemble. I have been in love with moths for a long time and been lucky enough to publish a paper on the diversity of moths. However, I was not a fan of the big and bulky traps that were very heavy and hard to transport (especially if you have to fit it in your suitcase!).
This trap has been tested by experts from Butterfly Conservation and is handmade in Totnes, Devon. The NHBS Moth trap also has a very high capture rate, as many moths seem to stay in the trap rather than flying out. Another added plus is that 10% of each sale goes directly to Butterfly Conservation!
Angeline – Key Account Manager (Trainee)

Colourful Creatures Memory Game By Shanti Sparrow

I bought this for my 7 year old niece and she loves it. The illustrations are so beautiful and the bright colours really help with remembering the different animals and maintaining attention. She really liked the fact that there is a little booklet of facts about the different animals and the fact that they have names makes them more relatable. The fact we played this game non-stop for a whole afternoon, at her request, is the best review I can give.
Lizzie- Customer Service Manager

Green and Prosperous Land: A Blueprint for Rescuing the British Countryside

Can restoring nature, increasing biodiversity and enhancing the environment go hand-in-hand with economic prosperity? Economist, Dieter Helm gives a resounding ‘yes.’  In fact, he would maintain protecting the environment is ‘essential’ to economic prosperity. He pulls no punches and may ruffle some feathers in his assessment of who is accountable for the decline of nature and what needs to be done to put Britain on a greener and more prosperous path.
Nigel – Books and Publications

A Cloud a Day

Following the success of the Cloud Appreciation Society’s ‘Cloud-a-Day’ subscription service, this book collects a year’s worth of entries. As always with anything produced by CAS, the collection pulls together science, art and philosophy – from explanations of fascinating cloud formations; to historical diagrams from early cloudwatchers; to wistful excerpts of poetry. Many of the photographs featured come from CAS members themselves, and Pretor-Pinney and his odd little community of cloud enthusiasts (of which I myself am a member – no. 28,360) encourage you to take a minute’s mindfulness each day, contemplating the exquisite detail of nature’s most egalitarian of displays: “Look up, marvel at the ephemeral beauty, and always remember to live life with your head in the clouds!”
Rachel- Deputy Customer Service Manager

Hi-Sound Stereo Parabolic Microphone

I have recently been able to test Dodotronic’s Hi-Sound Stereo Parabolic Microphone and I was so impressed by it, it just had to be my staff pick this year! My regular walk in the woods was completely transformed by listening to and recording the birdsong around me. The 53cm diameter parabolic dish is excellent at picking up even the most subtle of sounds and is easy to use, meaning it is perfect for both the budding or experienced wildlife recorder. It pairs perfectly with a Tascam DR-05X for recording and a pair of headphones or earphones for listening in the field. I would strongly recommend the Hi-Sound to anyone with an interest in wildlife recording.
Antonia- Senior Wildlife Equipment Specialist

The Outlaw Ocean: Crime and Survival in the Last Untamed Frontier

“Only one?” Picking favourites has become very hard, but if I have to pick one it would be Ian Urbina’s The Outlaw Ocean. From overfishing and smuggling to piracy and slavery, The Outlaw Ocean is an exceptional reportage that encompasses almost every conceivable form of misconduct playing out on the high seas. The book is shocking, urgent, and in places gut-wrenching. Impossible to put down, it left a deep and lasting impression on me.
Leon- Catalogue Editor

Growth: From Microorganisms to Megacities

This is as ambitious in scope as Smil’s previous title Energy and Civilization, with few illustrations and many references, and combines two fascinating (to me) subjects: systems in nature and systems in society, and ultimately how we came to be where we are today. I admit I haven’t read this yet, but I have been looking forward to immersing myself over the Christmas days.
Anneli – Head of Finance and Operations

Author Interview: Richard Mabey, Turning the Boat for Home: A Life Writing about Nature

Richard Mabey is often referred to as the father of modern nature writing. His latest book is a retrospective of occasional writings compiled by the author over the last couple of decades. In the author’s words; ‘a sketchy reflection of a life’s work does emerge‘  He has taken time to sign copies of his latest book and answer our questions about fifty years of nature writing.

 

1. Could you tell us a little about your background and how you got interested in nature?

I was one of that generation of kids allowed to run wild out of doors. We had a hundred-acre abandoned landscape park at the end of the garden, and in it, I saw my first barn owls, smelt my first storm-splintered wood and ate my first hawthorn leaves. Later I was a boy-birder, and by my teenage years began attaching huge symbolic importance to them. The first chiffchaff had to sing in a particular ash clump, the first swifts had to appear on May Day, and I held my blazer collar for luck on the walk to school to will them back. I did my first nature scribblings then, essays and over-romantic poems, shamelessly aping Richard Jefferies and Dylan Thomas.
I went to Oxford to read biochemistry despite never having done a mite of formal biology- but recoiled in horror from the curriculum and changed to philosophy and politics in my first fortnight. I’ve never regretted the change, for the perspective it gave me, or for the fact that school made me just about scientifically literate.

2. Your new book looks back over a life’s work and features a collection of ‘occasional writing’; how did you decide which works to include?

I realised I had got a good portion of the work already done. Over the past 20 years, I’ve done a fair amount of writing – essays, introductions to other writers’ books, radio programmes – which contain autobiographical elements. So, a long think piece I wrote for the Guardian about the history of foraging in Europe contains an account of how I came to write my own contribution, my first book, Food for Free. A BBC Radio 3 talk I delivered live from Bristol (as part of a Nature and Music festival) became an exploration of the relation between birdsong and human music. I worked a lot on most of the pieces, extending them and cutting out overlaps, and strung them together so that they made a rough sketch of a working life.

3. Is there one ‘nature writer’ that has been an inspiration to you?

There are dozens. But the one who struck most sparks is Annie Dillard. Her Pilgrim at Tinker Creek (1974) uncoiled new mycorrhizal links between imagination and the physical world. Pilgrim is a poetic interrogation of evolution, done through an acute contemplation of the natural life of a remote Appalachian creek. Why should anything – light, love, leaf – be the way it is? Dillard’s style is mischievous, gleeful, explosive- just like creation itself. I’ve long been a fan of American nature writing- Barry Lopez, Gretel Ehrlich, Gary Snyder, back to the master Henry Thoreau. The States’ vast untrammelled landscapes seem to nourish a similar freedom in its writers, in contrast to our own corseted acres. The British writers who have most inspired me tend to be radicals who set themselves against this ordered and orderly back cloth; eg John Clare and his poems of solidarity with commoners of all species; Kenneth Allsop, firing broadsides through conventional “country writing” in the 1970s.

4. Do you think the genre of nature writing has changed during the time you have been writing?

I’ve been writing for more than fifty years, so have the luxury of a long view. But I think the idea that the nature writing of the last ten years is in some essential way “new” suggests a great forgetting of our tradition. Current nature writing is a very broad church, from lyrical science to introspective memoir. Yet even the most conspicuous trait – the personal “journey” – has deep roots. I’m no fan of his work but think of Gavin Maxwell in the 60s or John Buxton in the 40s and WH Hudson at the beginning of the 20th century. One of the most exciting trends is the emergence of fiction with strong affinities to the agendas of nature writing, as in Richard Powers’ astounding epic The Overstory (but this too was happening in pre-WW2 fiction).

5. You have won awards and many accolades for your writing; what is your proudest achievement as a nature writer?

I think it would have to be Flora Britannica (1986) not least because it incorporates the voices and stories of many thousands of contributors as well as my own. When I set out my plan to try and survey where wild plants stood in our culture in the late 20th C, I was met with heavy scepticism at first. “Nowhere” was the implied response. When the contributions began to pour in from the general public they were heart lifting, not just for their passion but their diversity. There was very little of the rehashed Victoriana usually passed off as “folklore”. Instead we had deeply felt personal stories from individuals, families, children’s gangs, about the importance of wild plants in their lives: plants used in weddings, and tossed onto a parent’s coffin; outrageously inventive playground games with invasive aliens; favourite local trees used as landmarks, hideaways, sites for lovers’ trysts.
The four years I spent working on this book were certainly the most rewarding of my writing life. I toured the UK meeting contributors, looking at locations, and then in the long writing process (it is a quarter of a million words long) trying to relate these contemporary experiences to the plants’ social histories and ecologies.

6. The loss of nature seems to be more prominent as a newsworthy subject; do you think nature writing can help towards restoring nature and if so how?

The language of loss is as hard to create as to read. I know I’m far from alone in finding that my head and my heart can pull in opposing directions. My intellectual understanding of the terrible collapse of nightingale populations cannot co-exist with the rapturous in-the-moment experience of listening to its song. But I’m encouraged by what has been happening in the last couple of years when the crises of climate change and extinction seem to have revealed not just the vulnerability of the natural world but a new appreciation of its resilient vitality. To paraphrase Amitav Ghosh is his powerful book The Great Derangement (about the implications of ecological catastrophe on writing) it is as if the improbable events that are happening to us have brought about a recognition that humans have never been alone, but live alongside beings who share with us elements we have always assumed were uniquely ours: sentience, will and above all agency. The challenge writers face is how to express this more-than-human agenda in human words.

7. Have you got any future projects planned that you can tell us about?

Age creeps on, and ideas are scarcer fruits. I have no particular plans but hope I’m not written out. Maybe I’ll do a short philosophical meditation on the concept of human-nature “neighbourliness” which I begin to explore in Turning the Boat for Home. Ideas from readers most welcome!

 

We have a limited amount of signed copies available of Turning the Boat for Home: A Life Writing about Nature

Turning the Boat for Home: A Life Writing about Nature
Hardback, Oct 2019,  £15.99 £18.99

Due to be published in 2020

Birds Britannica
Hardback, due March 2020,  £42.99 £49.99

Fifteen years after the very successful first edition, Mark Cocker and Richard Mabey return for the second edition of Birds Britannica, paying homage to the strong bond the British have with birds.

 

Browse all our Richard Mabey’s books.

 

 

Natural History Museum, London: Publisher of the Month

The Natural History Museum opened on its current site in 1881 and now employs more than 300 scientists working in their earth and life sciences departments. The collection houses over 80 million specimens and publishes over 700 scientific papers a year with international collaborators.  Books published by the Natural History Museum, London are inspired by the Museum’s pioneering scientific work and sales help support their scientific research, educational programmes and conservation programs around the world.

NHBS are pleased to announce Natural History Museum, London as our Publisher of the Month for November and December, with some great offers on iconic publishing such as Wildlife Photographer of the Year.

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

 

 

 

 

Each year the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition is seen by millions of people throughout the world and Portfolio 29 displays the full collection of 100 images awarded in the 2019 competition.

We have previous portfolios that are still in print on special offer – the perfect opportunity to be inspired by the amazing photography and the fantastic flora, fauna and diverse environments that make Wildlife Photographer of the Year such an iconic event.

Browse all Wildlife Photography of the Year portfolios

Bestsellers

As well as Wildlife Photographer of the Year portfolios, Natural History Museum, London publish a variety of natural history titles and we have included our top five titles below:

The Secret Life of Flies

Paperback | April 2018| £7.99 £9.99
Combining a deep knowledge and love of flies with a wonderful knack for storytelling, we  peer – amazed and captivated – into the secret life of flies

 

Moths: Their Biology, Diversity and Evolution

Paperback| October 2019 | £11.99 £14.99
An accessible introduction to the stunning diversity, life habits and evolution of moths

 

The Handbook of Bird Families

Paperback| Oct 2017| £15.99 £19.99
Discover all the key facts about the orders and families of birds found around the world with this ultimate handbook

 

Encyclopedia of Dinosaurs: The Theropods

Hardback| June 2019| £22.99 £29.99
Packed with fabulous illustrations, this book is a great introduction to these fearsome dinosaurs.

 

Trees of Britain and Ireland

Hardback| June 2011| £16.99 £19.99
A celebration of the trees of Britain and Ireland including the history of their development, man’s relationship with them, and portraits of all the major native species.

Forthcoming from Natural History Museum, London

Natural History Museum, London, have more publications due in 2020, most notably: The Inside Out of Flies a guide to the anatomy of flies and the science behind their unique adaptations, from the same author of the bestselling The Secret Lives of Flies.

Browse all Natural History Museum, London titles, old, new and forthcoming here

 

 

Author Interview: Adele Brand, The Hidden World of the Fox

In The Hidden World of the Fox, Adele Brand shows us how this familiar yet enigmatic animal has thrived in ancient wildwood and adapted to life in the supermarket car parks and busy railway stations of our towns and cities.

 

© Gillian Brand

Ecologist and author, Adele Brand has devoted much of her life to studying foxes and has a wealth of knowledge and first-hand experience to share about these often misunderstood animals.

 

 

© Adele Brand

1. Can you tell us a little about your background and how you got interested in foxes?

The Surrey countryside is an education of its own. I grew up there, learning that the hills I loved were home to more than people. Foxes have always been around me: loping across roads at dusk, hunting for voles near the local horses, and every glimpse into their lives cemented my interest. Their vivid personalities, their incredible adaptability in coping with nearly any habitat, the complexity of their social lives – foxes always provide rich study material. I am now an ecologist who has worked with mammals from Mexican jaguars to Surrey dormice, but I continue to monitor my local foxes and the landscape in which they live.

© Adele Brand

2. People often have polar-opposite opinions of foxes: why do you think foxes evoke such an emotional response?

Foxes touch human emotions. Of all our wild mammals, they are the easiest to get to know as recognisable individuals, and observing the ups and downs of their lives builds strong empathy. Many people who feed and watch garden foxes give them names and feel that they are an important part of their lives. On the other hand, some people have a strong ideological view that foxes (and sometimes wildlife in general) simply doesn’t belong near civilisation. When foxes behave in ways which would be reprehensible in a human – killing multiple chickens, scattering rubbish, etc. – they are often judged as they are indeed human. In my experience, a person’s attitude towards the fox is likely to reflect their general beliefs about nature; someone who has experienced damage but considers wildlife of intrinsic worth is actually likely to be more tolerant than a person who dislikes them on principle but has never experienced harm.

© Adele Brand

3. If anybody wanted to observe foxes, how would they go about it and what equipment, if any, would they need?

To see a fox, to an extent you need to think like a fox: the voles, blackberries and rabbits that it seeks are particularly abundant in woodland edges and rough grassland. Foxes are very much creatures of edge habitats so scanning these places – plus hedgerows – with powerful binoculars (I use 10 x 50) is a good start. While foxes can be active at any hour, they are most frequently crepuscular, so dawn and dusk are good times. Fields that are intensively grazed or have heavy recreational pressure are less promising sites. I would also recommend a good tracking book because being able to identify fox footprints, fur and scat will greatly increase understanding of how they are using the landscape. Additionally, it is worthwhile to keep alert even in unconventional places for wildlife watching. I have often seen rural foxes while travelling by train, for example.

© Adele Brand

4. Do foxes pose any ‘real’ danger to humans and pets?

There is an undercurrent of concern about foxes posing a risk to people. It is worth remembering that they are smaller than they can appear at a distance and in general have no interest in approaching us. A fox that sits down and watches is not ‘bold’ or ‘brazen’; it is assessing the situation and will bolt for a gap under the fence if it feels threatened. That said, trying to ‘tame’ them with hand-feeding or encouraging them indoors can lead to problematic encounters. I would always encourage people to enjoy watching their local foxes, but also to keep them wild.

Pets are a mixed issue. Clearly, rabbits, guinea pigs and chickens need to be kept in secure pens. Cats and foxes typically ignore each other, but kittens and very elderly cats are more vulnerable to everything in the outside world.

© Adele Brand

5. Despite the best efforts of humans, foxes are survivors; however, do you think their future is secure?

Interesting question. The conservation status of red foxes globally is secure, but with caveats. Foxes have become extinct in South Korea due to poaching and habitat loss, while in the USA, the Sierra Nevada subspecies is critically endangered. There is some evidence that the British population is declining, although they remain widespread. They have survived the industrialisation of farming, but they are not unaffected by it. A rural landscape that has thick, species-rich hedgerows, wildlife margins in arable fields, and less fragmentation from development would benefit foxes along with many much rarer species.

© Adele Brand

6.While writing your book and observing foxes; was there one surprising fact or discovery that you didn’t know previously?

The unlikely relationship between foxes and Mediterranean hackberry: seeds from this plant germinate earlier and are much more likely to survive if they pass through the intestinal tract of a fox and are excreted in its droppings.

  1. Do you have any new projects in the pipeline that you’d like to tell us about?

At the moment, I’m continuing to study how foxes are affected by the changing land uses in the Surrey Hills. I’m particularly interested in how the intensity of grazing from livestock and horses changes their habitat use.

The Hidden World of the Fox
Hardback,  Oct 2019,  £9.99 £12.99

Adele Brand shines a light on one of Britain’s most familiar yet enigmatic animals, showing us how the astonishing senses, intelligence and behaviour that allowed foxes to thrive in the ancient wildwood now help them survive in our cities and towns.

Browse all our books covering Foxes, Wolves, Dogs and other Canids

 

 

 

 

Johns Hopkins University Press: Publisher of the Month

Founded 1878, Johns Hopkins University Press (JHUP) is the oldest continuously running university press in the United States.

NHBS are pleased to announce Johns Hopkins University Press as our Publisher of the Month for October.  We are offering 20% discount on all their UK distributed books throughout the month; making this a perfect opportunity to explore their vibrant publishing history, recent works and some excellent forthcoming books for wildlife management and conservation, mammalogy, paleontology and evolution, ichthyology, herpetology and more.

Just Published and Forthcoming

 

 

 

 

 

The Rise of Reptiles: 320 Million Years of Evolution 247093                                       Tunas and Billfishes of the World 247149                                                                 International Wildlife Management Conservation: Challenges in a Changing World 246734

With new titles due in the Wildlife Management and Conservation series and Johns Hopkins Rise of.. series,  just published, there is plenty of new publishing for the end of 2019 to augment their recent bestsellers in conservation, ecology and natural history.

Bestsellers from Johns Hopkins University Press

Mammalogy: Techniques Lab Manual
Paperback| Dec 2018| £23.50 £29.50
Ideal for any mammalogy or wildlife biology course, this clear and practical guide aids students by getting them outside to study mammals in their natural environments.

 

Ospreys: The Revival of a Global Raptor
Hardback| April 2019| £23.50 £29.50
Celebrates the recent recovery of the species’; chronicles their spectacular long-distance migrations, and unveils their vital role in bringing life to coastal habitat.

 

Ornithology: Foundation, Analysis, and Application
Hardback |Oct 2019| £64.50 £81.50
Provides a solid modern foundation for understanding the life and development of birds.

 

Freshwater Mollusks of the World: A Distribution Atlas
Hardback| April 2019 | £73.50 £92.50
The only comprehensive summary of systematic and biodiversity information on freshwater mollusk families throughout the world

 

Snakes of Central and Western Africa
Hardback| July 2019| £49.99 £62.99
Temporarily unavailable: due back in stock November 2019

 

Browse all Johns Hopkins University Press Books

Johns Hopkins University Press is part of a great tradition of American university presses, such as: Yale, Chicago and Princeton whom seek to disseminate their work to a wider audience.

Daniel Coit Gilman, the first ever president of Johns Hopkins University Press puts their publishing ethos well in this quote; “It is one of the noblest duties of a university to advance knowledge and to diffuse it not merely among those who can attend the daily lectures but far and wide”.

Marjorie Blamey

Marjorie Blamey 1918 – 2019

We recently received the sad news that the prolific and talented botanical artist, Marjorie Blamey had died, aged 101.

Author and naturalist Peter Marren, looks back her achievements and her invaluable contribution to botany.

 

Marjorie Blamey, who died in September, aged 101, will be well-known to many as the artist of distinguished botanical field guides. Her paintings of wild flowers, trees and ferns are not only scientifically accurate but a joy to see in their fresh colours and lifelike arrangements. Her main aim, she once said, was to make plants look alive, and she achieved it by painting freshly gathered specimens, not, as many botanical artists did, by trying to breathe life into pressed ones.

Locating and painting around 2,000 different species for each field guide was quite a task. Marjorie and her husband Philip used to tour Europe in a motorised caravan, getting up at dawn to begin painting specimens gathered the previous afternoon, kept fresh in boxes lined with damp paper (at home she used the fridge or even the bath). In her prime she could get through a dozen watercolour paintings by lunch. Few botanical artists have worked so fast, and yet maintained such consistent quality.

Her big break was the Collins Guide to Wild Flowers of Britain and Northern Europe (1974) – known as ‘Fitter and Blamey’ – which was translated into many European languages and sold a million copies. It was followed by field guides to alpine flowers and Mediterranean flowers, vital identification guides to green tours ever since, and the large-format Illustrated Flora of Britain and Northern Europe (1989) which she wrote with her friend and mentor Christopher Grey-Wilson, and considered her best work. Her last field guide was the ambitious Wild Flowers of Britain and Ireland (2003) – or ‘Fitter, Fitter and Blamey’ –  whose 4,000-odd colour illustrations she completed at the age of 85 (adding yet more paintings to the revised edition ten years later).

Despite her extraordinary output, Marjorie came to botanical painting surprisingly late. Although she had shown obvious talent in her youth – where she also became an accomplished actress, photographer and, after the outbreak of the Second World War, nurse and ambulance driver – she had largely given up painting to run a dairy farm in Cornwall with her husband, by whom she had four children. She was in her 40s when she began to paint local wild flowers. A friend persuaded her to exhibit, and one thing led to another: a book of magnolias, followed by the first of her field guides.

Marjorie Blamey was modest about her talent. She seems to have loved the life of botanical travel, working all hours to complete her assignments. When you consider that the latest Collins Flower Guide took four artists a number of years to complete, and it took Keble Martin a whole lifetime to finish The Concise British Flora, her total of around 12,000 flower paintings for five major field guides, plus other work, begun in her 50s and ending in her 90s, is a record that will, I suspect, never be exceeded.

Marjorie Blamey 1918 – 2019

Peter Marren, 26th September 2019

Handbook of the Mammals of the World, an interview with the series creators

The final volume in the Handbook of the Mammals of the World series will be published in October 2019.

The first volume was published over a decade ago and Volume 9: Bats completes this hugely important reference series to the mammals of the world.

 

We asked publishers Josep del Hoyo and Albert Martinez to share their thoughts about the conception, production and fruition of this and the earlier Handbook of the Birds of the World series.

1. What inspired you to embark on the Handbook of the Mammals of the World series?
JOSEP: Well, in this case, our inspiration was very clearly the series’ predecessor: the Handbook of the Birds of the World (HBW). When we started on the Handbook of the Mammals of the World (HMW), we had already published 12 volumes of HBW and the results were encouraging, both in terms of enthusiastic reviews and commercial success. So, we thought it would be worthwhile to try to produce a sort of “sister series” covering all the mammals of the world. We saw it as natural that there should be a Handbook to properly treat all the animals forming part of the same Class to which we, as humans, belong. We were aware that while the number of professionals dedicated to mammals were high, that the number of amateur people interested in the group would be much lower than the equivalent public in birdwatching, so the series would be commercially riskier. But we were convinced of the project’s importance for science and conservation, so we decided to look for some support to make it happen.
We were extremely fortunate to find this support in the form of two Chief Editors for the series that were essential for its success. On one hand, celebrated primatologist Russ Mittermeier joined the project, bringing his own knowledge to the series, as well as achieving important funding, most notably from Conservation International, to get the project off its feet. Russ also enlisted the involvement of IUCN, International Union for Conservation of Nature, further emphasising the importance of conservation in the series, and drawing from the expertise of many of the IUCN Species Survival Commission (SSC) Specialist Groups.
On the other hand, Don Wilson, at the time Chairman of the Department of Vertebrate Zoology and Curator of the Division of Mammals at the National Museum of Natural History of the Smithsonian Institution, generously volunteered his time and effort to help the project, and this continued throughout the series in many different facets. For example, Don’s help was especially useful for finding and contacting the specialists to author the chapters, as well as for providing a strong taxonomic base with his book Wilson & Reeder (2005), Mammal Species of the World. A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference (3rd ed).
We are very grateful to both Russ and Don, and to the other Chief Editors and external supporters who made the project possible.

2. Volume 1 was Carnivores, a very charismatic order of mammals; when this was published in 2009, did you already know how many volumes the series would contain, and in what order they would be published?

ALBERT: We proposed Carnivores as an exploratory volume to study the viability of the project as we felt that it could be one of the volumes with the greatest interest for the readers.
When the first volume was published and once it was proven that the series was viable, we agreed shortly after with the Chief Editors, Don Wilson and Russ Mittermeier, on the total number of volumes in the series—eight—and their order. In the first preparatory meetings it was quickly decided not to follow a strictly phylogenetic sequence, and so, for instance, walruses, seals, and sea lions were treated along with the rest of sea mammals and not in the Carnivores volume.
The most important departure from the original plan was the need to split rodents into two volumes: Volume 6 and Volumes 7, in order to maintain the level of detail that had characterised the previous volumes. This decision was made after direct consultation with HMW subscribers (of 1840 respondents, 92% favoured two volumes). So, the series was extended from eight to nine volumes.

3. Could you provide a rough idea about how much hard work goes into publishing a single volume in the series?
ALBERT: The work is immense and summary numbers for the series are impressive (c.8000 pages, 443 colour plates, 5300 photos, 6400 range maps, 10,000s of references), as is the number of the people involved: 312 authors of texts, 10 artists, and more than a thousand photographers from all over the World.
The editing process for a single volume lasts between one-and-half and two years, it begins with the commission of the different families to the authors of texts and the plates to the artists. The in-house editing phase has lasted about a year in the last volumes. The first three volumes appeared with a cadence of two years, but from HMW4 on we have managed to publish a volume per year without fail.

4. Is there a certain family or order of mammals you are particularly fascinated by?
ALBERT: It is difficult to choose, but maybe Carnivores, Hoofed Mammals, or Primates. Also Marsupials as they are really exotic and give us a very clear idea of the big conservation threats that face island species or species with reduced ranges. Looking at the distribution maps you become very aware of the high number of species with tiny distributions and those that only survive thanks to strict conservation measures.

5. What challenges did you face along the road to completion of this series?
ALBERT: During the 11 years of editing the HMW series (2009–2019) and with so many people involved, we have faced all kinds of difficulties with authors, artists, and editors (illnesses, accidents… and even Brexit at the end!). Especially complicated has been the instability in the taxonomy with habitual last-minute changes in the final stages of the editing process (e.g. new species described, rearrangements in the sequence of the species due to improvements in the knowledge of phylogenies, etc), which have forced us to completely redo already laid-out families many times. Despite such challenges, I want to highlight the impressive enthusiasm and dedication which all the participants have shown for this project.
It is very rewarding to see the commitment and effort that many experts have put into the project, having themselves seen in the HMW series an important achievement in their field of work. The selfless collaboration that we have received from a multitude of specialists not directly involved in the project has helped us in many ways, like providing material to allow the artists to draw rare species.

6. What do you hope will be the legacy of the Handbook of the Birds of the World and the Handbook of the Mammals of the World series?
JOSEP: Since we finished the HBW series some years ago (2013), we now have a better perspective on what this legacy may be. We have some indications that show that HBW, which covered all the birds of the world for the first time ever, represents a “before and after” in knowledge and interest in birds. It is true that before HBW there was a good deal of interest in birds in parts of the world like Europe, North America, Australia or South Africa, but in many other parts of the world, including in Tropical Regions with the richest biodiversity, there was a clear lack of even the most basic information. So we think the existence of the series has helped a bit to balance this situation, and has been an influence so that now many more people are interested not only in birds of their own country, region or local patch, but also at the global level, which we are convinced is good, eventually, for conservation.
With the HMW series, which we are just finishing now, we think similar effects will appear. While with birds the interest across the families was more or less regular, mammals have an added complication that some groups receive much more attention than others. So we think that the volumes dedicated to groups like rodents and, especially, the last one dedicated to bats, will be important for bringing together the knowledge that was much more disperse and less accessible, in a single, comprehensive treatment. This will also show where there are still gaps in the knowledge to encourage further study.

7. How do you feel about the imminent fruition of over ten years of publishing the Handbook of the Mammals of the World series – do you have any new projects in the pipeline that you can tell us about?
JOSEP: Well, we have several big projects that we are studying carefully, but we are also aware that the number of people interested in other groups of biodiversity is many times smaller than those interested in birds and even in mammals. But a number of good possibilities do exist, particularly if there is an awareness that such coverage gives a push to the knowledge and conservation of the group.

Meanwhile, we are still very busy with birds and mammals. For birds we published the HBW and BirdLife International Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World in two volumes and we are already working on the equivalent illustrated checklist for the mammals. Also, given the important patrimony we hold of the illustrations of all the birds of the world, we have started the Lynx and BirdLife International Field Guides Collection, which is producing good results, and we hope we can pursue a similar line with mammals. In this way, the two Handbook series can help us create field guides to countries for which they are none, thus, raising awareness and knowledge, which in turn can lead to greater local conservation.

HWM, Volume 9: Bats and the complete Volumes 1 to 9 are available at a special pre-publication price until the end of September

Handbook of the Mammals of the World, Volume 9: Bats
Oct 2019 *124.99 £144.99
The final volume in this monumental series profiles the world’s bat fauna.

*Pre-publication price applies to orders until 30th September 2019

 

Handbook of the Mammals of the World, Volumes 1 to 9
Oct 2019 *999.00 £1250.00
The whole set for under £1,000: this offer is available for a limited time only..

*Pre-publication price applies to orders until 30th September 2019

 

Browse all volumes in the Handbook of the Mammals of the World series

Browse all volumes in the Handbook of the Birds of the World series