WILDGuides: Publisher of the Month

WILDGuides publish a wide array of practical, durable and authoritative natural history titles. Ranging from photographic field guides that cover the wildlife of Britain and Ireland, to visitor’s guides and reference works on wildlife regions around the world.

With a prodigious amount of new and forthcoming titles published this year and all at fantastic prices, now is a great opportunity to discover WILDGuides comprehensive and authoritative publications.

Bestsellers and new titles

Britain’s Ferns: A Field Guide to the Clubmosses, Quillworts, Horsetails and Ferns of Great Britain and Ireland
By: James Merryweather
Flexibound | Just Published! May 2020| £14.99 £19.99
A comprehensive, lavishly illustrated and user-friendly photographic field guide to all the pteridophytes of Britain.

Britain’s Birds: An Identification Guide to the Birds of Great Britain and Ireland
By: Rob Hume, Robert Still, Andy Swash, Hugh Harrop and David Tipling
Flexibound | Just Published! May 2020| £14.99 £19.99
Four years after the successful first edition, Britain’s Birds returns in a second edition.

 

Europe’s Dragonflies: A Field Guide to the Damselflies and Dragonflies
By: Dave Smallshire and Andy Swash
Flexibound | Just Published! May 2020| £19.99 £24.99
With over 1200 colour photos, Europe’s dragonfly fauna is given the WILDGuides treatment.

 

Britain’s Hoverflies: A Field Guide
By: Stuart Ball and Roger Morris
Flexbound | April 2015| £19.99 £24.99

A beautifully illustrated photographic field guide to the hoverflies of Britain

 

Britain’s Mammals: A Field Guide to the Mammals of Britain and Ireland
By: Dominic Couzens, Andy Swash, Robert Still and Jon Dunn
Flexibound | April 2017| £13.99 £17.99
A comprehensive field guide to all the mammals recorded in Britain and Ireland.

 

Britain’s Reptiles and Amphibians: A Guide to the Reptiles and Amphibians of Great Britain, Ireland and the Channel Islands
By: Howard Inns
Flexibound | July 2009| £13.99 £17.99
A detailed guide to the reptiles and amphibians of Britain, Ireland and the Channel Island.

 

Britain’s Day-Flying Moths: A Field Guide to the Day-Flying Moths of Great Britain and Ireland
By: David E Newland, Robert Still and Andy Swash
Flexibound | July 2019| £13.99 £17.99
A photographic guide to the moths you are most likely to see during the day.

 

Britain’s Plant Galls: A Photographic Guide
By: Michael Chineryh
Flexibound | Sept 2011| £12.99 £16.99
Aims to help both beginners and experts alike to learn more about the galls and what causes them in the first place.

 

Forthcoming

Britain’s Orchids: A Field Guide to the Orchids of Great Britain and Ireland
By: Sean Cole and Michael Waller, Sarah Stribbling (illustrator)
Flexibound | Due August 2020| £15.99 £19.99
Combines nearly 100 illustrative plates with over 1000 colour photos

 

Britain’s Spiders: A Field Guide
By: Lawrence Bee, Geoff Oxford and Helen Smith
Flexibound | Due September 2020| £19.99 £24.99
This fantastic photographic guide is coming as a second edition, with nine more species and updated information

 

There are even more books from WILDGuides planned for later in 2020, such as: Britain’s Habitats and Britain’s Insects – you can browse the full selection of WILDGuide titles here.

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

 

Author Interview: Patrick Barkham, Wild Child: Coming Home to Nature

In this wonderful new book, Patrick Barkham draws on his own experience as a parent, a forest school volunteer and from his own childhood spent roaming outdoors to explore the positive effects rekindling children’s relationship with nature can have.

Patrick has kindly answered our questions about his new book and provided a limited number of signed bookplates, which will be included with this book on a first come first served basis.

1. What made you decide to write Wild Child

Having children is obviously a life-changing moment for every parent and I found myself suddenly fascinated by children and newly keen to write about them. I was aware of all the anxiety around children being on screens all the time but I hadn’t actually fully considered this historic moment in western child-rearing. We have become an indoor species in the blink of an eye, and I wanted to explore the implications of that, and how we as parents, grandparents, teachers and guardians might give children the gift of more time outdoors. I also wanted to celebrate “ordinary” neighbourhood nature of the kind we can all encounter.

2. What do you see as the main difference between your childhood and your children’s?

I grew up in the countryside in the 1980s and roamed freely with friends on quiet country lanes and the local common. When my twins became eight, it suddenly struck me that they had never been off on their own, in the countryside, without adults in view or close by. What’s more, almost no parent would regard this as strange. In fact, allowing eight-year-olds to roam without adult supervision would be seen as a dereliction of duty, according to the values of modern parenting.

My experience is pretty universal – studies confirm that children’s “home range” has shrank to their private space – their house and garden (if they have one). Childhood is now tightly regulated by adults. This has benefits – it’s never been safer for a child – but also grave drawbacks, including a loss of creativity and a loss of opportunities for children to form their own bonds with wild nature. Our lives are much poorer without intimate relationships with other species. We are also less likely to take action to tackle the biodiversity crisis if we have no direct experience of, and feeling for, other forms of life whether plant, animal or fungi!

3. What do you think children most gain from being close to nature?

Joy, excitement, fun, ceaseless stimulation, sensitivity, companionship, solace, comfort, peace – all the things we get from it too. There’s a huge body of scientific evidence now showing the mental and physical benefits of time in green spaces, and increasing evidence that the more “wild” or biodiverse those spaces, the better they are for us. We need nature, and of course as the dominant species on the planet we need to learn to appreciate, value and protect it.

4. Are you hopeful your children will be part of a new culture where nature is part of everyone’s life, not just seen as a town and country or even a ‘class’ divide?

We have to hope, but I’m also realistic. British society is becoming increasingly urbanised. Traffic – a major and rational obstacle to children playing freely outside – is still growing. Consumption shows little sign of slowing. And yet without any real government backing, there is a newly vibrant movement to add more nature to people’s lives – the rise of the forest school movement for instance. Wildlife charities are doing heroic education work too. But we still need massive, societal changes to reconfigure our species’ relationship with nature. We need a new kind of schooling, new (government) support for urban wild spaces, and far more wildlife-friendly planning rules for new housing.

Just on class – debates about children and nature are seen as a middle-class concern, and they tend to be because poorer families are too focused on putting food on the table. But we need to give all people better access to nature and wild spaces – this is a free source of good health (and occasionally even food) and it benefits poorer people more than the wealthy who can purchase wild experiences.

5. I was fascinated to read how resistance to pathogens can be enhanced by exposure to more biodiversity; can you precis that a little here?

We are only beginning to scientifically understand the influence of billions of micro-organisms, or microbiota on our lives. We have more bacteria in our guts than human cells in our bodies. Most are harmless, some are useful and a few may be dangerous pathogens. Our immune system is rather like a computer with hardware and software but no data. Early in life, it must rapidly collect data from diverse microbial sources, learning which are harmful and which are beneficial. If our body encounters a diverse range of different bacteria, particularly when young, we are more likely to recognise and respond to novel viruses.

This is not the popular but mistaken idea that we’ve become “too clean”. Hygiene is vital for good health. But, rather, urban living does not deliver us the diversity of microbes that we need. So we’re witnessing an explosion of allergies such as hay fever and illnesses related to failing immunity or inappropriate inflammatory responses such as Crohn’s disease.

Studies have shown that people living in “traditional” ways – in the countryside, more closely with animals ­– have fewer such illnesses. Microbiologists’ prescriptions for healthier children include a varied diet including a far wider range of vegetables but also more exposure to diverse green space. Scientists have proven the benefits of exposure to soil organisms in mice but this has yet to be fully explored for humans. It is a fair hypothesis, however, to expect that more biodiverse places contain a wider range of microbiota, and be better for us than manicured monocultures.

6. Although of little comfort to the thousands of people terribly affected by COVID – 19, do you think the forced change of pace and restrictions on movement has presented any opportunities for the appreciation of nature?

For those of us lucky enough to have gardens or easy access to green space, lockdown has been a wonderful moment to enjoy wildlife. Without traffic noise, the spring dawn chorus has been sensational! Lockdown has also revealed that poorer and ethnic minority communities have less access to green space. So this is an incredible moment of revelation and opportunity. Why can’t we have monthly Sundays when we all vow not to use our cars? Why can’t a new generation of urban parks and wild spaces be part of the post-coronavirus settlement, just as National Parks were introduced after the Second World War? We can now see, hear and taste a post-peak oil world, where we consume less, travel less, and live more. It could be so beautiful.

7. Do all your friends and colleagues share your enthusiasm for forest school?

No they don’t, and this is great because it means I have to win them over! Forest School is a concept imported from Denmark in the 1990s, we have a Forest Schools Association charity, and the idea is based around principles of child-led games and education in a woodland setting, with a camp fire. But there is also a growth in other forms of equally good outdoor learning.

All these different kinds of forest school are seen as playing in the woods – nice, but hardly essential to young people’s lives, or equipping them for the global race. It is up to people like me – and hopefully you – to show them some of the evidence that children are more creative, more resilient, with improved concentration and show better attainment in conventional schooling if they are given more free play outside, and in wild spaces.

8. Would you encourage people with the time to get involved with forest school, and if so, how would it benefit them?

I began volunteering at an outdoor nursery where my children went, and I was astounded by how well I felt after a day outdoors. It delivered the kind of sustained high you get after a day walking in the mountains or really hard gardening. Most of us office-workers aren’t familiar with outdoor labour!

I still volunteer most weeks at the forest school session run by my local state primary school (despite financial challenges, many state schools are now offering pupils some forest schooling). Children are the nicest workmates – they are so honest and enthusiastic, and they respond to the outside almost universally with something like unconfined joy.

In three years volunteering at forest schools I have honestly only twice encountered seriously unhappy children, and that’s usually because they aren’t wearing enough and are cold. I would urge anyone with time on their hands to give it a try – what’s more important than educating our children? And I think you will love it!

9. I like the ‘Things to Do with Children Outdoors’ appendix at the back of the book; was there one or two favourite pastimes that were the most accessible and rewarding that you could recommend?

I’d just like to declare a basic principle: children don’t need leading, or teaching – what they most require is for us adults to facilitate free play outdoors. They need to experience wildlife themselves, without too many rules, without too much moralising, without being told “don’t touch – it’s rare/delicate/about to become extinct”. Obviously a bit of guidance is good but let them choose their own adventure. And they will.

Apart from that, my children love different things. I enjoy going nest-hunting and butterfly-hunting with Esme, collecting shells and conkers with Milly and making dens with Ted. As we play outside, we keep an eye on what’s happening around us, and something exciting – the flash of a sparrowhawk, the scuttle of a rabbit – always unfolds.

10. Are you working on any new projects you can tell us about?

I am very excited to be writing the official biography of Roger Deakin, the nature writer and author of Waterlog and Wildwood. Most of us writers lead incredibly boring lives but Roger didn’t. I’m also researching a book for a TV series about wildlife and editing an anthology of British nature writing called The Wild Isles, which will be published next spring. It has been agonising having to choose between so many gorgeous and important pieces of writing!

Wild Child: Coming Home to Nature
Hardback,  May 2020,  £13.99 £16.99

Patrick Barkham draws on his own experience as a parent and a forest school volunteer to explore the relationship between children and nature.

 

Patrick Barkham was born in 1975 in Norfolk and educated at Cambridge University. His first book, The Butterfly Isles, was shortlisted for the 2011 Royal Society of Literature Ondaatje prize. His next book Badgerlands, was hailed by Chris Packham as “a must read for all Britain’s naturalists” and was shortlisted for both the 2014 RSL Ondaatje Prize and the inaugural Wainwright Prize for Nature and Travel Writing.

Browse more writing from Patrick Barkham at NHBS

Vintage: Publisher of the Month

Launched in the United Kingdom in 1990, VINTAGE publishes work from some of the most eminent and prestigious naturalists today; providing a platform for authors such as: Peter Marren, Dave Goulson, Richard Mabey, Mark Cocker, Tim Dee and Helen Macdonald to name but a few.

We are delighted to announce VINTAGE as our Publisher of the Month for May: a chance in these challenging times to immerse yourself in eloquent, knowledgeable and thought-provoking writing.

We have price-offers on our top fifty VINTAGE titles and have showcased below our top ten across their range:

The Garden Jungle: Or Gardening to Save the Planet
By: Dave Goulson
Paperback| April 2020| £7.99 £9.99
Dave Goulson reveals how, with small changes, gardens could become wildlife havens.

Read our author interview here.

 

Birds Britannica
By: Mark Cocker & Richard Mabey
Hardback | April 2020| £39.99 £49.99
Fifteen years after the very successful first edition:  this second edition, pays homage to the strong bond the British have with birds.

 

Greenery: Journeys in Springtime
By: Tim Dee
Hardback | March 2020| £15.99 £18.99
Spring moves north at about walking pace. In his latest writing, author Tim Dee follows its moving front and tells of the animals and people he encounters on the way.  Read our author interview here.

 

Entangled Life: How Fungi Make Our Worlds, Change Our Minds and Shape Our Futures
By: Merlin Sheldrake
Hardback | Due Sept 2020| £16.99 £19.99
An immersive trip into the largely unknown world of fungi, which we at NHBS are particularly excited to read.

 

Chasing the Ghost: My Search for All the Wild Flowers of Britain
By: Peter Marren
Paperback | March 2019| £7.99 £9.99
Join renowned naturalist Peter Marren on an exciting quest to find every species of wild plant native to Britain.

 

H is for Hawk
By: Helen Macdonald
Paperback | Feb 2015| £7.99 £9.99
An unflinchingly honest account of Macdonald’s struggle with grief expressed through the trials of training a goshawk.

 

Our Place: Can We Save Britain’s Wildlife Before It Is Too Late?
By: Mark Cocker
Paperback | April 2019 | £7.99 £9.99
Mark Cocker attempts to solve a puzzle: why do the British love their countryside, yet have reduced it to one of the most denatured landscapes on Earth.

 

The Wren: A Biography
By: Stephen Moss
Hardback | April 2019 | £9.99 £12.99
With beautiful illustrations throughout, this captivating year-in-the-life biography reveals the hidden secrets of this fascinating bird that lives right on our doorstep.

 

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind
By: Yuval Noah Harari
Paperback | Sept 2016 | £8.99 £10.99
Bold, wide-ranging and provocative, Sapiens challenges everything we thought we knew about being human: our thoughts, our actions, our power …and our future.

 

Turning the Boat for Home: A Life Writing about Nature
By: Richard Mabey
Hardback | Oct 2019 | £13.99 £18.99
Richard Mabey is often referred to as ‘the father of modern nature writing.’ We currently have a limited number of signed, first editions. Read our author interview

Browse all VINTAGE books at NHBS

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

Author Interview: Matthew Oates, His Imperial Majesty: A Natural History of the Purple Emperor

Matthew Oates has spent fifty years trying to unravel the ‘Emperor’s’ secrets and with His Imperial Majesty: A Natural History of the Purple Emperor,  due to be published in June, he has written an accessible account of one of Britain’s most beloved butterflies; the majestic Purple Emperor.

 

Matthew Oates has taken time to answer our questions about his book and about the beautiful and elusive butterfly, that if lucky enough, we can glimpse through fissures in its tree top world

 

  1. You describe the Purple Emperor as the most ‘cherished prize’ among Victorian butterfly collectors, while you personally have chosen to devote much of your life to studying this species. What is it about this butterfly that makes it so alluring?

This butterfly is all about mystique. It exists within a different dimension to us, but one which we desire to experience and understand. It is a unique being, capable of doing anything – which means it is unpredictable and utterly captivating. Make no mistake, the Purple Emperor is addictive – but this is a positive addiction, which provides depth of experience tinged with great humour. No one forgets their first Purple Emperor, the experience leaves you wanting more.

2. How has our understanding of the Purple Emperor changed in the half century since your first encounter with ‘his imperial majesty’?

Much of our so-called knowledge was actually mythology and assumption. Oh, the power of assumption, even in ecology! So much of what was considered true, and real, has proven to be utterly wrong; not least because the Purple Emperor, and nature more generally, continually moves the goalposts. Nothing is ever static in nature, perhaps especially with insects.

3. You tell of some of the remarkable lengths that butterfly enthusiasts have gone to in pursuit of the Purple Emperor. What is the most unusual technique you have used when searching for this species?

There is a long history of extreme endeavour here. This is the one butterfly the Victorian collectors most assiduously sought, to form the centrepiece of their precious collections. The Purple Emperor has generated some of the most extreme eccentric behaviour in human history. Collectors used to obtain specimens of this canopy-dwelling butterfly by means of the ‘high net’, a butterfly net attached to a pole often ten metres long. There is a long history of baiting Purple Emperors too, exploiting the male’s attraction to festering messes – the juices of dung, offal, and worse. I helped develop the practice of baiting for Purple Emperors using (relatively inoffensive) shrimp paste, and also pioneered The Emperor’s Breakfast (as shown on TV, several times).

4. It is heartening to read of a species whose populations are on the increase. Can the story of the Purple Emperor offer any lessons for the conservation of other wildlife in Britain?

Yes, definitely! This is proving to be a highly mobile species with good powers of colonisation and, in consequence, recovery. It is becoming a suburban species, and is certainly not the ancient forest inhabitant we once thought it was. Above all, the Purple Emperor is a good news story, at a time of horrific loss and adverse change. It provides hope at a time when we need hope.

5. What do you plan next in your studies of the Purple Emperor? Are there mysteries that you are still hoping to solve?

The journey is by no means over. My book is merely the launching pad towards proper ecological understanding. I sincerely hope it generates the necessary detailed scientific research, and have suggested areas where that need to be conducted. I’ve merely done the spade work. My job now is to help landowners and others to give this magnificent butterfly the future it deserves.

His Imperial Majesty: A Natural History of the Purple Emperor
Hardback,  June 2020,  £13.99 £16.99

Matthew Oates has spent fifty years observing and researching this beautiful and elusive butterfly.

 

Browse all our books covering Butterflies & Moths (Lepidoptera)

John Beaufoy Publishing: Publisher of the Month

Established in 2008, John Beaufoy Publishing (JBP)  is a natural history publisher covering a range of subjects such as ornithology,insects & invertebrates, reptiles & amphibians, marine & freshwater biology, and conservation from all over the world, with a focus on South Asia, South-East Asia and tropical regions.

NHBS is pleased to announce John Beaufoy Publishing (JBP) as our Publisher of the Month for April. We have great offers on a selection of their new and bestselling books throughout the month; making this a perfect opportunity to celebrate the world’s fauna and flora by exploring their catalogue of books.

Books from JBP are written by leading experts in their fields, many notable, such as Gehan de Silva Wijeyeratne and his books on Sri Lanka’s natural history and botany. Another JBP author Bikram Grewal, of The 100 Best Birdwatching Sites in India, is a trustee of the Wildlife Preservation Society of India (WPSI) and was awarded the Lifetime Award for spreading awareness about birds and conservation in India.

JBP has an exciting programme of new titles, together with revised and updated editions of some of their most successful books. We have selected ten titles to highlight, and you can browse their full range available at nhbs here

 

The 100 Best Bird Watching Sites in India
Paperback| February 2020| £16.99 £19.99
This fully illustrated guide describes the 100 best sites for viewing both common and rare species throughout the 26 states of the subcontinent, including the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

 

Phillipps’ Field Guide to the Birds of Borneo: Sabah, Sarawak, Brunei and Kalimantan
Paperback| February 2014| £19.99 £24.99
669 species superbly illustrated in 141 colour plates with more than 2,000 full colour bird images, including most of the sexual variants and immature forms of polymorphic species.

Wild Flowers of the Mediterranean
Paperback| August 2017| £13.99 £16.99
A user-friendly pocket nature guide to the plant world of the Mediterranean: a region is remarkable for its great diversity of species and forms.

 

 

A Field Guide to the Birds of Mongolia
Paperback| October 2019| £24.99 £29.99
Birdwatchers have long wanted a field guide to the birds of Mongolia. Featuring fantastic illustrations on 154 plates, this guide covers all 521 officially recorded species.

 

A Naturalist’s Guide to the Mammals of Australia
Paperback| November 2017| £11.99
This easy-to-use identification guide to the 300 mammal species most commonly seen in Australia is perfect for resident and visitor alike – part of JBP’s Naturalist’s Guides Series

 

The London Bird Atlas
Hardback| December 2017| £29.99 £39.99
Brings together the analyses of millions of bird records and research to tell you which birds are doing well, which ones have declined or held steady, and what the changes have been in relation to previous distribution surveys.

A Naturalist’s Guide to the Butterflies & Dragonflies of Sri Lanka
Paperback| October 2018| £9.99 £11.99
An excellent book for residents and visitors alike to learn about the commoner butterflies and dragonflies of Sri Lanka before progressing to more advanced technical books.

A Naturalist’s Guide to the Reptiles of India: Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka
Paperback| December 2017| £9.99 £11.99
High-quality photographs from the region’s top nature photographers accompany this identification guide to the 239 reptile species most commonly seen in South Asia.

Wild Philippines: The Landscapes, Habitats and Wildlife of the Philippine Islands
Paperback| August 2019| £19.99 £24.99
More than just a ‘coffee table’ book; Wild Philippines provides an authoritative and entertaining study of the wide spectrum of wildlife on the land and in the seas of this diverse country.

A Field Guide to the Birds of Malaysia & Singapore
Paperback| Due August 2020| £19.99 £24.99
Due to be published in August 2020, this is a fully comprehensive field guide to the 815 bird species of Malaysia and Singapore

 

 

Browse all John Beaufoy Publishing at NHBS

The Accidental Countryside: interview with author Stephen Moss

Stephen Moss is a naturalist, broadcaster, television producer and author. He is the original producer of the BAFTA award-winning series Springwatch and has worked with David Attenborough, Chris Packham, Alan Titchmarsh, and other leading naturalists. Passionate about communicating the wonders of nature, he also lectures in Nature and Travel Writing at Bath Spa University. Originally from London, he lives with his family on the Somerset Levels and is President of the Somerset Wildlife Trust.

In The Accidental Countryside: Hidden Havens for Britain’s Wildlife, Stephen writes about the secret places, that are often overlooked when it comes to protecting habitats and wildlife. Stephen has given his time to sign copies and answer our questions about these vital habitats in our hidden corners. 

 

What inspired you to write about the ‘hidden havens’ for Britain’s Wildlife?

I’ve always been fascinated by these forgotten and secret places, that are often overlooked when it comes to protecting habitats and wildlife. As I say in the book, I first got my passion for the natural world by visiting the gravel pits near my suburban home; today I live near the Avalon Marshes in Somerset, another post-industrial habitat, created from disused peat diggings. During my career at the BBC Natural History Unit, I often filmed at these edgeland locations, as they harbour such a range of interesting wildlife, and are often more accessible to people than classic nature reserves in the countryside. 

Of all the places you visited, which habitat surprised you the most regarding its biodiversity?

That’s a tricky one, as I think they all surprised me in some way or another. The Avalon Marshes is probably the most packed with wildlife – three species of egrets, marsh harriers, bitterns and the famous starling murmurations on winter evenings – but I also loved the Montiaghs (in rural Northern Ireland, where peat was dug by hand), Parc Slip in South Wales (a former open-cast coal mine) and best of all, Canvey Wick in Essex, Britain’s first brownfield nature reserve, and a paradise for invertebrates including rare dragonflies and damselflies.

Avalon Marshes

Your book features exceptional and inspirational people that have found ways to make the most unlikely places wildlife friendly. Is it possible to highlight just one project that has succeeded against the odds?

Again, the Avalon Marshes stands out: once the peat had been removed, we were left with an ugly, scarred and wildlife-free landscape, which it was suggested could be used as a landfill site for Bristol’s domestic waste. Thanks to a local campaign, they were instead turned into nature reserves; thirty years later this is one of the best places for wildlife in the whole of the UK. Others include Canvey Wick, which again could have fallen to the developers; the roadside verges of Blandford Forum in Dorset, which are now awash with wildflowers and butterflies each summer; and the RSPB’s Window on Wildlife at Belfast Docks, home to breeding Arctic Terns.

A Murmuration of Starlings

Is there one habitat that you think hasn’t reached its wildlife friendly potential?

That’s easy! The rest of the ‘official’ countryside – the 70% of the UK that is used for farming. Of course we need to produce food, but not at the expense of wildlife, which is what is happening on the vast majority of farms at the moment. Some visionary farmers are working with conservationists to buck the trend – for instance, the Marlborough Downs Nature Improvement Project in Wiltshire – but most are simply fulfilling the consumer and supermarkets’ demands for cheap food, whatever the cost to the environment. 

You have been writing for many years and unfortunately, wildlife has suffered a substantial decline over the last few decades. Has your recent experience writing The Accidental Countryside left you more optimistic or more pessimistic regarding the future of wildlife in the UK?

I’d love to live in a country where the sites I feature in The Accidental Countryside are not important because the wider countryside has been transformed into a haven for wildlife. But I’m not holding my breath, despite the things we hear from the government. Now, more than ever, we need to understand that a healthy, wildlife-filled environment is not some ‘bolt-on extra’ to our lives, but essential – to the health and well-being of nature, of ourselves, and of course for the planet as a whole. So I have to be optimistic: there is no other choice!

Are there any books or projects that you are currently working on that you can tell us about?

Yes, I am just about to deliver the third in my series of ‘Bird Biographies’ for Square Peg (Part of Penguin Random House). Following bestselling books on the Robin and the Wren, I am now writing about that classic sign of spring and summer, the Swallow. I am a late convert to Swallows – only since I moved from London to rural Somerset in middle age have I grown to appreciate this classic bird of the British countryside. Writing this book, I have also grown to appreciate that the swallow is, as the writer Collingwood Ingram once noted, “beyond doubt the best known, and certainly the best loved, species in the world.”

 

The Accidental Countryside: Hidden Havens for Britain’s Wildlife                              Hardback,  published February 2020           £13.99 £16.99

 

 

Also by Stephen Moss: 

The Wren: A Biography                                                           Hardback,  published November 2018                                    £12.99 

 

Mrs Moreau’s Warbler                                                                                  Paperback,  published April 2019                                                  £7.99 £9.99

 

Wonderland: A Year of Britain’s Wildlife, Day by Day                    Paperback,  published April 2018                                                             £9.99 £12.99

 

Wild Hares and Hummingbirds: The Natural History of an English Village                                                                                 Paperback,  published September 2012                                                   £7.50 £9.99

 

  

Cambridge University Press: Publisher of the Month

 

Cambridge University Press (CUP) published its first book in 1534, making it the world’s oldest publisher. Since then it has been at the forefront of scientific research, publishing ground-breaking works such as: Newton’s Principia Mathematica and Noam Chomsky’s Language and Mind.

NHBS is pleased to announce Cambridge University Press as our Publisher of the Month for March.  We are offering up to 40% discount on a selection of their new and bestselling books throughout the month; making this a perfect opportunity to explore their vibrant publishing history.

Just Published and Forthcoming Highlight

From accessible books on climate change, works on barn owl ecology and textbooks on the fascinating subject of mycology,  there are plenty of forthcoming books for the beginning of 2020 to augment their recent bestsellers in conservation, ecology and natural history.

The Citizen’s Guide to Climate Success: Overcoming Myths that Hinder Progress

Paperback| February 2020| £13.49 £14.99

 

Barn Owls: Evolution and Ecology – with Grass Owls, Masked Owls, and Sooty Owls

Hardback| March 2020| £39.99 £44.99

 

21st Century Guidebook to Fungi

Paperback| Due May 2020|£44.99 £49.99

 

Bestsellers from Cambridge University Press

Save 40% on classic  Cambridge University Press books in our backlist bargains sale, as well as some recent bestsellers on price offers until March 31st.

Ecology and Conservation of Forest Birds
Paperback| March 2018| £35.99 £39.99
Part of the bestselling  Ecology, Biodiversity and Conservation series. This is a unique review of current understanding of the relationships between forest birds and their changing environments.

 

Habitat Suitability and Distribution Models: with Applications in R
Paperback| September 2017| £35.99 £39.99
Introduces the key stages of niche-based habitat suitability model building, evaluation, and prediction required for understanding and predicting future patterns of species and biodiversity

 

Human-Wildlife Interactions: Turning Conflict into Coexistence
Paperback| May 2019| £31.49 £34.99
The latest in the Conservation Biology series explores a variety of theories and methods currently used to address human-wildlife interactions – one of the most urgent issues facing wildlife management and conservation today.

Rewilding
Paperback| January 2019| £34.49 £37.99
The latest addition to the Ecological Reviews Series, Rewilding discusses, analyses and summarizes the conservation concept of rewilding.

 

Wood Ant Ecology and Conservation
Hardback| July 2016| £37.99 £62.99
Get a great deal on this study of The Wood Ant – a keystone species in woodland ecosystems.

 

 

British Plant Communities, Volume 1: Woodlands and Scrub
Paperback| April 1998| £56.99 £62.99
Volume 1 in the British Plant Communities series; the first systematic and comprehensive account of the vegetation types of Britain

 

Browse all Cambridge University Press books

Cambridge University Press is a contributing publisher to the Gratis Book Scheme.

One of the most rewarding CUP-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.

 

Author Interview: Mike Potts, Untangling the Knot, Belugas & Bears: My Natural World on Film

Film-maker Mike Potts.

Mike Potts’ career as a wildlife cameraman took him to many of the world’s most spectacular locations and involved filming with Sir David Attenborough.

Mike has signed copies and answered questions about his new book, Untangling the Knot, Belugas & Bears: My Natural World on Film, giving readers the chance to travel with him and share his incredible experiences.

 

Mike on location with Sir David Attenborough.

What made you pursue a career as a wildlife cameraman?                         From an early age I developed an interest in natural history and photography, particularly of birds. I was fortunate in being able to turn a passionate hobby into a profession from early beginnings with the RSPB  Film Unit.

How did you manage a work-life balance when your work took you far away for significantly long periods?

My wife, although working herself, was able to run things at home in my absence.

 

Mike signing copies of his new book

Today, there is GPS and the internet: 30 years ago that technology wasn’t as advanced. What difficulties did that present and how were they overcome? (I’m trying not to say, did you ever get ‘lost’?)

In the early years of my career, before mobile phones, we would often be out of contact for many days, or weeks, when out in the field camping. On some trips, we did have the use of the early satellite phones, so at least there was some contact. Having a local biologist that was familiar with the terrain was essential, otherwise getting lost was a real possibility. It did happen in Australia when I was lost on my own in a tropical forest for several hours, quite scary!

Walruses at Round Island, Alaska

Was there one exceptional location you filmed in that stood out from all the rest?

Alaska particularly has many special memories. I spent over a year there working on three 50 minute programmes. If I had to choose one location, it would be the McNeil River in SE Alaska; here brown bears gather in summer to feed on salmon moving upriver to spawn. Sometimes, over 50 bears can be seen in the river, and standing shoulder to shoulder use various different techniques to capture the fish that are so essential to put on fat for their winter hibernation.

What does ‘Untangling the Knot’ in the title of your book refer to?

Some years ago I worked on a film called ‘Untangling the Knot’, which was about the bird, the Red Knot. It has a long migration from its wintering grounds in South America to breeding grounds in the high Arctic of Canada. So ‘Untangling the Knot’ was the story of the feeding habits, complex migration routes, and remote breeding areas of these great travellers.

 

If someone was inspired to pursue a career filming wildlife, what advice would you give them to get started?

When I started my filming career in 1978 everything was shot on film, which was expensive, as was the equipment to shoot it with. The only way to prove your ability was to shoot a sequence and try to get it seen by wildlife producers at the BBC Natural History Unit or the RSPB film Unit. There were not any wildlife film courses back then. Now there are many more people interested in becoming wildlife cameramen, so the competition is great. What advice would I give? One advantage now with the proliferation of video cameras at low cost is that it is possible to go out and shoot a sequence at no great expense. Choose a subject that you have good knowledge of and try to shoot it differently from what has been done before, then get it seen by someone within the business. If you have access to a scarce or unusual subject, even better, especially if it is on your doorstep (always check licence requirements). You can of course try and get a placement on a ‘wildlife film making’ course but that doesn’t mean a job at the end of it. Virtually all cameramen are freelance, so work is never guaranteed. Good luck.

Can you recall any one moment or experience in your career that encapsulates all that being a wildlife cameraman involved?

I think the most rewarding experience was filming Birds of Paradise in New Guinea. Sitting in my tiny mosquito-filled hide in the pitch-black, 150 feet off the ground, I wondered quite what I was doing there. Then as the dawn began to break and the chorus of tropical birds started I knew why. Shortly afterwards as the first Greater Birds of Paradise appeared the excitement was overpowering. Several males with their golden plumes were bouncing around just 60 feet in front of me, courting the growing number of females nearby. This made all the 3.00 am starts, the long walks through the forest and the exhausting tree climbing worthwhile.

What are your current plans and are there any future projects you can tell us about?

I am now retired from filming, and although I have been trying to get a film off the ground on the Albatross, it is difficult to get the substantial funding for these projects. For the last 2 years I have been writing the book and having exhibitions of my photographic work.

 

Untangling the Knot, Belugas & Bears: My Natural World on Film
Paperback,  published February 2020              £16.95 £20.95

Mike has spent more than 30 years as a wildlife cameraman. A highlight of that career was filming the Birds of Paradise and Bowerbirds with David Attenborough.

 

Further reading…

Journeys in the Wild: The Secret Life of a Cameraman
Hardback,  published August 2019,

£13.99 £16.99

Gavin’s book, Journeys in the Wild, is available from NHBS and you can read more about his life as a cameraman in our blog post from last year.

Red Sixty Seven: A Collection of Words and Art Inspired by Britain’s Most Vulnerable Birds

Red Sixty Seven features our most vulnerable bird species, beautifully illustrated by some amazing wildlife artists. All of the publishers profits from the sale of this book will be donated to BTO and RSPB to further their work on red listed birds.

Contributors include Chris Packham, Ann Cleeves, David Lindo,  and Patrick Barkham.

This book should not exist.

In an ideal world this book, and the official Red List of the most vulnerable birds in the UK it is based on, would not be needed. But the world is far from ideal and our bird populations are declining at an alarming rate. In the past few years alone the once widespread Wryneck has ceased breeding in the UK altogether and has dropped off the list completely. Which species will be next?

Editor, Kit Jewitt has taken some time to answer a few questions about the Red Sixty Seven book project and the list itself.

Hen Harrier: Jane Smith

Of all the birds on the Red List which do you think is most vulnerable?

If I had to choose one, it would be the Hen Harrier. Not only do they have to deal with all of the natural challenges they face, they also have to contend with persecution from criminals within the grouse shooting industry, which evidence now suggests is the main cause of their decline in numbers. The fact that 72% of tagged Hen Harriers are confirmed or considered likely to have been illegally killed is a national disgrace. However, in terms of the recent rate of decline I would also suggest Turtle Dove is a species of highest concern.

Herring Gull: Crow Artist

Many people will be surprised to see herring gull on the list, could you expand on how this seemingly ubiquitous bird has made the list?

Herring Gull populations in coastal areas have dropped by over 50% in my lifetime. This is largely due to the lack of food at coastal sites, with overfishing of UK coastal waters and warming seas caused by climate change likely to be the main reasons for the reduced amount of food available to gulls and other seabirds. They are adaptable, intelligent birds though, so moving to inland areas, or areas where humans create waste for them to eat has been a way for some populations to survive.

Merlin: Natalie Toms

Have any birds managed to move away from the Red List to Amber over the last year or so, and which birds are the most recent additions?

Nineteen species were added to the red list for the first time when it was last updated in 2015, and one species, Merlin, moved back onto the list. Breeding seabirds, such as Puffin, Kittiwake and Shag are now included, and with the additions of species such as Woodcock, Nightingale and Pied Flycatcher there are now more woodland birds on the list than any other habitat. Two species, Bittern and Nightjar, have moved from the red to amber lists thanks to the creation and management of suitable habitat, stimulated by species action plans.

White Fronted Goose: Szabolcs Kokay

We know how we as individuals can help garden birds, but the list contains a high proportion of iconic water birds. How can we as individuals help preserve the many waders and ducks that are on the list?

Many projects being conducted by BTO, RSPB WWT and others help waders, seabirds and ducks, so fundraising for these is vitally important. My main motivation behind the Red Sixty Seven project was to do something to help these declining birds, by spreading the word and raising money for conservationists on the ground. By highlighting the red list far and wide, more people will care and will then hopefully start their own fundraising for BTO’s Operation Wader or Curlew appeal, or WWTs Black-tailed Godwits appeal, or whichever scheme chimes with them. I can’t run marathons or undertake extreme endurance like my friend Jonny Rankin, who has raised over £19,000 for Turtle Doves, so I had to think of a different way of fundraising!

Corncrake: Robert Vaughan

Farmland bird species also make up a large part of the list. Can you see any hope for securing the future of our most rapidly declining farmland species?

The change in farming and land management practices over the last 40 years, including the use of pesticides and changes in crops grown have ultimately reduced the amount of appropriate habitat, and food sources for our farmland birds. Post Brexit, there is an opportunity for the government to make changes to policy to help our farmland wildlife. I just hope they take full advantage of it.

Lesser Redpole: John Threlfall

We love the idea of using the power of beautiful words and paintings to deliver a conservation message. Do you think that engaging the reader emotionally can result in more concrete conservation actions being taken?

I hope so! As well as raising funds for crucial work to help red-listed species, I hope Red Sixty Seven brings the list and the plight of these birds to a wider audience, inspiring other people to take action themselves, whatever that might be. The artwork and stories within the book bring home the message in a very accessible way, and you are left under no illusion that we must do something. There is a poignant sting in the tale at the end of the book; an ‘In Memoriam’ section devoted to the birds we have lost as breeding species in recent years. This book is a call-to-arms.

All of the publisher’s profits from the sale of this book will be donated to BTO and RSPB to further their work on red listed birds.

Red Sixty Seven: A Collection of Words and Art Inspired by Britain’s Most Vulnerable Birds
Hardback,  published February 2020              £19.99

Red Sixty Seven is 67 love letters to our most vulnerable species, each beautifully illustrated by some of the best wildlife artists around.

 

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.