This Week in Biodiversity News – 18th September 2023

Policy and diplomacy

The House of Lords will debate mandatory Swift bricks in England. New homes may be required to build Swift bricks into new homes if the amendment is passed in parliament. The hollow bricks are unobtrusive and are relatively easy to install. The presence of these bricks in new homes would help to revive a rapidly declining Swift population and other red-listed cavity-nesting species such as House Martins and Starlings. Swift populations have declined by more than 60% since the mid-1990s.

Swift bird perching on a barbed wire in the air
Swift perching on a wire. Image by Jo Garbutt via Flickr.

The UK government is preparing to revoke the ban on new onshore windfarms, according to reports. New guidance will require action from developers on the concerns and suggestions of residents, and council approval will depend on community support. The new rules will also give local authorities more discretion over the location of new onshore projects. Since 2015, there has been a de facto ban on new onshore windfarms as only a single objection is needed to prevent construction.

African leaders demand more support and financing as the first Africa Climate Summit opens. Africa has a population of 1.3 billion people and is projected to be worst hit by the effects of the climate crisis, despite contributing relatively little to the problem. Consequently, frustration has mounted in some countries at being asked to develop in cleaner ways than richer, more polluting countries.

Leaders meeting in front of flags at a summit.
African leaders meeting at a summit. Image by Embassy of Equatorial Guinea via Flickr.
Climate crisis

Respiratory illness patients are most at risk from climate change, according to an expert report. People with conditions such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and asthma are particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change. Higher temperatures and more frequent extreme weather events will likely lead to an increase in airborne allergens, air pollution, humidity and mould. Babies and children, whose lungs are still developing, are thought to be particularly at risk.

Groundwater depletion rates could triple in India as climate warms, according to researchers. A recent study by researchers at the University of Michigan has revealed that rising temperatures have led to an increase in the withdrawal of groundwater for irrigation by farmers in India. This could result in tripled groundwater loss by 2080, posing a threat to food and water security, as well as the livelihoods of over a third of India’s population of 1.4 billion.

Tractor and farmers with a big pile of hay on a road with green vegetation around it
Indian farmers close to the city of Madurai. Image by Surajram Kumaravel via Flickr.
Science and Technology

Scientists have discovered a technique for turning plastic waste into tiny bars of soap. The researchers found that it was possible to “upcycle” plastic waste into high-value surfactants. Surfactants are a key ingredient in a range of products from lubricants to soaps and detergents. Only around 10% of plastic waste is recycled and so experts are increasingly exploring solutions for turning waste into valuable materials. The technique only produces tiny amounts of surfactant at a time, but the hope is that the process can be scaled up in the future.

Extinction Risk

St Kilda has seen a dramatic fall in seabird numbers. Since the previous census in 1999, there has been a 64% decline in seabirds on the remote archipelago west of Scotland. The National Trust for Scotland conducted the first full survey in 24 years, finding a steep decline in the numbers of Fulmars, Guillemots, Razorbills and Kittiwakes. Kittiwakes were found to have fallen by 84%, Razorbills and Guillemots by more than 35%. Fulmar numbers dropped by over 45,000 on the islands. The dramatic declines are thought to be due in part to climate change and reductions of natural prey.

Guillemots sitting on the ledge of a cliff
Guillemots at Blackers Hole, Dorset. Image by Donald Macauley via Flickr.

Deforestation in the Amazon rainforest continues to decline according to Brazil’s National Space Research Institute (INPE). This marks the fifth consecutive month of decrease in deforestation in the region. The INPE’s deforestation alert system DETER showed that there was a 66% decline in forest clearing compared to the same month last year. The system has likewise shown a 43% decline in deforestation in the first eight months of 2023 when compared to the previous year. This follows commitments by Brazil’s president Lula da Silva to curtail the enormous forest losses seen over the past four years under the previous administration.

Read More

See our previous biodiversity news stories covering topics from bee-killing hornets to an flooding-earthquake disaster in California.

Interview with Jan Collins: Bat Surveys for Professional Ecologists 4th Edition

Purple cover for Bat Surveys for Professional Ecologists with lots of images of bats.The 4th edition of Bat Surveys for Professional Ecologists: Good Practice Guidelines is the latest update of the Bat Conservation Trust (BCT) Guidelines and features new content on biosecurity, night-vision aids, tree surveys and auto-identification for bat sound analysis. Several key chapters have been expanded, and new tools, techniques and recommendations included. It is a key resource for professional ecologists carrying out surveys for development and planning.

Portrait image of the author Jan Collins

Jan Collins is the Head of Biodiversity at the Bat Conservation Trust and a former ecological consultant. Her fascination in bats began when participating in a bat biodiversity survey on a Vietnamese expedition in 1999 and she has worked in bat conservation ever since. She has been in her current role for the last 10 years and has played a central role in the editing and refining of the BCT Guidelines.

In this Q&A we had the opportunity to speak with Jan about some of the key aspects of the 4th edition of the BCT Guidelines and its consequences for ecologists.

What led you towards a career specialising in bats?

From a young age I was interested in being outdoors and engaging with nature. My studies followed this route, with a degree in Environmental Sciences and a Masters in Ecology and Management of the Natural Environment. I was first introduced to bats on a Frontier expedition to Vietnam in 1999 where we were trapping bats as part of a biodiversity survey. I was immediately hooked (what an amazing group of animals, with unique behaviours, and so very diverse!) and sought both voluntary and paid work involving bat conservation upon my return. I was an ecological consultant specialising in bats for over 10 years before joining Bat Conservation Trust in my dream job as Head of Biodiversity almost exactly 10 years ago now.

Grey long eared bat flying with wings spread at night with leaves in the background
Grey Long-eared Bat (Plecotus austriacus).

Could you tell us briefly about the work that the BCT does?

BCT is a dynamic, influential and growing national charity. We are the leading non-governmental organisation in the UK devoted solely to the conservation of bats and their environment. Our work represents the gold standard in bat conservation providing a lead for the rest of the world. We work to ensure that bat conservation is acknowledged as an integral part of sustainable development. Our work ranges from best practice guidance, advice and training through to engaging wider audiences so that we can get more people to understand the importance of bats and their conservation. A lot of our work also involves working with partners on the ground, local bat groups play a huge role in all aspects of our work. More information about all of our work can be found in the most recent annual review, found here or take a look at the Bat Conservation Trust Website here.

The 4th edition of Bat Surveys for Professional Ecologists: Good Practice Guidelines is due to be published in September 2023. What have been some of the key challenges in getting this ready for publication?

One of the key challenges for this edition was gaining consensus from the Technical Review Board on some of the recommendations. This included the continued use of transects for bat activity surveys and how tree surveys for bat roosts should be carried out, acknowledging the various limitations, and how approaches should be adapted to different types of projects. Another challenge has been how much to include on night vision aids such as infrared cameras. BCT are planning a kick-off meeting for a working group to develop separate night vision aid guidelines in the autumn (to include infrared and thermal imaging cameras) and therefore many aspects are still to be discussed and decided. We will also run a public consultation on night vision aids to help us to understand current practice and expectations from new guidelines on this topic.

Infrared camera setup in foreground pointed at a house in the background for bat survey
Infrared camera setup. Photo and setup by Richard Crompton.

How has the outlook for bat populations in the UK changed since the last edition of the Guidelines?

Data from the National Bat Monitoring Programme indicate that populations of the bat species we monitor in the UK are stable or recovering. However, it should be remembered that these trends reflect relatively recent changes in bat populations (since 1999 for most species). It is generally considered that prior to this there were significant historical declines in bat populations dating back to at least the start of the 20th century. This suggests that current legislation and conservation action to protect and conserve bats is being successful, and it is vitally important that this continues. Detailed information on trends for the 11 species monitored can be found in our National Bat Monitoring Programme reports here. We are also seeing signs of regional variations that deviate from the overall positive trend at the national level and we want to gain a better understanding of those. More data would help this process so we would encourage everyone to join in with one or more of the National Bat Monitoring Programme surveys. There are surveys that are suitable for anyone regardless of experience or equipment.

What are some of the key changes in the Guidelines?

A number of chapters have been expanded and new tools, techniques and recommended best practice incorporated. Below are a few of the changes but we will be developing a webinar in the coming months, detailing all of the changes so readers should watch out for that!

  • A new section on Biosecurity has been added to Considerations for Bat Surveys chapter, recognising that precautionary approaches are needed to protect both ecologists and bats from potential health risks.
  • Chapter 6 on Surveying Trees and Woodland for Bat Roosts has grown from five pages in the 3rd edition and now includes details of newer technologies and sources of information such as night vision aids, motion activated camera monitoring, The Bat Tree Habitat Key and the Bat Roost Tree Tag Project as well as updated guidelines for categorising the suitability of potential roost features.
  • Chapter 7 focuses solely on dusk emergence surveys, with dawn re-entry surveys removed as a standard approach due to the improved quality of emergence surveys with night vision aids and the variability in the time that bats return to their roosts.
  • Chapter 10 on Data analysis and Interpretation incorporates information on auto-identification systems and has a new section on data science which includes details on elements such as tidy data, minimal data requirement and data standardisation. There are also case studies to help illustrate key points.

How will the new Guidelines improve the way ecologists approach bat surveying?

The guidelines are the key resource for professional ecologists carrying out surveys for development and planning. The Biosecurity section in the 4th edition will ensure that ecologists carry out their work in a safe way, minimising health risks to both themselves and to bats. The latest edition acknowledges the constraints involved in surveying trees for bat roosts and offers different approaches to surveys depending on the nature, scale and timeline of the project. A new categorisation system for Potential Roost Features (PRFs) and trees reduces the subjectivity in initial assessments of trees. Dawn re-entry surveys are no longer recommended as there are questions around their efficacy for presence/absence and because emergence surveys can be vastly improved by the use of night vision aids. A stepwise approach is offered to those using auto-identification systems to analyse acoustic datasets and the section on Data Science aims to standardise approaches to data management. The guidelines also make reference to a wealth of resources that can be used to improve surveys and, in particular, interpretation of survey data.

Horseshoe bat hanging from a rock by its feet with its face facing the camera.
Horseshoe bat (Rhinolophus ferrumequinum).

Nocturnal survey equipment such as night vision, thermal imaging and infrared cameras are becoming more important in bat survey with the 2022 Interim Guidance Note providing clarification of their role. How will the 4th edition of the Guidelines impact the way ecologists conduct bat surveys using these types of equipment?

The 4th edition supercedes (but is consistent with) the Interim Guidance Note published in May 2022. It emphasises that surveys should usually be carried out with night vision aids and that if they are not used this should be justified in reporting, with reasons provided (e.g. at known roosts when bats are known to emerge early or in situations/locations with higher levels of natural or artificial light). Dawn re-entry surveys are no longer recommended as a standard approach because the use of night vision aids vastly improves the quality of emergence surveys, when used properly. The new guidelines state that a still shot must be taken at the darkest point of the survey to show the field of view and that appropriate illumination has been used. They suggest that the use of night vision aids can be used to reduce the number of surveyors but only if the cameras/lighting reliably match or exceed what a surveyor can achieve, with evidence provided. See the 4th edition for more information on use of this equipment!

BCT are planning a kick-off meeting for a working group to develop separate night vision aid guidelines (with much more detail) in the autumn (to include infrared and thermal imaging cameras) and therefore many aspects are still to be discussed and decided. We will also run a public consultation on night vision aids, to help us to understand current practice and expectations from new guidelines on this topic.

Bat Surveys for Professional Ecologists: Good Practice Guidelines is now available to pre-order from

This Week in Biodiversity News – 28th August 2023

Science and Research

Mountain treelines are ascending due to climate change. Scientists at the Southern University of Science and Technology in Shenzhen, China, used remote sensing technology to analyse mountain tree cover. The results show that 70% of mountain treelines moved upwards during the period between 2000 and 2010. Trees are moving fastest in the tropical regions at an average of 3.1 meters a year; the movement is accelerating with time. The changes in tree distribution could be catastrophic for some species. Alpine species are especially at risk of being crowded out by the treeline moving uphill.

River with trees and mountains in the background
Alaskan treeline. Image by Peter Rintels via Flickr.
Climate crisis

Earthquake and rare tropical storm Hilary strike southern California at the same time. The storm brought rains of 10 to 12cm and caused power outages, flooding and mudslides across the region. Southern California, which usually experiences persistent drought, is vulnerable to rainstorms. Flash floods and mudslides hit the region while a 5.1 magnitude earthquake struck near Oxnard north of Los Angles. No immediate reports of damage were reported.

Broken trees with muddy landscape after a mudsline
Devastation after a mudslide. Image by Governor Jay Inslee via Flickr.

Canada deploys its military forces to tackle extreme wildfires in British Columbia. 35,000 people have been evacuated in the western province in what has been described as a “extraordinarily serious situation” by the country’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Fires are also raging in Canada’s Northwest Territories with its capital city, Yellowknife, under threat and having been evacuated. The world has seen an unprecedented summer of wildfires with sweeping fires in Hawaii and the Mediterranean, prompting calls for action on the climate crisis.


Ecuadorians have voted against oil extraction in Yasuní National Park in a nationwide referendum. 5.2 million people voted to prevent further drilling of crude oil in the National Park with 3.6 million voting against. Excavations have been underway since 2016 with 57,000 barrels of oil being produced per day. The protected area is home to a delicate rainforest ecosystem and indigenous communities. Oil spills, road construction and drilling provoked a fierce response from many indigenous and environmental groups culminating in the recent referendum victory. State oil company Petroecuador now has one year to withdraw from the region. Advocates for the drilling including some indigenous communities have argued that stopping the drilling will arrest development in the region and deprive the country of $1.2 billion in revenue.

Waterfall dropping over a cliff into a pool in the middle of a hilly rainforest.
Waterfall in Yasuní National Park, Ecuador. Image by Alan & Flora Botting via Flickr.

Mexico announces the creation of 13 new protected areas with three more expected to be declared by the end of the month. The six new national parks and seven protected areas cover 17,918 hectares ranging from the Mexican states of Baja California and Baja California Sur to Oaxaca and Guerrero. The new additions bring the total number of federally protected areas in Mexico to 200.

Kielder conservation efforts see 11 young ospreys fledging this year. The Kielder Osprey Project in Northumberland National Park has helped 114 osprey chicks take their inaugural flights in 15 years. The success comes after ospreys were extinct in England for most of the 20th century. The recently fledged chicks will practice their hunting and flying skills over the next few weeks as they build up body fat reserves before they begin a 3,000-mile migration to Africa for the winter.

Osprey bird gliding through the air with a fish between its talons.
Osprey with its typical prey – a fish. Image by texaus1 via Flickr.
Extinction risk

Reports of bee-killing Asian hornets have risen to their highest point yet in the UK. The invasive hornet kills and dismembers its prey and presents a significant threat to native UK bee species. The hornet species first arrived in Europe in 2004 and has since caused havoc in France where they have devastated national honeybee populations. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) in the UK has launched an eradication program in response to sightings in the UK. Once the hornets have become established, they are nearly impossible to eliminate. Some success has been seen in the Channel Islands where an army of volunteers are working to counter the hornets, employing techniques like triangulation and tiny radio tags to find and destroy hornet nests. However, there are doubts about how effective this action would be over a much larger area like that of the UK. A total of 39 have been spotted in the UK with 16 of those sightings occurring this year including locations as far north as Newcastle upon Tyne.

Close up face of a Asian hornet.
Male Asian hornet (Vespa velutina). Image by Gilles San Martin via Flickr.

A tiny river fly has been brought back from the brink after a successful breeding scheme. The critically endangered insect, the scarce yellow sally, is a type of stone fly that was thought to have become extinct in the UK decades ago. However, after several of the flies were discovered in the River Dee, a successful breeding programme was launched at Chester Zoo. Scientists plan to release the tiny insect in the future, but concerns remain about the health of Britain’s rivers. The tiny stonefly requires pristine conditions to survive, however, only a small percentage of Britain’s waterways are considered to be at Good Ecological Status within the Water Framework Directive.

Read More

See our previous biodiversity news stories covering topics from beaver reintroductions to falcon trafficking.

Author interview with Mark Avery: Reflections

cover for the book reflections with hillsides covered with animals and flowersReflections is a passionate commentary on the state of nature and conservation in the UK. In it, Dr Mark Avery explores the current condition of wildlife, why wildlife conservation is failing and what can be done to reverse its plight. He examines the role NGOs, land owners and government have in its failure, and crucially examples of successes too. Reflections is a valuable resource for those wondering what exactly is going wrong in nature conservation and what action can be taken to remedy this.

Picture of mark avery

Mark Avery is an author, blogger and former director of conservation at the RSPB where he worked for 25 years. His previous works include Inglorious where he examines grouse shooting in the British uplands, and Remarkable Birds, a compendium showcasing the extraordinary wonders of the birds that share our world. We had the opportunity to speak to Mark about how he came to write Reflections and some of the key themes from the book.

Could you tell us about how you came to write Reflections?

I guess there are at least three reasons for writing a book. First, that you have a great imagination and can tell scintillating stories. Well, that’s not me and I write non-fiction, though I have wondered about a fictional book about nature conservation and nature conservationists. Second, you have some amazing experiences that you want to share with the world. That’s not me either. Third, you think you have ideas about the world that will be useful to others, and that’s the category that Reflections is in. I have worked in wildlife conservation for over three and a half decades and so I’ve lived the issues about which I write, but I’m not writing about my experiences, I’m writing about my thoughts, ideas and take on the world. Those ideas were bubbling up so much that I thought I’d write them down. It felt a bit like a pressure valve being released. The good thing from my point of view is that it seems that lots of other people relate to my thoughts. That’s thrilling for any author.

How do you think people’s attitudes towards, and awareness of wildlife have changed in your lifetime?

I was a teenager 50 years ago so looking back to then, animal welfare concerns, which aren’t quite the same as conservation concerns but are mixed together in all of our heads, have grown enormously. That affects how people think of field ‘sports’, predator control, snaring etc. I welcome many of those changes in attitude. Climate change has come along and dominates, rightly, the environment scene, and that has implications for wildlife conservation. I sometimes think that nature conservation is a bit squeezed between welfare issues and hard environmental ones. But over that period conservationists have moved from playing in small nature reserves and chasing people persecuting wildlife, to a greater force having some influence (not enough!) on big public policies such as farming, forestry and fisheries. We need to develop more strength in those political realms if we are to see nature recover.

red kite raptor flying in the air
Red kite numbers have bounced back in the UK following a long-running protection programme. Image by José Manuel Armengod via Flickr.

You talk in Reflections about situations where considerable gains in wildlife conservation can be obtained in exchange for small losses in profit from land use activities. How do you think land managers can be convinced to take the hit to their profits for the benefit of wildlife?

With respect, I don’t accept the premise of the question. It is utterly pointless to try to get a vested interest like agriculture (house building, private forestry, shooting etc.) to act for the public good. Our wildlife conservation bodies are too timid and nice to realise that is a dead end. One has to jump over the heads of such industry representatives and persuade the decision-makers directly to implement public policies that deliver public goods. Focus effort on the decision-makers!

In the book you frequently mention the trade-offs between the state of wildlife in the UK and living standards. How do you think we can we balance the need for government investment in wildlife conservation and in critical public services like the NHS?

I’m glad you noticed that – we live in a complex human world and most people don’t give a stuff about wildlife. The partial answer to that question is that spending on wildlife conservation is tiny – that’s why it doesn’t work very well. It could increase many times over and still be tiny compared with other expenditures. It would be a false dichotomy to say we can have either a thriving wildlife or a thriving NHS, but I concede at the moment neither is thriving. Another partial answer is that governments should use more regulation (‘thou shalt not’s) rather than spending money on persuasion. They are cheap for the public purse. And of course, there are real benefits, that have economic valuations, in having wildlife-rich landscapes that flood less (or less damagingly), store more carbon and make people happier. But it’s a big subject. Give me a list of government spending across departments and I’ll cross a few things out (I might start with nuclear warheads) but your list would be different from mine, I guess.

You mention that the number of people actively interested in wildlife conservation is relatively small. How can we get more people to care about wildlife in the UK?

This is what our wildlife NGOs would call recruitment, or growing their memberships. The trouble is, it’s easier to recruit members than committed members interested in nature conservation. The National Trust’s five million members are arguably a weaker force for good that Wild Justice’s zero members but 35,000+ newsletter readers (but I’m maybe biased there). I think we could get more nature conservation done, particularly more impact on government policies, by getting existing members more mobilised than we could by getting more members. We have a small army of devoted conservationists – it’s just that they aren’t well armed with facts and tasks. Having more badly equipped troops isn’t a great recipe for success, I feel.

Do you think it is likely that we will see an improvement in the state of wildlife in the UK?

I can’t say that it is likely but it is certainly possible – but impossible with business as usual. We, and this means our largest wildlife charities, need to get much better at influencing land use policies. That’s entirely feasible but needs a change of mindset. I hope Reflections will encourage that change of mindset.

Do you have any plans for further books that you can tell us about?

I always have ideas, I have two at the moment, but sometimes they come to nought, so I’m not telling! Watch this space!

author holding book

Reflections by Mark Avery is now available in hardback and paperback from

This Week in Biodiversity News – 14th August 2023

Science and Research 

Scientists in the US have achieved net energy gain in a nuclear fusion reaction for a second time. This comes after a successful initial breakthrough test in December of last year. Nuclear fusion involves using heat energy to fuse two elements into forming a larger element and in the process releasing a burst of energy. If successful, this process could open the door to a potentially near-infinite supply of clean energy. However, scientists have cautioned that the technology is far from solving the climate crisis as significant hurdles remain before fusion power plants can be up and running. 

nuclear power plant by a river
Nuclear fission plant. Image by Tony Fischer via Flickr.

Researchers are using machine learning to help identify underground fungal networks. Mycorrhizal fungi form an interface with plant roots and play an important role in nutrient and water transfer from the soil. They are also an important carbon store with a predicted 13 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide moving from plants to mycorrhizal networks each year. The Society for the Protection of Underground Networks (SPUN) is working to map mycorrhizal fungal networks across the world and, to aid this, they are employing a combination of remote-sensing technology and machine-learning algorithms. The algorithms are used to predict zones of high mycorrhizal diversity which researchers can then survey and take samples for laboratory analysis.

Climate Crisis 

Oceans have hit their hottest temperature yet spelling dire consequences for marine biodiversity. Temperatures reached 20.96°C beating the 2016 record according to the EU’s Copernicus climate change service.  Changing ocean temperatures can cause shifts in marine species distributions, impacting marine food webs. There has also been widespread coral bleaching as a result of changing temperatures. Rocketing ocean temperatures come after global average temperature records were broken on multiple occasions last month.

Bleached coral. Image by National Marine Sanctuaries via Flickr.

Wildfires have swept across the island of Maui with close to 100 deaths and many more missing. The town of Lahaina with a population of almost 13,000 was mostly destroyed in the worst Hawaiian natural disaster in more than 60 years. The incident comes after a wave of wildfires hit the South of Europe in July. Scientists have warned that climate change is creating conditions which make it much more likely for wildfires to spread. Wildfires are common in parts of Hawaii, but the scale of the recent blaze is largely unprecedented.


Three baby beaver kits have been born in Somerset according to the National Trust. The kits were born on two different National Trust sites on the Holnicote Estate near Minehead. Beavers were initially introduced to the site in 2020, more than 400 years since beavers were last seen on Exmoor. The presence of beavers has considerably altered the water levels at the sites encouraging other species such as water voles, amphibians, fish and otters. 

Beaver by a river staring at the camera
Beaver. Image by Deborah Freeman via Flickr.
Extinction Risk

Falcon trafficking has soared in the Middle East driving a decline of wild populations in the region. Falconry is a popular sport in the oil-rich gulf countries of the Arabian Peninsula where there is a high demand for wild peregrine and saker falcons which are prised for their hunting abilities. Trade in wild falcons is restricted by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). High poverty rates in Syria, Iraq and Jordan, however, have driven many to the lucrative trade where enforcement by authorities is a low priority following decades of civil war and conflict.

saker falcon on falconers glove
Saker Falcon. Image by Ferran Pestaña via Flickr.

Scientists have found two new types of mole in eastern Turkey. Talpa hakkariensis and Talpa davidiana tatvanensis were confirmed by DNA analysis to be biologically distinct from closely related moles. The two new types of moles live in the mountainous terrain of eastern Turkey surviving extreme temperatures and weather conditions. 

South American frogs may be communicating with each other through the bioluminescence of their skin according to scientists. Fluorescence was first shown to be naturally occurring in amphibians in 2017 which initiated further research into the phenomenon. Researchers captured 528 frogs in Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru and found that all 151 frog species tested showed some degree of fluorescence. Fluorescence may make for a more noticeable display during mating calls in low light conditions. Green fluorescence is present in the vocal sac region of the frogs, and as the frogs call this region expands and contracts. Orange fluorescence could act as a warning signal to predators or serve as camouflage.

Read More

See our previous biodiversity news stories covering topics from white-tailed eagle reintroductions to North Atlantic right whales.

This Week in Biodiversity News – 31st July 2023

Science and Research

An Oxford University study has revealed that eating less meat would be like taking 8 million cars off the road. Low meat-eaters were found to produce 5.37kg of greenhouse gases per day, almost half of the 10.24kg that big meat-eaters produced. Fish-eaters and vegetarians produce 4.74kg and 4.16kg respectively while vegans produce only 2.47kg. The results, which also detail land use, water use and biodiversity impacts, show the benefits that a low-meat diet can have for the planet. It has long been established that meat production has a bigger carbon footprint than plant production, but the level of detail seen in the study is unprecedented according to scientists.

Various vegetables at a market.
Vegetables at market. Image by Open Grid Scheduler via Flickr.
Climate Crisis

Thousands of people have been evacuated from Greece following intense wildfires on the island of Rhodes. Strong winds blew fires that had been raging in the island’s interior towards the coast threatening hotels and tourist areas. Meteorologists have warned that temperatures are forecast to reach a 50-year high for the month of July in Greece, with extremes of up to 45°C. Brutally high temperatures have been seen across southern Europe this July, including Italy where most major cities have been put on red heat alert.

The former head of the UN climate body the IPCC has warned that the world will miss the 1.5°C warming limit target. Leading British climate scientist Professor Sir Bob Watson told the BBC that he is “pessimistic” about even achieving a 2°C limit. The 1.5°C limit was agreed at the UN conference in Paris in 2015 and has become a focus for global efforts to tackle climate change. The IPCC has said that failing to meet the 1.5°C threshold could expose millions more people to losing their homes to rising sea levels, increased water insecurity, and devastating coral reef biodiversity losses. To meet the 1.5°C or 2°C targets, greenhouse gases need to be reduced; however, emissions are continuing to rise.

Extinction Risk

The world’s most endangered large whale is closer to extinction than experts thought. In a blow for whale biodiversity, only a few hundred North Atlantic right whales are estimated to remain in the world’s oceans according to the NOAA. With only 70 reproductively active females remaining, the species is fast approaching extinction. Unexpectedly high mortality since 2017, in large part from human activity, has resulted in a catastrophic decline in right whale numbers. Research by the New England Aquarium has suggested that vessel strikes and fishing gear entanglements are the greatest threat to the 100 ton marine mammal; 86% of identified whales were found to have been caught in fishing gear.

Pod of five North Atlantic right whales from birds-eye-view.
Pod of North Atlantic right whales. Image by Sea to Shore Alliance/NOAA via Flickr.

Golden paintbrush has been removed from the endangered species list following recovery efforts. The US Fish and Wildlife Service has taken the flowery yellow plant off the endangered species list after more than 25 years. The flower can be found in the Pacific Northwest where its native range stretches from Oregon to southwestern British Columbia. Golden paintbrush numbers shrunk significantly due to pressure from invasive species, recreational picking and fire suppression. However, following replanting efforts, the number of sites the species is present in has increased from 10 to 48. In a boost for local biodiversity, the plant’s recovery could also benefit associated species such as the Taylor’s checkerspot butterfly and Mazama pocket gopher.


The south of England saw its first white-tailed eagle birth in 240 years. White-tailed eagles were once widespread across England but became extinct due to human persecution. The birds, also known as sea eagles, are Britain’s largest birds of prey with a wingspan approaching 2.5 meters (8.2 ft). A Forestry England and Roy Dennis Wildlife Foundation project re-introduced the birds to the Isle of Wight from northern Scotland in 2020. Licensed ornithologists have ringed the chick and fitted it with a tracking device.

White-tailed eagle flying.
White-tailed eagle in flight. Image by Per Harald Olsen/NTNU via Flickr.

In a similarly successful re-introduction programme, pine martens saw a third successful breeding year in the Forest of Dean. The initiative led by the Gloucester Wildlife Trust introduced 35 individuals to the forest between 2019 and 2021 with numbers now swelling to close to 60. Pine martin populations at one point were pushed to the remote corners of Scotland due to hunting and deforestation; however, recent recovery programmes in Wales and England have seen the elusive mammal returning from the brink of extinction south of the Scottish border.


G20 countries failed to reach an agreement on cutting fossil fuels following recent meetings in India. The summit saw disagreements over a goal of tripling renewable energy capacity by 2030 which Saudi Arabia, Russia, China, South Africa and Indonesia are known to oppose. G20 members account for more than three-quarters of global emissions and so efforts by the group to reduce carbon emissions are essential if global warming targets are to be met.

New Discoveries

A study has found that post-menopause orca mothers protect their sons from other orcas. Using data from the Center for Whale Research’s annual photographic census, researchers found that if a male orca’s mother was still alive and no longer reproducing, the male would have reduced scarring when compared to peers with a mother still reproducing or without a living mother. Females can live up to 90 years in the wild with an average of 22 years after menopause. Previous studies have shown that post-menopause mothers also aid their families by sharing food.

Orca surfacing near coast
Orca surfacing in Washington State. Image by Maya Sears via Flickr.
Read More

See our previous biodiversity news stories covering topics from corvid behaviour to capercaillie populations.

This Week in Biodiversity News – 17th July 2023

Science and research

Dutch scientists have revealed that corvids are using anti-bird spikes to build their nests. Anti-bird spikes are often attached to building ledges to prevent birds from nesting, and this discovery was prompted when nests constructed almost entirely from the sharp metal objects were found in Rotterdam and Antwerp. It has been suggested that the spikes may help protect their nests and could even be used as a display to impress potential mates.

Crow in a tree. Image by Stanze via Flickr.

Salinity changes are threatening marine ecosystems, according to researchers at the University of North Florida. Changes in salt content can occur due to land use and climate change and are expected to intensify with warming oceans. Vital estuarine and coastal zones could quickly face ecosystem collapse as groups such as corals, plankton and seagrass are affected by the changes.

Climate crisis

Global average temperatures reached a new high for the third time in a week at the start of July. A record of 17.01°C early in the week was broken twice more with average temperatures reaching 17.23°C on the Thursday. While unofficial, the record points a concerning trend in recent decades of higher year-on-year global temperatures. Scientists have attributed the cause of the unprecedented temperatures to a combination of human-induced global warming and the El Niño climate pattern.

The global shipping industry has agreed to a goal of net-zero by 2050. Industry voices and small island nations have largely welcomed the deal, but it has provoked fury among environmental groups who believe the plan will do little to keep temperatures below the 1.5°C threshold set out as part of the Paris climate agreement in 2015. Shipping is responsible for around 3% of CO2 emissions and campaigners are warning that emissions targets set out in plan will see the shipping industry exhaust its carbon budget by 2032.

Container ship. Image by Derell Licht via Flickr.

Severe flooding in Spain’s north-eastern city of Zaragoza swept away cars following storms and torrential downpours in early July. Video footage shows people desperately clinging to the top of cars and climbing trees while awaiting rescue by the authorities. The incident follows a worrying trend of extreme flooding seen across the world this summer.


One of the UK’s rarest and most threatened birds continues to thrive at Newport Wetlands National Nature Reserve in Wales. This year’s nest sites have seen the fledging of six Bittern chicks due to the provision of high-quality reedbed habitat. Bitterns were previously driven to the point of extinction following persecution and habitat loss. The reserve’s wetlands are managed by Natural Resource Wales in partnership with Newport City Council and the RSPB. Wetlands are also valuable in the battle against climate change acting as important carbon stores.

Bittern in flight at RSPB Minsmere, Suffolk. Image by Caroline Legg via Flickr.

The launch of a free online hub, which provides free advice for grassroots projects, hopes to mobilise communities for nature recovery. The Wildlife Trusts’ Nextdoor Nature Hub provides a range of ‘how to’ guides which aim to provide information and advice on creating and running nature recovery groups. The Wildlife Trusts is also running a programme of more than 50 events across the UK, coinciding with the release of the Nextdoor Nature Hub.

Extinction risk

Cairngorm Capercaillie numbers have increased for the first time in eight years following this spring’s lek counts. The results from Cairngorms National Park have shown an increase in 19 male birds following a Capercaillie biodiversity action plan involving RSPB Scotland, NatureScot, Forestry and Land Scotland among others. The positive news comes as the previous year’s counts revealed that only 542 Capercaillies were left in Scotland’s fragmented pine forests, a decline from 2015/16’s survey when the population was estimated to be 1114 birds.

Male Western Capercaillie (Tetrao urogallus). Image by Ron Knight via Flickr.

A phasing down of fossil fuels is inevitable and essential, Cop28’s president has said. Sultan Al Jaber has called for a ramping up of renewable energy capacity to enable fossil fuel use reductions. He will host the climate talks which will be held in the United Arab Emirates in November where a Cop28 plan for a target of tripling of global renewable energy production is expected to be announced.

Buyers’ Guide: Trail Cameras

Quick links:
Key features
Our suggestions
Recommended reading


Trail cameras are an invaluable piece of technology allowing users to monitor wildlife without disturbing the animal. The trail cameras in our range can take pictures and video during the day and at night using infrared (IR) imaging technology. Likewise, they can endure tough conditions, surviving harsh winds, rain and extreme temperatures making them suitable for almost all situations.

At NHBS we sell a wide range of trail cameras, and while this does give customers plenty of choice, it can sometimes be difficult to decide which camera will best suit your situation and requirements. The information in this guide will help you to make an informed choice.

Key features

No-glow or low-glow?

There are two main types of IR LEDs that trail cameras use to capture images in low-light conditions: no-glow and low-glow. No-glow LEDs produce a very small amount of visible light which is not visible to the human eye, animals will likely see very little of this light; although, this may well depend on the species. Low-glow LEDs do produce a faint glow, and so are not completely invisible and may alert certain animals. One advantage of low-glow cameras is their capacity to illuminate over a longer range.

Trigger speed and recovery time

Trigger speed is the time taken for a trail camera to take a photo once movement has been detected. Recovery time is how long it takes for a camera to take a photo and be ready to capture another one. A camera with a rapid trigger speed like the Browning Spec Ops Elite HP5 is ideal for capturing images of fast-moving creatures. Likewise, if you are looking to capture multiple images in a short time frame, a trail camera with a speedy recovery time is the best option. Once more, this is perfect for those quick-moving animals.

Resolution and interpolation

Resolution is a major influence on the quality of your images and videos. It is important to bear in mind, however, that the photograph megapixel ratings offered by manufacturers are often inflated and the result of a process called interpolation. Many trail cameras have the option of adjusting the resolution – increasing it through interpolation or decreasing it through compression. Compression can be useful for saving storage space by reducing the number of pixels. Interpolation digitally adds pixels to an image which eats up storage and generates longer recovery times while doing next to nothing to enhance picture quality. The best way to compare picture quality is to look at sample photographs.

Flash range and motion detection range

If you are planning on monitoring an open area where you expect animals to pass by at a distance, the motion detection range and flash range of a trail camera are worth considering. Motion detection range is the maximum distance a trail camera can register the movement of an animal. The flash range is how far the IR flash will reach. If the flash range is low and an animal is at a distance, you may not see the animal clearly in low-light pictures.

Cellular and solar cameras

Cellular cameras are an excellent choice if you are looking for remote access to your trail camera’s photos and settings without having to regularly interact with your camera in the field. Likewise, the addition of a small solar panel to your trail camera can improve deployment time. This is particularly useful when deploying multiple cameras at the same time or when monitoring inaccessible locations.

Our range of Spypoint cameras are an excellent choice when considering cellular or solar cameras. The Spypoint CELL-LINK, however, enables cellular functionality for trail cameras from non-Spypoint brands and you can purchase solar panels for Bushnell and Browning cameras.

Our suggestions

Entry-level cameras

Trail camera viewed from front showing camera lens and IR bulbsThe Browning Strike Force Pro X 1080 is ideal for those looking for high quality at an affordable price. This low-glow Browning camera boasts a rapid 0.22 second trigger speed, a colour screen, and superb picture quality.

Alternatively, if you are looking for an economical no-glow camera, the Browning Dark Ops Pro X 1080 is an excellent choice.


Popular cameras

The Bushnell CORE DS-4K is an excellent trail camera featuring top-of-the-range picture quality and no-glow IR LEDs, keeping disturbance to a minimum. Additionally, this camera will last for an extended period out in the field due to its long battery life.

Another trail camera with excellent picture quality, the low-glow Browning Recon Force Elite HP5 is an outstanding all-rounder. One benefit of this camera is its longer IR flash range when compared to the Bushnell CORE DS-4K, allowing for improved low-light imagery when the animal is further away.

If you are monitoring a particularly quick species, the Browning Spec Ops Elite HP5’s trigger speed can be adjusted to a lightning-fast 0.1 seconds. This stealthy no-glow camera also features a rapid 0.5 second recovery time and excellent picture quality both during the day and at night, making it one of the top trail cameras in our range.


Powering your trail camera

Lithium batteries are essential for operating your trail camera effectively. One of the most common reasons for why a trail camera is not working properly is the use of non-lithium batteries. Most of our trail cameras can be purchased as part of a bundle which includes lithium batteries and a suitable memory card.

Keeping your trail camera safe

The 180cm long Python Lock is ideal for securing your trail camera to trees and posts and preventing theft.

Our range of security boxes will provide additional protection against theft and damage. Double check that the security box you are purchasing is compatible with your trail camera model.

Recommended reading

For an in-depth comparison of the trail cameras in our range, check out our trail camera comparison blog.

Take a look at our in-the-field analysis of two of our top trail cameras – the Browning Spec Ops Elite HP5 and the Browning Recon Force Elite HP5.

Explore our complete range of trail cameras on our website or if you have any questions about our range or would like some advice on the right product for you then please contact us via email at or phone on 01803 865913.

Trail Cameras: A Comparison

Trail cameras are an invaluable piece of equipment for those seeking to monitor wildlife as it is when there are no humans around. Unlike typical cameras, trail cameras are designed to be left in a particular location to capture photographs or video footage of passing animals. Thanks to infrared imaging technology, most modern trail cameras will also allow you to capture images of nocturnal animals under low light conditions.

The best trail cameras can endure a range of tough weather conditions and extreme temperatures due to weatherproof casing and a robust design. Their small size and camouflaged casing allow these cameras to blend into their surroundings and remain relatively inconspicuous. Most trail cameras can also be fitted with a python lock or security box to protect against damage or theft.

At NHBS, we sell a wide range of trail cameras and, like all products, there are advantages and disadvantages depending on the model and brand. To compare the trail cameras in our range we have prepared categories based on several of the key factors to consider when buying a trail camera. All recommendations found here are our opinions and views may differ on which cameras are best for each category.

Beginner Camera 

Browning Strike Force Pro X 1080

With a fast trigger speed, strong picture quality and robust design the Browning Strike Force Pro X 1080 performs well across all major categories. While not quite reaching to heights of some of our more advanced cameras in terms of picture quality, this economic camera is perfect for those looking for a starter camera or for high quality at an affordable price. 

Trail camera shown from the front with camouflaged pattern and camera lens and bulbs shown.

Picture Quality

When considering image quality, keep in mind that manufacturers sometimes inflate megapixel ratings through interpolation, a process by which pixels are digitally added to the image. While on paper photos have a higher megapixel count, the image quality is not improved. This is a marketing gimmick which eats up storage and generates longer recovery times.

While our top picks for picture quality both use interpolation, it is the quality of the photographs and footage produced by the camera which we base our opinion on.

Browning Recon Force Elite HP5

With crisp and clear daytime pictures and excellent night-time imagery, the Browning Recon Force Elite HP5 wins the top spot for picture quality. Video footage produced by this camera is of equally high quality as shown by recordings from our own team:

This camera is significantly cheaper than its close competitor, the Bushnell Core DS-4K. Another factor in this camera’s favour.  

Bushnell Core DS-4K 

A closer runner up, the Bushnell Core DS-4K likewise demonstrates superb picture quality. An advantage of this camera is the longer battery life when using the video capture setting, permitting longer deployment in the field, together with a world-beating 4K video resolution.  

Night Footage 

The nighttime capabilities of modern trail cameras are a key draw for many users. Using infrared technology, most trail cameras can capture photographs and videos of elusive nocturnal animals whose movements are normally challenging to monitor. 

Browning Spec Ops Elite HP5 

While the Browning Recon Force Elite HP5 and the Bushnell Core DS-4K perform well at night, if you are looking for a trail camera specifically designed to excel in low light conditions, the Browning Spec Ops Elite HP5 is a safe bet. This camera displays superb nighttime video and photographs with excellent clarity and contrast. A stealthy camera with top of the range trigger and recovery speeds, the Spec Ops Elite HP5 benefits from a no glow IR flash which allows it to remain inconspicuous in the presence of easily startled nocturnal animals.  

Browning Dark Ops Pro DCL 

Equipped with Radiant 6 Night Illumination Technology and a longer flash range than the Spec Ops Elite HP5, the Browning Dark Ops Pro DCL produces outstanding nighttime footage; the trade-off is a significantly reduced battery life and inferior daytime picture quality compared to the Spec Ops. 

Trigger Speed 

The trigger speed is the amount of time between the camera detecting movement and a photograph being taken. For those looking to monitor larger animals a quick trigger speed is of secondary importance; however, trigger speed is very important when monitoring small fast-moving animals where a small difference in trigger speed might mean the difference between capturing a picture of the animal or not. 

Browning Spec Ops Elite HP5 

Here the Spec Ops Elite HP5 stands out from the crowd yet again. One of the top cameras in our range, its lightning-fast trigger speed of 0.1 seconds makes this camera a perfect choice for those monitoring even the quickest creatures. The Spec Ops Elite HP5 also boasts a swift recovery speed of 0.5 seconds, granting the ability to rapidly capture multiple pictures of an animal in the camera’s detection range.   

Battery Life 

Browning Patriot   

The Browning Patriot is not only one of our best all-rounders, performing well in all categories, but also the camera in our range with the longest battery life. Depending on the settings used (videos use up more battery power), this camera can last for over a year in the field without changing batteries.  

Browning Strike Force HD Pro X 

Another well-rounded camera, the Strike Force is also a strong performer when it comes to battery life. 


Durability – Reconyx HyperFire 2 HF2X 

A strong favourite amongst researchers operating in extreme environments, the Reconyx HyperFire 2 HF2X offers unparalleled resilience and longevity. We tend to recommend this camera for use in tough conditions as it can operate in temperatures of -29° to +50°C and comes with an impressive 5-year warranty. The more expensive Reconyx UltraFire XR6 has the benefit of improved picture quality; however, this trail camera carries a shorter 2-year warranty and slower trigger speed.  

A Reconyx camera being used to monitor penguins at Brown Station, Antarctica.
Cellular and Solar Cameras 

Needing to go out to your trail camera when you want to change batteries, check photos or change settings can be time consuming, especially if your camera is in a remote location or if you have multiple cameras set up in different areas. Cellular and solar functionality save valuable time by reducing the frequency with which you need to physically interact with your trail camera. The trade-off is reduced image quality when compared to cameras without these features in a comparable price range. 

Cellular – Spypoint LINK-MICRO-LTE 

The Spypoint LINK-MICRO-LTE enables remote access to photos and settings by utilising cellular networks. It comes with a pre-activated SIM card, the free Spypoint app and a free monthly data plan allowing you to transfer up to 100 images per month. If you need to transfer more photos, choose from Spypoint’s affordable monthly payment plans. 

While excellent for those wishing to leave their trail cameras in remote locations, remember the cellular features of the camera require a network connection to function, so ensure that you place the camera in a location with signal. 

Please note, we cannot guarantee that cellular functions of the link series cameras will work outside of the UK 

Solar – Num’axes PIE1060 Solar Wi-Fi Trail Camera   

The Num’axes PIE1060 Solar Wi-Fi Trail Camera comes with a compact solar panel attached to the top of the unit which provides the camera’s lithium battery with an indefinite power supply when placed in sufficient sunlight. This negates the need to regularly replace the trail camera’s batteries, saving valuable time. The Num’axes camera likewise features WiFi technology, allowing photos to be remotely downloaded when inside the camera’s WiFi signal range.  

Cellular and Solar – Spypoint LINK-MICRO-S 

You can even combine features with the Spypoint LINK-MICRO-S. The built-in solar panel and cellular function allows you to leave the trail camera in the field for longer periods of time with minimal physical interaction.  

Please note, we cannot guarantee that cellular functions of the link series cameras will work outside of the UK. 

Recommendations and Accessories 

A few important tips and accessories can go a long way to getting the best experience out of using your trail camera. 

Use lithium batteries 

Many new users elect to use alkaline or standard rechargeable batteries in their trail cameras and find that their camera is not working as expected. Lithium batteries are capable of giving off a stronger surge of energy. Most trail cameras are therefore designed to be used with lithium batteries; accordingly, we offer a bundle when purchasing a trail camera which normally includes eight lithium batteries. Using the wrong type of batteries is among the most common reasons for why a trail camera is not functioning correctly. 

Rechargeable alternatives are available which perform well with trail cameras. 

Python Mini Cable Lock 

The versatile Python Lock with an 8mm diameter and length of 180cm is ideal for securing equipment and can be used with almost all our trail cameras.  

Security Boxes 

These tough and sturdy security boxes will help protect your trail camera from theft and damage. Double check that the security box you are purchasing is compatible with your trail camera model.  

Explore our complete range of trail cameras on our website or check out our Watching Wildlife Guide on how to choose the right trail camera for further information on trail camera features.   

Equipment in Focus: Professional Hand Nets

Designed and manufactured by NHBS, the professional hand net is a
popular net choice for pond dipping and kick sampling. It is lightweight,
durable and practical, and used by universities and professional

The professional hand net is available with a wide variety of mesh sizes and two net depths: standard and deep. The frame and net bags can be bought separately, allowing you to customise your hand net depending on your requirements. The standard outer frame width is 250mm and other 200mm and 300mm wide versions are available. The hand net can also be bought with two- or three-part collapsible frames to allow for ease of transport.

The sturdy metal frame is manufactured using marine-grade aluminium with an inner brass frame for net bag attachment, granting considerable resistance to wear and tear in the field.

Both aluminium and wooden handles are available, the benefits of the wooden handle being that it floats and is comfortable to use in colder conditions.

Net and mesh sizes

Mesh sizes range from 53µm up to 2mm. Net bags are also available in both standard (30cm) and deep (50cm) sizes.

For extra durability small mesh sizes are made from precision welded nylon material and the 1mm and 2mm mesh bags are made from woven polyester material.

The 1mm mesh is the most commonly used size for aquatic and kick sampling and the 2mm is more suited for amphibian surveys. Smaller precision meshes can be used for sampling smaller organisms such as plankton and chironomids.

Changing nets

Net bags can be attached and detached from the frame so that multiple nets can be used with a single frame. This can be handy for washing and replacing nets or when using different net meshes for sampling different organisms.

To demonstrate how to attach a net to the hand net frame, we have gone step by step through this process.


Begin by removing the inner brass frame from the outer aluminium frame by undoing the set screws from the outside of the frame using an allen key or use a spanner to loosen the nuts on the inside of the frame.

After removing the nuts, set screws and plastic clips, slide the net bag onto the now free inner brass frame using the slots in the orange section of the bag. Ensure the two upper slots are positioned just below the corners of the frame. It may be preferable to remove the plastic tube that connects the ends of the inner frame before feeding the frame into the net bag and reconnecting it.

The plastic clips can now be clipped onto the brass frame in the slots of the net bag. Ensure the flat side of the clip is facing the outside.

Place the clip flush against the hole in the outer metal frame and insert the set screw through the hole in the clip and the frame. The holes in the outer frame are off-centred, so ensure the holes are nearer to you when fixing the clips to allow the brass inner frame to sit flush with the edge of the outer frame.

The nut should then be loosely tightened onto the set screw using a spanner or by holding the nut in place and using an allen key on the set screw.

Loosely tighten the other three nuts and ensure the inner frame is positioned correctly before fully tightening. The clips holding the brass frame should now be firmly fixed against the outer frame.

With the net bag now securely attached to the metal frame, the professional hand net can now be used in the field.

Replacement and related equipment

Our nylon Professional Hand Net Cover will help to protect and improve the longevity of the net, and is ideal for safe storage and transportation.

Replacements are available for the hand net fixings and the inner frame.

Extension pieces are also available for use with both the two- and three-part collapsible frames to allow for net extension. Extra joining ferrules are available too.

NHBS supplies a variety of specimen pots for storage and viewing of collected samples.

The Professional Hand Net can be found here. Our full range of professional hand and kick nets can be found here.

If you have any questions about our range or would like some advice on the right product for you then please contact us via email at or phone on 01803 865913.