Author Interview: Gavin Thurston, Journeys in the Wild: The Secret Life of a Cameraman

© Gavin Thurston.

Award winning Blue Planet II and Planet Earth II cameraman Gavin Thurston took some time to sign copies and answer our question about his new book, Journeys in the Wild and his adventures filming the world’s most charismatic animals in spectacular and remote locations.

 

 

© Gavin Thurston.

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

 

 

My first childhood memories are when growing up in Petersfield in Hampshire. A green and leafy part of England. My sister and I used to go and stay with my grandparents who lived near the village of Selbourne close to the South Downs. This was home to the 18th Century literary naturalist Gilbert White. My Granny had a shared interest in nature and had great knowledge of the wildflowers, butterflies and trees of the area. I believe it was her enthusiasm that set the seed to grow a passion for nature in my inquisitive young mind.  As a young frustrated artist, I found an outlet in photography, and later on, in moving images, combining the two passions to spend much of my career filming wildlife.

© Gavin Thurston.

2. What inspired you to write your book?

Mostly due to my career. I have had so many wonderful experiences and adventures around our planet. I have witnessed more of nature’s wonders than anyone has the right to do. When I told stories to family or friends the most common response was ‘You should write a book!’. So, before I got too decrepit to remember the details, I tried to get on with it. It’s only when I was contacted out of the blue by commissioning editor Emily Barrett, from Orion Publishing, with a book offer, that I signed a contract and then had to bloody well get on and finish it!

© Gavin Thurston.

3. What contribution does wildlife photography and filming make to conservation?

Hopefully the films I work on help to instill in viewers both an interest and then a passion for the natural world. Just as my Granny did for me by showing me the beauty and intricacies of nature firsthand. Once someone takes an interest in what wilderness and wildlife we have left, then there’s more chance that they will take measures to reduce their impact on Earth. The more passionate and driven viewers may well then go on to either donate, campaign or volunteer on conservation projects. It’s only once we know what is out there and why we stand to lose it, that an informed audience can then make a choice on how to stop the decline of habitat and biodiversity.

© Gavin Thurston.

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

Spend as much time observing nature as you can. Get outside and see it for yourself. Explore and discover. Take photographs, or if you have the talent, then sketch the natural world. Britain has an amazing variety of species. Animals and insects are playing out life and death dramas all around us daily. Teach yourself how to document these engaging stories. Most teenagers have a smart phone these days, and most of these phones have pretty good cameras for photos and videos. Get out there and use them. Discover the natural world and your hidden talent.

© Gavin Thurston.

5. What is your favourite habitat to film in and why?

I can’t say I can pin down a favourite habitat. I love nature’s variety. Whether that’s dark, dense tropical forest or a rugged coastline, snowy Arctic expanse or vast sandy desert. All I can say is that I’m a big fan of truly wild places. The less human influence or signs the better.

© Gavin Thurston.

6. What is the biggest challenge when filming wildlife in the field?

The biggest challenge is to do the animals and habitats justice on screen without affecting or influencing their often already difficult lives.

 

© Gavin Thurston.

7. When writing your book and looking back over your career, was there one incident or animal encounter that stood out as exceptional?

 

 

I have experienced many extraordinary animal encounters, so it is difficult to single out one. There are a few in my book, so read ‘Journeys in the Wild’ and judge for yourself!

 

© Gavin Thurston.

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

In this age on non-disclosure agreements I can’t say too much about future projects. I can hint though at one project I’ve been working on for the last year with Sir David Attenborough. It is conservation led, and hopefully will have far reaching influence on how we humans need to change our habits to try and restore natural balance on our planet. Watch this space…

Gavin signed copies of  Journeys in the Wild The Secret Life of a Cameraman for NHBS: order now while stocks last

Hardback| August 2019| £13.99 £16.99

 

Further Reading

Gavin’s book, Journeys in the Wild, is out now and available from NHBS.  If you want to discover even more about filming wildlife: BBC Wildlife Documentaries in the Age of Attenborough explores the history of wildlife television in post-war Britain and Untangling the Knot, Belugas & Bears by acclaimed wildlife cameraman, Mike Potts are both published in November.

 

 

Author Interview: Jens H Petersen and Thomas Læssøe, Fungi of Temperate Europe (2-Volume Set)

Authors,  Thomas Læssøe and Jens H Petersen have spent the last five years creating the wonderful two volumes set: Fungi of Temperate Europe. They have taken the time to answer our questions about this monumental and daunting project.

Could you tell us a little about your backgrounds and how you got interested in mycology?  

 

We both dived into the mycological forest sometime in the late seventies and subsequently studied mycology at the Danish universities of Aarhus and Copenhagen. Since then, we have both tried to make mycology accessible to a broader audience, both through countless excursions and mycology courses and through books and photography (the present work includes photographs from the very first years of this 40 years period). Check also the book, The Kingdom of Fungi by Jens H. Petersen.

Two volumes, totalling over 1,700 pages must have a been a considerable undertaking; can you let us know a little of the process and how long it has taken for this book to come to fruition? 

 

We have worked with the books for five years. Firstly, we made a long list of taxa we wanted to include and Jens started to develop the first identification wheels. We had the first dummy layout in summer 2015 and made the first version of the wheels for the Basidiomycota during autumn 2015. The asco wheels and the layout of the species pages followed in 2016. By summer 2017 we had a layout ready, but without text.

While Jens did wheels, layouts and photo-shopping Thomas produced the Danish texts online in our Danish Fungal Atlas database (www.svampeatlas.dk) and these were more or less finished during spring 2017. Then followed the long process of proofreading texts and editing them into the layouts. By summer 2018 this was finished and we started to do the translation into English. Fortunately, we had a couple of skilled UK copy editors who corrected mistakes and improved the language. The English edition was ready in April 2019.

The whole process was terrifying with respect to size which no one involved realised before they were deeply immersed in the books. The solution was to keep a tunnel vision most of the time, and just try to finish the one little piece of the puzzle in question and only on rare occasions emerge to the surface to look around and consider the distance to the goal line.

Who do you envisage using Fungi of Temperate Europe – what readership is it aimed at? 

Everyone with a basic knowledge of fungi.

The book uses ‘form group’ to identify and present the fungi rather than exclusively strict taxonomic groups; what influenced you to use form groups and fungi wheels?  

 

 

Scientists using modern DNA methods tend to split fungal genera into more and more narrow entities. As these are based on base pairs they may be absolutely devoid of morphological characteristics and thus impossible to work with for non-scientists. Thus any attempt to approach fungal identification in a strictly phylogenetic way will fail. It is for example impossible to construct a well functioning identification key to genera of fungi (we have been there several times, tried that and failed). This lead us to develop the multi-access computer key MycoKey (www.mycokey.com) and now later to try to convert the learning from MycoKey into book form.

What was your most surprising discovery whilst researching Fungi of Temperate Europe?  

That fungi are difficult but beautiful.

What is the biggest challenge when studying fungi?  

That fungi are mostly invisible to the naked eye unless they develop fruitbodies and when they do, the morphological plasticity of these fruitbodies is baffling. Thus good pictures are often worth more than detailed, lengthy descriptions.

After such an endeavour you surely deserve a rest, but have either of you got any future projects planned that you can tell us about?  

 

We are working on a book with new identification keys to Danish Basidiomycota. The overall structure of this will be built on the form group identification wheels from the present work but the species keys will be dichotomous, analytical keys with lots of illustrations. We believe that the two projects will supplement each other.

We would both like to dive deeper into the world of Ascomycota and possibly return to tropical mycology.

Fungi of Temperate Europe (2-Volume Set)
Aug 2019 £74.99 £94.99
The culmination of five years work from authors, Thomas Læssøe and Jens H Petersen

OUT NOW

 

 

Author Interview: Mike Toms and Garden Birds

The latest addition to the New Naturalist series is a timely study of the ways in which birds use our gardens.  Garden birds provide a connection to nature and wildlife and  a huge increase in the use of feeders and nest-boxes is a testament to their value.  Author, Mike Toms has worked with the BTO since 1994 and his work on projects such as the Garden BirdWatch scheme makes him the perfect author for Garden Birds

Mike, signing Garden Birds

Mike Toms has taken the time to signed a limited number of first editions hardbacks of Garden Birds and answer a few questions about his work for the BTO and his interest in garden birds.

 

Can you tell us a little about your background and how you got interested in garden birds?

When I joined the BTO back in 1994 I had been working on owls, hence the earlier New Naturalist volume on the subject, but after working on a range of topics I took on the BTO’s Garden Ecology Team in 2001. Over the following years, through long term projects like BTO’s weekly Garden BirdWatch and the seasonal Garden Bird Feeding Survey, plus some one-off targeted surveys, our team began to explore how birds use gardens and the resources that they provide. This work, which in more recent years expanded to examine the impacts of diseases, such as trichomonosis and paridae pox, and the broader urban environment, has resulted in a great deal of new information, much of which is presented in the book. Gardens have always fascinated me because they are the place where people most often encounter elements of the natural world. Garden birds are common currency for conversation for many people, just like football or music are for others. This means that we have an opportunity to understand birds lives through citizen science surveys, and to inform decisions about how we garden and how we shape our urban environments for their benefit.

What are the biggest changes to populations and distributions of garden birds within the last ten or twenty years?

As our recent paper shows, the communities of birds using garden feeding stations have changed dramatically since the 1970s, when we first started monitoring them through BTO surveys. The provision of a growing range of foods now presented at garden feeding stations has increased the diversity of birds visiting, with feeders no longer dominated by just a handful of species. Changes to feeder design have also played their part, providing access to species that were previously unable to take advantage of them. Long term figures, viewable on the BTO Garden BirdWatch and Garden Bird Feeding Survey (GBFS) web pages reveal the winners and losers over time – GBFS data show the long-term decline of House Sparrow and increase of Woodpigeon particularly well. Perhaps the most dramatic change has come from the emergence of finch trichomonosis, a disease that brought about the sudden collapse in Greenfinch populations. We have been able to monitor the emergence of this disease, and its impacts at a population level, thanks to those who participate in BTO surveys.

 

What single thing or activity can be a hinderance to birds living in, or wanting to live in gardens?

Gardens include both opportunities and risks for wild birds and it would be wrong to single out a single factor, not least because the system is fundamentally more complex than this. We need to remember that gardens are an artificial environment, and it is the opportunistic and generalist species that tend to do best in them. As the book explores in its early chapters, the garden environment can alter bird behaviour, breeding ecology and survival in many different ways.

What role can citizen science play in surveying and monitoring garden birds?

Citizen science is absolutely central to the work being done to survey and monitor garden birds. Gardens are private in their ownership, so if we want to find out what is happening within them then we need to involve the owners of those gardens in collecting the information needed. Through BTO surveys like Garden BirdWatch we have been incredibly successful in this, but as the recent Gardenwatch projects – carried out in partnership with BBC, Open University and BTO – have shown, there is a huge army of citizen scientists out there, willing and able to help us increase our understanding of birds and the garden environment.

While writing your book; was there one surprising fact or discovery that you didn’t previously know that you’d like to tell us about?

There was an interesting study of House Sparrows breeding on an off-shore island that surprised me in its relevance to how birds cope with the built environment. We know that background noise can impact on urban birds, and indeed those living close to airports and roads, but it can be difficult to test such impacts experimentally. The House Sparrows breeding on this island varied in their breeding success, with pairs nesting close to the island’s generators showing reduced breeding success. The noise from the generators reduced the ability of the parent birds to respond to the food begging calls of their chicks, reducing the amount of food provided and lowering chick survival. The generators only ran for part of each day, so the researchers were able to prove the impacts of the noise by watching how provisioning rates changed depending on generator activity.

What are your hopes for the future for garden birds?

There is still a great deal that we need to understand about birds living within the built environment. We need, for example, to understand the impacts of urban living on birds (and other wildlife) so that we can minimise the impacts that planned towns and cities have on biodiversity, but we also need to better understand the impacts that providing supplementary food has on their populations. Evidence relating to the latter is mixed, with some work showing negative impacts on wild birds and some showing positive benefits. Given the scale of food provision in the UK, this is something that we urgently need to address

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

I am currently working with YOLOBirder on a project that is seeking to raise funds for BTO and RSPB research into red-listed Birds of Conservation Concern. The book brings together an artist and a writer for each of the 67 red-listed species. As well as contributing a text, I am putting the book together and, with luck, it should be out in time for Christmas.

 

Garden Birds: New Naturalist Series Volume: 140
Hardback| July 2019| £52.99 £64.99 (limited signed copies)
Paperback| July 2019| £27.99 £34.99

We have a limited number of signed, first edition hardbacks, allocated on a first-come-first-served basis, so order now to reserve your copy.

 

Author interview – Dave Goulson

Dave Goulson is a Professor of Biology at the University of Sussex and nature writer, with a particular passion for bees. Bee Quest and A Buzz in the Meadow were bestsellers, and his latest book, The Garden Jungle is all about the wildlife that lives with us: in our gardens and parks, between the gaps in the pavement, and in the soil beneath our feet – an insight into the the wildlife that lives right under our noses.

 

Dave visited NHBS to meet the team and sign a few copies (now sold out) of The Garden Jungle.   He also answered a few questions about the inspiration behind his new book and his hopes and ambitions for the gardens of Britain.

 

  1. How did your interest in the natural world begin?

I’ve no idea! I have been somewhat obsessed by wildlife, particularly by insects, for as long as I can remember. When I was only five or six years old I remember collecting cinnabar caterpillars from the weeds on the edge of my school playground and rearing them up on my bedroom windowsill in jam jars. I never grew out of my interest, and have been lucky enough to find a way to make a living out of it.

2. Could you tell us a little about the research that went into writing The Garden Jungle?

I’ve been both gardening and studying insects for all of my adult life. The two go hand in hand, for if you grow the right plants, and garden in the right way, you can attract all sorts of insects to your garden. I’ve often done my scientific experiments from home, for example studying bee behaviour and the flowers that they choose. I also try out many of the techniques that are said to help wildlife for myself; my garden is full of more than twenty homemade bee hotels, two ponds, nine compost heaps, four or five log piles, a wildflower meadow area, half a dozen ‘hoverfly lagoons’ and more.

3. What fauna and flora gives you the most pleasure to see in your garden?

It is hard to beat the excitement of seeing the first brimstone butterfly of the year, a flash of bright yellow usually seen on the first warm day in late February or March, a sure sign that spring is coming. But bees are my real obsession, particularly bumblebees, colourful, furry, and endearingly clumsy insects that bring the flower borders to life with their buzzing activity.

4. Are you a keen gardener yourself?

I love gardening. When I’m not at work or asleep, I am somewhere in my two acre garden in the Sussex Weald, growing veg, fruit and flowers, and looking after the birds and the bees. It is my own little piece of heaven.

5. Have there been any changes over the past fifty years – either for the benefit or to the detriment of wildlife in the way people view their gardens?

There has certainly been a great increase in interest in encouraging wildlife into our gardens, for example via bird feeders, tit boxes, bee hotels and by planting bee-friendly flowers. Many of us believe that gardens can be places where people and nature live in harmony. On the other hand there have been many detrimental changes too; Astroturf lawns, decking, hard paving, and a huge increase in the number of chemicals available for use. Gardening has become big business; nowadays many people’s idea of gardening is to drive to some vast garden centre and fill the back of their car with annual bedding plants grown in peat-based composts, drenched in pesticides and sold in disposable plastic pots. There is nothing green about that approach to gardening.

6. If someone wanted to link gardens together for the benefit of wildlife, what would be your advice to enlist the neighbourhood’s cooperation?

Often the best way to convince people to change is to show them the alternative. If your garden is wildlife-friendly, invite your neighbours round for a coffee and show them the butterflies nectaring on flowers, the bees busy stocking their bee hotel, and the flowers in your not-too-tightly-mowed lawn. Offer them some seeds or cuttings of bee-friendly flowers; I give comfrey roots to anyone willing to grow them, it is one of the very best plants for bumblebees and I’m trying to encourage everyone to have a clump of it somewhere.

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

With colleagues at Sussex University I recently launched the Buzz Club, a nationwide organisation which is working with the public to do experiments to test interventions for garden wildlife. For example, we are asking people to test out creating a ‘hoverfly lagoon’, miniature ponds intended to provide homes for the offspring of some types of hoverfly. Find out more here: https://www.thebuzzclub.uk/.

Signed copies

A very limited number of The Garden Jungle, signed by Dave Gouslon are available from NHBS. *Signed copies are now sold out*

 

 

The Garden Jungle
Hardback | July 2019| £14.99 £16.99

The wildlife that lives right under our noses, in our gardens and parks, between the gaps in the pavement, and in the soil beneath our feet.

 

Discover other titles by Dave Goulson, on special offer until the end of August 2019

Bee Quest
Paperback | April 2018
An endearing account of the search for rare bees. – The Observer £7.99 £9.99

 

A Buzz in the Meadow
Paperback | April 2015
A fascinating look at the insect world found in one field in France – NHBS
£7.99 £9.99

A Sting in the Tale
Paperback | April 2014
A very readable introduction to the remarkable world of bees and bee conservation. – Good Book Guide
£7.99 £9.99

All prices correct at the time of publication.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Author interview: Simon Barnes

When writer Simon Barnes heard a Cetti’s Warbler sing out at a house viewing, he knew immediately that he had found his new home. Their new garden backed onto an area of marshy land which he and his wife purchased and began to manage it as a conservation area, working with the Wildlife Trust to ensure it became as appealing as possible to all species.

On the Marsh is his account of a year spent surrounded by wildlife. Part memoir, part nature guide, this is a vivid and beautifully written account of the wonders that can sometimes be found on our doorsteps, and how nature can transform us all.

We asked Simon a few questions about the inspiration behind writing his new book and his hopes and ambitions for the wildlife of Britain.

 

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

 

I received David Attenborough’s Zoo Quest for a Dragon as a junior school prize, the Natural History Museum every Saturday and the trees of Streatham Common to climb. After education and four years on local papers I ran away to Asia, when I worked as a gonzo journalist and re-found my taste for wildness.

I returned home and started writing about sport and wildlife, with columns in The Times on both subjects; I was chief sports writer for 12 years. I have written a number of books on wildlife, including the Bad Birdwatcher trilogy.

2. What was your inspiration to write a more auto-biographical work than your previous books?

I suppose it was the marsh itself. I wanted to write, not just about the few acres of Norfolk marshland we are lucky enough to own, but also about living with the place: sharing it: being a part of it.

I started writing with that idea in mind: and at once, my younger son Eddie made an entrance. I hadn’t really planned that, but he and I spend a lot of time out there, so it had to happen, I suppose. He’s just turned 18 and has Down’s syndrome. I started off wanting to write about vulnerable places: I ended up writing about vulnerable people as well.

3. Do you believe intervention in the form of land management is important to keep places like the marsh just as they are?

In land-management, doing nothing is a powerful form of action. Mostly I have left the marsh do what it wanted, but I have made sure the dikes are kept cleared and some trees have been cut down. I now manage an adjoining few acres rented from the parish: I am trying to keep this place open with the help of a local grazier. Nice contrast.

What’s natural? What’s unnatural? What’s imposed? Sterile questions: what matters is life.

4. The Barn Owl is often described in your book; would you say that it was the totem species on the marsh, or would you give that accolade to something else?

 

I am slightly surprised by this question, because so far as I am concerned, the marsh harriers steal the show. Marsh harriers: extinct as breeding birds in this country in the 19th century, making a comeback after WW1, then reduced in 1971 to a single pair – and now they skydance and hunt and food-pass over our bit of marsh: the powered flight just above stalling speed, the long glide with the wings held in that dihedral, and above all, the sense of ownership… because the marsh harriers own the marsh. I have the immense privilege of looking on.

5. While observing the marsh, was there one surprising fact or discovery that you didn’t previously know that you’d like to tell us about?

I was given a moth-trap for my birthday. I am pretty ignorant about moths, but on the first day I used it, the first moth I found was the moth on the cover of my moth ID book: an Elephant hawk moth, big enough to count as an honorary bird. So I read it up: and apparently it’s common. Well, maybe so: not commonly seen. It was a classic through-the-wardrobe moment.

6. What are your hopes for the future of such special and bio-diverse places?

My hope for the future is that they have one. I have long given up optimism, because I’m not daft, but pessimism is no way to live. Will we win the battle? Or will we lose? Such questions no longer matter. What matters is fighting on the right side.

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

 

 

I’m working on a big fat book called A History of the World in 100 Animals. It’s about the interface between human and non-human species: starting with Lion (we humans were originally a prey species), moving on to domestic cat (did we take them into our home because they purr?) and then to Gorilla (did you know there were just 46 years between King Kong terrorising New York and David Attenborough romping with Gorillas in Rwanda? That’s revisionism for you…). After that, Galapagos Mockingbird, American Bison, Oriental Rat Flea… you get the idea.

On the Marsh: A Year Surrounded by Wildness and Wet
Hardback | June 2019| £13.99 £16.99

How the rewilding of eight acres of Norfolk marshland inspired a family and brought nature even closer to home.

 

All prices correct at the time of publication.

Author Interview – Stephen Rutt

In this moving and lyrical account, Stephen Rutt travels to the farthest corners of the UK to explore the part seabirds have played in our story and what they continue to mean to Britain today. From Storm Petrels on Mousa to gulls in Newcastle and gannets in Orkney, The Seafarers takes readers into breath-taking landscapes, sights, smells and sounds, bringing these vibrant birds and their habitats to life.

To get to know Stephen Rutt and his new book, we asked him a few questions on his inspiration, advice and some interesting facts he’s discovered on his journey while writing The Seafarers.

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

I’ve been birding since I was 14. I grew up with two dominant interests: birds and books. Circumstances funnelled me towards studying literature and after university I was unhappily living in London with a job I didn’t enjoy. When I was 22 I saw an opportunity to get out, by volunteering at the bird observatory on North Ronaldsay, the northernmost of the Orkney islands. I was expecting to fall in love with migratory birds, but found myself in one of the slowest, least-exciting springs for them. That focused my attention instead on the unfamiliar terns, the tysties (black guillemots) and fulmars. I fell in love with seabirds there. The Seafarers is my love letter to them.

2. If anyone wanted to observe or study seabirds themselves, what would be your advice to getting started.

Britain is brilliant for seabirds. Even if you can’t get to the coastline, there are kittiwakes – a proper sea-going gull – nesting in Newcastle city centre, and terns migrating overland. If you can get to the coast then there will be a colony of something not too far away, whether it is terns or fulmars or gannets or auks. Find a place and a species that suits you and spend some time watching – it’s a heady, hypnotic, fun thing to do. Some books will help. The Collins Bird Guide is a great field guide to help you work out what you’re looking at, particularly with the tricky common/Arctic tern, and a book like Shearwaters by R. M. Lockley will guide you through the thought processes and the joy of observation. If anyone reads The Seafarers and is inspired to go birding or seek out a seabird, I will consider it a success.

3. Seabirds face many threats to their survival; in your opinion, what is the number one threat they face?

Climate change. Plastic pollution is an obvious and alarming threat, but I fear it is easy to be distracted by a problem that’s much more visible, emotionally involving, and straightforward for individuals to have an effect on. Global warming threatens everything: not just the birds but the eco-systems they live in. It is not an original thing to say, but it is the number one threat with which we live. Problems are amplified by apathy. I wrote the book to bring the sight, the sound, and the smell of the species and landscape to the reader. I want people to fall in love with seabirds like I did.

4. Each chapter tends to focus on a different seabird; are you able to say which bird had the most profound effect on you?

Fulmars. I had been travelling the best part of 24 hours by public transport (two trains, four buses), when I finally got the ferry across to St Margaret’s Hope on the Orkney archipelago. It was blowing a gale and I was worried about the flight to North Ronaldsay being cancelled, stranding me in an unfamiliar place. I stood on the deck anyway, clinging to the handrail, fulmars carving up the breeze, turning it into their plaything. Their ability at flying elegantly in the strongest winds is exceptional. The wind continued for my first few days on North Ronaldsay. Fulmars were everywhere. At times they were close enough that it felt like I could reach out and touch them (though obviously I didn’t!). That was glorious. They were my welcome committee and they made the transition feel like absolutely the right thing to do.

5. While writing your book and observing seabirds; was there one surprising fact or discovery that you didn’t know previously that you’d like to tell us about?

I learned so much while researching the book, both how astonishing seabirds are and the distressing effects we are having on them. But let’s be optimistic! One of my favourite discoveries was in relation to the Arctic tern that were GPS tagged on Northumberland’s Farne Islands. It took the birds just a month to migrate to the sea off the coast of South Africa’s Cape of Good Hope. It took them just a month to return from there in spring, as well. The speed and the distance they are capable of is just incredible.

6. What are your hopes for the future of seabirds?

That they have one – which is depressing but true. Beyond that, I hope that we can take their conservation seriously, and that they can thrive as we continue into the Anthropocene, and a future of plastic pollution and global warming.

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

I do! I have just finished my second book. It’s about geese, winter, and the twin pull of Scotland and East Anglia and should be published this autumn by Elliott & Thompson. In the meantime, I’m looking forward to going birding again.

The Searfarers: A Journey Among Birds
Hardback | May 2019| £14.99
Takes readers into breath-taking landscapes, sights, smells and sounds, bringing these vibrant birds and their habitats to life.

 

 

You can discover more about the lives of seabirds, shorebirds and wildfowl by browsing our complete selection.

Author interview: Peter Marren

Written with Peter Marren’s usual wit and insight, Emperors, Admirals & Chimney Sweepers takes you on a journey back to a time before the arts and science were divided. When entomologists were also poets and painters, and when a gift for vivid language went hand-in-hand with a deep pre-Darwinian fascination for the emerging natural world.

Peter took the time to answer some of our questions about his new book and the origin of butterfly and moth names.

Tell us a little about your background and how you got interested in the etymology of species names?

I’m a natural history writer (in the sense that I’ve written a lot about natural history) with a background in nature conservation in Britain. I’ve loved butterflies and moths since boyhood, and I suppose I must have realised even then that many of them have unusual names. What the hell was an eggar? Or a lutestring? Probably like most people I didn’t think too much about it – weren’t names just labels? – until, out of curiosity, I went into the name of the Red Admiral, Vanessa atalanta, and discovered a real Vanessa and a real Atalanta. And then I realised that even Latin names weren’t randomly chosen but had a particular resonance with that particular species. Names hid a whole new world of allusion, poetry and wordplay. I discovered that those who named our Lepidoptera, in English and Latin, were equally educated in the arts and the sciences. They knew their myths, and they knew about colours and designs, and they were completely fascinated. I feel a strange empathy with that vanished world.

What was the original inspiration behind Emperors, Admirals & Chimney Sweepers?

It started as a kind of sequel to my book Rainbow Dust, about how and why butterflies and moths inspire people. Names were confined to a single chapter in that book, but there was so much more to say, not only about the names themselves but the social ambience that spawned them: the world of Georgian London with its clubs and field excursions, its gorgeous illustrated books and the sense that nature was all the more wonderful for being 1) divinely inspired and 2) almost completely unknown.

The lightbulb moment came when I thought of dealing with names not as an entomologist might do, by families and related groups, but by themes: species named after animals, birds, moods, occupations, jewels and so on, all laid out alphabetically. I loved the fact that certain fine moths were named after weddings, focussing on bridal underwear worn in eighteenth century Sweden!

Emperor, Admiral and Chimney Sweeper are, of course, names of a butterfly and two moths.

If you could name a new species of moth or butterfly, how would you go about it?

Well, it ain’t a blank slate. There are written rules for scientific names and unwritten ones for common names. I’d love to call it Marren’s Glory but it would not be approved. I’d have to stick with the established vocabulary. So if it resembled, say, a wainscot moth, it would continue to be called that, distinguished by whatever word best caught its character. Overlooked Wainscot? Lenitive Wainscot? Look-alike Wainscot?  

What would be your advice for any budding entomologist out there?

There’s more to the natural world than pure science. Keep your eyes, and your mind, open. And enjoy yourself. And don’t say, “Oh that’s a Lenitive Wainscot, a Schedule 7 species graded as Least Concern in the latest IUCN Red List.” Just the name will do.

What is your most memorable butterfly or moth name, and why?

There are lots, but let’s go with the poor little Narrow-bordered Bee Hawk-moth, whose Latin name, tityus, commemorates the most hideous giant in all mythology. The giant’s poor mum exploded at his birth and when full grown his body covered nine acres. What do they have in common? Well, the old name for hawk-moths was Sphinx, and the Sphinx was a monster. Ergo (Linnaeus thought), hawk-moths should be given monstrous names. And the bee hawk accidentally got the worst of them because of its place on the list, wedged between two other appalling creatures.

I quite like Zygaena, the name of the burnet moths which they share with the hammerhead shark. For reasons too convoluted to go into here (but it’s in the book).

Any new books/projects in the pipeline?

I will have to find another project for it’s in the DNA. I suspect it will involve nature and childhood. Trouble is, others are on to it.

Other works by Peter Marren

Peter writes frequently in as ‘Twitcher’ in the British Wildlife column ‘Twitcher in the Swamp’ and has had a string of successful publications including Chasing the Ghost (now in paperback), Rainbow Dust and the first volume in the British Wildlife Collection series. Click here for more books by Peter Marren.

Author Interview – Heather Buttivant

Sometimes the most extraordinary nature stories and scientific revelations lie in plain sight. So familiar that unique stories of survival are overlooked. Rock Pool is an eye-opening, enchanting journey into the miniature worlds of rock pools with a new author who will change the way you view even the most ordinary creatures – from crabs to barnacles, blennies to anemones – forever.

Educator and award-winning blogger, Heather Buttivant kindly took some time out of her rock pooling schedule to answer our questions about her new book.

  1. Your passion for the marine environment shines throughout Rock Pool, where did your passion stem from?

Like most children growing up by the sea, I liked to pick up seashells, but for me it became an obsession. Back then I couldn’t name everything, but the variety of shapes and textures and the vibrant colours fascinated me. The longer I looked into rock pools, the further I was reeled in. It’s a passion I have no intention of out-growing: no matter how much I know, there is always more to learn.

 

  1. What was the original inspiration behind your book?

It has always seemed a shame to me that there is so little nature writing available about our incredible intertidal wildlife. When I created a website as part of my MA in professional writing with Falmouth University, I struggled to imagine why anyone would be interested in my ideas for a novel, but the thought of opening up the little-known world of the rock pools filled me with excitement. My Cornish Rock Pools site took off faster than I expected and when the site won the BBC Wildlife Magazine Blog of the Year Award, it came to the attention of the lovely people at September Publishing and this was the perfect opportunity to bring my love for nature writing and for seashore together as a book.

  1. You’ve selected a fascinating range of marine creatures; how did you choose them from such a biodiverse environment?

My identification guides to the seashore contain thousands of species, so narrowing this down to just 24 animals felt like a near-impossible task. Most of the animals I’ve selected can be found all around the UK and Ireland and together they tell an incredible story of survival. I have aimed to convey the experience of animals living in different zones of the shore and in the range of different environments from mud-flats to seagrass beds. Some of the creatures, like barnacles and limpets, are familiar yet have remarkable abilities that are unimaginable to us land-dwellers. Others, like corals, sharks and cephalopods, are animals that most people assume can only be seen by divers but with luck and perseverance they may be seen by rock poolers too.

  1. Rock Pool is full of exciting encounters you have had at the seashore, but which was your most surprising?

I find something new almost every time I visit the shore, but one day, whilst dangling my feet in a pool, with all my attention focused on a tiny sea slug in a petri dish on the rock beside me, I noticed movement in the water. When I glanced down I realised that a substantial lobster was inching towards my toes! I nearly dropped my camera. ‘Bob’, as I now know him, has become quite a legend in our family and his location is a secret that is closely guarded by all those who have met him.

  1. Do you have any tips for a successful rock pooling session?

My top tip is to join a rock pooling event where you can learn and explore with the experts. This is a great way to see amazing animals and to find out how to keep yourself and the wildlife safe on the shore. The key to spotting creatures is to slow right down and take the time to look closely at the small things. Most rock pool animals are masters at hiding in plain sight. A single rock may be densely packed with keel worms, sea squirts, sponges and crustaceans, but at a quick glance you’d think there was nothing there. Always check the tide times first and leave everything as you found it – gently replacing stones the right way up.

  1. Finally, do you plan to write any more books in the future?

Our rock pools are so incredibly diverse that I might never run out of material for more books. However, I’m also passionate about the importance of giving people, especially children, better opportunities to connect with the natural world. We protect and care about the things that we love, so it’s vital that we all feel that we are a part of the ecosystems on which we depend. Perhaps that will be my next writing project?

A limited number of signed copies are available at NHBS, order now to avoid disappointment!

If you’re feeling inspired to go out rock-pooling, we have created a selection of essential books and equipment to help you get started!

Pelagic: Publisher of the Month for May

Pelagic was founded in 2010 to fill the publishing gap in practical books available on ecology and conservation. They publish books for scientists, conservationists, ecologists, wildlife enthusiasts – anyone with a passion for understanding and exploring the natural world. Their books cover ecological survey and evolutionary biology to natural history dictionaries and environmental statistics. With a prodigious amount of recent publishing, it is our great pleasure to announce Pelagic as our Publisher of the Month for May 2019.

New books for 2019

 

 

 

 

Pelagic have already published a plethora of great titles for 2019, from a call to action to halt biodiversity with Rebirding: Rewilding Britain and its Birds to recording the wildlife in woods with the Woodland Survey Handbook. This follows on from very strong publishing in 2018 with Bat Roosts in Trees continuing to be one of our bestsellers since it’s publication last October.

Pelagic and bat books

 

 

 

 

With two eagerly awaited bat titles:  Is That a Bat? and The Barbastelle Bat Conservation Handbook in preparation and a wealth of bat survey and monitoring books already published, Pelagic are the go-to publisher for Chiroptera.

Other Pelagic books

Pelagic have – in a very short space of time – carved out a niche for themselves in wildlife publishing.  A selection of their publishing is divided into series which are continually added to – these include:

Conservation Handbooks: bridging the gap between scientific theory and practical conservation implementation.

 

Naturalists’ Handbooks: information, covering biology, practical notes on identifying, in the field or in the laboratory, with plates of individual species and line drawings of many of the key identification characteristics.

Data in the Wild: data collection and analysis for for ecologists, includes books on camera trapping, CCTV and remote sensing.

 

Synopses of Conservation Evidence: The aim of the project is to make scientific evidence more accessible, in turn making practical wildlife and environmental conservation more evidence-based. 

In addition to series collections, Pelagic publish many stand-alone books for practical ecologists, such as Habitat Management for Invertebrates and for travelling ornithologists, there’s the recent Where to Watch Guides ensuring you get the most from your wildlife travels.

You can browse all Pelagic publications here.

 

Author Interview: Kate Bradbury

 

If you want to attract more bees, birds, frogs and hedgehogs into your garden, look no further than Wildlife Gardening for Everyone and Everything. Award-winning author and journalist, Kate Bradbury offers tips on feeding your neighbourhood wildlife and explains how you can create the perfect habitats for species you’d like to welcome into your garden.

Kate kindly took some time out to answer our wildlife gardening questions, to help us get our gardens wildlife-friendly for summer!

(c) Sarah Cuttle

Can you tell us a little about your background and how you got interested in the natural world?

I grew up in a house with half an acre of garden out the back. I spend my early years out there, grubbing around in the soil looking for worms, watching the birds. I started gardening from a very young age and the natural world has always been a part of that, for me.

What interests you about gardening for wildlife?

I’ve always been a softie and I’ve always championed the underdog. I love garden wildlife but I’m also passionate about looking after it, and can see the potential our gardens have for saving so many species. Wildlife gardening is all about the power of the individual. There are so many things going on in the world we might feel powerless to change, but simply by planting flowers and caterpillar foodplants we can make a difference for local wildlife species.

I get particularly excited if I find a slow worm in the garden. What animal gives you the most pleasure if you see it visiting, or making a home in your garden?

I couldn’t pick just one! In my new garden I’m desperate to see a toad. They’re so rarely seen these days – I’d be honoured if they found their way to my garden. I’m lucky enough to have hedgehogs so I love seeing them. And a grass snake would be pretty special!

If you could pick just a single thing or activity anyone could implement in their garden that would benefit wildlife, what would it be?

Grow a few native plants. Just one native tree can support hundreds of different species – providing flowers for pollinators, leaves for caterpillars and then seeds or fruit for birds in autumn. Not to mention shelter! Non-natives have a great role in gardens – especially for pollinating insects. But it’s the natives that attract the leaf munchers – the caterpillars, leaf miners, things that need leaves to breed. And, being at the bottom of the foodchain, these are hugely important to anything from hedgehogs to frogs, toads, newts, birds and bats.

What can cause the greatest harm or damage to wildlife living in, or wanting to live in your garden?

Erecting new fences and walls. If wildlife can’t get in to your garden, you’re closing off feeding and breeding habitat to them and potentially blocking off more gardens, too. Make sure wildlife can access your garden and chat with your neighbours so they know this too. Hedgehogs need just a four inch gap beneath or cut into a fence.

If your outdoor space is very small, what are the best ways to make even a tiny outdoor space a home to wildlife?

Grow a mix of nectar- and pollen-rich plants for pollinators, plus native plants for caterpillars. In a small garden you might have room for only one tree – try a Silver Birch or standard Hawthorn, which are great for wildlife. In courtyard gardens and balconies grow forget-me-not, primroses and foxgloves. These provide nectar and pollen for pollinators but also leaves for caterpillars to eat.

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

I’ve got an exciting project coming up that I can’t talk about yet – you’ll have to wait and see!

Kate Bradbury has authored many popular gardening books and the wonderful The Bumblebee Flies AnywaySee below for a list of her books available at NHBS.

Wildlife Gardening: For Everyone and Everything  £14.99

With handy charts tailored to the needs of every size and style of garden, this easy-to-use book also includes practical projects such as making bee hotels or creating wildlife ponds, compost corners and wildflower meadows, as well as fact files for the UK’s most common garden species.

 

The Bumblebee Flies Anyway: A Year of Gardening and (Wild)Life From £9.99

Finding herself in a new home in Brighton, Kate Bradbury sets about transforming her decked, barren backyard into a beautiful wildlife garden. She documents the unbuttoning of the earth and the rebirth of the garden, the rewilding of a tiny urban space.

The Wildlife Gardener £16.99

The Wildlife Gardener is a book which helps you to create wildlife habitats in your very own garden, and is very handily split into sections on shelter, food and water.

 

We have also made a collection of our favourite wildlife gardening books and equipment to get your garden a wildlife haven.