Equipment in Focus: Royal Entomological Society Bug Hunting Kits

Shows the bug kit- containing a net, ID guide, pooter and collecting pots

The Royal Entomological Society (RES) is an organisation dedicated to advancing the field of insect science. Through encouraging open communication, research and publication, the RES hopes to enrich the world with entomology 

Developed in collaboration with the RES, the Royal Entomological Society Bug Hunting Kits provide naturalist users with the tools to safely capture, observe and identify British insects. Kitted with sweep nets, collecting pots and a pooter to capture your insects, you will also be provided with a hand lens, ID guide and optional forceps for identification of species you find. 

Suited for aspiring entomologists, The Royal Entomological Society Educational Bug Hunting Kit includes a copy of A Naturalists Guide to The Insects of Britain and Northern Europe. The Royal Entomological Society Advanced Bug Hunting Kit provides a technical alternative for more experienced naturalists, with additional pointed forceps and the Collins Complete Guide to British Insects. Here we take a closer look at what’s included in these exclusive kits.  


A hand holding a net, sweeping in a bush of nettles.

As seen on Countryfile, the Standard Sweep Net provides users with a simple, lightweight (280g) net for catching invertebrates. The short, 15cm handle has a foam grip for improved control and a lightweight aluminium frame. The net itself is made in the UK and features a soft calico bag attached via Velcro to the frame, making it easy to remove for washing.

 

A hand holding a pooter- a plastic chamber with two long plastic tubes used to entrap invertebrates

At the core of this kit is the NHBS Insect Pooter. Expertly designed and manufactured at our facilities in Devon, this piece of kit can safely capture a wide range of invertebrates. Affordable and simple to use, this item allows the user to observe specimens in a see-through chamber. The chamber is topped with a 2.5× magnification lens for easy viewing and identification. The pooters components can be removed and cleaned for sanitation between sampling.  

 

An alder fly in a collecting pot on a page of an identification guide showing species of flying insects

Each kit comes with five 60ml Collecting Pots for specimen handling and collection. The collecting pots have secure screw-on lids, made with see-through polypropylene for easy, clear viewing.  

 

A hand holding a magnifying hand lens over a ladybird on a leaf.

The handy Double Loupe Hand Lens provided with this kit is only 30mm in diameter, comprising two silicate glass lenses, 5× and 10× magnification. The lenses of this sturdy pocket magnifier fold into a protective casing, keeping them clear from scratches between use. Lightweight and compact, this hand lens is highly portable and is ideal for people of all ages. 

 

a pair of metal forceps with a beetle on a muddy tree stump

Made from a non-magnetic stainless-steel alloy, the Super Fine Pointed Forceps are manufactured with fine points for precision use. Included with the Advanced Bug Hunting Kit, these precise forceps are not serrated to minimise damage to delicate specimens, and at 11cm are a handy size for transportation and use in-field.  

 

Front cover of the Collins Complete Guide to British Insects

Provided with the Advanced Bug Hunting Kit, the Collins Complete Guide to British Insects is a photographic field guide to common and unusual insect species across Britain. This extensive work covers over 1,500 species, providing descriptions and detailing where, and when, to observe them. With detailed photographs for each species, differences between similar organisms are highlighted to aid identification. This book covers a range of insects, from bugs and bees to moths and mayflies.  

 

Front cover of a Naturalists guide to the insects of britain and northern europe

A Naturalists Guide to the Insects of Britain and Northern Europe is provided with the Educational Bug Hunting Kit. This easy-to-use ID guide is ideal for nonspecialist naturalists, with high quality photos of over 280 insect species. A description of appearance, associated habitats, habits and conservation status are outlined for each species. The guide also includes life cycles and describes the conservation of the group.     

 


The mission of The Royal Entomological Society is to enrich the world with insect science- doing this through events, books and supporting young people in gaining skills in entomology.

The Royal Entomological Society receives 10% from the sale of this kit to support their cause.

Echo Meter Touch – Upgrading for iOS

Wildlife Acoustics recently announced that the Echo Meter Touch (Standard and Professional versions), can now be upgraded so that they can be used with Apple iOS devices. There are a few important steps to take when upgrading. 

Which Apple Devices can be used? 

Wildlife Acoustics have stated that only new Apple devices that have a native USB-C connector on them will work. This means that any lightning connector-based devices will not work with the upgraded EMT even if you have a lightning to USB-C cable. If you have an iPhone 15 (all versions) or later you can use the upgraded Echo Meter Touch. 

How to upgrade your Echo Meter Touch

Firstly, make sure you have the EMT with the USB-C connector. Micro-USB will not work with this upgrade specifically for Apple devices. Here are the steps you have to take: 

1. Check to make sure you have the latest Wildlife Acoustics app installed on your Android Device. When you update the app it should display an announcement telling you that Apple is supported.

2. Plug your EMT into the Android device.

3. Using the menu found in the top left corner of the screen (displayed as three horizontal bars). Select Settings.

4. Scroll all the way to the bottom of the Settings menu, and select Advanced Settings. 

At this stage the app will tell you what version of firmware you have on your EMT. If it is version 2 or later, then you do not need to update to get iOS compatibility. However if there is a new firmware update, even if your device has version 2.0 or later, you should update the EMT to get the best possible experience from the EMT. 

5. If the EMT is shown as having version 1.3 the app will offer you a later version of firmware.

6. Select Update Module Firmware – DO NOT UNPLUG YOUR EMT Device

7. Let the app perform the upgrade and is will display the notice saying a firmware upgrade has been successful. 

8. Once, this appears, remove your EMT from the Android device, and re-insert it to double check the device is updated. 

Now that you have accomplished the firmware update you should insert the EMT into your Apple device. If you have downloaded the Wildlife Acoustics app to the Apple device it should function correctly. 

 

Spring Exploring: Equipment for Wildlife Watching

As spring emerges, naturalists across the UK are dusting off their kit to begin exploring the great outdoors. From bird watching to bug hunting, we have equipment to help you explore. Below, we have compiled a list of must-have equipment for wildlife watching this spring. 


Viking Cygnus Monocular 

Young boy looking through a monocular in the woods.
The Viking Cygnus Monocular in-field.

Excellent optics combined with a grippy, rubberised armour make this handy monocular the ideal companion this spring. At only 287g, The Viking Cygnus Monocular is a lightweight, showerproof monocular with a small form factor, designed for easy handling for any hand size. Created for quick access and target acquisition, this monocular features a smooth action barrel adjuster for precise focus adjustment and a larger objective lens for high colour imagery.  

For a smaller, even more lightweight alternative weighing only 140g, the 8×25 MK2 magnification monocular is ideal for quick and easy use, where a smaller objective diameter lens is counteracted by its handy size. 

Opticron Explorer Compact Binoculars 

Black binoculars.

The Explorer Compact Binoculars by Opticron would make an excellent addition to any naturalists kit this spring. A fully armoured, roof prism body provides comfort and extra grip for comfortable carrying infield. With a weatherproof, fold-down design, these are ideal for transport, and can be stored easily due to their size and weight (195g). The ribbed focus wheel and twist-type eye cups ensure a good field of view with easy focusing, and the use of multicoloured lens and high reflection coated prisms provide bright, crisp images. Available in 8 x 21 and 10 x 21.  

Nikon Sportstar EX DCF Compact Binoculars 

Black binoculars

Available in 8×25 and 10×25, these high-quality, pocket-sized binoculars are waterproof and fog free. Turn and slide rubber eye cups allow for easy positioning, and multilayer coated lenses deliver a high optical performance with great clarity and well-balanced colour. The field of view is ideal for observing large landscapes, and partnered with a good close focusing distance, these compact binoculars also work great with insects. Weighing only 300g, these ultra-lightweight binoculars are ideal for travelling or working infield.  

Crushable Pocket Butterfly Net

A hand holding a butterfly net

Designed with a spring steel frame, this Crushable Pocket Butterfly net can twist for an easy collapse and can be folded down to pocket-size. This foldable, yet robust design allows for easy transportation and storage whilst in-field. The net is supplied with a short, brass handle but can also be used with telescopic and push-fit net handles if you wish to extend its reach.  

Walkstool Basic 

A black and grey folding stool.

Designed and manufactured in Sweden, the Walkstool Basic is a simple, 3-point stool made for outdoorsmen of any kind. Suitable for home use and in-field work, this compact resting stool weighs only 725g, making it ideal for packing and transporting. Available in 24”, the Walkstool Basic is designed with comfort and sturdy support in mind. This highly portable stool has plastic foot ends and telescopic, extendable legs to account for uneven terrain. The sturdy aluminium frame and durable polyester seat make this stool a worthy addition to any explorers kit this spring.  

Pocket Guide to the Bumblebees of Great Britain and Ireland 

A hand holding a small book with a bumblebee on the front.

This handy, pocket-sized guide to the naturally occurring bumblebees of Great Britain and Ireland is a richly illustrated work accessible to beginners and more experienced naturalists alike. Each species has a dedicated double page spread, detailing its characteristics, habitat, distribution and sex differentiation, among others. This portable pocket guide provides an ‘at-a-glance’ guide to species. Ideal for exploring this spring, this handy book provides an informative peak into the world of bumblebee identification.  

Pocket Guide to the Butterflies of Great Britain and Ireland  

A hand holding a guide to butterflies with a background of grass

Another publication in the Bloomsbury Wildlife Guides collection, the Pocket Guide to the Butterflies of Great Britain and Ireland features over 600 detailed illustrations on each species and their life stages. Detailing species information, distribution and life history, this pocketbook provides an accessible, easytouse guide to butterflies in Britain.   

Field Studies Council Fold-out Guides  

Identification guide showing seaweed species

The Field Studies Council Fold-out Guides are ideal for days where full-size field guides are cumbersome. These handy species identification charts cover an eclectic range of themes, from mammal tracks and woodland plants to seashells and jellyfish. These weatherproof guides are a practical accompaniment to a spring stroll, find the full collection here 

Author Q&A with Robert Wolton: Hedges

Hedges book cover showing a drawing of hedge and farmers fields.In Hedges, Robert Wolton brings together decades of research and personal experiences from his farm in Devon to explore the ecology, biology, nature conservation and wider environmental values of the hedges in the British Isles. Containing over 300 photographs and figures, this latest addition to the British Wildlife Collection offers a detailed commentary on hedges and their importance in our landscape.

Robert Wolton portrait, showing him from the chest upwards, stood wearing a brown hat, coat and bag with an old tree in the background.Robert is an ecological consultant and writer specialising in the management of farmland and associated habitats for wildlife. He is a former hedgerow specialist for Natural England, the founder, chair, editor and lead author of the Devon Hedge Group, has been involved in Hedgelink since it began, and has written a number of reports and articles specialising in hedges.


Firstly, can you tell us a little bit about yourself and how you came to be contributing to the British Wildlife Collection with a book on hedges? 

I’ve had a life-long interest in natural history, even as  a schoolboy I was a very keen birdwatcher. Later, at university, I trained as a zoologist with a strong interest in mammals, although subsequently I have been more involved with insects, especially moths and flies. It was perhaps inevitable that I should pursue a career in nature conservation. My passion for hedges was awakened when we bought a small farm in the heart of Devon, my wife, Paula, looking after the cattle and sheep while I went to the office. Initially it was the flower-filled meadows that drew me to the land, but I soon realised that the many thick hedges, full of different trees and shrubs, were glorious and just as special, particularly when I discovered that those small spherical nests I kept finding were made by Hazel Dormice. At that time, 30 years ago, hedges were very under-appreciated in the nature conservation world – there was a gap waiting to be filled and I was able to persuade my bosses in English Nature to allow me to become a part-time national hedge specialist, a role I continued to fill after the organisation morphed into Natural England. Partial retirement gave me the opportunity to write a book on my beloved hedges. I’d always dreamt of having a volume in the British Wildlife Collection, much admiring the series, so when Bloomsbury offered me the chance I jumped at it. 

Robert Wolton, author of Hedges, photographed stood by a large pile of thin trees being used to construct a man-made hedge.
Robert Wolton making a hedge.

I tend to think of hedges as being man-made. But is there such a thing as a natural hedge? And if so, how do these come about? 

Most hedges in Britain and Ireland are indeed man-made. Some, though, have grown up naturally along fence lines and ditches – these are termed spontaneous hedges and I think they are becoming more frequent, especially along the sides of roads and railway lines. Trees and shrubs, their seeds carried by wind, birds and mammals, can colonise strips of rough grassland remarkably quickly, often protected to begin with by brambles. It does not take many years before there’s at least a proto-hedge present, and after a decade or two it may be difficult to tell it was not planted. Another way hedges have come into being is through strips of woodland being left when land is cleared for agriculture. These are called ghost hedges. Their origin is often given away by the presence of unexpectedly high numbers of trees and herbs characteristic of ancient woodland because they have poor dispersal abilities.  

I particularly enjoyed the chapter in your book on the origins and history of hedges. Do you think that the study of hedges can give us an insight into the natural and social history of our country? 

Without a doubt. Throughout our countryside, away from the open moors and fens, the pattern of fields, as defined by hedges and sometimes drystone walls, allows the history of the landscape to be read, often going back centuries, even sometimes millennia. We are so fortunate in these islands still to have this landscape continuity – it has been lost over much of continental Europe. In places like Dartmoor, which I can see from our farm, layer upon layer of history can be unpicked through studying the networks of field boundaries, most of which are banked hedges. Some can be traced back to the Bronze Age, 3,500 years ago. This may be exceptional, but even so, most of the hedges in Britain, and many in Ireland, probably date back to Medieval times. They are a hugely important part of our cultural heritage. We love our hedges. This is evident not just in the countryside, but across our villages, towns and cities, in our gardens and parks. Hedge topiary is, after all, a national pastime! 

Farmland hedge leading towards a forest at the end of a farm track along the right-hand side of a field.
Hedge, by Damien Walmsley via Flickr.

As you describe early on in the book, there are many different types of hedge, from those that consist of just a single species to very diverse multi-species ones, even ones that have been allowed to mature into lines of trees. Is there a type of hedge that is best for the surrounding wildlife and environment and that we should be trying to replicate or maintain as much as possible?  

If you put me on the spot, I’ll answer this question by saying that thick, dense, bushy hedges are the best for wildlife, preferably with margins full of tussocky grasses and wildflowers. But really we should be thinking about what networks of hedges look like, because there’s no such thing as a perfect hedge. Different birds, mammals and insects like different conditions, and in any case you can’t keep a hedge in the same state for ever, however carefully you manage it. Basically, the trees and shrubs are always trying to reach maturity, and as they do so gaps develops beneath their canopies and between them. That’s when laying or coppicing are needed, to rejuvenate the hedge and make it more dense and bushy. A lot more research needs to be done on this, but probably, from a wildlife point of view, at least half of all the hedges in a network, say that covering a decent-sized farm, should be in this condition. On the other hand, from a climate perspective, where we need to capture as much carbon as quickly as possible, tall hedges with many mature trees are best. You can see there are tensions here, all part of the challenge of managing hedges well. Who said it was easy?   

A dusty track running in a straight line with hedges on both sides and tall, narrow, straight trees behind the left hand hedge.
Into the Distance, by Dave S via Flickr.

As both a farmer and an ecologist, I’m sure you are more attuned than many to the conflicting needs of making a living from the land and managing hedges for the benefit of wildlife and conservation. Do you think financial incentives are the only way to encourage landowners and farmers to both plant more and maintain existing hedges? 

Financial incentives like government grants will always be important to landowners and farmers because good hedges benefit society at large just as much as those who own and manage them. Things like plentiful wildlife, carbon capture, reduced risk of homes flooding and beautiful landscapes rarely bring in any income to offset costs, let alone profit – it is right that they are supported from the public purse.  

Still, hedges can be of direct financial value to farmers through serving as living fences, preventing the loss of soil or providing logs and wood chips for heating. They can also increase crop yields through boosting numbers of pollinators and the predators of pests. To some extent, these direct benefits to farm businesses have been forgotten in recent decades in the drive for increased food production regardless of environmental cost, but they are now being appreciated much more as new ways of working the land, such as regenerative farming, catch on.  

And we should not overlook the fact that more and more landowners and farmers are prepared to bear at least some of the costs of good hedge management simply because they gain huge satisfaction from healthy hedges and all the wildlife they contain. The pleasure of seeing a covey of Partridges or a charm of Goldfinches, or hearing the purring song of the Turtle Dove, cannot be priced. 

A narrow, windy track going through a high sided hedge into the distance in a circle.
by Oli Haines.

Finally, how did you find the experience of writing this book, and will there be other publications from you on the horizon? 

This is my first ‘big’ book, and I was apprehensive to say the least when I started writing it, in 2022. But with a lot of encouragement from my wife and friends I soon got into the swing of things. Challenging for sure but personally most rewarding – exploring new facets, checking information and trying to find the best way to pass on my enthusiasm for the subject. Above all, it felt good to share knowledge collected over many years. Bloomsbury’s support was invaluable, there’s no way I could have self-published. As to whether there are more books in me, I’m not sure. Perhaps one on hedges in gardens? There again, I have a passion for wet woodland, another habitat that’s been much neglected. It’s all too soon to say. 


Hedges book cover showing a drawing of hedge and farmers fields.Hedges is available to order from our bookstore.

 

British Wildlife Collection: interview with series editor Katy Roper

The British Wildlife Collection is a series of beautifully presented books on all aspects of British natural history. Since the series began in 2012, it has covered such diverse topics as mushrooms, meadows and mountain flowers, and books have been written by some of Britain’s finest writers and experts in their field. Filled with beautiful images, these wide-ranging and well-researched titles are a joy for any naturalist who is passionate about British wildlife and landscapes.

Photograph of three British Wildlife books - Butterflies, Meadows and Hedges, stood in a line on a wooden bench with trees, grass and blue skies behind.

Katy Roper is a Senior Commissioning Editor at Bloomsbury Publishing and is responsible for the British Wildlife Collection. She recently took some time to chat with us about this excellent series; how it began, what makes it stand out from others of its kind and what we can expect from the collection over the next year. Keep reading for the full conversation with Katy, and browse the full British Wildlife Collection at nhbs.com.


 

Firstly, could you tell us a little bit about yourself; what you do and what your involvement is with the British Wildlife Collection?

I’m a Senior Commissioning Editor in the wildlife team at Bloomsbury Publishing. The British Wildlife Collection is one of the lists I’m lucky enough to look after; I’m responsible for signing up new books with authors and then seeing them through to the point at which they go off to the printer. Being immersed in these books means that I’m always learning something new: from the surprising fact that saltmarsh occurs as far inland as Staffordshire, through to how to successfully use a pooter to collect ants (without inhaling live insects!).

Published in 2012, the first title in the series was Mushrooms by Peter Marren. Could you tell us more about how the British Wildlife Collection initially came about?

Yes, the series was conceived by Andrew Branson who founded and, for 25 years, ran the publication of the excellent British Wildlife magazine. I believe that Andrew’s intention was to produce a series of seminal books that would capture the essence of the magazine in terms of being informative, well-written and thought-provoking whilst providing the author the space to explore their chosen subject in detail and develop the overall narrative.

For anyone unfamiliar with the books from this collection, how would you describe them and who do you consider to be their intended audience?

The series covers all aspects of British natural history and we encourage our authors to cover elements of ecology, history, management, conservation and culture; in other words, to explore the human relationship with their particular subject. The books are written in a way that we hope appeals to a wide readership, from academics and conservation professionals through to enthusiastic amateur naturalists and people who simply want to know more about the British countryside and its inhabitants.

All the books in the series are incredibly well-researched and comprehensive. How long does it typically take to go from conception to publication for a single title?

It varies depending on the author and their other commitments, but I’d say it typically takes around three years from the date the contract is signed until the book hits the shelves. I think our record for the shortest time is 13 months (I won’t tell you the longest!).

The books are beautifully produced and printed and, without exception, are authored by the most well-respected experts in their field. It is no surprise that they have rapidly become collectors’ items for so many British naturalists. What do you think makes these monographs stand out from others of their type?

The series is relatively new and is still evolving, but our ultimate aim is to build an indispensable reference source on all aspects of our wildlife by commissioning some of our finest writers and leading experts to write accessible and engaging books that are then carefully designed to incorporate hundreds of carefully chosen photographs and illustrations to bring the text to life. We hope that our readers come away from them, as one reviewer put it, ‘better-informed than ever, but also hugely entertained’. Oh, and they each feature a beautiful specially commissioned cover artwork by the peerless Carry Akroyd.

Finally, are you able to give us any information as to what subjects we can expect to be covered in the next year or so, or is this a closely guarded secret?

Hedges by Robert Wolton is coming out in February this year, and beyond that we’re excited to be welcoming Peter Marren back to the series with a book entitled Rare Plants. He’ll be followed by Trevor Dines with Urban Plants and David Goode with Bogs.


All books in the British Wildlife Collection are available from nhbs.com. Please contact our customer services team if you would like to set up a standing order for this series – this will ensure that you automatically receive each new title as soon as it is published.

Top 10 Bird Boxes for Walls and Fences

Vivara Pro WoodStone House Martin NestWelcome to the second in a series of three posts designed to help you choose the best bird box for your garden or other outdoor space.

This article includes a list of our top 10 bird boxes for positioning on a wall or fence. The first and third posts cover the best options for installing on a tree in a garden, park or woodland and for building into a new build or development.

For each box we have provided a quick guide to the material that it is made from, the dimensions, and the species that the box is suitable for. Follow the links provided for more information about the box, including pricing and availability, or contact our customer services team for more advice.


1. NHBS Wooden Bird Nest Box

• Made from: Softwood (FSC)
• Dimensions: 245 x 135 x 185mm
• Suitable for: Great Tits, Blue Tits, Coal Tits, Marsh Tits, Crested Tits

 

2. Vivara Pro WoodStone House Sparrow Nest Box (Double Chamber)

• Made from: Woodstone
• Dimensions: 160 x 290 x 210mm
• Suitable for: House Sparrows, Redstart, Spotted Flycatchers

 

3. Dual Chamber Sparrow Terrace

• Made from: Woodstone
• Dimensions: 360 x 220 x 180mm
• Suitable for: House Sparrows

 

4. Vivara Pro WoodStone Swift Nest Box

• Made from: Woodstone
• Dimensions: 245 x 380 x 265mm
• Suitable for: Swifts

 

5. House Martin Nests (Double Entrance)

• Made from: Woodstone and plywood
• Dimensions: 115 x 160 x 380mm
• Suitable for: House Martins

 

 

FSC Wooden Swift Box6. FSC Wooden Swift Box

• Made from: Softwood (FSC)
• Dimensions: 210 x 430 x 210mm
• Suitable for: Swifts

 

Eco Barn Owl Nest Box7. Eco Barn Owl Nest Box

• Made from: Recycled plastic and FSC timber
• Dimensions: 670 x 660 x 530mm
• Suitable for: Barn Owls

 

8. Ceramic Swallow Bowl

• Made from: Ceramic and FSC timber
• Dimensions: 125 x 202 x 125mm
• Suitable for: Swallows

 

9. Eco Small Bird Box

• Made from: Recycled plastic and FSC oriented strand board
• Dimensions: 260 x 170 x 170mm
• Blue Tits, Coal Tits, Marsh Tits, Great Tits, Crested Tits, Tree Sparrows, House Sparrows, Nuthatches and Pied Flycatchers (species depend on entrance hole size).

 

Vivara Pro Seville Nest Box10. Vivara Pro Seville 32mm WoodStone Nest Box

• Made from: Woodstone
• Dimensions: 310 x 200 x 200mm
• Suitable for: Coal Tits, Blue Tits, Marsh Tits, Crested Tits, Redstart, Nuthatches, Pied Flycatchers, House Sparrows, Tree Sparrows

Browse our full range of nest boxes for external walls and fences.


The full range of nest boxes can be found in our online shop, as well as a useful nest box price list which can be downloaded as a pdf.

 

Top 10 Bird Boxes for New Builds and Developments

Vivara Pro House Sparrow Nest BoxThis is the final post in a three part series, designed to help you choose from our bestselling bird boxes. All of the boxes listed below are suitable for building into the masonry of a new build or development.

The previous two posts provide suggestions of boxes suitable for positioning on a tree in a garden, park or woodland, and for siting on a wall or fence.

For each box we have provided a quick guide to the material that it is made from, the box dimensions and the species that it is suitable for. Follow the links provided for full descriptions, pricing and availability, or contact our customer services team to chat about finding the box that’s right for your needs.


Schwegler 1SP Sparrow Terrace1. Schwegler 1SP Sparrow Terrace

• Made from: Woodcrete
• Dimensions: 245 x 430 x 200mm
• Suitable for: House Sparrows, Tree Sparrows

 

2. Vivara Pro WoodStone House Sparrow Nest Box (Double Chamber)

• Made from: WoodStone
• Dimensions: 160 x 290 x 210mm
• Suitable for: House Sparrows, Tree Sparrows

 

3. Dual Chamber Sparrow Terrace

• Made from: Wood-concrete
• Dimensions: 260 x 220 x 180mm
• Suitable for: House Sparrows

4. PRO UK Rendered Build-in Swift Box

• Made from: WoodStone
• Dimensions: 140 x 440 x 150mm
• Suitable for: Swifts

5.  Manthorpe Swift Brick

• Made from: PVC and polypropylene
• Dimensions: 347 x 200 x 153mm
• Suitable for: Swifts

 

6. Swift Block (Large)

• Made from: Concrete (75% from waste)
• Dimensions: 215 x 440 x 160mm
• Suitable for: Swifts

7. WoodStone Build-in Swift Nest Box Deep

• Made from: WoodStone
• Dimensions: 180 x 420 x 155mm
• Suitable for: Swifts

 

8. Schwegler Brick Nest Box: Type 24Schwegler Brick Nest Boxes

• Made from: Woodcrete
• Dimensions: 235 x 180 x 180mm
• Suitable for: Great Tits, Blue Tits, Marsh Tits, Coal Tits, Crested Tits, Redstart, Nuthatches, Tree Sparrows and House Sparrows

9. Orlando Swift Box

• Made from: Wood concrete
• Dimensions: 350 x 220 x 180mm
• Suitable for: Swifts, House Sparrows, Starlings

Starling Box Smooth Brick

10. Starling Box – Smooth Brick

• Made from: Concrete and brick
• Dimensions: 215 x 215 x 150mm
• Suitable for: Starlings, Tree Sparrows, Blue Tits, and Great Tits

Browse our full range of build-in nest boxes.


The full range of nest boxes can be found in our online shop, as well as a useful nest box price list which can be downloaded as a pdf.

 

Top 10 Bird Boxes for Trees and Woodland

So, you have the perfect space in mind for a bird box but don’t know which one to buy? No problem – this is the first in a series of three posts designed to help you make the right choice.

This article includes a list of our top 10 bird boxes for positioning on a tree in a garden, park or woodland. The following two articles will cover the best bird boxes for positioning on a wall or fence and for building into a new build or development.

For each box we have provided a quick guide to the material that it is made from, the dimensions of the box and the species that it is suitable for. Follow the links for more information about each item, or contact us to speak to one of our customer services advisors who can provide you with help in choosing the right product.


1. Schwegler 1B Nest Box

• Made from: Woodcrete
• Dimensions: 230 x 160 x 160mm
• Suitable for: Blue Tits, Coal Tits, Marsh Tits, Crested Tits, Great Tits, Nuthatches, Tree Sparrows, House Sparrows, Redstart (species depend on entrance size and shape).

 

2. NHBS Wooden Bird Nest Box

• Made from: Softwood (FSC)
• Dimensions: 245 x 135 x 185mm
• Suitable for: Blue Tits, Coal Tits, Marsh Tits, Crested Tits (species depend on entrance size).

 

3. Vivara Pro Barcelona WoodStone Open Nest Box

• Made from: Woodstone
• Dimensions: 240 x 190 x 175mm
• Suitable for: Wrens, Robins, Spotted Flycatchers, Pied and Grey Wagtails, Song Thrushes and Blackbirds.

4. Brecon FSC Nest Box

• Made from: Wood (FSC)
• Dimensions: 200 x 160 x 270mm
• Suitable for: Great tits, House Sparrows and Nuthatches.

 

5. Treecreeper FSC Nest Box

• Made from: Softwood (FSC)
• Dimensions: 130 x 350 x 125mm
• Suitable for: Treecreepers.

 

 

6. Small Bird Nest Box

• Made from: Plywood
• Dimensions: 300 x 130 x 150mm
• Suitable for: Blue Tits, Coal Tits, Marsh Tits, Treecreepers, Tree Sparrows, Great Tits, Crested Tits, Nuthatches and Pied Flycatchers (species depends on entrance size).

 

7. Schwegler 3S Starling Nest Box

• Made from: Woodcrete
• Dimensions: 280 x 190 x 200mm
• Suitable for: Starlings and overnight shelter for Woodpeckers.

 

8. Starling Nest Box

• Made from: Exterior grade plywood
• Dimensions: 510 x 160 x 180mm
• Suitable for: Starlings.

 

9. 2GR Schwegler Nest Box

• Made from: Woodcrete
• Dimensions: 510 x 160 x 180mm
• Suitable for: Nuthatches, Redstart, Tree Sparrows, House Sparrows, Pied Flycatchers, Blue Tits, Marsh Tits, Great Tits (species depends on entrance size).

10. Blackbird FSC Nest Box

• Made from: Softwood (FSC)
• Dimensions: 185 x 250 x 215mm
• Suitable for: Tree Sparrows, Great Tits, Blue Tits, Crested Tits, Pied Flycatchers.

 

Browse our full range of nest boxes for trees and woodland.


The full range of NHBS bird boxes can be found in our online shop, as well as a useful nest box price list which can be downloaded as a pdf.

 

Hawke Digi-Scope Smart Phone Adapter

Hawke DIGI-SCOPE SMART PHONE ADAPTER with a binocular lens attached being used to take a photograph of a black and white bird in the grass.

Getting into nature photography can be a daunting prospect. What camera do you buy? Which lenses do you choose, and what size should they be? How much should you spend? These are all questions that require a good bit of thought, and rightly so. However, what if you wanted to dip your toe in at the shallow end and use equipment that you may already have lying around to take decent photos at a fraction of the price? That’s precisely where the Hawke Digi-Scope Smart Phone Adapter comes in. I decided to put it to the test by taking images of local wildlife at a variety of ranges with two of Hawke’s spotting scopes and a pair of Kite binoculars. To do this, I used the Hawke Nature-Trek 20–60 × 80 and the Nature-Trek 13–39 × 56 scopes, and a pair of Kite Ursus 8 × 32 binoculars. 

Hawke have established a name for themselves as producing reliable and rugged optics for the entry to mid-level markets and this optical adapter fits nicely into that niche, giving anyone with an optical device the option to transform their optics into a camera lens, when combined with a smartphone camera. 


Out of the box – first impressions 

The adapter comes packaged with a small instruction manual and some small foam sticky pads to place around the aperture clamp and prevent damage to the ocular lens of the optics you are using. Made from lightweight ABS plastic, the adapter feels light in the hand but not fragile. Stated compatibility on the box is for eyepieces 23–50mm in diameter, so make sure that the optics you plan to use meet these specifications. There is also a minimum and maximum size for compatible phones (width 66–95mm), but most currently produced models should fit fine.

Front and back of the black scope phone attachment.

Ease of use  

The adapter is a simple piece of kit that is designed to fit around the ocular lens of a spotting scope, microscope, telescope or, most commonly, a pair of binoculars. The spring-loaded clamp then allows you to place your phones rear camera to the eyepiece and align them, in essence creating an inexpensive camera and physical lens arrangement. This will then allow your smartphone to take photos at ranges that the vast majority of devices on the market wouldn’t be capable of. Getting this alignment right can be quite fiddly but once found, the adapter holds fast, and the point of focus doesn’t drift. It’s important to try to remember to reduce/disable the auto focussing on the device as this can be at odds with the manual focus of the scope itself. Likewise, make sure to zoom the phone camera slightly to avoid giving a ‘scoped’ view to your photos, with a circular black border (see below).

Photograph taken through the scope attached to a phone of some ducks in a garden with a black ring around it in the shape of the lens. Photograph taken through the scope attached to a phone of some ducks in a garden without a black ring the shape of the lens around it, focused nicely and closely on the ducks.

In the field 

Testing the adapter involved setting it up on the window ledge of a bird hide and using it while combing along the River Dart, allowing tests over variable distances to look and capture at different focus points and ranges. I often found that target acquisition with the scopes was a bit of a lesson in trial and error as any hand movement through high magnification lenses will be exacerbated massively through the screen. However, this will be greatly reduced by using a lesser magnification or a stabilising structure such as a tripod (or a handy fence post). The use of a phone in this case proved crucial as the post- processing from the device helped to mute the amount of disturbance to the final image from this unavoidable shaking. While there was some aberration introduced to the final photos, it didn’t mar the result too much or overly distract from the images (see below). 

Photo of a mallard duck swimming on the river by some reeds taken through the Hawke smartphone adapter. Photo of a duck flapping its wings and splashing on the river by some reeds with a vignette image border taken through the Hawke smartphone adapter.

Using the adapter with a pair of binoculars was where the Hawke Digi-Scope really shone. Quick to acquire and quick to capture, the photos produced were, in my opinion, superb, making this an ideal tool for an enthusiast beginning their journey into nature photography. (see images below) 

Zoomed in photograph of a squirrel on a grey and red roof. Photograph of a crow on some grass which is scattered in autumn leaves.

While the adapter itself is a lightweight bit of kit, whatever you mount within it will add weight to the back of your optics and upset any built-in centre of balance – much as I found out when, after attaching the phone, the scope made a determined attempt at see-sawing off the bird-hide window ledge. When not attached to the optics, however, the adapter is small and portable, fitting easily into a pocket without any discernible bulk or weight. 

Taking pictures with the adapter was as simple as hitting the camera button on the phone and snapping away, making sure to adjust the focus using the scope/binoculars as needed (this took a bit of practice to get used to). I didn’t manage to get any images of animals moving at great speed (something a dedicated nature photography camera would have no issues doing) while using the scopes, as acquiring and holding onto the target while also focusing using the scope lent itself to more stationary birds (see image 9). The binoculars, on the other hand, were great for reactive type photography, albeit at much reduced ranges (e.g. image 10). 

Photograph of a brown duck standing on one leg scratching the underside of its wing with its beak stood on a log taken through a lens.
Image 9
Motion photograph of a crow taking off in flight from a patch of grass scattered in autumn leaves.
Image 10

 

 

 

 

 

 

Conclusions

While using the Hawke Digi-Scope, it is important to remember that the phone you use, the post processing that it does, and the settings you enable will all modulate the end result in some way, and this is an unavoidable part of using your phone to take images with a non-attached magnification device. Unlike an expensive camera with light meters and other tools, this setup will never quite produce a true to life image with no introduced imperfections.  

In terms of optics, the scopes performed well and were great in their own right; however, both the models I used were technically 1–2mm over the maximum specified eyepiece diameter. This was surprising as the mount seemed to fit fine (a little snug if anything), but also surprising as it begs the question as to why this adapter doesn’t fit the full range of Hawke products. This was not an issue with the binoculars as they have a much smaller ocular aperture. 

It is just as important to stress this wasn’t a test of the optics used but rather the adapter itself and, in that role, it performed very well. It held the phone securely and the rubberised touch points prevented slippage, keeping both the scope and phone lenses aligned. But, as stated before, this was a bit of a fiddly procedure.  

I do think that this adapter helps to bridge the gap between the more professional nature photography market and the more casual enthusiast who wishes to go and get some decent photos of what’s living in the area around them, and it will help to extend the reach of the average person’s smartphone camera by quite a distance. The speed of setup and lack of any frills really helps to make this adapter a portable, reliable workhorse or a spur of the moment image capturing tool. If you’re looking for an inexpensive bit of kit to add to your usual birding/hiking/survey gear alongside your pick of optics, this is the adapter for you.  


The Hawke Digi-Scope Smart Phone Adapter is available at www.nhbs.com/digi-scope

Book review: What an Owl Knows

***** A hoot of a book
Leon Vlieger, NHBS Catalogue Editor

Owls are one of the most enigmatic groups of raptors, in part because there is so much we still do not understand about them compared to other birds. Nature writer Jennifer Ackerman previously wrote the critically acclaimed The Genius of Birds. In What an Owl Knows, she reveals the creature that hides under that puffy exterior, peeling back the feathers layer by layer to show our current scientific understanding of owls. She has interviewed scores of scientists and owl aficionados as part of her background research, making this as much a book about owls as about the people who study and love them. A captivating and in places touching science narrative, this book is a hoot from beginning to end.

Owls are everywhere in the human imagination and, Ackerman argues, have always been: “We evolved in their presence; lived for tens of thousands of years elbow to wing in the same woods, open lands, caves, and rock shelters; came into our own self-awareness surrounded by them; and wove them into our stories and art” (p. 235). For all that, their nocturnal lifestyle makes them hard to study and they have long been—and in many places still are—wrapped in superstition. Ackerman dedicates a chapter to such beliefs and the harms that frequently flow from them. Fortunately, the tide is turning. Thanks to the tireless efforts of a dedicated cadre of scientists, conservationists, and numerous volunteers, a far more fascinating creature emerges from the contradictory tangle of ideas that humans have held about owls.

A red thread that has been subtly woven through this book is the importance of understanding animals on their terms. Ed Yong’s An Immense World is one recent example of this welcome trend amongst science writers and Ackerman appropriately starts with a chapter on owl sensory biology. What is it like to be an owl? Though this question can never be fully answered, that should not stop us from trying our hardest. Vision and hearing are obviously important to owls but the book has plenty of surprises up its sleeve once you start digging into the details: from the magnificent facial disk that acts somewhat like a parabolic reflector to gather sound, a hearing system that does not seem to age, to the fact that owls can see ultraviolet light. At night. With rod rather than cone cells (like pretty much every other bird).

The same question motivates research on owl vocalisations as “a hoot is not just a hoot” (p. 81). Owls utter a profusion of yaps, squawks and warbles and Ackerman paints a lively portrait in words. Barn owls have “a raspy hiss that sounds like a fan belt going out on your car” (p. 82), while the tiny Flammulated Owl breaks the link between body size and vocal pitch, sounding like “a big bird trapped in a small body” (p. 82, quoting ornithologist Brian Linkhart). These sounds can reveal an awful lot about the individual owl and its relationship with other owls in the landscape. Ackerman criticises some of the research on owl intelligence. They cannot pass the string-pulling test, a common test in ethological research in which an animal has to pull on a rope to reel in food that is out of reach. The idea is that it tests an animal’s understanding of cause and effect. But is this a fair test or does it “point to the limitations of our definitions and measures of intelligence” (p. 261)?

The most intimate insights have come from rescued owls that can no longer be returned to the wild. Many researchers have ended up caring for an individual and becoming intimately familiar with them. Gail Buhl, a leading authority on training rehabilitated captive owls, here explains five important things that she has learned. One particularly poignant observation is that owls might appear calm and stoic around humans, but having paid close attention to their body language, Buhl concludes that “they’re experiencing the same stress as other raptors, but they’re internalising it” (p. 228). This has major consequences for how even well-intended trainers and rehabbers ought to behave around owls. “We need to treat them not as mini-humans in feathers, but as their own entity” (p. 231), Ackerman writes, before throwing in a beautiful quote from naturalist Henry Beston. In his words, wild animals “are not brethren, they are not underlings; they are other nations, caught with ourselves in the net of life and time” (pp. 231–232).

Following on directly from her last book on bird behaviour, there are fascinating chapters here on the behaviour of owls: their courtship and breeding, their parental behaviour, their roosting, and their migration. Yes, many owls are migratory and some species can cover surprising distances. Ackerman makes a fantastic case for the value of long-term monitoring programmes to establish reliable population estimates. This is vital data for conservation efforts and is often missing. And sometimes what we think we know is wrong, as in the case of the Snowy Owl. Where initial estimates put the global population at some 200,000 birds, satellite tracking has revealed that they are actually a single population moving around the whole Arctic Circle, resulting in duplicate counts. Revised estimates now put the figure at a mere 30,000 birds.

Ackerman relies on the input of numerous scientists and volunteers. As such, this is as much a book about the people who study owls. I was delighted to hear more from Jonathan Slaght (his book Owls of the Eastern Ice is magnificent). Other stories tug on the heartstrings and none more so than that of Marjon Savelsberg. A Dutch musician trained in baroque music, her dreams came crashing down when she was diagnosed with a heart condition that consigned her to a mobility scooter. When she stumbled on the website of the Dutch Little Owl Working Group, she quickly became one of their most active volunteers, revealing a skilled ear for analysing owl calls. Suddenly, she had a new career and a new group of appreciative ecologist colleagues: “[I] realised I was still a musician. All the skills that I learned, all the talent I have, I can still use, just in a different way” (p. 105). It is a powerful story of redemption-by-owl.

Ackerman carefully balances these two facets: the scientific insights that she has carefully distilled from research papers and interviews, and the personal stories of those who study and love owls. As a result, What an Owl Knows is compulsively readable and readily accessible for those who lack a scientific background in ornithology.


You might also be interested in reading our Q&A with Jennifer Ackerman in which we discuss owls’ reputation for wisdom, the incredible research that is shedding more light on their lives, and the mysteries that still remain.