The 100 best articles for ecologists

Keeping up to date with the latest research is a key part of any career in science. However, the push for researchers to publish early in their career and at frequent intervals means that there is now a seemingly unconquerable body of literature available to sift through. Because of the time-consuming nature of reading, processing and assimilating all of this information, the unfortunately result is that many researchers only find time to read the “hot” papers that are well publicised, or they focus primarily on papers that are recent and well-cited.

Image by brownpau via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)
The days of searching through library index cards are now a distant memory.

The advent of online journals also means that the days of physically searching for articles using paper records and traipsing around library stacks to locate a particular journal edition are a thing of the past. One result of this is that students and researchers who use the same or similar online search terms are likely to be directed to the same sub-set of papers, to the exclusion of other thematically similar but less relevant articles.

On the face of it, this may seem like a good thing, but it ignores the fact that methodological and conceptual insights are often to be found in papers which are not directly related to one’s own research; papers that would have been found more frequently when searching in a “bricks and mortar” library. It also means that older papers, which are still of importance for providing a good grounding in both methods and concepts, may be overlooked. By ignoring these older papers, the risk of repeating work that has already been undertaken or explored, is also higher.

With these concerns in mind, Franck Courchamp and Corey Bradshaw from the Université Paris-Saclay in France and Flinders University in Australia have taken it upon themselves to produce a list of the top 100 articles that every ecologist should read. Their key objective was to propose a list of seminal papers that, regardless of date of publication or specific subject area, would provide ecologists with a well-rounded understanding of ecology.

To create this list, they first assembled a long-list of 544 paper which were nominated by a group of 147 ecology journal editorial members; individuals that were recognised as experts in their field and who have an excellent knowledge of publications in their subject area. This list was then ranked via random-sample voting by 368 ecology experts and the top 100 papers collated into a comprehensive and varied reading list.

A century and a half after its publication, Darwin’s paper on natural selection remains a key ecology text.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the number one paper on the list was Darwin and Wallace putting forth their theory of natural selection. Published in 1858, this entry also represents the oldest paper on the list. More surprising was the average age of the top-ranked papers, with a huge number of them being from the 1960s and 1970s whilst very few were included from the 21st century. Most of the papers were not published in journals with a particularly high impact factor and, in many cases, they did not receive an unduly high number of citations, indicating that citation-based selections are not always the most appropriate when selecting papers for background reading.

The final list provides ecologists with an excellent starting point for establishing a well-rounded understanding of basic ecological theories. Whether you’re an early-career scientist, a well-established researcher or even a keen amateur with an enquiring mind, there is plenty here to expand your knowledge.

The list of 100 papers, together with a description of the methods and discussion of the subject, is published in Nature Ecology and Evolution and is available to view online.

 

 

Flight Lines: Interview with Mike Toms

The Flight Lines Project is a collaboration between the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) and the Society of Wildlife Artists (SWLA). Using a unique combination of art, stories and science, this project aims to explore the lives of migrant birds and to highlight the challenges they face in a rapidly changing world.

In this interview with Flight Lines author, Mike Toms, we talk about the relationship between art and science, the importance of volunteer ornithologists and cultural differences in our attitudes to birds.


Flight Lines author, Mike Toms

I’m curious about the perceived division between the arts and the sciences. While it’s true that many artists portray images of the natural world in their work, there are not many situations where artists and scientists are required to work together towards a common aim. Flight Lines is obviously a wonderful example of this – where did the idea for the project come from and what do you consider to be the most important thing that came out of it?

There is growing evidence that audiences exposed to science and conservation messages through the creative arts are more likely to show meaningful change in their understanding, which suggests that those of us working in research should seek now opportunities to communicate the impact of our work. Flight Lines was made possible by the generous legacy left by Penny Hollow and the kindness of her executors. Penny, a long-standing BTO member was a regular at the Society of Wildlife Artists (SWLA) exhibitions, a great supporter and a lay member of the SWLA. The bringing together of artists and scientists to raise the profile of our migrant birds was a fitting tribute to her interests and something that we had been looking do alongside our programme of research into migrant birds. Not only has the project enabled us to tell the stories of our summer visitors to new audiences but it has also helped to underline how art and science can work together to effect change.

Flight LinesOur knowledge of where our migrant birds disappear to each year has vastly increased with the development of ever smaller and more advanced tracking devices and locators. What do you think will be the next big technological advancement in the study of bird migration?

It is the arrival of smaller and smaller devices that has revolutionised our understanding of the movements of migrant birds. The level of information that can now be collected through the use of GPS-tags and satellite-tags means that we can identify the sites and habitats used by migrant birds throughout the year. In some cases, such as with those tags that communicate via the mobile phone or satellite network, the information collected can be presented to the public in near real time, greatly adding to wider engagement with the science that is being undertaken. For the smallest birds, the tags used have to be retrieved the following year in order to download the data. As miniaturisation continues, we will soon be able to track the movements of Swallows, House Martins, Whitethroats and other small migrants in near real time. That will be a significant advancement for our understanding.

Whinchat, Blakeney by Richard JohnsonIn the UK I think it would be fair to say that we have an above average obsession with birds and their welfare. This is in stark contrast to many of the countries you discuss in the book, where birds are often viewed mainly as food or hunting trophies. What do you think is responsible for this difference in attitudes?

It is incredibly important to recognise the cultural differences that exist between countries in terms of how birds are viewed. Many of these are deeply rooted and extend back through generations, each shaped by local beliefs and opportunities, by living conditions and by trade. The hunting of migrant birds in North Africa, for example, is shaped by at least three different drivers: some are hunted for food by people living in very poor communities; others are hunted because of cultural beliefs, and many are hunted because there is a sizeable market for such commodities within the Middle East. It is important that we recognise how attitudes towards birds differ across the globe so that we can deliver approaches to conservation that are sensitive and appropriate.

Flight Lines trip to Senegal, West AfricaThe subject of supplementary feeding is currently a hot topic with the recent publication of an article in Science showing how great tits’ beaks have changed size due to the use of garden feeders. However, the messages we receive about feeding our garden birds are very mixed. Do you think the amount of supplementary feeding that occurs in the UK is a good thing overall?

The provision of supplementary food is one of the most common deliberate interactions between people and wild birds, supporting a wild bird care industry within the UK worth an estimated £210 million each year. Despite the huge amount of supplementary food provided in gardens we know surprisingly little about its impacts, which is one of the reasons why the BTO has been funding research into this topic over many years. Supplementary feeding may increase the overwinter survival of small birds, shape the communities of birds living alongside us and alter migration patterns and behaviour. It may also change the dynamics of competition between species or aid the spread of new and emerging diseases. Before we can say whether or not it is a good thing we need to improve our understanding of the associated costs and benefits, and look at these in relation to other human-bird interactions, such as climate and habitat change.

Scissor stone curlew by Harriet MeadCitizen science schemes are an incredibly powerful force in terms of obtaining large quantities of data and you frequently mention in your book how much of our knowledge about bird populations comes from the tireless efforts of volunteers. Do you think that being involved with a citizen science project is also empowering to the individual and can help to break down some of the boundaries between “professional” scientists and amateurs, making science and research more accessible to them?

The terms ‘professional’ and ‘amateur’ are often used incorrectly, suggesting that staff are professionals while volunteers are amateurs, when what is really meant is that staff get paid and volunteers don’t . Many volunteers are experts in their field, sometimes the expert, and the right approach to citizen science should recognise this. We know from various research studies that volunteers participate in citizen science for a whole host of different reasons, some linked to internal values – such as feeling good about yourself – and some to external – such as sharing expertise, contributing towards charitable objectives. A well run citizen science project should make the science being carried out more accessible to participants, enabling them to see how their contribution is being used to answer a particular research question and empowering them to recognise the impact that their involvement is facilitating.

Do you feel that your art is influenced by your love of birds and wildlife and, conversely, do you feel that your art affects your appreciation of the natural world?

Some of my writing – the prose and poetry – is influenced by the natural world and by the sense of place. This feeling for the natural world is equally evident when I am participating in BTO surveys, especially the Nest Record Scheme, where significant time is spent immersed in nature, watching birds and their behaviour in order to find and monitor nesting attempts.


Flight Lines is published by the British Trust for Ornithology and is available to buy from NHBS.

 

Manta: Interview with Guy Stevens

With their horn-shaped cephalic fins and large, gaping mouths, manta rays have long been the source of mariners’ myths and legends. Today, we know much more about these curious creatures, although many features of their lives and behaviours remain a mystery.

Marine biologist and co-founder of the Manta Trust Guy Stevens has spent many years researching mantas in an effort to understand their lives and to promote conservation practices that will ensure their continued survival. In Manta he has joined forces with National Geographic photographer Thomas Peschak to create a visually stunning and informative tribute to these animals.

To coincide with the re-release of the book, we recently spoke to Guy about his work with Mantas and the conservation challenges that they face.


Your life as a researcher and CEO of the Manta Trust must be incredibly varied and exciting. I’m curious what a typical day in the life of Guy Stevens looks like. Or, if a ‘typical’ day is unheard of for you, can you describe a recent day for us?

My days tend to be dictated by where I am. When in the field I am usually diving or freediving with manta rays on a daily basis, collecting data or guiding tourist expeditions. However, increasingly the majority of my time is spent on my computer behind a desk responding to emails, having Skype calls, writing papers, applying for grants and managing an ever increasing manta team.

Setting up an NGO must require an immense amount of work and passion. What did you find most challenging about the process and, as an extension of this, what advice would you offer other conservationists who are hoping to travel a similar path?

The most challenging part of the process, which still remains the main challenge today, is ensuring there are funds to enable the charity to carry out its mission. My advice to anyone wishing to follow a similar path would be to ensure you diversify your revenue streams.

Manta: Secret Life of Devil RaysThe work conducted by yourself and other researchers around the world has contributed a huge amount to the body of knowledge about manta rays. What do you think are the next big questions that need to be addressed and how do you think new technologies (e.g. satellite and acoustic tagging / genetic techniques) will contribute to these?

From a conservation perspective one of the next big focus areas is to try and quantify the extent and impact of bycatch fisheries on the high seas (such as purse seine tuna fisheries) to manta rays and their close relatives, the devil rays; how many are being caught, which species, where, when and how many survive release after capture? Using post-release mortality tags can help us to estimate how many of the rays are likely to survive being captured after release, while the implementation of better management practices can hopefully reduce bycatch.

It is clear from your book that the problems facing mantas are incredibly complex and, as such, will require complex solutions. The final message I took from your book, however, appears to be one of hope. What significant changes would you like (or hope!) to see happen within the next five years in the arena of manta ray conservation.

I would like to see a world shifting away from industrial fisheries which employ unsustainable fishing practices; such as drift nets, long-lines, gill nets, etc. The oceans are rapidly being depleted and we need to protect much greater areas of this common resource from fishing if we want to stand any chance of safeguarding the world’s charismatic species like manta rays from extinction in the next few decades.

Finally – and I appreciate that you must have hundreds to choose from – is there a single encounter with a manta ray that really stands out in your memory and that will stay in your heart forever?

Yes, certainly the encounter which stands out the most is the one I describe in the book with the manta Slice, who I rescued from fishing line back in 2008 in Hanifaru Bay….there are lots of detail on this encounter in the book and here’s a link to the story on our website (although it is a bit outdated now); http://www.mantatrust.org/amazing-experiences-entangled-manta-rescue/


Manta: Secret Life of Devil Rays is available from NHBS.

To find out more about the work of the Manta Trust and how you can support them, go to www.mantatrust.org

 

The Charter for Trees, Woods and People

On 6th November, a date that marks the 800th anniversary of the 1217 Charter of the Forest, a new Charter for Trees, Woods and People will be launched. Read on to find out more, including the 10 principles of the Tree Charter and information on how to get involved.


Woodland Walk by Ted Rabbitts
Image by Ted Rabbitts via Flickr Creative Commons (CC by 2.0)

What is the Tree Charter?

Led by the Woodland Trust, the Tree Charter brings together more than 70 organisations in a united effort to protect the rights of and relationships between trees and people in the UK.

The Charter will be launched on 6th November at Lincoln Castle. This date marks the 800th anniversary of the historic 1217 Charter of the Forest which set out the rights of the people to use the Royal Forests in England. Lincoln Castle is home to one of the only two surviving copies of this document, making the timing and location of the launch doubly momentous.

The new Tree Charter is intended to influence policy and practice by settings out the practical roles and responsibilities of individuals, businesses and government in the UK and will also provide a voice for the hundreds of thousands of people that it represents.

The Charter consists of 10 Principles which cover different aspects of protecting and celebrating our trees. During National Tree Week (beginning Saturday 25th November) ten Tree Charter poles – one for each of the 10 Principles of the Charter – will be unveiled across the UK.

The 10 principles can be read in detail below, along with the locations of the charter poles.


The 10 Principles of the Tree Charter
(Reproduced from https://treecharter.uk)

1. Thriving habitats for diverse species (New Forest Visitor Centre)
Urban and rural landscapes should have a rich diversity of trees, hedges and woods to provide homes, food and safe routes for our native wildlife. We want to make sure future generations can enjoy the animals, birds, insects, plants and fungi that depend upon diverse habitats.

2. Planting for the future (Burnhall, Durham)
As the population of the UK expands, we need more forests, woods, street trees, hedges and individual trees across the landscape. We want all planting to be environmentally and economically sustainable with the future needs of local people and wildlife in mind. We need to use more timber in construction to build better quality homes faster and with a lower carbon footprint.

3. Celebrating the cultural impact of trees (Bute Park, Cardiff)
Trees, woods and forests have shaped who we are. They are woven into our art, literature, folklore, place names and traditions. It’s our responsibility to preserve and nurture this rich heritage for future generations.

4. A thriving forestry sector that delivers for the UK (Sylva Wood Centre, Abingdon)
We want forestry in the UK to be more visible, understood and supported so that it can achieve its huge potential and provide jobs, forest products, environmental benefits and economic opportunities for all.
Careers in woodland management, arboriculture and the timber supply chain should be attractive choices and provide development opportunities for individuals, communities and businesses.

5. Better protection for important trees and woods (Sherwood Forest, Nottingham)
Ancient woodland covers just 2% of the UK and there are currently more than 700 individual woods under threat from planning applications because sufficient protection is not in place.
We want stronger legal protection for trees and woods that have special cultural, scientific or historic significance to prevent the loss of precious and irreplaceable ecosystems and living monuments.

6. Enhancing new developments with trees (Belvoir Wood, NI)
We want new residential areas and developments to be balanced with green infrastructure, making space for trees. Planning regulations should support the inclusion of trees as natural solutions to drainage, cooling, air quality and water purification. Long term management should also be considered from the beginning to allow trees to mature safely in urban spaces.

7. Understanding and using the natural health benefits of trees (Alder Hey Children’s Hospital, Liverpool)
Having trees nearby leads to improved childhood fitness, and evidence shows that people living in areas with high levels of greenery are 40% less likely to be overweight or obese. We believe that spending time among trees should be promoted as an essential part of a healthy physical and mental lifestyle and a key element of healthcare delivery.

8. Access to trees for everyone (City Forest Park, Manchester)
Everyone should have access to trees irrespective of age, economic status, ethnicity or disability. Communities can be brought together in enjoying, celebrating and caring for the trees and woods in their neighbourhoods. Schoolchildren should be introduced to trees for learning, play and future careers.

9. Addressing threats to woods and trees through good management (Land Craigs)
Good management of our woods and trees is essential to ensure healthy habitats and economic sustainability. We believe that more woods should be better managed and woodland plans should aim for long term sustainability and be based upon evidence of threats and the latest projections of climate change. Ongoing research into the causes of threats and solutions should be better promoted.

10. Strengthening landscapes with woods and trees (Grizedale Forest, Cumbria)
Trees and woods capture carbon, lower flood risk, and supply us with timber, clean air, clean water, shade, shelter, recreation opportunities and homes for wildlife. We believe that the government must adopt policies and encourage new markets which reflect the value of these ecosystem services instead of taking them for granted.


How to get involved:

Firstly and most importantly – sign the Tree Charter. By adding your signature you will show your support for the principles stated in the charter and will join the growing list of 1000s of people who want to see trees protected, shared and celebrated in the UK. The Woodland Trust will plant a tree for every signature on the list and will also use your contact details to keep you up to date with the campaign.

• Use social media to spread the word. Use #TreeCharter, #StandUpForTrees and #CharterOfTheForest in your posts, and link to the Tree Charter Thunderclap: https://www.thunderclap.it/projects/62126-the-tree-charter-is-launching

Join a local Charter branch. Join an existing group or, if there isn’t one near to where you live, set up your own. Charters can apply for funding from the Woodland Trust and will receive free copies of the seasonal newspaper LEAF! As a charter branch you will also be able to apply for a Legacy Tree. 800 of these trees are being planted around the UK as a living reminder of the 800 years between the original 1217 Charter of the Forest and the 2017 Tree Charter. Each tree will be supplied with a commemorative plaque.

Explore some of the locations on the Tree Charter Art and Heritage Trail. All locations are displayed on a beautifully illustrated map by Adam Dant, highlighting the role that trees have played in the culture and heritage of our country.

The Tree Charter Art & Heritage Trail - Illustrated by Adam Dant.
The Tree Charter Art & Heritage Trail – Illustrated by Adam Dant.

Woodland Reading:

Collins Tree Guide
Woodland Management: A Practical Guide
Winter Trees: A Photographic Guide to Common Trees and Shrubs
Trees: A Complete Guide to Their Biology and Structure
Woodland Development: A Long-Term Study of Lady Park Wood
Oak and Ash and Thorn: The Ancient Woods and New Forests of Britain
The Company of Trees: A Year in a Lifetime’s Quest

Get involved in National Mammal Week

This year National Mammal week takes place from 21st – 29th October. Organised by the Mammal Society, this event is an opportunity to increase awareness of mammals and to highlight some of the challenges that they face. Keep reading for eight exciting ways to get involved with Mammal conservation in Britain today.

Brown Hare by Sheppy 9000 via Flickr Creative Commons. National Mammal Week 2017.
The brown hare can achieve running speeds of up to 45mph in order to avoid predators. Image by Sheppy 9000 via Flickr Creative Commons (CC by 2.0)

Submit your mammal-related sightings to the Mammal Atlas

Sightings of any mammals in the UK can be submitted to the Mammal Society website for inclusion in the Mammal Atlas. Schemes such as this allow a huge amount of data to be collected and collated – much more than would ever be possible by paid researchers or surveyors.

Download the mammal tracker app

Submitting your sightings is even easier with the Mammal Tracker app. Free to download, this app will allow you to upload photos, descriptions, sounds and annotated images of the mammals you have encountered, and provides a quick way of sending these to the Mammal Society for inclusion in the Atlas. Available for iOS and Android phones.

Contribute to the Hedgehog-watch Survey

Following the success of the 2016 Hedgehog-watch survey, this year the Mammal Society are conducting research into the effect of garden lighting on hedgehog feeding behaviour. The survey is sponsored by Kent Mammal Group, Cornwall Mammal Group, Devon Mammal Group and Dan Brown at Natural World Consultants and will involve citizen scientists filming hedgehogs in their gardens in the presence and absence of artifical lighting. Email atlas@themammalsociety.org to enquire about this survey.

Join your local mammal group

Local mammal groups bring people together in their shared passion for mammals. Most run a series of events throughout the year, including walks, talks and training courses, and they are a great chance to meet other people nearby who are excited to learn about and protect mammals in the UK. Use the Mammal Society map to find a group in your local area.

Enter the amateur mammal photographer of the year competition

The amateur Mammal Photographer of the Year competition is judged each year in the spring at the Mammal Society Spring Conference. This year’s competition opens on the 21st October to coincide with National Mammal Week. Head over to the Mammal Society website for details of how to submit your entry, and check out the winning photographs from this year’s contest.

Learn about Britain’s mammals

At the Mammal Society species hub you can download a useful fact sheet for more than 30 UK mammals. The society also publish a wide range of books including the excellent species series, the popular How to Find and Identify Mammals and the beautifully illustrated Mammals of the British Isles. For ecologists and researchers, UK BAP Mammals and The Water Vole Mitigation Handbook are useful additions to the bookshelf.

Attend a Mammal Society event

Mammal groups around the country will be running events to mark National Mammal Week. Take a look at the website or Facebook page of your local group to find out what’s going on, or head over to the events calendar on the Mammal Society website.

Follow the Mammal Society on social media

Like the Mammal Society Facebook page, follow @Mammal_Society on Twitter and search the tags #NationalMammals and #mammalweek to keep up to date with all the news and events.

 

Hedgehog Facts and FAQs

This article will provide you with lots of fascinating hedgehog facts; learn about their natural history and behaviour and find out how the hedgehog is faring in Britain. Discover ways to make your garden attractive to these spiny creatures and other ways to get involved with hedgehog conservation and monitoring. Plus, get tips on some further reading and view a great range of hedgehog houses and other gifts.

Hedgehog Facts and FAQs. Image by Milo Bostock.
The hedgehog is a unique and much-loved garden visitor in Britain. Image by Milo Bostock via Flickr Creative Commons (CC by 2.0)

Hedgehog natural history and biology

The hedgehog found in Britain has the scientific name Erinaceus europaeus. This is the same species that can be found around Europe and, with the exception of some of the Scottish islands, they are present almost everywhere in Britain. Hedgehogs have even adapted well to urban habitats where they feed and nest in our wilder areas, parks and gardens. In more rural areas they utilise woodland edges and hedgerows where food and nesting spaces are plentiful.

A fully grown hedgehog measures approximately 260mm from nose to tail and can weigh in excess of 1.1kg, although this may be considerably less at certain times of year. The body of the hedgehog is covered in 25mm long spines which provide protection from predators: when threatened hedgehogs will roll into a tight ball with their more vulnerable face, belly and limbs tucked carefully inside.

Hedgehogs are omnivorous, feeding preferentially on beetles, caterpillars and earthworms, as well as slugs and snails. For this reason they are often referred to as the ‘gardener’s friend’. During the night they will travel long distances, eating as they go, before finding somewhere safe and sheltered to sleep during the day. A single hedgehog may travel up to 2km in a single night!

Between November and the end of March, hedgehogs hibernate to conserve their energy, as there is very little food available for them during these months.

Current status of hedgehogs in the UK

In the mid-1990s the JNCC produced a review of British mammals, in which the population of hedgehogs in Britain was estimated at 1.55 million. Since then citizen science schemes such as the BTOs Breeding Birds Survey and Garden Birdwatch, together with PTES’ Mammals on Roads and Living with Mammals have all contributed data to the picture, reporting significant declines in both rural and urban areas.

This picture is a cause for concern, not only for the hedgehog itself but because, as a generalist species, their presence is a good indicator of ecosystem health. Their declines suggest a loss of key soil invertebrates and important landscape features such as hedgerows as well a reduction in habitat connectivity.

As a result of these declines, the hedgehog was made a priority species in 2007 as part of the UK Biodiversity Action Plan.

Encouraging hedgehogs in your garden

Many modern gardens are designed to be aesthetically pleasing but are not hospitable for local wildlife. Tidy lawns and well maintained fencing, although neat to human eyes, provide little to attract the humble hedgehog. However, there are a few simple tips you can follow to make your more garden more appealing to them:

• Attempt to keep some areas wild and overgrown, as this will provide secure nesting and feeding spaces.

• If you have a garden fence, cut a hole at the bottom measuring 13 x 13cm as this will allow hedgehogs to pass through on their nightly wanderings. You could also remove a brick from the bottom of a wall or dig a channel underneath.

• Try not to use pesticides or slug pellets, as these are poisonous to other animals as well as slugs.

• Provide a shallow dish of fresh water along with some dog or cat food, some chopped unsalted peanuts or some sunflower hearts.

• Make or buy a hedgehog home. This will provide a safe and warm space for hedgehogs to hibernate throughout the winter, and also for a female to raise her young in the spring and summer.

• Take care when mowing or strimming your lawn, particularly if your grass is very long to begin with.

Other ways to help

• Contribute to Hedgehog Street’s Big Hedgehog Map – by pledging to make a hedgehog hole in your garden wall or fence then registering this on the map, you can contribute to the network of hedgehog-friendly gardens that is being created all around the UK. You can also report a hedgehog sighting for addition to the map.

• Join the British Hedgehog Preservation Society – as well as raising awareness of hedgehogs and the challenges they face, the BHPS also helps to fund research into hedgehog behaviour and provides financial support to hedgehog carers.

• Take part in a citizen science project – schemes such as the BTOs Breeding Birds Survey and Garden Birdwatch, together with PTES’ Mammals on Roads and Living with Mammals surveys, provide essential data about our local wildlife, all of which would be impossible to collect on such a large scale without the help of 1000s of volunteers.

• Educate yourself about hedgehogs in the UK. Take a look at one of the excellent books below, or do some research online. This great guide provides lots of information about looking after the hedgehogs in your garden.

Recommended reading

Hedgehogs

Hedgehogs
Pat Morris

Presents scientific and down-to-earth information about one of Britain’s best-loved wild creatures, the bumbling and endearing hedgehog. The principal ‘popular’ book on the hedgehog for over thirty years.

 

Hedgehog

Hedgehog
Hugh Warwick

The Romans regarded it as a weather prophet, and modern gardeners depend on it to keep their gardens free of pests. Hedgehog explores how the characteristics of this small creature have propelled it to the top of a number of polls of people’s favourite animals.

 

The Hedgehog

The Hedgehog
Pat Morris

This Mammal Society booklet is written by UK hedgehog expert Pat Morris. It includes lots of general information on the biology and behaviour of the hedgehog.

 

 

Hedgehog houses and gifts

From left to right:
Hogitat Hedgehog House and Care Pack
Igloo Hedgehog Home
Hedgehog Nest Box
Eco Hedgehog Feeding Station

From left to right:
Hedgehog Feeding Bowl
Hedgehog Mug
Hedgehog Soft Toy

 

Made by NHBS – The Ichthyoplankton Net

These bespoke nets, made by NHBS, are being used by ZSL in an ongoing project to monitor juvenile and larval fish populations in the Thames.
The Ichthyoplankton Net

Earlier this year we were contacted by the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) who were interested in working with us to make a bespoke aquatic survey net.

Their specifications required the net to have a square frame with a four point bridle and connections for a flow meter. It also needed to have a diving vane which would ensure that it could be towed stably at a set depth, and a screw on cod end with a bag made from 53µm and 250µm mesh. Following these guidelines, our engineer and seamstress got to work and within a couple of weeks a detailed specification was agreed. The nets were then manufactured and two were sent to ZSL in February.

First draft of the net design

Several months later we were delighted to receive some photos from Anna Cucknell, who manages ZSL’s work on fish conservation in the Thames, showing the nets in use.

 

 

“It was great to work with NHBS, who listened to our specific needs to design bespoke sampling nets for juvenile fish, and used their experience to adapt our designs to fit our needs. Our juvenile fish surveys on the Thames are the first of their kind, in scale and resolution and we hope the results from which will be applicable in the Thames and further afield to help drive conservation and better management of our estuaries for all fish species”.
Anna Cucknell, Thames Project Manager, Zoological Society of London

Ichthyoplankton Net in the Thames
Nets are towed both at the surface and at a depth of two metres. Combined with data from seine and intertidal nets, these surveys provide a comprehensive picture of larval and juvenile fish populations.
Fish Conservation in the Thames

The nets we made for ZSL are being used for an ongoing project to monitor the use of the Thames by juvenile fish.

The Tidal Thames is home to more than 100 fish species including many that are commercially important such as Dover sole and European seabass. It also provides critically important habitat for rarer species, including European smelt and European eel.

Like most estuaries, the Thames provides invaluable spawning, migratory and nursery grounds but, despite this, the region is poorly studied. The ZSL project hopes to remedy this by providing essential information about the health of fish populations in the estuary, and to assess how these are affected by water quality and local developments.

Boat-based sampling for juvenile fish

The project, funded by Tideway, involves both boat-based and foreshore sampling and, excitingly, also provides an opportunity for volunteers to get involved via its citizen science scheme. Volunteers can help with a variety of tasks including measuring, identifying and counting the fish.

For more information about the Tidal Thames fish conservation project, head over to the ZSL website

Interested in getting involved? Sign up here to volunteer.

Have a bespoke project in mind? Contact our engineer, Thomas to discuss your requirements (email thomashk@nhbs.com or phone 01803 865913).

 

Top 10 Bat Boxes for New Builds and Developments

Schwegler 1WI Bat BoxLooking for a bat box but don’t know which one to buy? This article is the third in a three part series designed to help you to make the right choice. Here you will find our top 10 boxes for incorporating into the masonry of a new build or development. The previous two posts feature the best boxes for trees and woodland and for walls and fences.

For each box listed you will also find helpful information such as its dimensions and weight and the box type (e.g. whether it is for summer use, for hibernation or for access into an existing roost space).

The Glossary below provides a guide to the key terms used in the descriptions.

• Woodcrete/WoodStone: A blend of wood, concrete and clay which is very durable. Is is also breathable and helps to maintain a stable temperature inside the box.
• Summer: Summer boxes are suitable for the warmer months but are less likely to be used over the winter.
• Hibernation: Designed to be larger and better insulated, hibernation boxes will provide a safe and warm space for bats over the winter.
• Maternity: Suitable for the formation of colonies and raising of young.
• Access: Provides an entrance to an existing roof space such as a wall cavity or loft.
• Crevice: Provides one or more narrow roost space. Species which prefer this type of box include common, soprano and Nathusius pipistrelle, Brandt’s and whiskered bats.
• Cavity: Provides a more spacious roost space. Bats such as brown long-eared, Daubenton’s and Natterer’s bats prefer cavity boxes.
• Large cavity: These boxes allow space for flight within the roost which is preferred by brown long-eared bats in particular.


Schwegler 1FR Bat Tube1. Schwegler 1FR Bat Tube

• Made from: Woodcrete
• Dimensions: 47.5 x 20 x 12.5cm; 9.8kg
• Box type: Cavity, summer

 

Habibat Bat Box2. Habibat Bat Box

• Made from: Concrete and brick
• Dimensions: 44 x 21.5 x 10.2cm; 13.8kg
• Box type: Crevice, summer

 

Ibstock Enclosed Bat Box B3. Ibstock Enclosed Bat Box B: Small

• Made from: Concrete and brick
• Dimensions: 21.5 x 21.5 x 10.5cm; 5.8kg
• Box type: Crevice, summer

 

Schwegler 1FE Bat Access Panel4. Schwegler 1FE Bat Access Panel

• Made from: Woodcrete
• Dimensions: 30 x 30 x 8cm; 5.1kg
• Box type: Large cavity, access

 

Bat Access Tile Set5. Bat Access Tile Set

• Made from: Clay
• Dimensions: 25.5 x 16cm; 3.5kg
• Box type: Cavity/crevice, access

 

Bat Brick6. Bat Brick

• Made from: Brick
• Dimensions: 6 x 21.5 x 10cm; 1.9kg
• Box type: Cavity, access

Build-in WoodStone Bat Box7. Build-in WoodStone Bat Box

• Made from: WoodStone
• Dimensions: 50 x 22 x 14cm; 6.2kg
• Box type: Crevice, summer

 

Schwegler 1WI Bat Box8. Schwegler 1WI Bat Box

• Made from: Woodcrete
• Dimensions: 54.5 x 34.5 x 9.5cm; 15kg
• Box type: Crevice, hibernation and maternity

 

Ibstock Enclosed Bat Box C9. Ibstock Enclosed Bat Box C: Small

• Made from: Concrete and brick
• Dimensions: 21.5 x 21.5 x 10.5cm; 6.7kg
• Box type: Crevice, summer

 

Habibat Bat Access Slate10. Habibat Bat Access Slate

• Made from: Slate
• Dimensions: 41.8 x 37.5 x 8cm; 1.3kg
• Box type: Large cavity, access

Browse our full range of build-in bat 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.

 

Best Bird Boxes for Different Species

This guide is designed to help you choose the best bird box, based on the species of bird that you are hoping to attract, or that you know can be found in your garden or other outdoor space. Species are organised alphabetically by common name, and for each one we have included information about the preferred type of box and siting location. You will also find a handy list of suitable boxes available from NHBS.


Barn OwlTyto alba

• Box type: Large box with entrance hole measuring at least 150 x 200mm. An exercise platform for young owls is also beneficial.
• Siting guidelines: At least 4m high in an undisturbed area, away from roads. Boxes can be installed inside a barn if there is a clear flight path to the entrance.
• Suitable boxes:
Barn Owl Nest Box
Eco Barn Owl Nest Box
Triangular Barn Owl Nest Box
Schwegler Barn Owl Nest Box 23
Interior Barn Owl Nest Box


BlackbirdTurdus merula

• Box type: Medium box with platform-style front.
• Siting Guidelines: At least 1.5m high and preferably within a bush or shrub.
• Suitable boxes:
Blackbird FSC Nest Box


Blue TitCyanistes caerulus

• Box type – Small box with 25mm entrance hole. Will also use boxes with a larger hole if there isn’t competition from larger birds.
• Siting guidelines – Trees and walls in gardens and woodland. 1-5m in height with a clear flight path. Avoid direct sunlight and busy areas of the garden.
• Suitable boxes:
Traditional Wooden Bird Nest Box with 25mm hole
Small Bird Nest Box with 25mm Hole
Apex Bird Box with 25mm Hole
Schwegler 1B Nest Box with 26mm Hole


Black RedstartPhoenicurus ochruros

• Box type: Small box with open front.
• Siting guidelines: At least 3m high in an urban area.
• Suitable boxes:
Schwegler 2HW Nest Box
WoodStone Build-in Open Nest Box


Coal TitPeriparus ater

• Box type: Small box with 25mm entrance hole. Will also use boxes with a larger hole if there isn’t competition from larger birds.
• Siting guidelines: Site boxes low to the ground unless predation from cats is a problem.
• Suitable boxes:
Traditional Wooden Bird Nest Box with 25mm hole
Small Bird Nest Box with 25mm Hole
Apex Bird Box with 25mm Hole
Schwegler 1B Nest Box with 26mm Hole


Crested TitLophophanes cristatus

• Box type: Small box with 28mm entrance hole. Will also use boxes with a larger hole if there isn’t competition from larger birds.
• Siting guidelines: Trees and walls in garden or woodland. 1-5m in height with a clear flight path. There is some evidence to suggest that crested tits will only utilise boxes if they are filled with sawdust or wood shavings.
• Suitable boxes:
Vivara Pro Seville 28mm WoodStone Nest Box
Small Bird Nest Box with 28mm Hole
Apex Bird Box with 28mm Hole


DipperCinclus cinclus

• Box type: Medium box with open front.
• Siting guidelines: Adjacent to natural moving water.
• Suitable boxes:
No. 19 Schwegler Dipper and Pied Wagtail Nest Box
Eco Dipper and Wagtail Box


Great Spotted WoodpeckerDendrocopos major

• Box type: Medium box with 50mm entrance hole.
• Siting guidelines: On a tree at a height of 3 – 5m. Boxes should be stuffed with soft material such as rotten wood or bark.
• Suitable boxes:
Woodpecker/Starling Nest Box
Woodpecker Box


Great TitParus major

• Box type: Small box with 28mm entrance hole. Will also use boxes with a larger hole if there isn’t competition from larger birds.
• Siting guidelines: Trees and walls in gardens and woodland. 1-5m in height with a clear flight path.
• Suitable boxes:
Vivara Pro Seville 28mm WoodStone Nest Box
Small Bird Nest Box with 28mm Hole
Apex Bird Box with 28mm Hole


Green WoodpeckerPicus viridis

• Box type: Medium box with 60mm entrance hole.
• Siting guidelines: On a tree at a height of 3 – 5m. Boxes should be filled with soft material such as rotten wood or bark.
• Suitable boxes:
Large Bird Nest Box


Grey WagtailMotacilla cinerea

• Box type: Medium box with open front.
• Siting guidelines: On a wall (e.g. a bridge) near to fast flowing water.
• Suitable Boxes:
Grey Wagtail Nest Box
Eco Dipper and Wagtail Box
Vivara Pro Barcelona WoodStone Open Nest Box
Traditional Open Fronted Wooden Bird Nest Box


HobbyFalco subbuteo

• Box type: Nesting Basket 40-50cm in diameter
• Siting guidelines: In the top of a tree near the edge of a wood, preferably overlooking farmland or wetland.
• Suitable Boxes:
Long-Eared Owl and Hobby Nesting Basket
Schwegler Nesting Baskets for Large Birds: 40cm Diameter


House MartinDelichon urbica

• Box type: Bowl with narrow entrance.
• Siting guidelines: Directly beneath the eaves. Locations above windows and doors are often preferred, so a droppings board may be necessary.
• Suitable boxes:
House Martin Nests
Schwegler 9A-1 House Martin Single Box
Ceramic House Martin Bowl
Slide Out House Martin Nest


House SparrowPasser domesticus

• Box type: Small box with 32mm entrance hole.
• Siting guidelines: On trees or buildings at a height of 2m or above. House sparrows are colonial nesters so multiple boxes can be sited near to each other, or terraced boxes used.
• Suitable boxes:
Schwegler 1B Nest Box with 32mm Hole
Schwegler 1MR Avianex
Traditional Wooden Bird Nest Box with 32mm Hole
Apex Bird Box with 32mm Hole
Vivara Pro WoodStone 32mm Oval Nest Box
Starter Nest Box with 32mm Hole
Schwegler 1SP Sparrow Terrace
Sparrow Terrace Nest Box
House Sparrow Terrace FSC Nest Box
Build-in Terraced Sparrow Box


JackdawCorvus monedula

• Box type: Large box with 150mm entrance hole.
• Siting guidelines: As high as possible on a building or tree (minimum 3m). Jackdaws are colonial nesters so several boxes may be placed close together.
• Suitable boxes:
Tawny Owl, Jackdaw and Stock Dove Nest Box
Schwegler Jackdaw Nest Box 29


KestrelFalco tinnunculus

• Box type: Large box with open front.
• Siting guidelines: On a tree or building at a minimum height of 5m with a clear flight path to the entrance.
• Suitable boxes:
Kestrel Nest Box
Schwegler Kestrel Nest Box 28
Kestrel Open Nest Box


KingfisherAlcedo atthis

• Box type: Tunnel with rear nesting chamber.
• Siting guidelines: Buried in a vertical bank beside a slow moving river or lake. Only the entrance should be visible and it should be at least one metre above the maximum water level. Filling the tunnel with sand will improve the chances of occupation. If possible, two tunnels should be placed together, at least 70cm apart.
• Suitable boxes:
Schwegler Kingfisher and Sand Martin Nest Tunnel
Vivara Pro WoodStone Kingfisher Tunnel


Little OwlAthene noctua

• Box type: Tubular box with a 70mm entrance hole and internal baffle to reduce light.
• Siting guidelines: On a horizontal branch at a minimum height of 3m.
• Suitable boxes:
Wooden Little Owl Nest Box
Schwegler Little Owl Box 20
Schwegler Little Owl Box 22
Little Owl Apex Nest Box


Long-eared OwlAsio otus

• Box type: Nesting basket 30-40cm in diameter.
• Siting guidelines: Wire the basket into a tree at a minimum height of 4m. Line the bottom of the basket with small twigs.
• Suitable boxes:
Long-Eared Owl and Hobby Nesting Basket
Schwegler Nesting Baskets for Large Birds


Marsh TitPoecile palustris

• Box type: Small box with 25mm entrance hole.
• Siting guidelines: Site boxes low to the ground unless predation from cats is a problem.
• Suitable boxes:
Traditional Wooden Bird Nest Box with 25mm hole
Small Bird Nest Box with 25mm Hole
Apex Bird Box with 25mm Hole
Schwegler 1B Nest Box with 26mm Hole


NuthatchSitta europaea

• Box type: Small box with 32mm entrance hole.
• Siting guidelines: On a tree at a height of at least 3m and with a clear flight path.
• Suitable boxes:
5KL Schwegler Nuthatch Nest Box
Schwegler 1B Nest Box with 32mm Hole
Schwegler 1MR Avianex
Traditional Wooden Bird Nest Box with 32mm Hole
Apex Bird Box with 32mm Hole
Vivara Pro WoodStone 32mm Oval Nest Box


Pied FlycatcherFicedula hypoleuca

• Box type: Small box with 28mm entrance hole.
• Siting guidelines: In a woodland, preferably overlooking a glade. Boxes should be installed at a height of 2-4m. If competition with earlier nesting tits is a problem, the holes of several boxes may be blocked up until the flycatchers arrive.
• Suitable boxes:
Vivara Pro Seville 28mm WoodStone Nest Box
Small Bird Nest Box with 28mm Hole
Apex Bird Box with 28mm Hole


Pied WagtailMotacilla alba

• Box type: Small box with open front.
• Siting guidelines: On a tree or building at a height of up to 5m. Areas close to grassland and water preferable.
• Suitable boxes:
No. 19 Schwegler Dipper and Pied Wagtail Nest Box
1HE Schwegler Brick Box
Apex Robin Box
Vivara Pro Barcelona WoodStone Open Nest Box
Traditional Open Fronted Wooden Bird Nest Box


RedstartPhoenicurus phoenicurus

• Box type: Small box with 40mm entrance hole.
• Siting guidelines: On trees near woodland or parkland at a height of 1-3m.
• Suitable boxes:
1N Schwegler Deep Nest Box
2HW Schwegler Nest Box


RobinErithacus rubecula

• Box type: Small box with open front.
• Siting guidelines: Bury the box in thick vegetation. Boxes can be low to the ground if predation by cats is not a problem.
• Suitable boxes:
2H Schwegler Robin Box
Robin and Wren FSC Nest Box
Robin Nest Box
Traditional Open Fronted Wooden Bird Nest Box


Sand MartinRiparia riparia

• Box type: Tunnel, approximately 100mm in diameter
• Siting guidelines: Tunnels should be filled with sand and buried into an artificial or natural sandbank. (Banks should be vertical or slightly overhanging).
• Suitable boxes:
Sand Martin Nest Box
Schwegler Kingfisher and Sand Martin Nest Tunnel


Spotted flycatcherMuscicapa striata

• Box type: Small box with open front. Front panel should be fairly low.
• Siting guidelines: On a tree at a height of 2-4m and with a clear outlook (e.g. next to a lawn or woodland clearing). Alternatively on a building, nestled within ivy or other climbing plants.
• Suitable boxes:
Flatpack Bird Box – Open Front
Robin Nest Box


StarlingSturnus vulgaris

• Box type: Medium box with 45mm entrance hole.
• Siting guidelines: On a tree or building at a minimum height of 2.5m. Starlings nest colonially so several boxes may be placed close together.
• Suitable boxes:
Woodpecker/Starling Nest Box
Large Bird Nest Box
Woodpecker Box


Stock DoveColumba oenas

• Box type: Large box with 150mm entrance hole.
• Siting guidelines: At least 3m high on a tree overlooking open fields or in an open barn.
• Suitable boxes:
Tawny Owl, Jackdaw and Stock Dove Nest Box


SwallowHirundo rustica

• Box type: Open cup.
• Siting guidelines: Under ledge or rafters inside an outbuilding. Swallows nest colonially so several cups can be placed near to eachother.
• Suitable boxes:
No. 10 Schwegler Swallow Nest
WoodStone Swallow Nest Bowl
Ceramic Swallow Bowl
9A-1 Schwegler House Martin Single Box


SwiftApus apus

• Box type: Medium box with oval entrance (approx. 30 x 60mm). Where starlings are present, ensure the hole size is a maximum of 28mm in height.
• Siting guidelines: As high as possible either under the eaves of a building or in a loft space with access to the entrance through a wall or vent. A nesting mould or ring of plaited straw can be put into the box to encourage nest building.
• Suitable boxes:
WoodStone Swift Nest Box
No. 17A Schwegler Swift Nest Box (Triple Cavity)
FSC Wooden Swift Box
WoodStone and Timber Swift Nest Box
Vivara Pro Burgos WoodStone Swift Nest Box
No. 17B Schwegler Swift Nest Box (Single Cavity)
No. 16 Schwegler Swift Box
Schwegler Lightweight Swift Box Type 1A


Tawny OwlStrix aluco

• Box type: Large box or chimney-style box with 150mm entrance hole.
• Siting guidelines: On a tree at a height of at least 2.5m with a clear flight path (particularly below the box).
• Suitable boxes:
Tawny Owl Nest Box
Tawny Owl, Jackdaw and Stock Dove Nest Box


Tree SparrowPasser montanus

• Box type: Small box with 28mm hole.
• Siting guidelines: On a tree at a height of at least 2m. Tree sparrows will nest in groups so boxes can be placed near to one another.
• Suitable boxes:
Vivara Pro Seville 28mm WoodStone Nest Box
Small Bird Nest Box with 28mm Hole
Apex Bird Box with 28mm Hole


WrenTroglodytes troglodytes

• Box type: Small box with open front.
• Siting guidelines: Well hidden in thick, preferably thorny, undergrowth.
• Suitable boxes:
Robin and Wren FSC Nestbox
Schwegler 1ZA Wren Roundhouse
Vivara Pro Barcelona WoodStone Open Nest Box


 

Top 10 Bat Boxes for Walls and Fences

Improved Cavity Bat BoxLooking for a bat box but don’t know which one to buy? This article is the second in a three part series designed to help you to make the right choice.

Here you will find our top 10 boxes for installing on an external 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 you will also find helpful information such as its dimensions and weight and the box type (e.g. whether it is for summer use, for hibernation or for access into an existing roost space).

The Glossary below provides a guide to the key terms used in the descriptions.

• Woodcrete/WoodStone: A blend of wood, concrete and clay which is very durable. Is is also breathable and helps to maintain a stable temperature inside the box.
• Summer: Summer boxes are suitable for the warmer months but are less likely to be used over the winter.
• Hibernation: Designed to be larger and better insulated, hibernation boxes will provide a safe and warm space for bats over the winter.
• Maternity: Suitable for the formation of colonies and raising of young.
• Access: Provides an entrance to an existing roof space such as a wall cavity or loft.
• Crevice: Provides one or more narrow roost space. Species which prefer this type of box include common, soprano and Nathusius pipistrelle, Brandt’s and whiskered bats.
• Cavity: Provides a more spacious roost space. Bats such as brown long-eared, Daubenton’s and Natterer’s bats prefer cavity boxes.
• Large cavity: These boxes allow space for flight within the roost which is preferred by brown long-eared bats in particular.


Schwegler 1FF Bat Box1. Schwegler 1FF Bat Box

• Made from: Woodcrete and wood
• Dimensions: 43 x 27 x 14cm; 9.5kg
• Box type: Cavity; summer

 

Schwegler 1FQ Bat Roost2. Schwegler 1FQ Bat Roost

• Made from: Woodcrete
• Dimensions: 60 x 35 x 9cm; 15.8kg
• Box type: Crevice, maternity

 

Schwegler 2FE Bat Shelter3. Schwegler 2FE Wall-Mounted Bat Shelter

• Made from: Woodcrete
• Dimensions: 30 x 25 x 5cm; 2.5kg
• Box type: Cavity, hibernation

 

Chavenage Bat Box4. Chavenage Bat Box

• Made from: FSC Wood
• Dimensions: 38 x 18 x 10cm; 1.2kg
• Box type: Cavity, summer

 

Schwegler 1WQ Bat Roost5. Schwegler 1WQ Summer & Winter Bat Roost

• Made from: Woodcrete
• Dimensions: 58 x 38 x 12cm; 22kg
• Box type: Crevice, hibernation and maternity

 

Improved Cavity Bat Box6. Improved Cavity Bat Box

• Made from: FSC Plywood
• Dimensions: 38 x 24 x 15cm; 1.5kg
• Box type: Cavity, summer

 

Slimline Wooden Bat Box7. Slimline Wooden Bat Box

• Made from: FSC Wood
• Dimensions: 40 x 14 x 12cm; 1.9kg
• Box type: Crevice, summer

 

Beaumaris WoodStone Bat Box8. Beaumaris WoodStone Bat Box: Midi

• Made from: WoodStone
• Dimensions: 65 x 40 x 28cm; 4.4kg
• Box type: Crevice, summer

 

Improved Roost Maternity Bat Box9. Improved Roost Maternity Bat Box

• Made from: FSC Plywood
• Dimensions: 49 x 26 x 13cm; 6.6kg
• Box type: Crevice, maternity

 

Low Profile WoodStone Bat Box10. Low Profile WoodStone Bat Box

• Made from: WoodStone
• Dimensions: 44 x 29 x 9cm; 4.7kg
• Box type: Crevice, summer

 

Browse our full range of bat boxes for external walls.