Great Crested Newt eDNA Service with Nature Metrics

Great Crested Newt by Chris H is licensed under CC BY 2.0
What is eDNA?

eDNA or environmental DNA is genetic material found in the environment. This DNA comes from organisms in various forms including (but not limited to) faeces, mucus, gametes, shed skin or hair. Although eDNA degrades over time, it can persist long enough for its presence to be tested from environmental samples.

eDNA sampling for Great Crested Newts

Sampling and testing of eDNA in pond water is a relatively new, but increasingly popular, method of determining presence of Great Crested Newts. Provided that the sampling and analysis protocol complies with DEFRA guidance and that samples are collected between 15th April and 30th June, then eDNA test results are accepted by Natural England and Natural Resources Wales.

Unlike traditional methods of bottle trapping or torch searches, collecting pond water samples for eDNA analysis has very low impact on newts and other pond inhabitants. It also has obvious benefits in terms of labour time, and ecologists are less restricted to specific times of day for surveying. It could also provide a more accurate method of determining the presence of Great Crested Newts which are notably difficult to survey reliably. The technique is not without limitations, however, and can be problematic in ponds with large amounts of algae or sediment or where accessibility is a problem.

How do you collect and analyse eDNA samples?

The sampling process involves the use of a sterile ladle to collect 20 samples of pond water which are then mixed together in a bag. A small volume of this pond water is then added to each of six tubes containing a preservative solution and control DNA. These tubes are returned to the lab where quantitative PCR (qPCR) is used to amplify and measure the GCN DNA (if present), thus determining the presence of GCN eDNA in the samples.

NHBS and Nature Metrics

This spring, NHBS will be working with Nature Metrics to provide a complete GCN eDNA analysis service. Combining our expertise in sourcing, packing and shipping equipment with the excellent laboratory proficiency of Nature Metrics, this partnership will allow both teams to focus fully on our strengths in order to provide a fast and efficient service.

For more information about Nature Metrics and the eDNA, Metabarcoding and Metagenomics services they can provide, please visit www.naturemetrics.co.uk

 

The NHBS guide to newt survey equipment

05_2015_066 by Highways England via Flickr under license CC BY 2.0
Newt survey – image attribution below

The newt survey season is almost upon us and NHBS has been working hard through the winter to increase the range and quality of newt survey products we sell. Read on for a selection of our most exciting new products and news of some old favourites.

Newt survey nets and bags

Amphibian Net
Newt Net

We now sell a specially designed newt net with a 300mm wide head, 300mm deep bag of soft 2mm mesh fabric, and 1.2 metre wooden handle. The net is attached over the frame unlike our standard professional pond nets to ensure that newts cannot get caught between the frame and bag.

Dewsbury Newt Trap

Dewsbury Newt Trap
Dewsbury Newt Trap

NHBS is the exclusive distributor of the Dewsbury Newt Trap. The Dewsbury trap is safer for both newts and surveyors. Fewer traps are required per pond and the clever design allows the newt to either seek shelter at the bottom of the water column or rise to the surface to breathe even if the water level within the pond changes during the trapping period.

Newt Bottle Trap
Newt Bottle Trap

Bottle Traps

We also manufacture the traditional bottle traps. This is not a fun job so allow us to save you a lot of time and effort with our standard 2l bottles sold with the head cut off and inverted. We also sell bamboo canes for securing the traps at the edge of the pond and Virkon disinfectant tablets for sterilising the bottles between ponds.

 

Torches

 We now sell an even wider range of torches suitable for newt survey.

Cluson CB2 Clubman Deluxe Li-Ion 9.2Ah High-Power Lamp/Torch
Cluson CB2 Clubman Deluxe Li-Ion 9.2Ah High-Power Lamp/Torch

Traditionalists can buy the classic high powered Cluson CB2 lamps with either a lead acid battery or a lighter longer lasting lithium ion battery. We also sell the new CB3 lamphead allowing you to increase the light output and battery life of your old CB2, and a new range of powerful hand torches from LED Lenser that are more than adequate for newt surveys and considerably less bulky than the Cluson lamps.

 

Waders and Gloves

Snowbee Lightweight Neoprene Gloves
Snowbee Lightweight Neoprene Gloves

Generally the aim is to stay out of the water but occasionally it may be necessary to enter a pond to retrieve lost traps or to access difficult sites. NHBS sells a wide range of waders including both thigh waders and chest waders.

We also sell some excellent new neoprene gloves with a nylon jersey knit palm material allowing the gloves to be worn without compromising dexterity and a thick neoprene back to provide extra warmth.

Walkie Talkies and Whistles

Mitex General UHF Two-Way Radio
Mitex General UHF Two-Way Radio

Newt surveys are not without risk and the best way to mitigate these risks is to have appropriate safety equipment. NHBS sells Two-Way UHF Radios so that you can keep in contact with colleagues, and emergency whistles to attract their attention if you do slip into the water. We also have waterproof first aid kits that will stay dry no matter how wet you get.

 

 

 

Main image: 05_2015_066 by Highways England via Flickr under license CC BY 2.0

Book Review – The Book of Frogs: A Lifesize Guide to Six Hundred Species from Around the World

The Book of FrogsThe Book of Frogs: A Lifesize Guide to Six Hundred Species from Around the World

Edited by Tim Halliday

Published in hardback in January 2016 by Ivy Press

Ivy Press brand themselves as makers of beautiful books and The Book of Frogs is a fine example of this. These pictorial books (which we have informally dubbed The Book of… Series) have so far covered fungi, eggs, beetles, leaves, and now frogs (note: if you live on the other side of the Atlantic pond you might have noticed that Chicago University Press has the rights for the US).

Like the other books, The Book of Frogs is a hefty tome, weighing in at 2.3 kg, and portrays 600 representative species from across the Anuran family tree. It includes common and endangered species, and even some which sadly have since gone extinct. A short, 30-page section introduces the reader to the basics of frog biology, including their life cycle, calls, population trends and threats, diseases, and taxonomy. The text is aimed at a broad audience with little or no prior knowledge. Terminology is explained, and a 4-page glossary is included in the back (although does anyone really need to have things like “armpit” and “groin” defined for them?). The text is free from footnotes, and is not referenced, although a very short section with recommended reading is included; and there was the occasional factoid that aroused my curiosity (e.g. the specific frequency range of frog’s hearing means females are effectively deaf to males of other species) and made me want to look at the underlying literature – but it’s no great loss.

Book of Frogs internal image 1
The meat of the book is the 600 brilliantly illustrated pages that follow, each profiling a species. The same layout is followed throughout the book with the top third displaying some technical data: species name; adult size range; a table with family, synonymy, distribution, adult and larval habitat, and conservation status; a world map illustrating distribution; and a line drawing. The bottom two-thirds of the page contains a caption and two paragraphs of text giving a morphological description, some particulars on behaviour, reproduction etc., and a description of similar species. The real highlight is of course the photo content. A huge number of individuals and organizations have been approached to source high-quality images, which have been painstakingly cut out of their background. Most photos are duplicated, one life-size, the other blown up or scaled down. They highlight the diverse and sometimes bizarre appearance of frogs. Look out for the large-mouthed Surinam Horned Frog, the spectacularly coloured poison frogs in the family Dendrobatidae, or the barely frog-like Purple Frog. The book is a delight to flip through.

Book of Frogs internal image 2
Obviously, this book is not intended as a field guide or identification guide. Neither is it in-depth enough to be considered a fauna or encyclopedia, nor an iconography such as coleopterists and conchologists understand this term, although it does remind one of this to some extent. Given its global coverage, you can of course only give a selective cross-section in 600 pages. But calling it a mere coffee table book would not do justice to the carefully curated text. To my mind this book is squarely aimed at the armchair naturalist and those who love beautiful books, as the books in this series are eminently collectible. They make perfect gifts too.

Ivy Press has hit on a very successful formula here and I’m curious to see what will be next (butterflies, feathers, shells?). There are plenty of other small and colourful things to be found in the natural world that could be pictured in this format.

The Book of Frogs is available to order from NHBS.

John Wilkinson, Science Programme Manager with ARC Trust, on amphibian conservation

john-wilkinsonThe Amphibian Survey and Monitoring Handbook is the latest volume in the Conservation Handbooks series, tackling all aspects of amphibian survey. Author John Wilkinson is Science Programme Manager with The Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Trust (ARC Trust).

What is your background in herpetology and what have been some of the highlights of your work?

After university, where my undergraduate dissertation was on amphibian diversity in Northern Italy, I worked on some short-term academic contracts before getting a job coordinating the international response to global amphibian declines with the IUCN SSC Declining Amphibian Populations Task Force (now the Amphibian Specialist Group). I learnt a lot there about the complexities of amphibian declines and the importance of systematic surveys.

A recent highlight of my conservation work was the discovery, building on my PhD research, that toads on the Channel Island of Jersey are a completely different species than those in mainland Britain – they’re actually Bufo spinosus, a species that evolved in Iberia millions of years ago whilst English toads were spreading out of the Balkans. Most importantly, their ecology is very different and they therefore require different conservation measures!

Could you tell us about any major trends that have been discovered by the monitoring schemes you have been involved with?

Part of my work is coordinating the UK National Amphibian and Reptile Recording Scheme (NARRS), which has so far highlighted the serious declines of British adders and changes in the relative abundance of our smaller newts (palmate newts seem relatively more widespread than in former national surveys, possibly indicating a change in quality in Britain’s ponds).

How does a decline in amphibian and reptile biodiversity affect ecosystems?

These creatures are hugely important for many ecosystems as they occupy key niches in the middle of the food chain: as well as being important prey for a wide range of species from otters to marsh harriers, they are themselves important predators, consuming millions of pest invertebrates every year. Healthy amphibian populations in particular are therefore important to human food production and population losses have economic implications as well as resulting in more pesticide use.

What can be done to reverse this decline which is pervasive worldwide?

Though numerous factors cause declines, habitat loss and fragmentation is still the most significant problem. Local planning must take into account the need to keep breeding and foraging habitats connected to boost population resilience – as well as incorporating habitat into landscape-level schemes. At ARC, we’re leading the way on using predictive modelling and GIS techniques to model the effects of development and produce the best outcomes for amphibians (and other species).

If you were given the chance to implement one policy, today, in support of amphibian & reptile conservation, anywhere in the world, what would it be?

It would be easiest to come up with a list! I will, however, highlight a problem in the UK: our widespread amphibians have NO real protection under the law – though the NERC act outlines a “duty to consider” declining species like toads in development. ALL our amphibians and reptiles need full legal protection which is enforced, and which includes their habitats – otherwise developers can continue to fill in ponds and disconnect populations at will. Our widespread species are really a lot more threatened than the most highly-protected ones (the effects of this can already be seen with recent declines in the adder and toad)!

How can the general public get involved with projects to help their local herpetofauna?

  • Join a local Amphibian and Reptile Group (ARG) and ask them if they can participate in NARRS, as a group, to ensure their local information is considered nationally.
  • Build a pond and make a compost heap.
  • Volunteer to help create and manage habitats through ARC and/or other bodies such as local wildlife trusts.
  • Always report sightings of amphibians and reptiles (see www.recordpool.org.uk) – this will help their conservation.
  • Take local councils, conservation bodies (or anyone else!) to task when any local sites are planned for development or disconnection!

Amphibian Survey and Monitoring Handbook

Find out more about the Amphibian Survey and Monitoring Handbook

The Week in Review – 21st November

Sea turtles
Six of the world’s seven species of sea turtle are now endangered, making rehabilitation of injured individuals extremely important. Image by Dominic Scaglioni.

News from outside the nest

This week we learned all about…

The importance of protected areas for conserving the planet’s diversity. Many of our reserves are failing to live up to their promised potential through poor management

The strange wasting syndrome that is affecting many important species of starfish and the scientists that are working to manage this problem.

Rehabilitation of sea turtles over 400 miles from the ocean. At the Second Chance Program, located in Pittsburgh, injured turtles are prepared for reintroduction to the wild.

A new theory which suggests that life could exist on planets in the absence of water, thriving instead on supercritical carbon dioxide.

Flying under the influence: A drunk tank for birds, situated in the Yukon territory, opens for business.

And finally…the UK’s first number two bus (quite literally). Powered entirely by human sewage and food waste, this bus is now in service between Bristol and Bath.

New arrivals at the warehouse

This new Programmable Heated Bat Box lets you set maximum and minimum daily temperatures for each month of the year, as well as letting you set up and monitor up to four boxes remotely via an online interface.

The Nest Box Camera Starter Kit contains everything you need to start filming birds in your garden. It includes an FSC timber bird box pre-fitted with a camera and 30m cable. Simply plug into your TV and start watching the action.

The long awaited new addition of Docks and Knotweeds of Britain and Ireland features additional hybrids and adventives, new distribution maps and keys, as well as 67 outstanding illustrations by Anne Farrer.

Animal Weapons by Douglas Emlen lets us take a look at the extreme weapons of the natural world: teeth, horns and claws, alongside the weapons developed by humans since battle began.

 

The Week in Review – 17th October

Monarch Butterfly
There are difficult days ahead for this fascinating and beautiful species. Photo by Deborah, Flickr Creative Commons

News from outside the nest

We have been keeping an eye on the webcam at Dorset Harbour following announcements that the largest flock of spoonbills ever to be seen in Britain were sighted on the Brownsea Island Lagoon.

The Natural History Museum Wildlife Photographer of the Year Awards are celebrating their 50th anniversary this year, and we were as astounded as ever by the standard of photographs on display.

We read about the plight of the Monarch butterflies, their astounding migrations and the efforts being taken to save them from extinction.

Evolving in leaps and bounds, quite literally; poisonous cane toads in Australia are jumping straighter and farther, allowing this invasive species to expand into new territories at an alarming rate.

We learned some fascinating things about how birds cope with turbulence from an eagle wearing a black box flight recorder.

The beautiful Nature is Speaking series from Conservation International has kept us entranced.

And finally…Raffia the camel became the first animal to be involved with Google Maps in efforts to capture images of the Liwa Desert in Abu Dhabi.

New arrivals at the warehouse

The second addition of British Soldierflies and their Allies contains beautiful photographs alongside illustrations of key indentifying features. It also includes the most up to date information on species’ status.

Sex on Earth is a highly readable work that celebrates and investigates the hows and whys of sex on our planet.

Build-in sparrow boxes are now available in a terraced version, providing space for three nesting pairs. Choose from red or blue brick or face them with your own to perfectly match your building.

The Ltl Acorn 6310 is available with a choice of night vision LED types (standard or low glow) and is the latest addition to the range available at NHBS.

 

Cold Blood author Richard Kerridge on reptiles and amphibians, and the ‘new nature writing’

Cold Blood jacket imageTell us about where you grew up and what inspired your early adventures with reptiles and amphibians.

I grew up in the south London suburbs, and some of my earliest memories involve images of animals – on television, in books and on the little picture cards I collected from tea packets. The wild animals of Africa and India fascinated me. I loved natural history books and stories about expeditions to find tigers and elephants. One of my fantasies was that I had a pet tiger, a huge male who would leap out and scare away boys who were trying to bully me. In my daydreams, as I walked home from school, the tiger would pad along beside me, out of sight behind the hedges.

But what could I actually encounter? Did England have any exciting animals to match the elephants and tigers? I read about otters, badgers and hawks, but they were far from my suburban experience, with its garden ponds and overgrown corners and strips. Foxes were elusive twilight animals. Reptiles and amphibians, however, were dramatic wild animals that could be found near my home. If I scaled down, the tangles of pondweed and banks of gorse and heather became forest and savannah, and the newts and lizards formidable megafauna. The theatricality of suddenly seeing one of these animals was important – the thrill, the intensity, of trying to edge closer without scaring away what at that moment always seemed to be the most vivid lizard yet, or the deepest-black newt. For me the animals represented the wildness that I felt was all around me, all around London, and all around Britain. They were emissaries from all the lakes, heaths, streams, scrubland, grassland and forest of the world.

Do you still have a bath tub full of lizards, frogs and snakes in your back garden?

For decades I didn’t keep any, after coming to feel in late adolescence that our hobby had been cruel and clumsy. By this time I was preoccupied with literature and politics, and teenage social and sexual life. And then I went to university to study literature, and was moving house every year. Throughout all this, the reptiles and amphibians still lived in brackeny parts of my mind, and I was always glad to see a real one.

After the contract had been secured for the book, I made an exception, and acquired some captive-bred hatchling European Green Lizards, which I keep in the garden, not in a bath but a large vivarium made of special Perspex that does not block UV light. The impulse to get them was part of the spirit of starting the book. And I do love having them. I always liked this species, which used to be sold commonly in British pet shops and lives wild on mainland Britain in one feral colony. They are an extraordinary powdery green. The young ones I have are beginning to come into adult colours.

How did your investigations develop? Since 1996 you have been Course Director of the MA in Creative Writing at Bath Spa University – were you ever tempted to go into biology as a career?

I couldn’t have. At fourteen, when I had to choose my O-Level subjects, it was either Biology or History. You couldn’t do both, and History and English were my best subjects. I wasn’t good at sciences, and in those days people were mostly identified at about that age as either artists or scientists. If you were good at one, you didn’t have to worry about the other – that was the message.

My strongest interest, anyway, is in the emotional significance that wild nature has in people’s lives. Our conventional ways of talking and writing about natural history have in recent decades been rather shy of sophisticated emotional language. A split between scientific and artistic ways of thinking has occurred in popular natural history too, since the middle of the twentieth century. The ‘new nature writing’ is attempting, among other things, to bridge that gap, and to explore the ways in which the love of wild nature relates to other life experiences and to shared culture.

For those less keen on the reptile and amphibian fauna, could you share some fascinating facts that might break the ice?

The horror and fear that these animals arouse, snakes especially, is part of their glamour. They provoke strong reactions and feature regularly in thrillers when some sort of eerie spine-tingling villain is required. The fear is fascination. But, to break the ice, I would ask people to see the beauty of each animal’s relationship to its environment – the exquisite way in which a snake or lizard acquires and concentrates the subtle colours of heather, sand and bracken, and receives on its tongue the changing chemical information in the air. They are spirits of their places.

What prompted you to write the book, and do you think nature writing has a place in reorientating people’s attitudes towards wildlife, and the environmental and ecological concerns of our time?

The book has been inside me since childhood. At last – with support from my agent and editor, and inspired by seeing many students do it – I found the confidence to let the writing come. Nature writing has a part to play, I hope. There is a surge of this kind of writing in Britain at present. We are in what has been called ‘the nature writing moment’, and I don’t think the timing is accidental. It seems likely to me that people’s renewed interest in this genre comes from unease about environmental problems and the failure of our political system to respond to them – climate change most obviously, but other disturbing trends also, such as collapsing bird and fish populations and the prospect of a new industrialization of farming. People who read these books may be looking to find out what is happening to wild nature now, and what sort of meaning it can have in our lives. What happened over the proposed sell-off of public forests a couple of years ago was another sign. Politicians had forgotten that people cared about such things. Nature writing is no longer escapist, if that was ever a fair accusation. It is a genre that confronts some of our most important and contemporary challenges.

What advice would you share with amateur naturalists keen to explore the cold blooded inhabitants of their local patch?

Have a look at the Reptiles and Amphibians of the UK website and the Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Trust website. Make an online search pairing the name of your region with the name of the species you want to see. Or go out to any wetland or heathery heath near your home. For reptiles, choose a sunny day before 10.00 am or after 4.00 pm. Approach banks and verges quietly, watching for movements. When you get your eye in, you see animals you would not previously have noticed. Look under logs and pieces of wood, and especially flat pieces of metal. Slow worms often hide there, and sometimes snakes and toads. Shine a torch into ponds after dark. Expect surprises.

Cold Blood: Adventures with Reptiles and Amphibians

 

 

Hibernation time – a quick guide to safe overwintering for your garden visitors

Beneficial Insect Box
Beneficial Insect Box - overwintering for ladybirds, lacewings etc.

As the days grow shorter and cooler, many animals are beginning to look for a safe place to spend the winter.

The best way to cater for most hibernating animals is simply not to tidy your garden too much – a pile of leaves at the back of a flower bed provides a great place for many insects as well as some larger animals (including hedgehogs) to bed down for the winter. However, if you would like to go a step further and provide the animals in your garden with tailor-made winter homes then NHBS can help. For insects, including many important pollinators, predators of garden pests, and species that are important food items for bats, frogs, and many small mammals, NHBS offers a range of nesting and overwintering boxes.

Hedgehog Hibernation Box
Hedgehog Hibernation Box

For popular garden visitors like hedgehogs, and amphibians such as frogs and toads please visit our amphibian and mammal nest box pages.

Bat populations have fallen dramatically in recent decades and one reason for this is the loss of suitable hibernation sites (or hibernacula). NHBS offers a wide range of tailor-made bat hibernation boxes including wooden boxes such as the Double Chamber Bat Box – and the new Triple Chamber Bat Box which we introduced last week here – as well as more durable woodcrete colony hibernation boxes such as the Schwegler 1FW.

Small Bird Nest Box
Small Bird Nest Box

Finally, spare a thought for those birds that do not migrate south to warmer areas. Although most of us only consider bird boxes as being useful during the summer in fact they are frequently used by roosting birds during the long cold winter nights. Putting bird boxes up in the autumn gives birds plenty of time to find them and increases the chances that your box will be used next spring.

Read our guide to choosing the right nest box for birds

Excerpts from the forthcoming Eponym Dictionary of Reptiles

 

The Eponym Dictionary of ReptilesThe Eponym Dictionary of Reptiles

 

Following the success of 2003’s Whose Bird? Men and Women Commemorated in the Common Names of Birds, and 2009’s Eponym Dictionary of Mammals, authors of the first two books Bo Boelens (AKA the fatbirder) and Michael Watkins, and joint third author of ‘Mammals’ Michael Grayson, have returned with this unmissable herpetological hoard.

The book is arranged by historical figure, under which are listed the reptiles named after that person, followed by a potted biography.

Here are three entries from the Dictionary:

Darwin

Darwin’s Ringed Lizard Amphisbaena darwini Duméril & Bibron, 1839

Darwin’s Iguana Diplolaemus darwinii Bell, 1843

Darwin’s Tree Iguana Liolaemus darwinii Bell, 1843

Darwin’s Gecko Gymnodactylus darwini Gray, 1845

Darwin’s Marked Gecko Homonota darwinii Boulenger, 1885

Darwin’s Sea Snake Hydrelaps darwiniensis Boulenger, 1896

Darwin’s Leaf-toed Gecko Phyllodactylus darwini Taylor, 1942

Darwin’s Ground Skink Glaphyromorphus darwiniensis Storr, 1967

Darwin’s Wall Gecko Tarentola darwini Joger, 1984

 

Charles Robert Darwin (1809-1882) was the prime advocate, to­gether with Wallace, of Natural Selection as the way in which speciation occurs. To quote from his most famous work On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection (1859), “I have called this principle, by which each slight variation, if useful, is preserved, by the term Natural Selection.” Darwin was the naturalist on ‘HMS Beagle’ on her scientific expedition round the world (1831-1836). In South America he found fossils of extinct animals that were similar to extant species. On the Galapagos Islands he notic­ed many variations among plants and animals of the same general type as those in South America. On his return to London he conducted research on his notes and specimens. Out of this study grew several related theories; evolution did occur; evolutionary change was gradual, taking thousands or even millions of years; the primary mechanism for evolution was a process called Natural Selection; and the millions of species alive today arose from a single original life form through a branching process called ‘speciation’. Four mammals, three amphibians and several birds (including those famous finches) are named after him.

 

Ridley

Olive Ridley Turtle Lepidochelys olivacea Eschscholtz, 1829

Pernambuco Teiid Stenolepis ridleyi Boulenger, 1887

Ridley’s Worm Lizard Amphisbaena ridleyi Boulenger, 1890

 

Henry Nicholas Ridley (1855-1956) was a British botanist and collector on the island of Fernando de Noronha (1887), when he first reported the sightings of Olive Ridley Turtles in Brazil. However, it seems unlikely that the ‘Ridley’ in the turtle’s name refers to him. There are several theories including one that states that it was a ‘riddle’ where they came from and ‘riddle’ became pronounced ‘riddlie’ and so ‘ridley’. Ridley was known as ‘Mad Ridley’ or ‘Rubber Ridley’, as he was keen to get the rubber tree transplanted to British territory. He was Superintendent, Tropical Gardens, Singapore (1888-1912), where early experiments in growing the tree outside Brazil took place. He wrote The habits of Malay reptiles (1889). Two mammals and a bird are named after him.

 

Russell, P

Russell’s Viper Daboia russelii Shaw, 1797

Russell’s Sand Boa Eryx conicus Schneider, 1801

[Alt. Rough-scaled Sand Boa; Syn. Gongylophis conicus]

Russell’s Kukri Snake Oligodon taeniolatus Jerdon, 1853

[Alt. Streaked Kukri Snake]

 

Dr Patrick Russell (1726-1805) was a British surgeon and naturalist. He first went to India (1781) to look after his brother who was employed by the Honourable East India Company in Vizagapatnam. He became fascinated by the plants in the region and was appointed to be the Company’s Botanist and Naturalist, Madras Presidency (1785). He spent 6 years in Madras (Chennai) and sent a large collection of snakes to the British Museum (1791). One of his major concerns was snakebite and he tried to find a way for people to identify poisonous snakes, without first getting bitten and seeing what happened! The sand boa has his name attached to it because it appears to mimic Russell’s Viper: something he commented on in his A continuation of an account of Indian Serpents (1801).

 

The Eponym Dictionary of Reptiles is published by Johns Hopkins University Press, and is due to be published on the 24th September 2011

Pre-Order Today

Four great books for wildlife gardeners

With wildlife conservation high on everyone’s agenda, here are some recommendations to introduce you to the natural diversity of your garden, and help you to create a haven for wildlife on your doorstep:

Four great books for wildlife gardeners

Guide to Garden Wildlife, by Richard Lewington, is a field guide to all the wildlife you might expect to encounter in the garden – from mammals, birds and insects to invertebrates and pond life. The species descriptions are full of useful detail, and Lewington provides the intricate illustrations that make this a real treasure of a handbook. There are informative sections on garden ecology, nest-boxes and bird feeders, and creating a garden pond.

Gardening for Butterflies, Bees and Other Beneficial Insects, by Jan Miller-Klein, homes in on practical techniques for encouraging insect diversity in your garden. A large-format tour through the seasons, with additional sections on tailored habitats, and species-appropriate planting, this beautifully photographed guide is perfect for every bug-friendly gardener looking to provide a good home for the full range of insect life.

RSPB Gardening for Wildlife: A Complete Guide to Nature-friendly Gardening, by Adrian Thomas, is a fantastic encyclopaedic introduction to how best to provide for the potential visitors to your garden, while maintaining its function for the family. A species-by-species guide to the ‘home needs’ of mammals, birds, insects and reptiles is followed by a substantial selection of practical projects, and helpful hints and appendices, to get your garden flourishing – whatever its size.


Dr Jennifer Owen’s Wildlife of a Garden: A Thirty-year Study, is a rare and illuminating book, in which is recorded – in scrupulous detail – the evidence of dramatic changes in populations in a single suburban garden in Leicester over a thirty-year period. An abundance of beautifully presented data, discussed in the context of wider biodiversity fluctuations, is balanced with numerous colour photographs, illustrations, and descriptive natural history of the residents of the garden. Modest in one sense, but unbelievably grand in timescale – and in its completeness – the rigorous effort and expertise that have been applied to the task of collecting and interpreting these data make this study a real one-off in the field of natural history writing.