The Ray Society: Publisher of the Month

The Ray Society is the NHBS Publisher of the Month for October.  To celebrate this, we have applied some special offers to a selection of their titles. View all Ray Society publications here.

The Ray Society was founded in 1844 by George Johnston with the aim of publishing the types of specialised, yet important, natural history books that were often overlooked or refused by other publishers based on the small profit that they would make.

The society was named in honour of John Ray (1628 – 1705), an eminent British natural historian. Ray was born in Essex and educated at Cambridge University. He published numerous works on botany, zoology and natural theology and his theories and writings are widely recognised as laying the foundations for the later works of both Linnaeus and Darwin.

Early membership of the Ray Society included HRH Prince Albert, William Yarrell, Richard Owens and Charles Darwin. More recently, Geoff Boxshall, Maurice Burton, Roger Lincoln, David McClintock, Brian Morton, Elizabeth Platts (our first female president), William Stearn, Alwynne Wheeler and many others have been active members. A detailed account of the history of the Society by Elizabeth Platts can be read on the Ray Society’s webpage.

To date, the Ray Society has published 179 books with special, but not exclusive, reference to the flora and fauna of the British Isles. One of their most recent publications, Dudley Clayton’s Charles Parrish, was co-published with the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, and includes all of Parish’s stunning paintings of Burmese Orchids. Other notable books published by the Ray Society include Gilbert White’s The Natural history and Antiquities of Selbourne, John Ray’s Methodus Plantarum Nova and An Introduction to Copepod Diversity by Geoffrey Boxshall and Sheila Halsey.

We are delighted to announce that NHBS has recently taken over the distribution of Ray Society publications. The timing is particularly exciting with the upcoming publication of George Else and Mike Edwards’ authoritative and comprehensive Handbook of the Bees of the British Isles. A culmination of over forty years of study, the production of this book has been supported throughout by the Ray Society and much of the original artwork was commissioned and funded by them.

The Handbook of Western Palearctic Birds arrives at NHBS

After 18 years in preparation, the highly anticipated two-volume Handbook of Western Palearctic Birds is now in stock and available from NHBS. Continue reading for a behind-the-scenes look at the logistics behind the arrival of such an exciting title.

Handbook of Western Palearctic Birds

Due to the incredible popularity of this book, four members of our staff dedicated three entire days to unpacking eight pallets of books, carefully repacking them and dispatching them to our eagerly awaiting customers.

The Handbook of Western Palearctic Birds, just arrived at the NHBS warehouse.

Watch the video below for a behind-the-scenes look at how this all happened.

We still have plenty of copies of the Handbook in stock, so order now and take advantage of our special price.

 

Save 25% on all Princeton University Press books

During February and March 2018, we are offering 25% or more off all Princeton University Press and WILDGuide books.

Universities are hallowed seats of learning and University Presses their beacons. Princeton University Press embrace the highest standards of publishing as embodied in the work of their authors from Albert Einstein in their earliest years to the present.

Princeton University Press pride themselves on bringing scholarly ideas to the world; they publish an acclaimed list by eminent authors in subjects that are core interests for NHBS customers. So, during February and March 2018, it is our great pleasure to offer 25% off all Princeton University Press books, available on our website and distributed in the UK.

Our current top-ten Princeton University Press titles:

Far From Land
Hardback | Due February 2018
£18.95 £24.95

 

 

Bovids of the World: Antelopes, Gazelles, Cattle, Goats, Sheep, and Relatives
Paperback | March 2016
£20.95 £27.95

 

 

The New Neotropical Companion
Paperback | February 2017
£20.95 £27.95

 

 

The Arctic Guide: Wildlife of the Far North
Paperback | August 2016
£17.21 £22.95

 

 

Primates of the World: An Illustrated Guide
Hardback | September 2016
£16.95 £24.95

 

 

The Princeton Guide to Ecology
Hardback | February 2017
£29.95 £49.95

 

 

Field Guide to the Fishes of the Amazon, Orinoco & Guianas
Paperback | January 2018
£28.46 £37.95

 

 

Trees of Panama and Costa Rica
Paperback | November 2013
£22.95 £37.95

 

 

Eco-Evolutionary Dynamics
Paperback | May 2016
£41.95 £54.95

 

 

A Mathematical Nature Walk
Paperback | October 2015
£10.95 £17.95

 

 

Browse all Princeton University Press titles

 

WILDGuides produce a series of definitive yet simple-to-use photographic guides to Britain’s wildlife. They also publish field and visitor guides to a wide range of wildlife hot-spots around the world. More recently they have embarked upon a series of photographic guides to the bird families of the world.

To complement the Princeton University Press promotion, NHBS are offering 25% or more off all WILDGuide titles until the end of March 2018.

Our current top-five WILDGuides:

Britain’s Spiders: A Field Guide
Paperback | May 2017
£17.95 £24.95

 

 

Britain’s Mammals: A Field Guide to the Mammals of Britain and Ireland
Paperback | April 2017
£14.95 £17.95

 

Wildlife of Madagascar
Paperback | October 2016
£18.95 £24.95

 

 

Britain’s Plant Galls: A Photographic Guide
Paperback | September 2011
£9.95 £16.95

 

 

Birds of Kenya’s Rift Valley
Hardback | April 2014
£11.95 £18.95

 

 

Browse all our WILDGuides titles.

Please note that all prices in this blogpost are correct as of 6th February 2018. The 25% offer will end at midnight on Saturday 31st March.

 

NHBS Staff Picks 2017

Welcome to our annual round-up of the books and equipment we have most enjoyed reading and using this year, all chosen by members of the NHBS team. Here are our choices for 2017!

Winter Birds

Winter Birds

In Winter Birds, we find Lars Jonsson’s loving portraits of some of the birds that he observed in southern Gotland in the winter months; both the watercolours and the accompanying essays are wonderfully intimate and personal. A fascinating book to dip into on cold and windy evenings, even if (like me) you don’t know your finches from your jays. First published in Swedish two years ago, this is now available in a UK edition, with range maps for both Sweden and the British Isles alongside each species. Expertly translated by David Christie, this is one of my favourite books this year.
Anneli – Senior Manager

Orison for a Curlew: In Search of a Bird on the Brink of Extinction

The Slender Billed Curlew, Numenius tenuirostris, is emblematic of species decline and ultimately extinction. With the last fully-fledged sighting in Morocco in 1995, naturalist and traveller Horatio Clare took up the challenge of sighting this ethereal creature. With precision and clarity and in only 115 beautifully written pages, this book takes the reader on an immersing journey into history, politics, hunting and conservation.
Nigel – Books and Publications

Field Guide to Moths

Field Guide to the Moths of Great Britain and Ireland

As a newbie to the world of moths, this book is a definitive and indispensable guide to UK species (excluding micro-moths). With in-depth descriptions and distribution maps for each species and beautifully clear and concise illustrations, this newly updated guide is a valuable resource and must-have mothing companion, perfect for beginners and pros alike.
Oli – Graphic Designer

Why We Sleep

Why We Sleep: The New Science of Sleep and Dreams

Picking my favourite book of the year wasn’t easy this time, having stepped up my reading efforts this year. But since there has to be one: Why We Sleep is an exceedingly well-written book about the biology of human sleep, and especially the deleterious effects of chronic sleep deprivation that most of us subject ourselves to. Matthew Walker is a gifted writer with a knack for explaining neurobiological principles in clear language and using imaginative metaphors. It actually made me undertake some very serious attempts to change my sleeping habits.
Leon – Catalogue Editor

The Lost Words

For anyone even vaguely interested in nature writing Macfarlane needs no introduction.
His series on landscape, place and imagination has enthralled me since I first picked up The Old Ways several years ago.
Created in response to the nature-related words culled from the Oxford Junior Dictionary, words which are considered no longer relevant to a modern childhood, Macfarlane along with artist and author Jackie Morris have created a beautiful ‘spell book‘ for younger readers. A joyful celebration of both nature and language.
Johnny – Customer Services

Dinosaur MonopolyDinosaur Monopoly

Everyone at the NHBS board game club loved Dinosaur Monopoly. A new take on an old favourite, though we all agreed the T-Rex should not be the Mayfair of this board! Have fun excavating sites, bartering for ownership and making (or losing!) the big bucks!
Natt – Customer Service & Dispatch Manager

 

Petzl Tikka Headtorch

The Petzl Tikka is a brilliant head torch – with a light output of 200 lumens, you really get a lot of light for your money! Having five different light settings, it’s great for close up work, and with a range of 60m is ideal for night running/orienteering (with the added bonus of being weather resistant). From personal use, I would highly recommend this to anyone who is after a high quality head torch for a very reasonable price.
Sam – Customer Services

Mushrooms and Toadstools

Mushrooms and Toadstools of Britain & Europe: Volume 1

Mushrooms and Toadstools of Britain & Europe is the long-awaited field guide by Geoffrey Kibby, the highly respected field mycologist. This title stands out from other fungi guides with its detailed and comprehensive identification and field notes, but for me the real highlights are the gorgeous illustrations and diagrams running through the whole text. One doesn’t have to be a serious mycologist to appreciate the beauty of fungi as presented in this book!
Rachel – Customer Services

Kite Caiman Binoculars

Kite Caiman Binoculars

My pick is the 8 x 42 Kite Caiman Binoculars, which are our newest edition to the Kite binocular range. They have an amazing close focus and far reaching power, they’re affordable, bright, and are great quality. The Caimans make the ultimate pair of binoculars in the field for anyone on a budget.
Bryony – Wildlife Equipment Specialist

Squid Empire

Squid Empire: The Rise and Fall of the Cephalopods

Covering hundreds of millions of years, Squid Empire tells the fascinating story of how the squishy squids we have in our ocean today became what they are. Written with humanity and wit this book is extremely approachable, even by a layperson such as myself.
Luke – Web Developer

The Plant Messiah

In his time working at Kew Gardens, Carlos Magdalena has managed to track down and propogate some of the world’s most threatened plant species. Many of these success stories are shared in The Plant Messiah and all are recounted in Carlos’s enthusiastic and charismatic style. Part memoir, part “botany-101” and part plant elegy, I found this book difficult to put down, and whizzed through it in just a day or two. It is inspiring, thrilling and educational – what more could you ask for?
Luanne – Senior Editor

20% Off University of Chicago Press Titles

University of Chicago Press

During November 2017, we are offering 20% off University of Chicago Press titles

 

If universities are hallowed seats of learning, then University Presses surely are their beacons – beaming out knowledge and understanding, keeping the barbarians at bay! And of the world’s University presses, Chicago University Press is in the vanguard, with a long (since 1892) and illustrious list in subjects that are core interests for NHBS customers: ecology, evolutionary biology, palaeontology, earth history, conservation, history of natural history, forests, marine ecosystems, and zoology.

So, during November 2017, it is our great pleasure to offer 20% off all Chicago UP titles published before November 2017 and distributed in the UK. You can browse the full list of titles at nhbs.com. If you don’t find what you are looking for – but know it is published by Chicago UP – then send an email to customer.services@nhbs.com and we will be glad to source it for you, at 20% off, during November 2017.

Our top-ten Chicago University Press titles:

Wolves: Behavior, Ecology, and Conservation

Wolves: Behaviour, Ecology, and Conservation
Paperback, January 2007
£18.00 £22.50

 

 

CuratorsCurators: Behind the Scenes of Natural History Museums
Hardback, March 2017
£21.20 £26.50

 

 

Why Birds Matter: Avian Ecological Function and Ecosystem Services
Paperback, September 2016
£27.20 £33.99

 

Messages from Islands: A Global Biodiversity Tour
Paperback, February 2017
£19.60 £24.50

 

 

Plant Evolution: An Introduction to the History of Life
Paperback, September 2016
£27.20 £33.99

 

 

Zebra Stripes
Hardback, February 2017
£27.20 £33.99

 

 

The Biology of Reefs and Reef Organisms
Paperback, November 2013
£35.60 £44.50

 

 

Great Transformations in Vertebrate Evolution
Paperback, November 2013
£27.20 £33.99

 

 

Why Ecology Matters
Paperback, May 2016
£15.20 £18.99

 

 

Planet of the Bugs: Evolution and the Rise of Insects
Paperback, October 2015
£10.40 £12.99

 

 

Fantastic books, by great authors

The Chicago UP author list is a gallery of some of the world’s most distinguished scientists: George B Schaller on gorillas; Charles Elton and Charles Krebs on ecology; Niles Eldredge, Ilkka HanskiMichael Ruse and Karl Niklas on evolutionary biology; Andrew Balmford,  Richard Ellis and Stuart Pimm on conservation and biodiversity.

Then there is Robin Chazdon, Susanna Hecht, and Michael Williams on forests;  Tim CaroLouise EmmonsThomas Kunz (bats), and David Mech (wolves) looking at mammals and Martin Rudwick on palaeontology and earth history. The list is long and impressive from some of the most original and influential scientists working in their field.

We invite you to take this opportunity to immerse yourself in the learned oeuvre of University of Chicago Press.

Book Review – Turtles as Hopeful Monsters

Turtles as Hopeful MonstersTurtles as Hopeful Monsters: Origins and Evolution

Written by Olivier Rieppel

Published in hardback by Indiana University Press in March 2017 in the Life of the Past series

Turtles have long vexed evolutionary biologists. In Turtles as Hopeful Monsters, Olivier Rieppel interweaves vignettes of his personal career with an overview of turtle shell evolution, and, foremost, an intellectual history of the discipline of evolutionary biology.

An initial, light chapter serves to both introduce the reader to important experts on reptile evolution during the last few centuries, as well as give an account of how the author got to study turtles himself. After this, the reading gets serious though, and I admit that I got a bit bogged down in the second chapter, which discusses the different historical schools of thought on where turtles are to be placed on the evolutionary tree. An important character here is skull morphology and a lot of terminology is used. Although it is introduced and explained, it makes for dense reading.

I think the book shines in the subsequent chapters that give a tour of the evolution of, well, evolutionary thinking.

When Darwin formulated his theories, he argued that evolution is a slow and step-wise process, with natural selection acting on random variation to bring about gradual change. This is the transformationist paradigm. Turtles as Hopeful Monsters, page 53The fossil record has yielded some remarkable examples where a slow transformation has occurred over time, such as the development of hooves in horses. But equally, there are many examples where no such continuous chain exists in the fossil record. Turtles are one such example, as they just suddenly appear in the fossil record, shell and all. Darwin himself attributed this to ‘the extreme imperfection of the fossil record‘. This lack of transitional fossils has of course been eagerly exploited by the creationist / intelligent design movement for their own ends.

But ever since Darwin, biologists have argued, and still do, that there exist mechanisms that allow for rapid innovation and saltatory evolution (i.e. evolution by leaps and bounds). This is the emergentist paradigm. Rieppel gives an overview of the different theories that have been put forward over the last two centuries, which is both illuminating and amusing. This covers such luminaries as Richard Goldschmidt (who coined the phrase “hopeful monsters”), Stephen Jay Gould (who revived it), and Günter Wagner (who provides the best current explanation according to Rieppel).

Just a little bit more about this phrase “hopeful monsters”, as this is such a prominent part of the book’s title. According to Goldschmidt, major new lineages would come about through mutations during early development of the embryo. This, of course, has the risk of producing monsters when the organism matures, likely resulting in premature death. So, Goldschmidt proposed a theory of hopeful monsters, where such drastic changes would successfully result in new evolutionary lineages with new body plans. His explanations, which required evolution to be goal-directed and cyclical (so-called orthogenetic evolution) have become obsolete, but he wasn’t entirely off the mark either. The best current explanations, according to Rieppel, comes from Wagner (author of Homology, Genes, and Evolution) and others who suggest radical changes to body plans do originate at the embryonic stage, and that the cause is the rewiring of the underlying genetic mechanisms.

Turtles as Hopeful Monsters, page 181The final two chapters of the book show how the debate over turtle shell evolution has gone back and forth between these two paradigms over time. Here again, Rieppel goes quite deep into morphology, this time of the shell, with accompanying terminology. Although the consensus seems to be leaning towards changes in embryonic development being responsible for the sudden appearance of the turtle shell in the fossil record, the final chapter deals with recent fossil finds from southwestern China that have revealed a potential missing link: a turtle with a fully developed belly shield.

Overall then, this book is a highly enjoyable romp through the intellectual history of evolutionary biology, using turtle evolution as its red thread. I could have used a bit more hand-holding here and there, and I feel the book would have benefited from an (illustrated) glossary or some extra illustrations. The reading gets quite technical when Rieppel goes into expositions on skull and shell morphology. That said, this book is an excellent addition to the popular science works in the Life of the Past series.

Turtles as Hopeful Monsters is available to order from NHBS.

Book Review – How to Tame a Fox (and Build a Dog)

How to Tame a Fox (and Build a Dog)How to Tame a Fox (and Build a Dog): Visionary Scientists and a Siberian Tale of Jump-Started Evolution

Written by Lee Alan Dugatkin & Lyudmila Trut

Published in March 2017 by Chicago University Press

How to Tame a Fox (and Build a Dog) tells a remarkable story about a remarkable long-term experiment you will most likely never have heard of. I hadn’t, despite my background in evolutionary biology. When the announcement for it crossed my desk a month or so ago, its subtitle immediately grabbed my attention.

For more than 60 years, Russian scientists have been cross-breeding captive foxes in Siberia, selecting for tameness, in a bid to learn more about the evolutionary history of animal domestication. Written by evolutionary biologist and science historian Lee Alan Dugatkin and Lyudmila Trut, who has been part of this experiment for close to six decades, it tells the story from its inception.

Back in 1952, geneticist Dmitri Belyaev had many questions regarding domestication. Though the breeding techniques were well understood, how did domestication start? The wild ancestors of today’s domestic animals would have likely run away or attacked humans, so what changed to make domestication possible? Being the lead scientist at a state laboratory that helped fur breeders produce more beautiful and luxurious fox pelts, he had both the knowledge and the means to tackle these questions. His plan? Experimentally mimic the evolution of the wolf into the dog using its close genetic cousin the fox. It was bold, both in its timescale, likely needing years – even decades – to yield results, but also in its timing. You see, Russia was still under the communist rule of Stalin, and one of his protegees, the poorly educated agronomist Trofim Lysenko, was waging a war on the “western” science of genetics. Scientists were expelled, imprisoned, and even murdered over their career choice. But Belyaev, having lost a brother this way, refused to back down. Far from Lysenko’s prying eyes in Moscow, in the frozen wilderness of Siberia, he started his breeding experiments, purporting to improve breeding rates in case anyone did come asking. Lyudmila joined him in 1958, and this book is their story.

It’s a story of science, and the authors do a good job distilling the findings into a reader-friendly format. The results are fascinating as the foxes rapidly evolve from wild animals to tamer and tamer companions that crave human interaction, undergoing a raft of subtle morphological changes in the process. But it’s also very much a human story. Of the women, often local peasants, who came to work at the fox farm, not necessarily understanding the science, but showing immense dedication to the cause. Of the researchers, who developed a deep love for, and connection with the generations of foxes, who rapidly became more dog-like in their behaviour and appearances.

It’s a story of persistence against all odds; the experiments are running to this day and have survived Stalin’s brutal regime, the Cold War, and the dissolution of the Soviet Union, with all the economic turmoil that that caused. And it’s a story of an opportunity most scientists can only dream of: being able to follow up on previous findings and answering questions raised by previous experiments. Uniquely, this played out during (or perhaps was able to keep going because of) a period in which our knowledge of genetics, and the technologies available, kept on developing. The measuring of neurochemicals, epigenetics, PCR, genome mapping, next-generation sequencing… as new questions were being generated, so new techniques became available to probe deeper into the mysteries of the domestication.

The book makes for fascinating reading and is hard to put down once you start it. Highly recommended.

How to Tame a Fox (and Build a Dog) is available to order from NHBS.

NHBS Staff Picks 2016

Welcome to our annual tour of recommended reads and equipment highlights brought to you by members of the NHBS team. Here are our staff picks 2016!

The Sauropod Dinosaurs: Life in the Age of Giants

I admit that I’m a bit of a closet palaeontologist. Having decided to forego a career in this field in favour of biology, I have nevertheless retained a fascination for dinosaurs, so I enjoy a good dino-book like no other, and Indiana’s Life of the Past series… oh, wait. Probably the most surprising thing about The Sauropod Dinosaurs is that it was not published by Indiana University Press as part of their Life of the Past series, but instead by Johns Hopkins University Press. For anyone familiar with the aforementioned series, this book would fit right in, and displays similarly high production values, gorgeous illustrations, and accessible popular science. I have yet to go beyond merely flicking through it and admiring it, but I could not resist and got myself a copy as soon as this came out.
Leon – Catalogue Editor

The Arctic Guide: Wildlife of the Far North

The Arctic Guide is a fantastic reminder of the precious diversity of wildlife that occupies the Northern regions of the planet – including mammals, birds, fishes, lizards and frogs, flies, bees, butterflies and flora. There is even a fascinating entry on domesticated sled dogs. It is beautifully produced, as we have come to expect from Princeton University Press natural history lists. Well-designed colour plates are accompanied by unusually descriptive detail by author Sharon Chester, making this an enjoyable general read for naturalists as well as an essential companion for Arctic researchers or travellers.
Katherine – Marketing

Britain’s Treasure Islands: A Journey to the UK Overseas Territories

To research Britain’s Treasure Islands, and the TV series of the same name that was broadcast in 2016, Stewart McPherson travelled to each of the 16 remote islands and peninsulas across the globe that are under UK sovereignty.

The contrasts between the different territories are fascinating, some can be travelled to with relative ease (e.g. Gibraltar and the Falkland Islands), but others are nearly inaccessible and as a result have most wonderful wildlife – one of my favourite chapters describes the British Indian Ocean Territory, home of undisturbed coral reefs, and giant Coconut crabs.

This hefty book is full of adventure and natural history, with fold-out maps and countless photos, and just perfect for dipping into when it’s cold and windy outside.
Anneli – Senior Manager

Bushnell NatureView Binoculars

We all love the Bushnell NatureView Binoculars because they are bright, well balanced and really solid, without being heavy. They have a fantastic field of view for scanning the horizon and an excellent close focus distance so they are brilliant for insect work too. They are very well designed binoculars at a really affordable price.
Simone – Wildlife Equipment Specialist

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind

Sapiens is a very ambitious book, covering the entirety of human history while exploring what the future holds for our species. You will learn to admire, sympathise with and hate our species as Harari examines the key factors which lead to our success over other animals. Through Hariri’s use of creative metaphors, he successfully manages to answer some of the big questions which would otherwise be incomprehensible. I can’t wait to read his latest book Homo Deus, which further explores the future of our species; where we’re are headed and what challenges we will face.
Tim – Customer Services

Bushnell Trophy Cam Essential E2

Whilst carrying out research for my PhD studying chemical communication in the Eurasian beaver I recorded many hours of beaver responses to the scents of intruding neighbours using trail cameras. I also enjoyed taking them home to record animals in my garden and surrounding countryside. The Essential E2 is an affordable yet good quality trail camera that will give you an insight into the animals visiting your garden. It is surprising how many different animals and birds visit gardens without people knowing, although some leave a nice surprise of a dug-up lawn! A friend recently used a trail camera to investigate who was digging up their lawn – badgers looking for tasty leatherjackets!
Hannah – Wildlife Equipment Specialist

Solitary Beehive

Cavity nesting bees make up around 30% of the solitary bees in the UK. These non-aggressive insects require dry, hollow tubes to make their nests and use natural materials, rather than wax, to construct the cells in which the larvae grow.

I bought this small wooden solitary beehive for my garden in an attempt to provide nesting space for these vital pollinators. It has been a great addition to the garden and within a month of installing it, several of the holes had been packed with leaves. This was really exciting to see and suggests that it was being used by local leafcutter bees.

The box is well made and has withstood the local Dartmoor weather (i.e. windy and wet much of the time) really well. The wood has weathered attractively over the year and the box still feels robust and sound. As a fruit and vegetable grower it is great to know that we are attracting pollinators to the garden.
Luanne – Senior Wildlife Equipment Specialist

Heavy-duty Badger Gate

One of our latest developments is a redesign of an existing product sold by us. Our new heavy-duty badger gates are made on site, welded by our own fully qualified TIG welder, ensuring quality workmanship and a finish we hope the customer is amazed by.
Currently, our competitors only use galvanised mild steel. This results in a cumbersome, awkward to use product. Ours, however, is lightweight but still gives the same strength and reusability, making it far easier to transport to the required area and reduce the strain required to set up a gated badger enclosure. Competitively price, this item should fulfil all your requirements and more, a must have for anyone working towards badger conservation.
Thomas – Wildlife Equipment Engineer

Pond Net

Our new pond net frame has been designed and developed to make a more sustainably sourced, budget frame for everyone from young children up. Manufactured in house, it means that we are no longer reliant on external suppliers to fulfil orders, and therefore able to lower the cost to you, the customer. Also, not being shipped from the other side of the world makes it a greener, more sustainable product, reducing airmiles and making it more environmentally friendly. Lightweight, coming in at only 300g, it has two tactile foam handles, fitting very nicely into the hand.
Kynan – Fabricator

Arboreal: A Collection of New Woodland Writing

In memory of Oliver Rackham, Little Toller’s Arboreal sets out to curate a journey through the managed and wilder woods of Britain, with some very insightful companions. The book is a perfect blend of collected nostalgia, fancies, facts and little fictions that each in turn highlights something of the wild wood within us. Authors, journalists, artists, poets and woodland custodians impart wisdom, wonder and hope; and each leaves their own mark on the mind with their input. This book is an immersive, beautiful, lyrical and poignant treat, let it take you into the woods, or better still, take it with you and head for the trees!
Oli – Graphic Designer

Birds of the Indonesian Archipelago: interview with James Eaton and Nick Brickle

Authors James Eaton (centre) and Nick Brickle (far left) with field staff from FFI on the trail of Sumatran Ground Cuckoo near Kerinci Seblat National Park in Sumatra
Authors James Eaton (centre) and Nick Brickle (far left) with field staff from FFI on the trail of Sumatran Ground Cuckoo near Kerinci Seblat National Park in Sumatra

Birds of the Indonesian Archipelago: Greater Sundas and Wallacea is a new field guide dedicated to this major region which contains a massive 13% of the world’s avian biodiversity. Featuring over 2,500 illustrations, it describes all 1,417 bird species known to occur in the region.

Co-authors James Eaton and Nick Brickle share some of their birding insights and in-depth knowledge of the region’s avifauna in this interview with NHBS.

Could you tell us a little about how you became interested in birding and what drew you to this region in particular?

James – My Grandmother gave me a copy of Benson’s Observer’s Book of Birds when I was six, and, wanting to see some of the birds in the illustrations in real life, my father agreed to take me to the local nature reserve to look for them, and from that point on it became an obsession!

Nick – Similar story. I got hooked before I was 10 years old, partly thanks to Choughs, Peregrines and my dad’s old binoculars on family holidays to Pembrokeshire. Ten years later and I found myself surveying White-winged Ducks in Sumatra and never looked back.

What inspired you to create a field guide that covers the entire Indonesian Archipelago? It must have been quite a challenge to cover such a diverse region.

All four of us are pretty obsessed with the region’s birds, both as a hobby and professionally, and all of us have travelled pretty widely in the region over many years. During this time the region has gone from having no bird field guide at all, to having a variety of books covering different parts of it; some now already long out of print. We all decided it was time to put our passion into a project that could do justice to the spectacular diversity to be found here, and so agreed to work together to create the new guide.

Could you explain a little about the unique biogeography of the region which makes it such a biodiversity hotspot?

Hard to sum it up in a sentence! It’s a fantastic combination of Asian and Australasian bird families, spread across 1000s of islands, with Wallace’s famous line running down the middle, and spectacular endemism throughout. For more, read the biogeographical history section in the introduction to the field guide!

Who is your target audience for the book?

Birds of the Indonesian Archipelago: Greater Sundas and Wallacea

Anyone with an interest in the birds of the region! Visiting and resident birdwatchers are the obvious user, but given that it includes over 13% of the world’s birds, anyone with an interest in birds should enjoy it. In due course we also hope to produce an Indonesian language version of the guide, so as to make it more accessible to the growing number of local birdwatchers.

For someone visiting the area for the first time, what are some of the most exciting sites, and the key species that you recommend looking out for?

Where to start! Within Indonesia, the best places for an introduction are probably the mountains and forests of West Java, which are easy to visit from Jakarta, and where many of the most sought after Javan endemics can be seen; or perhaps North Sulawesi, where a trip to see hornbills, endemic kingfishers and Maleo can be combined with beaches and diving; or Bali, where one of Indonesia’s rarest and most spectacular birds – the Bali Starling – can be seen with a short trip from the beach resorts.

Another choice for an easy introduction is the Malaysian state of Sabah in the north of Borneo. Here many spectacular and endemic birds can be seen from the comfort of first-rate hotels, including Great Argus and the completely unique Bristlehead. After that, the opportunities are limitless!

How do you kit yourself out for a birdwatching trip to the region, and can you recommend a great birding gadget or app?

At the simplest, you don’t need much more than a pair of binoculars (and maybe a rain coat or umbrella!). Beyond that it depends a bit on where you are going and what you’d like to see: a telescope can be useful, but is rarely essential, sound playback or recording equipment can be very useful, a camera if you like to take photos, camping equipment if you plan to visit very remote regions. If you plan to explore off the beaten track (and there are lots of parts of the region that qualify as this!) then a phone and google maps can be a surprisingly useful way to look for patches of forest, and then all you need to do is try and make your way towards them!

Do you have any favourites among the species in the guide? Are there any that proved particularly elusive or challenging to observe?

James – Difficult question, can I give two answers? One would be Helmeted Hornbill. Such an iconic bird that symbolises the region’s rainforests. You know when you hear the bird’s incredible mechanical laughing call you are in the rainforest, but equally you are reminded how it is disappearing from many areas due to illegal hunting for its casque. Another would be Bornean Ground Cuckoo. Once a mysterious bird, largely unknown due to its shy nature, feeding on the rainforest floor, but now as our understanding of the species has grown it is possible to see it. Nothing gets the adrenalin pumping quite as much as looking for this species.

Nick – Too many to choose from! For me it would have to be something that walks on the ground… pretty much any pitta, pheasant or partridge is a candidate. Maybe Banded Pitta (any of the three species…)? Or the spectacular Ivory breasted Pitta? Then of course there is Rail Babbler… Actually, more often than not my favourite is the last new species that I have seen, or the next new one that I want to see!

With so many endemic species, there must be some that fill very specific ecological niches?

Endemism is very high in the region, and many species are only found within very small ranges, such as Boano Monarch on an island only 20km wide, or Sangihe Island, only 40km long at its widest point, and with five endemic bird species. Damar Flycatcher too, found in the dark understorey of a tiny island that requires two days’ boat travel from the nearest city. Kinabalu Grasshopper Warbler is only found on the top of two mountain tops in Borneo. When it comes to specific niches, however, small island endemics are often the opposite, in that they often expand their niche due to the absence of competitors. Birds filling very specific niches are probably more a feature of the large islands groups like Borneo and Sumatra, where the overall diversity is much greater.

It is quite well publicised that one of the biggest threats to the conservation of all Indonesian species is rapid deforestation to create palm oil plantations. Are there other threats to bird species which also need to be highlighted?

Deforestation is a big issue. There has been a huge loss of forest over the last decades, but vast areas still remain, and their value is finally starting to be more widely recognised. Hunting for the captive bird trade also remains a huge threat, particularly to those species most desired as pets, such as songbirds and parrots. Local and international groups are working hard to try and reduce this trade, in particular the public demand, but there is still much work to be done to change attitudes.

How can the international community help to support conservation efforts?

As birdwatchers one of the simplest and best things you can do is to visit the region and go birdwatching! Coming here, spending time, spending money, staying in local hotels, eating local food, using local guides, all serves to create a value to the forests and the wildlife that lives in them. This is not lost on local people or the regional governments. Beyond that think carefully about the products you buy from the region, to make sure they come from sustainable and fair sources. If you have money invested make sure that is not going to support destructive or exploitative practices in the region. Finally, support a good cause! There are many, many local NGOs established and emerging in Indonesia and the wider region, all working and lobbying hard to protect the region’s forest and wildlife. Your support will help them achieve this.

Birds of the Indonesian Archipelago: Greater Sundas and Wallacea is available now from NHBS

Shipping Britain’s Treasure Islands to all UK secondary schools in three and a half weeks – phew!

Britain's Treasure Islands: A Journey to the UK Overseas TerritoriesNHBS have worked with Redfern Natural History Productions for many years now and we were delighted to help out with this special project when Stewart McPherson approached us about it.

Thanks to the very generous sponsorship of Lord Ashcroft, Redfern were recently able to donate one copy of Stewart McPherson’s latest book Britain’s Treasure Islands: A Journey to the UK Overseas Territories to every secondary school in the UK and across the overseas territories. At NHBS we organised the packing and delivery of each of these books, which in total was 5250 copies.

The dedicated packing station at NHBS
The dedicated packing station at NHBS

 The UK Overseas Territories are home to thousands of species of animals and plants in habitats ranging from coral reefs to tropical rainforests, polar landscapes and deserts.

Albatross: still from YouTube video "Shipping 5350 books - one copy for every secondary school in the UK"
Albatross: still from YouTube video “Shipping 5350 books – one copy for every secondary school in the UK” – see below

In Britain’s Treasure Islands (aired as a three-part documentary on BBC4 in April, with the book accompanying the series), Stewart McPherson showcases this incredible variety of wildlife, explores the human culture and history of the islands, and documents his adventures in these remarkable lands.

Britain's Treasure Islands freshly unwrapped in the NHBS warehouse
Britain’s Treasure Islands freshly unwrapped in the NHBS warehouse

This is a monumental work of over 700 pages, with more than 1,150 full colour images and 17 specially-commissioned gatefold maps on parchment paper showing the geography of each territory.

You can find out more about the project by visiting www.britainstreasureislands.com.

To send a copy of this wonderful book to every school, NHBS received 47 pallets of books directly from the printers, used seven pallets of specially designed cardboard boxes and 6039 metres of bubble wrap!

Unloading the pallets - all 47 of them!
Unloading the pallets – all 47 of them!

Eventually when all the books were packed the couriers took away 53 pallets of books from NHBS’ warehouse in Totnes, Devon over the course of a week.

One down, five thousand to go...
One down, five thousand to go…

The packing process took six people three and a half weeks to complete! You can watch the video below for a behind the scenes look at how this all happened.