NHBS Guide to newt survey equipment

 

Great Crested Newt. Image  by Lottie

Great Crested Newts are the UK’s most strictly protected amphibian, requiring licensed ecological surveys if a development may affect them. As the first signs of spring emerge, ecologists are preparing for the start of this year’s newt survey season. Below, we have compiled a list of the most common newt survey methods and the equipment needed for each, so that you can ensure you have everything you need as the survey season approaches.

Netting

Netting for adult and larval newts can be a useful tool in both survey and relocation. Here at NHBS, we have designed an amphibian net specifically for the safe and efficient capture of newts. The net bag is attached by a wide velcro collar which prevents newts from becoming caught between the frame and the bag. The bag can also be removed from the frame to be disinfected between sites. The seams have been carefully placed so that they do not come into contact with the front edge of the net, and the material of the bag is a soft 2mm mesh. The net head is 300mm wide and comes with a sturdy, wooden 1.2m handle. We also sell a diamond-shaped amphibian net that comes in either standard depth or deep. Its shape is ideal for easy and safe capture for amphibians and is also available in a collapsible frame for easy transport between sites.

eDNA

The presence of Great Crested Newts can be determined by analysing pond water samples for newt DNA. This process is known as eDNA sampling and is a recent but very effective way of newt surveying that causes very little disturbance to the newts themselves. 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. This year, NHBS has once again teamed up with eDNA laboratory, Nature Metrics to deliver a complete Great Crested Newt eDNA analysis service. Combining our expertise in sourcing, packing and shipping equipment with the excellent laboratory proficiency of Nature Metrics, this partnership facilitates a fast and efficient service. If you would like to find out more about the eDNA services that Nature Metrics provide, please visit www.naturemetrics.co.uk

Dewsbury Trapping

The Dewsbury trap is an innovative design of newt refuge trap that is exclusive to NHBS. The clever design of this trap ensures that any trapped newts have access to both fresh air at the top of the trap and a thermally stable refuge at the bottom of the pond. They can be easily deployed from the edge of the pond meaning that not only is this trap safer for newts, but it is also safer and more convenient for surveyors too. In preliminary trials the Dewsbury trap was found to be more effective at catching newts than traditional bottle trapping methods and can be left unattended for up to 24 hours meaning night visits are not necessarily required.

Please note: we recommend that you contact your national licensing authority (Natural England, Natural Resources Wales, Scottish Natural Heritage, etc) before you purchase this trap. The Dewsbury Newt Trap is not included within either the Level 1 or Level 2 Natural England Class Survey Licence and a separate licence is required

Bottle Trapping

Bottle trapping is a popular method of surveying for both detecting and assessing populations. It can, however, become quite labour intensive, especially if you are looking to cut bottles into traps yourself. To save yourself some valuable time, we sell pre-cut bottle traps with the head inverted and ready to deploy. These can be bought in packs of 40 or 120 and are cut from 2l PET bottles with a 28mm neck diameter. Alternatively, we sell the whole bottles if you would rather cut the traps yourself.

Torching

Torching is a less invasive and effective method of counting/observing newts without the need for capturing them. Torches are recommended to be between 500,000 and one million candlepower and need to ideally last several hours at a time. The Cluson CB2 range is very popular among ecologists and provides 1 million candlepower with long lasting battery life and an easy-to-use pistol type grip. For a more lightweight and economical option, the LED Lenser is a powerful torch that offers up to 450 lumens and a sharply focused circular beam that can last up to 300 hours on a low power setting.

 

Drift Fencing

Fencing can either be used to temporarily exclude or contain newts in mitigation projects. It can also be used to aid the capture of newts for relocation and is typically a short barrier with the base buried underground. Our Tristar Newt Fencing comes in rolls of 100m, is made of UV stabilised polythene sheeting and tinted green. It is designed to resist weather damage and has a life expectancy of 5 years, making it ideal for temporary mitigation projects during development works. It is easy and simple to put up and can be fixed into place with our soft wood stakes.

Pitfall Traps

Often, pitfall traps are used alongside drift fencing in order to trap and translocate newts in relocation projects. They consist of a container that is buried underground often flush with the edge of drift fencing. Both square buckets and round buckets have been shown to be effective and we supply several options depending on your preferences.

Accessories

Below are some accessories that may come in use when surveying Great Crested Newts: 

 

Light & Dry Micro First Aid Kit
£15.95 16.99

Bamboo Canes
From £13.00 for 100

dialMax Vernier Dial Caliper
£29.99 45.00

Snowbee Granite PVC Thigh Waders
£40 (various sizes)

Snowbee Lightweight Neoprene Gloves
£12.95 (various sizes)

Replacement Amphibian Net Bag
£26.99

Broad Spectrum Disinfectant Tablets
£19.99

Breaksafe Thermometer
£7.50

A note on licensing

Please note that Great Crested Newts and its habitat are protected by law. Any Great Crested Newt survey work must be undertaken by a licensed ecologist. Different levels of license are required for different survey and mitigation methods. For more information, please visit https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/great-crested-newt-licences#great-crested-newt-survey-and-research-licences

NHBS Guide to small mammal survey equipment

Small mammals are common and widespread across many of our terrestrial ecosystems. They play a crucial role in ecosystem food-webs as key prey species for many carnivores and are also useful as indicator species for agricultural change and development. Consequently, surveys of small mammal populations can be a useful tool for ecologists, researchers, and conservationists alike.

Small mammals are most commonly monitored through the use of live traps. These allow a range of species to be monitored simultaneously and also allow biometric data such as weight and sex to be collected. In addition, estimates of population size and structure can be calculated using capture-mark-recapture (CMR) techniques. However, other more passive monitoring techniques such as dormouse nest tubes, hair tube, and footprint tunnels are also available. Below we will take a look at some of the most popular small mammal survey equipment.

Longworth Traps

Longworth traps have been widely used in the UK for many years. They are made from lightweight yet durable aluminium and have been consistently well documented in scientific literature and ecological reports.

The trap consists of two parts: a tunnel which contains the door tripping mechanism, and a nest box, which is attached to the back of the tunnel. The nest box provides a large space for food and bedding material to ensure that the trapped animal is comfortable until release. The sensitivity of the trigger mechanism can be adjusted depending on the target species, although Pygmy shrews have been known to be too light to trigger the mechanism. The door can be locked open for pre-baiting for ease of use.

The Longworth trap comes as two options: with a shrew hole or without a shrew hole (Please note that shrews are a protected species so ensure you are aware of the relevant laws in the country in which you are trapping).

Sherman Traps

Sherman Trap

Sherman traps are another popular live-trap which can be folded flat for ease of transport and storage. They work by a trigger platform which causes the entrance door to shut when an animal runs into the trap. Sherman traps are formed of one compartment and because of this, it can be difficult to add food/bedding into the trap without interfering with the trigger platform. The traps may also distort over time with repeated folding. Sherman traps come in a variety of sizes and lengths so that you can find a trap to best suit your target species and can be purchased as either an aluminium or galvanised version which is more resistant to rusting.

NHBS Water Vole Trap

If you are looking to trap and survey water voles, we offer a water vole trap which comprises an extra large (XLK) Sherman trap with its rear door removed and an attached nesting compartment. This trap is suitable for water vole survey, such as capture, mark, recapture studies, as well as water vole relocation projects.

 

Footprint Tunnel

Footprint tunnels are a less invasive method of surveying small mammals. Species presence/absence can be determined by examining the footprints made by mammals that have walked over an ink pad to reach the bait left in the tunnel. This method is especially useful for determining the presence of hedgehogs that are not otherwise easily ‘trapped’. The tunnel comes with a UK mammal footprint identification sheet; however it may be difficult to distinguish between some species of smaller mammals.

Squirrel Hair Traps

Squirrel hair traps are another non-invasive survey method that is designed for red squirrel survey. When squirrels pass through the baited trap, their hair is collected on sticky tabs within the tube. These hairs can then be analysed to determine whether red squirrels are present in the area.

 

Dormouse Tubes

Dormouse nest tubes are a cheap, easy and very popular method of determining the presence of dormice within a habitat. The tubes consist of a wooden tray and a nesting tube. Dormice make nests in the tubes and it is these that are used as indicators of their presence in the habitat. Dormice are legally protected in the UK and must not be handled unless you have a licence to do so. Nest tubes can be set up and checked without a licence until the first evidence of dormouse activity is found. After that, only a licensed handler can check them.

Accessories, guides and books

Below are some accessories, guides and books that are commonly used for mammal survey and monitoring:

 

Small Mammal Holding Bag
£2.50

Pesola Light-Line Spring Scales
From £35.00

Pesola PTS3000 Electronic Scale
£126.00

Heavy Duty Extra-Large Polythene Sample Bags
£0.70 per bag

Animal Handling Gloves
£5.69 5.99

Marking Flags
£2.50 for 10

Britain’s Mammals
£13.99 17.99

The Analysis of Owl Pellets
£4.99

Britain’s Mammals 2018
£17.99

A Guide to British Mammal Tracks and Signs
£4.50

A note on licensing

Please note that some small mammal species are protected by law (e.g. shrews and dormice in the UK) and you must obtain a license from Natural England, Scottish Natural Heritage or the Natural Resources Wales if you set traps with the intention of trapping any species of shrew. Please ensure you are aware of and meet the requirements of any relevant laws in the country in which you are trapping. Please visit https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/survey-or-research-licence-for-protected-species for more information.

Introducing new microplastics nets from NHBS

The destruction of aquatic ecosystems is a major issue facing conservationists globally – causes include microplastic pollution, acidification, global warming and over-fishing. The manufacturing team at NHBS have produced a series of new survey nets designed to help researchers gather data on microplastics and to sample plankton more efficiently. This blog describes the sea trials performed using our prototype nets to establish the optimal towing speeds and sea conditions as well as whether the nets worked effectively and were robust enough to withstand exposure to the marine environment.
Three new nets were tested – the Manta Trawl Net, which is designed to sample microplastics in calmer inshore waters and on rivers and lakes. The Avani Trawl Net, which is designed to sample microplastics in rougher, offshore environments and the Bongo Net (a pair of 300mm plankton nets joined in the middle and weighted with a depressor vane) which is designed to allow researchers to use two different mesh nets during a single trawl. Plymouth Sound was an ideal location, as we had both inshore and offshore designs to test and the breakwater provided us with easy access to both sheltered water and the open ocean.

The first design tested was the Bongo Net. The net performed very well. The sampling depth was easily adjusted by modulating the speed of the boat and the depressor vane kept the net level in the water.  In our tests the Bongo Net performed best at towing speeds of between two and four knots.

Bongo Net

Next, we tested our inshore Manta Trawl Net. The Manta Trawl Net is designed for microplastics sampling in calm inshore waters and on rivers and lakes. The Manta Trawl Net has a post box shaped aperture and twin ‘wings’ (manta wings) mounted onto the frame which serve to lift the net frame so that samples are efficiently collected at the top of the water column. This net was tested at a variety of towing speeds and performed best at speeds of between two and four knots.

Manta Trawl Net

The last net to be tested was The Avani Trawl Net. The Avani Trawl Net is designed for offshore microplastics sampling. The vertical orientation of the aperture of the net ensures that samples are collected from the top few centimetres of the water’s surface in slight to moderate swell conditions. To test this net, we ventured out beyond the breakwater where the swell was approximately 1-2m. The net stood upright and performed as expected at speeds of between four and eight knots when exposed to smaller waves of approximately one metre in height. When approaching larger waves, we found that the net had a slight tendency to cut into the side of the wave at speeds of between six and eight knots and that the net performed best at slightly lower speeds.

Avani Trawl Net
All of the nets functioned properly, and our haul included both microplastics and icthyoplankton (fish eggs and larvae). Both the frames and the nets also withstood the sea conditions well and we could find no faults with their design or build – all told a successful trial.
If you are interested in these nets look out for them in our 2019 catalogue, find them on nhbs.com, or contact us on customer.services@nhbs.com and we will send you more information as soon as it becomes available.

 

Watching Wildlife – Part 2 – Nest Box Cameras

This is part two of a two-part series that will look into different ways of watching wildlife in your back garden. Part 1 looked at trail cameras. In this second part, Antonia Peacock will take a look at nest box cameras and advise you on what to look out for when buying one.

There is a whole world of wildlife in our back gardens, but often these creatures can be elusive or hidden away.  Our range of wildlife equipment can offer you an amazing insight into their world from the comfort of your house, without the risk of disturbing your wildlife.

Come early spring, our garden birds will begin their breeding season. Placing a nest box in your garden will not only give breeding pairs a helping-hand in finding somewhere safe to have their young. But it also provides an opportunity for you to get up close and personal with the goings-on inside with the use of a nest box camera. There are several options and kits out there and a few things to think about when it comes to picking a nest box camera. Here, I will offer some advice and options to ensure you can find the kit that is right for you.

nest box camera
A glimpse into the nest box by Simon Redwood via Flickr (CC BY 2.0).

Wired, Wireless or WiFi?
The difference in nest box cameras come mainly in the way that you receive images from the camera itself. These are either wired, wireless or WiFi. Wired kits can provide better, higher quality, more reliable images, but are sometimes not as convenient as Wireless or WiFi kits. Note that even in wireless or WiFi kits, the camera itself still requires power from a nearby mains source (extension leads are available to buy separately.  Alternatively, wireless or WiFi cameras can be powered by an external rechargeable battery that can last up to 36 hours on one charge.

Kit Contents
If you are completely new to nest boxes and nest box cameras, complete kits are available with a nest camera already mounted inside a nest box. Alternatively, if you are looking to purchase a nest box camera, but you already have a nest box, then you can buy nest box cameras separately

Viewing your footage
You can view your footage in a variety of ways depending on what camera or extra equipment you have. Wired cameras plug straight into your TV with an AV cable (included in wired camera kits). If you would like to view and record footage on your laptop or computer instead, you can buy a USB video capture device for both Windows and MacOS. These devices come with software that enable you to set up motion detection or schedule recording, ensuring you don’t miss any exciting moments.

Nest Box Camera
Great Tit Nest via Nest Box Camera on Windows computer screen ©Bryony James

With wireless kits, the footage is transmitted to a receiver which can then plug directly into your TV or PC using the provided AV connectors. Alternatively like the wired cameras, you can use a USB capture device to enable PC or laptop recording.

WiFi cameras transmit their footage over their own WiFi connection. This means you can connect your smartphone, tablet or PC to the camera’s WiFi to view or record footage.

Watch live footage from anywhere in the world straight from your nest box with the live-streaming capabilities of the IP nest box camera, great to share with your friends and family. The camera plugs directly into your internet router or network switch via an included ethernet cable and once set up on a PC or smartphone app, you can share or watch your footage wherever you are in real-time.

If you need to use a wireless camera, a Digital Video Recorder kit is also capable of live-streaming. The wireless receiver can be plugged into the DVR which can be connected to your internet router to enable live-streaming. The DVR itself allows you to set up motion-detection or scheduled recording. You can also add up to four cameras to the DVR which may be useful if you want to watch from multiple angles or from multiple nest boxes.

Species
You may have a particular species of bird in mind that you are hoping to capture on your nest box camera. Our nest box camera kits with boxes are aimed towards common garden birds. The species of birds that you may attract depends on the entrance-hole size.

Nest box
Nest Box Camera Starter Kit

A 29mm hole, such as that of the Nest Box Camera Starter Kit, is suitable for Blue Tits, Coal Tits, Marsh Tits, Great Tits, Tree Sparrows and flycatchers. A larger 32mm hole, such as that of the Gardenature Nest Box Camera System, is suitable for House Sparrows, Nuthatches, Blue Tits, Coal Tits, Marsh Tits and Great Tits. It also has a removable front panel that is ideal if you are looking to attract robins or wrens.

Nest Box Camera Kit
Nest Box Camera Kit

The Nest Box Camera Kit has a removable 29mm plate that can attach over its 32mm hole meaning it is capable of attracting a range of species. If you are looking to attract anything larger or a more ‘picky’ species, then you may want to buy a species-specific nest box and fit one of our separate nest box cameras to this.

Nest box
CCTV for Wildlife Monitoring – An Introduction

Suggested Reading
For a collection of handy tips, tricks and ideas, Susan Young’s book
CCTV for Wildlife Monitoring is an ideal guide for photographing wildlife in your garden. Whether you are an experienced trail camera user or a newbie looking to order your first nest-camera, Susan Young’s book will offer a wealth of information to help you get even more out of your equipment.

Nest box
Nestboxes – Your Complete Guide

If you wanted to read more about how to make, monitor and maintain your bird box, Nestboxes: Your Complete Guide is a great book that will guide you through everything you need to know about your nest box and its inhabitants.”

All of our trail cameras, nest-box cameras and other wildlife CCTV equipment comes with easy-to-follow instructions. Our wildlife equipment specialists are also on hand to advise you if you encounter any issues or need any help with your kit.

Would you like some more advice on which trail camera or nest box camera is most suitable for you? Contact us on +44 (0)1803 865913 or email customer.services@nhbs.com . Alternatively, reply below and we will get back to you.

Watching Wildlife – Part 1 – Trail Cameras

This is part one of a two-part series that will look into different ways of filming wildlife in your back garden. In this part, we will take a look at trail cameras and what to look out for when buying one. 

One of our Wildlife Equipment Specialists, Antonia Peacock, shares her advice to help you choose the right trail camera for you.

Red Fox Bushnell Trail Camera
Red Fox captured on Bushnell Trail Camera

The variety of trail cameras on offer can be overwhelming, here are a few key things to look out for:

Type of LEDs
In order to capture videos or images in the dark, camera traps use infrared LEDs to illuminate the subject with little to no visible light used. There are two main types of LED flash systems that trail cameras use. These are No Glow and Low Glow. No Glow LEDs produce no visible light and so are completely undetectable by the subject. Low Glow LEDs produce a very faint red glow and so are not completely invisible, this can sometimes alert animals such as deer and foxes. However, they do have the benefit of being able to illuminate better over a longer distance.

Trigger Speed
Trigger speed is the time taken for the camera to take a photo once it has detected movement. If you are aiming to capture a fast-moving subject, then a quicker trigger speed (below 0.3 seconds) will enable you to achieve these photos before your subject has moved out of frame. 

Recovery Time
Recovery time is the time taken for the camera to process an image and become ready to take a second photo. If you want to capture multiple images of a subject as it comes into view of your camera, then a shorter recovery time will allow for this.

Badger photo Ltl Acorn Trail Camera
Badger photo captured on Ltl Acorn Trail Camera  ©Bryony James

Hybrid Mode
Hybrid mode allows the camera to take videos and photos simultaneously. A camera with this capability may be useful if you want to get as much footage as possible of anything that falls into frame of the camera. If you are more interested in capturing only photographs or only videos, this mode may not be an important feature.

Resolution and Interpolation
The quality of the images and videos that your trail camera can take will depend on its resolution. Most cameras have settings that can alter the resolution either, decreasing it through compression, or increasing it through interpolation. Compression is useful if you want to deploy your camera for a long time and memory card capacity may become an issue, whereas interpolation can produce a larger image by adding pixels. The best way to compare the quality of images between cameras is to look at sample photos and videos. The displayed megapixel value is often resolution as a result of interpolation. The true resolution of the image sensor can usually be found in the specifications as the true sensor resolution.

Screen
Some trail cameras come with screens that you are able to view your photos and videos on. This may be useful if you want to take a few test shots to check the positioning of the camera.

Our Suggestions
We have a range of trail cameras to fit all budgets and needs. Here are a selection of some of our most popular:

Ltl Acorn 5310
Ltl Acorn 5310

If you’re looking for a good entry-level camera, then take a look at the Ltl Acorn 5310, an easy-to-use camera with an impressive 5MP true sensor.                                                  LED type: No Glow                                                                        Trigger speed: 0.6s                                                                    Recovery time:  Not stated                                                Hybrid: Yes                                                                  Resolution: 12MP (5MP true sensor)                                                                                   Viewing Screen: yes (internal)

 

Bushnell E3
Bushnell E3

For the next step up, the Bushnell E3 is one of our most popular trail cameras and another ideal entry-level option producing high quality images and videos but at a relatively low price.                                                                      LED type: Low Glow                                                              Trigger speed: 0.3s                                                            Recovery time: 1s                                                                  Hybrid: No                                                              Resolution: 16MP (3MP true sensor)
Viewing Screen: No

 

Spypoint Force-11D
Spypoint Force-11D

If the subject of your trail camera photos or videos is particularly fast, it may be worth taking a look at the Spypoint Force-11D whose trigger speed of 0.07 seconds is the fastest on the market.
LED type: Low Glow
Trigger speed: 0.07s
Recovery time: 0.5s                                                          Hybrid: Yes                                                                                                                                      Resolution: 11MP (interpolated)                                                                                            Viewing Screen: yes (internal)

 

Bushnell NatureView Live View HD
Bushnell NatureView Live View HD

Or perhaps your desired subject is on the smaller side and you are looking to capture close up images, the Bushnell NatureView Live View HD comes with a close focus lens and a live-view screen.                                        LED type: No Glow
Trigger speed: 0.2s
Recovery time: 0.7s                                                          Hybrid: Yes                                                                Resolution: 14MP (3MP true sensor)
Viewing Screen: yes (external)

Accessories
There are a selection of accessories that you may want pair with your camera to get the best out of your camera-trapping experience.
If you are worried about leaving an expensive piece of kit outside and unattended, then you may want to invest in a Python Lock. This cable lock will fit most trail cameras and and will give you piece of mind that your camera is secured in place. Here you can watch how to set up this lock with your own trail camera. You also may be interested in a security case that is compatible with your trail camera. These cases house your camera and secure with a padlock, which helps prevent vandalism and theft.

SD Cards
All cameras need a memory card to store your photos and videos on. Make sure to check what SD card capacity your camera needs, this is usually found in the specifications section. Browse our selection of SD cards to order alongside your camera so that you can get snapping as soon as possible.

Power Options
Most cameras are powered by batteries. We recommend you use Lithium Ion batteries with your trail camera to ensure maximum trigger speeds and longer battery life. Make sure to check how many batteries your camera needs. Some trail cameras are also compatible with solar panels which will allow you to extend the battery life of your camera. This is especially useful if you want to leave your camera outside for extended periods of time.

Bushnell Trophy Cam Aggressor Starter Bundle
Bushnell Trophy Cam Aggressor Starter Bundle

Starter Bundles
If you are looking to buy a trail camera and want to make sure you will be able to get out and start capturing as soon as it arrives, then you may want to take a look at our
starter bundle options. These bundles come with a memory card and batteries that are right for your camera to ensure you have everything you need to get started.”

To see more trail cameras available, take a look at our range here

Would you like some more advice on which trail camera or nest box camera is most suitable for you? Contact us on +44 (0)1803 865913 or email customer.services@nhbs.com . Alternatively, reply below and we will get back to you.

Staff Picks 2018

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 2018!

 

A Pocket Guide to Wildflower Families 

I am a complete amateur when it comes to botanising. I have struggled in the past to make sense of botanical field guides, and they always left me feeling rather stupid and frustrated. This booklet came to my rescue on my walks this year, and helped me make sense of both the plants, and the features to recognise them by, and the field guides! The author, Faith Anstey wrote a great article for the NHBS blog, and with this blog and her Pocket Guide (and her other books), she has done an enormous service for those who need a friendly guiding hand.
Anneli – Senior Manager

 

Wilding

The process of returning the land to nature has a name that is rapidly entering the mainstream; ‘Rewilding’ or as Iasbella Tree’s book refers to ‘Wilding‘. The subject provokes great debate among conservationist and Isabella’s book certainly doesn’t sit on the fence when it comes to Knepp’s experiment. But her book is written with passion and knowledge and whatever your viewpoint, there is no doubt this book has put Rewilding onto the agenda and could be a game-changer when it comes the stewardship of our countryside in a post-Brexit Britain. Everyone who cares about wildlife and nature should read this book.
Nigel – Books and Publications

 

Seasearch Guide to Seaweeds of Britain and Ireland

As a Marine Biology Graduate I automatically drift to marine-based books, and the Seasearch Guide to Seaweeds of Britain and Ireland is no exception, climbing straight to the top of my field guide list. Finding an available, accessible, up-to-date guide to Britain and Ireland’s seaweeds is incredibly hard, especially one that covers all the Brown, Red and Green seaweeds! As an avid seaweed-presser I’m fascinated by seaweed diversity and this guide helps me find and identify the common, rare and invasive species that line our coasts, thanks to its detailed descriptions and distribution maps. I recommend all naturalists who have not yet attempted seaweed identification to seize this opportunity to branch out.
Kat- Editorial Assistant

 

Landfill

I have long considered gulls a paragon of the bird world, here’s a family whose numerous members excel in flight, at sea, and on land, even navigating the fast-changing urban landscape we have created, and not one of these facets kowtows to lessen another. In the wake of some popular gull identification guides in 2018, Tim Dee and the good folks at Little Toller bring us Landfill – a compact, thoughtful and beautifully crafted gem of a cultural companion to these adaptable birds. Landfill also highlights how our wasteful, short-sighted march has shaped their fortunes and our relationship with them.                                         Oli – Graphic Designer

 

BeePot Bee Hotel

The BeePot Bee Hotel is my favourite piece of equipment this year. It is stylish, sleek and is of course fantastic for bees! Solitary bees use this as a safe nesting space where they lay their eggs and where they can find refreshment from pollinator-friendly plants planted in the top. Ideal for gardeners or nature lovers! Check out the wider range of products which can be integrated into buildings here.             Bryony – Wildlife Equipment Specialist

 

The World in a Grain

The staff picks are becoming increasingly hard, as I have read even more books than last year. The World in a Grain is one of several books this year that made a large impression on me. Most people can name at least a few current or upcoming resource crises, but I doubt many people would rank sand amongst a natural resource that we could run out of any time soon. But, as Vince Beiser shows in this hard-hitting piece of investigative journalism, we are and the prospects are unsettling, to say the least. An excellent read that does not shy away from difficult questions and uncomfortable truths.
Leon – Catalogue Editor

 

Echo Meter Touch 2

Antonia – Wildlife Equipment Specialist 

 

The Orchid

I’ve always loved orchids, despite my inability to grow them. The Orchid is an unusual and delightful book containing  many fascinating stories about this beautiful and ubiquitous plant. Supplemented with notes and letters from the Kew archives and 40 botanical prints featuring illustrations by great orchid artists such as John Day and Sarah Drake, it will make a great present for any orchid-devotee.
Soma – Marketing Coordinator

 

Droll Yankees Lifetime Seed Feeder

After starting to feed the birds in our outside space at NHBS, I quickly realised that the Droll Yankees Lifetime Seed Feeder was needed to provide our local birds with food  over the winter months! The prominent perch extensions and robust design makes this bird feeder my staff pick of 2018.                                                                 Marie – Warehouse Coordinator

 

Reindeer: An Arctic Life

I always get excited about a new Reindeer book, especially if it’s about the Cairngorm Reindeer Centre (my favourite place to be in the UK!). Reindeer: An Arctic Life is a wonderful introduction to a fascinating species with great facts and anecdotes throughout. You’ll learn so much about Reindeer evolution and behaviour and learn more about how the Cairngorm herd came to be.
Natt – Customer Service & Dispatch Manager

 

Eco Hedgehog Hole Fence Plate 

I once read somewhere that a hedgehog requires something like 20 average-sized gardens to forage in every night! The trouble is that with our tendency to surround our gardens with fortress-like wooden fences, we do not always make access easy for them. The Eco Hedgehog Hole Fence Plate is a nice way to neaten off and protect an access point for your garden visitors and, at the same time, helping to conserve our hedgehogs. You can even buy a pack of two and give one to your neighbour so that they can make their side of the fence look good too! Or go halves! There you go – neighbourly love and hedgehog conservation for very few pennies!                                                                              Jon- Wildlife Equipment Specialist 

 

NHBS Field Sessions: Waterway Surveys for Daubenton’s Bats

NHBS’ staff members are wild about wildlife! To showcase this, we are encouraging our team to write blogs about their experiences with nature.

During the Summer months, Jon Flynn, a member of NHBS’ Wildlife Equipment Team attended a number of Waterway Surveys for Daubenton’s bats (Myotis daubentonii). Read more about his survey experiences below:

Stretch of the River Teign captured by Westcountry Rivers Trust via Flickr (CC BY 2.0).
Stretch of the River Teign captured by Westcountry Rivers Trust via Flickr (CC BY 2.0).

“On Monday 6th July I took part in a Waterway Survey for Daubenton’s bat along a stretch of the River Teign in Devon. The survey is completed twice per year in conjunction with the Bat Conservation Trust and is part of an ongoing data collection programme for bat species around the UK. The lead for this particular survey was John Mitchell who has been surveying this particular length of the Teign, near Teigngrace, for a good number of years. It was my third survey there.

The survey was due to start 40 minutes after sunset, so we met at 9.00pm and made our way along the edge of a maize field to arrive at our first stopping point. This was to be a transect survey which meant walking a length of the river bank and stopping at ten predetermined points to record bat activity at each one. We stood at the river’s edge and immediately noticed that the river level was a lot lower than it was during our last visit a year or so ago. We recorded air temperature and cloud cover and, as we prepared, various species of bats could already be seen zooming around the trees and openings as they commenced another night of nocturnal foraging. The air was very warm, still and humid, and flying insects were everywhere including a host of moths and some less welcome biting species.

As the light faded it was time to start. With bat detectors switched on and earphones in place, we directed a torch beam on the river’s surface and awaited the arrival of the first Daubenton’s.

Looking for bats at twilight by Nic McPhee via Flickr (CC BY 2.0).
Looking for bats at twilight by Nic McPhee via Flickr (CC BY 2.0).

The Daubenton’s bat is a species which typically occupies riparian woodland.  They often roost in trees along the river bank and hunt by skimming low over the surface of the water for insects. They can take prey from the water’s surface using their feet or tail membrane.

As bats skimmed through the torch beam we were able to count them. We counted the number of passes that we observed and for this a clicker counter is always useful! The bats that we heard but did not see were also recorded as additional information. I set my Magenta 5 at 50hz and listened whilst John relied on his trusty and more accomplished Bat Box Duet.

After four minutes on the stopwatch we finished counting, compared counts and wrote down results. At stop number 1 there were certainly bats present, but they were swooping around quite high above the water surface and not showing the typical behaviour of Daubenton’s – John was dubious that they were our target species so we recorded them only as potential sightings.

Using GPS devices and torches we left for Survey Point 2 further down the river bank and repeated the same process as before. At this location there was no denying that these WERE Daubenton’s bats, as the torch beam caught their pale almost white ventral fur, confirming their identity. Our detectors were full of noise too, including the typical intense zap as a bat homed in on prey.

A close-up of a Daubenton's bat. Image captured by Gilles San Martin via Flickr (CC BY 2.0).
A close-up of a Daubenton’s bat. Image captured by Gilles San Martin via Flickr (CC BY 2.0).

On we progressed with eight more stopping points to go. Occasionally our river bank scrambles took us through thickets of invasive Himalayan balsam (Impatiens glanduliferaand Japanese knotweed (Fallopia japonica) a sobering reminder of how our countryside is changing. The night remained still and warm and it almost felt like we were in a different country.

After eight more stops my watch said 11:20pm. It was good to see that bats were in profusion that night, as John stated ‘It was one of the best ever totals, with one stopping point recording over 50 passes!‘.

Two weeks later and we repeated the process. But this second night felt noticeably cooler and there were fewer insects on the wing. Nevertheless bats were still out and about in reasonable numbers and an average score was calculated between the two Waterway surveys.  Overall there were encouraging signs that the Daubenton’s bat continues to do well along this particular stretch of the Teign.”

To find out more information about the various bat detectors available, go to our website. To find out more about how you can help bats in your local area, have a look at our handy guide.

If you like the idea of taking part in Waterway Surveys (or other kinds of bat surveys) then contact the Bat Conservation Trust or have a look at their website here. It’s great fun and you can put your bat detector to important use!

An NHBS field trip – searching for Nightjars

This week a small group of us took a trip to Dartmoor to try and catch a glimpse of Nightjars. As well as getting a chance to see one of the UK’s most elusive birds this was also a great opportunity to field test some of the equipment we sell.

Heading out to Dartmoor in the evening. Image by Oliver Haines.

Nightjars are cryptic, nocturnal birds that arrive in the UK in May to breed before migrating south in September. For the best chance to see these amazing creatures you need to head to heathland, moorland or open woodland on a warm, still evening. If you are early enough in the season you may also get a chance to see the males displaying, showcasing a repertoire of wing claps and churring.

This great selection of equipment meant that we could look out for bats and moths as well as Nightjars. Image by Oliver Haines.

So what did we pack for an evening of Nightjar watching? Our kit bag is below:

Wildlife Equipment Manager Steve sets up the SM4 Acoustic Recorder. Image by Oliver Haines.

Looking for moths using a simple torch and white sheet. Image by Oliver Haines.

At the site we visited we were lucky enough to see 2-3 males displaying and, despite the low light conditions, the binoculars were extremely useful for picking out individuals on branches. We were also able to capture some great audio recordings with the SM4 Acoustic recorder which we deployed for a few hours. A sample audio clip from the SM4 can be found below. The Tascam allowed us to record as we watched the nightjars displaying, giving us the chance to record all parts of the display. During the walk back we started up a couple of the bat detectors and were greeted by a few different species including noctules and pipistrelles.


Images by Oliver Haines and from Nightjars of the World.

What would we take next time?

A parabolic microphone (Telinga PRO-X or Hi-Sound Mono Parabolic Microphone) would have been extremely useful for getting some high-quality recordings. Although the Tascam worked well by itself, a highly directional parabolic microphone would have allowed us to get higher quality recordings and reduce background noise.

The binoculars performed fairly well given the low light conditions but on the next trip I would be really interested in testing a night vision scope such as the Pulsar Digiforce 860RT as a way to try and spot perched nightjars later into the evening.

Nightjar chicks in their nest on the ground. Image by Oliver Haines.

We had a great evening observing these fascinating birds and I highly recommend it. Nightjar populations have been recovering recently but they are still an amber listed species. They are highly sensitive to habitat change and, since they nest on the ground, are particularly vulnerable to disturbance from people and dogs. So if you decide to go and observe the Nightjars displaying this summer please be mindful, stick to paths and keep dogs on leads. More information on Nightjar conservation and identification can be found on the RSPB website.

Listening In The Field: Thoughts on Field Recording

Separating the Signals From the Noise
Image from Wild Soundscapes: Discovering the Voice of the Natural World

 

 

 

 

 

NHBS equipment team member Johnny Mitchell, developed a keen interest in sound design and field recording whilst studying contemporary music. He continues to be fascinated by the technical challenges of field recording and its use for ecologists. With the recent publication of Joeri Bruyninckx’s Listening In The Field, interest around this subject continues to grow, so Johnny has provided some thoughts about the art of wildlife sound recording along with some excellent book recommendations.

‘In its broadest sense, field recording is the act of capturing sound outside of a traditional recording studio environment.

We live, it seems, in a culture that values vision and image above all other senses. In our increasingly noisy society, and as the cacophony of human-induced noise increases around us, it can be easy to forget the value of simply listening as a way to engage with the natural world.

One of the most evocative and earliest examples of field recording can be can found in the BBC recordings of Cellist Beatrice Harrison who, whilst playing in the garden at her home in Oxted, Surrey, noticed that the nightingales in the woods around her responded to, and even echoed, the notes of her cello. Broadcast just two years after the Birth of BBC radio in the early 1920’s, it was the first time that wildlife had been broadcast over live radio in the UK, and it proved to be so popular that the recordings were repeated every spring for the following 12 years.

Listening In The Field: Recording and the Science of Birdsong
Hardback | May 2018
£26.99

 

 

Advances in high-quality, portable audio equipment have led to a fascinating cross-pollination between artists, musicians and scientists. In his new book, Listening in the Field, Joeri Bruyninckx traces the development of field recording and its use in field ornithology. Drawing on expertise from experimental music to serious science, it provides a thorough and wide-ranging investigation into the power of sound and listening.

Anyone looking for further reading on the subject would do well to look to the work of Bernie Krause; in particular The Great Animal Orchestra and Wild Soundscapes.

In The Great Animal Orchestra, Krause, a former musician/composer and now leading expert in soundscape ecology, details his experiences in over 40 years of collecting wild soundscapes and explores what these can tell us about the health of various biomes.

 

Wild Soundscapes offers the reader both a philosophical guide and practical handbook- it is a highly readable and invaluable guide into the many techniques and different types of audio equipment available to anyone making their first forays into the field.

 

Krause encourages us to take a widescreen view of the soundscape as a whole rather than focusing on single species. Whilst listening to his recorded sounds and visualising them using spectograms, Krause also developed his ‘niche hypothesis’ – discovering that many creatures have developed temporal and frequency niches in which to communicate. What we would perceive as a chaotic web of sound is, he argues, highly ordered, and organisms in a soundscape structure their vocalisations over both frequency and time.

Tragically, over half of the soundscapes in Krause’s archive have either been dramatically altered by human activity or silenced altogether. However, as interest and technology advance it is fair to say that we are coming to understand and value the natural soundscape around us and our effect upon it’.

Field Recording Equipment

At NHBS you will find a great range of microphones, recorders and accessories for field recording.

Hi-Sound Mono Parabolic Microphone
H2a Hydrophone

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sennheiser MKH 416-P48 U3 Microphone
Basic Stereo Hydrophone

 

 

 
Tascam DR-05 Handheld Recorder
Tascam DR-40 Handheld Recorder
Further reading:

The Sound Approach to Birding: A Guide to Understanding Bird Sound
Hardback | Dec 2006
£29.95

 

In The Field: The Art of Field Recording
Hardback | May 2018
£11.99

 

 

Further listening:

Browse our range of wildlife audio CDs and listen to the sounds of the Amazon, the pure voice of the nightingale or the frog calls of Madagascar.  Find the full list here.

 

Enjoy being in the field, there really is plenty to listen to.

 

Please note that prices stated in this blog post are correct at the time of publishing and are subject to change at any time.

 

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