Successful park for sharks. South Africa, a global hotspot for over 191 species of sharks, rays, skates and chimaeras, is reviewing its National Plan of Action for the Conservation and Management of Sharks. One of their 42 marine protected areas, the De Hoop no-take MPA, was the focus of a study into the potential protective benefit of these MPAs for threatened shark species. The study found that both protected and commercially exploited shark species were in higher abundance within the MPA. This data will help in South Africa’s assessment of its reserve design.
A new study shows that widespread plants are displacing rare species across habitats. The species composition of Europe’s grasslands, forests and mountain summits are becoming increasingly similar. In recent decades, widely distributed plant species that prefer nutrient-rich habitats have increased and more restricted species with a preference for nutrient-poor soils are declining. The main driver is thought to be the increasing amounts of nutrients in soils due to anthropogenic nitrogen input, mainly from agriculture, industry and traffic.
Airborne DNA has been used to detect insect species in breakthrough for ecologists. 85 species have been identified in a study by Lund University in Sweden, which suggests that airborne environmental DNA (eDNA) may become a useful tool in monitoring trends in insect abundance and biodiversity. The study also detected evidence of plants, fungi, algae and several vertebrates, including a woodpigeon, hedgehog and red squirrel, in the air sampled from three sites.
It is set up via the free accompanying app Green Feathers. This camera is designed to live stream footage to your smartphone or tablet via Wi-Fi and can be watched on a web browser (Google Chrome or Microsoft Edge) once having been set up via your smartphone, or can be viewed and recorded on a computer via OBS Studio, or even live streamed to YouTube.
For a reliable connection, the camera is mains powered and extension cables are available to make installation more flexible if needed. The footage is recorded to a micro SD card up to the size of 128GB. You can add several cameras to the app if you want to watch different angles in your garden simultaneously.
It is worth noting that these cameras run on 2.4GHz Wi-Fi. This is not usually an issue as most Wi-Fi routers run both 5GHz and 2.4GHz, but if you do need help with this there is an online help guide available.
How we tested
To check out how the Wi-Fi Bullet Wildlife Camera performs in a real life setting it was set up in an urban garden. It was placed on the outside of a greenhouse, facing different angles. We set the camera up to record when motion was detected. This is called event recording on the app but continuous recording is also a possibility. We enabled local recording to allow the footage to be recorded to the micro SD card.
We set up a motion detection alarm to alert us when motion was detected on the camera so that the footage could be watched live if wanted. We had this scheduled for between the hours of 7am and 11:30pm so that we would not be disturbed by notifications in the night. This does not stop the recording from happening at that time, but simply stops the notifications. The alarm sensitivity was set to ‘high’.
We predominantly viewed and recorded the footage on a smartphone but also tested out using OBS Studio alongside VLC to view and record the footage on a laptop, as well as watching the live feed on Google Chrome.
What we found
Setting up the camera was very quick and easy. Once we had downloaded the app it was quite a simple process and the app guides you through the setup process. If you do run into difficulties, there are a number of help guides online which include video tutorials.
Initially, we were not sure whether having the sensitivity set to high would result in lots of recordings triggered by wind, as the weather during testing was windy and autumnal, with hail showers and leaves falling from surrounding trees. We were pleased to find this was not the case. The only ‘false’ recording we experienced were spiders walking over the lens of the camera, too close for the camera to focus on, and as we had the camera set up facing the house, we noticed that at night the camera triggered when lights were turned on and off in the house when curtains weren’t drawn.
We did find that the motion trigger was more reliable when at a closer level to the subject. For this reason we predominantly kept the camera at a low height rather than placing it higher up and pointing down. We would recommend playing around with the location of the camera before permanently fixing it to a location using the included screws and fixing brackets. While wood pigeons and magpies triggered recording at distances of several meters, and cats (and people) even further, to the maximum tested distance of approx. 5 meters, we did find that smaller birds such as sparrows only triggered the camera when within 1 meter of the camera. For this reason, if you are wanting to use this camera for watching feeding stations for small bird/small mammals, we would recommend mounting the camera close to the feeding station or going for the 1080p HD Wired Outdoor Bird Feeder Camera if you would like a constant video feed to a TV (please note the Outdoor Bird Feeder Camera does not record sound).
We were impressed with the sound quality of the recordings. Although we did not manage to record a good video of the sparrows and starlings singing in the trees (the backlighting and distance to the tree was too far for good footage), they can be heard in other recordings. The camera does make some noise itself while recording but this was not too loud or distracting. We were also impressed with how little the noise of the wind was picked up by the camera.
The camera has an impressive viewing area, much larger than we were anticipating, however this did result in a bit of a fish eye effect to the footage. This was only really seen to affect the subjects being filmed when they were very close to the camera (as seen in footage of the cats having a good investigation of the camera).
The infrared, low light footage did kick in quite early some evenings, although these were particularly gloomy evenings. The footage was still nice and clear in the dark, as it was during the day, and the motion detection did not seem to be affected by whether it was day or night.
Exporting the videos from the camera was a little bit of a drawn out process as the videos are accessed via the playback function in the app while connected to the camera. From here you can see the event recordings as grey lines on the timeline on the bottom of the video feed. This timeline can be expanded and contracted using a pinching motion in order to allow easier navigation. When viewing an event recording that you would like to export/share, you can record it to the app by pressing the record button, and pressing it again to stop the recording. If you would like your saved recording to have sound, ensure that you enable sound while watching the playback before pressing record. You do this by clicking the speaker icon on the video. Once these recordings are saved to the app they can be found in your Photo Album which can be accessed through the app without internet connection. From here you can share them. Although this is a slightly long process, it does mean you can access your footage to share from wherever you are (as long as you have Wi-Fi) without having to remove the micro SD card, which is contained within the camera under a screwed latch in order to ensure that the camera is waterproof.
Being able to access the camera from a computer is also very useful and enables you to record footage straight to your computer rather than just to the micro SD card and app.
Viewing the camera from a web browser was also very easy to set up with the app by just scanning a QR code and confirming access via the app, to ensure it is a secure connection. You can also view multiple cameras in the web browser (single view and up to 9 cameras) so if you were to have multiple cameras, including a Wi-Fi Bullet Wildlife Camera and Wi-Fi Nest Box Camera, you can see them all simultaneously. This is a benefit over viewing in the app, as although you can add multiple cameras to the app, you cannot view them all at once.
This camera was easy to set up via the free app and provided hours of fun wildlife viewing. There are certain features that we think are worth bearing in mind when setting up the camera, such as positioning the camera close to where you hope to view smaller subjects, and we would also recommend that if you want to record specific behaviours or longer videos, to set the camera to continuous recording. This can be set up on a schedule so that the continuous recording only takes place in the timeframe you are interested in.
While the app was sometimes quite slow to connect to the camera, and the Wi-Fi connection to the camera was lost once (during 1 week of deployment), neither of these issues resulted in loss of video capture as the camera still records locally to the SD card regardless of whether there is internet connection. But the manufacturers are constantly working on improving the app, as it was only released earlier in 2021.
While the Wi-Fi Bullet Wildlife Camera has its limitations, we think that it is a great tool for watching your garden wildlife.
The Wi-Fi Bullet Wildlife Camera can be found here. Our full range of wildlife cameras can be found here.
If you have any questions about our range or would like some advice on the right product for you then please contact us via email at email@example.com or phone on 01803 865913.
When thinking of the varied toolkit of the enterprising naturalist, a microscope is perhaps not the first thing that springs to mind. Nevertheless, for many entomologists, botanists and comparative zoologists, the ever-reliable 10× hand lens eventually proves insufficient. Indeed, many species of insect, lichen and fungi (among many others) are difficult to identify past genus or even subfamily without the use of more powerful optics. Animal scat, small mammal dentition and hair fibres can be likewise difficult to evaluate without suitable magnification. But researching the best optical equipment for your purpose can be a disheartening task, especially for naturalists who are likely to come across a wide range of resources for the engineer and medical professional, but sparse pickings tailored to their own specific needs.
For most naturalists, the 3D image and relatively low magnification of the stereo microscope (also called the low-powered dissection microscope) fits the bill nicely. However, with several big-name brands, a wide range of price points and numerous specifications available for uses across a plethora of fields, it’s useful to be armed with some background knowledge when choosing your own microscope.
Stereo microscopes are made up of several parts: most include a base with or without illumination, a pillar with an adjustable bracket for the head and a head comprising of two eyepieces and one or two objective lenses, depending on whether the microscope uses the Greenough or Common Mains Objective design (discussed below). Some also include a third eyepiece or ‘photo tube’.
Specifics regarding the different parts of the microscope will be discussed later, but for now, it is important to understand how magnification is calculated. The optics of a stereo microscope consist of two eyepiece lenses and one or two objective lenses with which they are paired. Each provides its own zoom – typically 10× for a standard eyepiece and 2× or 4× for the objective (although many objectives provide a range of magnifications between 2× and 4×, see below). The overall magnification is calculated by multiplying the objective and eyepiece lenses together, for example a system with 10× eyepieces and a 2× objective will provide a zoom of 20×. Some objectives have a dynamic zoom lens, as we’ll discuss later.
Optical Systems: Greenough vs Common Mains Objective
Stereo microscopes are grouped by the optical system that they use – Greenough or Common Mains Objective (CMO). Both systems have distinct advantages and disadvantages, so knowing the difference is vital.
A staple since its original conception in the 1890s, the Greenough Optical System works by angling two objective lenses towards each other to create a 3D image. The objectives have wide apertures for good light-gathering potential, providing a crisp, clear image. It is also cheap to produce, meaning that most entry- to mid-level stereo microscopes utilise this design. However, as the lenses are slightly tilted, the focus is not constant across the image – the outer left and right portions of the view are always slightly over-focused while the centre is clear. This is known as the ‘keystone effect’, and while it is often unconsciously corrected for by the human eye, it does cause the viewer to experience eye fatigue more rapidly than the alternative.
Introduced in the middle of the 20th century, the Common Mains Objective (CMO) system uses one objective lens that is shared by both eye pieces, allowing for exceptional light-gathering potential, and eliminating the keystone effect. However, the single objective leads to a problem known as ‘perspective distortion’, in which the centre of the image appears to be elevated like a fish-eye lens. Models that correct this can cost thousands of pounds, so for many naturalists, a high-end Greenough system is likely to be a better investment than a low-end CMO microscope.
Once you’ve decided which system you would like to go for, consider the magnification. Most microscopes under £1,000 fall into the 20-40/45× range. Occasionally 60× models are offered in this bracket, but it’s definitely worth testing these before purchase as the extra range can come at the cost of features such as lens quality. Remember too that as zoom increases, the aperture of the lens decreases, making the image worse. For most insects above 2mm, a 20×-40× microscope should do the job. Groups that rely on minuscule features or genitalia dissections may require higher magnifications, but this often requires a better-quality microscope that uses high-quality parts to maintain a clear, bright image.
The cheapest stereo microscopes use a ‘fixed’ zoom system, with a single pair of objective lenses that provide one magnification, normally 20×. The objective (and sometimes the eyepieces) can be removed and replaced manually with a higher magnification alternative.
Models above the £150 mark generally use a rotating ‘turret’ system shared with compound microscopes. Two pairs of objective lenses are included and can be rotated into place, generally 2× and 4× allowing for 20× and 40× magnification. For the serious amateur naturalist looking to invest in a ‘workhorse’ style system, this is often the design to choose, and many professional entomologists and botanists spend years learning with such an optic.
Finally, stereo microscopes above around £300 generally use a dynamic zoom system. This allows the magnification to be altered across a range (normally 20-40×). The default 10× eyepiece can be swapped for a greater magnification if desired. Many also include a ‘click stop’ system for easy reading of the magnification without having to look up. The flexibility of these microscopes makes them the most popular choice among many naturalists.
The Head: Binocular vs Trinocular
This is simple but important to consider. While the binocular head is generally considered to be the default for stereo microscopes, the trinocular variant is extremely popular among researchers and anyone who seeks to document their microscopy: the addition of the third eyepiece (phototube) allows for a camera to be attached and images or video to be captured while the user is viewing the image. Many microscope cameras are designed to be used specifically with a phototube and will not function when used with a binocular head. Some, like the Moticam X3, can be used with either.
The Stand: Base, Stage Plate and Illumination
When choosing an illumination system, it is important to consider what you’ll be using your microscope for. You’ll often see plain (no illumination), halogen, or LED bases offered, with the plain option being the cheapest and LED the most expensive. Most illuminated bases offer both transmitted and reflected illumination, referring to the way in which light reaches the eye. The reflected system utilizes a light that shines straight down on the subject, reflecting the light off of the subject and into the user’s eye. This is the most commonly used design among naturalists, as the examination of opaque objects such as insects, plant material and mammal hairs requires the user to observe the sample’s upper surface.
Transmitted illumination utilizes a bulb beneath the sample, projecting light directly to the user’s eye, similar to a compound microscope. This is used in the examination of translucent samples such as aquatic invertebrates and some macroalgae.
This is also where stage plates come in. Sitting below the subject as the ‘background’ of the image, most microscopes come with opaque black and white options for use with the reflected illumination setting and a frosted glass option that light will shine through for use with transmitted illumination.
Don’t immediately discount a plain base. Many naturalists prefer not to use built-in illumination that sits directly above the subject, as specimens that require the examination of fine details on the sample’s surface, such as many beetle species, can be difficult to ID under such a light. The best solution is to purchase a dedicated microscope illumination unit, a handy tool that usually includes two swan neck LEDs that can illuminate the subject from whichever angle is most auspicious. These aren’t cheap, but the cost of one is often covered by the money saved in purchasing a base without a built-in light.
Finally, consider the difference between halogen and LED illumination. For many purposes, such as the examination of bones, animal hair or water samples, this is irrelevant and largely comes down to a matter of taste. However, some materials are prone to desiccation under the heat of a halogen lamp. Therefore, particularly for entomological work and work involving live samples, LED illumination is often preferred.
The array of options that go alongside buying your first microscope can be daunting, but with a little consideration, you should be well set to explore the wonderful world of the tiny. Keep in mind your budget, and the microscope’s intended function, and you won’t go wrong. The information in this blog should be a strong starting point, but if you should want any more advice, feel free to get in touch with our friendly team of Wildlife Equipment Specialists via firstname.lastname@example.org or phone on 01803 865913. Our full range of stereo microscopes can be found here.
In the forthcoming Winter 2021 issue of Conservation Land Management (CLM) magazine Jenny Price and Lyndsay Wayman-Rook describe how the Old Chalk New Downs project in Kent has been trialling biodegradable cardboard tree guards as an alternative to plastic. Here you can read a summary of the article.
The main purpose of a tree guard is to protect newly planted trees from browsing, but they also provide other benefits; they create a more favourable microclimate that helps to promote the growth of young trees and protect the plants from wind, competing vegetation, herbicides and water loss. Wooden and wire tree guards have been in use since the 1820s, but it wasn’t until the 1980s that plastic versions were first used. As a cheaper material compared to alternatives, plastic is now widely used for guards in planting schemes.
It has been predicted that between 1980 and 2020 over 200 million plastic tree guards were used, and with the UK government’s ambitious target to increase woodland cover by 19% by 2050, the rate of tree planting is sure to increase, as will the number of tree guards used. It is recommended that plastic tree guards are removed 2–3 years after their installation, but they are often left behind to degrade in the landscape, which can be both damaging to the wider environment (although the impacts of this are not yet fully understood) and to the tree itself. It is possible to recycle plastic polymer guards, but not if they have already started to break down or are contaminated.
The Old Chalk New Downs project, hosted by Kent County Council and funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, has been exploring alternative options to plastic tree guards. It first compared the costs of different materials, including plastic, cardboard and biodegradable plastic, and looked at the pros and cons for each guard type. For instance, one of the advantages of a cardboard guard is that it does not need to be removed after installation, but it may deteriorate a lot faster than other guard types, especially in particularly wet areas.
It was decided that cardboard guards would be used for this particular project, owing to their no-plastic design and availability. Between autumn 2019 and spring 2021, more than 9,000 trees with cardboard guards were planted across seven hedgerows at three different sites. How these fared was closely monitored, and the success rate of planting was high. One key aspect of this project was to gather feedback from landowners and contractors involved in sourcing and using the cardboard guards, and overall the comments were positive.
In the full article Jenny Price and Lyndsay Wayman-Rook discuss how the cost of tree guards made from plastic, biodegradable plastic and cardboard compare, and provide an in-depth overview of how cardboard guards performed when used for hedge planting, both in this project and in examples from elsewhere. They also include a summary of the feedback received from landowners and contractors, and clearly describe the advantages and disadvantages of different tree guard options.
Other articles featured in the Winter 2021 issue include:
RSPB Nigg Bay: Scotland’s first coastal realignment
Helping to make and document conservation decisions: the Evidence-to-Decision tool
The Stage Zero approach – lessons from North America on restoring river, wetland and floodplain habitats
Viewpoint: Plant fewer, better: good tree and shrub establishment
In this and every issue you can expect to see Briefing, keeping you up to date with the latest training courses, events and publications, and On the ground which provides helpful tips or updates on products relevant to land management. Other features that regularly appear in CLM include Viewpoint, a similar length to our main articles, but here authors can voice their own views on various conservation issues, and Review, which can include letters from readers or updates from our authors.
CLM is published four times a year in March, June, September and December, and is available by subscription only, delivered straight to your door. Subscriptions start from £18 per year. Previous back issues are also available to purchase individually (subject to availability). Current subscribers can expect to receive their copy of the Winter 2021 issue in the next couple of weeks.
If you are involved in a conservation project and think your experiences could be useful to other practitioners, we would love to hear from you. If you are interested in writing for CLM feel free to contact us – we will be happy to discuss your ideas with you.
This is the first article in our new Testing the Guide series, in which we test the usability and application of various guides. Feathers: An Identification Guide to the Feathers of Western European Birds is a guide to over 400 European bird species, with an innovative key that allows for exceptionally precise identification by colour, feather structure and shape. This book also provides information on collection and conservation methods, as well as the locations of feathers on birds, all of which are clearly explained and richly illustrated.
This guide discusses the characteristics useful for identification, such as feather measurements, size variations and flight and tail feather shapes and adaptions. Also included are examples of identifiable body feathers and a beginner’s exercise in the identification of feathers from some common species. There are also species descriptions, including passerines, aquatic birds and birds of prey. The sequence of which these species are described, within families or orders, does not follow the usual systematic order: the author has attempted to describe groups that may be confused in close proximity due to their similar morphological characteristics or their presence in the same habitats.
This is a large-format guide, which may limit the practicality of taking it into the field, but it does allow the presentation of different feathers to be done in the clearest way. Therefore, this guide is most useful when feathers are collected or photographed. The more than 300 illustrations and 400 photographs facilitate the identification of many different feathers, often reducing the need for further, independent research.
Using the guide
Several feathers have been gathered by our colleagues around the UK, with notes taken of the location, date and habitats in which they were found, to aid identification. The guide details best-practice methods for collecting, labelling and preserving the feathers, which we found particularly useful. As the author suggests that larger feathers are more likely to be identifiable, and body feathers are much harder to distinguish, we chose to use the largest or most distinctive feathers we had collected.
The largest feather in our collection was found on the edge of town in Bovey Tracey in south Devon. It is a large, rigid feather that is dark brown in colour, with a white coloured section on the inner vane and darker brown irregular bars that end in specking on the white section. Using one of the many useful figures within chapter 2 (p. 17), as well as following the key located in chapter 3, we identified it as a notched, or fingered, outer primary feather from the right side of the bird. As the pattern matched several of the colour criteria within chapter 4, the process of determining identification took a little longer than expected. Using the colour criteria 4, 5, and 7, we were able to determine the feather is from a diurnal bird of prey.
Using the table for diurnal birds of prey in chapter 8, we noted that the size of the feather (approximately 13.6in / 34.5cm) and the patternation matched several species, including the common buzzard (Buteo buteo), the rough-legged buzzard (Buteo lagopus) and osprey (Pandion haliaetus). Referring to a number of the many beautiful photo plates and our own research, it is most likely a feather from the common buzzard, given its distribution, habitat and that they are much more common in the UK than osprey. Using the table in chapter 5 (p84), the placement of this notched primary feather is most likely between P10-P8, although it can be as far as P6 or even P5.
Using the information in chapter 3 again, we were able to determine that this second feather is also large feather, most likely from the left side of the bird, as the feather curves to the left when looked at from above with the base towards us. Following the key was more difficult for this feather, as the answers were not as clear. However, we determined that this feather is a rectrix, or tail feather. As the width of both vanes are similar (outer: ~1.3cm, inner: ~1.2cm, although there is some degrading along the edge of the inner vane that may be masking its original width), the feather was most likely located towards the centre of the tail. As the rachis (or shaft) is curved and not fully straight, however, it is unlikely to have been located directly in the centre.
The feather is rufous and dark brown, with an irregular bar pattern that sometimes resembles vermiculation and gradually breaks down into speckling, with a more rufous tip. As the size of the darker bars is smaller, it would be referred to as brown bars on a rufous background. Using the colour criteria list in chapter 5, the feather size (~24.2cm / ~9.53in) is within the range of several species. As the feather is not velvety, we could discount owls, diurnal raptors or nightjars. As the feather is narrow and elongated, the chapter suggested looking at falcons, but we found that it did not match any due to the pattern and pointed tip. We then researched each species or species group that the size matched and determined that the feather is most likely a tail feather from a golden pheasant (Chrysolophus pictus). This is an introduced species with several small, wild populations in areas such as East Anglia and in the Isles of Scilly, preferring dense woodland with sparse undergrowth. They can also be found in many aviaries and zoos, with a number of colour variations and hybrids, particularly with the Lady Amherst Pheasant (Chrysolophus amherstiae). Their feathers are often used by florists, as well as crafters to decorate heads, earrings, clothing and even lures for fly-fishing.
Bright, uniquely colour feathers have a higher chance of being identifiable to a species level. This feather was found in the wetlands around Chew Valley Lake reservoir in Somerset. The rigidity of this feather shows this is also a large feather, and the curve suggests it comes from the right side of the bird. Following the key in chapter 3, we determined that this is a secondary feather.
Using the colour criteria in chapter 5, the metallic dark blue colouration of the feather and the length (12.2cm / 4.8inchs) matches a number of species, but the handy colour plate on the next page allowed us to determine that this feather most likely came from a mallard (Anas platyrhynchos). The blue colouration makes up part of the speculum, the contrasting patch of colour on the bird’s wings. Referring to the species description and feather spread on pages 304-5, the feather is most likely a middle secondary, although exact positioning would be difficult to determine with a lone feather. The well defined dark blue colourations suggest between S3-S10. There are also a number of hybrid Anas species and the identification of these through feathers is unlikely.
There are several limitations to identifying feathers, as individual variability in size and colour are common amongst species, and feathers can be similar between species within the same family or that occupy the same habitat or niche. The author suggests that only a small fraction of feathers lost by birds are identifiable, therefore the practical applications of this guide are restricted. However, we were able to use this guide to identify many of our larger or more unique feathers, including the common kingfisher (Alcedo atthis), European goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis) and barn owl (Tyto alba).
It is relatively straightforward to identify where on the body the feathers come from and, while the feather can sometimes match several colour criteria, it is also quite easy to identify a list of potential species matches. From here, the size of the feather can help to narrow the list down, although this is not always possible. Using the various species descriptions and feather spreads in chapter 8, your own research and knowledge of the habitat and location that the feather was found in and the distinctive markings or colouration on the feather itself can all help you to identify your feather to species level. We also found that, while our first feather did not resemble the osprey spread in the guide, it did match feathers from other collection photographs we found in our own research. Therefore, while this guide is incredibly helpful in determining the type of feather and the list of possible species, we encourage researching any potential match both with the guide’s species descriptions and through independent research. Feathers: An Identification Guide to the Feathers of Western European Birds is a novel introduction to the world of identifying feathers, which can be an engaging and entertaining way to increase your knowledge of Europe’s birds.
Nature Restoration Fund awards £5m to projects tackling biodiversity loss and climate change across Scotland. NatureScot announced that this fund will be shared between 54 projects to restore nature, safeguard wildlife and tackle the causes of climate change. Those involved in these projects include RSPB Scotland, who are working to remove invasive rhododendron from the Atlantic rainforest of the Morvern peninsula; Forestry and Land Scotland, who are enhancing black grouse habitats in Craig Dhu; and St Andrews Links Trust, who are leading the West Sands dune restoration programme.
The extinction of megafauna may have triggered a rise in wildfires. A new study has found that the extinction of ancient grazing megafauna, such as the woolly mammoth and the giant ground sloth, may have played a role in the increase of fires over 10,000 years ago. The loss of these species had significant impacts on the environments they inhabited, leaving more grass and dead leaves as fuel for fires, leading to a cascade of consequences.
Anglers work to protect water voles on the River Gade. Together with Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust, a group of anglers are working to improve the habitat for this endangered species along a 350 metre stretch of the river at Croxley Hall Fisheries. The project entails removing fallen and over-shading trees to encourage plants to grow. It is hoped that this will create more diversity in the habitat, benefit a number of species, including kingfishers, bats and invertebrates.
Birdsong soundscapes are getting quieter. Annual bird monitoring data from European and American bird surveys in over 200,000 sites was translated into soundscapes by combining them with sound recordings for individual species. The results of this study by researchers at the University of East Anglia show a clear and continuous fall in the acoustic diversity and intensity of soundscapes across Europe and North America over the past 25 years.
Flight Identification of European Passerines and Select Landbirds: An Illustrated and Photographic Guide | Tomasz Cofta Flexibound | March 2021
The number one bestseller for 2021 is Flight Identification of European Passerines and Select Landbirds! Tomasz Cofta’s cutting-edge book is the first field guide for identifying European passerines in flight, featuring more than 830 stunning colour illustrations. Covering 206 passerines and 32 near-passerine landbirds, this book combines Cofta’s precise illustrations with a range of photos for each species that show how they appear in flight. In addition, short, sharp and authoritative species accounts with essential information on individual flight manner and flock structure are represented concisely. This guide will appeal to all birders, and its new knowledge on flight identification makes it a must-have for professional ornithologists and scientists too.
Britain’s Insects: a Field guide to the Insects of Great Britain and Ireland | Paul D. Brock Flexibound | May 2021
Britain’s Insects is an innovative, up-to-date, carefully designed and beautifully illustrated field guide to Britain and Ireland’s twenty-five insect orders. Concentrating on popular groups and species that can be identified in the field, this guide features superb photographs of live insects and covers the key aspects of identification. Providing information on status, distribution, seasonality, habitat, food plants and behaviour, this is the go-to guide for entomologists, naturalists, gardeners and anyone else interested in insects, whatever their level of knowledge.
Secrets of a Devon Wood: My Nature Journal | Jo Brown
Hardback | October 2020
The number one bestseller in our June Top 10, Secrets of a Devon Wood has captured hearts and minds across the globe. Artist and illustrator Jo Brown started keeping her nature diary in a bid to document the small wonders of the wood behind her home in Devon. In enchanting, minute detail, she zooms in on a buff-tailed bumblebee, a green dock beetle or a pixie cup lichen. This book is an exact replica of her original black Moleskin journal, a rich illustrated memory of Jo’s discoveries in the order in which she found them.
Heathlands are so much more than simply purple carpets of heather. They are ancient landscapes found throughout Britain that support a complex of inter-related species and an immense diversity of habitats. In this latest addition to the British Wildlife Collection, Clive Chatters introduces us to Britain’s heathlands and their anatomy. Heathland takes the reader on a geographical tour – from the maritime sub-arctic of the Shetlands to the mild wetness of the Atlantic coast – with an in memoriam nod to those heaths that have been erased from common memory and understanding.
Butterflies is a unique take on butterfly behaviour and ecology, written by the former Chief Executive of Butterfly Conservation, Martin Warren. Exploring the secret lives of our British species, this book combines personal anecdotes with the latest discoveries in scientific literature. Butterflies covers everything from why we love these species and their life-cycle from egg to adult, their struggle for survival in a world of predators and parasites and the miracle of migration. Insightful, inspiring and a joy to read, this is the culmination of a lifetime of careful research into what makes these beautiful insects tick and how and why we must conserve them.
A Field Guide to Grasses, Sedges and Rushes | Dominic Price Spiralbound | July 2021
Featuring in a number of our Top 10 lists, A Field Guide to Grasses, Sedges and Rushes aims to simplify the identification of this fascinating group of plants, using characteristics that are both easy to spot in the field and simple to remember. Over 100 species are described, focusing on the key features of both their genus and species.
seabirds: the new identification guide | Peter harrison et al. Hardback | June 2021
Seabirds: The New Identification Guide, a 600-page treatment to all known seabird species, including recently rediscovered and rarely seen species. It is the first comprehensive guide to the world’s seabirds to be published since Harrison’s Seabirds in 1983. This guide contains 239 brilliant, full-colour plates, along with detailed text covering status, conservation, breeding biology and feeding habits, latest taxonomic treatments, geographic range and more. Containing more than 3,800 full-colour figures with illustrations of distinct subspecies, sexes, ages and morphs, seabirders worldwide will find this to be an authoritative, one-of-a-kind publication for use around the globe.
Europe’s Birds: An Identification Guide | Rob Hume et al. Flexibound | October 2021
From the highly acclaimed WILDGuides team comes Europe’s Birds, the most comprehensive, authoritative and ambitious single-volume photographic guide to Europe’s birds ever produced. Birdwatchers of any ability will benefit from the clear text, details on range, status and habitat and an unrivalled selection of photographs. Chosen to be as naturalistic and informative as possible, the images are also stunning to look at, making this a beautiful book to enjoy, as well as an up-to-date and essential source of identification knowledge.
Britain’s Hoverflies: A Field Guide | Stuart Ball and Roger Morris Flexibound | April 2015
Britain’s Hoverflies is a beautifully illustrated photographic field guide to the hoverflies of Britain, focusing on the species that can be most readily identified. It is the perfect companion for wildlife enthusiasts, professional ecologists and anyone else with an interest in this fascinating group of insects, and is designed to appeal to beginners and experts alike. Accessible, authoritative and easy to use, this book contains hundreds of remarkable photographs of the various life stages of those species that can be identified by eye or with a magnifying glass, with coverage of at least one representative from each of the British genera.
A Comprehensive Guide to Insects of Britain & Ireland | Paul D. Brock Flexibound | October 2019
This expanded edition covers over 2,300 species with updated maps and over 2,900 colour photographs throughout, with fully comprehensive sections on all insect groups, including beetles, flies, ants, bees and wasps. The concise text gives information on behaviour as well as their present-day conservation status; pointers are given to help avoid misidentification with species of similar appearance.
Woodland is the next habitat in our NHBS Introduction to Habitats series. Broadly, these habitats are land that is covered with trees, but the term woodland encompasses a diverse group of habitats that can be rich in wildlife. They are a key habitat for many invertebrates, plants, birds, mammals and other species groups. Woodlands are also incredibly useful habitats, for instance by providing flood protection by holding back water in the soil, sequestering carbon dioxide and reducing local temperatures. They also help reduce soil erosion and regulate weather patterns, such as local rainfall and temperature. Woodland may also be beneficial to our health, as it’s thought that spending time in forests decreases blood pressure, reduces stress levels and boosts your immune system. However, studies are still ongoing into the validity of these effects.
The types of woodland habitat include, but are not limited to, ancient, broadleaved, coniferous, mixed and wet woodland, as well as temperate rainforest, Caledonian forest, wood pastures and urban woodland. Each can have defining criteria such as plant types, soil moisture levels, humidity levels and age. There are also semi-natural and plantation woodlands, which are classified based on the percentage of planted trees. There are several indicator species used to determine the type of woodland habitats, such as the violet click beetle (Limoniscus violaceus), which rely exclusively on ancient decaying beech and ash trees. Several of these habitats are UK Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP) Priority Habitats, which are a range of threatened semi-natural habitats that require conservation action.
What species can you find here?
While trees often define woodland, this is not the only type of flora in these habitats. Woodland habitats host 60% of all known vascular plant species. Wildflowers, grasses, sedges, ferns, mosses, fungi and lichen all occur in woodland habitats, although the species found varies depending on the abiotic and biotic conditions within the habitat.
Oak Tree (Quercus spp.)
Did you know that there are actually over 500 species of oak tree in the world? The dominant oak tree in the UK is the English oak (Quercus robur). The sessile oak (Quercus petraea) is the UK’s other native oak species, but there are many more non-native species here, such as the Turkey oak (Quercus cerris) and holm oak (Quercus ilex). Oak trees can be keystone species in many ecosystems, with one study finding that a single oak tree can host more than 2,300 organisms (data supplied by Natural Environment Research Council). Some of those don’t occur on any other tree species. Oak trees can also live to around 1,000 years old!
Wood Anemone (Anemone nemorosa)
The wood anemone is an ancient woodland indicator species as they are slow-growing and take a long time to fully establish. Therefore, large patches show that the habitat has been relatively undisturbed for a long time.
They are a spring species, often appearing with bluebells, another ancient woodland indicator. This species has a star-shaped white flower, that can have a pink tinge. It has distinctive yellow anthers in the middle.
Herb-Robert (Geranium robertianum)
A type of crane’s-bill, herb-robert is a low-growing plant with pink flowers and a reddish stem. It is widespread across the UK and prefers shaded habitats, such as woodland. This plant has many traditional uses, such as treating headaches, stomach aches and nosebleeds. It is an important nectar source and food plant for many invertebrates, such as bees and the barred carpet moth (Martania taeniata).
Woodland, particularly habitats with a high amount of deadwood and leaf litter, can be key habitats for a wide variety of fungi species. These species break down dead organic matter and facilitate the recycling of carbon and nutrients back into the soil. They are also food for many species, including a number of invertebrate species, and are used as nesting material, for both birds and invertebrates.
Candlesnuff Fungus (Xylaria hypoxylon)
Also known as stag’s horn fungus and candlestick fungus, this species grows up to 6cm tall, with a black base, grey body and white tip that is often branched, resembling deer antlers. It is a common species within the UK and grows in groups on dead wood. It prefers broadleaf trees, often growing through moss.
Bird’s Nest Fungus (Crucibulum leave)
This woodland fungus is so named as it resembles a bird’s nest filled with a number of ‘eggs’. These eggs are actually periodoles, structures that contain the spores. A yellowish membrane initially covers the cup, before eventually rupturing to reveal the periodoles once they’ve developed. The energy of raindrops disperses them, allowing the fungus to spread.
Woodland ecosystems are often rich in fauna and can host 80% of all known amphibians, 75% of all birds and 68% of all mammal species.
Willow Tit (Poecile montanus)
This species lives mostly in wet woodlands, feeding mainly on insects but also berries and seeds. Unusually for tit species, the willow tit digs into decaying wood to make nest holes. This is why older woodlands are so important for this species, as there is a higher abundance of decaying wood and trees. The willow tit is so similar to the marsh tit (Poecile palustris) that it wasn’t recognised as a separate species until 1897.
Small Pearl-Bordered Fritillary (Boloria selene)
Woodlands are home to thousands of invertebrate species in the UK. The small pearl-bordered fritillary is widespread across Scotland and Wales but is more limited in England. Like many other invertebrate species, they have suffered severe declines in numbers. Its bright orange and black markings make it a striking butterfly, quite easily seen against the green and brown woodland background.
European Badger (Meles meles)
This unmistakable creature is one of the most well known of Britain’s wildlife, with its iconic black-and-white striped face, grey body and black stomach. Did you know that a large amount of their diet is earthworms? They also prey upon hedgehogs, small mammals, other invertebrates, toads and frogs, and also eat fruit, such as plums and elderberries. This species is fully protected by the law but is still threatened by culls in certain areas, due to its association with bovine tuberculosis.
Eurasian Red Squirrel (Sciurus vulgaris)
Another iconic British species that use woodland habitats is the red squirrel! This native species is far rarer than its non-native cousin, the grey squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis), due to being out-competed for food and habitat. Also, grey squirrels transmit a virus called squirrelpox, which has little effect on them but frequently kills red squirrels. Because of this, red squirrels are being pushed out of their normal habitat range. They now only occur in parts of Scotland, northern England and isolated areas such as Anglesey.
Scottish Wildcat (Felis silvestris silvestris)
This elusive species, also known as the ‘tiger of the Highlands’, may be functionally extinct in the wild, as the population is too small to be viable. Threats from persecution, habitat loss, interbreeding with feral and domestic cats, road collisions and disease mean that this species will not recover without serious conservation action. There are now captive breeding programmes in place and a record number of kittens were born in captivity in 2020, with plans for the first cats to be released back to the wild from 2022 onwards.
Britain is one of the least-wooded countries in Europe, with only 13% of our land covered in woods compared to Europe’s average of 44%. The main threat to woodland habitat is deforestation, often for development or agriculture. Population growth leads to an increased need for housing and infrastructure, particularly in urban areas, often at the expense of woodland. Natural woodland regeneration is not always possible, especially for ancient woodland, which takes hundreds of years to develop. Additionally, high deer populations, particularly in Scotland, are curbing much of the growth of young plants. This is a serious threat to woodland such as Caledonian forests and it is sometimes necessary to fence off areas to allow for new growth. For more information on deforestation, as well as the potential impacts of the COP26 summit, check out our blog: Climate Challenges: 4. Deforestation.
Reduced management also threatens woodland habitats. Traditional practices, such as coppicing, which involves cutting a tree to ground level to stimulate more growth, are now less common. This led to changes in woodland structures, reducing the diversity of growth, the amount of light that can enter the canopy and reducing habitat opportunities for animals. The lack of regularly felled trees or unwanted branches that used to rot down within the woodland reduces the availability of key habitats for invertebrates and small mammals.
Invasive and non-native species can also impact woodland habitats. For instance, new plantations of tree crops, which have replaced areas of native trees, are usually less suitable for native woodland species. Diseases and pests are also causing issues for UK woodland. For example, ash dieback is predicted to kill around 90% of ash trees in the UK, and Dutch elm disease has killed millions of elm trees over the last 40 years.
Further threats also include pollution, climate change and forest fires. For more information about this threat, check out our blog: Climate Challenges: 2. Forest Fires. With the combined pressures from many of these threats and without current and future conservation efforts and protection, the future could see the loss of these habitats as we know them.
Areas of significance in the UK
Galloway Forest, Scotland – UK’s largest forest
Kielder Forest, Northumberland – England’s largest forest
Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire
Savernake Forest, Wiltshire
Abbots Wood, Sussex
Banagher Glen, County Derry, Northern Ireland
Coed y Brenin, Snowdonia, Wales
Temperate rainforests examples: Taynish National Nature Reserve and the Caledonian Forest, Scotland. Ancient woodland example: Wistman’s Wood, Devon. Wet woodland example: Amberley Wild Brooks, West Sussex
Useful resources and further reading
Miyazaki, Y., et al. 2017. Shinrin-Yoku (Forest Bathing) and Nature Therapy: A State-of-the-Art Review. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 14(8): 1-48
For much of this year, we have been writing a series of articles looking at some of the toughest global climate crisis challenges that we are currently facing. This article looks at the local and global implications of deforestation and its relation to climate change.
What is deforestation and why is it happening?
Deforestation is the removal of forests and trees from an area, which is then used for non-forest purposes, such as urban development or agriculture. It has been estimated that, since 1990, 420 million hectares of forest have been lost globally due to deforestation. The main driver of deforestation is agricultural expansion, primarily for commercial ventures such as cattle ranching and palm oil and soya bean cultivation. Around the world, we are thought to lose around 4.7 million hectares of forest per year, but as some areas are regenerated through natural expansion or replanting of new forests, the rate of forest cutting is most likely higher. However, the rate that forests are lost cannot simply be offset by new forests elsewhere; it can take years for even naturally expanded areas to develop. During this time, populations of species particularly sensitive to change could be lost.
Combined with threats from fires, droughts, increasing storm intensity and frequency, pollution, forest degradation through disturbance and the use of chemical insecticides and herbicides, forest habitats are under extreme pressure.
What are the impacts?
Thankfully, the rate of forest loss has been decreasing. Despite this, deforestation is still having widespread, devastating effects on biodiversity, the climate, and our health and wellbeing. Forests are home to a huge variety of species, including invertebrates, which represent a disproportionately large percentage of all species found in forests, and around 60% of all known vascular plant species. These ecosystems also host 80% of all known amphibian species, 75% of all bird species and 68% of all mammal species.
Therefore, deforestation is a significant threat to biodiversity, particularly for more specialist species that are unable to inhabit other areas and those already vulnerable to extinction. Around 28% of all species assessed by the IUCN red list are threatened with extinction, with many of these species being forest dwellers, such as the bizarre-nosed chameleon (Calumma hafahafa), a critically endangered chameleon endemic to Madagascar. This species is thought to only live in montane humid forests within a range of less than 100² kilometres.
Not only does deforestation impact biodiversity, but it can also increase the risk of flooding. Without the presence of trees and their roots to stabilise the soil and slow the flow of water, the soil is more susceptible to erosion which in turn can lead to more surface run-off and less water being absorbed. The removal of trees also contributes to the emission of carbon dioxide and, as tree cover provides shade and slows the rate at which the land heats up, can lead to a rise in local temperatures. Further impacts include changing rainfall patterns and the availability of fresh water. This can have a detrimental effect on agriculture, urban areas and local communities that rely on these natural processes for their water.
Deforestation has been linked to an increase in the exposure of people to zoonotic diseases (diseases spread between animals and people), with viruses such as Zika and Nipah suspected to be associated with human disturbance of forests. We have all seen the impact zoonotic diseases can cause on public health. As widespread deforestation continues, many experts are warning about the health of those living nearby. Around 2 billion people rely on forests for shelter, food and water resources – deforestation threatens their livelihoods.
The impact of deforestation on soil erosion, rainfall patterns and flooding may also lead to food insecurity. Low nutrient soil will reduce yields, which could be devastating as populations grow and food demand increases. This in turn means more land for agriculture is needed to produce more food, resulting in further deforestation.
What is being done to prevent deforestation?
Many countries have laws attempting to manage forest clearing and promote more sustainable practices. For example, the UK government included measures to address deforestation as part of the new UK Environment Bill, which received Royal Assent in November 2021. The new bill will make it illegal for UK businesses to use key commodities that have not been produced in line with local forest protection laws and UK businesses that fail to eliminate ties with illegal deforestation from their supply chains will face fines. However, this still allows for links to legal deforestation which, in many countries, can be just as unsustainable and damaging as illegal deforestation.
Countries are also creating annual tree planting targets, such as Scotland, whose target increased to 12,000 hectares of newly planted trees in 2020 and will increase again in 2024/25 to 18,000 hectares. Public education, trade reforms, concerted efforts to tackle illegal logging, creating protected forest areas and granting Indigenous Peoples rights to their traditional forests are also ways shown to prevent deforestation.
Individual companies are also making efforts, such as planting trees for every purchase or donating to charities and organisations involved with reforestation and conservation. Several British firms have signed up to WWF’s forest campaign, pledging to make sure that their wood and paper is legally and sustainably sourced.
By making more sustainable lifestyle choices, there are several small ways you can make a difference, such as by recycling, eating less meat and being a conscious consumer. The latter can be achieved by checking whether the product you are buying comes from a company with strong environmental and sustainability policies. Additionally, using your items for longer can reduce the amount you buy and, therefore, reduces demand for the production of new products.
COP26 Deforestation Pledge
The Glasgow Leader’s Declaration on Forest and Land Use has been signed by over 100 world leaders, whose countries cover around 85% of the world’s forests. The pledge aims to halt and reverse deforestation and land degradation by 2030, while still allowing for sustainable development and inclusive rural transformation. Twelve nations, including the UK, USA and France, have pledged to collectively mobilise £8.75 billion of public funding over the next five years to help support developing nations. This pledge is backed by the commitment of over 30 major financial institutions to look at removing commodity-driven deforestation from their investment and lending portfolios by 2025.
However, this deforestation pledge still allows for the removal of forests, focusing on ending net deforestation, with forest loss being replaced “sustainably”. There are a number of ecological issues with this strategy, as new-growth or secondary forest is less able to support the same levels of biodiversity as primary forest, and the period of ecological succession for these habitats to develop can take decades. Therefore, while this large-scale pledge may be a step in the right direction, many forest habitats, such as ancient forests, will still be under threat from deforestation. Read more about the outcomes of COP26 in our blog: Climate Challenges: COP26 Round Up.
Deforestation is mainly caused by the clearing of land for urban and agricultural development. While annual rates are decreasing, it still poses a significant threat.
Forest habitats are home to a vast majority of all known species, such as birds, amphibians, reptiles, plants and invertebrates.
Deforestation can impact biodiversity, temperatures, flooding, soil erosion and public health.
While many countries are attempting to tackle deforestation, there is still much work that needs to be done. The COP26 pledge to halt and reverse global deforestation may be a step in the right direction, but it does not remove many of the threats to forest habitats.
References and further reading:
Burley, J. 2002. Forest biological diversity: an overview. Unasylva, 209: 3-9.
FAO and UNEP. 2020. The State of the World’s Forests, biodiversity and people. Rome: FAO
Hoang, N. T., and Kanemoto, K. 2021. Mapping the deforestation footprint of nations reveals growing threat to tropical forests. Nature Ecology & Evolution, 5: 845-853
Vie, J-C., Hilton-Taylor, C., and Stuart, S. N. 2009. Wildlife in a Changing World: An analysis of the 2008 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Switzerland: IUCN
The Bat Conservation Trust’s annual National Bat Conference, held online via Zoom from 29th–31st October, covered many aspects of bat conservation through a wide variety of activities and talks, including monitoring, surveying and development. We are extremely pleased to have sponsored this event and we were lucky enough to have been able to attend many of these sessions, including talks by Professor Tigga Kingston from Texas Tech University on the human dimensions of bat conservation, and Thomas Foxley, University of the West of England, who spoke about the role of landscape features in spatial activity patterns of greater horseshoe bats. We also attended a few of the amazing workshops that took place, such as Shirley Thompson’s gardening for bats.
Bat Conservation Trust update
Bat Conservation Trust also shared an update on their current and future work. Bats make up more than a quarter of all mammal species in the UK, but sadly, these species face many threats. Habitat loss and fragmentation, decreasing food resources, chemical use, disturbance to roosts and threats from cats have all led to a dramatic decline in bat populations over the last century. Diseases, wind farms, flypaper, artificial lighting and the presence and construction of roads also negatively impact.
Currently, Bat Conservation Trust supports a number of local bat groups, working with volunteers, scientists, industry and government on a range of projects. They focus on discovering more about bats, taking action to protect them, inspiring people to care about bats and strengthening their work by improving relevant skills and knowledge. Their programmes include a National Bat Monitoring Programme, education and engagement, the National Bat Helpline, Landscapes for Bats, and science and research.
During this update, Bat Conservation Trust spoke of the many ways they will be increasing their efforts to help bat populations, for example by increasing the spread of their monitoring programs and organising a petition regarding key amendments to the Environment Bill, including legally binding targets for wildlife recovery. Through new acoustic and monitoring approaches, they also aim to improve their evidence base and Bat Conservation Trust are also working towards improving their engagement with policymakers, the public and the media. Their Bat in Churches project has also been expanded to include training on bat care basics, surveying a church, the best architectural practices for bats and cleaning workshops.
One key scheme they are developing is the Bat Roost Tree Tag Scheme where recognisable tags are placed on trees that contain bat roosts. The aim of this is to make sure all trees that have been surveyed and found to contain bat roosts are easily identifiable. When woodland managers and workers see a tag on a tree, they will know to seek advice before proceeding with work. This will also give a significantly increased level of protection for ancient trees, which are vitally important for a large number of species.
Future events and how to get involved
The National Bat Conference was a very interesting and educational event, and it was wonderful to see such a wide range of knowledge and skillsets being shared through the many talks, activities and workshops throughout the weekend. If you missed out this time or would like to attend further events, the Bat Conservation Trust has a number of future events planned, including Spring into Action, Midlands Bat Conference and the East of England Bat Conference. More information about these and other events can be found on the Bat Conservation Trust website.
There are a number of ways you can help to support Bat Conservation Trust, such as by becoming a member or donating. You can also contact your local bat group, fundraise for bats or volunteer for their various projects. However you choose to get involved, you can make a real difference to the future of bats in the UK.