The Big Butterfly Count 2019

It is that time of year again when every garden, hedge and field seems to come alive with butterflies. As we approach the height of summer many of our resident butterfly species will continue to emerge, reaching peak numbers in July and August, when temperatures and weather patterns are typically at their most favourable. Unfortunately, due to the ongoing effects of climate change, habitat fragmentation and the intensification of agriculture, many of our most common species have declined across the UK. These declines are worrying for many other species too as some butterfly populations act as ecosystem monitors, whereby their successes and failures may allude to the overall health of our ecosystems.

To monitor and mitigate these declines, Butterfly Conservation started the Big Butterfly Count in 2010. This annual programme asks members of the public to spend 15-minutes recording the butterflies that they see in their favourite spot and submit their records afterwards. These data are collated and analysed, allowing us to look at how butterflies have fared for the year. In the long-term these records allow us to track trends in butterfly populations. With this information researchers and conservation bodies can identify and act to protect some of our most vulnerable species.

The Big Butterfly Count of 2019 will take place from the 19th July to the 11th August. To take part, all you need to do is download the Big Butterfly Count App onto a smartphone or tablet, or print out a recording sheet from the website, spend 15 minutes counting the butterflies you see and then submit your records online at at https://www.bigbutterflycount.org or via the free Big Butterfly Count app.

The Big Butterfly Count asks you to record sightings of seventeen butterfly species and two day flying moth species. Here at NHBS we have compiled a short guide on which butterflies you are likely to see during your surveys as well as some tips on the features by which you can distinguish certain species.

Gardens

For many of our target butterfly species we need look no further than our back gardens. In the UK many generalist species of butterflies can survive in the patchwork of gardens that stretch out across the country. These species are drawn in by the bountiful supply of nectar offered by flowering plants such as Buddleia, which are seldom without a visiting Red Admiral or Peacock. Gardens with unmanaged patches are even more favourable as these can provide larval host plants such as thistles and nettles, the latter of which is used by four different butterfly species.

Look out for:

1. Large White: Large and often found near brassicas & nasturtiums
2. Small Tortoiseshell:
Medium sized, often bask in open sunny spots
3. Red Admiral:
Large and territorial, with unique black and red colours
4. Painted Lady:
Large fast flyers  with very angular wings
5. Small White: Medium size with yellowish under-wings, feed on brassicas
6. Peacock:
Large, dark butterfly with distinct eye spots on its wings

Grasslands, Parks and Fields

Grasslands are an incredibly valuable habitat to many of the UK’s moths and butterflies. For our target species the relevant habitats include areas of semi-natural grassland, pasturelands, arable land, urban parkland and any areas with rough unmanaged grass. In the height of summer these areas can be teeming with Skippers, Common Blues, Ringlets and Meadow Browns. Be sure to inspect any flowering plants (particularly thistles and knapweeds) as these can act as vital nectaring points for many butterflies. Pay close attention for the fast and subtle movements of smaller species as these can often disappear against such a busy environment. A prime example of challenge is the Small Copper which is notoriously hard to spot due to its minute size, fast flight and discrete colouration (when its wings are closed).

Look out for:

1. Meadow Brown: Very common, with dull orange patches on the wings
2. Green-veined White: Have a distinct green colour around the wing veins
3. Small Copper: Small and fast, have deep brown & bright orange wings
4. Common Blue:
 Small with a vivid blue colour and unbroken white border
5. Six-spot Burnet: Has distinct patterns and colours, often feed on Thistles
6. Ringlet: Common, wings can appear black and have distinct yellow rings
7. Marbled White: Large slow flyers with a unique chequered pattern

Hedgerows and Woodland-Edge

Edge habitats are well known for their butterfly diversity and abundance, housing many threatened and elusive species. For the Big Butterfly Count there are a few species which you are likely to see in these areas, however species such as the Brimstone, Speckled Wood and Gatekeeper can occur in several other habitats. Sunny areas with flowering shrub such as Bramble are hotspots for activity, particularly for Gatekeepers. Holly Blues may be hard to spot as they are mostly arboreal, only descending to feed on flowering plants such as Ivy. Woodland interiors are unlikely to yield many butterflies, particularly those with little light and/or limited forest floor plants, however open sunny glades are worth visiting.

Look out for:

1. Brimstone: Large with a powdered yellow/green colour and slow flight
2. Comma:
Large with a uniquely scalloped wing edge and fast flight
3. Gatekeeper: Small size, often found around hedges with bramble growing
4. Holly Blue:
Very small, flying around tree tops, especially those with Ivy
5. Speckled Wood
: Medium size, very territorial and regularly sun bask
6. Silver-Y: Very fast flying with a distinct silver ‘Y’ on the upper wing

Related products at NHBS

While you do not need any additional equipment to complete the Big Butterfly Count, there are a few items at NHBS which can make it a bit easier to help you tell apart some of the more fiendishly similar species.

Binoculars

Having a good pair of binoculars to hand is great for identifying butterflies from a distance; allowing you to quickly pick out distinguishing features. Binoculars with a short minimum focus distance (termed ‘close focus’) are an excellent choice for butterfly work.

 

Opticron Explorer Compact Binoculars
£59.00 inc VAT | 223738

 

 

 

Hawke Optics Nature-Trek Binoculars
£132.95 inc VAT £149.99 | 212966

 

 

 

Kite Caiman Binoculars
£249.95 inc VAT | 239178

 

 


Kite Lynx HD+ Binoculars

£519.00 inc VAT | 247915

Field Guides

Investing in a decent field guide is an excellent way to learn more about the butterfly species you are likely to see during your count. They provide you with detailed illustrations or photographs along with in-depth descriptions of butterfly development and behaviour for all 59 species found in the UK.

Guide to the Butterflies of Britain and Ireland
Unbound | January 2019
This collection of illustrations by renowned wildlife artist Richard Lewington are an excellent aid for quickly identifying the UK’s butterflies.
£3.99

 

Pocket Guide to the Butterflies of Great Britain and Ireland
Paperback | January 2019
This beautifully illustrated pocket sized guide gives detailed information on the distribution and life stages for all UK butterflies in an easy to use layout.
£8.99  £10.99

 

Britain’s Butterflies | A Field Guide to the Butterflies of Britain and Ireland
Paperback | March 2015
This comprehensive field guide details the complete life history for all butterfly species found in Britain and Ireland, and includes a wealth of colour photographs for reference.
£12.99 £17.99

Collins Butterfly Guide | The Most Complete Field Guide to the Butterflies of Britain and Europe
Paperback | April 2009
This extensive field guide is an essential text for those looking to further expand their knowledge of UK butterflies as well as those species that are found throughout Europe.
£13.99 £18.99

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

Butterfly Conservation

Thanks to Butterfly Conservation for letting us use their images throughout this article. For more information on UK butterflies and how you can help them please visit Butterfly Conservation.org. As the organising charity behind the Big Butterfly Count they have a wealth of information to help you find and identify butterflies and moths. They also host butterfly counts and moth trapping events across the country, which are great to attend if you want to learn a bit more about these charismatic insects.

 

Author Interview: Mike Toms and Garden Birds

The latest addition to the New Naturalist series is a timely study of the ways in which birds use our gardens.  Garden birds provide a connection to nature and wildlife and  a huge increase in the use of feeders and nest-boxes is a testament to their value.  Author, Mike Toms has worked with the BTO since 1994 and his work on projects such as the Garden BirdWatch scheme makes him the perfect author for Garden Birds

Mike, signing Garden Birds

Mike Toms has taken the time to signed a limited number of first editions hardbacks of Garden Birds and answer a few questions about his work for the BTO and his interest in garden birds.

 

Can you tell us a little about your background and how you got interested in garden birds?

When I joined the BTO back in 1994 I had been working on owls, hence the earlier New Naturalist volume on the subject, but after working on a range of topics I took on the BTO’s Garden Ecology Team in 2001. Over the following years, through long term projects like BTO’s weekly Garden BirdWatch and the seasonal Garden Bird Feeding Survey, plus some one-off targeted surveys, our team began to explore how birds use gardens and the resources that they provide. This work, which in more recent years expanded to examine the impacts of diseases, such as trichomonosis and paridae pox, and the broader urban environment, has resulted in a great deal of new information, much of which is presented in the book. Gardens have always fascinated me because they are the place where people most often encounter elements of the natural world. Garden birds are common currency for conversation for many people, just like football or music are for others. This means that we have an opportunity to understand birds lives through citizen science surveys, and to inform decisions about how we garden and how we shape our urban environments for their benefit.

What are the biggest changes to populations and distributions of garden birds within the last ten or twenty years?

As our recent paper shows, the communities of birds using garden feeding stations have changed dramatically since the 1970s, when we first started monitoring them through BTO surveys. The provision of a growing range of foods now presented at garden feeding stations has increased the diversity of birds visiting, with feeders no longer dominated by just a handful of species. Changes to feeder design have also played their part, providing access to species that were previously unable to take advantage of them. Long term figures, viewable on the BTO Garden BirdWatch and Garden Bird Feeding Survey (GBFS) web pages reveal the winners and losers over time – GBFS data show the long-term decline of House Sparrow and increase of Woodpigeon particularly well. Perhaps the most dramatic change has come from the emergence of finch trichomonosis, a disease that brought about the sudden collapse in Greenfinch populations. We have been able to monitor the emergence of this disease, and its impacts at a population level, thanks to those who participate in BTO surveys.

 

What single thing or activity can be a hinderance to birds living in, or wanting to live in gardens?

Gardens include both opportunities and risks for wild birds and it would be wrong to single out a single factor, not least because the system is fundamentally more complex than this. We need to remember that gardens are an artificial environment, and it is the opportunistic and generalist species that tend to do best in them. As the book explores in its early chapters, the garden environment can alter bird behaviour, breeding ecology and survival in many different ways.

What role can citizen science play in surveying and monitoring garden birds?

Citizen science is absolutely central to the work being done to survey and monitor garden birds. Gardens are private in their ownership, so if we want to find out what is happening within them then we need to involve the owners of those gardens in collecting the information needed. Through BTO surveys like Garden BirdWatch we have been incredibly successful in this, but as the recent Gardenwatch projects – carried out in partnership with BBC, Open University and BTO – have shown, there is a huge army of citizen scientists out there, willing and able to help us increase our understanding of birds and the garden environment.

While writing your book; was there one surprising fact or discovery that you didn’t previously know that you’d like to tell us about?

There was an interesting study of House Sparrows breeding on an off-shore island that surprised me in its relevance to how birds cope with the built environment. We know that background noise can impact on urban birds, and indeed those living close to airports and roads, but it can be difficult to test such impacts experimentally. The House Sparrows breeding on this island varied in their breeding success, with pairs nesting close to the island’s generators showing reduced breeding success. The noise from the generators reduced the ability of the parent birds to respond to the food begging calls of their chicks, reducing the amount of food provided and lowering chick survival. The generators only ran for part of each day, so the researchers were able to prove the impacts of the noise by watching how provisioning rates changed depending on generator activity.

What are your hopes for the future for garden birds?

There is still a great deal that we need to understand about birds living within the built environment. We need, for example, to understand the impacts of urban living on birds (and other wildlife) so that we can minimise the impacts that planned towns and cities have on biodiversity, but we also need to better understand the impacts that providing supplementary food has on their populations. Evidence relating to the latter is mixed, with some work showing negative impacts on wild birds and some showing positive benefits. Given the scale of food provision in the UK, this is something that we urgently need to address

Do you have any new projects in the pipeline that you’d like to tell us about?

I am currently working with YOLOBirder on a project that is seeking to raise funds for BTO and RSPB research into red-listed Birds of Conservation Concern. The book brings together an artist and a writer for each of the 67 red-listed species. As well as contributing a text, I am putting the book together and, with luck, it should be out in time for Christmas.

 

Garden Birds: New Naturalist Series Volume: 140
Hardback| July 2019| £52.99 £64.99 (limited signed copies)
Paperback| July 2019| £27.99 £34.99

We have a limited number of signed, first edition hardbacks, allocated on a first-come-first-served basis, so order now to reserve your copy.

 

New Firmware update for the Anabat Scout Bat Detector

Titley Scientific have released a new update for the Anabat Scout Bat Detector. The firmware update (Version 1.0), is an important update that should be applied to all detectors as soon as possible.

The Version 1.0 fixes the following bugs and introduces the following changes:

  • Fixed volume adjustment bug fixed, allowing the detector to remember user-set volumes.
  • Added a trigger min event to settings window.
  • The max memo file time is now set to 10 minutes (was 10 seconds).
  • Added a warning message when clock battery gets low.
  • Disable the audio output when recording a memo; reducing and preventing interference.
  • Fixed a bug that sometimes causes log files to be created in the root directory of the SD card.

Titley Scientific are continually improving the software to add features, remove bugs and address performance issues. It is vital that you install new updates as soon as they become available to ensure your detector runs smoothly.

 

How to perform the update:

Step One – The Anabat Scout is updated by downloading the new software onto an SD card. Simply download the update file using this link (.adx file) and copy this file, in its original format, in the root directory of the SD card. Make sure the file is named scout.adx. You can use the same SD card to update multiple Scouts.

Step Two – Insert the SD card and fresh batteries into your Scout then power it on. After a short period the message: “Firmware update 1.0 available. Would you like to update now?” will appear. Press the “Yes” key (top right hand soft key) to start the update. Do not remove the batteries or power off the detector while the update is being installed. Two squares will scroll across the display while the update is being installed and then the detector will restart. The update is now complete.

Note: To check that the update was successful or that the latest firmware is already installed on the Scout go to: Menu, Other, Update and check the version is 1.0

If any further assistance or advice is required, please get in touch with our equipment team at equipment@nhbs.com.

 

 

 

British Dragonfly Week – Author Interview with Dave Smallshire

Broad-bodied Chaser

In order to celebrate Dragonfly Week (13th – 21st July 2019), we interviewed Dave Smallshire, the renowned dragonfly expert and co-author of the excellent Britain’s Dragonflies field guide. Dragonflies and damselflies form the order Odonata and are some of our most iconic insects, with a fascinating life cycle. Damselflies are weaker fliers than dragonflies and have four almost equal length wings that they usually fold up when at rest.

Dragonflies have shorter hind wings and tend to keep their wings out when at rest. Primarily associated with glittering, iridescent glimpses at ponds and wetlands, dragonflies actually spend the vast majority of their lifetime (up to five years) as nymphs in rivers and other water bodies. Both the adult and nymph forms are ferocious predators. Adults are able to move each of their four wings independently and have exceptional vision, giving an astonishing aerial ability that allows them to select a single insect from a swarm.  Meanwhile the nymphs are able to jet propel water behind them and use their extendable hinged jaw (labium) to capture prey at lightning speed.

Johanna Huber

Dragonfly week is organised by the British Dragonfly Society and offers a range of activities designed to celebrate these amazing insects, including the Dragonfly Challenge where you can search for six species and submit your records to the BDS.

Interview with Dave Smallshire by Nigel Jones

1. Could you tell us a little about your background and how you got interested in dragonflies?

As a child I have fond memories of playing around water: dipping into ponds and canals and later fishing (without much success). As a teenager, birds became a passion (they still are), but other things with wings began to attract my attention, notably butterflies and dragonflies. Working in an agricultural entomology department in the 1970s, I was conscious that insect identification keys were useless in the field and it wasn’t until half-decent field guides appeared that I really got to grips with dragonflies and had seen most species by the mid-80s. Soon after, my colleague Andy Swash and I started leading a long series of weekend courses for the Field Studies Council in Surrey/Sussex. When Andy and Rob Still began producing the first of the WILDGuides ‘Britain’s Wildlife’ series, it was a natural progression for us to start work on a field guide to dragonflies.

Banded Demoiselle Copyright 2019 Sarah Clarke

2. Can you give a brief insight into the time and work that goes into producing a field guide such as Britain’s Dragonflies?

First and foremost, writing and producing such a complex book as Britain’s Dragonflies takes twice as long as you think it will! In addition to drafting all the text, we had to source all the images, which for the first edition (2004) meant viewing hundreds of slides and scanning the best. For subsequent editions, it’s been equally laborious to search the internet and choose the most suitable from many thousands of digital images. Then we had to get permissions and high-resolution files from the photographers. I spent many days with Andy editing the text so that it is absolutely clear and concise – not an easy task! On the publication side, Rob Still was guided through his production of both the illustrations and the amazing photomontages. It’s been hard work, but a real honour to be able to be involved in producing one of the best series of field guides available anywhere.

3. Dragonflies are iconic and familiar insects; how are they faring in terms of population numbers and distribution in the UK?

Until recently, we only had occasional atlas maps to show changes in range, but the British Dragonfly Society, in conjunction with the Biological Records Centre, has worked on a method to use ad hoc records from observers to produce national trends using occupancy modelling. We knew that climate change was aiding northerly spread of some species within Britain and colonisation attempts by species from continental Europe (which makes for exciting times to be out watching dragonflies), but we had little objective information on how our ‘resident’ species were faring. The latest analyses support the obvious increases in species such as Migrant Hawker and colonisers such as Small Red-eyed Damselfly, but also much less obvious decreases in ‘northern’ species such as Black Darter. There seem to be more winners than losers, but next year will see a full analysis for a State of Dragonflies 2020. The generally improved water quality and increase in the extent of wetland creation has no doubt helped many species – a general picture which is in stark contrast to the fortunes of other insects, and wildlife in general.

By Sensei Minimal

4. What actions could people take, either within their gardens, or in the wider community to help maintain or increase dragonfly numbers?

In gardens, the obvious answer is to dig a pond – I have two in mine, and they are a constant source of pleasure! Supporting the creation and ongoing management of wetlands in general is also important, so supporting local and national conservation bodies is a good thing. It’s also very important to gather records of dragonflies and help to monitor them, and everyone can help by submitting their sightings (the BDS website gives information on how to do this, as well as how to create a pond for dragonflies).

5. What was your most surprising discovery whilst researching Britain’s Dragonflies?

I have been astonished at how many images on the internet and in social media are misidentified. Even the experts get it wrong sometimes! Take care not to believe everything, and of course buy a good identification guide to help ….

Banded Demoiselle Copyright 2019 Sarah Clarke.

6. What is the biggest challenge when studying dragonflies in the field?

That’s hard to pin down, because I’m aware of so many potential pitfalls! Correct identification is fundamental. Finding out where to see the scarce species to expand your skills is hard, but easier with modern communications. Dragonflies are wary and not easy to approach, so close-focus binoculars and/or a camera are vital – the advent of good quality digital cameras has been a huge benefit. I’ve used a sequence of zoomable Lumix ‘bridge’ cameras over the last 10-15 years to help study wildlife of all kinds, both in the field and back at home. The British weather can be challenging too: a warm, sunny day makes all the difference!

7. Have you got any future projects planned that you can tell us about?

Andy and I have been working for about five years on Europe’s Dragonflies – which is now close to completion and is due for publication next spring. Like all the WILDGuides books, it’s based around high-quality images – in this case over 1,100 of them! It will be presented in a similar way to Britain’s Dragonflies but cover an extra 77 species.

 

Britain’s Dragonflies by Dave Smallshire and Andy Swash is available as part of our Field Guide Sale. For more reading on Dragonflies & Damselflies, browse our Odonata books

Britain’s Dragonflies: A Field Guide to the Damselflies and Dragonflies of Britain and Ireland
Paperback | August 2018
Focuses on the identification of both adults and larvae, highlighting the key features.
£12.99 £17.99

 

Atlas of Dragonflies in Britain and Ireland
Hardback | May 2014
Represents five years work by volunteers and partner organisations to map the distribution of damselflies and dragonflies in Britain and Ireland
£28.99

 

Our top picks for observing dragonflies in all their life cycle stages

Opticron Discovery WP PC Binoculars 

  • Free shipping for this item
  • Great value waterproof binoculars
  • Ideal for close focus work
    £169

 

Kite Caiman Binoculars

  • Exceptional close-focus
  • 15 year warranty
  • Entry-level binoculars with all-round performance
    £249.95

Professional Hand Net with Wooden Handle (250mm Wide)

  • Sturdy yet light and easy to use
  • Available in a variety of mesh sizes
  • Conforms to Environment Agency specification
    £61.99 £62.94

 

NHBS Pond Dipping Kit

This kit contains everything you need to collect freshwater aquatic life in one easy package. £31.99 £38.15 

 

Author interview – Dave Goulson

Dave Goulson is a Professor of Biology at the University of Sussex and nature writer, with a particular passion for bees. Bee Quest and A Buzz in the Meadow were bestsellers, and his latest book, The Garden Jungle is all about the wildlife that lives with us: in our gardens and parks, between the gaps in the pavement, and in the soil beneath our feet – an insight into the the wildlife that lives right under our noses.

 

Dave visited NHBS to meet the team and sign a few copies (now sold out) of The Garden Jungle.   He also answered a few questions about the inspiration behind his new book and his hopes and ambitions for the gardens of Britain.

 

  1. How did your interest in the natural world begin?

I’ve no idea! I have been somewhat obsessed by wildlife, particularly by insects, for as long as I can remember. When I was only five or six years old I remember collecting cinnabar caterpillars from the weeds on the edge of my school playground and rearing them up on my bedroom windowsill in jam jars. I never grew out of my interest, and have been lucky enough to find a way to make a living out of it.

2. Could you tell us a little about the research that went into writing The Garden Jungle?

I’ve been both gardening and studying insects for all of my adult life. The two go hand in hand, for if you grow the right plants, and garden in the right way, you can attract all sorts of insects to your garden. I’ve often done my scientific experiments from home, for example studying bee behaviour and the flowers that they choose. I also try out many of the techniques that are said to help wildlife for myself; my garden is full of more than twenty homemade bee hotels, two ponds, nine compost heaps, four or five log piles, a wildflower meadow area, half a dozen ‘hoverfly lagoons’ and more.

3. What fauna and flora gives you the most pleasure to see in your garden?

It is hard to beat the excitement of seeing the first brimstone butterfly of the year, a flash of bright yellow usually seen on the first warm day in late February or March, a sure sign that spring is coming. But bees are my real obsession, particularly bumblebees, colourful, furry, and endearingly clumsy insects that bring the flower borders to life with their buzzing activity.

4. Are you a keen gardener yourself?

I love gardening. When I’m not at work or asleep, I am somewhere in my two acre garden in the Sussex Weald, growing veg, fruit and flowers, and looking after the birds and the bees. It is my own little piece of heaven.

5. Have there been any changes over the past fifty years – either for the benefit or to the detriment of wildlife in the way people view their gardens?

There has certainly been a great increase in interest in encouraging wildlife into our gardens, for example via bird feeders, tit boxes, bee hotels and by planting bee-friendly flowers. Many of us believe that gardens can be places where people and nature live in harmony. On the other hand there have been many detrimental changes too; Astroturf lawns, decking, hard paving, and a huge increase in the number of chemicals available for use. Gardening has become big business; nowadays many people’s idea of gardening is to drive to some vast garden centre and fill the back of their car with annual bedding plants grown in peat-based composts, drenched in pesticides and sold in disposable plastic pots. There is nothing green about that approach to gardening.

6. If someone wanted to link gardens together for the benefit of wildlife, what would be your advice to enlist the neighbourhood’s cooperation?

Often the best way to convince people to change is to show them the alternative. If your garden is wildlife-friendly, invite your neighbours round for a coffee and show them the butterflies nectaring on flowers, the bees busy stocking their bee hotel, and the flowers in your not-too-tightly-mowed lawn. Offer them some seeds or cuttings of bee-friendly flowers; I give comfrey roots to anyone willing to grow them, it is one of the very best plants for bumblebees and I’m trying to encourage everyone to have a clump of it somewhere.

7. Do you have any new projects in the pipeline that you’d like to tell us about?

With colleagues at Sussex University I recently launched the Buzz Club, a nationwide organisation which is working with the public to do experiments to test interventions for garden wildlife. For example, we are asking people to test out creating a ‘hoverfly lagoon’, miniature ponds intended to provide homes for the offspring of some types of hoverfly. Find out more here: https://www.thebuzzclub.uk/.

Signed copies

A very limited number of The Garden Jungle, signed by Dave Gouslon are available from NHBS. *Signed copies are now sold out*

 

 

The Garden Jungle
Hardback | July 2019| £14.99 £16.99

The wildlife that lives right under our noses, in our gardens and parks, between the gaps in the pavement, and in the soil beneath our feet.

 

Discover other titles by Dave Goulson, on special offer until the end of August 2019

Bee Quest
Paperback | April 2018
An endearing account of the search for rare bees. – The Observer £7.99 £9.99

 

A Buzz in the Meadow
Paperback | April 2015
A fascinating look at the insect world found in one field in France – NHBS
£7.99 £9.99

A Sting in the Tale
Paperback | April 2014
A very readable introduction to the remarkable world of bees and bee conservation. – Good Book Guide
£7.99 £9.99

All prices correct at the time of publication.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Little Toller Books: Publisher of the Month for July

Little Toller Books  are celebrating their tenth anniversary this year, and we are delighted to make them our Publisher of the Month for July. In 2009 Adrian and Gracie Cooper began re-publishing some of the great ‘lost’ works of rural writing – like The South Country By Edward Thomas and Four Hedges by Clare Leighton, with introductions by contemporary writers and beautiful new jackets.  Thus,  the backbone of Little Toller’s publishing – Nature Classics was conceived.

 

Little Toller publish new writers too; such as Peter Marren’s recently published comprehensive guide to the names of our butterflies and moths –Emperors, Admirals and Chimney Sweepers; and Landfill by Tim Dee (who recently took the time to answer some questions for the NHBS blog, an ode to gulls, which has been recently long-listed for the  Wainwright Golden Beer Book Prize 2019

Little Toller remains ambitious; following on from The Ancient Woods of the Helford River, a second posthumous title from Oliver Rackham – The Woods of South East Wales will be published later this year.  Also forthcoming, and due in August is Living with Trees, a practical book about how we can live better with trees and allow them to enhance our landscapes. Little Toller Books have also recently secured the publishing rights for teenage naturalist Dara McAnulty’s book Diary Of A Young Naturalist.

Ten years of nature writing

With Emperors, Admirals and Chimney Sweepers; and Landfill stealing the show recently, we have selected five other stand-out books from across their ten years of publishing:

Orison for a Curlew
Paperback| July 2017| £6.99 £7.99
A story of the struggles of conservation and a homage to the Slender-Billed Curlew, a bird that may never be seen again.

 

Arboreal: A Collection of New Woodland Writing
Hardback| Oct 2017| £16.99 £19.99
An anthology exploring the relationship between trees, woods and people.

 

The South Country
Paperback| June 2009| £7.99 £9.99
Edward Thomas’s lyrical, passionate, and sometimes political writing merges natural history with folk culture in The South Country.

 

The Ash Tree
Paperback| Nov 2016| £7.99 £9.99
Oliver Rackham’s call for a radical shift in our attitude to trees – there is no more urgent message for our times.

 

Cornerstones Subterranean Writings
Hardback| April 2018| £12.99 £15.99
Some of the UK’s leading landscape and nature writers consider the depth of their relationships with the ground beneath their feet.

 

All price promotion valid until July 31st 2019

Invertebrate Survey: Moth Trapping

Many of us delight at butterflies visiting the flowers in our gardens, be it the drunken admirals of autumn or the spritely orange-tips in spring, yet some of us still seem to shudder at the thought of dingy moths bothering our windows at night or worse still munching our clothes to dust in our cupboards. In the middle of June, armed with two moth traps and a couple of trusted field guides, I attended an open garden in Somerset ready to join the #Mothsmatter conversation initiated by Butterfly Conservation to dispel the moth myths and encourage a fascination for these insects.

All the essentials for cataloguing a moth catch!

Setting up a Skinner moth trap in a covered porch over a couple of cold nights, I wasn’t entirely sure what species would be flying, but sure enough in the morning as I lifted the lid and slid the egg boxes out, there were some delightful species to see. Visitors in the garden were suffice to say, in awe of the moths the light brought in; the Poplar Hawk-moth and the Eyed Hawk- moth, the Fox Moth with his rabbit ear antennae and the remarkable Buff-tip.

We are becoming well aware that UK moths are in decline with an overall decrease in numbers by 28% since 1968, and over 60 species becoming extinct in the 20th century. Moths are a key indicator of environmental health and, as vital as they are to other creatures as a food source (their declines are impacting on breeding birds and bats) they are also vital for the pollination of native flora, an essential element to the tapestry of wild life. There is also evidence to suggest that climate change is shifting the habitable ranges of many of the moths that call the UK home, and while this can produce some spectacular species visiting from continental Europe, many of the species that have relied on the temperate climate in the UK are being forced out northward.

With a recent trend in wildlife gardening and more strict rules on chemicals used in agriculture, there is hope however that we can retain and rebuild some of the moth populations that are so vital in our countryside. Butterfly Conservation have a wealth of information available on their website about the trends of moth populations and, very importantly, what you can do to take action, join the conversation and promote moths at https://butterfly-conservation.org/moths/why-moths-matter

If you are interested in learning about which moth species are visiting your garden or local wild places, light trapping is simple and loads of fun. At NHBS we supply a range of moth traps suited for a number of habitats and a wide selection of amazing field guides to aid in identifying the moths you find. Below we have listed some of our favourite traps and provided a little more information on the differences between them, however if you wish to see our full selection of moth traps please visit our website.

Robinson Moth Traps

These large traps are renowned among lepidopterists because they offer the highest attraction and retention rates available. These traps are fitted with either mercury vapour or actinic electrics. Mercury vapour bulbs offer greater brightness than actinic bulbs and consequently they will often attract more moths. However actinic electrics may be favourable in areas where the brighter bulbs may cause disturbance; they also run cold and do not need to be shielded from rain, unlike mercury bulbs which are likely to shatter when used without a rain guard.

Heavy Duty 125W MV Robinson Moth Trap

 

* Price: £465.00 inc VAT
* Dimensions: 50 (h) x 60 (w) cm
* Weight: 7.9kg
* Electrics: 240V mains electric
* Also available with actinic electrics

Skinner Moth Traps

These traps are precursors to the Robinson, and as well as being a more economic choice, they allow the catch to be accessed while the trap is running. They feature a plastic or wooden box with a light fitted to a cross member above a long slit through which moths fall and become trapped. A highlight of this box are the transparent panels that make up the trap lid. These can be removed to access the catch while the trap is running, which is great for real-time surveys and demonstrations. These traps can be easily collapsed down for easy storage and transport.

Compact 20W Skinner Moth Trap (240V)

* Price: £179.00 inc VAT
* Dimensions: 32 (h) x 35 (w) x 35 (d) cm
* Weight: 3kg
* Electrics: 240V mains electric
* Alternative battery-operated units also available.

 

 

Heath Moth Traps

These traps are favoured for their lower cost and compact design which makes them highly portable (excellent for use in remote areas) and easy to store; some are even small enough to fit into a rucksack. They are usually battery powered and feature a low wattage light source of between 6 and 20 Watts (however some mains operated traps can reach 40 Watts), and consequently these traps have lower catch sizes and retention rates than Skinner or Robinson models.

Compact 20W Actinic Heath Moth Trap (240V)

 

* Price: £149.00 inc VAT
* Dimensions: 47 (h) x 25 (w) x 25 (d) cm
* Weight: 3kg
* Electrics: 240V mains electric
* Also available as a battery-operated unit.

 

 

Suggested books on Moths


Field Guide to the Moths of Great Britain and Ireland

Paperback | Nov 2018| £27.99 £34.99
A comprehensive guide with full colour illustrations and up-to-date information on the taxonomy, ecology and distributions of the UK’s macro-moths.

 


Concise Guide to the Moths of Great Britain and Ireland
Paperback | Oct 2018| £13.99 £16.99
This compact guide features full colour illustrations and concise descriptions for almost all British and Irish species of macro-moths

 

Emperors, Admirals & Chimney Sweepers | The Weird and Wonderful Names of Butterflies and Moths
Hardback | May 2019| £24.99 £29.99
A beautifully written book that seeks to explore the origins and meanings of the names of our butterflies and moths.

 

The Moth Snowstorm | Nature and Joy
Paperback | Apr 2016| £9.99
Drawing on a wealth of memorable experiences from a lifetime of watching and thinking about wildlife and natural landscapes Michael McCarthy presents a new way of looking at the world around us.

 

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

Solitary Bee Week

Although we are all familiar with the important role that bumblebees and honeybees play in pollination, over 90% of the UK’s 267 bee species are in fact solitary bees. Pollinating animals are responsible for one third of the food we consume and solitary bees are particularly efficient pollinators. Unlike other bees solitary bees do not have pollen baskets and so transfer much more pollen between flowers, meaning a single red mason bee provides a pollination service equivalent to 120 worker honey bees. This makes them a critical resource in our gardens and wider countryside and one that we should all be keen to protect. We have collated some information below on how to help encourage and preserve these fascinating creatures.

Ivy Bee © Sophie Cooper

Solitary Bee Ecology

Solitary bees use a wide range of nest sites including tunnels in wood or mortar, plant stems and even snail shells. They lay eggs in a series of cells and then block the entrance with materials such as mud, leaves or fine hair. The female lays an egg with a food source, made from pollen and nectar, before building a partition wall and moving on to the next cell. The bee larvae hatch, eat the food source then overwinter as a cocoon before emerging the following summer as adults.

Solitary Bee cells in the Solitary Beehive

There have been extremely worrying declines in insect numbers recorded across Europe, and solitary bees are no exception. The increased use of chemicals in farming, loss of flower meadow food sources and loss of nest sites in hedgerows and gardens are all combining to drive down numbers. The good news is that it is easy to provide food sources and nesting habitat in your garden to help solitary bees and increase pollination. 

Providing Resources for Solitary Bees

Provide food sources for solitary bees by planting wild flower seeds, native trees such as hawthorn and willow, bee friendly plants such as ivy, foxgloves and lavender and allowing plants such as borage and thistles to flower in your garden. Nest sites can be provided by leaving dead wood and stems standing, creating a patch of bare earth or mud bank for mining bees and by installing wild bee houses. 

BeePot Bee Hotel © Green & Blue

With careful design consideration, bee houses can provide shelter and nesting sites for solitary bees. Bee houses can be manufactured from a variety of materials but should have a good overhanging roof to protect the nesting tubes from rain, nesting holes between 2 and 10mm in diameter and a solid back. It is better to have a number of smaller bee houses, rather than one large house to reduce the risk of parasites finding the nest. Alternatively we have a wide range of solitary bee nesting habitats available on our website.

You can tell which species of bee is using your bee house by examining the material used to plug the entrance hole. Different species also emerge at different points in the year. The most common species likely to populate bee houses are red mason bees who use mud and are active March – July, leafcutter bees who use leaves and are active May – September, and wool carder bees who use fine hairs and are active June – August. Please note that there are fewer solitary bee species in the North of England and Scotland.

Leafcutter Bee in Action © Green & Blue

Solitary Bee House Siting and Maintenance

Insect houses should be sited at least 1m off the ground, facing south or south-east, with no vegetation covering the entrance and in full sun as insects need warmth to keep moving. They should be firmly fixed so that they don’t move in the wind. If your box is likely to be occupied by red mason bees then it is helpful to ensure that there is a patch of damp mud nearby. In order to maximise the chances of adults emerging successfully from the cocoons, it is a good idea to bring bee boxes indoors into an unheated shed or garage during the winter to avoid them getting too damp. The boxes should then be taken back outside in March in time for the new adults to emerge. There is some debate as to whether brick / concrete boxes should be cleaned but they can be cleaned out with a tent peg and pipe cleaner. Boxes with cardboard tubes should have the tubes replaced regularly. Keep an eye out for failed nests and tiny holes in the mud entrance as this can indicate that the nest tube has been taken over by parasites. 

Mining Bee © Ed Phillips

Suggested Solitary Bee Houses

Bee Brick

This Bee Brick can be used in place of a standard brick or as a standalone bee house in your garden or wild patch. Available in four colours. £29.99 £39.99

Solitary Beehive

This unique solitary beehive is made from durable FSC timber and designed specifically to attract solitary bees which are naturally attracted to holes in wood. £23.99 £29.99

 

Red Mason Bee Nest Box

The nest box is supplied with 29 individual nesting tubes, two sets of screws and plugs for mounting, and full instructions. £10.99

 

BeePot Bee Hotel

This is a fantastic concrete planter which doubles as a nesting place for solitary bees. Available in a range of colours and sizes, this is the larger size, the mini version is also available. £42.95 £49.99

WoodStone Insect Block

This WoodStone Insect Block is constructed from durable, FSC certified WoodStone with a nesting area created from reed stems.

£24.95 

 

Urban Bee Nester

This urban insect hotel is part of the contemporary range of wildlife habitats that have a sleek design for city living.

£20.99 £27.50

 

Suggested books on solitary bees

Solitary Bees
Paperback | July 2019| £19.99
An introduction to the natural history, ecology and conservation of solitary bees, together with an easy-to-use key to genera.

 

The Solitary Bees: Biology, Evolution, Conservation Hardback | September 2019| £27.99 £34.99                           The most up-to-date and authoritative resource on the biology and evolution of solitary bees.

 

 

Handbook of the Bees of the British Isles (2-Volume Set) Hardback | October 2018| £130 £150

With photographic material of over 270 bee species, this comprehensive handbook is a once-in-a-generation identification work to the British bee fauna.

 

Field Guide to the Bees of Great Britain and Ireland Paperback | December 2018| £27.99 £34.99

A comprehensive introduction to bee classification, ecology, field techniques and recording, a full glossary, and information on how to separate the sexes and distinguish bees from other insects is also included.

 

Buzz: The Nature and Necessity of Bees                Paperback | April 2019| £9.99 

Award-winning author, Thor Hanson takes us on a journey that begins 125 million years ago, when a wasp first dared to feed pollen to its young.

 

In order to increase awareness of how vital a role our solitary bees play in pollination, the first week of July has been designated as Solitary Bee Week. You can get involved by pledging to create nesting sites or plant food sources for bees, writing poetry or recording bee sightings.

 

The NHBS Harp Trap

The NHBS Harp Trap 

Earlier this year we were delighted to launch another exciting product manufactured here at our base in Devon. After a concerted period of design and manufacturing effort by our expert Workshop Team, followed by testing and review by ecological professionals, our NHBS Harp Trap was ready for production. The launch of our product into the wildlife equipment market signals the arrival of the only commercially produced harp trap in Europe. 

What is a Harp Trap? 

A harp trap provides an alternative bat survey method to mist netting or the use of bat detectors. They are particularly useful in situations where bats in flight can be channeled through a natural funnel such as above a water course, a cave or mine entrance or a clear area within a forest. 

Harp traps consist of a frame which is either freestanding or suspended, and supports two to four rows of nylon strings. The bats will fly into the nylon strands and then fall unharmed down into a collecting bag below. The catch bag is made from green cotton canvas that is water resistant and breathable and includes heavy duty clear plastic baffles to prevent the bats from escaping. Unlike mist nets, harp traps do not entangle the bats an it has been reported that they can be more effective for surveying bats, potentially capturing higher numbers of individuals. 

The NHBS Harp Trap

The new NHBS Harp Trap is a three-bank trap, meaning it has three rows of nylon line. Our trap has a catch area of approximately 4mand catch bag which is around 60cm deep.  It folds down neatly into a bespoke carry bag and weighs approximately 15kg-full specifications and dimensions are below. The trap takes two people around 10 minutes to assemble and stands on four sturdy, extendable legs and which can be arranged at the height that you need the trap to be. There is also the option to anchor the harp trap with guy ropes in windy conditions. The trap can also be adapted to be suspended if this is required. 

Our trap has a few innovative features designed to make assembly and disassembly easier. Firstly the strings are wrapped  around a winding mechanism which greatly reduces the stress and time-consuming act of sorting through tangled lines in the dark.

 

There is also an extension under the catch bag, which prevents the bats from flying underneath the trap and this doubles as protection for the component parts as it wraps around the disassembled trap when it is stored in its bag. 

Dimensions:

Catch area: 4m2 approximately
Catch area L x W: 180 x 225cm
Length: 180cm
Catch bag depth: 60cm
Catch bag width: 44cm
Weight: 15kg

Folded dimensions (in carry bag)
Height: 46cm
Length: 200cm
Width: 22cm

Operational dimensions
With legs fully retracted:
Height 314cm
Width (at base): 62cm
Length (at base): 230cm

With legs fully extended:
Height: 372cm
Width (at base): 100cm
Length (at base): 252cm

Testing 

As our harp trap evolved, prototypes were trialed and reviewed by ecology professionals; Professor Fiona Mathews of Sussex University and Neil Middleton of Batability. Their expertise and excellent feedback helped us develop our the harp trap to the point that it was now ready to go live. 

The team at NHBS have done an excellent job in coming up with a new and refreshing approach to harp trapping, which shows many innovative and useful design features.  When testing the equipment we were able to demonstrate that it was quicker/easier to assemble than competitor’s products.  We are happy to recommend this harp trap, and will be ordering one ourselves, to be used during our training courses and for bat-related research.   
Neil Middleton, BatAbility Courses & Tuition

The Law 

Harp traps can only be sold to those who are licensed to use them. If you hold such a licence, we will ask to see a copy of your NE, NRW or SNH licence when you contact us about your purchase. If you are purchasing from overseas, we will request details about your institution and research. 

NHBS Manufacturing

NHBS manufactures marine, freshwater and terrestrial survey tools, all carefully designed to meet the demands of researchers, consultants, public authorities and educators in the environment sector. Made by our team of expert engineers, fabricators and seamstresses, our products have become renowned for their quality, durability and affordability.

Find out more about our manufacturing.

Key accessories for using alongside your harp trap

The Petzl Tikka Headtorch has a 200 lumen beam and a maximum range of  60m. It has five lighting modes with both red and white light. It is powered by 3x AAA batteries (included) and available in four colours.

Price: £28.99 £32.00

 

The Kite LED Loupe Triplet Hand Lens 10 x 21 provides crystal clear images which are enhanced with its ring of LED lights. This product may prove invaluable when trying to identify some of the tiny distinguishing features of certain bat species. 

Price: £41.99 

The A4 Portrait Waterproof Clipboard allows you to write in the field without having to worry about the rain. A waterproof plastic covering system helps to keep your paper dry and can be closed over the clipboard with the strong velcro fastener. 

Price: £22.99

Books 

The Bats of Britain and Europe 

Paperback | Sept 2018 

Price: £23.99 £29.99

The Bat Workers’ Manual 

Paperback | July 2012 

Price: £29.99 

 

Field Guide to Bats of the Amazon 

Paperback |Feb 2018 

Price: £24.99 £29.99

 

Please note that prices are correct at the time of publishing and are subject to change at any time. 

The NHBS Guide to Hand Lenses

The possession of a hand lens is one of the defining characteristics of a naturalist.

We use them for everything from peering at beetle genitalia and examining floral characters, to examining the arrangement of teeth in small mammal jaw bones. There are a wide variety of hand lenses on the market so how do you decide which lens is best for you? This article contains all the information you need to make an informed choice.

Glass versus plastic lens?

The optic in a hand lens can be made from glass or plastic. Serious naturalists and professionals will always choose a glass lens. Plastic lenses are generally more affordable and lighter but are of lower optical quality and are more difficult to clean. Plastic hand lenses and magnifiers, however, can be a good choice for schools and young children, for these users have a look at the Hand Held Magnifier.

How many optical elements?

Canon 400mm

An element is an individual piece of glass within a lens. When you look through a high quality camera lens you will typically be viewing what’s in front of the lens through four to six lens elements, as well as other elements used for focusing and zooming (see image below right).

Paul Canon EF 400mm f/4 DO IS USM By Paul Chin

Hand lenses are constructed with one (singlet), two (doublet) or three (triplet) lens elements. Each one is specially shaped to correct for a particular type of optical distortion, so the more elements, the higher quality the image.

 

The highest quality lenses that we offer are the triplet products made by Kite and Belomo. These offer a bright, crystal clear and undistorted view of your subject. The images afforded by these optics will impress the user whatever their field of work is, be it geology, entomology or botany.

 

N.B. There is a brand of hand lens / loupe called “Triplet”. Please note that despite the brand name this popular product has one lens (singlet).

 

If you are interested in obtaining a doublet hand lens you should consider those that are manufactured by Opticron and also Kite. Opticron will be a familiar name if you have ever researched the purchase of a pair of binoculars and their hand lenses provide excellent distortion free magnification at 6x, 10x and 15x.

Magnification

A 10x magnification hand lens will be more than adequate for most purposes. Higher magnification lenses tend to be harder to use but are very useful for viewing extremely small objects. If you are unsure of which magnification you need, or think you may need several different lenses, you might consider the Triple Hand Lens (x3, x4 and x5).

Lens diameter

Large diameter lenses provide a wider field of view which means that they are easier to use but they are slightly more expensive to produce.

How hand leOpticron Hand lens, 23mm, 10x magnificationnses are named

Hand lenses are named in the same way as binoculars, with both the lens diameter and the magnification included in the name. For example, the Opticron Hand Lens, 23mm, 10x Magnification has a 23mm diameter lens and provides 10x magnification.

LED Option

Some hand lenses such as the LED Triplet Loupe Hand Lens 10x 21mm possess LED lighting in order to illuminate the object that you are viewing. This option can greatly improve your viewing experience and can be particularly valuable in low light conditions. Bat workers have expressed how useful these can be when looking for the key identifying features of a specimen held in the hand. Using a lens with LED can reduce stress on the bat because it means that you do not have to point the beam of your head torch directly at the animal.

Using your hand lens

Finally, a quick note on hand lens technique. To use your hand lens correctly, hold the lens close to your eye and then either a) move the subject closer to your eye until it comes in to focus or b) move your head (and the hand lens) closer to the subject until it comes into focus. It’s easy with a little practice so don’t get put off if you find a new hand lens difficult at first. Expect to get close up to what you’re examining – it’s quite common to see naturalists crawling around on the ground to get close to a plant they’re identifying.

Keeping your hand lens safe

It can be very hard to find a much-loved hand lens dropped in long grass or woodland. To prevent this happening, we recommend a lanyard for your hand lens – this has two functions: a) if you have it round your neck you won’t drop it, and b) if you put it down somewhere the bright blue lanyard is easy to spot.

For storage and transport purposes most hand lenses come equipped with either a storage pouch or a plastic case. These enable you to keep your optic safe and reduce the risk of scratches or knocks occurring, especially when it is being carried in a pocket or bag. Spare leather pouches are available for the Triplet Loupe 10x 21mm but these may fit other lenses as well – we are happy to check before you buy.

Our full range of lenses and magnifiers can be found at nhbs.com.