The RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch 2020

For over 40 years the RSPB has been running one of the largest citizen science projects in the world, the Big Garden Birdwatch. Data is submitted by nearly half a million volunteers who have counted birds in their gardens, allowing a unique and important picture to emerge of changes in abundance and distribution of some of the UK’s most popular bird species. Anyone can sign up online to take part and submit data using a simple online or paper form, and then you can sit back with a cup of tea and enjoy watching the birds in your garden or park, whilst contributing to this amazing project. This year the Big Garden Birdwatch is being run from 25 – 27th January, with results expected to be published in April.

Long-tailed tit: Airwolfhound: www.flickr.com

How to take part in the Big Garden Birdwatch
You do not have to be an RSPB member to participate and process for signing up, counting and submitting records is easy.

  1. Sign up through the RSPB website for either a free postal pack or online results submission
  2. Find a good spot to watch the birds in your garden or a local park and choose an hour between between Saturday 25th and Monday 27th January
  3. Have fun identifying the species visiting your garden during that hour and count the maximum number of each species you see at any one time. For example, if you see a group of three house sparrows together and after that another one, the number to submit is three. This method means it is less likely you will double count the same birds and makes data analysis easier. Make a note of any other wildlife that you spot as well
  4. Submit your results, either on the Big Garden Birdwatch website, or by posting a paper form. Even if you don’t see anything, that’s still useful information
  5. Look out for the results and take pride in having contributed data from your patch

Which species am I likely to see?
The RSPB website has some fantastic guides detailing how to identify the species that you are seeing and once you have signed up, you can download a chart with the most common species and identifying features. Alternatively NHBS stocks a range of bird ID guides that are ideal for beginners and more experienced birdwatchers. One of the first thing to consider is where you are seeing the bird and how it is feeding as this makes it easier to distinguish between ground feeders such as chaffinches, dunnocks, blackbirds and robins, and feeder users such as blue and great tits and goldfinches. If you can hear the birds then listening to the calls they are making is also a really good way to help with identification. The top eight species from last year gives a good idea of some of the species you are likely to see in your garden.

The most commonly recorded species in the 2019 Big Garden Birdwatch. All images from www.flickr.com

Big Garden Birdwatch Results
Over the course of its 40 year history the Big Garden Birdwatch has developed an invaluable database of the numbers and composition of species visiting our gardens and parks. This has allowed the RSPB scientists to identify critical population trends such as a 77% decline in song thrush and starling numbers since 1979, and a 56% decrease in the number of house sparrows since the study started, although this decline has slowed in the last 10 years.

All images from www.flickr.com

With the increase in people feeding birds in their gardens, the diversity of species visiting our parks and gardens has increased. Coal tit sightings have increased by 246% since 1979, goldfinches only began to be sighted in the early 2000s and siskins, bullfinches and bramblings are increasingly common in gardens.

The 2019 results have house sparrows as the most commonly sighted bird for the 16th successive year, with over a million sightings. Starlings and blue tits maintain their second and third places respectively, and the rest of the top ten was also fairly consistent with previous years’ results, featuring blackbirds, woodpigeons, goldfinches, great tits, robins, chaffinches and magpies.

 

All of this vital analysis of our wild bird populations is only possible thanks to the time and enthusiasm donated by the volunteers who take part.

 

Greenfinch and goldfinches on a seed feeder:  Nick Holden – www.flickr.com

How can I encourage more wildlife into my garden?
It is well documented that increasing our interactions with nature can not only benefit the wildlife around us but also improve our own physical and mental wellbeing. Participating in the Big Garden Birdwatch can help you understand how wildlife is using your garden and also give you some insights into how you could make your outdoor space even more attractive to animals.

Improving your garden for wildlife can be as simple as leaving a patch of long grass, providing native trees or plants that are good for pollinators such as lavender, buddleja and verbena, or leaving a woodpile for insects to shelter in. You can also supply nest boxes for birds, bat boxes for summer roosting bats, access panels and shelters for hedgehogs, shelter for frogs and toads and of course bird feeders, which will bring a multitude of species to your garden.

Recommended Products

Opticron Oregon 4 PC 8 x 32 Binoculars

£109.00 £119.00

With Phase Coating for improved sharpness of images, these are fantastic entry level binoculars

 

Hawke Optics Endurance ED Binoculars

£209.00 £229.99

These binoculars have ED glass for brilliant colour rendition

 

 

 

 

Defender Metal Seed Feeder

£15.95 £17.50

Defender Metal Peanut Feeder

£12.95 £14.99

Strong metal feeders with good squirrel resistance

 

 

Britain’s Birds: An identification guide to the birds of Britain and Ireland

£19.99

 

 

 

 

 

Collins BTO Guide to British Birds

£19.99

 

 

 

 

 

RSPB Pocket Guide to British Birds

£6.99

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Guide to the ‘Top 50’ Garden Birds

£3.99

NHBS: In The Field – Hi-Sound Stereo Parabolic Microphone

Hi-Sound Stereo Parabolic Microphone

Parabolic microphone dishes are a great tool for wildlife recording. They offer directional recording by isolating and amplifying sounds within a narrow band (in front of the microphone) without the addition of excessive self-noise (the noise created by the microphone when sounds are artificially amplified). This means that even very quiet sounds can be heard clearly from a distance. These systems are particularly popular for pinpointing birdsong and producing clear and sharp recordings, although they can be used to record any wildlife.

The Hi-Sound is a parabolic dish ideal for wildlife recording

We tested the Hi-Sound Stereo Parabolic Microphone which features a set microphone sensors separated by a baffle to create stereo recordings. Stereo recordings are more immersive and realistic than mono recordings as they accurately reproduce sounds coming from different directions. Each microphone sensor has excellent performance and increases the gain (volume) of recordings whilst keeping the self-noise low, meaning your recordings will remain clean and crisp.

Hi-Sound setup diagram

Setting Up

The Hi-Sound is easy to put together and is powered through plug-in-power (where the power is supplied through an attached recording device). We paired the Hi-Sound with the Tascam DR-05X portable handheld recorder and a pair of standard, good quality headphones. Our settings on the Tascam were:

Mic Power: On (very important! If your recording device does not detect the microphone, double-check this setting is on)

Low Cut: 80Hz (this removes some of the inherent noise at the lower frequencies)

Pre Rec: Off (you may want this on if you are recording wildlife that you might miss. When on, the Tascam will record the previous two seconds before ‘record’ was pressed)

Auto Tone: Off

We chose a still, dry day to test this microphone. For optimal recording, it is useful to go somewhere away from roads or background noise. For example, we took the Hi-Sound into a bird hide and although it picked up a wader call beautifully, it also picked up the floorboard creaks, coat ruffles and binocular case velcro from everybody else in the hide. You’ll be amazed at how much background sound there is in what you thought was a quiet setting!

We tested the Hi-Sound along a riverside walk to record the sounds of the water and how different noises could be pinpointed by aiming the parabolic dish. We also went to some quieter locations to record birdsong and compared recordings between using the Hi-Sound and just using the inbuilt Tascam microphone showing the benefits of this parabolic dish.

What we found

The Hi-Sound produced much cleaner, crisper sound and made recording specific bird calls a lot easier. Aiming the parabolic dish correctly took a bit of practice but once mastered, it was incredibly useful for pinpointing a bird, even if we weren’t able to see it. The clear plastic dish helped with this as without it, most of our view would have been obstructed. The stereo aspect of the recordings also made it a lot easier to track birds if they moved. 

It was fascinating to aim the Hi-sound at different points along a river in order to pinpoint different sounds. This demonstrated how good the dish was at isolating sounds from the narrow band in front of the microphone.

Our Opinion

The Hi-Sound is a fantastic piece of kit for wildlife recording. Although the cost of a parabolic microphone can be a significant leap from a standard handheld recorder, their performance and ability to isolate calls and sounds make the investment well worth it.

The Hi-Sound was particularly good at amplifying very quiet calls or calls from a long distance away without adding noise or compromising on recording quality. This is something that the Tascam just wasn’t able to do by itself. The microphone is easy to use, although perhaps not as easy to transport due to its size and shape. 

We feel that the Hi-Sound will impress both the wildlife recording beginner and the entry-level professional.  The Hi-Sound completely transforms a walk through nature, providing a whole new element to bird watching. If you have never thought about wildlife recording before, I would urge you strongly to do so. It is a rewarding and captivating hobby that is definitely enhanced with the use of a parabolic microphone such as the Hi-Sound. If you are a professional who regularly records, then the Hi-Sound would be valuable to refine your recordings and produce excellent quality audio.


The Hi-Sound Stereo Parabolic Microphone is available through the NHBS website.

To view our full range of sound recorders and microphones, visit www.nhbs.com. If you have any questions on wildlife recording or would like some advice on the microphone for you then please contact us via email at customer.services@nhbs.com or phone on 01803 865913

The Vegetative Key to the British Flora: an interview with author John Poland

With re-written keys, additional species, phenology and  many new identification characters, this second edition of The Vegetative Key to the British Flora will be an essential tool for anyone wishing to identify plants when no flowers or fruits are available.

Author John Poland has taken time to answer a few question about the making of this eagerly waited update.

 

John Poland at Hazelslack, Silverdale

Could you tell us a little about your background and how you got interested in botany?

I grew up in urban Lancashire but luckily nature and ‘weeds’ are everywhere. The Lake District was a weekend camping haunt as a child so my curiosity of the natural world never disappeared.
I think the i-spy/Find 50 books that adorned bookshops at the time fostered this interest as I was always hunting for the rarities, sometimes even successfully! Later, local natural history societies and national societies such as the BSBI and Wild Flower Society were great at mentoring and developing more advanced ID skills.
My day job is in ecological consultancy which combines a passion for the natural world with protecting it for others to enjoy. Botany doesn’t always get the prominence it deserves but it plays such an important role in our environment.

Why did you consider producing a second edition of The Vegetative Key to the British Flora and how long has it been in preparation?

The second edition was started the day the first edition was in my hands in 2009! It was a good first attempt, but there is always much to learn and many diagnostic characters were overlooked. This volume aims to correct this by evolving a more definitive ID guide based on 10 years of extensive testing by many botanists. Writing The Field Key to Winter Twigs gave me a new perspective on key-designing concepts so some of these have been applied to the new Veg Key to make it easier for users.

Can you advise on the best ways to use this book?

Always read the keys and never try to pre-empt a question! In this edition, every key has been revised to make ID easier and more accurate.

What kit or equipment can you recommend to aid identification of plants in the vegetative state?

It’s mostly very basic (and inexpensive). A x20 hand lens is best in the field and an x15 LED magnifier is great when working indoors. A measuring loupe is a handy tool and easier to use than a microscrope for fine measurements.

Is there one easy mistake that can be made when identifying plants in their vegetative state?

Perhaps overlooking hair type or presence/absence of latex and stomata. These need careful interpretation but it gets much easier with practice, honest! The key works using obvious characters to start with before getting down to the nitty-gritty. I try to give both simple and technical characters to give the user confidence of getting a correct answer.

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

There is always plenty to do in botany. I’m already working on including the entire British Flora. Neophytes are hitching a ride all the time and hortal plants constantly jumping over the garden wall. Perhaps a book on evergreen trees and shrubs would be useful for winter botany but I’m only on the bare bones of that key at the moment…

 

The Vegetative Key to the British Flora: A New Approach to Plant Identification
Paperback,  published January 2020                £24.99 

The second edition of this go-to identification guide is much revised, with re-written keys, additional species, phenology, and many new identification characters.

 

The Field Key to Winter Twigs: A Guide to Native and Planted Deciduous Trees, Shrubs and Woody Climbers (Xylophytes) found in the British Isles
Paperback,  published November 2019             £19.99

A unique identification guide to winter twigs, allowing for rapid species identification.

 

Helm: Publisher of the Month

Christopher Helm’s name has adorned some of the most cherished and authoritative bird books to have appeared anywhere in the world. Starting with the now out-of-print  Seabirds in 1983, a revolution in ornithology publishing began. The Helm stable has since grown into a series of groundbreaking identification guides.  As well as the justly famous Helm Identification Guides, the Helm imprint has expanded to include the Helm Field Guides, Helm Photographic Guides, and Where to Watch Birds series.

With three more fantastic books published in January, we are delighted to name Helm as our Publisher of the Month.

 

 

 

 

 

Over thirty years of ornithology publishing

Handbook of Western Palearctic Birds: Passerines (2-Volume Set)
Hardback| July 2018| £115.99 £150.00
In 2018 Helm published this long awaited 2-Volume Set  which has been among our bestsellers ever since.

We’ve selected more highlights from Helm’s illustrious publishing history below:

 

Birds of Costa Rica                                                                     Paperback| 2014| £16.99 £24.99
The detailed full-colour illustrations exemplify the high standards of Helm’s field guides

 

Flight Identification of European Seabirds
Paperback| 2007| £23.99 £39.99
Essential field guide for watching seabirds, whether it be from land or at sea.

 

Birds of Mongolia
Paperback| Aug 2019| £21.99 £29.99
With a guide to Argentina avifauna planned for late 2020, Helm’s field guides continue to cover increasingly popular destinations for birders, such as Mongolia

 

Antpittas and Gnateaters
Hardback| 2018| £33.99 £49.99
The ultimate reference on these remarkable and beautiful birds and a recent addition to Helm’s authoritative Identification Guide series.  With Birds of Paradise and Bowerbirds and Larks of the World to be published in 2020.

 

Gulls of Europe, Asia and North America
Hardback| 2004 | £32.99 £49.99
The book that that made accurate identification of gulls a realistic possibility for the first time. Still the standard text on the identification of the northern hemisphere’s gulls.

 

Where to Watch Birds in Southern & Western Spain
Paperback| July 2019| £16.99 £24.99
The birding hotspot of Southern Iberia gets an update for this fourth edition in the Where to Watch Birds in Britain and Europe  series

 

The Helm Guide to Bird Identification
Paperback| April 2018| £19.99 £29.99
A supplement to regular field guides for the more experienced birdwatcher, focusing on look-a-likes and other confusing species

 

Wildfowl of Europe, Asia and North America
Hardback| 2015| £23.99 £34.99
An essential reference for anyone interested in the ducks, geese and swans of Eurasia and North America

 

Owls of the World: A Photographic Guide
Hardback| 2013| £26.99 £39.99
An ever popular title in the Helm Photographic Guide Series, the photos are accompanied by concise text on the identification, habitat, food, distribution and voice of these charismatic birds.

To celebrate Helm as NHBS’ Publisher of the Month, we are offering up to 30% off selected Helm books. Browse all Helm books here

 

All price promotion valid until Feb 1st 2020

 

 

Author Interview: Lukas Jenni & Raffael Winkler, Moult and Ageing of European Passerines

The legendary Moult and Ageing of European Passerines returns in a completely revised second edition. This is the must-have reference for bird ringers, ornithologists, and anyone fascinated by feathers.

Bloomsbury’s publisher, Jim Martin has asked the authors Lukas Jenni and Raffael Winkler to share their thoughts about this eagerly awaited second edition.

 

How did the two of you first come to be interested in ageing birds?

Back in the seventies, Raffael was collecting data on skull pneumatization of live birds at the ringing station Col de Bretolet in the Swiss Alps as part of his PhD thesis, and Lukas was a young birder and wannabe ringer. We met at the Basel Ornithological Society, and began to collaborate. At that time ‘skulling’ was a new ageing method; we found as we worked that several plumage ageing criteria were either unreliable or simply wrong. We then started to record more precisely the extent of the post-juvenile moult.

What drove you to keep up your work in counting the moulted and unmoulted feathers of thousands of birds?

We were both fascinated by the large variation in the extent of moult we found, both between species and between individual birds of a species. We wanted to discover the reasons for this variability. And we also wanted to tackle the ‘either/or’ criteria that prevailed for ageing birds at the time – for example, tail feathers might be recorded as either pointed or rounded, but if a young bird had moulted some tail feathers they would have some of each. Ringers were using fixed ‘recipes’ for ageing that did not account for the moult process and its variability.

When did you decide to collate your findings into a book?

Lukas became head of the Swiss Ringing Scheme in 1979, and we both held many ageing courses for ringers, and produced numerous fact-sheets for them. The basis of these was Lars Svensson’s famous Identification Guide to European Passerines; each new edition of this formidable work was eagerly awaited. However, we realised that explaining verbalised differences – for example, such as between buffish-grey and greyish-buff – was a little difficult. It was much easier to teach ringers with the help of wing preparations and skins from the Natural History Museum, Basel. Finally, we decided to take photographs of these elements, with a view to producing a guide to ageing. This eventually became the first edition of Moult and Ageing of European Passerines, which was published in 1994.

The new second edition is publishing in January 2020. This book is more than an ageing guide. What made you develop the sections on moult strategies?

During our work on moult, we realised how complex the moults of passerines are and how incomplete our understanding of moult still is. We felt that a full review is needed for two reasons. First to demonstrate how important moult is in the life of a bird and how moult interacts with other events of the annual cycle. Second to enhance the understanding of the plumage ageing criteria, and to enable ringers to discover new ones.

This will be expanded on in your follow-up book, The Biology of Moult in Birds, which will be coming out in the summer. For Moult and Ageing, how did you take the many excellent photographs of the wings of live birds?

We developed a simple system of a camera with a ring-flash mounted on a tripod, and put the wing of the bird on an oblique grey board, fixed at the wrist with double-sided adhesive tape (we should add that the birds were completely unharmed by the process). This sounds simple, but the tedious part was to put all the feathers and feather vanes in a perfect order, one that satisfied our sense of aesthetic perfection! We then realised that we needed help, and we employed several people over the years to operate as ‘feather beautician’ and photographer.

Physically, it’s quite a big book, and not easy to use in the field. What was the thinking behind that?

We pondered for a long time about this. We finally decided on such a large format so that the reader can see many photographs on one page for direct comparison. A smaller format would have entailed smaller photographs, or continuously turning pages, or both.

How do you think this book will be received?

We were really surprised at the reception for the first edition, how quickly it sold out, and the enormous price second-hand copies went on to fetch. We therefore decided to do a second edition long ago, but it has taken us many years of research, and so has materialised only now. We thoroughly revised the first part of the book about the moult strategies, we’ve included a schematic table of the moults of all European passerines and added pictorial schemes of the various moult strategies, and we have also added 16 new species to the species accounts. The book was printed in Switzerland, so we could supervise the printing. We are glad that the quality of the photographs is now ’pretty good’ (complying with English understatement) or ‘phenomenal’ (following American usage), and we hope that readers will feel the same.

Thank you Lukas and Raffael, and good luck with the new book.

Jim Martin: Bloomsbury Publishing

 

 

 

Moult and Ageing of European Passerines
Hardback,  published 9th January 2020,  £82.99 £94.99

A brand-new, completely revised second edition of Jenni and Winkler’s classic guide, updated and improved for the next generation of ringers and professional ornithologists.

 

Staff Picks 2019

Welcome to our annual round-up of the books and equipment we have enjoyed reading and using this year, all chosen by members of the NHBS team. Here are our choices for 2019!

Browning Recon Force Advantage

I have chosen the Browning Recon Force Advantage as my staff pick as it is my favourite trail camera of 2019. We added the Browning cameras to our range in early 2019 and we have been really impressed with the quality of the cameras and the footage they produce. The Recon Force Advantage records 20MP still images and amazingly smooth HD video at 60 fps, with the night time videos in particular offering a step up in terms of definition. This really transforms trail camera footage and broadens the potential for using them in detailed behavioural observations.
Simone – Senior Wildlife Equipment Specialist

The Seafarers: A Journey Among Birds

This account of Stephen Rutts travels to know the seabirds of the British coastline makes for a rather special debut book, dealing in turn with different species of seabird that call Britain home for a spell of their seafaring year. This book lyrically weaves between autobiographical accounts of wild encounters and cultural and historical insight of our ongoing relationship with these birds, whose fascinating communities rely heavily on our actions. Seafarers at its heart, is a journey of deep re-connection with wild beings and wild places and is a mesmerising, witty and often deeply profound portrait of seabirds.
Oli – Graphic Designer

Painted Wolves: A Wild Dog’s life

This book is an epic, beautiful ode to Painted wolves (though you may know them as African wild dogs or Hunting dogs). Using twenty years of experience in the field, this book introduces us to the wolves of the wild Zambezi Valley and discusses conservation challenges and solutions. Throughout are incredible images, encapsulating the lives of these magnificent animals.
Natt – Sales & Marketing Manager

NHBS Moth Trap

My favourite item has to be the NHBS Moth trap, its super light and very easy to assemble. I have been in love with moths for a long time and been lucky enough to publish a paper on the diversity of moths. However, I was not a fan of the big and bulky traps that were very heavy and hard to transport (especially if you have to fit it in your suitcase!).
This trap has been tested by experts from Butterfly Conservation and is handmade in Totnes, Devon. The NHBS Moth trap also has a very high capture rate, as many moths seem to stay in the trap rather than flying out. Another added plus is that 10% of each sale goes directly to Butterfly Conservation!
Angeline – Key Account Manager (Trainee)

Colourful Creatures Memory Game By Shanti Sparrow

I bought this for my 7 year old niece and she loves it. The illustrations are so beautiful and the bright colours really help with remembering the different animals and maintaining attention. She really liked the fact that there is a little booklet of facts about the different animals and the fact that they have names makes them more relatable. The fact we played this game non-stop for a whole afternoon, at her request, is the best review I can give.
Lizzie- Customer Service Manager

Green and Prosperous Land: A Blueprint for Rescuing the British Countryside

Can restoring nature, increasing biodiversity and enhancing the environment go hand-in-hand with economic prosperity? Economist, Dieter Helm gives a resounding ‘yes.’  In fact, he would maintain protecting the environment is ‘essential’ to economic prosperity. He pulls no punches and may ruffle some feathers in his assessment of who is accountable for the decline of nature and what needs to be done to put Britain on a greener and more prosperous path.
Nigel – Books and Publications

A Cloud a Day

Following the success of the Cloud Appreciation Society’s ‘Cloud-a-Day’ subscription service, this book collects a year’s worth of entries. As always with anything produced by CAS, the collection pulls together science, art and philosophy – from explanations of fascinating cloud formations; to historical diagrams from early cloudwatchers; to wistful excerpts of poetry. Many of the photographs featured come from CAS members themselves, and Pretor-Pinney and his odd little community of cloud enthusiasts (of which I myself am a member – no. 28,360) encourage you to take a minute’s mindfulness each day, contemplating the exquisite detail of nature’s most egalitarian of displays: “Look up, marvel at the ephemeral beauty, and always remember to live life with your head in the clouds!”
Rachel- Deputy Customer Service Manager

Hi-Sound Stereo Parabolic Microphone

I have recently been able to test Dodotronic’s Hi-Sound Stereo Parabolic Microphone and I was so impressed by it, it just had to be my staff pick this year! My regular walk in the woods was completely transformed by listening to and recording the birdsong around me. The 53cm diameter parabolic dish is excellent at picking up even the most subtle of sounds and is easy to use, meaning it is perfect for both the budding or experienced wildlife recorder. It pairs perfectly with a Tascam DR-05X for recording and a pair of headphones or earphones for listening in the field. I would strongly recommend the Hi-Sound to anyone with an interest in wildlife recording.
Antonia- Senior Wildlife Equipment Specialist

The Outlaw Ocean: Crime and Survival in the Last Untamed Frontier

“Only one?” Picking favourites has become very hard, but if I have to pick one it would be Ian Urbina’s The Outlaw Ocean. From overfishing and smuggling to piracy and slavery, The Outlaw Ocean is an exceptional reportage that encompasses almost every conceivable form of misconduct playing out on the high seas. The book is shocking, urgent, and in places gut-wrenching. Impossible to put down, it left a deep and lasting impression on me.
Leon- Catalogue Editor

Growth: From Microorganisms to Megacities

This is as ambitious in scope as Smil’s previous title Energy and Civilization, with few illustrations and many references, and combines two fascinating (to me) subjects: systems in nature and systems in society, and ultimately how we came to be where we are today. I admit I haven’t read this yet, but I have been looking forward to immersing myself over the Christmas days.
Anneli – Head of Finance and Operations

The History of a Ray Society Publication: ‘The Handbook of the Bees of the British Isles.

 

In October 2018, the Handbook of the Bees of the British Isles – ‘Bees’ -was published by the Ray Society. This book is a thorough, authoritative account of the current state of knowledge of bee fauna. It is the culmination of more than forty years of study by George Else, a now-retired entomologist at the Natural History Museum London (NHM) and Mike Edwards, a professional ecologist, along with many other naturalists and professionals over the years.

The Handbook of the Bees of the British Isles, Volume 1 and 2

Here, along with quotes from the authors – Nick Evans, Mike Edwards and George Else, we recount the challenging production of ‘Bees’ from when it began in the 1970s to its publication in 2018.

“Many years of study, preparation and collaboration lie behind the production of major and definitive works. This history of ‘Bees’ gives an insight into the production of a major monograph as well as a case study of the problems and setbacks for other similar projects.”

———————————————————–

The idea for a handbook of the bees of the British Isles was first conceived in the 1970s when at the time, there were few works dealing with British bee species. Initially, the brief was to produce a Royal Entomological Society (RES) Handbook using revised and updated keys.

“The initial brief (as suggested by Paul Freeman, the then Keeper of Entomology [at NHM]) was to take earlier keys, add further information to these and publish as a Royal Entomological Society of London (RES) handbook.  However, as the work developed it became clear that it would not fit into the format of a typical RES Handbook.”

Originally, the publication of the Handbook of Bees of the British Isles was set for 1989. However, after problems identifying species and researching their biology, the deadline was missed. At this point, the NHMand the RES stepped away from the project but thankfully, ‘Bees’ was picked up by The Ray Society in 1994.

“The Ray Society, a registered charity, was founded in 1844 by George Johnson to make available works which, although being valuable scientifically, would not otherwise be published as they would not be commercially viable. This meant that the Ray Society was able to take on this type of work and tolerate the problems involved. The project was accepted by the Ray Society and the sole author at that time, George Else, and other collaborators, in particular, Mike Edwards, whose involvement had started in 1974, continued to work on The Handbook of the Bees of the British Isles.”

Page 354 – Handbook of the Bees of the British Isles

As research for ‘Bees’ was initially conducted before the internet, progress was slow. Literature had to be sourced and studied in person and the examination of museum collections required travelling across the country. The creation of the Bees, Wasps and Ants Recording Scheme in 1977 and the reciprocal society (BWARS) in 1995 coordinated the focus of professional and amateur bee workers, thus assisting in the research for ‘Bees’.

 

With research developing, the time to illustrate key features began.

Bumble bee – Handbook of the Bees of the British Isles

“The work involved the production of many figures featuring bee genitalia and other anatomical features. In the early stages of ‘Bees’, the only available method for producing these was as line drawings. These had to be produced to a high standard providing illustrations of the key characteristics for identification.”

Peter Skidmore, a former entomologist at Doncaster Museum was able to produce drawings for the handbook regularly to a high standard. After Skidmore’s passing in 2009, the production of illustrations stagnated until technological advances were made in the 1980s.

“Focus-stacked images (automontage) were taken, using Helicon Remote and Helicon Focus software with a Canon D5 v3 camera on a Leica M7.5 binocular microscope. However, learning how to achieve a good image took time and practice; three years working mostly on Sundays.”

Key from the Handbook of the Bees of the Britsh Isles

Keys were developed and produced in parallel to the images and illustrations, informing their creation. It was intended for ‘Bees’ to be accessible to naturalists as well as specialists so the keys were later submitted to the public domain for development and feedback.

However, the production of ‘Bees’ wasn’t without its obstacles, two external events further slowed the progress.

 

“The first was a major and definitive revision of world bee genera undertaken by Charles D. Michener -The Bees of the World published by The John Hopkins University Press, Baltimore and London […] finally published in 2000.”

This revision had to be incorporated into ‘Bees’ to ensure accuracy. This delayed publication until Michener’s study had been published in the early 2000s.

“The second event was the planning and move of the Museum’s [NHM] Entomology Department staff and collections from the Entomology Building to a new building in South Kensington. The decanting of the entomological collections from the old building prior to its demolition was in summer 2005 and their move into the new building was completed in 2009.”

During this time, the collections were unavailable and Else, along with his colleagues at the NHM had to help with the move, delaying ‘Bees’ significantly.

In early 2000, work began on designing and constructing ‘Bees’, now a two-volume set. Ten years later, the Ray Society became actively involved in the production of ‘Bees’. Eventually, the Handbook of the Bees of the British Isles was ready for publication in 2018 and was launched at the Amateur Entomologists’ Society fair on 6th October of that year.

Launch of the Handbook of the Bees of the British Isles – Oct 2018

“The Handbook of the Bees of the British Isles represents the culmination of over 35 years of work and, as this account records, was a collaborative project involving a wide range and number of contributors, both specialist and non-specialist, professional and amateur.”

The Handbook of the Bees of the British Isles is the result of a wide range of sources and extensive contributions and collaborations from experts and naturalists alike; it is consequently a definitive work on the bee fauna of the British Isles and we are grateful for contributions from Nick Evans, Mike Edwards and George Else to assist us in celebrating the anniversary of this great work here on the NHBS Hoopoe.

We currently have special offers with up to 50% off on a selection of Ray Society titles. 

 

 

NHBS: In The Field – SiOnyx Aurora and Aurora SPORT

SiOnyx Aurora

The SiOnyx Aurora and Aurora Sport are two new night vision monoculars that offer ‘colour night vision’ – something new to night vision technology. A night vision scope is a handy tool for both the professional ecologist and the keen naturalist, especially at this time of year as the evenings draw in and the light levels fall. We wanted to test the Aurora’s night vision capabilities, along with the other features it offered to see if it lived up to expectations.

We tested the Aurora and the Aurora Sport. Both use an Ultra Low-Light CMOS sensor and should perform the same in low light settings. The main difference between the two models is that the Aurora has a built-in GPS, accelerometer and compass, and comes with an extra year warranty, whereas the Aurora SPORT is a budget version without these features and a 1 year warranty. Both cameras have up to 2 hours of battery life on a fully charged internal battery and records in 60 frames per second in either 360p or 720p resolution. The cameras also have a host of extra features including burst mode, time-lapse, panoramic view, self-timer, loop mode, slow-mo (shutter control) and HDR (High Dynamic Range) mode.

The SiOnyx Aurora SPORT (pictured left) and the SiOnyx Aurora (pictured right)

Setting Up

We ventured out to test the Aurora in daylight, twilight, and night conditions to see how the camera performed. The Aurora was very simple to use with each setting requiring a simple twist of a dial. Even the accompanying smartphone app was intuitive and quick to set up, allowing multiple users to easily view and record footage without needing to look through the device itself. The camera also had a tripod mount thread which was useful when wanting steady shots.

What we found

The Aurora was most impressive at dusk. Even at light levels when a phone or digital camera is no longer any use, the Aurora’s Day Mode footage is still surprisingly bright, if a bit noisy. Once switching to Twilight mode, the reduction in visual noise and clarity of bright footage was outstanding and is where we think this camera really excels.

The night mode would have been more useful if used with an IR illuminator, something that we would recommend if you are looking to use this camera in complete darkness, but it is still a very useful tool for when your own low-light vision starts to fail you. For example when watching deer, only a slight silhouette of a single deer could be made out by our own eyesight, and it was only with the use of the Aurora that we were alerted to the presence of the rest of the herd.

Our Opinion

The SiOnyx Aurora and Aurora Sport are two great night vision cameras. We were surprised at how easy the camera was to use and we were impressed by its low-light capabilities. The video and photo quality is at a lower level than most camera technology currently, but it is respectable for a night vision recorder. It is also worth noting that when viewed through the view-finder, the footage looked clear and crisp.

The app was a great feature when walking with other people as it meant everyone could see what the camera could view without fumbling around to pass the camera amongst each other in the dark. For watching more timid wildlife, the app was too bright and the camera’s start-up chime needed to be turned off avoid spooking animals.

Our favourite mode was definitely Twilight Mode. This was especially useful when we could see subjects with our own eyes, but details were hard to make out and ordinary spotting scopes or cameras were struggling. The night mode was best when our eyesight began to fail and the camera highlighted subjects we would otherwise have missed. Without using an illuminator, the camera was ineffective as it became completely dark. An illuminator would greatly improve the performance of the scope in Night Mode and we would highly recommend one if you are thinking of using the camera as both a low light and night vision camera.


The SiOnyx Aurora and the SiOnyx Aurora Sport are available through the NHBS website.

To view our full range of night vision and thermal cameras, visit www.nhbs.com. If you have any questions on night vision or would like some advice on the best camera/scope for you then please contact us via email at customer.services@nhbs.com or phone on 01803 865913

Watching Wildlife – Our New and Favourite Camera Kits

The Hedgehog camera kit

Our brand new Hedgehog Camera Kit includes a high-quality wooden hedgehog nest box, designed and tested by the Hedgehog Preservation Society. It also includes a tiny camera that can easily be screwed to the roof or side of the box with no modifications required. The camera then transmits footage from inside the hedgehog box to your TV or smartphone (3 versions are available) for you to view your hedgehogs from the comfort of your home. With the use of a USB Capture device (sold separately), you can also view footage on your computer/laptop and set the camera to record with motion detection, meaning you won’t miss a thing overnight.

If you already have a wooden hedgehog nest box and would like to attach a camera to it, please feel free to contact us for advice on 01803 865913 or at customer.services@nhbs.com.

Nest Box Camera Kit – Wired Camera

The Wired Nest Box Camera kit is a great choice if you haven’t used a nest box camera before. The kit comes with everything you need to get started, including a camera-ready nestbox. A wired camera produces reliable footage and is easy to set up following the step-by-step instructions.

 

IP Nest Box Camera

For those who have used nest box cameras before, or want more from their camera, an IP nest box camera is a good next step. With a bit of setup, you can livestream the footage from this camera to anywhere in the world.

 

Bushnell NatureView Live View

A NatureView Live View is a great camera for garden wildlife. It features a plug-in screen that helps you get your camera positioned correctly when setting up, and also comes with 3 close focus lenses for when you would like to record smaller animals such as birds or small mammals. It features a quick 0.2 second trigger speed and takes 14MP with 1920 x 1080p footage.

 

Browning Dark Ops Pro X 20MP

Browning’s Dark Ops Pro X 20MP is another great trail camera with some impressive specifications for its price. It records HD videos (1600 x 900 HD+) and 20MP images and has a 0.22 second trigger speed – great for capturing faster wildlife such as foxes or deer. It also features a built in viewing screen for easy setup and No-Glow IR LEDs that are invisible to humans or wildlife.

Starter Bundles

If you are looking to buy a trail camera and want to start capturing images and videos as soon as it arrives, then you may want to take a look at our starter bundle options. These bundles come with a memory card and batteries to ensure you have everything you need to get started.

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

Introducing the NHBS Moth Trap

The NHBS Moth Trap is an exciting new lightweight and highly portable Skinner moth trap designed and manufactured onsite at our Devon workshop. It is constructed from lightweight plastic panels covered with a light-coloured nylon material, and is assembled using Velcro. Once assembled the trap container has two panels which help prevent trapped moths escaping. The electrics are added by sliding the light holder into the wall supports.  When fully assembled the trap measures approximately 30cm wide x 30cm deep x 50cm tall, it is mains powered and will run a single 20W Blacklight bulb. A benefit of these bulbs is that they will not shatter in contact with rain, however, like with every moth trap we would advise against using it during adverse weather.

The NHBS Moth Trap is designed with portability in mind. It comes supplied with a lightweight carry bag that you can use to transport and store the trap when not in use. This bag measures approximately 30cm wide and 45cm tall when all trap components are included. The complete trap only weighs around 1.6kg; much lighter than the typical solid plastic assemblies of other Skinner traps.

Butterfly Conservation’s review of the trap

In August 2019 we sent our trap to Phil Sterling, one of Butterfly Conservation’s leading moth scientists and author of the ground-breaking “Field Guide to the Micro-Moths of Great Britain and Ireland”. Phil was kind enough to set out our trap over six different nights and offer his feedback on how it fared.

“The trap is very good, and comparably better in my view than equivalent 20W tube traps on the market currently though I haven’t run comparative studies as such. However, I do regularly run a similar sized black plastic trap with a similar 20W bulb, along with a Robinson 125W mercury vapour trap several metres away, as my standard night time trapping in my garden. Using the NHBS trap in an identical position, the NHBS trap has been surprisingly good, consistently catching more moths than I would expect each time, comparing it with the catches in the black plastic trap.

I like the NHBS Moth trap because it is covered with white nylon, which glows with UV light at night when the light is on. I think this helps attract the moths, and critically, by being fairly light inside the trap itself, the moths readily calm down and rest until morning. I also like the portability of the NHBS trap, and particularly that it doesn’t need a rain shield.

I would definitely recommend this trap.”

Phil Sterling’s haul from a night’s trapping in August

The NHBS Moth Trap is now available on the NHBS store here. We are grateful to Butterfly Conservation and Phil Sterling for their generosity in reviewing our trap.

To view our full range of entomological equipment please visit www.nhbs.com. If you have any questions on moth traps or would like some advice on the best trap for you then please contact us via email at customer.services@nhbs.com or phone on 01803 865913.