The BAR-LT is a bioacoustic recorder manufactured by Frontier Labs. The recorder is designed to be deployed in the field over extended periods and can be programmed to record for set times. This type of acoustic recorder is ideal for monitoring bird song, frog calls, or even wolves. This kind of monitoring is often referred to as passive acoustic monitoring (PAM) and is becoming increasingly popular in biodiversity studies across the globe. Not only are these growing libraries of soundscapes important for current research and survey, but they also provide invaluable references for future research into both global and local scale biodiversity change.
The BAR-LT is a professional two-channel audio recorder designed specifically for long-term autonomous field deployments. It comes in a waterproof, lockable enclosure made from tough UV resistant plastic. It has space for four SD cards, each with up to 512GB storage capacity, meaning vast amounts of data can be recorded over one deployment. It is powered by 1-6 rechargeable 18650 batteries, providing 100-600 hours of recording time, and can also be powered using an external 6V or 12V power input. There are two microphone configuration options available: Standard (two-channels; one mic pointing left, one pointing downwards) and Left/Right. The omnidirectional microphones are highly sensitive and ultra-low noise, producing clear, crisp recordings.
We took the standard BAR-LT out to the field to record the dawn chorus.
How We Tested
We loaded the BAR-LT with a single memory card and four rechargeable 18650 batteries. We set a simple sunrise-based schedule, asking the recorder to record from an hour before sunrise to an hour after. The recorder then did the rest, using its in-built GPS to determine where in the world we were and therefore what time the sunrise was, basing start and stop times on this. We took the recorder to a nearby spot of woodland and fixed it to a tree using the included strap and a python cable lock (available separately) looped through the metal mounting plate at the back of the recorder.
What We Found
Although we could have left the BAR-LT out for an extended period of time, we only left it out for a single night on this occasion. When we collected it, the two-hour recording had successfully been completed, with minimal battery or memory drain. Upon listening to the dawn chorus, the audio was wonderfully clear, and the microphones were very sensitive. Some examples of audio and sonograms are below.
The BAR-LT was very simple to set up and, although the scheduling capabilities are powerful, the settings are logical and easy to navigate. The battery life and memory capacity were outstanding, making the unit a really great piece of kit for any long-term deployments or for use in very remote locations where access is infrequent. We were also particularly impressed with the handy battery removal tool that came with the kit – it saved a lot of time fiddling with the batteries and also demonstrated how well-thought-out the kit is. The only part of the design that we weren’t so keen on was the metal backplate for mounting the unit, which is slightly larger than the unit itself and doesn’t have any grip teeth like most trail cameras do. The tree we were mounting the unit to was relatively small, meaning the backplate got in the way a bit, and only just fit a python padlock after a bit of a squeeze.
The recordings that the BAR-LT produced provided a wonderful soundscape and we were impressed with the quality of the recordings. There was very little ‘noise’ and the clarity of the recordings was evident, both when listening to the audio and when viewing the sonogram. The microphones picked up the sounds of the road surprisingly well, even though we thought we were far enough away to exclude them, demonstrating their impressive sensitivity.
We feel that the BAR-LT would be a great detector for conservationists and researchers who are looking to capture soundscapes for both current and future research. It performed well for bird song, but we think it would be equally as valuable to those wishing to record any terrestrial call. If you are interested in recording aquatic or low-frequency calls with the BAR-LT, please get in touch with us on email@example.com.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or phone on 01803 865913
In the first of our two-part series, Gardening for Wildlife: Providing Food, we looked at how to attract wildlife to your garden by including plants for pollinators and providing food for birds and mammals. In the second of our two-part ‘Gardening for Wildlife’ series, we look at how to create nesting or overwintering habitat effectively for the wildlife that visits your garden. Natural nesting sites for birds, insects and mammals have become rare in the broader landscape due to changes in farming, woodland management practices and building construction techniques. Wildlife-friendly gardens can provide fantastic habitat for invertebrates, birds, amphibians and mammals by making a few simple changes and by letting a bit of wildness back in.
It is easy to provide habitat for insects in your garden just by leaving the lawnmower in the shed. Setting aside a patch of grass to grow longer should encourage wildflowers to grow in your lawn, and will provide food and shelter for insects and small mammals. Creating a log pile in which beetles, woodlice and earwigs can shelter is also an easy way to increase garden wildlife habitat. You can provide additional nesting space for solitary bees or overwintering quarters for other insects by creating or installing an insect house. These can be homemade and constructed to your own design, or you can purchase purpose made houses. These are particularly important for solitary bees, who use tunnels in wood, mortar, plant stems or artificial houses to nest. They lay eggs and place a food source in a series of cells, and then block the entrance with materials such as mud, leaves or fine hair. Other nest sites can be provided by leaving dead wood and stems standing and leaving a patch of bare earth or mud bank for mining bees.
Providing bird boxes in your garden can be an excellent way of helping wildlife, as natural nest sites can be rare due to changes in house construction and woodland management techniques. There is a vast array of nest boxes available for many different species of birds, so it is worth knowing which bird species visit your garden before selecting a box. A good place to start is by providing a nest box with a 32mm entrance hole that is suitable for house sparrows or blue and great tits, who are enthusiastic occupiers of nest boxes. Most nest boxes are made of breathable materials such as wood or wood fibres mixed with concrete (Woodcrete or WoodStone). The advantage of Woodcrete and WoodStone nest boxes is that they are much more durable and can last for 10 years or more. Purpose-built nest boxes are available for many different species such as swifts, treecreepers and even robins. For more details on our most popular nest boxes, please see our series of blog posts on nest boxes suitable for different locations. For more details on where to hang your nest box, please see our blog post.
Gardens are extremely important for hedgehogs and can provide excellent opportunities for foraging and hibernation. Leaving a pile of fallen leaves or a log pile can give them a place to shelter during the daytime or you can choose to invest in a hedgehog nest box. These can provide a safe place for hedgehogs to sleep or hibernate – there is even the option of installing a nest box camera so that you can watch footage of them using the box.
Hedgehogs can travel up to 2km each night, eating as they go. Allowing them to move freely between gardens is important to ensure that they can obtain enough food and find safe spaces to sleep. If you have a garden fence, cut a hole at the bottom measuring 13 x 13cm to allow hedgehogs to pass through on their nightly wanderings. You could also remove a brick from the bottom of a wall or dig a channel underneath.
Bats also use gardens for foraging, so increasing the number of invertebrates in your garden will help to attract them. Bats naturally roost in a variety of spaces including holes in trees. With natural cavities being rare, providing a bat box can be a great way of helping them and our series of blog posts on the top bat boxes for different locations, and our advice on where to hang your bat box is a great place to start. The best time to watch them is at dusk when you can sit in the garden and see them whizzing around catching mosquitoes. Alternatively, you can invest in a bat detector and identify the species visiting your garden. For both bats and hedgehogs, connectivity to other patches of suitable habitat is key. Hedgehogs use hedgerows or need access through fences to be able to visit multiple gardens, and bats use treelines and hedgerows when foraging.
Amphibians and Aquatic Invertebrates
The easiest way to help aquatic invertebrates and amphibians is by creating a pond or small body of water. Even if you have a small garden, you can create a mini pond with an old belfast sink or a washing up bowl. Choose a warm, sunny spot that will be good for dragonflies and tadpoles, consider planting a few native freshwater plants and wildlife such as pond skaters, damselflies and water beetles should soon find the spot. Please ensure that ponds are positioned with safety in mind if you have children, and that you include rocks or sloping edges so that wildlife can get in and out. There are fantastic guides to creating a pond available, such as the Wildlife Pond Book, and once your pond is up and running you can even try some pond dipping. It is not recommended to collect frogspawn from the wild, but you can encourage amphibians into your garden by providing damp areas such as log piles or a frog and toad house.
Having attracted wildlife to your garden, there are several ways you can get fantastic views up close. Binoculars give you a great view of wildlife that is further away, but with close focus distances now much improved, they also offer a great way of magnifying insects and aquatic invertebrates. Read our blog post to find out how to choose a pair of binoculars. Alternatively, trail cameras can be used very effectively in gardens to record garden visitors such as hedgehogs and birds. These standalone weatherproof cameras use passive infrared to detect passing warm-bodied animals and take either still photographs or videos. Options include the Bushnell NatureView Live View, which has interchangeable lenses for excellent close-up feeder shots, and the Browning Recon Force Edge which offers amazing 60fps video footage. For more information on trail cameras, see our blog post on how to choose a trail camera. For a really close-up insight into what the wildlife in your garden is doing, consider installing a nest box camera. See our guide on how to choose a nest box camera for advice on the different options. A hedgehog nest box camera can also give you really amazing footage of hedgehogs feeding and nesting.
By providing food resources and suitable habitat for wildlife, you can ensure that your garden becomes a sanctuary for the animals around you and a spectacle of nature right on your doorstep.
The Wildlife Pond Book
Guide to Garden Wildlife
Making Wildlife Ponds
Nestboxes: Your Complete Guide
RSPB First Book of Pond Life
FSC Freshwater Name Trail
Recommended Garden Products
BeePot Bee Hotel
Bee and Bug Biome
Red Mason Bee Nest Box
Vivara Pro Seville 32mm WoodStone Nest Box
Traditional Wooden Bird Nest Box
WoodStone Swift Nest Box
Vivara Pro Barcelona WoodStone Open Nest Box
House Sparrow Terrace FSC Nest Box
Hedgehog Nest Box
Igloo Hedgehog Home
Large Multi-Chamber WoodStone Bat Box
Magenta Bat 5 Bat Detector
WoodStone Frog and Toad House
NHBS Pond Dipping Kit
*** Please note that all prices in this post are correct at the time of publishing and may change at any time. ***
Tim Dee is a naturalist, radio producer, and author of Fourfields, The Running Sky and Landfill. His latest book, Greenery, is a poetic hymn to spring time, a masterpiece of nature writing that is deeply informed and profoundly beautiful.
Between the winter and the summer solstice in Europe, spring moves north at about the speed of swallow flight. That is also close to human walking pace. In the light of these happy coincidences, Greenery recounts how Tim Dee travels with the season and its migratory birds, out of Africa from their wintering quarters in South Africa, through their staging places in Chad and Ethiopia, across the colossal and incomprehensible Sahara, and on into Europe. Tim Dee has answered questions about this remarkable journey.
For those who don’t know, you have published three other major titles on green spaces and birds- Landfill, The Running Sky, and Four Fields. Following from these, how did the idea to travel with spring and its migratory birds come about? And how does Greenery differ from your previous books?
My last book was Landfill, a sort of junkyard travel-guide to the gulls that now thrive on our waste and in the middle of our towns and cities. Inevitably it was dirty and messy and botched: modern nature is like that. It has to find ways and means to live alongside us – we who are the most-botched species of all. I admire the gulls and I was fascinated by the gullers – watchers of gulls – who spend time in wretched places like landfill sites in order to connect with their quarry, but afterwards I needed some fresher air to live in and some wilder life to watch, and so the spring, which has always been my favoured season, appealed, and most especially some witnessing of the movement of passage migrant birds that make the European spring for birdwatchers. When I discovered that spring moves north through Europe at somewhere between the speed a swallows flies at and the speed we might walk at (about 4 km an hour), I knew that I had to try to follow the birds and the season for as long and as far as I could. So, I start with barn swallows in the European midwinter in midsummer South Africa and I end with the same species, who knows perhaps even the same individuals, in midsummer arctic Norway. Who wouldn’t want to have as much spring as possible?
By travelling north you poetically write about the birds that come and go; from observing redstarts in Lake Lagano, Ethiopia, to enjoying the dawn chorus in a reedbed in Somerset. What can be learned from birds in migration, and how is migration changing for them?
Studying and thinking about migration tugs at our notions of home. Migratory animals carry their homes with them. Yet, when I first saw barn swallows in South Africa I couldn’t see them as anything but away from their home. In fact, of course, they were perfectly at home: they were meant to be there and able to be fully alive there. Ever since migration has been observed, birdwatchers have ceaselessly wondered where the birds have come from, where they are going, how they know where to go and how they know how to live at the other end of the world. Migration has always intrigued – Homer makes poetry from it, Aristotle discusses it, the Bible and the Koran make parables for life from it. Nowadays we know more and more of its facts – know for example that a migrant redstart may literally return to the same tree in sub-Saharan Africa in its wintertime just as it flies to the same oak in a wooded coombe in Exmoor every spring of its life; but we also begin to understand (and face up to) how much our activities are tugging at the world’s time and making migration and a bird’s swapping of one tree for another harder and harder. This is what phenological mismatch is all about: the unseasonal time that our activities are creating.
You explore time and movement in this book. In a very fast-paced world, where few have the time to slow down and connect to the seasons, how has journeying with spring changed you? Was there anything specific you were looking for and anything you found?
To try to have more spring has been my mantra, to go looking for signs of new life even before a calendar year has ended, like a mistle thrush singing in November and thereby meaning therefore to have spring again, or rooks visiting their old nests each day from the autumn onwards with a literal view to their future; and to travel when possible both south from Britain to Mediterranean Europe where spring arrives earlier and then north towards the Arctic Europe where spring lasts longer. Hearing a pied flycatcher still singing in northern Norway when the same species are silent in their British breeding woods feels like a life-bonus, feels like more of life, which can only be good. We are only given one springtime in our own lives but the return of the season and the cyclical round or rondure of the natural year is a marvellous tonic and corrective to the linearity of our one-direction journey. Again, who would say no to that – to a bit of time travel and season stretch in order to stay with the season of becoming and of re-energy. Greenery is an anagram of re-energy: I was thrilled to discover that.
When most people think of spring they think of new life, new beginnings, however you eloquently write “spring means more to me with every year that passes and takes me deeper into my own autumn.” Could you elaborate more on this, what does springtime mean to you?
There’s that lyric to a song: you don’t know what you’ve got ‘til its gone…. And I think as we get older the morning of life, the world’s morning as D H Lawrence called spring, feels more and more poignant and uplifting. We are headed only one way but, hey presto, here are new shoots, and green beginnings once more, and then a chiffchaff, fetching an echo out of a wood, as Gilbert White noticed them doing in Eighteenth Century Selborne in Hampshire. My eyesight has got worse, my hearing is half-baffled, I move increasingly with a wobble, but the injection of new birds from the south, the heavenly racket of their song, and seeing them at home in their new places is a forever tonic, like an effervescing vitamin C tablet, or a pick-me-up, or a fillip – life is worth living among those that are living it most, and spring visiting birds are the most alive – active, mobile, purposeful, committed – things that I know.
As you explore life and death, love and grief through springtime, is there anything in particular you would like for people to take away from this book?
I think we all spend a lot of time ignoring time, shut away from the weather, heating our lives, conditioning our air, eating strawberries out of season, yet I know that we all, almost all of us at least, notice the spring, want it, anticipate it, lift our faces to the first splash of sun after grey skies, talk about snowdrops, look out for the first swifts, and so on… We are reminded of spring by spring itself coming around, it schools us in life and growth, in beginnings and becomings; and in my book I just want to underline that reminder and encourage us all to take in what can be taken in, and to keep in step with the passing of time and so live happily in time and on time too. Look at the birds that do that so well; I have done that and it has helped me live.
This spring is destined to be a different and difficult one for most of us. Some things, however, remain the same – the leaves and buds on the trees are unfurling, the flowers are blooming, and the outside world is gearing up for a new year of growth and renewal. If you’re lucky enough to have a garden, then getting the children outside each day is a great way for them to burn off some energy and to get some fresh air and vitamin D.
With this in mind we have put together ten of our favourite garden activities, most of which are suitable for children (and adults) of all ages – although supervision may be required for the younger ones.
Learn about the insects and bugs in your garden
Insects and bugs are fascinating to children of all ages. As soon as the weather warms up in spring, the garden fills with the buzzing of flies, bees and wasps, whilst the soil teems with beetles, worms and other creepy crawlies. A butterfly or sweep net is ideal for catching flying insects and those in the long grass, while a pooter can be used to pick up tinier specimens. Or simply get down on the ground with a hand lens and see what you can find. There are lots of great field guides that will help you to identify your specimens. FSC guides, such as the Woodland Name Trail and Guide to the Butterflies of Britain and Ireland provide a great starting point. Or, for a more in-depth investigation, the Guide to Garden Wildlife covers not only insects and bugs, but also birds, mammals and amphibians. It also provides suggestions for some great nature-related activities.
Install a nest box (and watch the eggs hatch from the comfort of your home)
It’s never too late to install a nest box. Even in late spring you may manage to entice a breeding pair of birds in time to lay a late clutch of eggs. At the very least, you will provide a useful winter roost space and the box will be ready for the breeding birds next year. You can even equip your nest box with a tiny camera which will allow you to watch all the nesting, rearing and fledging action from the comfort of your home. Kits are available which contain everything you need to get started; choose from wired, wireless or Wi-Fi options. See our blog post on nest box cameras for more information.
Learn to identify plants
Rummage around in the wilder parts of your garden and you’re likely to find a wide range of plants that your little ones can study and try to identify. Even in the most manicured of outdoor spaces, you’re sure to find some ‘weeds’ that will provide a useful starting place. This is a great way to learn about common and Latin names and to study the different parts of flowers. The Pocket Guide to Wildflower Families will help you to identify the family to which your flower belongs, and the Collins Wild Flower Guide is a beautifully illustrated guide for those wanting a more in-depth look.
Watch (and listen to) the birds
Get to know the birds in your garden by installing a feeder. During the spring there should be plenty of wild food sources for them to use, but protein-rich foods such as black sunflower seeds, mealworm and high-quality seed mixes will provide a valuable addition to their diet. (Avoid feeding fat balls and peanuts at this time of year, as they can be harmful to young birds.) If you’re not sure what kind of bird you’re looking at, the RSPB website has a greatidentifier tool which includes information on 408 species found in the UK. Once you’ve identified your bird, the website also allows you to listen to its song, helping you to further improve your identification skills.
For a fun garden game, why not play bird bingo? Simply draw a 3×3 grid on a piece of paper, and write the name of a common garden bird in each square. Put a cross in the square when you spot the bird – the winner is the first to cross off all nine squares.
Grow something pretty or edible
If you have space, now is a great time to sow some seeds. Sunflowers and sweet peas provide a great splash of colour in the summer and will provide food for birds (sunflower heads) and pollinators (sweet peas). Peas and beans are both easy to grow in a small space and are happy in pots. Strawberries and bush varieties of tomatoes can be grown in hanging baskets.
Making seed bombs is another excellent activity to do with children and, when planted in the garden, will provide much needed flowers for pollinating insects.The Wildlife Trusts have a recipe that’s simple to make, along with a list of recommended flower seeds to include.
Be a weather watcher
In most temperate countries (and particularly in the UK), the weather is constantly changing, making it a fascinating thing to track and record. A weather diary is a great way to do this. You can include as much information as you like, or keep it simple with just pictures for the younger children. You could even make a weather board, where the day’s weather is displayed every day. Wind speed, temperature and humidity can be easily measured using an anemometer, and rainfall with a simple rain gauge. (For more economical options, use a large yoghurt container with measurements marked on the side as a rain gauge and a piece of lightweight fabric tied to a pole to track the direction of the wind).
Clouds are also endlessly interesting – learn about the different types withWeather WizKids which has lots of information and explains how they are formed, why they look the way they do and how we can use them to predict the weather. Why not also investigate some of the old-wives tales pertaining to the weather? For example, is it really true that ‘swallows high, staying dry; swallows low, wet will blow’, or ‘Red sky at night, shepherds’ delight, red sky in the morning, shepherds’ warning’?
Make a pond
Recent surveys have shown that some amphibians, such as frogs, are now more common in garden ponds than they are in the wild. When planted with a variety of submerged and emergent plants, a pond will provide a complex environment with a variety of micro-habitats, and is also an attractive feature for the garden. Even in a small space it’s easy to use a bucket or other container to create a small aquatic environment which will provide valuable habitat for amphibians, insects and lots of other species. Take a look at theWildlife Trusts website for a step-by-step guide to making a garden pond (including a handy list of suitable aquatic plants) orthis RSPB page for advice on making a mini pond from an old washing-up bowl. Always ensure that younger children are supervised around water.
Weave with nature
Weaving with natural materials is a fun activity and a great choice for several reasons: it is cheap to do and the results, while temporarily beautiful, can be composted, making it the ultimate in sustainable art. To begin, make a simple frame from four twigs, held together at the corners with a small amount of natural twine. Wind more twine from side to side around the frame leaving gaps between each winding, and then repeat in the other direction. Collect a wide selection of leaves, twigs, weeds, flowers, feathers and grass and weave into your frame in a pattern of your choice. For the best results, try and include as many different colours and textures as possible. Hang your masterpiece inside or in the garden to enjoy until the colours fade, and then throw it on the compost heap or in your garden waste bin.
Eat some weeds
Did you know that lots of the weeds in your garden are actually edible? And what’s more, many contain higher amounts of trace elements like iron than their supermarket equivalents such as spinach and kale. Nettles are extremely common, very easy to identify, and can be made into a tasty soup (don’t worry, they lose their sting as soon as they are cooked). Similarly, dandelion leaves, fat hen, hairy bittercress and chickweed are prevalent in most gardens and can be used as salad greens. Children will love knowing that they have picked some of their meal for free, and that they are eating the garden weeds. If you’re unsure about what you’re picking, there are lots of helpful guides and images on the internet. Or you can invest in a book such as Food for Free, Foraging, or the compact and economical FSC’s Guide to Foraging.
Draw from nature
Sketching from nature was once a vital part of the naturalist’s skill set. Accurate drawings of specimens, alive or dead, played a vital part in classifying and sharing information about new species. Although this process has largely been replaced by photography, the act of putting pencil to paper and studying a specimen closely enough to draw it accurately can provide an excellent opportunity to study its structure and finer details. Flowers, plants and feathers are ideal starting points as they won’t fly or scuttle away; but insects, birds and other animals can also be fun to try. Keep notes of when and where your drawings were made and, over time, they can form the basis of a wonderful nature journal.
During these troubling times, we hope you can find inspiration in nature and we wish you all the best of health.
There is a shortage of natural nesting sites for birds and this has played a part in the decline of some of the UK’s most iconic species. It is easy to provide nesting opportunities for birds in our gardens and outdoor spaces, however, and with spring rapidly approaching, now is the ideal time to start thinking about nest boxes for your local birds. Locating your nest boxes correctly is one of the key determinants in how likely birds are to occupy them and with this in mind we have put together some answers to the most frequently asked questions about nest boxes – covering where and when to put up your boxes, cleaning and maintenance as well as dealing with predators.
There really is no ‘best’ time to put up nest boxes. By putting up boxes in the autumn you can provide much needed winter refuges for roosting birds and possibly increase the chance of them staying and nesting there when spring comes around. However, any box erected before the end of February stands a good chance of being occupied if it is sited correctly. Even after February there is still a chance that they will be used; tits have been known to move in during April and house martins as late as July. Therefore, put your nest box up as soon as it is available rather than leaving it in the shed!
Where should I hang my nest box?
When it comes to nest boxes, the ‘where’ is much more important than the ‘when’. Nest boxes must provide a safe, comfortable environment and protect the inhabitants from predators and the worst of the weather. This may be difficult to achieve; a safe location out of reach of predators may also be exposed to the weather, so have a good think before you start bashing nails in.
Nest boxes can be fixed to walls, trees or buildings and different styles of boxes are available which are suitable for each. Fixing to artificial surfaces means the growth of the tree does not have to be considered which is useful for Schwegler and Vivara Pro nest boxes which last for at least 20-25 years: a significant amount of time in the life of a small tree. If you’re planning any building work, remember that some bird and bat boxes can also be built directly into walls and roofs.
Locating boxes out of the reach of predators can be a challenge (weasels can climb almost anything), but there are things you can do to make it harder for them. Boxes in gardens should be located where cats cannot get to them and prickly or thorny bushes can also help to deter unwanted visitors. Some nest boxes also have anti-predator designs (e.g. Schwegler’s 1N deep nest box). It is best to avoid nest boxes that have a combined bird feeder and boxes should not be sited too close to the bird feeders in your garden. Visitors to the feeder may disturb the nesting birds and the feeder could attract unwanted attention from predators.
For many species the height of the box is not crucial. However, by placing it at least two metres off the ground you can help prevent predators and human interference. The direction of the entrance hole should be away from the prevailing wind and it is beneficial for there to be a clear flight path to the box. Crucially, the box should be also be sheltered from the prevailing wind, rain and strong sunlight, so in most UK gardens aim for an aspect of northerly, easterly or south-easterly. If possible, position the box with a slight downward angle to provide further protection from the rain. Some species do have specific requirements for where a box should be sited (e.g. house martins and swifts nests need to be sited under the eaves); please see our product details for particular instructions for different species. Wherever you position the box, try to ensure that you can still get access to it for maintenance. And finally, if possible, try to put it somewhere where you can see it, or invest in a nest box camera, so as to maximise your enjoyment of watching wild birds in your garden.
Is there anything else I can do to deter predators?
As already mentioned, location is the most important factor when trying to deter predators. Whilst some mammals can climb walls, a blank wall is fairly inaccessible so can be a good choice. Ensure that the box cannot be reached by a single jump from a nearby branch or the ground.
Box design can also help deter predators. An entrance hole reinforced with a metal plate will prevent grey squirrels and some avian predators from enlarging the hole and gaining access to the nest. Woodcrete and WoodStone boxes are too hard for any predator to break through. However, you can also reinforce a nest box yourself with metal protection plates or provide additional protection with prickly twigs. Deep boxes may prevent predators reaching in and grabbing nest occupants, although some tits have been known to fill up deep boxes with copious quantities of nesting material. If using open-fronted nest boxes, a balloon of chicken wire over the entrance can work well. If you live in an urban area, cats are likely to be the most common predator. Gardeners have long since used various methods to exclude these unwanted visitors, such as pellets, electronic scarers and even lion dung (available from your nearest obliging zoo), all with varying degrees of success.
How do I manage the nest box?
A well-designed nest box will only need one annual clean in the autumn. It is important not to clean out nest boxes before August as they may still be occupied. Wait until autumn and then remove the contents, scattering them on the ground some way from the box to help prevent parasites re-infesting the nest box. Wear gloves and use a small brush or scraper to remove debris from the corners. Boiling water can be used to kill any parasites remaining in the box, but remember to leave the lid off for a while for it to try out. Do not wait until the winter to clean out nest boxes as birds may already be roosting in them. The tit species do a thorough clean out of any old nesting material or roosting debris before they begin nesting again but it will save them energy if you can help out.
How many nest boxes do I need?
The exact amount of boxes required will depend on the species and the surrounding habitat. As a very general rule of thumb, start with ten assorted small boxes per hectare (ensure uniform spacing between boxes). Keep adding several more boxes each season until some remain unused and hopefully you’ll hit on the correct density of boxes. However, even if you only have space for one box it is still worthwhile, providing it is suitably located. Many UK bird species need all the additional nesting habitat they can get.
If you are interested in installing a nest box camera into one of your bird boxes, take a look at our “How to choose the right nest box camera” article, for more information on choosing the model that’s right for you.
Further information about individual nest boxes, including advice on positioning, can be found alongside each nest box in our range. If you have any other questions or would like any further advice, then please get in touch with our team of Wildlife Equipment Specialists.
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 email@example.com.
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.
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.
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’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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org . Alternatively, reply below and we will get back to you.
This year’s Big Garden Birdwatch will be held from 26-28 January: are you ready?
The RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch is the world’s largest garden wildlife survey – now in its 40th year! What began as a simple activity for junior members of the RSPB has now grown to a UK-wide activity with over half a million people regularly taking part. With 40 years of data to look back on, this annual event has become important in helping the RSPB monitor trends in the distribution and abundance of birds in the UK.
The Big Garden Birdwatch is easy to join (and you don’t have to be a member of the RSPB). Here’s how to take part:
Choose a good place to watch from for an hour between between Saturday 26th and Monday 28th January – either your garden, or a local park or green.
Relax and watch the birds.
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 later another two, and after that another one, the number to submit is three. That way, it’s less likely you’ll double-count the same birds.
Make a note of any other wildlife that you spot as well.
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.
Look out for the results.
You don’t need much to take part in BGB apart from a nice hot drink, some snacks and a pen and paper; but if you’d like to brush up on your garden wildlife here are a few books and items that can get you started:
This is part two of a two-part series that will look into different ways of watching wildlife in your back garden. Part one looked at trail cameras. This second part looks at nest box cameras and offers advice on what to look out for when buying one.
There is a whole world of wildlife in our back gardens, but often these creatures can be elusive or hidden away. Our range of wildlife equipment can offer you an amazing insight into their world from the comfort of your house, without the risk of disturbing your wildlife.
Come early spring, our garden birds will begin their breeding season. Placing a nest box in your garden will not only give breeding pairs a helping-hand in finding somewhere safe to have their young. But it also provides an opportunity for you to get up close and personal with the goings-on inside with the use of a nest box camera. There are several options and kits out there and a few things to think about when it comes to picking a nest box camera. Here, I will offer some advice and options to ensure you can find the kit that is right for you.
Wired, Wireless or WiFi?
The difference in nest box cameras come mainly in the way that you receive images from the camera itself. These are either wired, wireless or WiFi. Wired kits can provide better, higher quality, more reliable images, but are sometimes not as convenient as Wireless or WiFi kits.
IP nest box cameras are also wired cameras, however they are powered and transmit footage via supplied Ethernet cables. These cameras offer the greatest video quality available as well as the ability to remotely view your footage on a computer or smartphone.
Note that wireless or WiFi cameras still require power from either the mains (extension leads are available to buy separately) or from an external rechargeable battery.
If you are completely new to nest boxes and nest box cameras, complete kits are available with a nest camera already mounted inside a nest box. Alternatively, if you are looking to purchase a nest box camera, but you already have a nest box, then you can buy nest box cameras separately.
Viewing your footage
You can view your footage in a variety of ways depending on what camera or extra equipment you have.
Wired cameras – These plug straight into your TV with an AV cable. However if you want to view and record footage on your laptop or computer, you can buy a USB video capture device for both Windows and MacOS. The software included with these USB devices also allows you to set up motion detection or schedule recordings.
Wireless – These cameras transmit their footage to a receiver which can then plug directly into your TV using the provided AV connectors, or into your PC or laptop via a USB capture device.
WiFi – These cameras transmit their footage over their own WiFi connection. This means you can connect your smartphone, tablet or PC to the camera’s WiFi to view or record footage.
IP – These cameras transmit their footage via long Ethernet cables which are plugged either directly into your router or into a wifi booster on the same network. Once set up on a PC or smartphone app, you can watch live footage of your nestbox from anywhere in the world.
If you need to use a wireless camera, a Digital Video Recorder kit is also capable of live-streaming. The wireless receiver can be plugged into the DVR which can be connected to your internet router to enable live-streaming. The DVR itself allows you to set up motion-detection or scheduled recording. You can also add up to four cameras to the DVR which may be useful if you want to watch from multiple angles or from multiple nest boxes.
You may have a particular species of bird in mind that you are hoping to capture on your nest box camera. Our nest box camera kits with boxes are aimed towards common garden birds. The species of birds that you may attract depends on the entrance-hole size.
A 29mm hole, such as that of the Nest Box Camera Starter Kit, is suitable for Blue Tits, Coal Tits, Marsh Tits, Great Tits, Tree Sparrows and flycatchers. A larger 32mm hole, such as that of the Gardenature Nest Box Camera System, is suitable for House Sparrows, Nuthatches, Blue Tits, Coal Tits, Marsh Tits and Great Tits. It also has a removable front panel that is ideal if you are looking to attract robins or wrens.
The Nest Box Camera Kit has a removable 29mm plate that can attach over its 32mm hole meaning it is capable of attracting a range of species. If you are looking to attract anything larger or a more ‘picky’ species, then you may want to buy a species-specific nest box and fit one of our separate nest box cameras to this.
The Hedgehog Camera Kit
If you are lucky enough to have hedgehogs in your garden, why not see what they’re up to alongside giving them a safe place to nest? Our 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. Available with wired, wireless or Wi-Fi cameras.
For a collection of handy tips, tricks and ideas, Susan Young’s book CCTV for Wildlife Monitoringis an ideal guide for photographing wildlife in your garden. Whether you are an experienced trail camera user or a newbie looking to order your first nest-camera, Susan Young’s book will offer a wealth of information to help you get even more out of your equipment.
If you wanted to read more about how to make, monitor and maintain your bird box, Nestboxes: Your Complete Guide is a great book that will guide you through everything you need to know about your nest box and its inhabitants.
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 email@example.com . Alternatively, reply below and we will get back to you.
This is part one of a two-part series that will look into different ways of filming wildlife in your back garden. In this part, we will take a look at trail cameras and what to look out for when buying one.
The variety of trail cameras on offer can be overwhelming, here are a few key things to look out for:
Type of LEDs
In order to capture videos or images in the dark, camera traps use infrared LEDs to illuminate the subject with little to no visible light used. There are two main types of LED flash systems that trail cameras use. These are No Glow and Low Glow. No Glow LEDs produce no visible light and so are completely undetectable by the subject. Low Glow LEDs produce a very faint red glow and so are not completely invisible, this can sometimes alert animals such as deer and foxes. However, they do have the benefit of being able to illuminate better over a longer distance.
Trigger speed is the time taken for the camera to take a photo once it has detected movement. If you are aiming to capture a fast-moving subject, then a quicker trigger speed (below 0.3 seconds) will enable you to achieve these photos before your subject has moved out of frame.
Recovery time is the time taken for the camera to process an image and become ready to take a second photo. If you want to capture multiple images of a subject as it comes into view of your camera, then a shorter recovery time will allow for this.
Hybrid mode allows the camera to take videos and photos simultaneously. A camera with this capability may be useful if you want to get as much footage as possible of anything that falls into frame of the camera. If you are more interested in capturing only photographs or only videos, this mode may not be an important feature.
Resolution and Interpolation
The quality of the images and videos that your trail camera can take will depend on its resolution. Most cameras have settings that can alter the resolution either, decreasing it through compression, or increasing it through interpolation. Compression is useful if you want to deploy your camera for a long time and memory card capacity may become an issue, whereas interpolation can produce a larger image by adding pixels. The best way to compare the quality of images between cameras is to look at sample photos and videos. The displayed megapixel value is often resolution as a result of interpolation. The true resolution of the image sensor can usually be found in the specifications as the true sensor resolution.
Some trail cameras come with screens that you are able to view your photos and videos on. This may be useful if you want to take a few test shots to check the positioning of the camera.
If you’re looking for a good entry-level camera, then take a look at the Browning Command Ops Pro 16MP. It takes high quality images and videos and has an easy to use forward facing screen. LED type: Low Glow Trigger speed: 0.5s Recovery time: Not stated Hybrid: No Resolution: 14MP Viewing Screen: yes (black and white text)
For the next step up, the Bushnell E3 is one of our most popular trail cameras and another ideal entry-level option producing high quality images and videos but at a relatively low price. LED type: Low Glow Trigger speed: 0.3s Recovery time: 1s Hybrid: No Resolution: 16MP (3MP true sensor) Viewing Screen: No
If the subject of your trail camera photos or videos is particularly fast, it may be worth taking a look at the Spypoint Force-Dark whose trigger speed of 0.07 seconds is the fastest on the market. LED type: Low Glow Trigger speed: 0.07s Recovery time: 0.5s Hybrid: Yes Resolution: 12MP (interpolated) Viewing Screen: yes (colour)
If your desired subject is on the smaller side and you are looking to capture close up images, the Bushnell NatureView Live View HD comes with a close focus lens and a live-view screen. LED type: No Glow Trigger speed: 0.2s Recovery time: 0.7s Hybrid: Yes Resolution: 14MP (3MP true sensor) Viewing Screen: yes (external)
There are a selection of accessories that you may want pair with your camera to get the best out of your camera-trapping experience. If you are worried about leaving an expensive piece of kit outside and unattended, then you may want to invest in a Python Lock. This cable lock will fit most trail cameras and and will give you piece of mind that your camera is secured in place. Here you can watch how to set up this lock with your own trail camera. You also may be interested in a security case that is compatible with your trail camera. These cases house your camera and secure with a padlock, which helps prevent vandalism and theft.
All cameras need a memory card to store your photos and videos on. Make sure to check what SD card capacity your camera needs, this is usually found in the specifications section. Browse our selection of SD cards to order alongside your camera so that you can get snapping as soon as possible.
Most cameras are powered by batteries. We recommend you use Lithium Ion batteries with your trail camera to ensure maximum trigger speeds and longer battery life.Make sure to check how many batteries your camera needs. Some trail cameras are also compatible with solar panels which will allow you to extend the battery life of your camera. This is especially useful if you want to leave your camera outside for extended periods of time.
If you are looking to buy a trail camera and want to make sure you will be able to get out and start capturing as soon as it arrives, then you may want to take a look at our starter bundle options. These bundles come with a memory card and batteries that are right for your camera to ensure you have everything you need to get started.
To see more trail cameras available, take a look at our range here.
Would you like some more advice on which trail camera or nest box camera is most suitable for you? Contact us on +44 (0)1803 865913 or email firstname.lastname@example.org . Alternatively, reply below and we will get back to you.
Standing a metre tall, with a wingspan approaching three metres, the Steller’s Sea Eagle is a magnificent and impressive bird.
Published in November, Richard Sale’s new book is the first English-language study of this bird of prey. A translation of an earlier Russian book written by Masterov and Romanov, the English version benefits from significant updates and a wealth of new photographs.
We recently chatted with Richard about the Steller’s Sea Eagle, his passion for birds and his love of the Arctic.
In your author biography you are described as a physicist with a PhD in astrophysics. Is physics still a part of your life or do you now devote all of your time to your writing and natural history studies?
Physics will always be a part of my life. I started out as a working physicist, at first as a glaciologist in Switzerland because they paid me to stay in the mountains where I could climb on my days off. Then I moved back to the UK to work. After a few years I left full-time employment and started a consultancy which allowed me to share physics with my love of birds and of snow and ice.
You obviously have a huge passion for birds, and you also spend much of your time studying Arctic ecology. Where did these twin passions come from?
The love of birds started with my father who was a birdwatcher. Our holidays were geared around the breeding season and we went to the moors rather than the beach. He taught me to really watch birds, not just to be able to name them but to able to understand their habits. My other love as a kid was climbing; at first rock faces, then mountains. The love of snow and ice and birds led naturally to wanting to visit the Arctic. After the first trip I really didn’t want to go anywhere else, especially as I am no lover of hot weather.
How did the collaboration for Steller’s Sea Eagle come about? Were you approached to work on the English version of the book or is it something that you yourself instigated?
I had visited Kamchatka in summer and winter and been in the field with Yevgeni Lobkov, one the experts on Kamchatka’s Steller’s. I subsequently went to Hokkaido several times to see the eagles on the sea ice. Then I found the Russian book and corresponded with Michael Romanov. That led to the idea of translating it into English, so I obtained the English rights from the Russian publisher. At first the idea was just to translate the Russian book, but by questioning Michael and Vladimir about sections of text, and then suggesting that we include my work on flight characteristics, the two of them suggested I should be co-author as the book was now looking substantially different from the original.
Can you describe your first sighting of a Steller’s Sea Eagle? How did it make you feel?
I mentioned Yevgeni Lobkov above. He and I took a trip along the Zupanova River in a Zodiac and I remember the first time a Steller’s came over us. It was low down and seemed to blot out the light because of its size. No one who sees a Steller’s can avoid being impressed and I was immediately enraptured.
I was intrigued to read that you have worked with a captive Steller’s Sea Eagle here in the UK. Can you tell us more about this experience?
Once in the Arctic, on Bylot Island, I was watching a Gyrfalcon hunting Arctic Ground Squirrels and because of the terrain, a narrow valley, I could see the falcon was not stooping in a straight line. That led to investigating the physiology of falcon eyes, and to designing a small unit with gps, tri-axial accelerometers, magnetometers and gyros (and other bits) to fly on falconry birds to study how they fly. I managed to get the weight down to a few grams – though that hardly mattered when I found someone flying a captive Steller’s in England as it weighed 5kg. It was flying the units on that bird that is in the new book. Atlas, the eagle, was flown in demonstrations for the public and allowed me to investigate wing beat frequencies, speed etc. It was great fun as he was such a docile bird, a real gentle giant, and being allowed to get so close to him was marvellous.
It seems that two of the main pressures on the Steller’s Sea Eagle are fossil fuel exploration from humans and predation from brown bears. Are there currently any population estimates for the species, and are you hopeful for their future survival?
The situation is not good. The company drilling for oil and gas have been helpful in taking enormous care over onshore works near breeding sites and are to be commended for that. But the fact is that, as human activities of all sorts have expanded close to Steller’s habitats (most of which are well away from the oil/gas exploration sites), the population has gone into decline. We can overcome bear predation by fitting anti-bear devices to trees. We can erect artificial nest and roost sites. But despite all of this, at the moment the population numbers are slowly coming down, probably as a result of global warming, though we are not yet definite about that. Hopefully the population will stabilise but only time will tell if our efforts have been sufficient.
Within a given year, how much time do you spend travelling and how much writing? Do you enjoy each part of the process equally?
Age is catching up with me now and so I spend less time in the Arctic than I did (when I could be there for many weeks during the breeding season). But I still get into the field regularly – particularly at the moment with my units flying on falconry birds and with studies on Merlins in Iceland, Scotland and Hobbies in England and Wales. But I also spend a lot of time in the library reading about birds and, sadly, the damage we are causing them through industrialisation and climate change. As everyone knows, there is hardly any money to be made nowadays as a writer of books on natural history and related topics, but I also enjoy the process of writing and preparing books for publication.
Another of your books, The Arctic, is due for publication in December. What’s next for you? Do you have another project in the pipeline?
That book is an updated, but shortened, version of one I produced some years ago with new photographs by myself and a Norwegian photographer I bumped into one winter out on the sea ice of Svalbard. We have made several journeys together since and stay in close touch as we share a love of the Arctic. The next will likely be an updated and expanded version of the one I produced on the Merlin. Merlins are my favourite raptor. Falcons are, in general, warm-weather birds. The exceptions are the Gyrfalcons, which are the largest falcons, the Peregrine (which lives more or less everywhere) and is also large, and the tiny Merlin. I am as entranced by these little birds making a living in the harshest climates as I am by the huge Steller’s.
Richard Sale is a physicist with a PhD in astrophysics, who now devotes his time to studying Arctic ecology and the flight dynamics of raptors. With Eugene Potapov he co-authored The Gyrfalcon monograph which won the US Wildlife Society Book of the Year in 2006. His other books include The Snowy Owl, Wildlife of the Arctic and the New Naturalist title Falcons.