The Marine Biological Association’s 10th Annual Bioblitz

On the weekend of the 13th – 14th July, a small team of staff from NHBS attended the Marine Biological Association’s 10th Annual Bioblitz which took place at Newton Ferrers and Noss Mayo on the Devon coast.

View of Newton Ferrers from Noss Mayo Harbour. Image by Oli Haines.

This stunning area, which features a tidal estuary with its many associated creeks, secluded beaches, cliffs and woodland, has long been celebrated as an area of beauty and natural diversity and is designated as an Area of Outstanding Beauty (AONB). In recognition of the area’s diverse and high-quality habitats, the Yealm estuary is also a Special Area of Conservation, all of the intertidal mudflats and the woodland around the coastal path are classed as Priority Habitat and a proportion of the region has also been selected as a Site of Special Scientific Interest.

This year’s Bioblitz featured a huge range and variety of activities for children and adults of all ages; including whale and dolphin watching, reptile, butterfly, bug and fish surveys, stream dipping, nocturnal walks looking for bats, owls and glow worms, moth trapping and much more.

Keep reading for accounts from NHBS team members Kat, Soma and Bryony about the activities that they enjoyed over the weekend.

Editorial Assistant Kat Clayton took part in a crabbing competition on Friday evening:

“As the sun began to lower it was time for the crabbing competition. Conveniently situated on a pier by The Ship Inn at Noss Creek, this event sure was popular with the locals! The aim of the game was to catch the biggest crab and, along the way, survey the population of the Green Shore Crab (Carcinus maenas) around the pier. Children were wet-suited up and were not afraid of swimming off with their bait to find the best spot. After depositing their bait, they quickly swam back to the pier to reel in their catch. A twist on the mark-capture-release method was used, where the marking consisted of a dab of lipstick on the carapace of an unsuspecting crab. Bacon was flung as bait, children were dripping on the recording sheets and lipstick found itself on most peoples’ fingers and t-shirts. This organised chaos was much loved by all and I’m sure it will become a regular annual event. As this was a BioBlitz however, other species were recorded too, such as the sea slater (Ligia oceanica). Secretly, we were all hoping to see the crab parasitic barnacle Sacculina – which this year remained elusive”.

As well as the popular woodland walk, the list of activities included a dusk bird and bat walk. Image by Oli Haines.

Marketing Coordinator Soma Mitra-Chubb went along to the Bioblitz on Sunday with her children to take part in the Ancient Woodland walk:

“On Sunday, we joined in an Ancient Woodland walk. Ancient woodlands are those which have existed since the early 1600s and are the UK’s richest land-based habitat for wildlife. Our aim was to spot as many different types of trees and plants as possible, so off we went armed with our recording sheets.

Our walk took us through the beautiful Newton Woods running alongside the river Yealm. Fiona, our guide, set the younger children (and some adults) the task of collecting as many different leaves as possible which were gathered in a pile. We spotted leaves from cedar, ash, pine, oak, and a host of smaller plants including a nettle which was collected by one brave child. (There were, alas, no dock leaves to be found, triggering a discussion on why, in nature, you often find both poison and antidote growing next to each other). Some unusual finds included wild strawberries, and a herb named Robert.

It was a delightful walk, helped by the brilliant weather and congenial company. Unfortunately, as the walk overran, we were forced to turn back at the halfway point. We will be returning to Newton Woods to complete the walk at a later date!”

Bryony stands ready to help at the NHBS stall. Image by Oli Haines.

Wildlife Equipment Specialist Bryony attended the Bioblitz, both to take part in the activities and to provide a friendly face behind the NHBS stand, which offered a great range of wildlife survey equipment and identification guides for sale at the event:

“The MBA’s BioBlitz was a fantastic event to be a part of! It aimed to encourage more people to get involved in nature conservation and raise awareness of the abundance of wildlife on their doorstep.

Children, ecologists, naturalists and enthusiasts all got involved, no matter the age or the background. Activities were constantly on the go, wellies marched onwards to location after location on the search for more species; buckets, field guides and nets in hand. Marine, land-based, air-borne and tidal were all explored and examined.

Having the NHBS stall at such an active event was brilliant as we were able to provide inspiration to children, ecologists and families. We sold all manner of items enabling everyone to get closer to nature and to experience it first-hand. Our Educational Rock Pooling Kits and Pond Dipping Kits were a great success, along with bug magnification pots and pooters. Ecologists loved the new books that we had, aiding identification of all manners of sponges, seaweeds and lichens.

We were also able to answer questions, show children how to use the equipment and partake in the activities ourselves.”

The Bioblitz Research Hub. Image by Oli Haines.

Photos and highlights from the BioBlitz will be showcased in a celebration of the diversity of life along the Yealm at an event in the WI Hall in Newton Ferrers on Saturday 13th October. Everyone is welcome to drop in between 11am-4pm, with tea and cake being served.

The Bioblitz was organised by the Marine Biological Association and was supported by the Royal Society of Biology, the Heritage Lottery Fund and Yealm Waterside Homes.

The Winter Hare – An Interview with Wildlife Artist Andrew Haslen

The Winter Hare Jacket ImageWhat first inspired you to begin painting wildlife?

I have always been interested in the countryside. As a young boy I was always out in the woods and fields, watching wildlife, climbing trees or building dams across streams. As far back as I can remember I always liked to draw and paint, the two just naturally seemed to merge. I like to think I started like everyone else by colouring in, and just carried on.

How would you describe your style as it features in The Winter Hare?

I seem to have developed several different styles or ways of producing pictures, I think they have come about because I get bored easily and want to try new things. Also I am never really happy with my work, I tend to see all the things that are wrong rather than right and this makes me move on. The book shows most of the ways I work, from linocuts which are hand-coloured to drawings, watercolours and oil paintings.

Could you briefly tell the story behind this book and how it came about?

Image from The Winter HareSeveral people have been encouraging me to do a book for several years now. I have always liked the idea but put it on the back burner… When my dog found and brought home some orphaned leverets, which I reared to adulthood, it gave me the theme around which I could build the book. The young hares were only orphaned because of my dog! I think she was trying to mother them – when they arrived on the kitchen floor one Sunday morning they were quite wet from several good licks.  Because I had no idea where she had found them I was faced with the problem of looking after them. This proved quite eventful and took up much of my time over the following months but did give me the unique opportunity of drawing them at close quarters.

In the course of running The Wildlife Art Gallery I have designed books for other people but putting one together of my own work gave me fresh problems. In the past I just worked with the material I had available but with this book I was able to paint new pictures to fit a particular spaces which slowed things up considerably.

Image from The Winter HareHares, tortoises, dogs and cats, and many different birds, including a kingfisher and a green woodpecker – feature in this book.  Are there any pictures of which you are particularly proud?

I like to paint animals that are around me and sometimes that includes domestic animals or pets. As for pictures I am proud of I guess it would be the next one I am about to paint – it is always perfect until I start putting marks on the paper.

Your paintings are full of character and intimacy – how did you get the animals to sit still for so long?!

I always try to paint or draw the individual animal rather than to just produce the standard version of it. With the hares I was in an ideal position to do this as they were around me all the time allowing me every opportunity to capture them. Getting animals to sit still is always a problem – I think the secret is not to try and to just start drawing. If the animal moves before your sketch is complete then turn the page and move on. A half-completed drawing is better than one you have tried to complete from memory if you are unfamiliar with the animal.

Hares have such an important place in English folklore. Were you conscious of this during the process of raising the orphans, or was the experience rather more prosaic?

I have always been interested in hares, including all the folklore that surrounds them. At one time the idea for the book was revolving around this. In the end it never came about, but it may form the basis for another book in the future.

Image from The Winter HareWhat were some of the highlights of the experience? Any funny stories?

Rearing the hares was not always easy and they caused a lot of disruption to my life, but it was certainly a privilege. I don’t think there are many people who can say they have been boxed by a hare.  On several occasions I would be drawing one of them and he would jump onto my drawing pad and chew the end of my pencil.

You founded the Wildlife Art Gallery in Lavenham, Suffolk – what could people expect to see there?

The gallery was first opened in 1988 to show the work of contemporary wildlife artists. From the start the gallery seemed to take on a life of its own and over the last 22 years we have staged some exceptional exhibitions. During that time the type of work we show has evolved and if people visit the gallery today they will find a cross section of artists both past and present; painters, printmakers and sculptors working in the field of wildlife art or countryside-related subjects.

Who are your heroes in the wildlife art world?

‘Heroes’ is probably the wrong description because in most cases it is the work they produce which I admire. Many, like R. B. Talbot Kelly and Eric Ennion (Eric Ennion: One Man’s Birds; Eric Ennion: A Life of Birds), are no longer with us. I never had the opportunity to meet them so all I have is their work to look at and be inspired by. There are two living artists who have made an impact on how I look at painting. The first was back in the mid 80’s when I went to an exhibition of watercolours by Lars Jonsson. The second was Kim Atkinson who ran a painting holiday on Bardsley Island in which I took part in the early 90’s. In addition there are several members of the Society of Wildlife Artists to whom I have enjoyed talking, and whose work I enjoy.

I am also influenced by individual pictures and I particularly like work by book illustrators and printmakers from the first half of the 20th Century.

How do you feel about the current state of wildlife in Britain today, and what can people do to help?

I think the best way to help is to protect and increase habitat. I have tried at home in a small way to plan the garden with wildlife in mind, with areas left to go wild, and by planting trees and digging ponds.

Buy The Winter Hare now.

Visit the Wildlife Art Gallery website.


New at NHBS: Mammals of Europe, North Africa and the Middle East

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Mammals of Europe, North Africa and the Middle East is the hot new bestseller at NHBS this month.

Covering over 400 species, this work presents all of the terrestrial mammal species of the Western Palearctic, serving as an excellent guide to the great wealth of fauna in this region. Species accounts are concise and authoritative, giving information on size, distribution, habitat, behaviour, reproduction and feeding. Each account is supported by distribution maps and superb illustrations. The book features over 100 plates, comprising of over 600 colour species artworks. Variation between the sexes is illustrated and anatomical diagrams are provided to assist identification. See sample pages and illustrations from this book

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Bats of Britain, Europe and Northwest Africa – Now in Stock at NHBS

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Autumn must be the time that bat books come home to roost – several new titles have just flown into NHBS, with more on the horizon. The hottest new title is Bats of Britain, Europe and Northwest Africa – now in stock at NHBS. This substantial reference with hundreds of intriguing photographs is certain to appeal to anyone interested in knowing more about the bats of Britain and Europe. Get your copy todayand save £5!

This comprehensive and superbly illustrated handbook presents for the first time all 51 bat species that occur across Europe and Northwest Africa, taking in to account recent taxonomic advances and new species descriptions from over the last few years. The discovery of new species in Europe, after a century of intensive investigations, indicates the limits of our knowledge and how far we are from a comprehensive understanding of bat ecology, biology, behaviour and biogeography. It was this need, especially as it affected conservation in the light of habitat loss and fragmentation, that motivated the authors of this landmark work. This is a new English language edition – this book was previously published in German.

View internal images from this book

Also selling well at NHBS is British Bats – A Guide to Identification Using Sound Analysis – which is due to be published in October 2009. Preorder your copy today!

Check out our great selection of bat detectors, bat boxes and related equipment; for more information on choosing a bat detector, browse the NHBS Quick Guide to Bat Detectors.

Bees at NHBS: A World Without Bees – New in Paperback

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A World Without Bees – New Paperback Edition
Honeybees are dying. In this timely book, two keen amateur apiarists investigate all the claims and counterclaims with the help of scientists and beekeepers in Europe, America and beyond. They ask the question that will soon be on everyone’s lips: is there any possible way of saving the honeybees – and, with them, the world as we know it?

Now available in paperback – order your copy today

A Short History of the Honey Bee – New at NHBS
There are around 16,000 species of bee. Only seven of these are responsible for creating the world’s sweetest treat – honey. This book follows the journey from flower to hive to honey throughout history, starting with the story of the honey bee – why it is named Apis mellifera, how it has evolved from a solitary creature to one that travels in groups, why it stings, and how pollination really works.

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Guide to Bees of BritainNHBS Bestseller
Identify the bees in your garden with this handy 8-page folding chart showing 28 species of bee, most of which can commonly be seen in domestic gardens. As well as the ‘Big Six’ bumblebees, the chart includes species of mining bees, cavity-nesting bees and cuckoo bees. Silhouettes show the typical life-size for each species.

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Browse other new and bestselling Bees and Entomology titles

Living with Dormice – Now in Stock at NHBS

The dormouse is one of the least seen but most loved of British animals. Dormice have always been portrayed as elusive, rare animals with specialised food requirements found only in large ancient woodlands.

Sue Eden was therefore surprised to find them nesting in the coastal scrub of her new garden. Her many years of ensuing research have led her to the conclusion that the dormouse is in reality a widespread, tough, opportunistic omnivore that appears just as at home in low coastal scrub and conifer plantations.

This fascinating new research, together with many colour photographs, provides an inspiration in the search for this appealing creature.

Living with Dormice is now in stock at NHBS – order your copy today

Also check out our selection of Dormouse Nest Tubes and Dormouse Nest Boxes

Browse other recent British Wildlife titles

England’s Landscape – Save 60% in Our Backlist Bargains Sale!

Don’t miss our amazing special offer on the England’s Landscape books from English Heritage – these classic references are now 60% off! (sale ends 31 March 2009).

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Regional titles in the England’s Landscape series include The North West, The North East, The West Midlands, The East Midlands, The West, The South West, East Anglia, and The South East.

Order now for big savings!

Several New Naturalist volumes are featured in our annual Backlist Bargains sale, including Garden Natural History, The Isles of Scilly and Britain’s Structure and Scenery.

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Take advantage of these great deals before they disappear (sale ends 31 March 2009) – save up to 60% on more than 2600 wildlife, environment and natural history titles!

Browse our regional selections:
England | Ireland | Scotland | Wales