eDNA or environmental DNA is genetic material found in the environment. This DNA comes from organisms in various forms including (but not limited to) faeces, mucus, gametes, shed skin or hair. Although eDNA degrades over time, it can persist long enough for its presence to be tested from environmental samples.
eDNA sampling for Great Crested Newts
Sampling and testing of eDNA in pond water is a relatively new, but increasingly popular, method of determining presence of Great Crested Newts. Provided that the sampling and analysis protocol complies with DEFRA guidance and that samples are collected between 15th April and 30th June, then eDNA test results are accepted by Natural England and Natural Resources Wales.
Unlike traditional methods of bottle trapping or torch searches, collecting pond water samples for eDNA analysis has very low impact on newts and other pond inhabitants. It also has obvious benefits in terms of labour time, and ecologists are less restricted to specific times of day for surveying. It could also provide a more accurate method of determining the presence of Great Crested Newts which are notably difficult to survey reliably. The technique is not without limitations, however, and can be problematic in ponds with large amounts of algae or sediment or where accessibility is a problem.
How do you collect and analyse eDNA samples?
The sampling process involves the use of a sterile ladle to collect 20 samples of pond water which are then mixed together in a bag. A small volume of this pond water is then added to each of six tubes containing a preservative solution and control DNA. These tubes are returned to the lab where quantitative PCR (qPCR) is used to amplify and measure the GCN DNA (if present), thus determining the presence of GCN eDNA in the samples.
NHBS and Nature Metrics
This spring, NHBS will be working with Nature Metrics to provide a complete GCN eDNA analysis service. Combining our expertise in sourcing, packing and shipping equipment with the excellent laboratory proficiency of Nature Metrics, this partnership will allow both teams to focus fully on our strengths in order to provide a fast and efficient service.
For more information about Nature Metrics and the eDNA, Metabarcoding and Metagenomics services they can provide, please visit www.naturemetrics.co.uk
It’s that time of year again. Spring has sprung earlier than ever, and the survey season will very soon be under way. In this post we look at some of the fantastic new bat detectors due for release this spring.
The Anabat Swift from Titley Scientific is based on the excellent design of the Anabat Express and records in full spectrum as well as zero crossing. Users can choose between sample rates of 320 or 500kHz and a built-in GPS receiver automatically sets the clock, calculates sunrise and sunset times and records the location of the device.
Echo Meter Touch 2
The Echo Meter Touch 2 is perfect for bat enthusiasts and students and will let you record, listen to and identify bat calls in real-time on your iPad, iPhone or iPod Touch. All you need is your iOS device, your Echo Meter Touch 2 and the Echo Meter Touch App which is a free download from the iTunes store.
Echo Meter Touch 2 Pro
Designed for consultants and professional bat workers, the Echo Meter Touch 2 Pro has all the great features of the Echo Meter Touch 2 but with additional user options such as an adjustable sample rate (256kHz and 384kHz), adjustable gain and advanced trigger settings.
The compact Batcorder Mini has a very simple user interface with just a single button to start and stop recording. Calls are recorded in full spectrum onto the built-in memory (64GB) and the internal lithium-ion battery is chargeable by USB. A built-in GPS receiver sets the time, date and location.
Ultramic384 Ultrasound Microphone
This high performance ultrasound microphone will connect to a USB port for real time listening and can also be used as a stand-alone recorder when used with a USB battery. An internal microSD card slot allows data to be recorded.
The Batcorder GSM is designed for use at a wind turbine site and includes a microphone disk which is inserted directly into the turbine nacelle. The unit runs off mains power from the turbine and a GSM function lets you receive status messages, reassuring you that everything is recording correctly. A Raspberry Pi setup also lets you backup your files to a memory drive and download data directly or over an internet connection.
Our full range of bat detectors can be found at www.nhbs.com
Pond dipping is an excellent activity for children of all ages and is a great way to introduce them to a wide range of plants, insects and amphibians. It also offers an opportunity to learn about food chains and food webs as well as discovering variations in lifecycles and the effects of pollution on aquatic life.
For school groups, a pond dipping trip will satisfy many of the criteria for learning about life processes and living things, and it can also be used to provide inspiration for art, maths or English projects. Younger children will enjoy drawing or painting pictures of the creatures they find, as well as writing stories about their experiences.
Don’t forget though that pond dipping isn’t just for children. Ponds, pools and small lakes are an integral part of our ecosystem and surveying the plant and animal diversity within them is an important way of assessing their health. If you are interested in volunteering as a pond surveyor, take a look at the Freshwater Habitats Trust website for more information.
How to pond dip:
Half fill a tray or bucket with water and set aside. Do the same with your collecting pots and/or magnifying pots (if using).
Use a net to dip into the pond. Sweeping in a figure of eight will ensure that you retain the catch in the net. Areas around the edge of the pond, especially near vegetation, tend to be the most productive. Take care not to scoop up mud from the bottom of the pond, as this will clog up your net and make it difficult to see what you have caught.
Gently turn the net inside out into the tray. Once everything has settled, you should be able to view a fascinating selection of pond-dwelling creatures. A pipette can be used to transfer individual specimens to a magnifying pot for a closer look.
When you have finished, make sure to return all water and inhabitants to the pond. Trays, pots and nets should be rinsed and dried thoroughly before storage. If you are going to be using nets in different ponds then sterilising using a broad spectrum disinfectant will help prevent the spread of disease.
Please note: Children should always be well supervised and aware of health and safety rules when working near water. Suitable clothing should be worn; wellington boots or other sturdy footwear are recommended.
Pond dipping equipment:
At NHBS we stock both individual and class sized pond dipping kits. These contain nets, trays, pots, magnifier and pipettes, as well as the excellent (and waterproof!) Freshwater Name Trail which will help you to identify the key animals found in UK ponds. Or why not choose from our top 10 list of equipment and books for pond dipping:
Made at our workshop in Devon, the Pond Net is a high quality, lightweight net with a removable bag for cleaning. The bag is made from woven 1mm mesh which is ideal for pond dipping. Also available in a telescopic version.
Find out the names of the insects, plants, amphibians and repiles that you see. Features three of the FSC’s popular fold-out charts: Reptiles and Amphibians (frogs, toads, newts, slow worms, lizards and snakes), Freshwater Name Trail (classic pond dipping guide) and Commoner Water Plants (from lilypads to water mint). Also includes a card-sized magnifier.
This set of 10 Bug Pots is perfect for pond dipping, as well as general nature studies. Each pot has a 2.5x magnifying lid and a measurement grid of 5mm squares on the base. They are ideal for storing and observing specimens.
Through beautiful full-page illustrations accompanied by key information about each creature, the First Book of Pond Life will help to encourage young children’s interest in the outside world and the wildlife around them. Covers 35 of the most common pond species. Also includes a spotter’s chart for children to fill in and links to internet-based activities.
A simple and affordable pond net. Knotless mesh is guaranteed not to run if holed and, importantly, will not harm specimens which are collected in the net. A plastic handle makes it very lightweight. Available in three sizes.
Suitable for adults and older children, this books introduces some of the less familiar and microscopic species found in ponds such as diatoms, desmids and rotifers. Along with excellent photographs, the book provides useful identification keys so that readers can identify, explore and study this microscopic world. This book is due for publication March 2017.
Small pipettes are extremely handy for sorting through and picking up tiny creatures found when pond dipping. They can also be used to transfer samples to microscope slides to look at the microscopic specimens found. These 3ml pipettes are available singly or in packs of 10 or 100.
These sampling containers are made from see-through rigid polystyrene and have secure screw-on lids. They are recommended for liquids and so are ideal for keeping specimens when pond dipping or rock pooling. Available either singly or in packs of 10, 30 or 100. Different sizes of pot can also be purchased.
Packed with information on more than 190 species of animal and plant that inhabit ponds, pools and small lakes in northern Europe. Among the fascinating animals featured are freshwater sponges, hydras, water bears, worms, leeches, water snails, dragonflies and damselflies, frogs and toads, bats, fish, birds, water voles and otter.
In this brief guide we will take a look at the main types and designs of moth traps. We will also address many of our most frequently asked questions, including why you will no longer find Mercury Vapour traps for sale at www.nhbs.com
Robinson Moth Traps
Robinson Traps are the preferred choice amongst many serious entomologists because they offer the highest retention rates. On a very good night you may catch in excess of 500 moths. They tend to be more expensive that other types of trap, however, and they are also quite large. They also cannot be collapsed down for storage or transport. The Robinson Trap is available with twin actinic bulbs and is powered by 240V mains electricity.
Skinner Moth Traps
Skinner Moth Traps will attract a similar number of moths to Robinson Traps. However, they are less efficient at holding the catch. The main advantages of Skinner Traps are price and portability, and they also let you access your catch whilst the trap is running. Skinner Traps collapse down quickly and easily when not in use, making them very easy to store and transport. They are available with actinic electrics and can be provided with either 240V (mains powered) or 12V (battery powered) control panels. Lucent traps have a clever design with all components fitting neatly into a suitcase-style case.
Heath Moth Traps
The traditional Heath Moth Trap has a small actinic tube mounted vertically within three vanes that work together to attract and then deflect moths downwards into the holding chamber below. The traps are very lightweight and portable and are usually powered by a 12V battery or generator, although mains powered traps are also available. Variations on the Heath Trap design include the “Plastic Bucket” model which allows the trap to be packed away and carried conveniently. Although catches from Heath Traps tend to be less than for Robinson and Skinner traps, due to their lower wattage bulbs, their affordability and portability makes them great choices for beginners or for use in the field.
Moth Collecting Tents
Moth Collecting Tents provide a unique alternative to traditional style moth traps and are ideal for educational use or group trapping events. They consist of a large white fabric structure which is fitted with a UV light source. Moths which are attracted by the light settle on the white fabric and can be observed or collected for study. As the collecting area is large and accessible, it is easy for many individuals to view the specimens at the same time. However, tents and sheets do not have the same retention rates as traditional box-type traps.
Moth Trapping FAQs
What kind of trap is best for garden or educational use?
The design of the Skinner Trap means that you can access the catch without having to switch off the bulb. This is particularly useful if you are looking at your catch over the course of the evening, rather than leaving the trap all night and returning to it in the morning. Skinner Traps also have the added benefit of collapsing down, making them easier to store.
Which trap is best for unattended trapping?
The Robinson Trap is the only trap that will retain the whole catch after dawn. Some moths will escape from other trap designs.
Which trap is most portable?
Heath Traps are the smallest and easiest to transport. They can also run off a 12V battery, allowing them to be used in remote sites. The Safari and Ranger Moth Traps are the smallest and lightest traps we sell, so are ideal for travelling, however, they do require mains electricity (or a generator) to run.
Why can I no longer find Mercury Vapour traps on your website?
Mercury Vapour bulbs have recently been phased out as part of the Restriction of Hazardous Substances Directive. Therefore, we have removed the traps from our range and are now focussing on actinic replacements. If you have a Mercury Vapour trap and would like to convert it to run with actinic electrics, please get in touch with us to have a chat about this.
What are actinic bulbs?
Actinic bulbs product a small amount of UV light alongside the visible light which makes them more “attractive” to moths. They are not as bright as Mercury Vapour bulbs but because they don’t get as hot they are much safer to use, particularly for public and attended trapping events. They are also much less of a disturbance to neighbours if you are using the trap in your garden.
What is the difference in catch rates between the different traps?
The Robinson Trap and Skinner Trap will attract a similar number of moths but the Robinson has the highest retention rate of the two. Heath Traps will retain fewer moths but will still attract the same range of species. You can therefore obtain similar results trapping for a longer period or over several nights in the same area.
Following the acquisition of EFE & GB Nets earlier this year, NHBS now manufactures a wide range of plankton nets at our workshop in Devon. Nets are available with an opening diameter of 250mm, 300mm or 500mm and with mesh sizes ranging from 10µm to 500µm.
250mm and 300mm diameter nets
250mm and 300mm diameter nets have a stainless steel frame to which a 500mm long bag is attached. They are supplied with a harness and seven metre long towing line which can be used to tow the net behind a boat or from a suitable bank or jetty.
The standard cod end is fitted with a filter in the same mesh size as the main part of the bag. However, various alternatives can be selected at the time of ordering. Options include a clear extension tube, collecting bottle, tap valve or large filter fitted in place of the standard filter. It is also possible to have weight loops added to the end of the net (weights not included) or a stainless steel swivel to be used on the harness in place of the standard nylon ring.
The heavy duty upgrade uses heavy duty nylon for the net collar and cod end collar and also includes fully taped seams.
500mm diameter nets
500mm diameter nets have a stainless steel frame and 1900mm long bag and a three point harness with swivel connector. All seams are reinforced and the collar is made from industrial nylon for added strength and durability. The cod end of the bag is fitted with a heavy duty screw-on filter in the same mesh size as the bag. This net is not supplied with a towing rope and so users will need to supply their own rope or chain which can be fitted to the harness.
As with the smaller plankton nets, various adaptations are available in order to create a net which is suited to your sampling needs. A flexible cod end extension allows a greater sample volume to be collected and also lets you connect a different filter type. A replacement cod end cap provides a closed ended option and results in a sample size of 700ml and a quick release bag is ideal for collecting fry or elver or for when a rapid changeover of bags is required.
Net bags and the educational plankton net
As well as standard plankton nets, we also stock a range of plankton net bags designed to fit onto the professional hand net frame. These fit onto the frame in the same way as the standard hand net bags, and have a detachable screw-on filter in the centre. An educational plankton net with 150µm mesh is also available for school use or for those who require an economical net for trial sampling.
Susan Young is a writer and photographer with a background in physics and engineering. She is the author of the fantastic CCTV for Wildlife Monitoring published earlier this year. This great handbook provides lots of practical information on the use of CCTV for survey and research.
Your book on CCTV for Wildlife Monitoring, published earlier this year, is packed full of practical information for the researcher or amateur naturalist interested in using CCTV to monitor wildlife. Could you explain a little bit about your professional background and how you came to write this book?
I have had a very varied career and have always tended to look for new ways to do things. After graduating, I worked using applied physics in the manufacture of aero engines, and later, after a Masters in Engineering Management, worked in a large electronics company. For the last 15 years I have been a writer and (mainly) wildlife photographer, and found my experience of great value with the more technical aspects of photography.
After using various photographic systems for recording wildlife, I came to believe that CCTV had many applications for both the amateur and professional naturalist. As I have always enjoyed doing something different, I spent the last few years researching CCTV systems for use with wildlife.
I wanted to test CCTV in more formal environments and thus I volunteered for Natural England and the Wildlife Trust. With Natural England I have been researching the use of an underwater system for studying fish in rural rivers, and have also developed a system for monitoring rock pool life. With the Woodland Trust I have developed a portable CCTV system for bat monitoring, which is being used for a research project at the moment, and which can greatly reduce the need for night emergence surveys.
With this research I became convinced that there were many applications where CCTV could be of great benefit, but that the lack of clear, relevant technical information was a barrier to wider use. The more I discovered about CCTV, the greater my enthusiasm for the subject, and the greater the number of applications that became apparent. For this reason I decided to write CCTV for Wildlife Monitoring with the aim of encouraging wider use of what I believe is a valuable tool.
Do you feel that there is a need to bridge the knowledge gap between manufacturers/engineers and the individuals using field equipment? As an extension of this, do you feel that it would improve the quality of research or survey data if people had a better understanding of the functions and limitations of their kit?
In meeting both professional and amateur naturalists, I have often heard it said that manufacturers/engineers do not understand their problems. Without that understanding, they are unable to advise on the areas of use. In addition, the biological sciences are not generally taught with an emphasis on technology, which can leave graduates unfamiliar with technical language. Companies such as NHBS and, hopefully, books like mine, can help to bridge what is a very large gap in communication.
I feel very strongly that there could be great steps forward in research and survey methods if people were more aware of the possibilities of their equipment, together with an understanding of the limitations. For the keen naturalist, there is also a great number of applications for filming for pleasure.
We have found trail cameras to be extremely popular both with amateur naturalists and researchers. How do you feel these compare with CCTV systems and in what types of situations would you recommend each of them?
This is a difficult question to answer briefly!
I have used trail cameras for many years and without doubt they are of great value for indicating the presence of wildlife, especially in remote areas, but their short filming time makes them less practical for monitoring. CCTV is much more flexible and responsive, and has the capability of giving higher quality images, especially at night. CCTV can be used with underwater cameras, and with cameras that fit into small spaces such as bird or mammal boxes.
One of the main advantages of a CCTV system is that it can be set up to record at certain times as well as being triggered by motion or event. The wide range of CCTV cameras means that variable focus lenses can be used, allowing one to zoom in to the subject, noise reduction can produce clean images and features such as ‘smart IR’ prevent over exposure of nearby objects, a problem with night images with trail cameras.
If mains power is available, the advantages of CCTV become more apparent. Recent technology means that HD cameras can be used, giving high quality HD videos, and images can be viewed live on a monitor. If the internet is also available, images can be viewed remotely by smartphone, tablet or PC.
HD analogue video (AHD or, more recently, HD-TVI) is an amazing step forward in CCTV, giving videos of great quality at a reasonable cost and without the complexity of more traditional HD methods which require some knowledge of computer networks.
You have a vast amount of experience in the field using CCTV and must have collected huge amounts of footage from this. How does it make you feel when you are reviewing your videos and come across something amazing? Do you have a single favourite video or image?
There is nothing to beat the excitement of coming across a video of something unexpected. The otter swimming underwater was caught by accident while filming fish and is very short, but still very exciting, and something I never really expected to get, although I was always hoping. I try to plan a CCTV session to reduce the number of ‘empty’ videos and to make sure that I review small numbers without letting them build up over days. That way, the excitement is always there.
Finally – if you could set up a CCTV system anywhere in the world, where would you choose?
I would choose the UK. UK wildlife is very elusive and offers a great challenge. I am an ‘otterholic’ and would love to set up cameras on the Shetland islands. I have photographed otters with a DSLR, but there is nothing to beat the excitement of filming otters in action.
The bat survey season is just beginning and since our last update in November 2015 many of the new bat detectors have arrived in stock and we have received some customer feedback and updates on specifications from manufacturers. The total count of new bat detectors now stands at six – three passive full spectrum recorders from Elekon, two passive recorders in the Song Meter family from Wildlife Acoustics, and the handheld Anabat Walkabout from Titley Scientific.
We have had the Wildlife Acoustics SM4BAT FS in stock on and off now for the last few weeks (supplies have been limited) but we now have plenty on the shelves. We are really impressed with these units – they are smaller, lighter and easier to programme than the old Song Meters and have massively improved battery life (up to 45 nights for the FS and 70 nights for the ZC). They come in a strong lockable enclosure that can easily be chained to a tree and include a 3m microphone cable when purchased with the SMM-U1 microphone. The ZC units have not arrived yet but are expected in early April. The SM4BAT detectors also include an incredible three year warranty (excluding the microphones).
Wildlife Acoustics have also announced that they are phasing out the EM3+, the SMZC and the SM2BAT+, which are being replaced by the Echo Meter Touch, SM4BAT ZC and SM3BAT / SM4BAT respectively.
Elekon have now released three new passive bat detectors within the last few months which are based around the very highly regarded Batlogger M handheld bat detector. The Batlogger C is probably the highest specification bat detector on the market today – it has everything you would expect from a high end passive detector including programmable recording schedules, fully weatherproof enclosure, and high quality full spectrum recordings as well as many extras. These include optional sms and/or email messages reporting the status of the unit and the number of recordings made as well as the amount of power remaining. Furthermore, because the Batlogger C also has in-built GPS it can send you an alert if the unit is moved. A wide range of power options are available: a 50 hour rechargeable battery is included and there is space for a second. Mains power is also an option as is solar power which requires the addition of the Batlogger C solar panel. When used with two 50 hour batteries, just half a day of sun in every 10 days should be enough to keep the Batlogger C powered indefinitely.
Also from Elekon, the Batlogger A family – the A and the A+ are new miniaturised passive bat detectors. Both are programmable, are housed within a small weatherproof enclosure and include a Knowles FG microphone on a 2m extension cable. The Batlogger A will record for up to 30 hours on eight AA batteries (e.g. three 10 hour nights). The Batlogger A+ was created after a customer contacted Elekon to say that the Batlogger A looked perfect for installing up trees and in other inaccessible location but that ideally, the battery life should be longer. In response the team at Elekon quickly created the new Batlogger A+ which is slightly larger than the Batlogger A but includes the same rechargeable lithium ion battery used in the Batlogger C. This will power the A+ for up to 70 hours. Stock of both models are fairly limited so please contact us soon if you would like to place an order.
A few software glitches delayed the release of the Anabat Walkabout in 2015 but this incredible new bat detector has now been in stock for several months. The touch screen Android tablet based bat detector not only records any passing bats but also lets you view the sonogram in real time in both full spectrum and zero crossing formats. A GPS, lux-meter, thermometer and humidity sensor are all in-built so not only will each call be geo-tagged but you will also be able to collect the full range of environmental data for each transect without needing any additional tools. A fully charged unit will last for around eight hours. The Walkabout bundle will soon also include a copy of Analook Insight analysis software to allow you to view and analyse full spectrum and zero crossing recordings.
If you would like any help, advice, or a short loan of one of our demo bat detectors please get in touch with our Wildlife Equipment Specialists on 01803 865913 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
With spring rapidly approaching, now is the ideal time to start thinking about nest boxes for your local birds. With this in mind we have put together some answers to the most Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about nest boxes – covering where and when to put up your boxes, cleaning and maintenance as well as dealing with predators.
Traditionally people have put up nest boxes in the early spring to ensure that they are ready for the breeding season. However, there really is no ‘best’ time to put up nest boxes. By putting up nest boxes in the autumn you can provide much needed winter refuges for roosting birds and 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. Even after February there is still a chance of occupancy; tits have been known to move in during April and house martins as late as July. Whatever the time of year, your nest box is likely to be used for roosting so shouldn’t stay unoccupied for long. 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 their 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 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 the predator. Boxes in gardens should be located where cats cannot get to them, making walls a better option than trees. Prickly or thorny bushes can also help to deter unwanted visitors. Some nest boxes also have anti-predator designs (e.g. Schwegler’s Tree Creeper 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 several metres off the ground you can help prevent predators and human interference. The direction of the entrance hole is also not too important but it is beneficial for there to be a clear flight path to the box. Crucially, the box should 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. 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 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 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. Schwegler’s wood-concrete 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. Not only can these prevent predators from getting to or finding purchase on the nest box, but they can also help insulate the box from the weather. 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. An overhanging roof will also help prevent predators reaching in. If using open-fronted nest boxes, a balloon of chicken wire over the entrance can prevent some predators gaining access, although weasels will still be able to slip through. 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, so you may want to do some experimenting.
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 boxes may still be occupied. Wait until autumn and then remove the contents of the box, checking first that the box is definitely unoccupied. Scatter the contents of the box on the ground some way from the box to help prevent parasites re-infesting the nest box. Use a small brush or scraper to remove debris from the corners. Do not wait until the winter to clean out nest boxes as birds may already be roosting in them.
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, remember that one box is better than no box (providing it’s suitably located). Many UK bird populations have plummeted to worryingly low levels and they 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 a 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 then please get in touch with customer services.
Ecologists use torches for a wide range of applications including newt surveys, for note taking and safety during nocturnal surveys and to look for roosting bats and other creatures within lofts and other confined spaces. Each application requires different things from the torch – high power for newt surveys, a red filter to preserve night vision, light weight and / or hands free operation to reduce fatigue, a long operating time, lower power settings to reduce disturbance and an LED bulb to reduce heat output. So far, we know of no single torch that combines all of these attributes in an affordable package but progress is being made. Here we introduce three new torches from the LED Lenser range that we have heard great things about and one new lamp and two new torches from Cluson.
The LED Lenser P7.2 is a hugely popular, general purpose handheld LED torch. Despite its compact size (it weighs just 175g!) it is very powerful, boasting 320 lumens when used at its highest setting. It has a robust but ergonomically designed weatherproof casing (IPX4 rating) and is great for prolonged use in the field. At the high setting (320 lumens, 260m beam) four good AAA batteries will last for two hours and at the lowest power setting (40 lumens, 100m beam) the batteries will last for 50 hours.
The LED Lenser P17.2 has a higher specification than the LED Lenser P7.2 with a powerful beam of 450 lumens that can reach 420m. It is constructed from tough, aircraft-grade aluminium with a dust and water resistant coating (IPX54 rating) and a smart, anti-slip black matte finish. The P17.2 has a fast focusing mechanism which enables the use of one hand to hold the torch and focus the beam simultaneously. Power, Low Power and Boost modes can be selected using a large dynamic switch that is designed for single handed use and for users wearing gloves. Perfect for carrying out newt surveys. Three D-cell alkaline batteries will power the P17.2 for 300 hours at the lowest setting (50 lumens, 140m beam) and for an impressive 30 hours on the highest setting (450 lumens, 420m beam).
We have also added the LED Lenser H7.2 Head Torch – a great little head torch with an extremely powerful 250 lumen maximum beam. Its lightweight (165g) and clever design make this torch extremely comfortable to wear and easy to use. Choose between eight light functions ranging from the most powerful 250 lumen, 160m beam setting to a comfortable 20 lumen setting for reading and note taking. Four good quality AAA batteries will power this head torch for seven hours on the maximum setting and for 60 hours on the lowest setting.
The Cluson CB3 LED Lamp combines the legendary features of the CB1 and CB2 High-Power Lamps with an LED lighting system. The 25W bulb uses half the power of the 50W Xenon bulb in the CB2 and produces an impressive 750m beam and four hours of continuous illumination (compared with just 1.5 hours for the CB2). For those of you that already own a CB2 the great thing is that you can buy the new lamp head on its own – more than doubling the performance of your old CB2 for a fraction of the cost of a new lamp.
The RE1T Red Eye and the Pro Scanner ML1000 Torches from Cluson use the same aircraft grade alloy body and rechargeable Lithium-ion batteries to produce two lightweight (190g) and robust torches that are perfect for surveys. The RE1T includes a red CREE LED giving a 300m beam of red light for two hours on the high power setting (10 hours on low power) and would be great for spotting badgers. The ML1000 also uses a CREE LED to produce a 300m beam of intense white light (1000 lumens), perfect for newt surveys although the battery life at full power is fairly short at 1¼ hours (three hours at low power). One set of Lithium-ion batteries and a charger are included, spare batteries can be bought separately.
Deciding which nest box camera to choose involves a complicated tiptoe through competing technologies and equipment. Before you start watching birds you have to decide what sort of system is best for you and, crucially, how much money to spend.
The first question you need to consider is whether to choose a wired or wireless system.
Wired systems have a cable running from the nest box back to your house or classroom, which carries both power and the television signal. This results in excellent image quality but may not be ideal if you have children or pets in your garden, or if a cable running to your bird box will interfere with the gardening. You will also need to feed the cable into your house, either by drilling a hole in the wall or by feeding it through an open window.
Wireless systems do not require a cable to run between the bird box and the television but instead transmit images to a small receiver situated inside the house. However, a power supply will still be required for the camera (i.e. from a shed or outbuilding) and the signal can be compromised by other wireless devices in the area or by trees and other structures between the nest box and the house.
Next you will need to consider whether you require a complete kit or just the camera.
If you are new to this particular aspect of watching and listening to birds, a complete kit, such as the Nest Box Camera Starter Kit is a good and economical choice. This starter kit includes a bird box with a camera mounted in the roof, which provides colour footage during the day and black and white at night. A 30 metre cable plugs into your television and supplies the camera with power. Another option is the Gardenature Nest Box Camera System, which includes a bespoke red cedar nest box made to RSPB and BTO guidelines. A small sliding drawer at the top of the box houses the Sony CCD camera, which adjusts automatically depending on light levels. A 30 metre cable connects the camera to your television.
For the handyman or woman who wants to put a system together themselves, either in a bespoke or existing nest box, the Nest Box Camera with Night Vision is a good choice. The tiny camera will focus from a few centimetres to roughly 30 metres, with high definition for excellent daytime and night time images. The camera comes with a 30 metre cable and extension cables are available to purchase separately. The Wireless Nest Box Camera Kit is a great option if you want to fit a wireless camera to your own bird box.
What about watching on your computer?
All of the cameras and kits that we sell come with either a cable or wireless receiver that will connect directly to your television. If you want to view or save your footage onto your computer then an additional USB capture device is required. These are available both for Windows and Mac operating systems and come with all the software you require to get started.