The Pettersson U-series microphone is a powerful ultrasonic USB microphone that is designed to be plugged into a smartphone, tablet or laptop to listen to and record bats. The microphone is available in two options: the u256, which has a sample rate of up to 256kHz and the u384, which has a sample rate of up to 384kHz. Both models use a MEMS ultrasonic microphone for its high sensitivity, low noise and ultra-low power consumption. The units themselves are pocket sized and feature a robust aluminium outer casing, making them ideal for taking out into the field. They connect to your device using a micro-USB connector but can be converted to connect to USB-C, lightning connector, or USB by using an adapter. Once connected, they can then be used alongside a variety of apps for viewing and recording bat calls.
How We Tested
We tested the Pettersson u384 with a fully charged Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 using the Bat Recorder app from the Play Store. The app instantly recognised the microphone when plugged in using an Arktec Micro USB to USB-C adapter. We took the device out on a warm early September evening around the time of sunset and chose a footpath which included some open areas and some wooded areas to allow the microphone to detect bats as we walked through differing habitats.
What We Found
The Pettersson u384 produced beautifully clear recordings with little noise. The Bat Recorder app worked perfectly with the Pettersson u384 , producing wonderful live sonograms and making it easy to record calls and look back over previous recordings. We recorded noctule, soprano and common pipistrelles on our short bat walk, and it was clear that the microphone was picking them up from at least 15m away when the bat was flying towards us. When listening out loud, we had to ensure the listening mode was on ‘Heterodyne’ rather than ‘Frequency Division’, so as to avoid audio feedback when the volume was high, but listening through headphones was easier and meant there was no risk of feedback.
The Pettersson u384 is an excellent quality microphone that produces low-noise, professional recordings. It has the advantage of being small and incredibly easy to transport – working alongside a device that most people already carry with them on surveys and bat walks. The Bat Recorder app was easy to navigate and very well made, although it would have been nice if the £5.49 cost of the app was already incorporated into the cost of the detector, or if the detector came with its own app for convenience, but Pettersson do state that the recorder works with multiple recording apps. We would recommend that live audio is listened to through headphones to avoid interference and help preserve the clean and crisp recordings that the detector was capable of. Overall, the Pettersson u384 is a fantastic USB microphone that would be a great asset to any bat worker or ecologist.
The Pettersson U-Series USB Ultrasonic Microphone is available through the NHBS website.
To view our full range of bat detectors, visit www.nhbs.com. If you have any questions about any of our products or would like some advice then please contact us via email at email@example.com or phone on 01803 865913.
The weekend of the 29th-30th August was the 24th International Bat Night. Organised by Eurobats, this annual celebration of bats saw events taking place all around the world in an effort to educate and inspire people about these fascinating flying mammals.
To mark International Bat Night, a small team from NHBS ventured out to an area of local woodland with a selection of bat detectors. The site we visited has been managed for the past two years by Steve and Tamara Davey, with the aim of maximising biodiversity. They are also ensuring the continued provision of habitat for certain species including seven recorded bat species, Nightjars and Woodcock. (Read more about how they are supporting nature in our recent interview or on the Woodland Wildlife website).
We arrived at the woods just before 7pm and were treated to a brief tour of the woodland as the light faded. Steve showed us the areas where the conifer plantation had been thinned, allowing more light to enter. In these areas there have already been increases in native plants and there were many seedlings present from native trees. He also showed us where he had planted a hedgerow boundary, with the intention of creating more commuting corridors for both bats and other wildlife. The second part of the woodland consisted of immature sitka spruce trees, some of which have now been cleared to make way for native trees, shrubs and plants.
In the two years that Steve and Tamara have been managing the site, the biodiversity of the plot has increased and the area is abundant with birds, small mammals and insects. Following advice from the Devon Greater Horseshoe Bat Project, they have also created three ponds, and this is where we spent most of our time on International Bat Night.
We used a selection of bat detectors including the Song Meter Mini static recorder, which was useful as it could be left to record while we kept our eyes on the skies watching bat movement and behaviour. We also used some handheld detectors including Magenta Bat 5s, an Anabat Scout and an Echo Meter Touch 2 which was extremely popular with the group due to the visual representation of the sound along with the incredibly useful auto-ID function.
During the evening we detected common pipistrelles, soprano pipistrelles, Noctules and Leisler’s as well as a suspected Nathusius’ pipistrelle and a Barbastelle that are awaiting ID confirmation from recorded files. Although the night was chilly, there were lots of moths and other flying insects that the bats were feeding on, and we enjoyed listening to pipistrelle feeding buzzes and watching them hunt and catch insects above us in the tree canopy.
The evening was extremely enjoyable and it was a great opportunity to see the work that Steve and Tamara have been doing on their land. The range of bat species we heard is testament to the quality of habitat that they have created and it was a great place to celebrate the 2020 International Bat Night.
Completely weatherproof and able to run for months on a single set of batteries, trail cameras are now commonly used for wildlife surveys or studying animal behaviour, and are becoming a vital tool for conservation all around the world. They are also incredibly popular with naturalists who are interested in finding out what the wildlife is up to on their local patch.
The Browning Patriot, released this year, is one of Browning’s top of the range cameras. Along with excellent resolution image and video capture (24MP images, 1920x1080p video), the Patriot features Browning’s unique dual-lens technology. This means that a separate lens and sensor system are used for daytime and night time capture, allowing you to capture excellent quality footage whatever the time of day. No-glow LEDs, which are completely invisible to both humans and other animals, are used to illuminate your subject at night up to a distance of 34m. A colour viewing screen, adjustable steel tree bracket and host of advanced camera settings all add to the Patriot’s appeal.
How we tested
We loaded the Patriot with a full set of AA batteries and a 32GB SD card then set the time and date. The camera mode was set to ‘Trail’ which means that it would record still images whenever the motion sensor was triggered by movement. The capture delay (ie the time between images being taken) was set at 5s and the image quality 24MP. Multi-shot mode was set to off (ie the camera would only take a single image per trigger) and the capture timer was set to 12.00am for both the ON and OFF times, meaning that the camera would be active 24 hours a day.
Our initial test took place in a back garden with the camera mounted on a tripod approximately 3m away from a baited tree stump. Ensuring that the camera was angled correctly was very easy, as the background of the main viewing screen shows a live image from the camera. We also conducted a motion trigger test by selecting ‘MOTION TRIGGER’ and then waving a hand above the stump to check that the light on the front of the camera was activated.
For the second field test the camera was placed in a ride that was cut into an area of wetland where there have been frequent otter sightings. Once again the camera was mounted on a tripod but this time the camera was set to record video (high resolution, length 20s, capture delay 5s).
In the third and final test, the camera was sited in an area that had both moving water and vegetation within the motion detection range. This was to provide us with some idea of the camera’s sensitivity and to see whether it would be repeatedly triggered by this motion. The camera was set to record video with the same settings as used previously.
What we found
When sited in the garden, the camera took lots of pictures of birds that were attracted to the bait. The camera triggered reliably and the quality of the images, including the colour reproduction, was good. We were particularly impressed that the images below – although taken first thing in the morning, pointing directly into the sun – were not over-exposed.
Unfortunately, when we retrieved the camera from the second field test, a number of cows had broken into the area from a neighbouring field and knocked over the camera. The footage of the cows, however (despite not being what we had hoped to capture!), was good quality.
In the final test we were pleased to observe that the camera had triggered only with the arrival of the local birds, and we did not have to sift through 100s of videos of empty scenery. The audio recorded with the clip featured below was also very true-to-life.
Although the second, and potentially most interesting, part of our field test was prematurely curtailed, this exercise gave us a good chance to familiarise ourselves with the Browning Patriot and to see the camera in use. First up – the manual. Clearly written and lacking any unnecessary waffle, the manual made setting up the camera incredibly straightforward. In fact, this parsimony also extends to the camera itself – while there are enough options to give you plenty of control over the footage collected, there aren’t so many that it becomes overwhelming.
The front-opening design means that it is really easy to alter the settings even when your camera is strapped in place. Similarly, the bottom-loading battery tray and easily accessible SD card slot mean that these can both be changed quickly in the field without moving the camera. The steel bracket on the rear of the camera means that, when strapped to a tree or post, it grips the surface, making it more stable. For our tests, we attached the camera to a tripod which allowed us lots of control over the camera angle and height. However, as we found out, it also makes it much more susceptible to being knocked over. For locations where security is an issue, a groove in the case that runs beneath the bracket allows it to be secured with a cable lock – one with a maximum diameter of 8mm would be required.
As previously mentioned, being able to view a live image from the camera during setup, along with the motion trigger function, means that you can be sure that your camera is angled correctly. (It’s really important to remember to turn off the motion trigger function before you leave the trail camera, however, as it will stay in this mode until it is turned off manually). The sensitivity of the camera appeared to be set very cleverly, as it was triggered reliably by the movement of birds and other animals, but we experienced very few empty shots or videos, which suggests that the movement of water or vegetation were not affecting the motion sensor.
The only minor limitation we found with this camera is that the Patriot doesn’t have a hybrid mode which means that you have to choose between capturing still images or videos. (Many cameras give you the option to record both and will capture a number of images first before then switching to video record).
Overall we were very impressed with the Browning Patriot and would wholeheartedly recommend it for professional or personal use. The images and videos were good quality, the camera was easy to set up and position and the price (currently under £200) is very competitive. We’re eager to continue using this camera and still have high hopes for getting some footage of our elusive otters. Check back soon to find out if we’re successful!
The Browning Patriot is available through the NHBS website and is also available as a starter bundle which includes 8 x Lithium AA batteries and a 32GB SD card.
To view our full range of trail cameras, 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 2018 , while still running a taxi business, an opportunity arose to purchase a few acres of local woodland on the edge of Dartmoor in Devon. Completed within a matter of weeks, Steve and Tamara Davey became proud custodians of their very own woodland!
When they discovered an impressive range of wildlife on their woodland site, they decided that the management of the area would be based on the continued provision of habitat for certain species, including seven recorded bat species, the visiting Nightjar and Woodcock.
We caught up with Steve to ask him about how they are supporting nature through their project Woodland Wildlife.
Can you tell me a little about your backgrounds.
Both Tamara and myself had childhood holidays in the Scottish Highlands as children, and there is no better place to develop an affinity with nature. It’s a place that holds a permanent residency within our hearts, those childhood memories imprinted on our futures. Mine were on the West Coast of Scotland opposite the Isle Of Skye. We used to stay in these old caravans that leaked and were powered by calor gas. The smell of the matches and gas appliances echoes those memories for me. The area was only a few miles up the coast from where Gavin Maxwell wrote his best-selling book Ring of Bright Water. As a family we spent a lot of time down at Sandaig ( in the book it was Camusfearna), Gavin’s books were really the only ones I read due to my interest in nature and love for Scotland. Above his hearth he had inscribed in Latin the words “non fatuum huc persecutus ignem” meaning, “it is no will o the wisp that I have followed here.” This phrase is very apt and resonates with our Woodland Wildlife project.
Aside from Scotland both Tamara’s and my childhoods involved getting out in nature with family walks, especially on Dartmoor. Also, similar to the book and film Kes, aged twelve I had a female kestrel to look after. My father converted the garden shed, and I remember rushing home from school every day. We looked after a tawny owl for a while too. Myself and our son also volunteered at a local bird of prey centre – these memories, and the knowledge you gain from an early age all lie dormant until the right opportunity presents itself later in life.
What motivated you to embark on the Woodland Wildlife project?
From the Spring of 2018 we made regular trips to the woodland because we couldn’t keep away and used to come up with loads of excuses to the selling agent on why we were visiting so often. We completed the purchase at the end of the summer. During the first twelve months we were staggered by the volume and diversity of the wildlife within our little plot and it was this that spurred us into creating Woodland Wildlife. I couldn’t believe that the domain woodlandwildlife.co.uk was available so I snapped it up. I then asked the web company that had recently rebuilt my taxi website to work on a website for Woodland Wildlife. They came up with the current logo which I really liked however the squirrel was grey and so I asked them to change it to red as that signified hope to me! At that point the future focus was more on the development of guided visits. In August last year we set up the Facebook page and that is seeing a steady increase of followers. We post on there most days and this time of year we may be posting up to eight times in one day, purely because of the observations – we are always finding new species to photograph. Through the winter months the posts are more project focused as that is the time of the year when most of the manual work is done.
What has been the biggest challenge in returning the woodland back to nature?
The nature was already there, nothing has needed returning as far as we are aware. But with small sized plots sensitive management is vital, for instance; if you don’t manage that important grassy ride, over time succession will take hold and that habitat (in our case) would be overrun with bramble and bracken, therefore the grasses would die off and displacement of species will happen. Our grassy rides are alive with insect life and as far as we are concerned these areas are a priority within our plot. When you see how small an area our grassy rides are and you see how many species they are supporting such as: leaf hoppers, beetles, bees, hoverflies, moths, grasshoppers, crickets, butterflies you can then understand how vitally important these small areas are. I would say our biggest challenge is still ahead of us. In 2012 the main plot was clear felled and in 2013 the holding company planted over 2000 young sitka spruce trees. These are now over eight years old and growing rapidly in amongst the birch, sweet chestnut, beech and a few other species. Being on an easterly facing slope (after all it is Devon) we are giving careful consideration to future extraction of timber and to what extent the damage would be. We are mindful not to ruin everything that we have done over the years. so the plan will be (in conjunction with the Forestry Commission) to convert over to native woodland. We will still retain some sitka for the goldcrests and siskins, but these will be in the area towards the top of the plot, whereby future extraction damage will be minimal.
Sitka are awful trees to work on as they are very prickly to handle. Even though they are only young it’s incredibly hard work felling them and dragging them around to produce dead hedging. Our adjoining plot is a mature stand of Douglas fir of 3.5 acres and that has recently been thinned. The remaining stems will grow on for a further 5 to 10 years, with the extra light they will grow in girth and not height. We have tagged a random 30 stems and will monitor their growth rate annually. This is one commercial aspect to our project, we plan to nurture a healthy self seeded understory within this stand and re plant where necessary in the future when it’s felled.
Was there a particular plant or animal that you wished to see return to the woodland?
Yes, the nightjar, they are in the area this season which is great, last summer they were on our plot and we regularly saw two of them. Having your own woodland is one thing but having nightjar in your woodland is a priceless dream. We spent many summer evenings there watching them, calling them in with a recording of their call (yes that works). On a couple of occasions early in the nightjar season, June I think, they landed in front of us on a tubex shelter, attracted to anything white due to the males having white markings on their wing and tails. Our sleepy dogs got their attention and flew in to check us out. The video is on the website, it’s not brilliant as it was recorded on my phone, but a wonderful experience nonetheless. We observed them through to the end of July and on each occasion the sightings consisted of a brief checking us out and churring away like they do. A truly amazing bird that due to its nocturnal habits has not been an easy species to study. They like young plantations up to approximately ten years of age as after that the canopy has closed in. They also like birch and sweet chestnut, both of which we have in abundance. We are coppicing the sweet chestnut which will give a more diverse structure to the woodland and also has many benefits to other wildlife as well as giving longevity to the tree itself. The nightjars arrive in May and have normally disappeared by the end of August and sometimes into September. Once the young have fledged they will migrate. Our thinning works of the Douglas fir overran into May and we are certain that that level of disturbance (the sound and vibration of over 200 mature fir being felled) made them look elsewhere for a suitable nest site for this season. High hopes for next year!
In what ways can you draw an income from the project and how do you ensure that those ways are sustainable?
Part of the plot is mature Douglas fir, so over the years there will be an income from the felling of those but there also comes obligation and costs to re-plant. This area is 3.5 acres and we are hoping that at least 20% of that area will self-seed and will therefore not need re-planting. After 14 years of running a taxi company we have decided to pass it on to someone else as we want to concentrate on our woodland which will also involve craft sales. We plan to sell at an occasional local market, selling wooden products such as pendants, necklaces, key rings, hand made cards, Christmas decorations and fairy houses. All of the wood used will be from the bi product of our habitat work and therefore very sustainable. We are not skilled wood turners, I would describe our woody crafts as rustic. We also hope to offer guided visits for small groups of people who either want to immerse themselves into an incredibly diverse 8 acre plot of woodland that doesn’t have any public access( that’s called forest bathing nowadays), or groups and individuals that would like to visit to look at our management practises, it could also be for specialist groups to study bats, birds, butterflies etc. Although the craft sales will be necessary we do hope that the tours can be a success too as we will have great pleasure in sharing this unique place in South Devon.
What would you say has been the project’s biggest success story so far?
This has to be the three small wildlife ponds created in the spring of last year. Our philosophy has always been that our work creates a biodiversity gain. The ponds are a totally new feature to the wood and therefore a totally new habitat with the nearest water course being in the bottom of the valley.
The ponds are host to pond skaters, diving beetles, water boatmen, frogs, toads and a few species of dragonfly. The mosquito larvae they produce is a food source for the seven recorded species of bats that we have there. The frogspawn and toadspawn this year was amazing. This is boosting the sites biodiversity and that feels great. The Devon Wildlife Trust’s, Batworks Grant, helped with the costs of the ponds which was very welcome indeed, because so far we have funded all the costs ourselves. The top pond was also designed with a very shallow gradient at one end so that any feeding nightjar can swoop in and get a drink on the wing.
The other success is our plantings, since Nov 2018 we have planted over 400 additional trees, shrubs and hedging. From scots pine to broad leaved privet, all-in-all over 20 new species have been planted. The hedging area consists of field maple, hazel, dog rose, dog wood, crab apple, blackthorn and hawthorn, and is growing well, albeit slowly. Once mature this will provide an incredible food source and habitat for many species. We also sought advice from a consultant ecologist on behalf of Butterfly Conservation, they recommended planting broad leaved privet, wild privet and alder buckthorn all of which will provide a valuable food source for many species of butterflies, insects and moths. The alder buckthorn being the food plant for the brimstone butterfly caterpillar.
Can you offer any advice to anybody wanting to undertake a similar project?
There is a misconception that when you purchase some woodland in the UK that you are legally bound to manage your plot, but this is not the case. Currently you can do as much or as little as you want, there are legalities regarding volume of timber that you are allowed to cut down, and rightly so. Personally speaking I think there should be some sort of stewardship course involved with any woodland purchase, but generally speaking people who buy woodland do have the environments best interests at heart. Neither myself nor Tamara are formally qualified in land management or woodland management, but what we do have in bucket loads is the passion, and when it is your passion you absorb information like a sponge. If you are interested in purchasing some woodland please make sure you do a lot of reading up first, SWOG ( small woodland owners group) is a great resource. Think about things like how far are you willing to travel to get to your woodland, our journey takes 25 minutes but I know of some owners who live a couple of hours away and then that restricts those little journeys when you just want to go there for an hour or two. Think about public access and rights of way, access, species of trees on site, how neglected the woodland is because that may dictate how much physical work maybe required. I know owners that have a couple of acres of plantation and therefore their management work is negligible. Think about orientation, diversity and age of species and the potential value of the timber there. Getting a flat site is not easy and virtually impossible in Devon, some come with streams etc. You would need to appoint a solicitor as the conveyancing is similar to house buying but much more straight forward.
We would say to anyone interested in purchasing some woodland to definitely do it, it is an amazing thing to do, yes we can buy fancy cars and gadgets and go on expensive holidays but owning your own little piece of nature is a priceless thing to do. It’s more like guardianship than ownership, but you will have a lot of control over the future of that plot.
Love nature, it will never fail you.
Do you have any long-term plans for the future of Woodland Wildlife?
Well where do we start here? If money was no object we would like to deer fence large parts of our woodland to allow natural regeneration to occur unhindered. But money is an object so we will improvise and mitigate the grazing as much as possible. Luckily we are not overrun with roe deer but there are a few around. The damage they do to new growth is staggering.
Over time we would like to see part of our main plot restored back to its natural former state which was wooded heath. Around 1800 the wider woodland was mapped as a Down which would correspond with our small patches of heather and large amounts of gorse and bracken. Dry lowland heathland is a scarce habitat these days and we would like to re-nature that habitat along with keeping the coppiced sweet chestnut, birch and beech. The plan will be for the main plot to remain an open woodland with pockets of heath and grassy rides. We will keep some sitka on the higher parts of the plot.
This winter will involve widening the lower part of the North to South ride which is quite overgrown, creating a ride that will traverse the contours from the West to East ride. This will involve the felling of a lot more young sitka but it will kick start the project of connecting up some of our micro habitats. We are keen to provide a suitable site for the migrating nightjar and the wintering woodcock and this will involve a lot of physical work. Any major works such as this needs careful consideration for the future resilience of the woodland. All of our plantings have been carefully selected with the future in mind for example, the scots pine (although slow growing) is a fantastic tree that supports a large amount of wildlife plus once established will cope well with periods of dry weather. We have also planted some juniper and these trees will also cope admirably in dryer conditions and therefore the challenges of climate change. The naturalised species such as birch, beech, gorse, heather, bramble and bracken will naturally cope with dryer summers.
With regards to Woodland Wildlife as a business, we hope that the occasional small group or individual will continue to visit to experience this magnificent site. We aim to continue with the craft sales into the future. We aim to continue to document our species and our works. The emphasis will be on small groups as we are keen to prevent compaction of soils.
To find out more about Steve and Tamara’s fascinating project you can follow them on facebook and visit their website
Further Reading on managing woodlands for wildlife and people.
Managing Your Woodland for Wildlife
By: David Blakesley, Peter Buckley and Tharada Blakesley
Paperback| May 2016| £12.99
From conserving deadwood to putting up bat boxes: this book will appeal to small woodland owners wishing to improve woodland for wildlife.
Woodland Creation for Wildlife and People in a Changing Climate: Principles and Practice
By: David Blakesley and Peter Buckley
Paperback | July 2010| £5.99£24.95
This book presents a comprehensive and richly-illustrated guide to the principles and practice of woodland creation for wildlife and people.
A Journey in Landscape Restoration: Carrifran Wildwood and Beyond
Edited by: Philip Ashmole and Myrtle Ashmole
Paperback | June 2020| £16.99£18.99
An inspirational account of the rewilding of Carrifran Wildwood, showing what can happen when locals take charge of landscape restoration.
The Wood: The Life and Times of Cockshutt Wood
By: John Lewis-Stempel
Paperback | March 2019| £9.99
A lyrical diary of four years spent managing three and half acres of mixed woodland in south west Herefordshire.
All prices correct at the time of this article’s publication.
Rockpooling is an educational and extremely enjoyable wildlife activity that introduces you to a colourful world of creatures that are usually hidden beneath the sea. Rock pools are full of limpets, crabs, whelks, periwinkles and anemones, all of which have fascinating adaptations that allow them to live in this unique place. The intertidal zone is an exceptionally harsh habitat, with animals needing to cope with exposure to saltwater, rainwater, changing temperatures and sun. Rockpooling is a brilliant hands-on activity to introduce children to this unique habitat and discuss how animals and plants cope with living there.
Planning a Rockpooling trip
The best time to go rockpooling is in the late spring or summer, when the weather is milder and temperatures are warmer. There are many excellent locations to go rockpooling on the UK coast and, by searching the local area or consulting this list by The Wildlife Trusts, you can find some of the best spots. Once you know which area you are heading to, you need to consult the local tide table. Rockpooling is best done on a low spring tide, because the most interesting range of creatures are likely to be found nearest the sea edge. Pick a day with calm weather conditions and when the low tide point is at a suitable time in the day – you need to time your visit to be there for low tide and then watch carefully for the tide coming back in. Make sure that you take a sun hat, sun cream and wear sturdy shoes, as the rocks can be very slippery.
Rockpooling equipment and method
Bucket – a clear or white plastic bucket is great for storing your finds temporarily.
Net –a net can help with catching crabs when used carefully, but avoid scraping along rocks.
Pots – smaller animals can be transferred carefully to pots for a closer look.
Endoscope – peer deep into the depths of the rockpools and record images and videos with a handheld endoscope.
Approach rock pools carefully, as animals can be wary of noise and shadows appearing above them. Dip your bucket into the water to catch mobile animals or carefully search through with your hands. If you fill your bucket and pots with a little seawater then you can keep any creatures you find in there for a short period of time while you identify them. Watch out for crab claws as they can nip, and anemone tentacles as they can sting. Do not remove any creatures that are attached to the rocks as they may have a specific place that they attach to until the tide comes back in. Turn over stones to find crabs and have a good look to see if there is anything hiding in the seaweed. Once you have finished looking, make sure you return the animals gently back into the pool.
Curious About Nature provides a passionate voice in support of fieldwork and its role in ecological research. Comprising a series of chapters written by forty diverse contributors, this inspiring book hopes to encourage both new and seasoned ecologists to pursue outdoor learning and research as often and fully as possible.
Tim Burt (who edited the book alongside Des Thompson), recently took the time to answer some of our questions.
Firstly, could you tell us a little bit about your backgrounds and how you came to be collaborating on this book.
We have both been involved with the Field Studies Council since 2006 when Des joined the Board of Trustees (I have been a trustee since 1982), but we had worked together before then, for example, a conference on the future of the British uplands held in Durham in 1999.
What are your first memories of fieldwork?
As I note in my essay in Curious about Nature, I came under the spell of an inspirational teacher at secondary school, Jim Hanwell. My first memory of fieldwork is being sent to measure the width of the main road outside the school gate to compare with the width of the red line printed on the OS map. Not something that would be done these days given health and safety concerns, but nevertheless I was hooked! Jim’s main influence was in physical geography, geomorphology especially, with many field trips to the Mendips and even an expedition to Spain and Portugal.
Some of the most well-known and respected scientists in history have had an incredibly varied range of interests and passions. Take Darwin, for example, who not only studied plants and animals, but also geology, anthropology, taxidermy and medicine. Do you think that, in modern times, we no longer celebrate or respect the ‘generally curious’ and instead expect people to be much more specialist in their areas of expertise?
Specialist research is inevitable in these very competitive days; departments compete via research assessment rankings and individuals must build their CVs to gain promotion. But in my experience, the best academics retain a breadth of interest; in physical geography this invariably combines fieldwork with other skills back at the department.
You currently hold the positions of President (Tim) and Chairman (Des) of the Field Studies Council and, as such, must both feel passionate about the education of field skills. With increases in health and safety concerns alongside reduced funding for outdoor activities, have you observed a change in child and youth education over the past decades in terms of the amount of fieldwork that takes place?
Health and safety concerns can (and must) be sorted out; it is continued funding that puts field trips at risk. The value of outdoor education is important for all sorts of reasons, not just academic knowledge and understanding. There is a real threat at the moment, with next year’s focus on getting schoolchildren back in the classroom. Senior administrators must be convinced of the value of investing in fieldwork, otherwise it is an easy cost to cut. But at what eventual “cost”?
At NHBS we sell a lot of equipment that is purposely designed to limit the amount of time that researchers and naturalists have to spend in the field – such as motion-activated trail cameras. While these are the preferred choice for many researchers, do you think that there benefits to traditional, observational fieldwork that cannot be replicated by collecting data remotely?
Field equipment has always been necessary, even in the days of clockwork mechanisms and pen-and-ink chart recorders. Today’s digital equipment expands the possibilities, not limits them. But it is still vital to be out in the field, curious about what is happening and what you can see – this is how new ideas are generated. There is no substitute for standing on a hillside, thinking about the landscape in front of you, especially if you happen to be somewhere very different to England like the badlands of southern Utah!
Do you have a favourite fieldwork pioneer (included in the book or not) whose story you find particularly inspiring?
People always think of Charles Darwin as a biologist, but he was equally a geologist on the Beagle, and his geological observations during his circumnavigation of the globe remain fascinating to read, for example, his thoughts about the formation of coral reefs and atolls. He was very much a follower of Charles Lyell in his appreciation of the dynamic nature of the Earth’s surface.
Finally – what are you each working on currently? And do you have plans for further books?
We do have plans for a further book together, an elaboration of Curious about Nature, with a working title In the footsteps of Gilbert White. For my part, I have been drafting chapters for Durham weather and climate since 1841, to be published by OUP. Last year I co-authored a book (with Stephen Burt, no relation) about the weather records at the Radcliffe Observatory in Oxford, so the new book is complementary to that, with much the same structure, but clearly a different regional focus. I ran the Oxford weather station for 10 years and have been in charge of the Durham station since 2000.
Curious About Nature is edited by Tim Burt and Des Thompson and is published by Cambridge University Press. It is available from nhbs.com in paperback and hardback.
Bumblebees are familiar, much-loved animals in Britain. Together with ants and wasps, these winged insects are in the order Hymenoptera. The Latin name Bombus, meaning to buzz or boom, is wholly appropriate for bumblebees, who are frequently heard before they are seen.
Keeping an eye on brambles and purple flowering plants – both of which are particularly popular with bees – can be very productive when out on an insect hunt or daily stroll. At first glance, bumblebees may all look very similar, but take a closer look and a range of colours and stripe patterns can be spotted.
There are 24 species of bumblebee found in Britain. Seven of these are particularly widespread so are aptly named the ‘Big 7’ by the Bumblebee Conservation Trust. Due to this prevalence, these seven species are a great place to start when learning to identify bees.
The colouration of the different species is the easiest way to identify bumblebees; particularly the colour of the tail and the number and colour of stripes. In our guide we have sorted the seven species by tail colour (or overall colour for the common carder) so that easily confused species can be directly compared.
Bumblebees with white or buff tails
White-tailed bumblebee – Bombus lucorum
Tail: As expected from the name, this bumblebee has a pure white tail.
Banding: Two bands of bright yellow, often described as lemon-yellow.
Other: Males of this species can be identified by the presence of additional yellow hairs on their faces.
Buff-tailed bumblebee – Bombus terrestris
Tail: Named for the orangey beige, or “buff” tail of their queen. Males and workers of this species have white tails and so are very challenging to distinguish from the white-tailed bumblebee. In some males, a thin band of yellow/buff can be seen at the top of the tail, which is absent in the white-tailed species.
Banding: Has two bands of yellow, similar to the white-tailed species. The bands on a buff-tailed bumblebee are often more of an orange-yellow than seen on the white-tailed bumblebee – although these can fade later in the season.
Garden bumblebee – Bombus hortorum
Tail: Bright white tail that tends to go further up the body than the lucorum species.
Banding: Has three stripes of yellow unlike the other species with white tails. Although, this can sometimes appear as one band around the “collar” and another wider one around the “waist”/midriff.
Other: The garden bumblebee has an incredibly long tongue, the longest of any of our species in the UK. At up to 2cm, its tongue is the same length as its entire body. This impressive adaptation allows these bees to reach the nectar in deep flowers such as foxgloves.
Tree bumblebee – Bombus hypnorum
Banding: The tree bumblebee has an entirely ginger-brown thorax, with a black abdomen. This colouration makes it the most distinct of the pale tailed bumblebee species.
Other: Unlike the other six species, these bees like to nest in trees and are commonly found in bird nest boxes. The tree bumblebee is a fairly new addition to the UK, with the first individuals recorded in 2001.
Bumblebees with red tails
Red-tailed bumblebee – Bombus lapidarius
Tail: Very bright red or dark orange tail that is difficult to miss.
Banding: Unique in that the females have no banding, they are just jet black other than the tail. The smaller males, however, have two slim yellow bands and yellow facial hairs.
Early bumblebee – Bombus pratorum
Tail: Has an orange-red tail. However it is generally smaller and less bright than in the lapidarius species.
Banding: The early bumblebee has two yellow stripes on males and females.
Other: Smaller and fluffier in appearance than the lapidarius species.
Bumblebees with ginger bodies
Common carder bee – Bombus pascuorum
The common carder is similar in colour to the tree bumblebee – orangey brown. However, with this species the colour continues across its entire body and tail. Some individuals have darker bands across their abdomens, especially later in the season as the orange begins to fade
Other: There are two other species of carder bee in the UK that are orange all over, however, the common carder is the most often seen across Britain.
Find out more
If this guide has piqued your curiosity in bumblebees we recommend the following products so that you too can get outside, identifying species and learning more about these important pollinators…
This lightweight fold-out guide shows a variety of bee species, including the ones mentioned above and will provide a useful reminder of their identification features when out in the field. Also includes additional information such as UK distribution.
Field Guide to the Bees of Great Britain and Ireland #245313
The ultimate guide – this book provides a comprehensive introduction to the ecology of bees and details of all 275 species found in Great Britain and Ireland.
This Bumblebee Conservation Trust book fills that gap by introducing these charismatic species to a wider audience. Written by Trust staff, it covers bumblebee biology and also has an essential identification guide to all UK bumblebee species, packed with over 250 colour photographs
This moth trap is the first to be designed by and built at NHBS. It is built on the Skinner trap principle of a bulb suspended above a box, with sloping flaps descending from two sides to funnel moths into the body of the trap. The trap is very lightweight and portable and has been tested and approved by Butterfly Conservation. One unique feature of this trap is that it is clad entirely in white nylon material which amplifies the light level emitted from the single 20W blacklight bulb included in the kit. The trap electrics are supported by a stainless steel frame that is attached to the container walls, and the trap comes with a 4.5m power lead with a standard UK plug. When fully assembled the trap measures approximately 30cm wide x 30cm deep x 50cm tall and weighs around 2kg; much lighter than the typical solid plastic assemblies of other Skinner traps.
How we tested
I placed the trap in my small town centre garden for two nights in early July, checking first for favourable conditions (namely little to no chance of rain). Cloud cover can be good for moth catching, especially around a full moon. Moth species vary widely in their activity, some arriving at traps during dusk (such as crepuscular or day flyers) and some arriving well into the night. As such I put the trap out at around 9:30pm on both occasions while the day was fading and when the wind was low. I also made sure I wasn’t running the trap on two consecutive nights as I don’t have space to disperse trapped moths widely in the morning and I didn’t want to trap the same individuals two nights in a row. The trap was left on through the night in the corner of my garden, tucked out of view of my immediate neighbours, where it would also utilise the white walls of my house to maximise the light and landing space.
What we found
On both nights I found lots of moths inside the trap, as well as some specimens resting on the outside walls due to the white nylon coating; they remained there quite peacefully to ID. I also found that it was worth looking around the trap in the morning, as many species are attracted by the light and will land on nearby walls and foliage. The catch and retention rate seemed good for the conditions and I found this trap simple to run and fun to explore in the morning! The species found are listed below.
The NHBS moth trap is both lightweight and sturdy and is a breeze to set up. Simply attach the base to the walls of the trap using the Velcro strips, ensuring all of the velcro fixings are on the outside of the trap. Put some empty egg boxes inside the trap to give visiting moths some good nooks to safely rest in once inside (though some will just hang on the walls). Then slot the metal frames onto the lid of the box and rest the funnel slopes on them. The electrics slot into corresponding holes on either side of the metal frame. When disassembling the trap, always check around the framework for any hidden moths.
This is a great trap: competitively priced, bright, compact and neat and comes with a handy carry bag. It’s a perfect starting place if you’re just embarking on moth trapping for the first time and also great if you are travelling or plan to try trapping in a few places, as it really does pack down nicely.
To view our full range of moth traps, visit www.nhbs.com. If you have any questions on moth trapping or would like some advice on the trap for you then please contact us via email at email@example.com or phone on 01803 865913.
Hedgehogs are abundant in urban and suburban areas and can frequently be found in gardens, as these provide safe, accessible spaces for them to forage and rear their young. They are most active between April and September with the main mating season occurring between May and June. Female hedgehogs give birth during June and July, although some will go on to produce a second litter later in the summer. All of this means that now is a great time to look for hedgehogs – and if you’re taking part in the Wildlife Trusts’ 30 Days Wild Challenge, then this will also contribute to your month of wild activities.
If you’re lucky enough to have hedgehogs in your garden, why not take the time to record their behaviours for Hedgehogs After Dark. This project, organised by Hedgehog Street, aims to learn more about the ways in which hedgehogs are using our gardens and the behaviours that they are showing through the spring and summer. Until Sunday 26th July you can submit your observations to their website and have the chance of winning an exclusive hedgehog hamper in their prize draw. Visit their website for lots of information about the different behaviours they are interested in and how to submit your findings (you will need to register as a Hedgehog Champion to do this).
Keep reading for some top tips on making your garden attractive to hedgehogs and how to watch them, either with or without a trail camera.
Is your garden hedgehog friendly?
There are several things that you can do to make your garden more attractive to hedgehogs:
• Improve access – Gardens are only useful for hedgehogs if they can access them. Plus, hedgehogs move long distances throughout the night to find enough food, so creating networks of gardens that they can move between is important. By cutting a 13cm diameter hole in the bottom of a fence or removing a brick from the base of a wall, you can help to provide access and link your garden with surrounding ones.
• Provide shelter – Try to keep some areas of your garden wild and overgrown, as this will provide secure nesting and feeding spaces. An artificial hedgehog home will also provide a safe and warm space for hedgehogs to overwinter and for a female to birth and raise her young in the spring and summer. Try not to use pesticides or slug pellets in the garden, as these are poisonous to other animals as well as slugs.
• Provide food – Make sure that there are lots of worms, beetles and earwigs in your garden by growing wildflowers and providing log piles. Leaving areas of the garden which are overgrown or making a small wildlife pond will also help to encourage a diverse range of invertebrates. (Make sure your pond has sloping sides or piles of rocks to allow any animals to escape.) You could also provide a shallow dish of fresh water along with good quality hedgehog food, meaty dog or cat food, or dry cat biscuits.
Tips for watching hedgehogs
Hedgehogs are nocturnal, so the best time to watch them is during late evening. Throughout the night they can travel up to 2km searching for food and/or mates. (This great video shows radio-tracked hedgehogs moving between gardens in a suburban area of Brighton). If you have a suitable window looking out onto your garden, then you can watch them from the warmth of your home. Make sure that you turn any inside lights off and keep noise to a minimum. If there is no illumination from street lights, visibility will be best at twilight (before complete dark) and around the time of the full moon (provided it isn’t too cloudy).
If you can’t watch the garden from a window, then wrap up warm, get into stealth-mode and venture outdoors. As with any wildlife-watching endeavour, the most important thing is to be still and quiet. It might also help if you can get low to the ground which will provide a hedgehog-level view of their activities. Don’t be tempted to try to get too close to them, however, and never attempt to pick them up or interfere with their natural movements.
Using a trail camera to watch hedgehogs
One of the best ways to view the hedgehogs in your garden is using a trail camera. If you’re lucky enough to own one of these, then setting it up to record at night is a great way to see if any hedgehogs are around and, if so, what they’re getting up to. Here are some tips to maximise your chance of getting great footage:
• When siting your camera, think about where the hedgehogs are likely to be moving around. If you have a hole cut in your fence and you know that hedgehogs are using it to access your garden, then you might want to point your camera towards this. Similarly, if you have provided any food or water, then setting your camera up near to this is a great way to capture footage of them feeding.
• Position your camera low to the ground. Think about the size of the hedgehog and where it is most likely to trigger the infrared beam.
• Set your camera to the highest sensitivity setting. If you find that it is triggering far too much, particularly in the absence of any animals, then you can always reduce this later.
• As you’ll be recording hedgehogs mostly in darkness, having a camera with invisible night vision LEDs could be a bonus, as these will not startle the animals. Plus, models with adjustable night-time illumination (or which adjust automatically) will give you the most control over your image quality.
[The Browning Strike Force HD Pro X is one of our bestselling trail cameras for hedgehog watching and is used by lots of great projects, such as London Hogwatch. For more information or advice about trail cameras, please get in touch with us and chat with one of our experienced ecologists.]
Maybe you don’t have a garden, or you have one but haven’t seen any hedgehogs using it. You can still view lots of great hedgehog videos on the Hedgehog Street YouTube channel. Or, if you use Facebook, why not watch this talk by ecologist and hedgehog fan Hugh Warwick, recorded for the Summer Solstice ‘Wonderland’ Festival this spring.