The NHBS Guide: Where to hang and how to maintain your nest box

House Sparrow Terrace FSC Nest Box
House Sparrow Terrace FSC Nest Box

There is a shortage of natural nesting sites for birds and this has played a part in the decline of some of the UK’s most iconic species. It is easy to provide nesting opportunities for birds in our gardens and outdoor spaces, however, and with spring rapidly approaching, now is the ideal time to start thinking about nest boxes for your local birds. Locating your nest boxes correctly is one of the key determinants in how likely birds are to occupy them and with this in mind we have put together some answers to the most frequently asked questions about nest boxes – covering where and when to put up your boxes, cleaning and maintenance as well as dealing with predators.

You can browse the full range of nest boxes we sell online and, if you’re keen to find out more, check out the BTO Nestbox Guide, which is packed with essential information.

When is the best time to put up nest boxes?

There really is no ‘best’ time to put up nest boxes.  By putting up boxes in the autumn you can provide much needed winter refuges for roosting birds and possibly increase the chance of them staying and nesting there when spring comes around.  However, any box erected before the end of February stands a good chance of being occupied if it is sited correctly.  Even after February there is still a chance that they will be used; tits have been known to move in during April and house martins as late as July. Therefore, put your nest box up as soon as it is available rather than leaving it in the shed!

Where should I hang my nest box?

1B Schwegler Nest Box
1B Schwegler Nest Box

When it comes to nest boxes, the ‘where’ is much more important than the ‘when’.  Nest boxes must provide a safe, comfortable environment and protect the inhabitants from predators and the worst of the weather.  This may be difficult to achieve; a safe location out of reach of predators may also be exposed to the weather, so have a good think before you start bashing nails in.

Nest boxes can be fixed to walls, trees or buildings and different styles of boxes are available which are suitable for each.  Fixing to artificial surfaces means the growth of the tree does not have to be considered which is useful for Schwegler and Vivara Pro nest boxes which last for at least 20-25 years: a significant amount of time in the life of a small tree.  If you’re planning any building work, remember that some bird and bat boxes can also be built directly into walls and roofs.

Incubating Great tit – Photo: Simone Webber

Locating boxes out of the reach of predators can be a challenge (weasels can climb almost anything), but there are things you can do to make it harder for them.  Boxes in gardens should be located where cats cannot get to them and prickly or thorny bushes can also help to deter unwanted visitors. Some nest boxes also have anti-predator designs (e.gSchwegler’s 1N deep nest box).  It is best to avoid nest boxes that have a combined bird feeder and boxes should not be sited too close to the bird feeders in your garden. Visitors to the feeder may disturb the nesting birds and the feeder could attract unwanted attention from predators.

For many species the height of the box is not crucial.  However, by placing it at least two metres off the ground you can help prevent predators and human interference.  The direction of the entrance hole should be away from the prevailing wind and it is beneficial for there to be a clear flight path to the box.  Crucially, the box should be also be sheltered from the prevailing wind, rain and strong sunlight, so in most UK gardens aim for an aspect of northerly, easterly or south-easterly.  If possible, position the box with a slight downward angle to provide further protection from the rain.  Some species do have specific requirements for where a box should be sited (e.g. house martins and swifts nests need to be sited under the eaves); please see our product details for particular instructions for different species. Wherever you position the box, try to ensure that you can still get access to it for maintenance.  And finally, if possible, try to put it somewhere where you can see it, or invest in a nest box camera, so as to maximise your enjoyment of watching wild birds in your garden.

Is there anything else I can do to deter predators?

Entrance hole protection plate
Entrance hole protection plate

As already mentioned, location is the most important factor when trying to deter predators.  Whilst some mammals can climb walls, a blank wall is fairly inaccessible so can be a good choice.  Ensure that the box cannot be reached by a single jump from a nearby branch or the ground.

Box design can also help deter predators.  An entrance hole reinforced with a metal plate will prevent grey squirrels and some avian predators from enlarging the hole and gaining access to the nest.  Woodcrete and WoodStone boxes are too hard for any predator to break through.  However, you can also reinforce a nest box yourself with metal protection plates or provide additional protection with prickly twigs.  Deep boxes may prevent predators reaching in and grabbing nest occupants, although some tits have been known to fill up deep boxes with copious quantities of nesting material.  If using open-fronted nest boxes, a balloon of chicken wire over the entrance can work well.  If you live in an urban area, cats are likely to be the most common predator.  Gardeners have long since used various methods to exclude these unwanted visitors, such as pellets, electronic scarers and even lion dung (available from your nearest obliging zoo), all with varying degrees of success.

Great tit eggs – Photo: Simone Webber

How do I manage the nest box?

A well-designed nest box will only need one annual clean in the autumn. It is important not to clean out nest boxes before August as they may still be occupied.  Wait until autumn and then remove the contents, scattering them on the ground some way from the box to help prevent parasites re-infesting the nest box. Wear gloves and use a small brush or scraper to remove debris from the corners. Boiling water can be used to kill any parasites remaining in the box, but remember to leave the lid off for a while for it to try out. Do not wait until the winter to clean out nest boxes as birds may already be roosting in them. The tit species do a thorough clean out of any old nesting material or roosting debris before they begin nesting again but it will save them energy if you can help out.

How many nest boxes do I need?

House Martin Nests
House Martin Nests

The exact amount of boxes required will depend on the species and the surrounding habitat.  As a very general rule of thumb, start with ten assorted small boxes per hectare (ensure uniform spacing between boxes).  Keep adding several more boxes each season until some remain unused and hopefully you’ll hit on the correct density of boxes.  However, even if you only have space for one box it is still worthwhile, providing it is suitably located. Many UK bird species need all the additional nesting habitat they can get.

If you are interested in installing a nest box camera into one of your bird boxes, take a look at our “How to choose the right nest box camera” article, for more information on choosing the model that’s right for you.

Further information about individual nest boxes, including advice on positioning, can be found alongside each nest box in our range.  If you have any other questions or would like any further advice, then please get in touch with our team of Wildlife Equipment Specialists.

 

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

Hi-Sound Stereo Parabolic Microphone

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

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

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

Hi-Sound setup diagram

Setting Up

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

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

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

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

Auto Tone: Off

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

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

What we found

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

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

Our Opinion

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

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

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


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

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

NHBS: In The Field – SiOnyx Aurora and Aurora SPORT

SiOnyx Aurora

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

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

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

Setting Up

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

What we found

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

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

Our Opinion

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

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

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


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

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

Watching Wildlife – Our New and Favourite Camera Kits

The Hedgehog camera kit

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

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

Nest Box Camera Kit – Wired Camera

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

 

IP Nest Box Camera

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

 

Bushnell NatureView Live View

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

 

Browning Dark Ops Pro X 20MP

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

Starter Bundles

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

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

NHBS: In The Field – Bushnell CORE DS Low Glow

Bushnell CORE DS Low Glow

Bushnell trail cameras have always been popular among ecologists and researchers alike, but their famous Aggressor range of cameras has become outdated as trail camera technology has advanced. New for 2019, the Bushnell CORE range features four high specification trail cameras with the latest technology (more about the differences between the four cameras can be found here). We wanted to test one of these new cameras to see how it performed.  

We tested the Bushnell CORE DS Low Glow Trail Camera (DS standing for ‘dual-sensor’). Bushnell’s dual sensor system promises better day and night photos/videos, with one sensor dedicated to each. A 30MP image size and 920×1080 HD videos also indicate sharp, high-quality footage, but this is not always the case. The best way to see the true image/ video quality is to view sample footage from the camera.

Setting Up

We set the CORE up at a badger latrine in a wood in Devon. The camera was simple to set up, and the colour viewing screen came in very handy when trying to get the best angle. Without this feature, it can be very difficult to ensure that the camera is pointing in the right direction. The screen also displays a simple and user-friendly settings menu which was easy to navigate and check. The settings we used in this instance are as follows:

Mode: Video
Video Size: 1920×1080 (30fps)
Video Length:  15 seconds (the videos below are trimmed from originals)
Interval:3 seconds
TimeStamp: On
Video Sound: On
Sensor Level: Auto
Camera Mode: 24 hrs

As we were leaving the camera in a public woodland, we secured it in place with a compatible Python cable lock. The No Glow equivalent might also be a camera to consider if you are setting a camera up on public land and you want extra security.

What we found

The Bushnell CORE caught several videos over the one evening that it was set up. These clips can be viewed in the video below. The black and white IR footage was very impressive. We found it beautifully clear and very smooth, even at 30 fps (the camera has an option of 60fps). The IR flash illuminated the subject without any wash-out whilst remaining bright enough to reveal plenty of detail.  The low-light and day colour footage wasn’t as crisp but was still lovely and smooth. The fast trigger speed was especially apparent in a clip showing a herd of deer running across the river. The first deer are barely halfway across the screen before the video starts, despite the speed at which they were running. 

Our Opinion

We were impressed with the Bushnell CORE DS Low Glow Trail Camera, especially with the night videos. The front-facing colour screen was a key feature that made set-up and camera positioning much easier and is something that we think can either make or break a filming session. The dual sensor is definitely worth the price difference for the night videos. The colour videos were not as crisp but the camera is still excellent quality with an outstanding trigger speed and perfectly suitable for the needs of most researchers and ecologists.

 


The Bushnell CORE DS Low Glow is available on the NHBS website.

To view the full range of Bushnell CORE cameras, along with other ranges of trail cameras, visit www.nhbs.com. If you have any questions on camera trapping or would like some advice on the best camera for you then please contact us via email at customer.services@nhbs.com or phone on 01803 865913.

The NHBS Guide to Bat Detecting for Beginners

How to watch bats

Watching bats can be a fascinating and rewarding hobby. If you want to go out and watch bats yourself, you may not have to travel as far as you think. Bats live all over the UK in the countryside, towns and cities. Head down to your local patch of woodland, park or even your own back garden around sunset and watch the sky. Some bats fly quite high in the sky around the tops of trees, others fly lower, even at eye level. If you have a large pond, river or lake nearby, watch the surface of the water and you might see a Daubenton’s bat skim across the surface catching insects. Warm, dry and relatively still nights are best when it comes to bat watching. You are more likely to see bats around sunset and sunrise and they can be seen between March and October. 

An Introduction to Bat Detectors

To really immerse yourself in the world of bats, it is worth using a bat detector.

Bats use calls for communication, navigation and hunting but these are at frequencies above that of most human hearing. So even if you’re watching dozens of bats above you, you’re unlikely to be able to hear their calls. Bat detectors are devices that convert these ultrasonic calls into audible sounds and because different bat species call at different frequencies, bat detectors can even help you identify which bat is calling. Bat detectors are great fun to use and can help you learn a lot about bats. There are several different types of bat detectors on the market, at varying prices and with varying features. We’ve highlighted some of our favourite, entry-level bat detectors below.

Magenta 4 & Magenta 5 – Heterodyne

Our most popular range of beginner detectors are the Magentas. The Magentas are incredibly easy to use with a frequency dial to allow you to tune to a certain frequency, a front-facing speaker so that you can hear the converted bat calls, and a volume dial. They use a method of call processing called Heterodyne which works by tuning to one frequency at a time. The only difference between the Magenta 4 and the Magenta 5 is that the 5 has a digital display of the frequency that you are tuned to whereas the 4 has the frequencies on the tuning wheel which is lit by a small light. You can use Magentas with headphones and even record the outputted calls with a recorder (available separately).

Batscanner – Super-Heterodyne

The Batscanner is one of the easiest detectors to use, automatically scanning the whole frequency range and adjusting accordingly when it detects a bat, displaying the peak frequency on the digital display. This means you don’t have to tune anything and you won’t miss a bat because you’re tuned to the wrong frequency. The call output is clear and the Batscanner intelligently filters out non-bat low frequency calls giving you a clean, noise-free output.

Baton & Duet – Frequency Division

The BatBox Baton is perhaps even more simple to use than the Magentas, with just 1 button operation – the on/off button. You do not need to tune this detector – it will automatically detect all frequencies simultaneously as it works through ‘frequency division’, where all ultrasonic calls are divided by a factor of 10, pushing them into the human hearing range. Audio is played through the front facing speaker and when the Baton is plugged into a computer, you can see sonograms (visual representation of bat call) on the software included with the Baton.

The BatBox Duet is a similar but more sophisticated detector that is great if you want to take your bat detecting to the next level. It used two modes of call processing: with heterodyne, you can tune the detector with the frequency dial and this is displayed on the backlit screen, much like a Magenta, but the detector also processes the ultrasonic sounds in frequency division mode and this can be captured using an audio recorder (available separately).

Echo Meter – Full Spectrum

The EchoMeter is a completely different type of bat detector but one that is very popular and has many amazing features, ideal for all levels of bat enthusiasts. It plugs into a compatible phone or tablet and with the help of a free app, turns your phone/tablet into a fully functional bat detector. The app displays live sonograms of bats and an intelligent algorithm identifies the most likely bat species based on the calls, all in real-time. The app can GPS tag your sightings and you can record, replay and download bat calls.

How can I help bats?

It is easy to encourage bats into your garden and there are many things you can do to help your neighborhood bats. Changing the way you garden and putting up a bat box can help tremendously. Have a read of our guide to helping your local bats for some ideas and inspiration.

Other useful equipment and books

Listed below are some great kit and books to get you started or develop your knowledge on bat detecting and bat watching:

DIY bat detector
£24.98
If you have some basic soldering skills and fancy having a go at a DIY project, our DIY Bat Detector Kit has everything you need to build your own, simple heterodyne bat detector.

 

Zoom Handy Recorder: H1n
£95.00
This small, handheld audio recorder is ideal for plugging into your bat detector and recording the bat calls you are hearing. Recordings are stored on an SD card and can then be viewed on a computer to analyze further.

 

Petzl Tikkina Headtorch
£19.99
This handy headtorch will keep your hands free when you’re trying to change settings or navigate in the dark. The Petzl Tikkina has a bright, clean 250 lumen beam and has a simple, one-button operation.

 

A Guide to British Bats
£3.50
FSC’s ‘A Guide to British Bats’ is a fold out, laminated guide to help you identify bats through physical appearance and call frequency.

 

British Bat Calls: A Guide to Species Identification
£31.99
This practical guide is perfect for learning more about bat detectors and bat species identification. It covers topics such as how bats use sound, bat detection methods,  analysis software, recording techniques and call analysis.

 

The Bat Detective: A Field Guide to Bat Detection
£24.99
This field guide is perfect for beginners wanting to start learning how to identify bats from their calls. As each topic is explained references are given to the relevant tracks on the CD. The 48 tracks found here are the first ever compilation of British bat recordings on CD.

Top ten books and wildlife equipment for summer

 

NHBS has collected together our summer best sellers in this top ten list of must have books and 10 essential wildlife products for summer and added as many special offers as we can.

So here are the Top Ten Books and Equipment for the Summer:

 

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Telescopic Pond Net
£32.99

Sweep Net
£24.50

Spring Frame Butterfly Net
£26.50

 

Bat Box Duet Detector
£255.00

Elekon Batscanner
£219.00
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Browning Strike Force HD Pro X / Kit
£149.99

Triplet Loupe Hand Lens
20x/10x
£36.50/£32.50

 

Compact 20W Actinic Heath Moth Trap
£149.00
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Hawke Optics Nature Trek Binoculars series
£132.95
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Petzl Actik Headtorch
Available in 3 colours
£33.95

Rocky Shores
Hardback| Feb 2019| £29.99 £34.99The Garden Jungle
Hardback| Jul 2019| £14.99 £16.99
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Photographic Field Guide to Insects of Southern Europe and the Mediterranean
Flexibound| Sept 2017| £27.50
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Bat Roosts in Trees
Paperback| Oct 2018| £39.99

Field Guide to the Orchids of Europe and the Mediterranean
Paperback| May 2019 £26.99 £29.99

Oceanic Birds of the World
Flexibound| Aug 2019| £19.99 £26.99

Fungi of Temperate Europe
(2 Vol. Se
t)
Hardback| Aug 2019| £74.99 £94.99
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Field Guide to the Ladybirds of Britain and Ireland

Paperback| Nov 2018| £24.99

 

Garden Birds
Hardback (signed) | Jul 2019| £47.99 £59.99
Paperback| Jul 2019|
£27.99 £34.99

New Flora of the British Isles
Flexibound| Feb 2019| £59.99 

 

NHBS Guide to small mammal survey equipment

Small mammals are common and widespread across many of our terrestrial ecosystems. They play a crucial role in ecosystem food-webs as key prey species for many carnivores and are also useful as indicator species for agricultural change and development. Consequently, surveys of small mammal populations can be a useful tool for ecologists, researchers, and conservationists alike.

Small mammals are most commonly monitored through the use of live traps. These allow a range of species to be monitored simultaneously and also allow biometric data such as weight and sex to be collected. In addition, estimates of population size and structure can be calculated using capture-mark-recapture (CMR) techniques. However, other more passive monitoring techniques such as dormouse nest tubes, hair tube, and footprint tunnels are also available. Below we will take a look at some of the most popular small mammal survey equipment.

Longworth Traps

Longworth traps have been widely used in the UK for many years. They are made from lightweight yet durable aluminium and have been consistently well documented in scientific literature and ecological reports.

The trap consists of two parts: a tunnel which contains the door tripping mechanism, and a nest box, which is attached to the back of the tunnel. The nest box provides a large space for food and bedding material to ensure that the trapped animal is comfortable until release. The sensitivity of the trigger mechanism can be adjusted depending on the target species, although Pygmy shrews have been known to be too light to trigger the mechanism. The door can be locked open for pre-baiting for ease of use.

The Longworth trap comes as two options: with a shrew hole or without a shrew hole (Please note that shrews are a protected species so ensure you are aware of the relevant laws in the country in which you are trapping).

Sherman Traps

Sherman Trap

Sherman traps are another popular live-trap which can be folded flat for ease of transport and storage. They work by a trigger platform which causes the entrance door to shut when an animal runs into the trap. Sherman traps are formed of one compartment and because of this, it can be difficult to add food/bedding into the trap without interfering with the trigger platform. The traps may also distort over time with repeated folding. Sherman traps come in a variety of sizes and lengths so that you can find a trap to best suit your target species and can be purchased as either an aluminium or galvanised version which is more resistant to rusting.

Lifetrap

The Lifetrap (also known as the Heslinga) has a similar set-up to a Longworth trap – with a tunnel and nest-box – but with a slightly different tripping mechanism. All the openings have been kept as narrow as possible to avoid damage from the gnawing of trapped animals. The trap is made from lightweight aluminium with a green powder-coating for effective camouflage in the field.

NHBS Water Vole Trap

 

If you are looking to trap and survey water voles, we offer a water vole trap that comprises an extra-large (XLK) Sherman trap with its rear door removed and an attached nesting compartment. This trap is suitable for water vole survey, such as capture, mark, recapture studies, as well as water vole relocation projects.

 

Footprint Tunnel

Footprint tunnels are a less invasive method of surveying small mammals. Species presence/absence can be determined by examining the footprints made by mammals that have walked over an ink pad to reach the bait left in the tunnel. This method is especially useful for determining the presence of hedgehogs that are not otherwise easily ‘trapped’. The tunnel comes with a UK mammal footprint identification sheet; however it can be difficult to distinguish between some species of smaller mammals.

Squirrel Hair Traps

Squirrel hair traps are another non-invasive survey method that is designed for red squirrel survey. When squirrels pass through the baited trap, their hair is collected on sticky tabs within the tube. These hairs can then be analysed to determine the presence of red squirrels in the area.

 

Dormouse Tubes

Dormouse nest tubes are a cheap, easy and very popular method of determining the presence of dormice within a habitat. The tubes consist of a wooden tray and a nesting tube. Dormice make nests in the tubes and it is these that are used as indicators of their presence in the habitat. Dormice are legally protected in the UK and must not be handled unless you have a licence to do so. Nest tubes can be set up and checked without a licence until the first evidence of dormouse activity is found. After that, only a licensed handler can check them.

Dormouse Footprint Tunnel

Dormouse Footprint Tunnels offer a very low disturbance method of detecting dormouse presence in a habitat. Dormice passing through the tunnel cross over inked pads which causes them to leave characteristic footprints on the card or paper inserts. The Suffolk Wildlife Trust and CIEEM have suggested that footprint tunnels may be a more effective survey tool within scrub and hedgerow habitats than dormouse tubes, and equally as effective in high canopy woodland.

Accessories

Listed below are some of the essential accessories which are required for surveying small mammals:

Small Mammal Holding Bag
£3.60

Pesola Light-Line Spring Scales
From £35.99

Pesola PTS3000 Electronic Scale
£126.00

Heavy Duty Extra-Large Polythene Sample Bags
£0.70 per bag

Animal Handling Gloves
£5.69 5.99

Marking Flags
£2.75 for 10

Field Guides and Books

There are many excellent field guides and books available which can greatly assist with reliably identifying and surveying small mammals in the UK.


Atlas of the Mammals of Great Britain and Ireland
Hardback| Mar 2020| £34.99
The most up-to-date records of mammal distributions in Great Britain and Ireland. Fully illustrated with photographs and high-resolution distribution maps and details of species identification.

Live Trapping of Small Mammals
Paperback| Jul 2019| £7.99
Published by  The Mammal Society, this compact guide is the essential text for anybody looking to survey small mammals in the UK. It contains detailed practical instructions on survey methodology, complemented by colour photographs and illustrations.

Britain’s Mammals
Paperback| Apr 2017| £17.99
The perfect companion for anyone interested in watching mammals. This field guide combines concise descriptions of species life-history and distribution along with detailed colour photographs to help you reliably identify the mammals of Britain and Ireland.

The Analysis of Owl Pellets
Paperback| Apr 2009| £4.99
This handy booklet provides information on how to identify and analyse the undigested small mammal remains found in owl pellets.

 

A note on licensing

Please note that some small mammal species are protected by law (e.g. shrews and dormice in the UK) and you must obtain a license from Natural England, Scottish Natural Heritage or the Natural Resources Wales if you set traps with the intention of trapping any species of shrew. Please ensure you are aware of and meet the requirements of any relevant laws in the country in which you are trapping. Please visit https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/survey-or-research-licence-for-protected-species for more information.

The NHBS Guide to Hand Lenses

The possession of a hand lens is one of the defining characteristics of a naturalist.

We use them for everything from peering at beetle genitalia and examining floral characters, to examining the arrangement of teeth in small mammal jaw bones. There are a wide variety of hand lenses on the market so how do you decide which lens is best for you? This article contains all the information you need to make an informed choice.

Glass versus plastic lens?

The optic in a hand lens can be made from glass or plastic. Serious naturalists and professionals will always choose a glass lens. Plastic lenses are generally more affordable and lighter but are of lower optical quality and are more difficult to clean. Plastic hand lenses and magnifiers, however, can be a good choice for schools and young children, for these users have a look at the Hand Held Magnifier.

How many optical elements?

Canon 400mm

An element is an individual piece of glass within a lens. When you look through a high quality camera lens you will typically be viewing what’s in front of the lens through four to six lens elements, as well as other elements used for focusing and zooming (see image below right).

Paul Canon EF 400mm f/4 DO IS USM By Paul Chin

Hand lenses are constructed with one (singlet), two (doublet) or three (triplet) lens elements. Each one is specially shaped to correct for a particular type of optical distortion, so the more elements, the higher quality the image.

 

The highest quality lenses that we offer are the triplet products made by Kite and Belomo. These offer a bright, crystal clear and undistorted view of your subject. The images afforded by these optics will impress the user whatever their field of work is, be it geology, entomology or botany.

 

N.B. There is a brand of hand lens / loupe called “Triplet”. Please note that despite the brand name this popular product has one lens (singlet).

 

If you are interested in obtaining a doublet hand lens you should consider those that are manufactured by Opticron and also Kite. Opticron will be a familiar name if you have ever researched the purchase of a pair of binoculars and their hand lenses provide excellent distortion free magnification at 6x, 10x and 15x.

Magnification

A 10x magnification hand lens will be more than adequate for most purposes. Higher magnification lenses tend to be harder to use but are very useful for viewing extremely small objects. If you are unsure of which magnification you need, or think you may need several different lenses, you might consider the Triple Hand Lens (x3, x4 and x5).

Lens diameter

Large diameter lenses provide a wider field of view which means that they are easier to use but they are slightly more expensive to produce.

How hand leOpticron Hand lens, 23mm, 10x magnificationnses are named

Hand lenses are named in the same way as binoculars, with both the lens diameter and the magnification included in the name. For example, the Opticron Hand Lens, 23mm, 10x Magnification has a 23mm diameter lens and provides 10x magnification.

LED Option

Some hand lenses such as the LED Triplet Loupe Hand Lens 10x 21mm possess LED lighting in order to illuminate the object that you are viewing. This option can greatly improve your viewing experience and can be particularly valuable in low light conditions. Bat workers have expressed how useful these can be when looking for the key identifying features of a specimen held in the hand. Using a lens with LED can reduce stress on the bat because it means that you do not have to point the beam of your head torch directly at the animal.

Using your hand lens

Finally, a quick note on hand lens technique. To use your hand lens correctly, hold the lens close to your eye and then either a) move the subject closer to your eye until it comes in to focus or b) move your head (and the hand lens) closer to the subject until it comes into focus. It’s easy with a little practice so don’t get put off if you find a new hand lens difficult at first. Expect to get close up to what you’re examining – it’s quite common to see naturalists crawling around on the ground to get close to a plant they’re identifying.

Keeping your hand lens safe

It can be very hard to find a much-loved hand lens dropped in long grass or woodland. To prevent this happening, we recommend a lanyard for your hand lens – this has two functions: a) if you have it round your neck you won’t drop it, and b) if you put it down somewhere the bright blue lanyard is easy to spot.

For storage and transport purposes most hand lenses come equipped with either a storage pouch or a plastic case. These enable you to keep your optic safe and reduce the risk of scratches or knocks occurring, especially when it is being carried in a pocket or bag. Spare leather pouches are available for the Triplet Loupe 10x 21mm but these may fit other lenses as well – we are happy to check before you buy.

Our full range of lenses and magnifiers can be found at nhbs.com.

The NHBS Guide to Badger Gates

The European Badger (Meles meles) is one of the most iconic species found on the British Isles. These shy and elusive animals spend much of their time during the day hidden away within their extensive underground setts, emerging around dusk to forage on smaller mammals, earthworms, roots, bulbs and fruit.

Within their territories, badgers will follow established routes between foraging areas. When these pathways become obstructed by fencing, such as exclusion fencing for stock or deer, badgers will often dig under the obstruction to regain access to a familiar site and in doing so they may cause damage to the fence and allow in potentially unwanted species. In these circumstances, many developers will install a badger gate to allow badgers to freely access the site. These rectangular gates are constructed of either wood or metal and often feature locking mechanisms to ensure badgers can only pass through in a certain direction.

Although badgers are protected under the Protection of Badgers Act 1992, there are situations where developers need to temporarily or permanently exclude badgers from areas. This may be when they, or their setts, could be at risk of harm or disturbance. In these circumstances, and under acquisition of a license, one-way badger gates can be installed in sett entrances or in fencing surrounding a development to gradually exclude badgers from the area. These badgers will then either relocate to a new territory or to a nearby artificially-created sett.

At NHBS we manufacture a range of badger gates and this article will outline how they can be installed and used in different badger mitigation projects.

Softwood Badger Gate

This softwood badger gate has been designed in accordance with the specifications outlined by Natural England (available here) and is an excellent economic choice for many projects. It is constructed from untreated FSC-certified timber, which ensures badgers will not be harmed if they ingest any chewed wood. This gate has been designed so that it will not jam following periods of rain when the wood may swell.

The softwood gate is suitable for use where badgers require access through a fence. This gate can also be used in exclusion projects; however unlike our aluminium gates they can be damaged by chewing and often have a shorter lifespan.

 

  • Price: £25.99 inc VAT £27.95
  • Frame Dimensions: 450mm (H) x 285mm (W)
  • Entrance Dimensions: 250mm (H) x 200mm (W)
  • Material: Untreated FSC timber
  • Weight: 2.1kg

Access Badger Gate

The access badger gate is constructed from marine grade aluminium which ensures it is strong enough for repeated use while keeping it lighter than most steel gates. It features a heavy-duty grill panel which allows badgers to view what is on the other side of the gate, which can encourage some badgers to pass through. It has pointed legs which should be driven into the ground using a wooden mallet, however a hammer can also be used with a block of wood (striking the frame directly may cause warping and damage). The gate has two locking tabs that can be adjusted using a size 10 spanner to allow either two-way or one-way access.

This gate is designed for use in long-term projects where badgers need access through stock or deer fencing. For exclusion projects we would recommend our exclusion gates.

 

  • Price: £73.50 inc VAT
  • Frame Dimensions: 595mm (H) x 295mm (W)
  • Entrance Dimensions: 320mm (H) x 220mm (W)
  • Material: Marine Grade Aluminium
  • Weight: 3kg

Exclusion Badger Gate

The exclusion badger gate is also constructed from marine grade aluminium and comes fitted with a solid gate flap. This solid door has been designed based on evidence that some badgers can learn to use their claws to lift grill gates open. Another feature of this gate is that it does not have legs. This allows the gate to be positioned either vertically or horizontally  in awkward sett entrances where a typical vertical gate would not be suitable. By installing this gate ecologists and developers can be confident that badgers will not be able to re-enter an exclusion zone.

This gate is also available with pointed legs, for installation within exclusion fencing.

 

  • Price: £73.50 inc VAT
  • Frame Dimensions: 400mm (H) x 295mm (W)
  • Entrance Dimensions: 320mm (H) x 220mm (W)
  • Material: Marine Grade Aluminium
  • Weight: 2.6kg

Accessories

Badger Fencing

 

All of our gates can be incorporated into this high tensile wire fencing.  It can be erected as a freestanding barrier or installed across a sett to prevent badgers from digging to form new entrances or to get around any installed gates.

Price: £245 (50m)

Stainless Steel Cable Ties


These strong, corrosion resistant cable ties can be used to quickly and easily secure a badger gate frame to the surrounding fencing.

Price: £8.50 (pack of 20)

Caudon® High Tensile Steel Pegs

These steel pegs are excellent for securing fencing to the ground, particularly in areas where badgers are prone to tunneling. These pegs can also be driven through the access and exclusion badger gates to provide a firmer placement.

Price: £0.60 each

Further Reading:

Badger Behaviour, Conservation and Rehabilitation: 70 Years of Getting to Know Badgers
Paperback | Sep 2015
£19.99

 

 

 

Badgers
Hardback | May 2017
£15.99

 

 

 

The Badger
Paperback | Sep 2010
£4.99

 

 

 

Biology and Conservation of Musteloids
Paperback | Oct 2017
£44.99

 

 

 

Please note that prices stated in this blog post are correct at the time of publishing and are subject to change at any time.