The conservation of a Critically Endangered frog species has received a boost after a number of individuals were released in their native home in the Caribbean following a captive-breeding programme. The Mountain Chicken (also known as the Giant Ditch Frog) is considered a local delicacy, hence its unusual name, and a combination of hunting, habitat loss and, more recently, the arrival of the deadly chytrid fungus has resulted in a collapse of the population. The new release site on Montserrat is a large, carefully-controlled enclosure, with breeding pools that are maintained at a temperature too high for the survival of chytrid.
Fifty years’ of ‘citizen science’ surveys have found that climate change is affecting around one third of breeding bird species in Britain. Of 68 species studied, the population trends of 24 were linked to changes in temperature and rainfall. Climatic trends appear to have driven notable increases in the populations of thirteen species, including Corn Bunting, Goldcrest and Long-tailed Tit, but they are also responsible for declines of more than 10% in populations of Cuckoo, Little Owl and Reed Warbler.
Research has revealed the existence of two new species of electric eels in the waters of the Amazon basin. Scientists examined genetic characters, geographical distribution, and physical appearance of specimens from across the Amazon and found that the electric eel, which was thought to be one of a kind, is in fact comprised of three separate species. The ‘original’ electric eel, E. electricus, appears to be restricted to northern highlands, while the two new species, E. voltai and E. varii, occupy the southern highlands and the lowland Amazon basin, respectively.
Many of us delight at butterflies visiting the flowers in our gardens, be it the drunken admirals of autumn or the spritely orange-tips in spring, yet some of us still seem to shudder at the thought of dingy moths bothering our windows at night or worse still munching our clothes to dust in our cupboards. In the middle of June, armed with two moth traps and a couple of trusted field guides, I attended an open garden in Somerset ready to join the #Mothsmatter conversation initiated by Butterfly Conservation to dispel the moth myths and encourage a fascination for these insects.
Setting up a Skinner moth trap in a covered porch over a couple of cold nights, I wasn’t entirely sure what species would be flying, but sure enough in the morning as I lifted the lid and slid the egg boxes out, there were some delightful species to see. Visitors in the garden were suffice to say, in awe of the moths the light brought in; the Poplar Hawk-moth and the Eyed Hawk- moth, the Fox Moth with his rabbit ear antennae and the remarkable Buff-tip.
We are becoming well aware that UK moths are in decline with an overall decrease in numbers by 28% since 1968, and over 60 species becoming extinct in the 20th century. Moths are a key indicator of environmental health and, as vital as they are to other creatures as a food source (their declines are impacting on breeding birds and bats) they are also vital for the pollination of native flora, an essential element to the tapestry of wild life. There is also evidence to suggest that climate change is shifting the habitable ranges of many of the moths that call the UK home, and while this can produce some spectacular species visiting from continental Europe, many of the species that have relied on the temperate climate in the UK are being forced out northward.
With a recent trend in wildlife gardening and more strict rules on chemicals used in agriculture, there is hope however that we can retain and rebuild some of the moth populations that are so vital in our countryside. Butterfly Conservation have a wealth of information available on their website about the trends of moth populations and, very importantly, what you can do to take action, join the conversation and promote moths at https://butterfly-conservation.org/moths/why-moths-matter
If you are interested in learning about which moth species are visiting your garden or local wild places, light trapping is simple and loads of fun. At NHBS we supply a range of moth traps suited for a number of habitats and a wide selection of amazing field guides to aid in identifying the moths you find. Below we have listed some of our favourite traps and provided a little more information on the differences between them, however if you wish to see our full selection of moth traps please visit our website.
Robinson Moth Traps
These large traps are renowned among lepidopterists because they offer the highest attraction and retention rates available. These traps are fitted with either mercury vapour or actinic electrics. Mercury vapour bulbs offer greater brightness than actinic bulbs and consequently they will often attract more moths. However actinic electrics may be favourable in areas where the brighter bulbs may cause disturbance; they also run cold and do not need to be shielded from rain, unlike mercury bulbs which are likely to shatter when used without a rain guard.
These traps are precursors to the Robinson, and as well as being a more economic choice, they allow the catch to be accessed while the trap is running. They feature a plastic or wooden box with a light fitted to a cross member above a long slit through which moths fall and become trapped. A highlight of this box are the transparent panels that make up the trap lid. These can be removed to access the catch while the trap is running, which is great for real-time surveys and demonstrations. These traps can be easily collapsed down for easy storage and transport.
Compact 20W Skinner Moth Trap (240V)
* Price: £179.00 inc VAT
* Dimensions: 32 (h) x 35 (w) x 35 (d) cm
* Weight: 3kg
* Electrics: 240V mains electric
* Alternative battery-operated units also available.
Heath Moth Traps
These traps are favoured for their lower cost and compact design which makes them highly portable (excellent for use in remote areas) and easy to store; some are even small enough to fit into a rucksack. They are usually battery powered and feature a low wattage light source of between 6 and 20 Watts (however some mains operated traps can reach 40 Watts), and consequently these traps have lower catch sizes and retention rates than Skinner or Robinson models.
Field Guide to the Moths of Great Britain and Ireland
Paperback | Nov 2018| £27.99 £34.99 A comprehensive guide with full colour illustrations and up-to-date information on the taxonomy, ecology and distributions of the UK’s macro-moths.
Concise Guide to the Moths of Great Britain and Ireland Paperback | Oct 2018| £13.99 £16.99
This compact guide features full colour illustrations and concise descriptions for almost all British and Irish species of macro-moths
Emperors, Admirals & Chimney Sweepers | The Weird and Wonderful Names of Butterflies and Moths Hardback | May 2019| £24.99 £29.99 A beautifully written book that seeks to explore the origins and meanings of the names of our butterflies and moths.
The Moth Snowstorm | Nature and Joy Paperback | Apr 2016| £9.99 Drawing on a wealth of memorable experiences from a lifetime of watching and thinking about wildlife and natural landscapes Michael McCarthy presents a new way of looking at the world around us.
Please note that prices stated in this blog post are correct at the time of publishing and are subject to change at any time.
Although we are all familiar with the important role that bumblebees and honeybees play in pollination, over 90% of the UK’s 267 bee species are in fact solitary bees. Pollinating animals are responsible for one third of the food we consume and solitary bees are particularly efficient pollinators. Unlike other bees solitary bees do not have pollen baskets and so transfer much more pollen between flowers, meaning a single red mason bee provides a pollination service equivalent to 120 worker honey bees. This makes them a critical resource in our gardens and wider countryside and one that we should all be keen to protect. We have collated some information below on how to help encourage and preserve these fascinating creatures.
Solitary Bee Ecology
Solitary bees use a wide range of nest sites including tunnels in wood or mortar, plant stems and even snail shells. They lay eggs in a series of cells and then block the entrance with materials such as mud, leaves or fine hair. The female lays an egg with a food source, made from pollen and nectar, before building a partition wall and moving on to the next cell. The bee larvae hatch, eat the food source then overwinter as a cocoon before emerging the following summer as adults.
There have been extremely worrying declines in insect numbers recorded across Europe, and solitary bees are no exception. The increased use of chemicals in farming, loss of flower meadow food sources and loss of nest sites in hedgerows and gardens are all combining to drive down numbers. The good news is that it is easy to provide food sources and nesting habitat in your garden to help solitary bees and increase pollination.
Providing Resources for Solitary Bees
Provide food sources for solitary bees by planting wild flower seeds, native trees such as hawthorn and willow, bee friendly plants such as ivy, foxgloves and lavender and allowing plants such as borage and thistles to flower in your garden. Nest sites can be provided by leaving dead wood and stems standing, creating a patch of bare earth or mud bank for mining bees and by installing wild bee houses.
With careful design consideration, bee houses can provide shelter and nesting sites for solitary bees. Bee houses can be manufactured from a variety of materials but should have a good overhanging roof to protect the nesting tubes from rain, nesting holes between 2 and 10mm in diameter and a solid back. It is better to have a number of smaller bee houses, rather than one large house to reduce the risk of parasites finding the nest. Alternatively we have a wide range of solitary bee nesting habitats available on our website.
You can tell which species of bee is using your bee house by examining the material used to plug the entrance hole. Different species also emerge at different points in the year. The most common species likely to populate bee houses are red mason bees who use mud and are active March – July, leafcutter bees who use leaves and are active May – September, and wool carder bees who use fine hairs and are active June – August. Please note that there are fewer solitary bee species in the North of England and Scotland.
Solitary Bee House Siting and Maintenance
Insect houses should be sited at least 1m off the ground, facing south or south-east, with no vegetation covering the entrance and in full sun as insects need warmth to keep moving. They should be firmly fixed so that they don’t move in the wind. If your box is likely to be occupied by red mason bees then it is helpful to ensure that there is a patch of damp mud nearby. In order to maximise the chances of adults emerging successfully from the cocoons, it is a good idea to bring bee boxes indoors into an unheated shed or garage during the winter to avoid them getting too damp. The boxes should then be taken back outside in March in time for the new adults to emerge. There is some debate as to whether brick / concrete boxes should be cleaned but they can be cleaned out with a tent peg and pipe cleaner. Boxes with cardboard tubes should have the tubes replaced regularly. Keep an eye out for failed nests and tiny holes in the mud entrance as this can indicate that the nest tube has been taken over by parasites.
Suggested Solitary Bee Houses
This Bee Brick can be used in place of a standard brick or as a standalone bee house in your garden or wild patch. Available in four colours. £29.99 £39.99
This unique solitary beehive is made from durable FSC timber and designed specifically to attract solitary bees which are naturally attracted to holes in wood. £23.99 £29.99
Red Mason Bee Nest Box
The nest box is supplied with 29 individual nesting tubes, two sets of screws and plugs for mounting, and full instructions. £10.99
BeePot Bee Hotel
This is a fantastic concrete planter which doubles as a nesting place for solitary bees. Available in a range of colours and sizes, this is the larger size, the mini version is also available. £42.95 £49.99
WoodStone Insect Block
This WoodStone Insect Block is constructed from durable, FSC certified WoodStone with a nesting area created from reed stems.
Urban Bee Nester
This urban insect hotel is part of the contemporary range of wildlife habitats that have a sleek design for city living.
Suggested books on solitary bees
Paperback | July 2019| £19.99 An introduction to the natural history, ecology and conservation of solitary bees, together with an easy-to-use key to genera.
The Solitary Bees: Biology, Evolution, Conservation Hardback | September 2019| £27.99 £34.99 The most up-to-date and authoritative resource on the biology and evolution of solitary bees.
Handbook of the Bees of the British Isles (2-Volume Set) Hardback | October 2018| £130 £150
With photographic material of over 270 bee species, this comprehensive handbook is a once-in-a-generation identification work to the British bee fauna.
Field Guide to the Bees of Great Britain and Ireland Paperback | December 2018| £27.99 £34.99
A comprehensive introduction to bee classification, ecology, field techniques and recording, a full glossary, and information on how to separate the sexes and distinguish bees from other insects is also included.
Buzz: The Nature and Necessity of Bees Paperback | April 2019| £9.99
Award-winning author, Thor Hanson takes us on a journey that begins 125 million years ago, when a wasp first dared to feed pollen to its young.
In order to increase awareness of how vital a role our solitary bees play in pollination, the first week of July has been designated as Solitary Bee Week. You can get involved by pledging to create nesting sites or plant food sources for bees, writing poetry or recording bee sightings.
Earlier this year we were delighted to launch another exciting product manufactured here at our base in Devon. After a concerted period of design and manufacturing effort by our expert Workshop Team, followed by testing and review by ecological professionals, our NHBS Harp Trap was ready for production. The launch of our product into the wildlife equipment market signals the arrival of the only commercially produced harp trap in Europe.
What is a Harp Trap?
A harp trap provides an alternative bat survey method to mist netting or the use of bat detectors. They are particularly useful in situations where bats in flight can be channeled through a natural funnel such as above a water course, a cave or mine entrance or a clear area within a forest.
Harp traps consist of a frame which is either freestanding or suspended, and supports two to four rows of nylon strings. The bats will fly into the nylon strands and then fall unharmed down into a collecting bag below. The catch bag is made from green cotton canvas that is water resistant and breathable and includes heavy duty clear plastic baffles to prevent the bats from escaping. Unlike mist nets, harp traps do not entangle the bats an it has been reported that they can be more effective for surveying bats, potentially capturing higher numbers of individuals.
The NHBS Harp Trap
The new NHBS Harp Trap is a three-bank trap, meaning it has three rows of nylon line. Our trap has a catch area of approximately 4m2 and catch bag which is around 60cm deep. It folds down neatly into a bespoke carry bag and weighs approximately 15kg-full specifications and dimensions are below. The trap takes two people around 10 minutes to assemble and stands on four sturdy, extendable legs and which can be arranged at the height that you need the trap to be. There is also the option to anchor the harp trap with guy ropes in windy conditions. The trap can also be adapted to be suspended if this is required.
Our trap has a few innovative features designed to make assembly and disassembly easier. Firstly the strings are wrapped around a winding mechanism which greatly reduces the stress and time-consuming act of sorting through tangled lines in the dark.
There is also an extension under the catch bag, which prevents the bats from flying underneath the trap and this doubles as protection for the component parts as it wraps around the disassembled trap when it is stored in its bag.
Catch area: 4m2 approximately Catch area L x W: 180 x 225cm Length: 180cm Catch bag depth: 60cm Catch bag width: 44cm Weight: 15kg
Operational dimensions With legs fully retracted: Height 314cm Width (at base): 62cm
Length (at base): 230cm With legs fully extended:
Width (at base): 100cm
Length (at base): 252cm
As our harp trap evolved, prototypes were trialed and reviewed by ecology professionals; Professor Fiona Mathews of Sussex University and Neil Middleton of Batability. Their expertise and excellent feedback helped us develop our the harp trap to the point that it was now ready to go live.
The team at NHBS have done an excellent job in coming up with a new and refreshing approach to harp trapping, which shows many innovative and useful design features. When testing the equipment we were able to demonstrate that it was quicker/easier to assemble than competitor’s products. We are happy to recommend this harp trap, and will be ordering one ourselves, to be used during our training courses and for bat-related research.
Neil Middleton, BatAbility Courses & Tuition
Harp traps can only be sold to those who are licensed to use them. If you hold such a licence, we will ask to see a copy of your NE, NRW or SNH licence when you contact us about your purchase. If you are purchasing from overseas, we will request details about your institution and research.
NHBS manufactures marine, freshwater and terrestrial survey tools, all carefully designed to meet the demands of researchers, consultants, public authorities and educators in the environment sector. Made by our team of expert engineers, fabricators and seamstresses, our products have become renowned for their quality, durability and affordability.
Key accessories for using alongside your harp trap
The Petzl Tikka Headtorch has a 200 lumen beam and a maximum range of 60m. It has five lighting modes with both red and white light. It is powered by 3x AAA batteries (included) and available in four colours.
The Kite LED Loupe Triplet Hand Lens 10 x 21 provides crystal clear images which are enhanced with its ring of LED lights. This product may prove invaluable when trying to identify some of the tiny distinguishing features of certain bat species.
The A4 Portrait Waterproof Clipboard allows you to write in the field without having to worry about the rain. A waterproof plastic covering system helps to keep your paper dry and can be closed over the clipboard with the strong velcro fastener.
For 30 days wild this year we decided to take part in as many random acts of wildness as we could. From bug hunting to rock pooling, lichen identification and more, read on to discover ideas for summer activities you can take part in too!
NHBS Book specialist, Nigel took some time out to go bug hunting with his children, their favourite find being a Red Admiral. They enjoyed using our Educational Bug Hunting Kit.
NHBS EQ Specialist, Johnny took out some sound recording gear including the Tascam DR05 to record Common Cuckoos on Dartmoor. Read more about this on our sound recording blog.
Rock pooling in Plymouth was the next activity with our Marketing Coordinator Soma and British Wildlife Editorial Assistant Kat. Using our NHBS Rock Pooling Kits we found a sea spider (pycnogonid) and a Netted Dog Whelk among lots of seaweed. We also collected some seaweed to press – see part 2 for the big reveal!
NHBS Equipment Specialist Johnny Mitchell, explains the ins and outs of acoustic recording in the field and highlights key equipment items to get you started.
In recent years advances in portable recording equipment have led to an increase in the exploration of listening as a method of engaging with as well as studying the natural world. This blog looks at a number of different equipment options across a range of budgets and objectives while briefly outlining some of the main technical considerations.
Equipment and Technical considerations
For those interested in having a go at sound recording a handheld recorder is a great starting point and Tascam have some great entry level options such as the DR-05 and DR-40 both of which allow you to record uncompressed audio. The advantage of this method is that the recorders are highly portable and require very little set up – invaluable if you’re out and need something that can be used at a moments notice.
The built-in microphones will not compete with a professional external microphone and if recording becomes more than a passing interest dedicated microphones can be a great way to optimise your setup for specific recordings. We cover a few of the microphones in our range below with a quick guide to their application. The right recorder should have a logical menu system and inputs that allow for a suitable upgrade path via the connection of external microphones.
I personally enjoy the use of stereo microphones for capturing the ambience of entire soundscapes. The Rode NT4 Stereo Microphone or Audio Technica AT8022 X/Y Stereo Microphoneare both great options for this, which contain two microphone capsules in a portable housing. Both models are examples of condenser microphones which will require external power to function. To provide this, look for a recorder that has XLR inputs and an option to turn on phantom power; the Tascam Dr-40 would be a suitable choice in this instance.
There are also several options designed exclusively for use in the field. A common type makes use of a parabolic dish, effectively acting as a kind of audio zoom lens making them useful for focusing in on a particular sound-source. Some of these systems require a different type of power known as plug-in power so you’ll need a recorder able to supply this via a 3.5mm mic/line input as found on the Tascam DR-05.
The Hi-sound and Telinga PRO-X systems are good examples of plug-in powered parabolic systems. If your recorder does not have plug-in power, you can use an XLR to PiP adaptor. This connects to the XLR outputs on your recorder and converts the phantom power produced by the recorder to plug-in power which can run the microphone.
Finally, we feature static recording devices such as the SM4 Acoustic from Wildlife Acoustics and the Bar-LT from Frontier Labs. These waterproof units feature built in omni-directional microphones and can be secured to any suitable surface. The long deployment times and scheduling functions make these ideal for long-term bioacoustic studies.
In the field
To test a small cross section of equipment, I headed to a small forest within the Dartmoor National Park to capture the distinctive call of the Common Cuckoo, armed with a Tascam DR-40, XLR to PiP adaptor, Hi-Sound Stereo Parabolic system and a Wildlife Acoustics SM4 Acoustic recorder.
I initially walked a narrow path that cut through a steep section of woodland, at this point the cuckoos could be heard faintly calling from lower down in the valley. Locating a suitable tree easily accessible from the path, I decided to deploy the SM4. The SM4 has been designed to be exceptionally quick to set up straight out of the box and for this field test, I set it to ‘always record’ and secured it in place with a Python Mini Cable Lock.
Static recorder in place, I then used the Tascam DR-40 whilst walking through the woodlands to capture the changing soundscapes as I moved away from the sound of the river and closer to the open moor.
The DR-40 has a clear front facing screen that is easy to read in all light levels, pressing the record button once arms the unit allowing you to see and hear the recording levels. A good pair of headphones is recommended for use with this unit as they are susceptible to a certain amount of handling noise.
I then connected the parabolic to the Hi-Sound parabolic to the Tascam using the XLR to PiP adapter.
Dropping off the path I headed towards the middle of the wood where the Cuckoos could be heard calling in the distance. The high directionality of the parabolic microphone was excellent allowing me to pick out individuals among the woodland birds present.
Late in the evening whilst preparing to pack up I was rewarded with a fantastic display as several cuckoos alighted on the trees around me, a recording of which is included below.
I highly recommend getting out and exploring natural soundscapes in your local area, especially at this time of year. As with any piece of equipment it takes a few trips to really get a feel of what they’re capable of, but any one of these items could become a reliable piece of gear for your sonic explorations.
To view our full range of sound recording equipment please visit www.nhbs.com. If you have any questions on our sound recording range or would like some advice on the best set-up for your project please contact us via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone on 01803 865913.
Joeri Bruyninckx traces the development of field recording and its use in field ornithology. Drawing on expertise from experimental music to serious science, it provides a thorough and wide-ranging investigation into the power of sound and listening.
Sometimes the most extraordinary nature stories and scientific revelations lie in plain sight. So familiar that unique stories of survival are overlooked. Rock Pool is an eye-opening, enchanting journey into the miniature worlds of rock pools with a new author who will change the way you view even the most ordinary creatures – from crabs to barnacles, blennies to anemones – forever.
Educator and award-winning blogger, Heather Buttivant kindly took some time out of her rock pooling schedule to answer our questions about her new book.
Your passion for the marine environment shines throughout Rock Pool, where did your passion stem from?
Like most children growing up by the sea, I liked to pick up seashells, but for me it became an obsession. Back then I couldn’t name everything, but the variety of shapes and textures and the vibrant colours fascinated me. The longer I looked into rock pools, the further I was reeled in. It’s a passion I have no intention of out-growing: no matter how much I know, there is always more to learn.
What was the original inspiration behind your book?
It has always seemed a shame to me that there is so little nature writing available about our incredible intertidal wildlife. When I created a website as part of my MA in professional writing with Falmouth University, I struggled to imagine why anyone would be interested in my ideas for a novel, but the thought of opening up the little-known world of the rock pools filled me with excitement. My Cornish Rock Pools site took off faster than I expected and when the site won the BBC Wildlife Magazine Blog of the Year Award, it came to the attention of the lovely people at September Publishing and this was the perfect opportunity to bring my love for nature writing and for seashore together as a book.
You’ve selected a fascinating range of marine creatures; how did you choose them from such a biodiverse environment?
My identification guides to the seashore contain thousands of species, so narrowing this down to just 24 animals felt like a near-impossible task. Most of the animals I’ve selected can be found all around the UK and Ireland and together they tell an incredible story of survival. I have aimed to convey the experience of animals living in different zones of the shore and in the range of different environments from mud-flats to seagrass beds. Some of the creatures, like barnacles and limpets, are familiar yet have remarkable abilities that are unimaginable to us land-dwellers. Others, like corals, sharks and cephalopods, are animals that most people assume can only be seen by divers but with luck and perseverance they may be seen by rock poolers too.
Rock Pool is full of exciting encounters you have had at the seashore, but which was your most surprising?
I find something new almost every time I visit the shore, but one day, whilst dangling my feet in a pool, with all my attention focused on a tiny sea slug in a petri dish on the rock beside me, I noticed movement in the water. When I glanced down I realised that a substantial lobster was inching towards my toes! I nearly dropped my camera. ‘Bob’, as I now know him, has become quite a legend in our family and his location is a secret that is closely guarded by all those who have met him.
Do you have any tips for a successful rock pooling session?
My top tip is to join a rock pooling event where you can learn and explore with the experts. This is a great way to see amazing animals and to find out how to keep yourself and the wildlife safe on the shore. The key to spotting creatures is to slow right down and take the time to look closely at the small things. Most rock pool animals are masters at hiding in plain sight. A single rock may be densely packed with keel worms, sea squirts, sponges and crustaceans, but at a quick glance you’d think there was nothing there. Always check the tide times first and leave everything as you found it – gently replacing stones the right way up.
Finally, do you plan to write any more books in the future?
Our rock pools are so incredibly diverse that I might never run out of material for more books. However, I’m also passionate about the importance of giving people, especially children, better opportunities to connect with the natural world. We protect and care about the things that we love, so it’s vital that we all feel that we are a part of the ecosystems on which we depend. Perhaps that will be my next writing project?
A limited number of signed copies are available at NHBS, order now to avoid disappointment!