Birdfair 2012 in pictures, and our £50 voucher prize winner

Birdfair 2012 was another fair to remember for the NHBS team

We’d like to thank all of you who came to see us at the Birdfair, and helped make it such a success. And thanks to all those who participated in the NHBS Wildlife Workshops, and to Nick Baker for sharing his infectious enthusiasm for the world of mini-beasts – it was great fun to be able to demonstrate some of our products in action and to see so many young wildlife buffs catching the bug! (see pics below)

Congratulations to our Birdfair £50 NHBS Voucher prize winner – Jane Nicholls of Oakham, Rutland

Jane says:

“My whole garden is planned with wildlife in mind so I am genuinely delighted to have won this NHBS voucher. I think connection with nature is so important and I loved the live sessions in the Events Marquee at Birdfair this year: “Pond Dipping” with Nick Baker and “Moth Trapping” with Phil Sterling and Richard Lewington. I do hope that they will be repeated? Due to the presenters’ enthusiasm I have already purchased a pond dipping kit and butterfly net and would now be interested in buying the Trekker Field Microscope which would help with all aspects of identification and I know I would get a lot of pleasure using it. Birdfair is a really enjoyable and friendly event, has something of interest for everyone and raises money for bird conservation at the same time. Brilliant!”

Birdfair 2012 in pictures:


Nick Baker on Birdfair, and the delights of the NHBS stand

Nick BakerIt’s that time of the year again –  just like Christmas this little corner of the calendar is sacred, the Birdfair is my annual catch up with the people that circulate in the world of wildlife and wildlife conservation.

It’s a time to catch up with old friends and make new ones, as well as loiter with intent on various stands and stalls, fingering salubrious new publications, mentally re-mortgaging the house or conjuring up excuses to tell my wife as I clap eyes on another must-have high-end optic, or Esther Tyson painting, that has to hang on the wall.

Many have tried to emulate the Birdfair‘s greatness but have failed. The secret seems to be that it grew from a good genuine seed and not a commercial one. It started small and has since built up from a motley collection of gazebos slung up on the edge of Rutland water in 1987 to a fair that has been described as the ‘Glastonbury of wildlife’. It just seems to get bigger and bigger, and, more importantly, better.

Did I mention that for all its excellence it has to be one of the most misleadingly named events? Although sporting its fair share of feathers, and with a slight ornithological leaning, this fair is certainly by no means just about birds – and this often comes as a bit of a surprise to those that have not made the annual pilgrimage to the smallest county of Rutland.

Whether you’re in the market for a bespoke wildlife holiday, a shiny new pair of bins, nice new multi-laminate breathable pants (meant in the American sense of the word, although given the way the outdoor market is going it wouldn’t surprise me if the British definition comes into this market soon!), specialist books and equipment, and taking in every aspect and discipline that could be associated with natural history or wildlife, then there will be something here for you. It’s an important thing to mention too, especially in these times of austerity, that this is not wholly a commercial event; sure it is centered around the diverse and sometimes surprising number of trade stands (which in itself makes fascinating window shopping), but there are plenty of things to do and see (and of course learn about), from celebrity-led bug hunts, to wildlife panel shows and presentations.

The best thing about the wildlife world and its people is that generally speaking everyone is friendly and approachable, so if you’ve always hankered for a signed Simon King calendar or wanted to stroke the shiny pate of the world famous Mike Dilger then the Birdfair is your chance to do just that (well maybe not the latter but you get the gist, everyone is kind of approachable and they all know their stuff).

Nick Baker signing copies of the Bug Book on the NHBS stand, Birdfair 2011Throughout the three days of the fair, I shall be spending a lot of my time hanging around and blagging cups of tea off the staff at the NHBS stand, not only because I’m an ambassador for them but (don’t tell them this) it is where I would want to be standing anyhow. The NHBS stand is a Pandora’s box of delights for the naturalist, plenty of gorgeous field guides and other publications as well as loads of quality kit and equipment – from trail cameras and bat detectors to bug pots and pond nets. I will be on hand, along with other staff, to answer questions and queries as well as advise and demonstrate. For the first time this year there will be a selection of workshops and demos by various ‘experts’ – I for one will be playing around with  minibeasts and microscopes on the stand as well as attempting what may seem like the impossible: trying to hold the attention of an audience of several hundred in the main events tent, with nothing but a microscope (kindly supplied by Zeiss) and a bucket of pond sludge in my ‘virtual pond dip – live’. I have no idea whether this will work or not but come and either have your socks knocked off by some of Rutland Water’s most surprising inhabitants or watch me fail dismally and ‘die’ on stage. Either way it’ll be entertaining!

Well that is pretty much all there is to say (although truthfully I could go on a lot longer about the joys and qualities of the Birdfair weekend, but I was only going to write a brief taster). So do come along and see us on the stand, enjoy the fair, further your knowledge and have a great time surrounded by the best of the world of naturalists and natural history. If you can, try and build in a bit of time to check out the nature reserve itself, complete with not only the successfully reintroduced ospreys but also resident kingfishers, tree sparrows and a wonderful array of all the other creatures and plants that carry them on their shoulders.

What’s on the NHBS events schedule at Birdfair 2012?

NHBS events schedule at Birdfair 2012



NHBS at Birdfair 2012: our biggest Birdfair yet

This year we are gearing up for our biggest Birdfair yet!

NHBS has a bigger and better stand this year featuring a new workshop area with a full schedule of events all weekend. Come along to find out more about ultrasound bat detecting, pond-dipping, wildlife photography and more. And join us in the main Birdfair Event Marquee daily for a big screen live moth-trapping event with Phil Sterling and Richard Lewington on Friday, and a ‘Virtual Pond Dip’ with Nick Baker on Saturday and Sunday. As always we look forward to meeting you there, out of the office and in person!

Here’s the full ‘NHBS at Birdfair 2012’ line-up – click to enlarge:

NHBS events programme fro Birdfair 2012








British Birdfair 2012: Friday 17th – Sunday 19th August, Rutland Water Nature Reserve, Egleton, Rutland, LE15 8BT

Nick Baker’s Favourite Read of 2011 – and a Top 5 for Christmas

Nick BakerWe asked NHBS Ambassador Nick Baker to choose his top 5 books for naturalists and wildife enthusiasts – he went one better and gave us a book of the year as well:

The Butterfly Isles by Patrick Barkham

The Butterfly Isles jacket imageNick says: “The only thing that beats seeing butterflies is reading about them. So, for me, long winter nights are best spent reminiscing about the summer seasons gone and anticipating the one that lies ahead. This is the time for the armchair Aurelian. The book of the year for me is definitely The Butterfly Isles by Patrick Barkham. I was given my copy by a butterfly enthusiast who has rapidly become a good friend of mine, Dr Dan Danahar. He sent me a copy as a thank you for taking part in what became a butterfly race around Brighton (25 species in a day). Several of the characters that took part in this wonderful inspiring day full of Chalkhill Blues and White-letter Hairstreaks are in the book, many of the others – the Martin Warrens, Mathew Oates and Jeremy Thomases of the world – are all portrayed as passionately and as accurately as the insects that drive their lives.
The author seeks to see all 58 species of British breeding butterfly in a single year and at the same time rekindle a father-son bond over the butterflies they desired. The outcome is a very well-written romp, true to the traditional eccentricities that is almost compulsory to those in the pursuit of these winged things. It’s a book about people as much as it is about the insects, and all in all it tackles our deep seated relationship with nature and the British countryside and leaves you feeling proud to be living on this collection of islands we call home.”

Nick’s Top 5 Books for Naturalists

1. The Butterflies of Britain and Ireland by Jeremy Thomas and Richard Lewington

The Butterflies of Britain and Ireland jacket image…”The Butterflies of Britain and Ireland by Jeremy Thomas and Richard Lewington is a perfect butterfly reference book. It oozes quality and is the quintessential book for anybody interested in these winged wonders. Way back in 1991 butterfly ecologist and thoroughly energetic champion of these insects, Jeremy Thomas, teamed with the talented paintbrush pushing skills of Richard Lewington and together they created a special thing. This second edition is totally up-to-date with the current status changes, and the intricate details, subtleties and ecological relationships of our British species. The winter is a great time to slip between its pages the first thing that strikes you is the illustrations, which like the first edition of this book are stunning… then allow yourself to dip into the text and everything springs to life; Jeremy Thomas has a way of writing about his life’s charges with the sort of passion a child may have for the fairground but at the same time he has the scientific knowledge, gravitas and experience of someone who has dedicated his life to understanding the world according to these charismatic insects.”

2. Guide to Garden Wildlife by Richard Lewington

Guide to Garden Wildlife jacket image…”This little beauty is both penned and illustrated by Richard Lewington, and is a truly excellent guide to many of the most commonly encountered garden species; from bees, birds, voles and moles and many others to the more specialised such as harvestmen, thrips, and solitary bees and wasps, as well as slugs and snails! The wonderful detailed text and observations within are in many cases clearly born from the actual experiences of the author. Scattered throughout are sections that may inspire you to create an even better wildlife garden with advice on creating ponds, building and positioning nest boxes and bird feeders. I cannot recommend this book enough – if you have a garden and are interested in wildlife then you must have this on your shelf, and if you know of someone who has a garden make sure they’ve got this on their shelf.”

3. Mushrooms by John Wright

Mushrooms jacket image…”This isn’t a new book by any means; I’ve had my copy for several years now. I’m not even massively into fungi. I have a general interest and engage in a little bit of hedgerow foraging from time to time, so why this book? …it made me laugh! Yep, this is undoubtedly the funniest field guide I’ve ever read. It is so refreshing to find yourself with tears streaming down your face while trying to concentrate on the finer points of separating a Yellow Stainer from a Field Mushroom, or learning that it is illegal to pick magic mushrooms, but not if you can’t identify them! This book is rare: being informative, excellently written with personal passion, both entertaining and peppered with all manner of identification tips and recipes for when you are 100% happy with your identification skills.”

4. Survivors by Richard Fortey

Survivors: The Animals and Plants That Time Has Left Behind jacket image…”Having been a fan of two of Fortey’s other books (Trilobite and Dry Store Room No.1) I’ve been waiting with great anticipation for this, his latest book, to be published. I can tell you it was well worth the wait, the writing style is in the same ball park as other great science popularisers of today (well written, not dumbed down and immensely readable) and the subject matter is those animals we often hear referred to as ‘living fossils’. Richard uses them as biological muses, looking into their lives for clues as to how the story of life on earth unfolded – using these animals as ‘telescopes’ into the past. I’ve always like evolutionary stories, hence my love of natures oddities and here we have a book full of beguiling beasts with some of the best back stories ever in the history of life on earth – with Tarsiers, Hellbenders, Velvet worms, lungfish and lampreys all covered within its pages.”

5. Mammals of the British Isles Volume 4 – edited by Stephen Harris and Derek W Yalden

Mammals of the British Isles: Handbook, 4th edition jacket image…”This high quality, comprehensive and scientifically up-to-date publication by The Mammal Society is very much in line with the standard set by Lynx publications (Handbook of the Birds of the World, Handbook of the Mammals of the World and Threatened Amphibians of the World). On publication it immediately became a standard reference in its field. Expertly done, it covers every mammal species found in, on and around the British Isles, including marine mammals and naturalised species (and a few that only have a historic presence on our islands). For anyone that has an interest in our mammal fauna then this the essential book. It is a large tome which despite the ambitious intent is easy to navigate with loads of glossy photographs and easy summary charts that help to ease your way through its pages.”

Read the full article on Nick Baker’s blog

Bushnell XLT Trophy Cam Trail Camera: Nick Baker’s review and video footage

Nick BakerNick Baker, NHBS Ambassador, has been trying out the Bushnell XLT Trophy Cam Trail Camera. Here are his initial impressions:
Bushnell XLT Trophy Cam Trail Camera

These Bushnell trail cameras are about as good as you can get for the money, and using them is rather addictive too!

The XLT (right)  was the model I tested – the camera comes as an all-in-one small weatherproof box, which is both lightweight and easy to carry around and position. I’ve used mine for professional survey work such as attempting to identify bird nest predators as part of an RSPB Ring Ouzel survey, identifying the occupancy of Badger setts as well as simply leaving it up in the garden to find out who has been defecating on my lawn and messing up my flower beds (in the process identifying which of my neighbours cats use my garden – all six, it turns out!).

Badger - taken with Bushnell XLT Trophy Cam Trail Camera by Nick Baker, 2011The camera shoots both still pictures (eg. left) and moving images(eg. below) and has a screen which allows reviewing of the images in the unit. All the image data is stored on an SD card and the unit is powered by 4-8 AA batteries.

Sensitivity and trigger delay are the only issues: making the camera less sensitive stops it being triggered by small movements – moths, mice, wind-blown vegetation etc. – but if the camera is triggered by an animal walking past quite close, then the one second delay means that by the time the trigger kicks in you might just get the tail end of the moment! This is easily overcome if you are setting it along paths or trails by making sure the camera looks down the likely pathway rather than across it.

All in all this is a fantastic good value entry-level trail camera – if you want to increase the picture quality and eliminate the ‘glow’ of the LEDs (some animals seem to be aware of the red glow produced by the 32 red LEDs) at night then the HD colour version is worth considering.

Roe Buck captured on a Bushnell XLT Trophy Cam Trail Camera by Nick Baker, 2011

Click here to view other Nick’s other Bushnell videos on the NHBS Vimeo channel

Save £54 on the Bushnell XLT Trophy Cam until 31/12/11  

Buy now and save

NHBS at Birdfair 2011 in photos

Thanks to everyone who came to the NHBS stand at Birdfair 2011, it was a great weekend and we look forward to seeing you all again next year. Here is our 2011 experience in photos:

Nick Baker at NHBS – Birdfair News!

Come and meet Nick Baker at the NHBS Stand: Marquee 2, Stands 15, 33 and 34


Nick Baker Chair Hide photoNHBS Ambassador Nick Baker will be visiting the NHBS Stand on Saturday 20th August between 12pm and 1pm, and on Sunday 21st August between 10am and 11am.

Come and talk to Nick about the wonderful world of bugs, the secret life of a TV wildlife presenter, and just how good those chair hides really are! Nick will also be signing copies of his books, including the new Nick Baker’s Bug Book: Discover the World of the Mini-Beast! which will be available at the stand.

We look forward to seeing many of you at Rutland Water over the course of next weekend!


Find out who else will be signing their books with NHBS at Birdfair 2011 here.

Nick Baker reviews the Stealth Gear One Man Chair Hide for NHBS

“I think this hide is great value for money.”

“If, like me, you’ve spent time trying to conceal yourself from your wildlife subjects, then doubtless you will have found yourself wrestling with scrim, and swearing and cursing as it gets caught on tripods, zippers and Velcro. The other extreme – and until now the only solution – would be to buy a ‘blind’ – a wildlife hide with many of the complexities associated with putting up a tent – a puzzle of poles and guy ropes. As well as often confounding the wildlife watcher/photographer, the whole set-up was both expensive and heavy.

I’ve been aware of these Stealth Gear hides for a year or so now and judging by the high demand, they seem to have caught on – and for good reasons.

It’s a robust camping chair design with a fan of hoops that unfurl from behind and over the seat. This in turn drags with it the polyester fabric of the hide itself. There is a little mesh pocket on one of the arms for your beer, which also can function as a lens holder – pity it doesn’t have two of them! The whole caboodle comes in a Camo-Tree design (photo-realistic leaves and bark, and woodland scenes) which in my experience works, pretty much anywhere, to break up the outline of the unit – and, almost as importantly, hides the contraption and the watcher from the unwanted attentions of his own species!

I found it best to sit in the chair with my gear in front of me and simply flip the hide over my head. Once inside it can be a little fiddly, and your personal organisation is tested a little, but so it is in any blind. If you have big elbows, lots of gear, a mate or intend to be waiting a long while, consider the two-seat option, otherwise you might find it a little too cosy for comfort. But the one-man works very well for me.

There are five apertures through which you can peer or shove a telephoto lens, all of which can be opened or closed easily with Velcro attachments, either opening them fully or leaving a printed mesh panel in place which enables the hide user to see out, while nothing can see in. The five windows are adequate enough, but you can’t see behind – which would on occasion be useful. That said, it would be a bit challenging to turn around even if there were a rear-facing window, especially with a hide full of gear. If full, all-round vision is what you require then this is available in the two-seat version.

The hide comes with a bag of ground pegs, also in a Camo-Tree design. Come on guys, you put the bag down in the long grass because you are in a rush to set up, and of course the wind starts to blow and where are your pegs to secure the thing to the ground as it fills up like a balloon and its skirts start to ruffle uncontrollably in the breeze? In a camouflage bag! Which is where? Somewhere in the long grass, doing its best to be not to be seen… I’ve attached a piece of orange baler twine now I’ve recovered it, so hopefully this won’t happen again.

Slight niggles: stitching holes let through pinpricks of daylight, and water does come spattering through in a torrential downpour. Leaving the hide is difficult – keeping your set-up and not totally blowing your cover requires agility and contortional abilities that are beyond most naturalists over 40! But having said that, all these problems can be applied to all but the most expensive hides and blinds I’ve used, so on balance I think this hide is great value for money.

(Note: if you have children and are fed up with the gaudy primary coloured plastic wendy house that jars with your aesthetic sensibilities then there is a hidden bonus to this hide – 4 year olds love them! And being made of camouflage material, you can sit it in the corner near the shrubbery and barely notice it’s there. It kept my daughter occupied for hours!)”