NHBS Staff Picks 2017

Welcome to our annual round-up of the books and equipment we have most enjoyed reading and using this year, all chosen by members of the NHBS team. Here are our choices for 2017!

Winter Birds

Winter Birds

In Winter Birds, we find Lars Jonsson’s loving portraits of some of the birds that he observed in southern Gotland in the winter months; both the watercolours and the accompanying essays are wonderfully intimate and personal. A fascinating book to dip into on cold and windy evenings, even if (like me) you don’t know your finches from your jays. First published in Swedish two years ago, this is now available in a UK edition, with range maps for both Sweden and the British Isles alongside each species. Expertly translated by David Christie, this is one of my favourite books this year.
Anneli – Senior Manager

Orison for a Curlew: In Search of a Bird on the Brink of Extinction

The Slender Billed Curlew, Numenius tenuirostris, is emblematic of species decline and ultimately extinction. With the last fully-fledged sighting in Morocco in 1995, naturalist and traveller Horatio Clare took up the challenge of sighting this ethereal creature. With precision and clarity and in only 115 beautifully written pages, this book takes the reader on an immersing journey into history, politics, hunting and conservation.
Nigel – Books and Publications

Field Guide to Moths

Field Guide to the Moths of Great Britain and Ireland

As a newbie to the world of moths, this book is a definitive and indispensable guide to UK species (excluding micro-moths). With in-depth descriptions and distribution maps for each species and beautifully clear and concise illustrations, this newly updated guide is a valuable resource and must-have mothing companion, perfect for beginners and pros alike.
Oli – Graphic Designer

Why We Sleep

Why We Sleep: The New Science of Sleep and Dreams

Picking my favourite book of the year wasn’t easy this time, having stepped up my reading efforts this year. But since there has to be one: Why We Sleep is an exceedingly well-written book about the biology of human sleep, and especially the deleterious effects of chronic sleep deprivation that most of us subject ourselves to. Matthew Walker is a gifted writer with a knack for explaining neurobiological principles in clear language and using imaginative metaphors. It actually made me undertake some very serious attempts to change my sleeping habits.
Leon – Catalogue Editor

The Lost Words

For anyone even vaguely interested in nature writing Macfarlane needs no introduction.
His series on landscape, place and imagination has enthralled me since I first picked up The Old Ways several years ago.
Created in response to the nature-related words culled from the Oxford Junior Dictionary, words which are considered no longer relevant to a modern childhood, Macfarlane along with artist and author Jackie Morris have created a beautiful ‘spell book‘ for younger readers. A joyful celebration of both nature and language.
Johnny – Customer Services

Dinosaur MonopolyDinosaur Monopoly

Everyone at the NHBS board game club loved Dinosaur Monopoly. A new take on an old favourite, though we all agreed the T-Rex should not be the Mayfair of this board! Have fun excavating sites, bartering for ownership and making (or losing!) the big bucks!
Natt – Customer Service & Dispatch Manager

 

Petzl Tikka Headtorch

The Petzl Tikka is a brilliant head torch – with a light output of 200 lumens, you really get a lot of light for your money! Having five different light settings, it’s great for close up work, and with a range of 60m is ideal for night running/orienteering (with the added bonus of being weather resistant). From personal use, I would highly recommend this to anyone who is after a high quality head torch for a very reasonable price.
Sam – Customer Services

Mushrooms and Toadstools

Mushrooms and Toadstools of Britain & Europe: Volume 1

Mushrooms and Toadstools of Britain & Europe is the long-awaited field guide by Geoffrey Kibby, the highly respected field mycologist. This title stands out from other fungi guides with its detailed and comprehensive identification and field notes, but for me the real highlights are the gorgeous illustrations and diagrams running through the whole text. One doesn’t have to be a serious mycologist to appreciate the beauty of fungi as presented in this book!
Rachel – Customer Services

Kite Caiman Binoculars

Kite Caiman Binoculars

My pick is the 8 x 42 Kite Caiman Binoculars, which are our newest edition to the Kite binocular range. They have an amazing close focus and far reaching power, they’re affordable, bright, and are great quality. The Caimans make the ultimate pair of binoculars in the field for anyone on a budget.
Bryony – Wildlife Equipment Specialist

Squid Empire

Squid Empire: The Rise and Fall of the Cephalopods

Covering hundreds of millions of years, Squid Empire tells the fascinating story of how the squishy squids we have in our ocean today became what they are. Written with humanity and wit this book is extremely approachable, even by a layperson such as myself.
Luke – Web Developer

The Plant Messiah

In his time working at Kew Gardens, Carlos Magdalena has managed to track down and propogate some of the world’s most threatened plant species. Many of these success stories are shared in The Plant Messiah and all are recounted in Carlos’s enthusiastic and charismatic style. Part memoir, part “botany-101” and part plant elegy, I found this book difficult to put down, and whizzed through it in just a day or two. It is inspiring, thrilling and educational – what more could you ask for?
Luanne – Senior Editor

NHBS Staff Picks 2016

Welcome to our annual tour of recommended reads and equipment highlights brought to you by members of the NHBS team. Here are our staff picks 2016!

The Sauropod Dinosaurs: Life in the Age of Giants

I admit that I’m a bit of a closet palaeontologist. Having decided to forego a career in this field in favour of biology, I have nevertheless retained a fascination for dinosaurs, so I enjoy a good dino-book like no other, and Indiana’s Life of the Past series… oh, wait. Probably the most surprising thing about The Sauropod Dinosaurs is that it was not published by Indiana University Press as part of their Life of the Past series, but instead by Johns Hopkins University Press. For anyone familiar with the aforementioned series, this book would fit right in, and displays similarly high production values, gorgeous illustrations, and accessible popular science. I have yet to go beyond merely flicking through it and admiring it, but I could not resist and got myself a copy as soon as this came out.
Leon – Catalogue Editor

The Arctic Guide: Wildlife of the Far North

The Arctic Guide is a fantastic reminder of the precious diversity of wildlife that occupies the Northern regions of the planet – including mammals, birds, fishes, lizards and frogs, flies, bees, butterflies and flora. There is even a fascinating entry on domesticated sled dogs. It is beautifully produced, as we have come to expect from Princeton University Press natural history lists. Well-designed colour plates are accompanied by unusually descriptive detail by author Sharon Chester, making this an enjoyable general read for naturalists as well as an essential companion for Arctic researchers or travellers.
Katherine – Marketing

Britain’s Treasure Islands: A Journey to the UK Overseas Territories

To research Britain’s Treasure Islands, and the TV series of the same name that was broadcast in 2016, Stewart McPherson travelled to each of the 16 remote islands and peninsulas across the globe that are under UK sovereignty.

The contrasts between the different territories are fascinating, some can be travelled to with relative ease (e.g. Gibraltar and the Falkland Islands), but others are nearly inaccessible and as a result have most wonderful wildlife – one of my favourite chapters describes the British Indian Ocean Territory, home of undisturbed coral reefs, and giant Coconut crabs.

This hefty book is full of adventure and natural history, with fold-out maps and countless photos, and just perfect for dipping into when it’s cold and windy outside.
Anneli – Senior Manager

Bushnell NatureView Binoculars

We all love the Bushnell NatureView Binoculars because they are bright, well balanced and really solid, without being heavy. They have a fantastic field of view for scanning the horizon and an excellent close focus distance so they are brilliant for insect work too. They are very well designed binoculars at a really affordable price.
Simone – Wildlife Equipment Specialist

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind

Sapiens is a very ambitious book, covering the entirety of human history while exploring what the future holds for our species. You will learn to admire, sympathise with and hate our species as Harari examines the key factors which lead to our success over other animals. Through Hariri’s use of creative metaphors, he successfully manages to answer some of the big questions which would otherwise be incomprehensible. I can’t wait to read his latest book Homo Deus, which further explores the future of our species; where we’re are headed and what challenges we will face.
Tim – Customer Services

Bushnell Trophy Cam Essential E2

Whilst carrying out research for my PhD studying chemical communication in the Eurasian beaver I recorded many hours of beaver responses to the scents of intruding neighbours using trail cameras. I also enjoyed taking them home to record animals in my garden and surrounding countryside. The Essential E2 is an affordable yet good quality trail camera that will give you an insight into the animals visiting your garden. It is surprising how many different animals and birds visit gardens without people knowing, although some leave a nice surprise of a dug-up lawn! A friend recently used a trail camera to investigate who was digging up their lawn – badgers looking for tasty leatherjackets!
Hannah – Wildlife Equipment Specialist

Solitary Beehive

Cavity nesting bees make up around 30% of the solitary bees in the UK. These non-aggressive insects require dry, hollow tubes to make their nests and use natural materials, rather than wax, to construct the cells in which the larvae grow.

I bought this small wooden solitary beehive for my garden in an attempt to provide nesting space for these vital pollinators. It has been a great addition to the garden and within a month of installing it, several of the holes had been packed with leaves. This was really exciting to see and suggests that it was being used by local leafcutter bees.

The box is well made and has withstood the local Dartmoor weather (i.e. windy and wet much of the time) really well. The wood has weathered attractively over the year and the box still feels robust and sound. As a fruit and vegetable grower it is great to know that we are attracting pollinators to the garden.
Luanne – Senior Wildlife Equipment Specialist

Heavy-duty Badger Gate

One of our latest developments is a redesign of an existing product sold by us. Our new heavy-duty badger gates are made on site, welded by our own fully qualified TIG welder, ensuring quality workmanship and a finish we hope the customer is amazed by.
Currently, our competitors only use galvanised mild steel. This results in a cumbersome, awkward to use product. Ours, however, is lightweight but still gives the same strength and reusability, making it far easier to transport to the required area and reduce the strain required to set up a gated badger enclosure. Competitively price, this item should fulfil all your requirements and more, a must have for anyone working towards badger conservation.
Thomas – Wildlife Equipment Engineer

Pond Net

Our new pond net frame has been designed and developed to make a more sustainably sourced, budget frame for everyone from young children up. Manufactured in house, it means that we are no longer reliant on external suppliers to fulfil orders, and therefore able to lower the cost to you, the customer. Also, not being shipped from the other side of the world makes it a greener, more sustainable product, reducing airmiles and making it more environmentally friendly. Lightweight, coming in at only 300g, it has two tactile foam handles, fitting very nicely into the hand.
Kynan – Fabricator

Arboreal: A Collection of New Woodland Writing

In memory of Oliver Rackham, Little Toller’s Arboreal sets out to curate a journey through the managed and wilder woods of Britain, with some very insightful companions. The book is a perfect blend of collected nostalgia, fancies, facts and little fictions that each in turn highlights something of the wild wood within us. Authors, journalists, artists, poets and woodland custodians impart wisdom, wonder and hope; and each leaves their own mark on the mind with their input. This book is an immersive, beautiful, lyrical and poignant treat, let it take you into the woods, or better still, take it with you and head for the trees!
Oli – Graphic Designer

Book Review – Seeds: Safeguarding Our Future

Seeds: Safeguarding Our FutureSeeds: Safeguarding Our Future

Written by Carolyn Fry

Published in hardback in April 2016 by Ivy Press

With a topic such as seeds and Ivy Press’s reputation for beautiful books you would be forgiven for thinking that this might be another coffee-table book in the same vein as the successful series of books published by Papadakis on seeds, pollen, and fruit. Although richly illustrated, Seeds: Safeguarding Our Future is very much a popular introduction to the biology of plants, focusing on seeds in particular, with pithy chapters covering evolution of plants, reproduction, seed dispersal, and germination. The subtitle gives away the angle this book takes though, with the first chapter on the importance of seeds to humanity, and the final chapter on how we might use seed biodiversity to ensure our own survival in the future. Though modern agriculture can feed many, its monoculture approach has also led to the loss of a large amount of genetic diversity. The dangers this could pose, especially with the impact of a changing climate, is a theme that runs throughout the book. Each chapter ends with a profile of a well-known plant and a profile of one of the many seed banks around the world that operate to conserve and catalogue the genetic diversity of plants.

Seeds internal image 1

Carolyn Fry is well-placed to write on this topic, having previously published books on Kew’s Millenium Seed Bank Project and on plant hunters. Furthermore, Kew Royal Botanic Gardens have endorsed the book and several of their experts have contributed expert advice. The book is a good primer on plant biology, and I noticed the short sections on, for example, reproduction were a great way to brush up on my slightly forgotten textbook knowledge. The seed bank profiles, pretty much one for each continent, are interesting little sections, highlighting the important work done here to safeguard against future threats to agricultural crops. Though shortly mentioned in the final chapter, I would have loved to have seen the futuristic Svalbard Global Seed Vault profiled in the same way. As a planetary back-up of agricultural seed collections around the world, this surely is one of the most impressive and intriguing seed banks.

Seeds internal image 2

All in all this is an excellent introduction to seed biology with a focus on conservation and agricultural importance, executed to Ivy Press’s typical high production standards.

Seeds: Safeguarding Our Future is available to order from NHBS.

Book Review – The Book of Frogs: A Lifesize Guide to Six Hundred Species from Around the World

The Book of FrogsThe Book of Frogs: A Lifesize Guide to Six Hundred Species from Around the World

Edited by Tim Halliday

Published in hardback in January 2016 by Ivy Press

Ivy Press brand themselves as makers of beautiful books and The Book of Frogs is a fine example of this. These pictorial books (which we have informally dubbed The Book of… Series) have so far covered fungi, eggs, beetles, leaves, and now frogs (note: if you live on the other side of the Atlantic pond you might have noticed that Chicago University Press has the rights for the US).

Like the other books, The Book of Frogs is a hefty tome, weighing in at 2.3 kg, and portrays 600 representative species from across the Anuran family tree. It includes common and endangered species, and even some which sadly have since gone extinct. A short, 30-page section introduces the reader to the basics of frog biology, including their life cycle, calls, population trends and threats, diseases, and taxonomy. The text is aimed at a broad audience with little or no prior knowledge. Terminology is explained, and a 4-page glossary is included in the back (although does anyone really need to have things like “armpit” and “groin” defined for them?). The text is free from footnotes, and is not referenced, although a very short section with recommended reading is included; and there was the occasional factoid that aroused my curiosity (e.g. the specific frequency range of frog’s hearing means females are effectively deaf to males of other species) and made me want to look at the underlying literature – but it’s no great loss.

Book of Frogs internal image 1
The meat of the book is the 600 brilliantly illustrated pages that follow, each profiling a species. The same layout is followed throughout the book with the top third displaying some technical data: species name; adult size range; a table with family, synonymy, distribution, adult and larval habitat, and conservation status; a world map illustrating distribution; and a line drawing. The bottom two-thirds of the page contains a caption and two paragraphs of text giving a morphological description, some particulars on behaviour, reproduction etc., and a description of similar species. The real highlight is of course the photo content. A huge number of individuals and organizations have been approached to source high-quality images, which have been painstakingly cut out of their background. Most photos are duplicated, one life-size, the other blown up or scaled down. They highlight the diverse and sometimes bizarre appearance of frogs. Look out for the large-mouthed Surinam Horned Frog, the spectacularly coloured poison frogs in the family Dendrobatidae, or the barely frog-like Purple Frog. The book is a delight to flip through.

Book of Frogs internal image 2
Obviously, this book is not intended as a field guide or identification guide. Neither is it in-depth enough to be considered a fauna or encyclopedia, nor an iconography such as coleopterists and conchologists understand this term, although it does remind one of this to some extent. Given its global coverage, you can of course only give a selective cross-section in 600 pages. But calling it a mere coffee table book would not do justice to the carefully curated text. To my mind this book is squarely aimed at the armchair naturalist and those who love beautiful books, as the books in this series are eminently collectible. They make perfect gifts too.

Ivy Press has hit on a very successful formula here and I’m curious to see what will be next (butterflies, feathers, shells?). There are plenty of other small and colourful things to be found in the natural world that could be pictured in this format.

The Book of Frogs is available to order from NHBS.

Staff Picks 2015

As usual at this time of year, we like to have a look back at what we’ve been enjoying over the last twelve months – see our selection of staff picks below. We wish all our customers a happy new year – and look forward to working with you again in 2016.

Haeckel's Embryos: Images, Evolution, and FraudHaeckel’s Embryos: Images, Evolution, and Fraud

Haeckel’s drawings of developing embryos are some of the most iconic images in biology, and surely everyone who has studied biology will recognize them. Most people will also know that these images are notorious, and that charges of fraud have been levelled at Haeckel. But are these charges justified? And how much was lost in translation as these images were reproduced and disseminated in the 19th century? This richly illustrated book is the definitive account of these images and their history, going all the way back to the source material in the Haeckel archives in Germany, and hopefully will put the speculation and controversy surrounding these images to rest. A must-read for those interested in the history of science.
Leon – Catalogue Editor

The Vital Question: Why is Life the Way it is?The Vital Question: Why is Life the Way it is?

This book stood out for me this year, as it ticks all the boxes: Lane is right at the cutting edge of science, he provides plausible and well-reasoned solutions to a whole host of fascinating questions. The Vital Question is very well written and I might even read it again!
Anneli – Senior Manager

 

African Wild Dogs: On the Front LineAfrican Wild Dogs: On the Front Line

Having spent most of my life obsessed with African wild dogs and having focused the majority of my degree studies on them, I jump at the chance to read any new book about these amazing creatures. This book* does not disappoint; it is part witty memoir, part serious exploration of African wild dog conservation practise. I promise you won’t be able to put it down.
Natt – Customer Service Supervisor

*Please note, African Wild Dogs is temporarily out of stock and is supplied from South Africa. We expect more stock in Spring 2016.

The Antelope of AfricaThe Antelope of Africa

The Antelope of Africa is a fantastic new field guide, and perfect for the armchair wildlife traveller. Not having visited the continent, Africa’s diverse landscapes and nature retain their mystery, and this appealing full-colour photographic guide evokes the desire to roam the grassy plains in the company of hirola, gazelle, and topi. However, I’m probably not the target audience for this book! It contains a substantial amount of scientific information and will be an essential tool for conservationists and policy makers striving to solve the challenges facing antelope populations in Africa’s stressed ecosystems.
Katherine – Marketing

Few and Far Between: On the Trail of Britain's Rarest AnimalsFew and Far Between: On the Trail of Britain’s Rarest Animals

Charlie Elder makes a memorable quest to the front line of British conservation in his search for some of our most iconic endangered species, and some of our more understated gems. He handles the potentially sombre topic of scarcity with true passion and optimism and writes with equal bounces of humour and thumps of heart. Few and Far Between celebrates the rich diversity of wildlife sharing our home, and is enlightening in how we can help to secure its place in the future.
Oli – Customer Service

 

SteriPEN Aqua Water PurifierSteriPEN Aqua Water Purifier

If you love camping, travelling and generally stomping around outdoors then the SteriPen Aqua is a great bit of kit. It uses UV light to sterilise water in less than a minute and doesn’t leave the nasty taste that you can get with iodine tablets (and it’s much quicker!). The SteriPen is small enough to fit into my rucksack and is always a reassuring component of my outdoor gear. I’m looking forward to taking it on lots more adventures in 2016.
Luanne – Equipment Specialist

 

The HuntThe Hunt

I watched the entire series of The Hunt, brought to us from the BBC’s highly acclaimed Natural History Unit in Bristol. With every new major production they release, the standard in wildlife film-making is raised yet again. The style of filming is consistently innovative and unique in places, such as attaching a camera onto the side of an elephant to get close up shots of hunting tigers. I guarantee you’ll be amazed. Here is the accompanying book, full of stunning photography and insightful text.
James – Equipment Specialist

 

Wild Flowers of Eastern Andalucia reviewed by Plant Talk

Wild Flowers of Eastern Andalucía jacket imageThis excellent field guide to the flowering plants of Almeria and the Sierra de los Filabres region covers an area of southern Spain with a particularly rich and varied flora. The book is beautifully illustrated with stunning colour photographs, and botanist Sarah Ball describes a good representative selection of the most frequent and characteristic flowering plants to be found, from the Sunshine Coast to the beautiful mountainous area inland, spanning 2000m in altitude. Aromatic thymes and colourful brooms dominate, along with other Mediterranean vegetation types, and Sarah has used the botanical collections of the University of Reading extensively to check her plant identifications and to further discover the distribution and variation of the species she describes.

Wild Flowers of Eastern Andalucía contains background information on geology, habitats, vegetation types and classification, and descriptions of 625 plant species, with 575 illustrated by colour photographs. A comprehensive glossary will help novice users to understand the necessary botanical terms, and the text is also supplemented by information on traditional plant uses that bring the descriptions to life. There is an introductory account for each plant family and each species account includes the English and local Spanish names where known.

I think this book will appeal to local residents and holidaymakers, visiting botanists and students, and anyone with an interest in wild flowers, planning to visit the area. I travelled to this region of Spain in 2004 with groups from the Eden Project and the University of Reading, to study both wild and cultivated plants, and this book would have been invaluable… and small enough to carry easily in a rucksack!

Review by Shirley Walker at Plant Talk

Wild Flowers of Eastern Andalucía is distributed by NHBS

Wild Flowers of Eastern Andalucía jacket image

Stewart McPherson’s Sarraceniaceae volumes reviewed in the Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society

Stewart McPherson is the owner and manager of Redfern Natural History Publications and author of many of its books. His global explorations have afforded him a place of significance in the botanical world, and many of his worldwide field trips have resulted in the classification of new plant species, with a particular emphasis on carnivorous plants such as the Sarraceniaceae.

This review is taken from the Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society, Volume 170 – September 2012

Sarraceniaceae of South America by Stewart McPherson, Andreas Wistuba, Andreas Fleischmann and
Joachim Nerz. Poole: Redfern Natural History Productions, 2011. 562 pp., 488 images. Hardback. ISBN
978-0-9558918-7-8. £34.99.

Sarraceniaceae of North America by Stewart McPherson and Donald Schnell. Poole: Redfern Natural
History Productions, 2011. 808 pp., 571 images. Hardback. ISBN 978-0-9558918-6-1. £34.99.

Sarraceniaceae of South America jacket imageThese volumes together constitute a monograph of the New World pitcher plant family, Sarraceniaceae, and it has to be said straight away that McPherson and colleagues have produced another two beautifully illustrated books to add to their previous works! [See previous reviews to access information on the earlier works (Fay, 2009, 2011)]. These new books will feed the appetite of those who are fascinated by carnivorous plants (see Chase et al., 2010, for a description of the craze for carnivorous plants since the 19th century).

The South American volume provides the first complete study of Heliamphora (now 23 named species and some undescribed taxa) from the Guiana Highlands of Venezuela, Brazil and Guyana. The authors describe five new Heliamphora spp. and document three incompletely diagnosed Heliamphora taxa for the first time. The North American volume is a study of all species of pitcher plants (eight Sarracenia spp. and Darlingtonia californica) from the USA and Canada, and the authors describe 18 new varieties and forms of Sarracenia and one new form of Darlingtonia and document an incompletely diagnosed Sarracenia taxon.

Sarraceniaceae of North America jacket imageThe number of new names presented in these two volumes (new species in one, new infraspecific taxa in the other) reflects the belief of the authors that taxonomic ranks have historically been applied differently in these three genera (notably in North America), and they argue a clear and strong case for making the ranks more even across the family. In the North American genera, varieties and forms have long been used in some species, whereas for other less well studied species, similar morphological variants have only been known by informal names. In this monograph, McPherson et al. attempt to remedy this situation by applying equal taxonomic logic:

‘the subspecific rank is used to distinguish morphologically discrete variants of a species that have a distinctive, and often disjunct geographic range. Varietal rank is used for elements within a population of a species that are morphologically discrete or exhibit a distinctive, consistent and inherited colouration type, and the forma rank distinguishes “deviants” within a population, for example variants that arise through gene mutation, but are stable and inherited.’

Based on extensive field work (Schnell, the co-author of the North American volume, has been observing
pitcher plants for five decades, for example), these authoritative volumes will be important books for all
who wish to study New World pitcher plants. The South American volume includes an introduction to
the family, the taxonomic treatment of Heliamphora and an appendix including the descriptions of the new species, accompanied by black and white drawings. The North American volume includes an introduction, taxonomic treatments of Darlingtonia and Sarracenia and an appendix including the descriptions of the new taxa, accompanied by coloured drawings. Both volumes also contain a list of societies and suppliers, a glossary, a bibliography and an index. No library of books on carnivorous plants will be complete without these reasonably priced and lavishly illustrated volumes. Buy them now if you haven’t already!

MICHAEL F. FAY

REFERENCES

Chase MW, Christenhusz MJM, Sanders D, Fay MF. 2010. Murderous plants: Victorian Gothic, Darwin and modern insights into vegetable carnivory. Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society 162: S47–S74.

Fay MF. 2009. Pitcher plants of the Old World. Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society 161: 449–450.

Fay MF. 2011. Carnivorous plants and their habitats. Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society 165: 439–440.

New from Redfern Natural History Productions:

Aldrovanda: The Waterwheel Plant jacket image

Aldrovanda: The Waterwheel Plant by Adam Cross

Aldrovanda: The Waterwheel Plant available now

“A major contribution to biodiversity conservation in a crucial region…”: IBAs Americas reviewed in IBIS, July 2011

Important Bird Areas: Americas

 

Important Bird Areas: Americas jacket image“One of BirdLife International’s core research activities over recent years has centred on developing an Important Bird Area (IBA) network worldwide. The publication of ‘IBAs Americas’ represents a major milestone in this project. It is the culmination of 15 years of work by 72 partner organizations and over 3000 people to identify and document the most important sites for birds and biodiversity conservation in a region covering all of North America, Central America and, most ambitiously, South America – the ‘bird continent’, where one-third of the Earth’s avian species occur.

It takes the form of a comprehensive directory of 2345 sites identified in all 57 countries and territories, covering more than 3.25 million km2. The aim of the book is to provide a concise summary of these sites, and an overview of the opportunities they provide for biodiversity conservation. In general, this is achieved very well, and very attractively, as the final product is beautifully organized and liberally illustrated with detailed maps and stunning colour photographs.

If I had to put my finger on my only misgivings about the project, I would point to the practical obstacles of applying a site-based method to complex ecosystems such as Neotropical rainforests. The IBA approach seems tailor-made for developed nations, where biodiversity is largely restricted to patches of natural habitat embedded in human-modified landscapes, and where we often know fairly well what each patch contains in terms of species and populations. In contrast, the IBA maps of poorly developed regions seem to align, not with the distribution of biodiversity per se, but the happenstance of data availability. In Amazonia or the Andes, for example, IBAs tend to align closely with sites targeted by existing conservation actions, or else visited by expeditions or birdwatchers, whereas many remote regions are missing even though they appear to offer better habitat and better prospects for long-term conservation. The result is that the IBA map in such regions is often a better guide to accessibility than to importance for birds.There is a need to acknowledge that temperate-zone strategies may not work so well in such cases, and that the IBA approach may be less effective than regional conservation strategies based on habitat classifications and remote sensing data.

A similar argument applies to the quality of status or population data, which again is often poor in tropical ecosystems. As such, it is generally difficult to know whether a species listed for a particular tropical IBA occurs locally in numbers sufficient for long-term conservation. These caveats aside, ‘IBAs Americas’ is an impressive reference work embodying a huge amount of effort, and a major contribution to biodiversity conservation in a crucial region. It provides an excellent summary of current knowledge regarding many sites destined to play a key role in the fight to preserve rare species from extinction, deserves widespread acclaim and a space on the bookshelf of anyone interested in New World birds and their conservation.”

Joseph M. Tobias,

IBIS The International Journal of Avian Science

Available now from NHBS


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!)”

“Best, most user-friendly moth ID guide on the market”

Doug Mackenzie Dodds, from the UK, reviews the Concise Guide to the Moths of Great Britain and Ireland by Martin Townsend and Paul Waring, illustrated by Richard Lewington

Concise Guide to the Moths of Great Britain and Ireland jacket image

“Best, most user-friendly moth ID guide on the market:

This book might not catch your eye on the shelf – small, paperback and easily hidden between larger, more attractively-designed moth ID books, but if you are into your moths, I’d thoroughly recommend it.

It’s perfect for the bookshelf but comes into its own in the field. It’s small, light, covered in a waterproof layer, the moths are well-ordered in the book, lifesize and in the two years I’ve owned it it’s not let me down once.

Its very comprehensive – ie. if you trap a moth (or find one!) – you will find it in this book – and so much easier than other, larger, showier, less waterproof, less well-ordered books.

I thoroughly recommend this book if you own a moth trap or even if you don’t.”

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