Our time at Wembury BioBlitz 2019

A local primary school braves the wind on Wembury beach!

As I walked across the Wembury beach car park something caught my eye, a small brown leaf blustered and bumped across the tarmac, battered by the fierce wind. As I focused, I realised it wasn’t a leaf, it was a butterfly! I caught up with the little insect that had temporarily come to halt, and I saw that it was a somewhat ragged looking small copper. Soon it was caught by the wind again and somersaulted unceremoniously onward across the car park.

Minutes later I found myself at the data collection point at Wembury Marine Centre.
“Have you got small copper butterfly yet?”, I asked.
“Not yet”, came the reply “Not many butterflies have been found in this weather!”
The butterfly was faithfully noted down, just like all species would be over the next 48hrs. For this was Wembury BioBlitz 2019.

You may recall that a BioBlitz is a coming together of professionals and a whole host of other interested parties, from school groups to amateur naturalists. The goal is to engage in a period of intense biological survey in order to record as many species that exist within a particular location as possible. As advertised by Emily Price and her interview with Nicholas Helm in a recent NHBS blog, the Wembury Bioblitz 2019 took place on September 27th and 28th and NHBS had been invited to attend.

This was the 10th Anniversary of the first Wembury BioBlitz and also the 25th Anniversary of the Wembury Marine Centre. An extra special occasion for the partnership of organisations that came together to organise the event especially the Devon Wildlife Trust, Marine Biological Association and the National Trust.

Wembury boasts a spectacular stretch of South Devon coastline which is renowned for supporting a rich diversity of wildlife and as such is designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and a Voluntary Marine Conservation Area, so it is an great place for a Bioblitz!

On the morning of Friday 27th September the BioBlitz began and a host of organisers, volunteers and stall holders gathered to start the day’s proceedings, the BBC were there too, filming for Countryfile (the story goes out on October 13th). The weather did not look promising with driving rain and an unrepentant wind threatening to lower everyone’s spirits. However,  everyone pressed on unperturbed with great enthusiasm and as the first eager local primary school groups arrived the day was up and running!

Our beautiful stall

NHBS was there to set up a stall of useful equipment and books such as invaluable field and FSC guides which, like the other stalls, was soon inundated with excited school children. They were particularly impressed with our loan out of hand lenses which were immediately to put to good use! Others gathered around tables that gave the opportunity to peer down microscopes at a range of marine organisms or handle a whale’s rib or a dolphin’s skull!

The BioBlitz included a series of surveys across the key habitats that the Wembury locale offers including, of course; the rocky and sandy parts of the shore, but also ancient woodland, a stream, meadow, the coastal path and cliffs and parkland. Experts led parties out into the blustery conditions to scrutinise these zones and gather as much data as they could.

Hattie using a Video Endoscope to explore a rockpool

Down on the beach, my colleague Hattie had fun with a nice little gadget called a Video Endoscope to take pictures of rock pool life.

Back in the base camp Marquee, we soon discovered that we could contribute to the data collection ourselves as a host of crane flies, rove beetles, pill lice, spiders and earwigs began to explore the stall! News of rock pool discoveries reached us too, including brittle and cushion stars, snake locks anemones, gobies and five bearded rocklings!

By mid-afternoon the school groups had departed and it was time to pack up for the day, although for some there were many more hours of computer data entry and even nocturnal surveys ahead.

A snakelocks anemone and coraline algae found in a rockpool (image taken with Video Endoscope).

The following day the weather conditions initially seemed to have calmed and even the sun made an appearance! We were ready for Day 2. During the night, moth and bat surveys had taken place to boost the figures, but word came through that the overnight species count was a somewhat lowly 120 and a big push was needed if the target of 1000 species was to be achieved. With no school parties around to help this time, this was a day for families to get involved and once again the surveys commenced.
By 3.30 that afternoon, just as the weather vehemently turned for the worse again, it was time to call a halt to the BioBlitz and everyone began to gather for prize giving, species total announcements and chocolate cake in the shelter of the Marine Centre.
At the time of writing this blog, 840 species made the list for the 10th Anniversary BioBlitz a figure which is comparable to the number of species found in 2009.

Taking part in a BioBlitz is a fantastic way to engage in citizen science. They are great fun but are also a brilliant way to collect important data that can be used to gauge how our local biodiversity is coping with all kinds of environmental pressure including climate change and habitat loss. If you get the chance to get involved in one, I urge that you do so ……. and just ignore the weather!

Edit: We’ve received some highlight findings from the events organisers:

  • 2x Giant Gobies were found during the night time rockpool safari
  • Many sightings of a bird called the Cirl Bunting, a once rare species that is now on the up near Wembury!
  • Gannets were seen diving off the Mewstone.
  • The St. Pirrans Crab was found; Wembury is the only UK location outside of Cornwall where they’ve been found!
  • Conger Eel were found during the diving surveys

The NHBS Harp Trap

The NHBS Harp Trap 

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 4mand 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. 

Dimensions:

Catch area: 4m2 approximately
Catch area L x W: 180 x 225cm
Length: 180cm
Catch bag depth: 60cm
Catch bag width: 44cm
Weight: 15kg

Folded dimensions (in carry bag)
Height: 46cm
Length: 200cm
Width: 22cm

Operational dimensions
With legs fully retracted:
Height 314cm
Width (at base): 62cm
Length (at base): 230cm

With legs fully extended:
Height: 372cm
Width (at base): 100cm
Length (at base): 252cm

Testing 

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

The Law 

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 Manufacturing

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.

Find out more about our manufacturing.

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.

Price: £28.99 £32.00

 

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. 

Price: £41.99 

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. 

Price: £22.99

Books 

The Bats of Britain and Europe 

Paperback | Sept 2018 

Price: £23.99 £29.99

The Bat Workers’ Manual 

Paperback | July 2012 

Price: £29.99 

 

Field Guide to Bats of the Amazon 

Paperback |Feb 2018 

Price: £24.99 £29.99

 

Please note that prices are correct at the time of publishing and are subject to change at any time. 

Pelagic: Publisher of the Month for May

Pelagic was founded in 2010 to fill the publishing gap in practical books available on ecology and conservation. They publish books for scientists, conservationists, ecologists, wildlife enthusiasts – anyone with a passion for understanding and exploring the natural world. Their books cover ecological survey and evolutionary biology to natural history dictionaries and environmental statistics. With a prodigious amount of recent publishing, it is our great pleasure to announce Pelagic as our Publisher of the Month for May 2019.

New books for 2019

 

 

 

 

Pelagic have already published a plethora of great titles for 2019, from a call to action to halt biodiversity with Rebirding: Rewilding Britain and its Birds to recording the wildlife in woods with the Woodland Survey Handbook. This follows on from very strong publishing in 2018 with Bat Roosts in Trees continuing to be one of our bestsellers since it’s publication last October.

Pelagic and bat books

 

 

 

 

With two eagerly awaited bat titles:  Is That a Bat? and The Barbastelle Bat Conservation Handbook in preparation and a wealth of bat survey and monitoring books already published, Pelagic are the go-to publisher for Chiroptera.

Other Pelagic books

Pelagic have – in a very short space of time – carved out a niche for themselves in wildlife publishing.  A selection of their publishing is divided into series which are continually added to – these include:

Conservation Handbooks: bridging the gap between scientific theory and practical conservation implementation.

 

Naturalists’ Handbooks: information, covering biology, practical notes on identifying, in the field or in the laboratory, with plates of individual species and line drawings of many of the key identification characteristics.

Data in the Wild: data collection and analysis for for ecologists, includes books on camera trapping, CCTV and remote sensing.

 

Synopses of Conservation Evidence: The aim of the project is to make scientific evidence more accessible, in turn making practical wildlife and environmental conservation more evidence-based. 

In addition to series collections, Pelagic publish many stand-alone books for practical ecologists, such as Habitat Management for Invertebrates and for travelling ornithologists, there’s the recent Where to Watch Guides ensuring you get the most from your wildlife travels.

You can browse all Pelagic publications here.

 

NHBS Guide to Dormouse Survey Equipment

Dormice are a distinctive family of rodents, found widely across Eurasia and Africa. The Hazel Dormouse (Muscardinus avellanarius) is a native British species which resides primarily in deciduous woodland. They are protected by EU law because of their rapidly declining numbers – studies suggest they have suffered a 72% population reduction in the last 22 years. Dormice are an important bioindicator as they are particularly sensitive to habitat and population fragmentation, so their presence is an indication of habitat integrity.

To enforce legal protection and ensure the success of conservation projects, current data about the distribution of Hazel Dormice is very important. A variety of survey equipment and methods can be used by licenced dormouse handlers and wildlife enthusiasts.

Nest Boxes

Perhaps the simplest survey technique to determine dormouse presence is searching for the nest box residents. Dormouse nest boxes are largely similar to standard bird boxes, but with the entrance hole facing the tree. Nest boxes can be important conservation tools as they can boost the local dormouse population density and aid re-introduction schemes.

The Standard Dormouse Nest Box is built from FSC softwood and has a removable lid with a wire closure for monitoring. This box can also come with a perspex inner screen allowing  surveyors to check the boxes inhabitants, without the risk of escape or  injury.

The more resilient Heavy Duty Dormouse Box is made from thicker  ¾” FSC marine plywood and is ideal for long-term monitoring projects. 

Dormouse Tubes

Dormouse nest tubes are a cheap, easy and popular method of determining the presence of dormice within a habitat. They can be an effective alternative to using wooden nest boxes.

The tubes consist of a wooden tray and a nesting tube. Dormice make their nests in the tubes and it is these that are used as indicators of their presence in the habitat. 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. For attaching to a tree, Hook and Loop Strapping is a more environmentally friendly alternative to plastic cable ties, as they are reusable, reducing plastic waste.

Dormouse Footprint Tunnels

The latest dormouse surveying technique uses footprint tunnels. This technique was created by Suffolk Wildlife Trust with PTES funding and has since been recommended in the CIEEM magazine In Practice in September 2018.

It is a non-invasive survey technique, which does not require a licence as the chance of disturbing dormice is very low. The 40cm tube, houses a wooden platform which contains the charcoal ink and paper on which footprints are left. Compared with nest tube surveys, footprint tunnels can reduce the survey period required and provide an indication of the presence or likely absence of dormice at a site.

Dormouse Nut Hunting

Dormice leave very characteristic marks when they eat Hazel nuts. They gnaw a round hole in the shell leaving a smooth edge with very few teeth marks, unlike mice or voles. Systematic nut searches under Hazel trees are still regarded as one of the best survey techniques, only hand lenses and a keen eye are required.

Accessories and books

Below are some accessories and books that are commonly used for dormouse surveys and monitoring:

Small Mammal Holding Bag
£3.60
Pesola Light-Line Spring Scales
From £35.00

Pesola PTS3000 Electronic Scale

£126

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

Animal Handling Gloves
£5.69 5.99

LED Telescopic Inspection Mirror
£11.99 

How to Find and Identify Mammals
£11.99

Britain’s Mammals: A field guide to the mammals of Britain and Ireland
£12.99

Continue reading “NHBS Guide to Dormouse Survey Equipment”

Choosing a GPS – A Quick Guide from NHBS

GPS handsets have become standard field items for much routine survey work. It is quick and easy to record sighting locations and download the information when back from the field for sample identification or analysis with GIS software. Geotagging (adding location metadata to a file or item) has also become increasingly common for digital photographs and video clips – these data can then be overlaid on geographical web services such as Google Earth.

Choosing a GPS can be bewildering due to the range of models and features on offer. This handy NHBS Quick Guide highlights the key features of the GPS models we stock.  Please feel free to contact us by email or phone if you would like further assistance in choosing the right GPS for your needs.

Garmin eTrex Venture HC

Garmin eTrex Venture HC
Affordable mapping GPS with built in memory, 500 waypoints and 14 hour battery life.

Garmin eTrex Summit HC

Garmin eTrex Summit HC
Mapping GPS with built in memory, compass, barometric altimeter, 500 waypoints and 14 hour battery life.

Garmin eTrex Vista HCx

Garmin eTrex Vista HCx
Mapping GPS with expandable SD card memory (not included – you will need to buy a separate SD memory card for this device), compass, barometric altimeter, 1000 waypoints and 25 hour battery life.

Garmin Map60Cx

Garmin Map60Cx
Larger screen mapping GPS with expandable SD card memory (included), 1000 waypoints and 18 hour battery life.

Garmin Map60CSx

Garmin Map60CSx
Larger screen mapping GPS with expandable SD card memory (included), compass, barometric altimeter, 1000 waypoints and 18 hour battery life.

Garmin Colorado 300

Garmin Colorado 300
Large high resolution mapping GPS with built in memory and expandable SD card memory (not included), compass, barometric altimeter, 1000 waypoints and 15 hours battery life.

Frequently Asked Questions about GPS

These are all mapping GPS – what does that mean?

All mapping GPS models come with the Atlantic Highway basemap. This includes Europe, extreme western Russia, Africa, and the Middle East, and covers an area from N75 to S60 Latitude, W30 to E60 Longitude. Also included is a high-level worldwide map with political boundaries and major cities.

The standard global map coverage is:

  • Oceans, rivers and lakes (greater than 30 square miles)
  • Principal cities and a small amount of smaller cities and towns
  • Major motorways and/or interstates and principal highways
  • Political boundaries (state and international borders)
  • Large and medium airports
  • Urban areas greater than 200K

In Iceland, Great Britain, Baltic States, Denmark, Germany, Benelux, France, Spain, Portugal, Switzerland, Austria, Italy and Southern Africa (up to S20 Latitude) the basemap also includes:

  • Small lakes, major streams and rivers
  • Urban areas
  • Railroads
  • Regional arterial roadways
  • Exits for major motorways and/or interstates (Europe Only)
  • Small cities and towns

Many users purchase additional mapping software to download onto their GPS handset. In the UK the Topo Map of Great Britain extends the basic base map on your GPS handset with topographical data from Ordnance Survey.

What accessories should I get?

Our most popular accessories are carry cases to protect your GPS from the elements e.g. the eTrex Carry case & Map60 Carry Case. You may also find a neck strap useful to stop your GPS wandering off.

Waypoints – what should I consider when choosing a GPS model?

If you are using your GPS for survey data then you need to make sure that you have enough waypoints to suit your project. For example, the eTrex Venture HC has 500 waypoints, whereas the Map60Cx has 1,000.

What books can help me get the best out of GPS?

The best guides for beginners are:
Getting Started with your GPS
Using Digital Maps and GPS in Fieldwork
Navigating with GPS
For more advanced users:
GPS for Land Surveyors
Fundamentals of Geographic Information Systems

What’s WAAS and how does it differ from older GPS accuracy?

All the new Garmin models are WAAS enabled. WAAS stands for Wide Area Augmentation System – it’s a US system of satellites and ground stations that provide GPS signal corrections, giving you even better position accuracy. How much better? A WAAS-capable receiver can give you a position accuracy of better than three meters 95 percent of the time.

The WAAS system is for North America, in Europe the recently launched Euro Geostationary Navigation Overlay Service (EGNOS) does the same job and your WAAS enabled GPS handset is fully compatible with EGNOS meaning you will get accuracy of <3m in Europe.

In parts of the world without an enhanced GPS service resolution is typically 5-15m.

Do I need a cable to connect one of these GPS to my computer?

No – all of these models include a USB cable to connect your GPS to you computer.

I have an older model without a cable – what do I need to connect to my PC?

If you have an older GPS handset without a USB cable then you will need two additional cables to connect to USB: first the Garmin eTrex PC Interface Cable to connect to a 9-pin serial port. If you have a newer PC without the 9-pin serial port then you will also need a Garmin eTrex Serial to USB converter cable. Given that the cost of these cables is quite high most customers end up replacing their GPS handset.

Browse our full range of GPS handsets
Browse our full range of wildlife equipment