Author interview: Benedict Macdonald

Did you know that 94% of Britain isn’t built upon, that Snowdonia is larger and emptier than the Maasai Mara National Reserve, or that Scotland’s deer estates alone cover an area twice the size of Yellowstone National Park?  Britain has all the empty space it needs for an epic wildlife recovery.  So what’s stopping it from happening in our country – and how can we turn things around? 

Rebirding: Rewilding Britain and its Birds is a bold roadmap to reverse the decline of bird populations in Britain, suggesting we need to restore ecosystems, rather than modify farmland.

Author, Benedict Macdonald offered his valuable time to answer our questions about his important new contribution to the discussion of rewilding.

Rebirding Author: Benedict McDonald

What inspired you to become so passionate about restoring natural ecosystems?

In 2014, I began writing Rebirding in the certain knowledge that conservation in this country is failing, the birdsong around us is dying out every year, yet we have all the resources, skill and wildlife lobby to turn things around. I hope that in its small way, Rebirding will do for the UK what Sir David Attenborough’s Our Planet is beginning to do for worldwide conservation – to make people realise that nature is essential, profitable and saveable, even now – and that we have all the resources and skill to do so.

Tell us a little about your background and how you became interested in the natural world?

I never remember the moment of first being fascinated by nature, but I do remember that by the time I was five, I would make weekend visits to Berkeley Castle Butterfly Farm and was entranced by watching the butterflies drinking salts from my fingertips, and I began a collection of ones passed to me by the lady running it – after they had died.  Then early trips to the Welsh coast, and Norfolk, transformed that interest into a lifelong love of birds as well.  From there, their plight has drawn me into understanding and studying ecosystems and a far wider understanding of protecting nature.  Since then, my love of the natural world, both as a naturalist and a TV director, has now taken me to over forty countries.

At 14, I first remember telling someone at a dinner party that I wanted to work in wildlife television. Since graduating from university, I’ve been lucky to work on a range of programmes such as Springwatch, The One Show and The Hunt for the BBC.  Last week, aged 31, I attended the premiere of Sir David Attenborough’s Our Planet for Netflix, launching in the Natural History Museum in London. This is the largest conservation series ever made. I work as the researcher and a field director for the Jungles and Grasslands episodes, directing a number of sequences including desert-nesting Socotra cormorants, the secret life of the Alcon Blue butterfly, and the remarkable lives of the world’s only tool-using Orangutans.

In your opinion, what is the most detrimental practice to the wildlife of Britain?

We are often sold the untruth that what happens to British land is necessary for food production. This is almost entirely untrue.  Only the profitable arable farms of the south, and east of our island, provide a bounty of food for our children.  Dairy lawns and sheep farms in fact create tiny volumes of our daily diet relative to the land area they use. For example, 88% of Wales grows lamb, an optional food resource. 

Of the epic wastage, however, the grouse moor is the ultimate. Eight percent of Britain’s land is burned for the creation of 0.0008% of its jobs and a contribution of just 0.005% to our GDP.  For hundreds of years, thousands of beautiful wild animals have been removed, just so that Red Grouse can be turned into living clay pigeons and killed in their thousands once a year.  Even hunters from other countries find this wasteful and disgusting.  This area covers an area twice the size of Yellowstone National Park – blocking jobs and wildlife alike on an epic scale. Hunting estates in Finland or Sweden, by contrast, juggle the ambition of hunters to shoot a few animals with ecosystems of immense beauty and variety.

Wildlife and commerce are often presented as being in conflict, do you think this is a fair assessment, or can land stewardship that favours biodiversity over profit be of economic benefit?

This is surely the greatest imaginary conflict of our time, successful insinuated, perhaps, by the damaging economies that prevent nature from reaching its full economic potential in our country.  In truth, wildlife IS commerce.  Nature IS money. 

Every year, even without a single charismatic megafauna such as Bison, Elk or Lynx running wild in our country, without a ‘Yellowstone’ or ‘Maasai Mara’, the English adult population make just over 3 billion visits to the natural environment each year, spending £21 billion as they do so. In Scotland, nature-based tourism is estimated to produce £1.4 billion per year, along with 39,000 FTE jobs. 

In contrast, the current models of upland farming demand money from us to survive, but they do not reciprocate jobs, income or natural capital – this is life on benefits and there is no future for young people in it.  In contrast, wherever nature is allowed to flourish, it’s capital potential is wondrous.  In 2009, the RSPB’s lovely but very small reserves brought £66 million to local economies, and created 1,872 FTE jobs. This is more than all of England’s grouse moors, but in just a fraction of their land area.

Right now, however, we are just seeing snapshots of how nature can power and rekindle communities. In Rebirding we often look to other countries to see how true ecosystems could transform economies on a far greater scale.   The final myth that we kick into touch is that Britain is short of space, 94% of our country is not built upon. Most of this area does not create essential food supplies – and is jobs-poor.

Is there one single practise or cultural shift that would be of most benefit to restoring natural ecosystems?

The Forestry Commission is the largest single land manager in Britain.  It now needs to split its forests in two – rewilding key estates like the New Forest and the Forest of Dean: cutting down the spruce and replanting with native trees, then, crucially, leaving large native animals such as Beavers, Elk, cattle and horses to become the foresters.  Economies in these forests would be driven through ecotourism revenues and perhaps some hunting.  Elsewhere, timber forests would remain.  It is hard to think of one single decision that could effect a greater transformation on British land than a decision to return Britain’s once world-class oak-lands to our nation.  Another, however, would be if Scotland’s deer estates, which again cover an area twice the size of Yellowstone, could be incentivised to rewild and regrow their trees.  Hunting could remain – but in this regrowing wilderness would be the potential for Elk, Lynx, Wildcats and a huge expansion in woodland species like Capercaillie. 

Are you optimistic for the future of Britain’s wildlife?

Yes – but only if our conservationists act with the same pragmatism and determination as those who have prevented land reform for decades.  In my closing chapter, I’ve argued that whilst farming unions behave with absolute conviction and coherence, our nature charities often simply say that a few more Skylarks would be nice.  Only if we can unlock the economic arguments of nature, and harness the millions of voices effectively, will we see large areas rewilded in our country.  It is the social and economic transformation that nature provides that needs to be realised – but for that, you need space, and power over land.  At that moment, things will change. In my lifetime, I genuinely believe that after many fierce battles, we will see Dalmatian Pelicans flying over Somerset, and huge areas of Scotland, Wales and upland England slowly returned to a wilder state.  But without absolute conviction this is possible, it will never come to pass.

Benedict Macdonald’s book is out now as part of our Spring Promotion

To discover further reading on the past, present and future of the British countryside, browse our collection.

Supporting Conservation: National Museum of Brazil

On 2nd September last year, a terrible fire destroyed the National Museum of Brazil in Rio de Janeiro. Alongside the vast collection of irreplaceable natural history specimens, the fire also destroyed books and equipment used by the Museum’s researchers for ecological research and wildlife conservation.

Thankfully as museum curator, Débora Pires, wrote shortly after the incident: “The brains did not burn; we are working with a positive agenda!”

A selection of books kindly donated

NHBS were approached by our former director Alan Martin, who provided a list of products which the malacology, arachnology, entomology and lepidoptera departments needed to get back on their feet. Alan, now secretary of the Brazilian Atlantic Rainforest Trust (BART) has close links with many researchers at the museum.

Following this, we decided to coordinate an effort to provide the items that are most critical to their research. We contacted suppliers asking them to contribute and we agreed to supply our own manufactured products, and cover shipping costs of all donated items.

The response from suppliers was fantastic, as the majority were happy to donate all, or most of the items requested. We would like to give huge thanks those who have donated so far: Elsevier, BIOTOPE Parthenope, Brunel Microscopes Ltd, BugDorm, CABI Publishing, Harvard University Press, the Royal Museum for Central Africa, Watkins & Doncaster and finally EntoSphinx. So far, we have received just over £2,000 worth of items, with more to follow.

A selection of items that are being sent in the first shipment.

“I’m really sorry to hear such devastating news. This is truly awful and it’s good to see you are providing such great support to them. We would be happy to send out the [requested] book gratis.” – Linda Jackson, Elsevier

Are you a supplier, publisher or manufacturer and would like to donate books or equipment to this worthy cause? Please contact ruddin@nhbs.com

Visit our Supporting Conservation page for more ways NHBS help wildlife, ecology and conservation across the world.

Watching Wildlife – Part 2 – Nest Box Cameras

This is part two of a two-part series that will look into different ways of watching wildlife in your back garden. Part 1 looked at trail cameras. In this second part, Antonia Peacock will take a look at nest box cameras and advise you on what to look out for when buying one.

There is a whole world of wildlife in our back gardens, but often these creatures can be elusive or hidden away.  Our range of wildlife equipment can offer you an amazing insight into their world from the comfort of your house, without the risk of disturbing your wildlife.

Come early spring, our garden birds will begin their breeding season. Placing a nest box in your garden will not only give breeding pairs a helping-hand in finding somewhere safe to have their young. But it also provides an opportunity for you to get up close and personal with the goings-on inside with the use of a nest box camera. There are several options and kits out there and a few things to think about when it comes to picking a nest box camera. Here, I will offer some advice and options to ensure you can find the kit that is right for you.

nest box camera
A glimpse into the nest box by Simon Redwood via Flickr (CC BY 2.0).

Wired, Wireless or WiFi?
The difference in nest box cameras come mainly in the way that you receive images from the camera itself. These are either wired, wireless or WiFi. Wired kits can provide better, higher quality, more reliable images, but are sometimes not as convenient as Wireless or WiFi kits. Note that even in wireless or WiFi kits, the camera itself still requires power from a nearby mains source (extension leads are available to buy separately.  Alternatively, wireless or WiFi cameras can be powered by an external rechargeable battery that can last up to 36 hours on one charge.

Kit Contents
If you are completely new to nest boxes and nest box cameras, complete kits are available with a nest camera already mounted inside a nest box. Alternatively, if you are looking to purchase a nest box camera, but you already have a nest box, then you can buy nest box cameras separately

Viewing your footage
You can view your footage in a variety of ways depending on what camera or extra equipment you have. Wired cameras plug straight into your TV with an AV cable (included in wired camera kits). If you would like to view and record footage on your laptop or computer instead, you can buy a USB video capture device for both Windows and MacOS. These devices come with software that enable you to set up motion detection or schedule recording, ensuring you don’t miss any exciting moments.

Nest Box Camera
Great Tit Nest via Nest Box Camera on Windows computer screen ©Bryony James

With wireless kits, the footage is transmitted to a receiver which can then plug directly into your TV or PC using the provided AV connectors. Alternatively like the wired cameras, you can use a USB capture device to enable PC or laptop recording.

WiFi cameras transmit their footage over their own WiFi connection. This means you can connect your smartphone, tablet or PC to the camera’s WiFi to view or record footage.

Watch live footage from anywhere in the world straight from your nest box with the live-streaming capabilities of the IP nest box camera, great to share with your friends and family. The camera plugs directly into your internet router or network switch via an included ethernet cable and once set up on a PC or smartphone app, you can share or watch your footage wherever you are in real-time.

If you need to use a wireless camera, a Digital Video Recorder kit is also capable of live-streaming. The wireless receiver can be plugged into the DVR which can be connected to your internet router to enable live-streaming. The DVR itself allows you to set up motion-detection or scheduled recording. You can also add up to four cameras to the DVR which may be useful if you want to watch from multiple angles or from multiple nest boxes.

Species
You may have a particular species of bird in mind that you are hoping to capture on your nest box camera. Our nest box camera kits with boxes are aimed towards common garden birds. The species of birds that you may attract depends on the entrance-hole size.

Nest box
Nest Box Camera Starter Kit

A 29mm hole, such as that of the Nest Box Camera Starter Kit, is suitable for Blue Tits, Coal Tits, Marsh Tits, Great Tits, Tree Sparrows and flycatchers. A larger 32mm hole, such as that of the Gardenature Nest Box Camera System, is suitable for House Sparrows, Nuthatches, Blue Tits, Coal Tits, Marsh Tits and Great Tits. It also has a removable front panel that is ideal if you are looking to attract robins or wrens.

Nest Box Camera Kit
Nest Box Camera Kit

The Nest Box Camera Kit has a removable 29mm plate that can attach over its 32mm hole meaning it is capable of attracting a range of species. If you are looking to attract anything larger or a more ‘picky’ species, then you may want to buy a species-specific nest box and fit one of our separate nest box cameras to this.

Nest box
CCTV for Wildlife Monitoring – An Introduction

Suggested Reading
For a collection of handy tips, tricks and ideas, Susan Young’s book
CCTV for Wildlife Monitoring is an ideal guide for photographing wildlife in your garden. Whether you are an experienced trail camera user or a newbie looking to order your first nest-camera, Susan Young’s book will offer a wealth of information to help you get even more out of your equipment.

Nest box
Nestboxes – Your Complete Guide

If you wanted to read more about how to make, monitor and maintain your bird box, Nestboxes: Your Complete Guide is a great book that will guide you through everything you need to know about your nest box and its inhabitants.”

All of our trail cameras, nest-box cameras and other wildlife CCTV equipment comes with easy-to-follow instructions. Our wildlife equipment specialists are also on hand to advise you if you encounter any issues or need any help with your kit.

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

Watching Wildlife – Part 1 – Trail Cameras

This is part one of a two-part series that will look into different ways of filming wildlife in your back garden. In this part, we will take a look at trail cameras and what to look out for when buying one. 

One of our Wildlife Equipment Specialists, Antonia Peacock, shares her advice to help you choose the right trail camera for you.

Red Fox Bushnell Trail Camera
Red Fox captured on Bushnell Trail Camera

The variety of trail cameras on offer can be overwhelming, here are a few key things to look out for:

Type of LEDs
In order to capture videos or images in the dark, camera traps use infrared LEDs to illuminate the subject with little to no visible light used. There are two main types of LED flash systems that trail cameras use. These are No Glow and Low Glow. No Glow LEDs produce no visible light and so are completely undetectable by the subject. Low Glow LEDs produce a very faint red glow and so are not completely invisible, this can sometimes alert animals such as deer and foxes. However, they do have the benefit of being able to illuminate better over a longer distance.

Trigger Speed
Trigger speed is the time taken for the camera to take a photo once it has detected movement. If you are aiming to capture a fast-moving subject, then a quicker trigger speed (below 0.3 seconds) will enable you to achieve these photos before your subject has moved out of frame. 

Recovery Time
Recovery time is the time taken for the camera to process an image and become ready to take a second photo. If you want to capture multiple images of a subject as it comes into view of your camera, then a shorter recovery time will allow for this.

Badger photo Ltl Acorn Trail Camera
Badger photo captured on Ltl Acorn Trail Camera  ©Bryony James

Hybrid Mode
Hybrid mode allows the camera to take videos and photos simultaneously. A camera with this capability may be useful if you want to get as much footage as possible of anything that falls into frame of the camera. If you are more interested in capturing only photographs or only videos, this mode may not be an important feature.

Resolution and Interpolation
The quality of the images and videos that your trail camera can take will depend on its resolution. Most cameras have settings that can alter the resolution either, decreasing it through compression, or increasing it through interpolation. Compression is useful if you want to deploy your camera for a long time and memory card capacity may become an issue, whereas interpolation can produce a larger image by adding pixels. The best way to compare the quality of images between cameras is to look at sample photos and videos. The displayed megapixel value is often resolution as a result of interpolation. The true resolution of the image sensor can usually be found in the specifications as the true sensor resolution.

Screen
Some trail cameras come with screens that you are able to view your photos and videos on. This may be useful if you want to take a few test shots to check the positioning of the camera.

Our Suggestions
We have a range of trail cameras to fit all budgets and needs. Here are a selection of some of our most popular:

Ltl Acorn 5310
Ltl Acorn 5310

If you’re looking for a good entry-level camera, then take a look at the Ltl Acorn 5310, an easy-to-use camera with an impressive 5MP true sensor.                                                  LED type: No Glow                                                                        Trigger speed: 0.6s                                                                    Recovery time:  Not stated                                                Hybrid: Yes                                                                  Resolution: 12MP (5MP true sensor)                                                                                   Viewing Screen: yes (internal)

 

Bushnell E3
Bushnell E3

For the next step up, the Bushnell E3 is one of our most popular trail cameras and another ideal entry-level option producing high quality images and videos but at a relatively low price.                                                                      LED type: Low Glow                                                              Trigger speed: 0.3s                                                            Recovery time: 1s                                                                  Hybrid: No                                                              Resolution: 16MP (3MP true sensor)
Viewing Screen: No

 

Spypoint Force-11D
Spypoint Force-11D

If the subject of your trail camera photos or videos is particularly fast, it may be worth taking a look at the Spypoint Force-11D whose trigger speed of 0.07 seconds is the fastest on the market.
LED type: Low Glow
Trigger speed: 0.07s
Recovery time: 0.5s                                                          Hybrid: Yes                                                                                                                                      Resolution: 11MP (interpolated)                                                                                            Viewing Screen: yes (internal)

 

Bushnell NatureView Live View HD
Bushnell NatureView Live View HD

Or perhaps your desired subject is on the smaller side and you are looking to capture close up images, the Bushnell NatureView Live View HD comes with a close focus lens and a live-view screen.                                        LED type: No Glow
Trigger speed: 0.2s
Recovery time: 0.7s                                                          Hybrid: Yes                                                                Resolution: 14MP (3MP true sensor)
Viewing Screen: yes (external)

Accessories
There are a selection of accessories that you may want pair with your camera to get the best out of your camera-trapping experience.
If you are worried about leaving an expensive piece of kit outside and unattended, then you may want to invest in a Python Lock. This cable lock will fit most trail cameras and and will give you piece of mind that your camera is secured in place. Here you can watch how to set up this lock with your own trail camera. You also may be interested in a security case that is compatible with your trail camera. These cases house your camera and secure with a padlock, which helps prevent vandalism and theft.

SD Cards
All cameras need a memory card to store your photos and videos on. Make sure to check what SD card capacity your camera needs, this is usually found in the specifications section. Browse our selection of SD cards to order alongside your camera so that you can get snapping as soon as possible.

Power Options
Most cameras are powered by batteries. We recommend you use Lithium Ion batteries with your trail camera to ensure maximum trigger speeds and longer battery life. Make sure to check how many batteries your camera needs. Some trail cameras are also compatible with solar panels which will allow you to extend the battery life of your camera. This is especially useful if you want to leave your camera outside for extended periods of time.

Bushnell Trophy Cam Aggressor Starter Bundle
Bushnell Trophy Cam Aggressor Starter Bundle

Starter Bundles
If you are looking to buy a trail camera and want to make sure you will be able to get out and start capturing as soon as it arrives, then you may want to take a look at our
starter bundle options. These bundles come with a memory card and batteries that are right for your camera to ensure you have everything you need to get started.”

To see more trail cameras available, take a look at our range here

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

Woodland Creation for Wildlife and People in a Changing Climate

Woodland Creation for Wildlife and People in a Changing Climate jacket imageThis lucid, beautifully illustrated and comprehensive guidebook is distributed by NHBS – both the authors are experts in habitat restoration and this publication is a significant contribution to approaching the challenges of woodland wildlife conservation in the 21st century.

Woodland Creation for Wildlife and People in a Changing Climate: Principles and Practice, written by David Blakesley and Peter Buckley, and sponsored by the RSPB, Woodland Trust and the Eden Project has recently been published. New native woodland has the potential to make a significant contribution to wildlife conservation in Britain, by supporting flora and fauna characteristic of both woodland and wider countryside habitat. For example, woodland creation provides opportunities for a number of strongly declining woodland birds characteristic of young woodland, such as tree pipit, willow warbler and garden warbler. The bird species benefiting from new woodlands will depend on a number of factors, such as the woodland type, stage of growth and location within the country. As new woodland matures it may be possible to maintain good populations of a number of woodland birds through coppice management or by providing scrub along rides and theImage from inside the bookwoodland edge.

Open habitats in woodlands are becoming increasingly important in a wider countryside context, with the loss of large areas of unimproved grassland, wetland and heathland. Rides and glades in new native woodland can support such communities, and act as stepping stones to facilitate the movement of species through often inhospitable agricultural landscapes. Even small fragments of open habitat in new native woodland can be important in their own right, supporting not just plants, but also a wide diversity of invertebrates, including many of the declining wider countryside butterflies such as small copper and small heath.

This book presents a comprehensive and extensively illustrated guide to the principles and practice of woodland creation. In the first part of the book, the issues underlying woodland creation projects are considered, such as the relevance of different woodland community types. The process of natural succession is described, illustrating the variety of wildlife that may colonise new woods, including birds, insects and plants. Ecosystem services provided by new woodland for people are examined, together with the threat of climate change, coping strategies for biodiversity, and the planning of woodland habitat networks and planting strategies.

Image from inside the bookIn the second part, detailed practical information for anyone creating woodland is presented, from the planning and selection of sites, sourcing of seeds and selecting tree species to woodland design, layout and management. The creation of woodland edge habitat and open ground communities is given particular prominence.

This book should appeal to anyone with an interest in creating new native woodland, planting trees or conserving woodland wildlife.

Buy your copy of Woodland Creation for Wildlife and People in a Changing Climate