About Us

About Us

Calluna Books / The Dorset Birding and Wildlife Experience
Neil Gartshore grew up in Leicestershire where an interest in natural history developed at an early age. His local patch in these early years centred around the Swithland Reservoir area but coach outings with the Loughborough Naturalist’s Club soon introduced him to other parts of the UK, particularly to the north Norfolk coast.
Leaving school at 18, he started working in a bank and spent holidays volunteering on RSPB reserves including Loch Garten, Minsmere and Leighton Moss. In 1980, a week on Handa Island started a fascination for seabirds and in 1981 he managed to transfer to Shetland, continuing his growing interest in seabirds. This experience eventually led to a career change in 1983 when he took up his first conservation post on the Farne Islands in Northumberland.
He returned to the Farnes for the 1984 and 1985 seasons, spending the 3-months break in between travelling in South Africa. After this visit he was hooked on the country and returned in early 1986 to work as a research field assistant for the Percy FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology. Based in Cape Town, the post included 14-months studying seabirds on Marion Island, one of the two sub-Antarctic Prince Edward Islands.
Back in the UK, he took up an RSPB contract on Coquet Island in the summer of 1988 and returned to the Farne Islands to run the 1988 seal work. In January 1989 he began a 17-year stretch with the RSPB. Annual contracts on the Mawddach Valley and Minsmere were followed, in March 1991, with an Assistant Warden’s post on the heathlands at Arne in Dorset. Over the next 14 years he progressed to Senior Warden at Arne before becoming the Dorset Reserves Manager.
Neil’s interest in natural history books began on the Farne Islands with regular purchases adding to a growing collection. This collection now includes a complete set of New Naturalists and many books on Southern African, Japanese and Spanish birds – three areas of the world that he has visited on many occasions. In 1997, a thinning out of his library saw the establishment of Calluna Books.
In June 2006 Neil made the decision to leave the RSPB to develop his interests around bookselling, giving talks and bird/natural history guiding. He keeps in touch though with his conservation roots by working as a freelance bird surveyor - this work has included wind farm surveys in Brechfa Forest (Wales), Balearic Shearwater surveys in Lyme Bay, bird disturbance work on The Solent, The Humber and the north Kent coast as well as work on a number of projects around Poole Harbour and The Fleet in Dorset.

He has travelled in search of wildlife for over 30 years, visiting South Africa, Kenya, Japan, Singapore, Hong Kong, Australia, USA and many parts of Europe, and has led trips in the UK and to Lesvos, Mallorca, Spain and South Africa. He has been involved with the Dorset Bird Club over many years, including terms as County Bird Recorder, Chairman and as a Trustee.

After writing a number of articles about bird books for ‘Birds Illustrated’ and other magazine titles for Buckingham Press (website), the editors commissioned Neil to write the ‘Best Birdwatching Sites: Dorset‘ which was published in 2011. In February 2015 Neil took over 'The Birdwatcher's Yearbook' title from Buckingham Press. Now in its 38th year, the yearbook has been an essential work of reference for British Birdwatchers since 1981.

Calluna Books Logo:

After the business name of Calluna Books was chosen it was easy to come up with a logo. The association of the Dartford Warbler with heathlands made it an obvious choice. The illustration of the Dartford Warbler was drawn and engraved by G.E. Lodge and printed in the first book dedicated to Dorset's bird life. The Rev. J C Mansel-Pleydell's

"The Birds of Dorsetshire: a contribution to the natural history of the county" was published in 1887.

Of the Dartford Warbler, Mansel-Pleydell ended with the words: "...and it is doubtful whether we shall any longer see

our heaths enlivened by this active little bird" (comments made after the severe winter of 1886-87).

They survived, but were almost wiped out again as recently as the early 1960s after another series of bad winters left only 11 known pairs remaining in Britain by 1964 (including two pairs on the Arne peninsula near Wareham). Happily their numbers have now risen substantially and they have moved out of their core breeding range of Purbeck and the New Forest to many parts of southern Britain.


Banner pictures: Bearded Tit ~ Firecrest ~ Common Dolphin ~ Lulworth Skipper ~ Lesser Spotted Woodpecker ~ Sand Lizard