On my desk for review today is a new Princeton field guide, a book which doesn’t feature birds but one that will be sought after by almost 100% of bird watchers. The book is the much awaited Britain's Mammals: A Field Guide to the Mammals of Britain and Ireland from Princeton Press. This is the latest in the series of best-selling WILDGuides.
The authors of Britain’s Mammals are Dominic Couzens, Andy Swash, Robert Still, & Jon Dunn. Andy Swash and Robert Still were two of the authors of the hugely successful “Britain’s Birds”, first published in late 2016, a book which found its way into many a birders' library. This latest book is a companion to the bird guide and shares not only one of the authors, but also looks and feels the same as soon as the first page is turned.
Skipping introductory pages to books is a bad habit of mine, but on this occasion I found myself immersed in the Introduction to Britain’s Mammals. It really is essential reading by firstly reminding us that in comparison to birding, mammal watching is a minority interest with much to be discovered by those willing to devote time and energy.
The Introduction explains in just a few succinct pages the life-cycle and biology of mammals together with a very useful explanation and diagrammatic display of the names and scientific classification of Mammalia. A handy text and photographic overview of the types of British mammals reminds the reader that in comparison to the comparatively easy pursuit of birding, the study of mammals requires different techniques. A potential mammal watcher must exploit various times of both day and night and often use different equipment and methods to find and photograph their elusive quarry.
Part of the Introduction, the History of Britain’s Mammals, describes how getting close to wild animals takes a great deal of concentration and patience to achieve any sort of result; watching mammals is infinitely more difficult than birding. There is a timely explanation of why. For seven centuries or more persecution and exploitation of both land and marine mammals was rife, with many species becoming extinct or their numbers seriously reduced. No wonder then that history has taught mammals how to avoid homo sapiens, their most deadly and persistent predator.
I guess I suffer from many misconceptions about British mammals, the main one, borne out by a glance at the book’s Contents page, is just how many mammal species can be seen in the British Isles. It is easy to forget that the UK and Ireland terrestrial mammals like squirrels, voles, mice shrews, moles, hedgehogs, rabbit, hares, carnivores and deer are in the minority. Bats and marine mammals form the largest groups of British mammals, reflected in the 70 pages devoted to 30 species of bats and over 40 pages featuring 37 species of marine mammals – seals and cetaceans.
There are seven pages devoted to illustrating animal tracks. The publishers even provides a ruler in the inside book cover for the reader to measure tracks they find and then compare with scale bars depicted at the illustrations on each relevant page at p46-52. What a simple but innovative idea from the authors to make this a fully interactive field guide.
I must make special mention of the photographs in Britain’s Mammals. They are almost without exception truly stunning given the difficulties of in the first place even seeing mammals in the British countryside. In particular, the photographs of bats, both in flight and at rest, are simply superb, as are the pictures of mice and shrews. These are animals which are rarely glimpsed by everyday field workers who spend many hours in the great outdoors. I can only marvel at the time, skill, effort and dedication devoted to taking these images.
In summary. The winning WILDGuide formula continues throughout this wide-ranging and attractively designed field guide that follows in the major footsteps of Britain’s Birds. There’s a fully photographic experience and high quality information from its approximately 500 colour photos and 325 pages.
Britain’s Mammals is a book for simple enjoyment as well as for learning and I heartily recommend it to readers of Another Bird Blog. It is available now from the usual sources at $29.95 or £17.95 and is something of a bargain.
Britain's Mammals and Britain's Birds - Princeton Press.
Log in to Another Bird Blog soon for more news, views and reviews.
Linkintg today to Eileen's Saturday Blog.
Linkintg today to Eileen's Saturday Blog.