Thursday, March 30, 2017

Britain’s Mammals - A Review

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. 

Britain's Mammals

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. 

Britain's Mammals - Princeton Press.

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. 

Britain's Mammals - Princeton Press.

The field guide element of Britain’s Mammals has handy and up-to-date distribution maps on the species' page together with illustrations which denote both the status and size of the animal. A typical page contains tips and information on where to look for a particular animal, its habitat, habits, food, breeding behaviour and population status. Very often there is information and helpful advice on the tracks and signs that may give away the animal’s location and/or its identification.

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. 

Britain's Mammals - Princeton Press.

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. 

Britain's Mammals - Princeton Press.

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.

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Linkintg today to Eileen's Saturday Blog.


11 comments:

Linda said...

These books look wonderful, Phil, and I love all the images, too. Oh, by the way, the video I posted on my blog about the art studio for dogs is absolutely true! No April fool... :)

David Gascoigne said...

A fine review, Phil, all done with your usual level of profiency. I will pick up a copy of this book.

Stuart Price said...

It's amazing how few mammals I've seen in the UK. Never seen a badger, pine marten, otter, any dolphins or whales.............

Very inconsiderate of them to be rare/nocturnal!

Patrycja P. said...

I think this is very interesting. Greetings!

Marleen said...

That seems a book worth buying, Phil. There is so much to discover.

eileeninmd said...

Hello, Phil! Fantastic review of this field guide to Britain's Mammals. The pictures are beautiful. I guess first you need to know where their habitat is and then have the patience of a saint to see some of these rare critters. Great review! Thank you for linking up and sharing your post. Happy Saturday, enjoy your weekend!

Rajesh said...

That books looks really interesting.

Jeanne said...

Looks like a great review in tis book. Thank you for sharing this!

sandyland said...

fascinating species for sure

Lowcarb team member said...

These look excellent books.
We do have a few bird and fishing books in the house ... and Eddie does refer to them quite often.

With me it's probably recipe books! LOL!

Always interesting to read reviews, many thanks

All the best Jan

Mary Cromer said...

Hi Phil...it's been a busy past two weeks and I am sitting quietly, sipping tea and visiting friends...would you like honey, or lemon ;) The books look lovely and from what I can tell the one on mammals of your area looks to have some really fun looking critters. Of course I always enjoy the Stoat...hope I spelled that right. I will check on older post now as well~

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