Britain’s Butterflies: A field guide to the butterflies of Britain and Ireland (Third Edition)
David Newland, Robert Still, Andy Swash and David Tomlinson
Wildguides/Princeton University Press 240pp. 600+ colour photos. 76 maps.
Having first been published in 2002 and with a second edition in 2010 it is somewhat surprising that this book has passed me by. That maybe in some way to do with me preferring artist illustrated guides to photo guides. I feel I must now put my old prejudices aside as the Wildguides series are fantastic. Digital photography has improved immeasurably since I first started with a 4 megapixel camera and consequently staging images now is much more naturalistic and almost like being in the field.
Britain’s Butterflies starts with a discussion on how butterflies differ from moths before looking at butterfly biology, overwintering and migration. The next section the covers butterfly habitats illustrated with photographs and discussion on the types of butterflies to be found there. There is also a quick guide to butterflies and the habitats they favour and a key places for rare and localized butterflies chart with basic site details.
The main body of the book is made up of the species accounts with each species getting two pages with the text facing the identification plates. This also allows confusion species to be compared such as Small and Essex Skipper. The text covers adult identification, behaviour, breeding habitat, population and conservation. Egg, caterpillar and chrysalis and foodplant. A side bar features distribution maps, life cycle charts and where to look text boxes. All this information is well presented and easily read.
At the end of the resident species we also get a section on former breeding species and occasional migrants, this is very up-to-date and covers the mini invasion of Scarce Tortoiseshell from summer 2014 on the east coast. A short section on records of dubious origin follows this.
Towards the end of the book there is a very useful, illustrated, section on larval foodplants that I found extremely useful as my botanical knowledge is very poor. This section aslo includes a chart listing nectar and larval foodplants. Following is an illustrated guide to eggs, caterpillars and chrysalis. Again this is an area that I must admit to neglecting in the past as I had no handy reference.
The final chapters cover butterfly watching and photography, Butterfly Conservation, recording and legislation. A useful section on further reading concludes the book.
There are plenty of field guides on the market to help you identify Britain’s butterflies and each will have their own choice of what to take out into the field but I would recommend this gem of a book to anyone and I look forward to road testing it when the weather improves and the butterfly season gets underway.