Monday, October 5, 2015

Books and Books and MORE Books!

 Oboy! It's just like Christmas when I get new bird and bug books to peruse! They come in handy for trying to figure out what the heck I took a photo of last weekend...or a few years ago. Here's four of my latest additions to the library...

 I discovered hoverflies (or flowerflies as they're known in the U.S.) a few years ago when I started using a macro lens to shoot flowers and bee bumbles in our garden. These little beauties mimic bees and wasps and gather nectar from flowers. Their mimicry makes them appear as an insect that can sting and should be avoided as food by predators, but they're harmless tiny pollinators.

An image from the guide on their life cycle.

"Britain's Hoverflies, A Field Guide" by Stuart Ball and Roger Morris is a wonderful guide to these tiny gems of the gardens. Illustrated with photos of 167 of the most common and easily identified species of Britain, it also has a complete list of the 283 species recorded in Great Britain.

It has at least one member of each genera with ID info, similar species and observation tips, whether it's a large or small species or a fuzzy bee bumble copy cat, colours and other noticeable features.. A range map with expected dates is shown for each as well. If you have the slightest interest in what may be lurking in your gardens, this would be a great addition to your buggy library. I would love to find a version of this guide for North American flower flies!

This Eristalis transversa sp. was taken here in Ohio, but, like me, they have relatives in Britain too!
(Page 200 if you're curious!)

Me and The Doodles made a visit to Britain a number of years ago to visit a friend and chase birds. This book would have made a great addition to our luggage! We didn't see a lot of butterflies as we spent most of the time looking up into the trees and worrying about driving on the "wrong" side of the road!

"Britain's Butterflies, A field guide to the butterflies of Britain and Ireland" by David Newland, Robert Still, Andy Swash and David Tomlinson is another great book in the "Wild Guides" series.

Like the hoverfly guide, this is a photographic guide with outstanding photos throughout. It covers all 59 species species commonly found, plus a dozen rarities that could also be spotted on a fine sunny day. Each species has a detailed description, habitat and behaviour information, population and conservation facts and info on the life cycle from egg to caterpillar to chrysalis. Also listed are look alike species and where to look to find your favorite.

If you're new to butterflies, what took you so long?! If you're out birding, you should be looking at butterflies also, they're closer to the ground normally and it will give your neck a rest! For the beginner, this guide describes the life cycle, biology and habitats that you will need to know. It also has a nice "key features" illustration to teach you the parts of a flutterby.

All in all, a tremendous and compact guide to carry in your pack or place on your desk.

This is a Silver-studded Blue, one of the many great photos in this guide.

 This is a Peacock butterfly, the only butterfly I photographed while in England.

 The "Wild Guide" series from Princeton also have plastic covers to keep them clean and dry when you're in the field, handy when you drop the book running and screaming with something a little larger buzzing after you!
Now we're going a little south of the equator...

 "Birds of South America, passerines" by Ber van Perlo would have been wonderful to have on our trips to Ecuador and Panama! Very compact and excellently illustrated, it amazingly covers all 1,952 passerine species that may be found south of Panama to the Antarctic mainland.

This guide would be easy to use for anyone familiar with the Sibley's or Peterson's style of guide. As you can see by the sample page below, each species has range maps, descriptions of coloring and calls and plumage variations between males, females and juveniles where needed. I liked the family descriptions in the beginning of the book, broken down by Tyrannidae, Cotingidae and more, it gives you a quick reference of which family of birds o further research.

While the guide we carried on our trip was VERY thorough  and was split and rebound between illustrations and descriptions, it was heavy and left at our lodge the entire time. This book, on the other hand, is compact enough to be easily used and carried daily. If you should have the chance to visit South America, DO IT! The amount of birds you will see is dizzying. The views, the rain forests, cloud forests, rivers, mountains, jungles and the friends that you'll make, are things that will stay with you for the rest of your life...just like this guide.

A beautifully illustrated page from "Birds of South America."
 This Glossy Flowerpiercer was near Mindo and Reserva Las Gralarias in Ecuador.
Its description can be found on page 152!

"Birds and Animals of Australia's Top End" by Nick Leseberg & Iain Campbell is another one of the fine books in the Wild Guides series from Princeton University Press.

This guide covers most anything you could possibly see while visiting the Northern Territory of Australia(on my list of things to do when I win the lottery!) Nick and Iain are excellent guides from Tropical Birding that I've met several times at Magee Marsh here in Ohio. I don't think I'll be able to find any of these birds up here though...

Filled with vivid photographs of everything from Egrets to Echidnas, this would be an ideal small guide to keep on hand during your visit to the land down under. This has all the most common creatures you're likely to spy while wandering the varied habitats up north.

It gives you great information on equipment to bring, when to watch and the best parks and reserves to visit to find Cockatoos and Crocs. The species descriptions are great with wonderful photography, detailed descriptions and where to find them.

I thoroughly enjoyed my "imaginary visit" by reading through this book. If you're planning a trip south for the winter, this would be a perfect addition to your binoculars and camera...and me.

And there ya are! Waaaayyyyy up north!
 The ever so cheerful Iain Campbell. I have that effect on people...that's why I take photos of birds...

Okay kids, while you're at the book store browsing for your new guides, I'll get a few birdie photos for next time!


  1. You've been very busy with all these books to review. I keep telling myself that I should learn some basics about insects...particularly butterflies. I was out yesterday and saw some butterflies. They keep moving so I don't get a good chance to look at them.

    1. When birds are breeding and the leaves are full it's easier to watch the butterflies flying around.

  2. Great-looking books! I know I've probably seen hundreds of hoverflies and yet I didn't know what they were. Thank you! Also love the photo of the blue butterfly! I have Giant Swallowtail caterpillars on my tiny lemon tree right now...watching them carefully that they don't eat ALL the leaves! I am hoping for a crysallis soon!

    1. Hoverflies are small but gorgeous to look at. Good luck with the lemons...and the caterpillars!

  3. Photosonthis post were great but could not read the script becasue the red leaves in the backgound went for my eyes.

    1. Us color blind guys never notice things like red leaves...or tanagers hiding in plain sight...