Monday 15 June 2020
Thursday 11 June 2020
Visitors to my blog will have noticed that many of my recent posts feature insects rather than birds. Like many other birders, I’ve developed a passion for selected insect families and am now broadening my horizons even further, seeing new insects, virtually every time I’m in the field. Whatever your level of interest, a good field guide is essential. This will help to expand your knowledge and steer you to a successful and accurate identification of the ‘unknown’ species you are agonising over!
If you are in the market for a book that gives you the ability to identify insect species purely from visual observation or photographs in the field, I have some great news, a new title in the ‘Wildguides’ series entitled ‘Britain's Insects’, is now available!
Written by well-known expert and prolific author Paul D Brock, the Wildguides ‘mission’ of ensuring up to date content plus the best images from top photographers has combined to produce a masterpiece field guide ‘tome’. It is probably at the limit for a single softback volume too, weighing in at around 1.5kg, packed with 1653 insect species amongst the 608 pages. The photographs are larger than previous photo-guides on the subject and clearly chosen at angles to best demonstrate the key identification features of the species concerned. A simplified description of the insect orders will help to narrow down which family an unknown insect belongs to by referring to common representatives. A little time spent here may save the beginner from simply leafing aimlessly through the whole book!
A glossary of technical terms is included which concentrates on those in frequent general use. Terms which are specific to a particular order are included in an annotated image at the beginning of a particular section. A brief section of watching and photographing insects together with some snippets of their behaviour takes the reader up to the species accounts. The text caters admirably for the beginner, using English names for every insect included plus the scientific name for each order, family, genus and species. The standard template of information for each species (page 33) is worth digesting before you read on, there is so much important coded information here. For each insect, measurements and key identification features are noted plus similar species (where relevant) to help the beginner avoid pitfalls. The likely habitat and specific foodplants will help you look in the right places plus a distribution map details where records currently exist. The phenology chart should help the user to search for a particular insect at the correct time.
The accounts vary in their coverage of the orders, including every species in some orders eg Odonata (Dragonflies and Damselflies) 27 pages, Orthoptera (Crickets and Grasshoppers) 30 pages and Lepidoptera (Butterflies but not all Moths) 83 pages. These are obviously some of the most showy and popular of our insects and likely to enthuse interest in other orders through chance encounters whilst in the field. A useful list of further reading where appropriate accompanies the first page of each order. One of the two additional more specialised field guides mentioned will become essential reading to recognise some of the vast array of female / immature patterns which may bewilder the novice but become a prime focus for the keen observer.
Many families are prefaced with a table containing a descriptive identification key (two examples below). These will help give an understanding of the aspects and angles needed for photography to enable an identification to species level rather than identifying as simply ‘Cuckoo Wasp’ or Mason Wasp’ for example.
The final 30 pages are devoted to conservation status and legislation, further reading and useful websites / online resources and insect societies. The index allows for searches using either common or scientific name and is well laid out. The rear cover flap features a useful alphabetical index to Orders as well, following the same nomenclature.
Published by Princeton University Press on 8th June 2021, the target price of £25.00 can currently be found as low as £18.31 at selected outlets online.
This is my second ‘Insect’ field guide written by Paul Brook and in case anyone is hesitating to add another book to their collection, I have to say they complement each other rather well! Apart from simply helping to identify insects, there is so much background information in the species accounts and elsewhere, it makes for good reading. The clear images are exemplary and unmatched at present. It is a ‘must have’ for everyone with a general interest in insects and I’m sure it will sneak into the libraries of quite a few seasoned experts too!
Tuesday 9 June 2020
The bird was on my list a few minutes later (I won’t put the record shot here!) Eventually it worked it’s way closer then disappeared into the rose bed, only to reappear (a camera shake moment if ever there was one!) a mere 15m away!!
Sunday 7 June 2020
Friday 5 June 2020
The last Roller I went for in the Gower area disappeared the morning I went !! :-(
Approx 100miles en-route and with rock music pounding to reduce anxiety, I finally got the thumbs up via my mobile - phew, it was still there!!
On arrival at 9.45, there was space by the roadside too, here we go.......
Note the white post in the grassy margin, this was going to receive considerable attention over the next 5 hours.....
It wasn't long before the post was 'in use' and a local Meadow Pipit seemed to take exception to this colourful invader!
The extenders came out and whilst the resulting images aren't as sharp, some 'close ups' were managed!
Of course, the real beauty of a Roller is the wing and tail plumage - an incredible array of colours! It was soon hunting on the ground, in search of beetles etc.....
Wow, see what I mean, awesome plumage! Another beetle bites the dust......
Then posing nicely on the ground....
Sometimes closer, never less than about 30m (but that will do nicely!)
Then off again......
I spent quite a bit of time trying to catch the landing back on the post (from all angles) , more of that colourful wing display.....
The exquisite upperwing!
Rollers are often found on wires and this one landed briefly, only to prefer one of the metal supports?
I could have stayed until dusk but an evening talk at Ellesmere beckoned, reluctantly I hit the road! Roller on my list at last and most definitely in the all time top 5 twitched birds - and certainly the most brightly coloured - you little beauty!! ......