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Britain's Butterflies

I cannot fault this book

Britain's Butterflies by David Newland, Robert Still, David Tomlinson & Andy Swash - Review

Britain's Butterflies by David Newland, Robert Still, David Tomlinson & Andy Swash | 225 pages | Wild Guides | Paperback | 2010 | ISBN: 978-1-903657-30-0 |

Following hot on the heels of our previous review for the Wild Guides field guide Britain’s Dragonflies comes another slightly off topic book, but again this is a photographic guide so I am allowing it, especially with butterflies being such a wonderful and popular topic amongst photographers, better to know what you are looking at, after all.

Amongst nature lovers butterflies often hold a place dear to their hearts, and the same can be said for photographers, these colourful delicate looking creatures of the wing, signal summer to many, they provide a beautiful display of colour flitting from nectar source to nectar source, and like many of you out there ~I have often tried to photograph them (Not to blow my own trumpet but I have some pretty good photos if I’m honest). But many of us are not blessed when it comes to holding the knowledge of the butterfly world in our minds, so we have to rely on field guides to identify what we see.

I am lucky enough to be able to review a copy of Wild Guides (Princeton Press) field guide to Britain’s Butterflies.

The Photographs

In an attempt to at least try to stay true to my Fatphotographer routes, let me first detail the photographs for you. Not only are you treated to page after page of photographs of ALL of Britain’s butterfly species, from a multitude of top class photographers. But there are also a number of wonderful landscapes used to represent some of the habitats that butterfly species can be found.

The photos themselves are all of top quality, and show the sexes and sub-species of each butterfly, as well as caterpillars and chrysalises.

The Format

It is noticeable that the way Wild Guides lay out their books (with this being my second review of their texts) is designed to make identification of species, and locating species the easiest it can be. Often in identification guides you will have the adult, caterpillar and pupa all located on the same page, what Wild guides does is separate these, I find this makes identifying the adult butterfly much easier as you have plenty of images to help make the ID, but it also means you are not searching for the caterpillar or cocoon or eggs in amongst other images (it also takes away possible pre-conceived notions as you will not be distracted by the adults you may have seen near).

The other great aspect employed in this (and other Wild Guides books) is the inclusions of whole sections dedicated to which species to look for in which habitats. This is invaluable when searching out specific species.

The Species Accounts

Each of the 59 breeding/migrant species (as well as 4 former breeders, nine rare migrants and 1 with unknown status) has a double page spread dedicated to them. One side full of text defining: Identification; Behaviour; Breeding habitat; population and conservation; egg caterpillar and chrysalis, as well as maps, flight times, where to look and confusion species (there is also information about the status and protection).

The other full colour glossy photographs, with images of males, females, known colour morphs or sub species, and sometimes even location settings, for and added bonus.

Other things of note

Beyond the individual species identification there are, included in the book, a number of sections on things like identifying families of butterflies or separating butterflies and moths (a trap many people fall into, there are large numbers of day flying moths!). All these added sections take the book from just being a field guide, to being a great learning tool.

I would also like to point out that the light weight paperback book, comes with a protective plastic cover making it ideal for use in the field (and light enough to be added to your day bag.

The Bad

I’d like to say I found some bad things, but I really didn’t, yes there could be more information, but then the book would no longer be a field guide, there could be other illustrations, but with such good photographs again there would be little point. I cannot fault this book, and look forward to using it more over the coming years.


If you are in the market for a field guide to butterflies found in Britain and Ireland, then this is what you are looking for. Light weight, full of wonderful photographs and excellent identification points as well as other great features I would heartily recommend this book to you.

If you don’t want a field guide to butterflies (but have a chance to look at this book) I would recommend you do so just to see some wonderful photographs of dainty, fragile creatures full of beauty and colour. What harm could it do.

Published by Wild Guides/Princeton Press and available at these locations – http://www.wildguides.co.uk or http://press.princeton.edu/titles/9789.html

Buying the book also supports Butterfly Conservation http://www.butterfly-conservation.org , Tel: +4401929400209.

Ashley Beolens

Buy this book from www.nhbs.com