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Dragonflies and Damselflies of the East (Princeton Field Guides) Paperback – 8 Jan 2012

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Product details

  • Paperback: 544 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press (8 Jan. 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780691122830
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691122830
  • ASIN: 0691122830
  • Product Dimensions: 21.5 x 14.1 x 3.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 942,359 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"I truly believe that if there is such a thing as the 'must-have' book, Dragonflies and Damselflies of the East is IT. . . . It contains all 336 species of Odonata that have been found in eastern North America. Not just dragons or just damsels, [but] all Odonata. That means ONE book for everything. It has excellent full-color photographs that are large enough to see many of coloration and patterns that are important. . . . The species accounts are well-done with reference to similar species when appropriate. The natural history summaries for genera are very good, and valuable information for any ode enthusiast."--Mark O'Brien, Michigan Odonotes blog

"This is a beautiful book, a joy to hold and to look at. Although it is a paperback, it is printed on sturdy glossy paper that will hold up well in the field. . . . [I] recommend it as an essential field guide to the dragonflies."--Devorah Bennu, GrrlScientist blog

"This is an excellent landmark field guide that belongs in every naturalist's collection."--Donna Schulman, 10,000 Birds

"[A] terrific volume that will be very popular among odonate enthusiasts in the East."--Choice

"[T]hese volumes are obviously authoritative, comprehensive and clearly designed with the needs of the naturalist in mind. The photographs are excellent and . . . the text makes up for the unavoidable shortcomings of a photo-guide by including full descriptions of each species. Altogether, these two volumes constitute a complete, highly informative and beautifully illustrated guide to the Odonata of North America."--Guy Padfield, UKbutterflies

From the Back Cover

"Dragonflies and Damselflies of the East is by far the most complete treatment of its kind. It is chock-full of interesting and useful information, and the illustrations are excellent. Paulson is one of the top experts in this field and his book reflects that extensive knowledge on every page."--Giff Beaton, author of Dragonflies and Damselflies of Georgia and the Southeast

"Dragonflies and Damselflies of the East is superbly organized, concisely written, and beautifully illustrated. It combines the strengths of a field guide with the invaluable technical information of a manual. As such, the reader will have a strong tool in his or her possession. There really is no other book like it."--Allen E. Barlow, senior author of Field Guide to Dragonflies and Damselflies of New Jersey

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Like it's partner volume covering the west of the US, this is an excellently produced reference work with comprehensive contents and good quality photographs. Again, a little heavy so perhaps not what I'd call a field guide, as such. Mostly, though, I suspect that, like me, people tend to work from digital photographs back ast home base, these days. I'd personally prefer high quality drawings, such as those of the incredible Richard Lewington, instead of photographs for identification but hopefully I'll get a chance to try this approach in anger one day.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
My only problem with this book was, I would have preferred some kind of colour-coding to help identification. Obviously that is problematic as many males are totally different coloured from females. I don't know a solution to this problem and am merely pointing it out. The book is great once you have found the appropriate insect.
Wish we'd had this book years ago.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 51 reviews
22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
Best NA ode book yet, not quite perfect? 6 Jan. 2012
By D. Gregg - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Claimers and Dis-claimers: I've only spent a couple hours with this book and they were at my desk. Though I had specimens available they were not fresh specimens and I haven't taken this into the field yet (this is January after all). Though I've worked as a lackey on a couple of odonate projects, I'm an insect generalist not an odonate specialist.

This is definitely the best available comprehensive odonate guide for eastern North America. Advantages over Dunkle's Dragonflies Through Binocs include: the damselflies (for a start), plus MUCH better photos, detail photos and line drawings where helpful to illustrate key features, more species-to-species comparisons in both photos, text, and line art to help with difficult IDs, and more accessible and useful natural historical information on each species, often very helpful in determining species.

I can't make up my mind about the page layout. On the one hand, the species are consistently laid out, each with the same sections: Description, Identification, Natural History, Habitat, Flight Season, and Distribution. Each species account starts with a bar color-coded to the genus to draw your eye to the name (common name first, then scientific name in italics followed by measurements in mm). Also a range map and most have both male and female illustrated with large, bright, sharp, well oriented photos. The repetitive structure makes it relatively easy to jump around comparing the same information on each of two or more species that you're contemplating for an ID. On the other hand, putting so much information and so many large pictures into the species accounts means that there are rarely more than two species on any one two-page spread and add in the color bar and short paragraph that heads each genus section and it can be a little hard to sense where you are or build up a head of speed if you're thumbing around. Sometimes the photo for a species is the next page over from the identification text, which is too bad. Because Lam, in his Damselflies of the Northeast, used paintings, he was able to put each species into identical poses, so when you flip through species, you know you're moving from one to another every time you see another perpendicular display of abdomen and wing. To be fair, it is important for dragonflies to communicate their perching posture so you wouldn't want to digitally wrench the photos around ala Kaufman's butterfly book just for the sake of order. Also, the designers made a choice to keep the book pocket sized (though at 30 mm thick that's your call) but still retain rich species accounts and that just means you have to suck it up on the page layout. Also, the designer clearly tried hard to come up with cues and tricks to help you stay oriented (using color bars for instance). Finally, if I used the book enough to memorize which colors went with which genera, I'd probably feel less disoriented.

I do miss the little lines and arrows that are often used in field guides to point out important features. If you are reading the description and identification text and jumping back and forth to the picture (sometimes across pages) I (at least) have to use a lot of brain power to process the technical words into visual search images then flip to the picture, find the right location, and finally see what the author was talking about. I'm not saying that with more time it wouldn't go away, I'm just throwing it out there as an observation.

Speaking of the text, for each species I'd say the text is pretty great throughout, great descriptions and very interesting natural historical remarks. Many of the remarks about behavior were very useful, things like if you see a darner doing X, it is probably such and such a species. I did find the content of the description, identification, natural history, and habitat sections a little confused or perhaps duplicative. The descriptions are sometimes too general, or perhaps just in the wrong place. For instance in the Enallagma, the hard core identification needs to be done with language about abdominal segments and humeral stripes, and all that's in there, to be sure, but many species accounts also include something like, predominantly black above and blue below, with more blue distally. I'd guess the author wanted to encourage beginners by giving them a general character, which is fine, but there's already an Enallagma genus intro paragraph and when the species accounts are already pushing onto two pages maybe tougher editing could have helped.

I have one knock about the illustrations. The species accounts regularly mention regional variations, which is good, but they don't always give you detailed help in recognizing them. Now that's fine for a general guide to an area as large as eastern North America, but then it's too bad that so many of the illustrations are western specimens. Many species are illustrated with Arizona specimens and specimens from parts of Texas not in the guide's ostensible coverage area. You have to give Paulson some latitude so he can give us the best available illustrations of the species, but with the attention to regional variability in the text, it does leave one a little uneasy.

The range maps are decent sized and readible, but they're not detailed enough to help distinguish regional variability. The author does say in the intro that range maps are by their nature generalizations and the short but well chosen biography does refer readers to regional guides where more details would be available.

I really liked the introductory section. It is liberally illustrated with the same high level of quality as the rest of the book and the anatomical illustrations are just great. I especially like the section on suggestions for future research. It's great to see such an accomplished naturalist be so encouraging of beginners and non-professionals.

Summary: This is a great book and a long overdue replacement for Dunkle. There are a few things I didn't particularly like in my first appraisal, most notably all the Texas photos. However, I recognize each is a decision the author and designer made for good reasons and allow that I might change my mind as I worked with the book. I describe them here so you get a better picture of the book and can make up your own mind if it would work for you. I'm not sure if I were headed out the door to do some ode'ing I'd grab this book over the Massachusetts field guide (Nikula, et al. 2nd ed. 2007) and Lam's Damselflies, but we're lucky here to have such good regional guides and both appear in the bibliography (though I see that it doesn't cite the improved 2nd ed of Nikula). If I were traveling beyond my native coastal southern New England and didn't know the local scene, or were going to an area without a good regional guide, I'd definitely grab Paulson's new book and it's probably all I'd need.
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
Dragonflies and Damselflies of the East (Princeton Field Guides) 7 July 2012
By ruff - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a nice field guide, and as for a comprehensive guide to BOTH dragons and damsels in the eastern region of North America, I believe it is the only one of such kind...that alone worthies it 3 stars! The information is good but a tad laborious and high brow, especially when compared to Beaton's Dragonflies and Damselflies of Georgia and the Southeast. However, this hardly warrants a markdown in reviewing the book. The pictures are where this book is wanting. They are quite small and often do not show the primary field marks that are described in the text. When one peruses the astounding number of wonderful photos available for most species for free on the internet, it makes you wonder why this book couldn't have come up with some better photos.

Also, for beginners, this book often requires one to turn page by page looking for a match to what one has seen or photographed...and this can take a long time. Not all species are easily ID'd as to group (skimmer, clubtail, etc.). However, this is a problem shared by all books of its kind I think...can't someone come up with a more intuitive way to organize dragons and damsels in a field guide?
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Well worth the wait! 10 Feb. 2012
By George G. Sims - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Dennis Paulson's new eastern book was well worth the wait, and odonate enthusiasts throughout the country have been anxiously awaiting this great new guide.

It is NOT a rehash of his western guide, but contains more detailed information on the species that are common to both areas. The illustrations are splendid, and the book is easy to use for the beginner, yet comprehensive enough for the more advanced odonatist.

If you could have only ONE odonate guide, I think THIS is the one. Covers both dragonflies and damselflies, and take odonate guidebooks to a new level.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Great book in print ... Kindle version hard to use, but saves lugging ... 15 Aug. 2012
By The Dragonhunter's Apprentice - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Dennis Paulson's Dragonflies and Damselflies of the East (Princeton Field Guides) is an excellent field guide in print form, with the content deserving 5 stars for its comprehensive and detailed coverage of the subject. Precisely because it is so comprehensive in content, it is necessarily large and heavy, making it cumbersome as a field guide. The Kindle Edition overcomes these size and weight issues, but appears to be sadly lacking in electronic field guide features. I find it very difficult to search and especially difficult to compare similar species in the Kindle Edition on my Android device. However, I am not very adept with Kindle and perhaps Amazon will soon improve the application to overcome my limitations. It would be particularly useful if there were smart search feature which used the species index and would quickly and easily record sightings with geotag, date, time, quantity, sex and optional notes/photos, etc. into a database. It would be especially convenient if the voice recognition dictionary were context sensitive, e.g. saying "Aeshna" gets it searching for "ice now" or "asiana" etc. so you have to type in Aeshna and even the text dictionary doesn't refer to the content, so there is no context sensitive predictive or corrective text feature. Another disappointing limitation of the Kindle Edition is that I can't zoom in on the photos. WYSIWYG?! Despite these limitations, which may be more mine than the book's, it is a great leap forward in Odonate field guides. It is now a constant field companion of mine.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
An almost excellent book 17 Dec. 2013
By Michael B. Harvey - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I took this book with me to Everglades National Park and spent a day identifying dragonflies using binoculars. The illustrations, descriptions, life history sections, and other parts of the species accounts are well written, very helpful and interesting. The introductory sections on morphology, ecology, etc. are well illustrated and engaging. I particularly liked a section where the author discusses holes in our knowledge about the biology of dragonflies. He encourages novices and professionals alike to help fill in these holes by reporting their observations. My biggest complaint is that the book lacks dichotomous keys to species. As the author emphasizes, sexing dragonflies is important for their identification. He certainly explains how to sex dragonflies, but the information about this is scattered. A section with an obvious heading "Sexing Dragonflies" should have been added to the introductions.
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