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Dragonflies and Damselflies of the West: The Photographic Guide (Princeton Field Guides) [Paperback]

Dennis Paulson
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

3 May 2009 Princeton Field Guides

Dragonflies and Damselflies of the West is the first fully illustrated field guide to all 348 species of dragonflies and damselflies in western North America. Dragonflies and damselflies are large, stunningly beautiful insects, as readily observable as birds and butterflies. This unique guide makes identifying them easy--its compact size and user-friendly design make it the only guide you need in the field. Every species is generously illustrated with full-color photographs and a distribution map, and structural features are illustrated where they aid in-hand identification. Detailed species accounts include information on size, distribution, flight season, similar species, habitat, and natural history. Dennis Paulson's introduction provides an essential primer on the biology, natural history, and conservation of these important and fascinating insects, along with helpful tips on how to observe and photograph them.

Dragonflies and Damselflies of the West is the field guide naturalists, conservationists, and dragonfly enthusiasts have been waiting for.

  • Covers all 348 western species in detail

  • Features a wealth of color photographs

  • Provides a color distribution map for every species

  • Includes helpful identification tips

  • Serves as an essential introduction to dragonflies and their natural history

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Product details

  • Paperback: 536 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press (3 May 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691122814
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691122816
  • Product Dimensions: 21.3 x 14.2 x 3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 792,204 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Product Description


Honorable Mention for the 2009 National Outdoor Book Award in Nature Guidebooks

"Bird watching has been a common hobby for centuries, and butterfly watching has become popular in the last few decades. Odonate watching is the newest pastime. Here, Paulson offers a comprehensive guide to Odonata of western North America. . . . This well-written, informative guide is a 'must have' for any person, amateur or scholar, interested in these insects."--

"Who knew that there were 348 species of dragonflies and damselflies in the Western United States? That fact alone should make nature lovers who enjoy traveling to wild places want to check out Dennis Paulson's new book, Dragonflies and Damselflies of the West, published by Princeton University Press. . . . This guide includes information on flight seasons, habitat and natural history in the description of each insect as well as helpful tips on how to observe and photograph them."--
Salt Lake Tribune

From the Inside Flap

"Extremely well organized, and very well written. This is a superb treatment. With its impressive number of large, clear images and thorough text, it will immediately become the must-have field guide for western odonate watchers and researchers."--Giff Beaton, author of Dragonflies and Damselflies of Georgia and the Southeast

"Dennis Paulson is recognized as one of the very best odonatologists in the world. This is a fine book, and will sell many thousands of copies. The text is well organized, and the color photos are gorgeous."--Sidney W. Dunkle, author of Dragonflies through Binoculars

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index
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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A superb new book 24 Jun 2009
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is a wonderful guide to western odonates. I'd hesitate to call it a 'field guide' becuase, despite its superb content it is very heavy!
To save yourself backache, leave it at home and perhaps take some field notes on expected species where you're going.
Onto the content: each species is described in clear, concise detail, and the photographs are very good, although a lateral and dorsal photograph for each species would have been helpful, rather than one or the other which is the norm here. The individual diagnostic details are nice and clear, with useful comparison with other species, sometimes accompanied by line drawings of appendages, etc.
This is easily the best book on dragonflies of the west. Perhaps there will be an equally good eastern volume one day.
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Amazon.com: 4.6 out of 5 stars  20 reviews
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A must book for any dragonfly enthusiast 9 May 2009
By Jack Holloway - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Basics: 2009, 535 pages, softcover, 850+ color photos of all 348 species in western US and Canada, range maps

This is an exceptional book for any dragonfly enthusiast with a focus on identification. This is the most complete and best quality of any related book available.

As noted in the title, the "West" refers to all species found in (a) Alaska, (b) Canadian provinces of Manitoba and Nunavut and all provinces west, and (c) N/S Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas and all other states west. This region encompasses 348 species, all of which are shown in this book.

All photographs are in color and of very good quality and size. All but 4 or 5 of the species are shown with at least 2 photos. Many species have 3 or 4 photographs. The photos show differences between male and female, adult and immature, and variations due to pruinose and heteromorphs. These photographs will be very helpful with the identification of most odonata you encounter - except for those frustratingly similar species. This is where the detailed text will be very informative and useful.

The text, ranging from to a full page for each species, consists of 6 distinct sections. The bulk of the material is found in Description, Identification, and Natural History. A single, yet potent, sentence is given to each of the other three sections of Habitat, Flight Season, and Distribution.

The identification section does a good job of comparing similar species, giving pointers of how to differentiate between the finer points. The description of each can often be very detailed, which might be a bit too detailed for the novice or a person with a passing interest to know what to call that dragonfly flitting around the garden. To truly identify down to the species level, the book often describes the individual with terms of lateral thoracic stripes, postocular spots, abdomen black above S2-7, and other necessary "scientific" descriptors.

Expanding on this detail are wonderful drawings of the abdominal tips and appendages, which are sometimes the only means for identification.

The book has other brief sections on research, collecting, naming, anatomical labels (to help with terms in the identification section), and natural history.

Lastly, a distribution map is supplied for each individual. Where relevant, the maps zoom in to the restricted ranges for many of the species. The boundaries for the states and provinces are shown, which help with better detail.

This is, by far, the best odonate book available for the US. I certainly hope an eastern companion will follow in the near future.

I've listed several related books below...
1) Common Dragonflies of the Southwest by Biggs
2) Dragonflies and Damselflies (Odonata) of Texas, Volume I by Abbott
3) Dragonflies and Damselflies of Texas and the South-Central United States by Abbott
4) Dragonflies and Damselflies of California by Manolis
5) Dragonflies & Damselflies of the Border Southwest by Behrstock
6) Dragonflies of Alaska by Hudson
7) Dragonflies through Binoculars by Dunkle
8) Dragonflies And Damselflies of Georgia And the Southeast by Beaton
(written by Soleglad at Avian Review or Avian Books, May 2009)
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Monumental Release! 29 April 2009
By Jerry K. Hatfield - Published on Amazon.com
This new field guide of dragonflies and damselflies of the Western U.S. and Canada, it undoubtedly one of the best of its kind in a fairly compact volume. Photos are large, sharp and clear with many represented that show diagnostic features so valuable for positive identification. This volume is destined to become a classic and "must have" for all odonata enthusiasts from the amateur to the professional. However, distribution maps are not current with some area records that have been common knowledge since late 2007. Still, This doesn't detract noticeably from the wealth of information and user-friendly format that comes wonderfully packaged in this indispensable tool! For these many superb reasons, I give it a solid 5 stars! Don't delay, order yours today! You won't regret this purchase and especially at this introductory price of just $19.77!!!!
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Must Have For the Serious Amateur, and Great for Photographers 13 Sep 2011
By Ethan A. Winning - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
There are serious amateurs who have a tremendous curiosity about dragons and damsels. There are those who need a quick reference book with photographs that make ID easier. And then there are those whose interest waxes and wanes with the dragon and damsel season (summer around here). At times, I'm all three, but primarily my interest peaks when the meadowhawks come back in droves or the darners, darters, and skimmers are present because of an abundance of water (as we had in this part of the San Francisco Bay Area in 2010).

Mind you, there are 7-9 months when the damsels and dragons are gone, so no matter how my interest peaks while they're present, I forget much of what I've read and knew the previous year. Kathy Biggs book is a handy pocket book that I can carry with me, but I've come to know just enough so that I can wait to get home and look up what I've photographed. Unlike some, I only carry field guides when I'll be gone away from home for a week or more. Then, after a day of shooting (photographically speaking) I need a field book.

Dennis Paulson's book is really a bit heavy for a field guide (though I've seen field guides that weigh up to 3 pounds!), but it's thorough and absolutely necessary if you're going to be in the Sierras or the deserts or in other areas where the dragons and damsels are not what you normally see at home. What you see at home you should be able to remember. But when you run into a pinkish-purple dragonfly that you've never seen before, THIS is the book. It's laid out beautifully, and when you track down the pink-purple dragonfly (a Roseate Skimmer which we do not have near my home), there is a great description of habits and ranges.

It is extremely well written, and the first 40 pages will draw you into the world of dragons and damsels (although it may not prepare you for your first meeting with a dragonfly fanatic!).

If I have one fault to find, it is a small one: the "West" as defined in the title could be a dot on a map of southwestern Arkansas or southeast North Dakota. Now, I'm fairly sure I'm never going to find myself in either state again, let alone where the dot is. On the other hand, I'd probably complain that it should have had part of Arkansas as the "West." Nah. The "West" to me will always be everything west of the Rockies where I spend 99% of my time. So, those of you east of the Rockies, take heart. This book covers it all ... even itty-bitty parts of the East!
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Visually Stunning, Intellectually fascinating 30 Jan 2010
By Steven Mlodinow - Published on Amazon.com
Paulson's guide to dragonflies and damselflies (collectively known as odonates) of western North America is stunning to behold; one could spend a lot of time happily drifting through the beautiful photographs. Additionally, the text is incredibly informative. However, for a summary of this book's contents, I can not do better than the review by "Soleglad"-- I hope I got the reviewer's tag right -- of this book.

However, I"d like to emphasize that this book is not just for the "serious" amateur or professional. I am not a serious dragonfly person. I enjoy looking at them, love photographing them when the opportunity presents itself, but I don't spend much time identifying them "in the field," and I do not go to specific places to seek them out.

Nonetheless, I found this book fascinating. The introduction includes a myriad of interesting facts about these insects, and this helps you appreciate these beautiful animals all the more. The "field guide" portion of the book contains a large number of mostly superb photographs. The text in this portion of the book can be, initially, a bit hard to understand for us "lay-people," but if you wish to identify a dragonfly or damselfly, some technical description is necessary (and there is an excellent glossary with drawings to explain terms).

My Point: This is NOT a guide solely for "experts," but for anyone who wants to identify dragonflies/damselflies, in their yard or on vacation (in western North America). It is also visually pleasing and contains far more general natural history background than most field guides. There is no guide currently out that is anywhere close in quality.

My sole "negative" point is that it is nearly impossible for a photographic guide to put as many species per page as guide using drawings. This does sometimes make finding a collection of similar species (between which you are trying to make an identification) more difficult. But this guide is as good as a photo guide is going to get on this front as well.

Steven Mlodinow
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent reference guide to the Dragonflies 6 Aug 2009
By Doc Wallin - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Finally, a reference and field guide to expand on my knowledge of these facinating animals. The info on behavior is worth the whole price. As is stressed by the author, dragonflies (includes damsels) are extremely variable in species presentation. This guide appears to be as close as one can get to basic identification. I've already found answers to a number questions about our local representatives.
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