I first became interested in moths in the mid-seventies, when identification was via the 2-volume Richard South publication in Warne's Wayside & Woodland series - first published in 1907. When I resumed my interest quite recently, Skinner's guide, published in 1984 with its much friendlier layout, had superseded South's. Both of these books required the moths to be identified from photographs of set specimens, and this made many of the less distinctive species difficult to identify, without similarly killing and setting the specimen and even then, the reproduction of the plates or the condition of the specimen used, made this sometimes doubtful. This new book contains precisely painted illustrations of all the "macro" moths recorded in Britain and Ireland, in their natural resting postures, enabling identification without killing or other manipulation of the moth. It is easy to peruse the plates and eliminate those that are simply the wrong shape or size and also to see readily, the shape and distribution of the key patterns of the wings. Occasionally other key points are illustrated, where these help , such as the hindwing of the Alchymist. Where variation exists within a species, this is illustrated too. The plates and the text are easily cross-referenced, with the exception within the text of the reference to similar species, where plate numbers would have helped.
For each species there are notes on Field Characters, Similar Species (features sadly missing from the Skinner guide), Habitat, and Status & Distribution (amongst others). After 2 days use, I am confidently identifying the smaller and less distinctive noctuids, with great confidence, where previously the guide(s) available were inadequate for this. I've even put names to some photographs that had been sitting on my computer, unidentified for some time.
Technical terms are virtually absent - for example, the parts of the wing are referred to as "leading edge", "tip", "outer edge" etc, and these are explained and illustrated in the introduction, which gives brief explanatory notes on moth classification and identification.
This is a really well designed and presented book, written and illustrated by experts. The popularity of moths will take off!