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4.8 out of 5 stars
Philip's Guide to Butterflies of Britain and Ireland
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26 of 26 people found the following review helpful
on 9 November 2009
Butterflies are undoubtedly the most popular group of insects and this is reflected by the wide range of books available to help identify them, so what then are the chief selling points of this little guide?

The Philip's guide is the latest version of a book that began life as the RSNC Guide to the Butterflies of Britain and Ireland in 1986 and the publication of the current version (in 2007) allowed for extensive revision and updating to reflect changes in the status of the butterflies since the earlier edition as well as the changing state of our knowledge and understanding of their biology.

One of the key differences between the Philip's guide and many of its competitors is the fact that it is restricted to the butterflies of Britain and Ireland. This means that it will not be a satisfactory choice for anyone intending to use it on butterfly hunting holidays on the European continent where there are about six or seven times as many species as are found in the British Isles. The benefit gained however is that it allows much more space to be allocated to each species in what remains a slender volume that would not weigh you down on a foray into the field.

Each species is thus accorded a two page spread which provides a much more detailed account than is the case in most field guides. The text, by Jeremy Thomas, is clearly written and provides an informative portrait of each species and its biology. The text is supported by clear diagrams that indicate the typical time of year at which one can expect to encounter each life stage and life cycle drawings that indicate the habitat in which each of the immature life stages occurs as well as indicating what it looks like.

For the illustration of adult butterflies opinions differ as to the relative merits of paintings versus photographs but this guide opts to provide the best of both worlds. In a section near the beginning of the book, each species is illustrated at approximately life size by the well known insect painter Richard Lewington. These high quality illustrations show both upper and undersides of each sex and are annotated in order to highlight key identification features. In the individual species accounts that follow, each species is further illustrated by decent photographs that show the insect in typical attitude and habitat as the reader might encounter it in the wild.

Overall, then this is an excellent little guide that is well worth its purchase price.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 23 August 2011
This book by Jeremy Thomas is an updated version of the one frequently referred to by the writer/journalist Patrick Barkham in his recent book "The Butterfly Isles" (also well worth a look for anyone interested in the natural world and butterflies; although not an ident book- it is more of a monologue/memoir of the authors year searching for all the UK butterflies).

'Philips Guide To Butterflies of Britain and Ireland' has secured an indispensable presence in my rucksack alongside the 'RSPB handbook of British birds' and I would not be without it. Butterflies of Britain and Ireland is far superior to my previous butterfly ID book for one main reason:- it only covers the British species and a few rare migrants, and therefore is quite a slim volume but has extensive information about each butterfly (Ident books comprising European species tend to cram everything into a small space, and personally I would only end up using a small portion of such a book).

Thomas writes clearly, providing a wealth of information of each of the 60 different British species covered in this book, and is pitched at just the right level to appeal equally to the reader, be they layman, hobbying naturalist or avid lepidopterist.

The book is divided into numerous parts; the first details general information such as the life-cycle of caterpillars and butterflies and the various different species found in the various habitats. This is followed by a 'quick ID' section comprising illustrations of the butterflies inside wing and also the underwing. These illustrations are provided by foremost insect illlustrator Richard Lewington, and are accompanied by indications of key identifying marks and a page reference to the full description of the species.

The 'meat' of the guide is a large section where detailed information of each species is presented; each butterfly is afforded a two-page spread with a large colour photograph of the adult butterfly and a wealth of easily digested information, as well as a graphical indication of when the various stages of the butterflies life-cycle can be observed (particularly useful for seasonal flight-times of the adults), distribution map, and illustrations depicting each stage of the life-cycle. A short, illustrated section on our rare migrants completes the guide.

This guide hedges its bets in regards to pictures, providing both illustrations in the 'quick ID' section and colour photos in the main section. I like having both; advocates of 'illustration only' guides may like to investigate Richard Lewingtons own butterfly ident guide as an alternative.

All in all, I consider this the premiere butterfly handbook/field-guide around at present and cannot fault it in any way.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 25 June 2011
I ordered this field guide because I was impressed by the thoughtful, practical layout. The drawings of the different species families and similar species grouped together on the same pages makes it very easy to identify butterflies under real field conditions. This feature dispenses with the need to turn page after page in the hope you reach a positive ID before the butterfly flies away! Once identified, the guide points you to the relevant pages for more detailed information. It is also great value for money!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 22 March 2013
The book is a very comprehensive guide to UK and Irish butterflies. There is a section for each species, describing the life-cycle, habits, food plands, distribution and so on. The book is very well presented with detailed photographs and coloured illustrations to help easily and positively identify each butterfly species, including eggs, caterpillars and chrysallises.

I would strongly recommend this for people requiring a field guide or a reference book. The book is easy to read which makes it accessible for beginners, but also contains a lot of excellent detail for the more experienced enthusiasts. The book is a handy size (about 12 cm x 20 cm) to take with you as a field guide.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 16 June 2013
After doing a butterfly identification course I needed a decent reference book with all the info conveniently place in a book that I could carry on my travels during my Transects.
Wonderful images and from all stages of life with a lot of info jammed in to give you the heads up.
Recommended by the instructors at this price it is a positive must have bargain.

buy it you will have no regrets
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on 8 June 2009
A superb book that provides exquisite details of the life stages of British butterflies - a must have reference and identification book.
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on 22 February 2015
Great book! It starts with a general info section on butterflies, habitats, spotting tips, etc. Next there are several pages devoted to a quick reference field guide, beautifully illustrated with all of the native butterflies, including underside of wings. This section is handily coloured at the edge so you can find it quickly. It then has a double page on each native butterfly with a photograph and lots of information on lifecycle, habitat, feeding plants, distribution, etc, plus a small illustration of a caterpillar on the relevant plant. Unfortunately the caterpillar illustrations are not detailed and clear enough - my only (little) criticism of the book. Finally there are a few pages on migrants seen in Britain and the major day-flying moths. With all that info it still manages to be a nice small size for carrying. Highly recommended.
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on 1 November 2013
45 pages of an introduction, background, guide to main family groups (with plenty of pictures where required) and I didn't find this at all boring.

over 100 pages of butterflies -2 sides each butterfly with a lovely picture; map showing locations; small time chart showing the month/s when egg, caterpillar, chrysalis, adult can be seen; sufficient information in the text to suit most people

7 pages showing extinct butterflies; rare migrants; vagrants & accidentals; day flying moths. With a picture and small amount of information about each.

2 pages of further reading and societies to join

only the UK & Ireland, so not full of those I'll never or am most unlikely to see.

All in all 10/10 :-)
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on 10 January 2014
Borrowed this book from a neighbour as I had a sudden influx of butterflies into the garden. The book provided all the information I needed and as I identified the butterflies I realised I should buy my own copy, and return the other one to my neighbour. This is a good reference book, just wish there was an equivalent moths book.
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on 10 October 2014
This lovely Butterfly book has rich illustrations of each butterfly accompanied by comprehensive descriptions. It is most helpful in identifying butterflies that you don't usually see. Yet again Phillips have surpassed themselves making this a wonderful gift for anyone who loves butterflies.
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