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on 5 September 2006
For several years now, WILDguides have been setting the standard for small, handy field guides that focus mainly on British wildlife. Their approach is characterised by portability, the emphasis on visual utility (the use of computer enhanced photographs) and a significant contribution to conservation. The latter is achieved in two ways: firstly by getting these guides into the hands of the public at very competitive prices (WILDguides is a non-profit publisher) and secondly by donating all profits to conservation organisations that work on the area or organisms treated by each guide.

Twenty years ago, there was just one guide to British dragonflies - the very expensive and awkwardly proportioned - but ground-breaking and beautifully illustrated - "Dragonflies of Great Britain and Ireland" by Hammond, published by Harley Books. This slim volume was so expensive that I had to wait for a school prize to fund it, and the quality of the book was such that it remained at home and was consulted only after returning from dragonfly trips, notebook in hand.

These days, thankfully, there are many more options for identifying Odonata in the field, from Steve Brooks' 1997 "Field Guide to the Dragonflies and Damselflies of Great Britain and Ireland", illustrated by Richard Lewington, to Klaas-Douwe Dijkstra's brand new "Field Guide to the Dragonflies of Britain and Europe", both published by British Wildlife Publishing. These two guides are nigh on definitive with the illustrations a pleasure to behold and are worth every penny of the price - they should be on every naturalist's shelves. Nevertheless, despite this extremely stiff competition, I believe the Smallshire & Swash guide has the edge for actual field identification of British Odonata. Why?

Two things swing it for me. The first is the overall clarity of the text and illustrations. With the book open at one species, I can see the entire species account, clearly divided into sections, red print highlighting major field marks. On the same page is a good size map, easily interpreted, together with a bar calendar to indicate flight season and a neat little condensed box suggesting "Observation tips". On the opposite page are superb computer-enhanced photographs, some 4 - 10 per species depending on variability and the identification challenge it poses. Secondly, four full page, full colour spreads summarise the identification of all species with colour illustrations of the abdomen and other key features.

This book is a comprehensive photographic guide to the dragonflies and damselflies of Britain and Ireland, covering all 43 breeding species, 3 former breeders, 11 recorded vagrants and 10 potential vagrant species. Its 55 remarkable full colour photographic plates show all you need to identify the adults. In addition, it is worth noting that this guide allows you to identify larvae and exuviae, something not covered by, for example, the European guide.

And since WILDGuides are a non-profit organisation that supports conservation throughout the world, you are helping ensure that the wildlife you enjoy today will still be there for others to enjoy tomorrow. In this case, profits from the book go to the British Dragonfly Society. Check out their web site and look for other WILDGuides titles on Amazon.co.uk, all of which share the enhanced photography approach. Another winner is "Britain's Butterflies" by David Tomlinson and Rob Still in the same series.

So, if you are going to buy just one dragonfly guide for the British Isles, then make it this one.
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on 13 January 2007
In my opinion this is a good buy to compliment other dragonfly guides, but not the best one if you only want to buy one book (I prefer Steve Brooks 'Dragonflies and Damselflies of Great Britain and Ireland). Photographs work very well in combination with good quality illustrations (something which is increasingly being used in guides to different bird families), but I don't think they always show identifying features as well as illustrations can.

The photographic plates in this guide have been digitally manipulated so that a variety of different individuals (males and females, mature and immature) are seen, apparently together in one photograph. The result is a series of plates which illustrate the diversity of colours of each species very well, but often look cluttered and un-natural (with very distracting backgrounds).

The information actually contained within the book is very good, with the four double page identification tables at the front of the book especially useful, enabling very easy comparison of the key features of different species. The text is clearly laid out and includes brief details of the behaviour and life cycle as well as identification.

A key to larvae (using photographs and line drawings) is included at the back of the book.

Well worth buying, especially as a donation is made to conservation for each purchase!
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on 22 September 2004
At last a photographic guide that is in print for the UK.
The digital photo plates are excellent as well as the superb colour keys to all the species. The general write up for each species is also very good. There is also the added bonus of plates for future and potential new species. This will I'm sure prove to be a real bonus, rather than having to keep buying the latest revised edition of a certain other British field guide every time a new species is discovered.
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on 17 February 2012
I already have the two comprehensive identification guides "Dragonflies and Damselflies" by Steve Brooks and "Dragonflies of Great Britain and Ireland" by Cyril Hammond so I was hesitant to buy yet another field guide. However this book excellent and certainly complements the other two and in some areas surpasses them. All the species descriptions are accompanied with several photographs rather than drawings, but these are so good with key points indicated that drawings are not necessary. There is a well-illustrated summary key of all adult species and also an illustrated key of nymphs. There is also a good section on Vagrants, Potential Vagrants and Former Breeding Species. As an added bonus pages of this book are "waterproof" and so are resistant to marks and damage occurred with field use. A very good book for both novices and experts in dragonflies. If you don't know what a Coenagrion spur is you need this book! Don't hesitate like me, buy it - at this price (it's nearly a £1 cheaper than when I bought it last year) you won't regret it!
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on 4 December 2010
Most importantly, this is an excellent guide. The number of dragonfly guides on the market continues to grow, but this one is up with the best. For my money, Steve Brooks' & Richard Lewington's Field Guide is still the best guide available, but this one is in many ways the perfect compliment to it. This book trumps the Brooks one in having a complete, illustrated guide to the nymphs. This seems to be really very good indeed. The photographs of the adults are also excellent, though in many cases you still have to refer to the computer-generated artworks for the clearest illustrations of critical identification features. As a youngster, it was the photographic wildlife guides which really fascinated me, though I now think that there is no substitute for really high quality artwork (ie Lewington). The gap is narrowing though, and I'm sure that this guide would be much more likely to get a child 'hooked' than the Brooks guide. It's superb for adults too!
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on 17 July 2006
This is the best field guide i've seen for the Dragonflies and Damselflies of Britain. It has clear photographs and good descriptions of the Dragonflies and their behavior, it is clear and easy to use. This is definetly the best book to buy if you want to find out about Dragonflies in Britain.
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on 31 July 2010
I have had this book for for a few weeks now and it has been both a revelation and a fascination. The photos are of excellent quality, the range of information exemplary. You go go as far as you wish into this subject from basic identification, i.e. that is what a golden-ringed dragonfly looks like, to the the finest details of abdomen, thorax and wing. As someone new to the subject, I can be found with my head in this book most weekend evenings after an afternoon photographing them in the local waterways and ponds. This book is a delight and I cannot praise it highly enough. Next year I am going to go on some of the dragonfly walks led by one of the authors (info via the British Dragonfly Society website) as they are in my district..... can't wait!
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on 2 March 2011
An excellent book with superb photographs and rally useful identification tables covering all species with males, females and immatures clearly distinguished. the information is clearly presented and concentrates on observable features avoiding minute complications only visible under a microscope. For a guide to take into the field this is probably as good as they can get.
Anyone with even a slight interest in dragonflies will benefit from acquiring this book.
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on 7 December 2015
I don't like writing reviews but this has forced me because it is really so good.
A real gem for me- a definitive guide- all you need to identify all the dragonflies in the UK and any that are likely to occur here through migration. What makes this special are the pages full of detail for each species and for me especially those devoted to identifying the larvae- this makes it both a popular and at the same time a scientific book, which is a rare achievement. It reads so well and I hope it is the future for such guides ( check out their other guides, because this is the first of the wild guides I've read). I have read hundreds of natural history books and this is for me the finest for what it sets out to achieve. I hope you enjoy it as much as I have.
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on 22 November 2014
This is an excellent book with brilliant illustrations. It makes it much easier to try and identify damselflies and dragonflies. It also contains lots of interesting information about larvae and lifecycles etc so is well worth buying.
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