The Kingfisher Guide to the Wildlife of Britain and Europe.
by Michael Chinery, Gen. Editor.
pub. Kingfisher Books, 1996
Hardback, 288 pages, 12.99
ISBN 1 85697 150 3

This two hundred and eighty-odd page Kingfisher Guide crams 800 species of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, fishes and invertebates within its hardback cover. Whether you're travelling, or moseying around the garden or local park, this book will help you put names to many of the creatures you are likely to see. Generally you'll find the English and scientific names given for everything, along with some good artist's illustrations and printed details on the physical attributes of a species, habitat, and food and habits.

Like the Kingfisher Mushroom Guide - also reviewed on this website - the book has a 125mm by 225mm format for easy handling, although at almost three hundred pages it may be a little heavy to carry in a jacket pocket during a walk. That said, this compact tome contains as much identification detail as many larger publications.

As General Editor, Martin Chinery heads a team of specialists who tackle each of their respective areas of interest; and an even larger team of wildlife artists who illustrate both the beautiful and ugly wildlife species who inhabit Britain and Western Europe.

In the section on bird species there's a handy illustration which shows the main physical attributes used to describe a bird. If you weren't a bird fancier would you be able to point to the bib, throat and neck of a Robin? Or even the flank? The bird section also features colour coded maps which show the parts of Europe that a species is likely to be found in - pink for the summer breeding range, purple for throughout the year, and blue for winter only.

I thought the illustrations used in the Invertebrates section - creatures without backbones such as shellfish (molluscs), crustaceans, spiders and insects to name but a few - were particularly well detailed... Even if some of the species are not the prettiest to look at. Armed with these illustrations, which bring out the important physical detail of the species, you should be able to identify an amazing range of wildlife... From Hawkmoths and Lacewings to Water Spiders or Common Periwinkles.

As a compact Guide this book really covers only the essential basics of the 800 species contained within. For more comprehensive details about the life and habits you really need to consult a more dedicated book covering the class of animal you are interested in. However, this would be a book to keep in the car for natural history forays into the countryside, whether across the Channel or here in the UK.

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