Review by Kathleen Lane
The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds has teamed up with Dorling Kindersley to produce the most stunning book I have seen in a very long time. It has to be an absolute must as a coffee table book
It is a book to which one will return again and again, to dip into for more delights, or on days when the spirit needs to be lifted. My enchantment is not only because in the opening pages, called a Tour of Britain, two of my favourite places are featured. They are the totally different areas, one being a Norfolk meadow in high summer alive with red poppies and a huge variety of other wild flowers and the other Rannoch Moor in winter, with sun glinting on the peaks in the distance.
There are informative sections on Habitats, prefaced by a Map of the Geology of the British Isles, to set the context. There then follow informative sections on the Coastal, Freshwater, Mountain and Upland, Woodland and Farmland through the four seasons. All the places and times are illustrated by dazzling photographs. There are thousands of small pictures of flowers, birds, insects, trees and plants, interspersed with double page close-ups. The Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary Butterfly, the Emperor Dragonfly, the Greater Horseshoe Bat and the Common Sea Urchin, being a tiny sample worth a mention
One thing which I found most fascinating was how much I do not know, after what I usually think of as a good education, several decades of extensive travel around the UK and years of paid-up membership of the Norfolk Wildlife Trust and the RSPB. Only today have I found out that there are enough varieties of wasps to fill a double-page spread. There are Spider-hunting, Jewel, Common, Paper, Potter and Digger Wasps to name just a few. I suspect not a lot of people know that. There are enough wildflowers to extend the running time of productions of Hamlet by a considerable amount, while Ophelia names them in her bouquet.
Being about to travel in Scotland in July this year I took a particular joy in discovering the Non-biting Midges, but somehow I think we shall only meet their Biting cousins as usual
If you have an interest in wildlife, want to know more and can indulge yourself, you should get this book. If you are a parent or grandparent wanting to encourage a love of beautiful books and an interest in the living world, this is a superb book to dip into with children of almost any age, once you have made sure they have washed their hands. It is the book to turn to when you have come back from an outing and want to check up on what you have seen, or to study somewhere before you go.
It is, however, not the book to have in your hand when doing the Great Garden Bird watch, nor is it one to be kept in the glove compartment of the car. It is far too big and heavy for either of these things, but it will engage, inform and amaze you for a very long time
RSPB (2008) Wildlife of Britain : The Definitive Guide Dorling Kindersley Ltd. London
ISBN 978 1 4053 2932 3