ISBN 978-1-84773-601-7 Price £4.99

Like a modern day ‘Observer’ series these Concise Guides are perfect for introducing young and old alike to the delights of the natural world around them. These new concise guides, published by New Holland in association with the Wildlife Trust, are lovingly illustrated and sure to be popular.

Three guides are available covering birds, butterflies and moths, and wild flowers. Each is a mini field guide in its own right. These handy guides are designed to enable quick identification of the commoner birds, butterflies, moths and flowers likely to be encountered in the British countryside. Each guide has deliberately been designed to fit into a small pocket and the guides are packaged in a durable plastic wallet with a double-side fold-out for similar species.

The Concise Bird Guide covers some 250 species and is aimed at quick identification in the field. The Concise Wild Flower Guide covers 180 species considered to be widespread and easily spotted on walks. The Concise Butterfly and Moth Guide covers some 70 species of butterflies and 80 species of moths.

I suspect these pocket-sized guides will be particularly popular amongst children (and parents buying for their children) and could be a real asset for school field-trips where their value-for-money price tag, easy to skim illustrations and focus on the most likely species to be encountered, all nicely presented in a durable field guide could be a real asset within the education curriculum. If you’re a teacher why not bag enough for each child to take one on their next field excursion.

Inevitably such a handy-sized field guide has to compromise on information – there are no range maps, no identification pointers on the illustrations to help separate confusion species. But for those starting out on a journey of discovery, these guides will make their owners a little more aware of the natural beauty around them. And does it matter if that warbler is misidentified if the interaction between bird and observer has brought a little more understanding of the interdependence of each. And even if you’re a top-notch birder, you’re unlikely to be as proficient on butterflies, moths or wild flowers. And we should all aspire to a more rounded understanding of the diversity of our natural world.

Without wanting to pick out one illustrator above another, Dan Cole’s work is always eye-catching and his contribution to the Concise Bird Guide is no exception. Lively, jaunty illustrations capture the mood and personality of the species, a rare ability that should please even the most experienced birder. And with other artwork by Richard Allen, David Daly, Szabolcs Kokay and Stephen Message, many of whom have exhibited their work on surfbirds previously, the illustrations in the Concise Bird Guide are excellent throughout.

These guides aren’t likely to make it onto many ‘book of the year’ shortlists. They don’t offer any ground-breaking identification criteria. But that is not their purpose. They will however make perfect presents for friends, family members and others who you think need to get out more.

The Concise Guides are published on the 1st May 2010, price £4.99 each.

You can buy through Amazon here


Butterflies and Moths

Wild flowers