The Furry and Creepy Creatures of Britain

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A Field Guide to Britain’s Spiders

No, this is not a new Harry Potter story. It is a pair of books on British Wildlife.

I wish I had Britain’s Spiders: A Field Guide (Princeton University Press (WILDGuides)) Lawrence Bee, Geoff Oxford & Helen Smith for the United States.

The Chelicerata include the Arachnids, which in turn includes such as the scorpions, harvestmen, mites, etc. The largest single group of Arachnids is the spiders (Araneae). They all breath air, they all have eight legs, they all have venom injecting fangs (see THIS for more on that). Of all of the orders of organisms, spiders are seventh in terms of total species diversity, with over 45,000 species. (For reference, there are about 5,400 species of mammal and about 10,000 species of bird.

In Great Britain, there are some 37 families, and all are represented in Britain’s Spiders. It is estimated that there are about 670 species of spider in Britain, of which 395 are given full accounts in this book, focusing on the ones you are likely to find, or even not too likely, but leaving off the rarest. The book does include a complete list of spiders observed in Britain.

This is a photographic field guide, with high quality photographs. the typical entry has the taxonomic info, information for identification, reference to similar species, information about status and distribution, and a range map. Each account also has a phenology chart showing, for males and females separately, the months over which adults are observed. Both the range maps and phenology charts are probably very accurate for some species, and, according to the text, only sparsely backed up for the rarer or less accessible spiders.

The first hundred pages of the nearly 500 page book have sections that are about spiders, spider webs, etc. There is quick guide (on a two page layout) of types of spiders, and a family by family account over several pages. There is a lot about spider biology and ecology, and a bit about collecting them (apparently spiders are still on the list of animals you can collect, unlike butterflies).

About the Authors:

Lawrence Bee is an ecological consultant and educator and the author of the Field Studies Council’s Guide to House and Garden Spiders. Geoff Oxford is a biologist at the University of York and an authority on both colour variation and speciation in spiders. Helen Smith is a conservation biologist and currently leads the conservation programme for the endangered Fen Raft Spider.This book is produced in collaboration with the British Arachnological Society (, of which all three authors are active members.

By the way, you you need to get rid of the spiders in your house, after identifying them of course, THIS may be a helpful resource

A Field Guide to Britain’s Mammals

Meanwhile, on the furry side of things, Britain’s Mammals: A Field Guide to the Mammals of Britain and Ireland by Dominic Couzens Andy Swash, Robert Still, and Jon Dunn covers every single native animal you could possibly encounter in Britain, including in the nearby seas.

There is no typical layout in this book. It depends on the type of mammal. The animal illustrations are excellent photographs. The book uses as many pages to illustrate the animal as needed, and has numeroius charts where appropriate detailing specific information, for example, a table called “regularly occurring pipistrelles compared” which gives fine details of three species of some sort of bat. For many mammals, though, there is a two page opening layout with a couple of photofgraphs, stats, range information, observation tips, and the start of extensive text covering ID, sound, spoor, habitat, food, etc. This then sometimes runs over to a second spread with a continuation of the text, and more photographs. I like this flexible layout, and it makes the “field guide” a bit more of an encyclopedia. I will come back to this book again and again. And, like the spider book, I’d love to see a version of this for North America.

Have you read the breakthrough novel of the year? When you are done with that, try:

In Search of Sungudogo by Greg Laden, now in Kindle or Paperback
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