I am sure that most of have a favourite animal. The sort of thing that if we see in the field, just makes us feel all the more jauntier. For me, almost any mammal does it. Walking alone and silently through woodland and to come across a deer browsing the trees, to emerge from woods and set a startled hare off across the fields, to walk into the gloaming and happen across a newly emerged badger snuffling through the Ransoms, to suddenly awake in my tent and lie, listening to the bark of a fox… OK, so the last can be a little annoying. But still, I do like to learn a little more of those mammals I am likely, or even unlikely, to encounter on my travels.
Sometimes a field guide is suffice, but to delve into the detail, then a mammal monograph is required. The Helm- The Natural History of… series is, or was, produced in association with The Mammal Society and are both accessible reading and authoritative. Not only are illustrative plates carefully chosen but the line drawings are invariably well executed. Note that the subjects of these volumes are not confined to the British Isles, for example, the ‘Wild Cats‘ volume covers all 37 species of the cat family.
While the series of monographs produced by Helm are pretty almost excellent, there are equally as authoritative books to be found from other publishers. Many people are familiar with the excellent and immediately distinguishable bird monographs from T & AD Poyser Ltd (A & C Black) with their white dust wrappers and superb paintings. They have also produced a number of volumes covering mammal and other natural history subjects. Particularly of interest are their volumes that look at interaction with man and the history of colonisation. A less in depth but more accessible set of volumes have also been published by Whittet, I shall take them from my bookshelf in a couple of weeks time to share with you.
Books in featured image:
The Natural History of Hibernating Bats, Roger Ransome. Christopher Helm, 1990. ISBN 0-7470-2802-8
The Natural History of Squirrels, John Gurnell. Christopher Helm, 1987. ISBN 0-7470-1210-5
The Natural History of Weasels and Stoats, Carolyn King. Christopher Helm, 1989. ISBN 0-7470-1800-6
The Natural History of Seals, W. Nigel Bonner. Christopher Helm, 1989. ISBN 0-7470-0203-7
The Natural History of Shrews, Sara Churchfield. Christopher Helm, 1990. ISBN 0-7136-8012-1
The Natural History of Deer, Rory Putman. Christopher Helm, 1988. ISBN 0-7470-2603-3
The Natural History of Moles, Martyn L. Gorman and R. David Stone. Christopher Helm, 1990. ISBN 0-7470-1214-8
The Natural History of Badgers, Ernest Neal. Christopher Helm, 1986, 1990 reprint. ISBN 0-7470-2412- X
The Natural History of Otters, Paul Chanin. Christopher Helm, 1985, 1988 reprint. ISBN 0-7470-0423-4
The Natural History of the Wild Cats, Andrew Kitchener. Christopher Helm, 1991. ISBN 0-12-410570-X
The Natural History of Whales & Dolphins, Peter G. H. Evans. Christopher Helm, 1987. ISBN 0-7470-0800-0