Saturday, 28 November 2009

The Bookshelf - Wildlife

What does your bookshelf say about you? At a guess it’s a snapshot of your interests with a few randoms in there too. Narrow that down to subjects… and it probably tells a lot more about you. I've avoided saying too much about myself on my blog but, with Christmas Wish Lists in mind too, I thought I’d take you through what books are on my bookshelves and how they got there.

Okay, briefly breaking my bookshelves into subjects and you have (in no order of preference) Wildlife, Birds, Gardening (from practical to themed), Photography, Art (Drawing and Watercolour) and Technical (PhotoShop, video, programming). Mm… just thinking about this further I have a few other books that might be of interest to you too!


Let’s kick off, as per the post title, with Wildlife. I completely appreciate my books may be of no interest to readers from outside the UK but please do read on as this is as much about why these books are on my bookshelf and that doesn’t really change from country to country. So… introducing the wildlife books…


RSPB Wildlife of Britain
is everything you want in a book. Ultimately its breathtaking photography make you go ‘wow’ and inspire you to keep turning pages. This book also inspires you to head outside and see its images for real, for yourself!

The weight and quality of this hardback book makes it feel special to own and an ideal gift (I gave two last Christmas). Its layout is clean with excellent, easy to follow, detailed illustrations and it is written both informatively and in narrative.

In all honesty, I don’t have a single criticism of this book… an absolute treasure. Mm… perhaps the RRP at £30 (around $50) is an issue. However, as with all books/products if you shop around you may well get a discount on this. I was fortunate to get my copy for half price. My gift copies I picked up at a third of the price… now that was a treasure!


The Complete Guide to British Wildlife was the very first wildlife book I bought. In this case, I chose it as it wasn’t a big read! I was looking to use this book primarily as a source for ID’s. I found many books were illustration based but found a photographic reference much better. Initially this book gave me enough info. Searching for a little more info I picked up another copy in this series – Complete British Animals. My interest in wildife was developing now.



Next, the holiday book… Butterflies and Moths (Pocket Nature). Last year, we were in Norfolk and I spotted butterflies I had never seen before. Rather than just taking photographs and finding ID’s when I got home I decided it would be much more fun to find out what we were seeing at the time. On this occasion the wildlife book was scaled down to pocket size.

Pocket sized it may have been but this was a valuable, quick and easy book to use. Photographic references and illustrations were excellent and once again a great layout. I particularly liked the instant size guide (comparison to book size) and the maps showing the regions of the UK the species could be found. The later helped me a lot. However, the best part of this book was that displayed the butterflies by colour and for the newbie like me this worked a treat!


Not all books that say they are pocket sized will actually fit in the average coat pocket. However, the Pocket Nature Wildlife of Britain which covers British animals and plants just begged to be bought!

Yep… this was probably an impulse buy, no way did it fit in my pocket… it was one for the bag. Oh no… with cameras etc already packed there was little space and it would make my bag heavy.

Why did I buy it then? Well, it gave a fantastic snapshot of everything from trees to starfish… great photographs, illustrations, layout and this time extra details like footprints and droppings of mammals! Oh… and I did really like the fungi section. So did it work as a pocket guide? Yep, I just make room for it somewhere… or ask my kind OH to put it in his pocket :-D


This Wildlife section just couldn’t be complete without a reference and connection to wildlife gardening. Fitting in a square pocket (should you want to carry it around) "Gardeners' World": 101 Ideas for a Wildlife-friendly Gardenmay appear a modest addition to my bookshelf. However, there are some fantastic ideas in this project based book.

One particular project really caught my attention… I’ll come back to that when I give it a try. If you do have this book on your bookshelf I wonder if you can guess which project I’m thinking about. Actually, there are quite a few I like. Again, simple is the key here. This book includes plants for wildlife and feeder ideas.


Wildlife books can be found in Garden Centres as well as book sellers. Not all books there are at full price either. Bargains can be had if you have time to browse… even at this time of year with all the extra Christmas stock of trees and decorations. However, in some ways it is quite sad to see a book with a RRP at £12.99 (around $22) being sold for £1.99 (around $3)… less than the cost of a magazine!

A book about wildlife in towns and cities at that price appears to be a no-brainer! Mm… but where’s the catch? Well, for me it wasn’t the print date of 2003… it was the author. I could hear his irritating voice as I read the text. Sorry, Chris! Mm… but I bought the book… why?

Well, living on the edge of a small town (almost in the countryside) I am actually fascinated to hear about the wildlife that makes its way to and actually has a city habitat. Chris Packham's wild side of town is written in a narrative way in a style you’d expect from Chris… with interesting stories I have to admit.

This book has an illustrated field guide towards the end of the book which I liked. It also lists top urban sites with address/location/website details which I thought were very useful too. Chris's passion for wildife is without question and he's pretty knowledgeable too. Okay… I‘ll admit... I’ve found myself warming to him ;-)


So, here we come to the end of the present collection of wildlife books on my bookshelf and I’ve kept the best to last.

Although the images in the books above are absolutely captivating, having unquestionable value in ID’s and the illustrations are accurate there is just something missing. Until I discovered the Secret Lives of Garden Wildlife I didn’t see that either.

The skilled photographer can capture the true character of wildlife but, for me, the illustrator can capture just a little magic. They can bring the page to life.

I absolutely love everything about this book but I especially love the sketch style illustrations. They, for me, just say so much more than the words on the page.

On saying that, I also absolutely love the narrative and informative way this book has been written. It is fact and observation based and follows the months of the year. I have another in this series and… one on my Christmas Wish List. I feel the author is chatting to me... and you can guess I might enjoy that!


Okay, that’s enough bookshelf chat for today. What about the wildlife in my garden that these books have helped me get to know? Well, not many sightings at the moment. I’m guessing the hedgehogs are pretty much in hibernation now with perhaps a few odd night prowls for last minute feeds.

My last sighting (October 28th) I never got the chance to post about and involved lifting and weighing one that I thought might just be slightly on the small side for this time of year at 541g (600g + is much better).



I decided to keep this hedgehog overnight in my shed in a roomy spare guinea pig cage with a space to hide, food and water. I kept an eye ‘live’ that evening through my wildlife camera on a tripod but wasn’t happy watching this wild animal caged. It did move around a bit trying to get out. However, I felt it was the right thing to do to keep it there.


My nearest wildlife rescue centre is a busy SSPCA centre and I left a message with them the next morning. I eventually spoke to them early the next evening and as the hedgehog had been seen at dusk and was still moving about enough to suggest it wasn’t ill I was advised to just let it go where I found it. I was relieved as I was concerned it was getting stressed and I certainly was myself…watching it! This did upset me too.

Let’s take a look back again at another dusk hedgehog visitor back in the summer. This one was happily on safari in my garden and didn’t appeared bothered at all that I was quietly following it with my video camera :-D




Now... I wonder if you are on Christmas Shopping 'safari' this weekend. If so... good luck :-D

You may notice I’ve chosen to link directly to Amazon here so you can their reviews should you be interested in buying any of these books. You might also find the some books have had reprints and don’t have the same cover as the one on my bookshelf. Happy reading!

20 comments:

Lisa at Greenbow said...

Shirl, if I came to visit you wouldn't have to worry about entertaining me. I could just sit in your garden and read your books. Your interests are so similar to mine. I would love to read more about the wildlife in your country. Better yet, I would like to actually see it.

Deborah at Kilbourne Grove said...

It is always so fascinating looking at someone elses bookshelfs. The books look great, I think that I will put the RSPB Wildlife of Britain on my wishlist.

Mr. McGregor's Daughter said...

Your post has made me realize there's a gaping hole on my bookshelf - I don't have any wildlife or bird books. Or course I recognize all the fur-bearing mammals around here, but I still have to guess about the birds and the bugs. I love your hedgehog videos. I guess its a good thing we don't have them, I'd never get anything done in the garden, I'd just sit and watch them all the time.

Liz said...

Great collection of books Shirl, currently most of mine are still in boxes since moving - in dire need of some book shelves, I'm tired of them all being in boxes now.......

As time goes on and I buy more, they end up dotted around the house collecting dust, so really ought to sort ourselves out.

Christmas shopping... Went to Dobbies today... Spent far too much, so looks like my Christmas shopping may have to be a little more stingy this year and shop around for the best prices!!
(got some bargain pots though for the winter, the biggest cost was I ended up buying decorations, bumped up the cost considerably.)

G L Wilson said...

Shirl, that is a beautiful hedgehog video! I wish mine were like that.

I know what you mean about finding it stressful keeping them in overnight. If you've been following my blog you'll know I've taken three different young hogs in overnight. I hate it - I can't sleep knowing the poor things are caged up.

The last one I took to Tiggywinkles wildlife hospital was 470g. They are now quoting a hibernation survival weight of 500g rather than 600g, although perhaps 600g is a better weight for your hogs up in Scotland where it could well be much colder.

Sheila said...

Shirl, I stumbled on your blog a couple of months ago, and now have it bookmarked. I love it.

I've just discovered the garden I've lived in for 26 years, this year, and am loving getting to grips with it. I've come to this through birds, so share a lot of your interests. I also come from near you, tho' I've been in Aberdeenshire for a long time now.

I will go and add two of those books to my wish list- the Gardeners' World one and the Wild Side of Town. I'm so awash with wildlife gardening books, I'm not sure my better half will let me have any more.

ShySongbird said...

It's great having a peek through other people's books Shirl! I admit to having shelves full of dozens of Nature/wildlife books collected over the years but one set I must mention is the Collins photographic Nature guides which I think started as a result of you mentioning your Complete Guide to British Wildlife. I managed to get many in the set at real bargain prices which is always pleasing :)

The RSPB Wildlife of Britain was given to me as one of my Christmas presents from HLH last year and it really is a stunning book. As I chose it myself I know that it too was a bargain price, it seemed that with a paper cover it was £30 and without £9.99!

I also have the Gardeners World one and the Secret Lives both of which I bought only this Summer. I'm sure I have far more books than I need really but I do find there is always something different in each one and I expect there will be more to tempt me before long!

A great read in more ways than one on a miserable, wet afternoon, thanks Shirl :)

Anna said...

I enjoyed reading your post Shirl. I have books on birds but only a basic wildlife book. I think that one or two of these titles will be added to my Christmas wishlist. Thanks for the suggestions. I am staying well clear of Christmas sarfaris until December :)

Miranda Bell said...

Hi Shirl - funny you should do a posting on books as my book shelf is a bit thin on wildlife books - more on gardening, plants and a few on butterflies and my favorite bird book - by Collins - out of the wildlife books - which would you say are the best in terms of more in depth detail on the life of Hedgehogs and Doormice in particular as I want to add one to my Christmas list... I'm wondering also if you might have snow up with you now!? Have a good week whatever you're up to... our hibernating hedgehog is quite cosy right now... just concerned that it's not sheltered enough a spot that he's chosen if it gets really cold... don't suppose it would be wise to make a hedgehog nest box and move him? What do you think? Take care Miranda x

shirl said...

Hi there Lisa, LOL… oh but I would! You’d be most welcome and I’d clear a space for a jig or two ;-)

I had been guessing our interests were similar which you perhaps you will see again through my birds bookshelf :-D

shirl said...

Hi there Deborah, I agree completely. This was a series of postings I had planned for a later date and not necessarily running close together but after adding books to my own wishlist I considered this probably the best time to share this.

Thanks, I’m glad you enjoyed seeing the mix I have. If you look at the Amazon reviews for the book you are considering you’ll see I’m not the only one who loves this book :-D

Now… I really have a mix with my Birds Bookshelf (of course they don’t actually have a shelf to themselves!). When it comes to sharing the gardening book list… I’ll have to consider how I do that one. I’ve been gardening longer than watching birds and wildlife :-D

shirl said...

Hi there MMD, LOL… this post has made me realise how long it may take me to run through a series of postings on the contents of my shelves ;-) I have quite a mix… birds are up next.

I’m wondering if other bloggers (if they have time) would like to join me when I hit on the gardening books towards the end of the week… I hope ;-)

Yes, pre blog I guess I recognised a few birds, butterflies, bugs etc but when I began taking photos, writing about them and new ones came it was time to have back-up on ID’s.

I am delighted you caught this hedgehog video. I always remember the huge smile that your comment brought to my face when you told me how much you enjoyed watching an earlier hog video with your daughter :-D Hedgehogs in the wild here are nocturnal and are usually seen around dusk… you’d be able to ‘work’ around them if you had them ;-)

shirl said...

Hi there Liz,Thanks, since blogging I have a nice mix now. Hopefully you’ll be reunited with your books before the end of the year ;-)

Yep… books can go walkabout can’t they. Believe it or not I actually lost the large hardback in the second photo for ages!

LOL… I see you’ve posted on your latest Dobbies visit ;-) Now, you should be getting a loyalty card from your store! It’s great to pick up last minute plant bargains but… you have to be strong and resist the Charismas decorations. When they sparkle in your direction… you’ve just got to walk away ;-)

shirl said...

Hi there GL, thank-you, this one was posted previously but I did love it myself. It was brilliant just following this hog around the garden. There were few edits on this one. I thought it would be a good one to end the hedgehog year on.

I guessed you would understand re the stresses of temporarily ‘caring’ for a hedgehog overnight. It is really awful isn’t it? You think you’ve done the right thing by lifting it but….

It’s been good to see that you have a willing fellow hedgehog lover to help you take your hogs to the wildlife rescue centre. Interesting to read about the lower survival weight… I guess they have research to support this. As you say perhaps up my way (definitely North of me) they might need to be heavier.

I certainly hope I don’t see any young ‘uns up here next month… I did last December. Hope yours are all safely in hibernation in your area too… fingers crossed :-D

shirl said...

Hi there Sheila, welcome! I am thrilled you enjoy your visits enough to bookmark my blog :-D

Very interesting to hear how you stumbled by… I am aware that bird and wildife searches do bring visitors this way :-)

Also interesting to hear you’ve come from around here too. We have been passing through Aberdeenshire fairly regularly in the last year with our daughter now at RGU in Aberdeen. By the car temps en route I guess you have hardier plants up there!

LOL… yes, books can be as addictive in collecting as plants can’t they? I should say re the Chris Packham book that I noticed (when I collected the Amazon link) that there are other editions… they look newer. You might want to see how the reviews of each book compares. Sh… don’t tell your better half that I have more bookshelf postings to come ;-)

shirl said...

Hi there Jan, I agree it is! It tells a lot about the person too don’t you think. I’d certainly love to hear what other bloggers have on their bookshelves and how some of these books got there :-D

Brilliant to hear you picked up a bargain set of the Collins books. Their photographs are great aren’t they? Brilliant to hear you also have a copy of that wonderful RSPB Wildlife book. It is a treasure of a book :-D

Interesting to hear that this summer you picked up the Gardener’s World one… I picked my copy up then too! Now, the secret lives one is a great series, I just love it…. I have the ‘British Birds’ one on my wishlist for this year. As you say there is always a slightly different spin with each book on our shelves :-D

Funnily enough, I did consider the timing of this posting over a miserable weekend was perhaps was fortunate. That wasn’t intentional :-D

shirl said...

Hi there Anna, Glad you enjoyed it. I have to say pre blog I had neither bird nor wildlife books. I do enjoy browsing them now and they have been a valuable source for many a posting.

Oh yes… I can completely understand keeping ‘the safari’ until into December. Oops… I may have a few more books that might catch your eye before then… birds are up next :-D

shirl said...

Hi there Miranda, as I said above to Anna so was mine pre blog. It’s gardening books that weight my shelf too :-D

Gosh… there’s a question re hedgehog and dormice books. Now, I’ll have to put my thinking cap on but someone left me a comment recommending a book on hedgehogs by someone who has spent their whole life studying them. I’ll get back to you with that if I find it. Dormice I have not come across and can’t help there I’m afraid.

Nope, no snow yet but it looks to get a lot colder tomorrow! Really must get my gunnera protected today… it’s a perfect dry day for it. We have a lovely blue sky too… hope it’s the same with you :-D

Mm… re moving a hibernating hog… don’t know. My suspicion would be that you could possibly disturb it enough for it to wake and if it did it might leave its cosy abode and use up too much energy trying to build or find another. In all honesty I have absolutely no idea of the likelihood of a hog waking if you moved it. It is quite possible that part of its cosy home is underground though and it would be tricky to move anyway.

If I was concerned in this situation I might be tempted to place a wooden box above it with an entrance on one side (a hole 13cmx 13cm for it to get out. If you do this on a dry day I’d be tempted to add some hay on top too before you put the box over it. I’ll be interested to hear what you do :-D

A wildlife gardener said...

Hi there, Shirl...here I am again, on my once a month blogging trip..and I always look forward to your posts and am never disappointed :)

I like your idea of talking about what's on your bookshelves...and find that mine are very similar to yours, though I think I should invest in the technical computer programming book!

I agree that anyone coming into our homes would soon guess our interests by a perusal of the bookshelves...and I even have floral wallpaper in some of the rooms, as well as wooden and china bird ornaments and paintings of wildlife :)

I loved your video of the hedgehog...such close detail...it is as good as any wildlife programme I see on tv...your garden is a paradise for the hedgie to wander around in and live in :)

shirl said...

Hi again Wildlife Gardener, nice to see you. I hope the last month has been kind to you and your wonderful wildlife garden. I’ll be over to see shortly :-D

Thank-you, you are always very generous with your comments. As I have been a novice in the wildlife and birding areas I thought others too might be interested in the selection of books that help me watch birds/wildlife in my garden. I certainly would be interested myself. I’m not at any point saying these are the books that everyone should have but simply these have been my choices. I am certain when it comes to birding there are many better books than the ones I have but I’m happy with my lot so far… although I do still have one on my wishlist ;-)

Yes, I don’t do personal stuff on my blog so I felt this is more of an indirect look at me… there is little evidence at all (except my bookshelves) that I watch what goes on in my garden… until you look out the window ;-)

Thank-you, I loved taking that hedgehog video. It was a treat to be able to watch it so closely. Yes, probably now as my plants are increasing in size and covering almost all areas of the ground I can well imagine it must be a great place of any hog to explore.

Enjoy December in your garden. Wishing you a great Christmas! See you at the end of the month :-D