18 January 2012


In case you have forgotten, I write reviews of books published by Princeton University Press on this blog every once in a while. 

"DRAGONFLIES AND DAMSELFLIES OF THE EAST", by Dennis Paulson, was published in 2011 by Princeton Press.

Let me start by saying my history with dragonflies has been a short one.  Although I started birding when I was 10 or 11 years old, it took me quite a while before I appreciated insects.  Even then, 15 years later, I focused more on butterflies.  My interest in dragonflies started to take hold when I lived in Iowa.  Can't you picture it?  I'm walking through a remnant prairie... but I already know that what I'm hearing is a Henslow's Sparrow... and that the big butterfly other there is a Regal Fritillary... but what is this dragonfly??  I'm not saying I know everything about birds or butterflies, but dragonflies naturally became an interest of mine and I soon found that searching for dragonflies can be just as rewarding as searching for butterflies.

First and foremost, you may recall that this guide is the eastern counterpart of the book released in 2009 by the same author, "Dragonflies and Damselflies of the West".  It is that book that I ended up using in Iowa/Nebraska and on many of my travels and I can't recommend it enough.  This book covering eastern species is laid out in exactly the same manner.

This book illustrates all 336 eastern species of dragonflies and damselflies in about 538 pages.  The book isn't exactly a "pocket guide" but it's not too large to take into the field either.

Each species account comes with:

Common Name
Scientific Name
Total length (in mm)
Hindwing length (in mm)
Natural History
Flight Season

Here is a sample from the book, this one of the Canada Darner:

For me, in the beginning phases of learning odes, I've always found it important to have a good idea of distribution.  In most cases, it really helped me to be able to dwindle down the number of possibilities.  I'm pleased that Paulson's book includes range maps for most, if not all, the species covered in the book. Here is the range map for the Eastern Forktail:

Pretty exciting stuff, I'm really happy that this eastern guide has finally been released!  I would definitely recommend it to anyone who lives out east.

I'll leave you with the start of another species account, this one of the Westfall's Snaketail:

I received a complementary copy from the publisher for review purposes, but the viewpoint expressed in this article is entirely my own.