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on March 19, 2004
Dragonflies through Binoculars, was my first book on Dragonflies. As an avid birder I became interested in the fascinating insects of the order odinata. I tried to use this book in the field but had little success. Sidney Dunkle's text is clearly written, his explanations are well done, and the pictures are good quality. What is the problem? I finally figured it out. The pictures are too small and the book is written at a level well above that of a novice.
As field guides go there are two schools of thought, Photos and art. When it comes to birds many beginning birders prefer photos because they have a hard time translating the semi abstraction of an illustration to what they are seeing in life. Dragonflies through binoculars is based upon beautiful photographs of the Dragonfly species represented. The problem with photographs is they can only show what the camera sees. The disadvantage is the human eye is far more sensitive than a camera. As a result photographs can leave a lot to be desired. On the other hand art can go beyond what the camera shows and show detail a photograph misses.
As I have gained experience with Dragonflies I have managed to identify a few species using this guide. I was very pleased when I managed to correctly identify the common skimmer Dot-tailed Whiteface using this guide. As I spend more time in the field I really wish the photos were much larger and that more descriptive text would be devoted to each species. In the end I abandoned this guide in favor of The Dragonflies and Damselflies of Northeast Ohio, by Larry Rosche. Published by The Cleveland Museum of Natural History. The Stoke's Beginners Guide to Dragonflies and Damselflies, has also proven useful. For me Dragonflies through Binoculars has become a bookshelf reference rather than a Field Guide.
If you are interested in Dragonflies this book is essential. However from my perspective I would rather pay twice as much and get a book where the beautiful photos could be viewed in all their glory.
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on September 21, 2000
This book contains numerous small (about 1.5" x 1.5") color, fairly high-quality photos of North American dragonflies. It also includes range maps which are color coded based upon the time of year you could expect to see the various dragonflies in different areas. The book contains accounts for the various species, genera and families of dragonflies. The accounts are well-written and touch on some of the dragonflies' natural history as well as summarizing identifying characteristics. The range maps and photos have brief species accounts on the page facing them, with more detailed accounts available in a seperate section of the book.
The book does not cover damselflies. It also does not contain any type of key. Either of these would have been nice, but then I guess the book would have been too large to be a field guide...
This book is the best field guide to North American dragonflies of which I am aware. It is very refreshing to see such a high-quality, useful field guide written about insects other than butterflies <g>.
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on October 2, 2001
This book was eagerly awaited by legions of dragonfly watchers, and Dragonflies Through Binoculars by Sid Dunkle is an good addition to the tools we need to help us identify the many dragonflies in North America. HOWEVER, the PUBLISHER has done many a reader a disservice by putting the idea into people's heads that with this book, a person can ID a dragonfly with binoculars. Even the more advanced Odonatist would have a hard time using the photos in the book to ID specimens in the field. For many species, you have to look at male genitalia, and of course, they are not shown close-up in the book. Furthermore, the photos are too small to show the pertinent features discussed in the text.
Pluses: Good synopsis of natural history, range maps
Minuses: photos too small, no keys, no close-up details of pertinent features, some species not shown.
Overall, even with its faults, this IS a useful book and if you are interested at all in dragonflies, go ahead and buy it.
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I should have been clued in by this book's title, but I was still disappointed when I realized that damselflies were not included in the guide. Since one of my entomological challenges is distinguishing damselflies from their generally larger and faster-flying odonate cousins, it would have been nice to have both in one book.
Whining aside, "Dragonflies through Binoculars" contains a good, well-organized collection of photographs and descriptions of living dragonflies, with 47 plates in full color, plus information on all 307 species found in North America. These ancient insects are enameled in heraldic designs of stripes, checks, and diagonals as though they were about to fly off to an aerial jousting match---which is probably just what they will do as soon as you have your binoculars trained on them. I even saw one dragonfly with a miniature death's-head emblazoned on its thorax.
If you think I'm the only romantic concerning these fascinating Paleozoic-era hunters, tell me why they have been christened with such outlandish names as 'Ebony Boghaunter' or 'Stygian Shadowdragon.'
This book is more concerned with the current ecology of the dragonfly, rather than its 300-million year history. The author also gives advice such as what kind of binoculars to purchase, which clubs or societies to join, and how to photograph these elusive darters in their natural surroundings---there are no hints of kill bottles in this book!
Buy a copy of this book and see if dragonfly watching doesn't become your newest, most enjoyable hobby.
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on August 16, 2005
I am an entomologist who is very interested in dragonflies, so I was thrilled when this book was released. I personally find it very useful. Then again, I know what I'm doing and what to look for. For someone with some experience identifying dragonflies, this book is a great way to quickly identify any dragonfly species in the US down to species in the field without having to lug the heavy Dragonflies of North America book and a hand lens or scope with you.

I must reluctantly admit that this book will be most valuable to readers who already know something about dragnflies. As specified in some of the other reviews, the photos are small and sometimes not as distinct as they might be. (You have to admire the author's photographic skills though - he's produced many very fine images of these insects over the years.) The descriptions are perhaps shorter than they could be. There is perhaps not enough information about how to tell a dragonfly apart from other insects, especially damselflies. For these reasons, I must give the book a four star rating.

Still, I feel this book is a monumental achievement. Anyone who knows anything about insects knows that there are vast numbers of insect species. This book contains pictures and descriptions for ALL of the North American species of dragonflies, even the ones that are rarely found. That, in and of itself, makes this book worthy of high praise. It is rare to find an insect field guide that contains every species in the U.S. The distribution maps in this book are helpful and informative and the descriptions are accurate and concise. But most of all, you get all of this in a book that small and light enough that you can easily carry it with you. Even though this book has some flaws, I doubt a better book will be produced for some time. And until a better one comes along, this book is an excellent reference that any dragonfly enthusiast should own.
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on September 11, 2005
I've been using both this and the Nikula et al. "Beginners Guide..." for several years. The "Beginner's Guide" is much better in the field than DtB for most of us (on the principle that rare dragonflies, birds, etc. are encountered rarely)--but DtB is a useful reference work when trying to confirm field identification from digital photographs (or, I suppose, with "ode" in hand). As a field guide, I find the separation of photos and text/map extremely frustrating (the same commment applies to many other field guides from other publishers).The text itself is excellent in terms of organization and useful information but the photos are sometimes too small to really help with the described field marks. (If I'm told that "only one crossvein behihd stigma is diagnostic" -- Blue Dasher -- then it would be good if the photo was clear enough to show that key field mark.) The lack of damselfly coverage is very frustrating but then it wouldn't be a field guide at all, but an encyclopedia.
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on August 26, 2004
I, like several other reviewers, come to dragonflies by way of my interest in birds. Therefore, in the realm of field guides, I am spoiled by the variety of choices available. Alas, for dragonflies, this is pretty well it at present.

Pluses-- Hey, we have a North American field guide to dragonflies now!

Well written

Reasonable size

Minuses-- Pictures instead of illustrations. (You loose detail and invariably some field marks with pictures. My primary birding field guide uses illustrations.)

No damselflies!

I hope that this is a good start and that the book enjoys popular success to inspire Oxford to either improve it or Peterson or some other publisher to put out something to compete with it.

Bottom line, if you are into dragonflies, this is pretty much the only show in town, and it's not a bad show, it just could be better.
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on August 29, 2000
Superb photographs with direct and accurate descriptions makes this book an absolute must for everyone! Sidney W.Dunkle does an excellent job of guiding the first time enthusiast into the new sport of dragonfly watching. The more experienced "odonatist" will truly enjoy the best-ever collection of clear photos of living dragonflies. The author explains everything: what binoculars to use, where to look, how to photograph them, clubs and organizations to join, and how to identify these magnificent creatures without capturing them. The book has details on mating rituals, life cycles and easy to use maps. I've needed a book like this for years and can't wait for the excitement of dragonfly watching to explode with popularity.
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on November 7, 2014
This Dragonfly guide has everything and anything you need or want to know about them. Similar to the bird books that are out there, this informative guide gives you color photos so you can match up the dragonflies that you have seen then get the information about their habitat, where they usually are found and when as well as other stuff that pertains to them. I got this at the end of the season for us up north here but this will be in my backpack when I go out taking photographs next year along with my bird book. I highly recommend this if you are an insect lover or just love to traverse the edges of lakes, ponds, rivers or fields and would like to know what you have found on your hike.
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on July 20, 2002
As a person with many birding field guides the organization of this book was a disapointment. The plates (like the old Peterson's) are together in the back of the book, seperate from the text. I would have liked to see something like Petersons arrows at definitive field marks. The book is organized by families - as a beginner I would have prefered colors (but do not organize my bird books by color). The book is heavy and large for carrying in the field. But it is one of the few guides to dragonflies - better than nothing.
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