WALKING in Sidcup’s fantastic Lamorbey Park, I was approached by a woman heading in the opposite direction.

Clearly excited, she said she had not only seen a water vole near the lake but managed to photograph it. She held up her mobile phone for my inspection and I saw a nice photograph of …. a brown rat !

Wild Things: An insight into our elusive wildlife

I tried to let her down gently by explaining water voles have rounded faces and furry tails while the animal in her picture had the pointed, fierce face of a rat and a hairless tail. She looked crestfallen until I added that the now rare voles were unlikely to be seen in Lamorbey Park but she could try Crossness Nature Reserve in Belvedere where they breed.

Hopefully the lady will read this and take my advice to buy the Princeton University Press field guide Britain’s Mammals. Or persuade someone to give it to her for Christmas.

News Shopper: Europe’s Birds by Rob Hume, Robert Still, Andy Swash and Hugh Harrop price £20

It contains 500 superb colour photographs selected to show key identification features of each of the 126 species recorded with advice on locating and watching mammals. You don’t even need to see them to know what has passed your way as important field signs like footprints, droppings and nests are also included.

If you want to distinguish otters from pine martens or rats from water voles then this book is the answer.

Even more lavish is a new guide to European birds from the same publisher. All 928 species recorded in Europe feature in the 640-page Europe’s Birds which includes 4,700 stunning colour photographs and 540 distribution maps.

Wild things: Mindless vandalism at nature reserve

Ideal for birdwatchers to tuck in the hand luggage for holidays where birds will be less familiar than those near home. Maybe leave it in the hotel rather than taking it on field trips as it is so comprehensive it is pretty heavy. Take ID notes in the field and later compare them to the text and photographs. The most inclusive and up to date photographic guide of Europe’s birds available at a bargain price. Containing all the UK species, this may be the only guide you will ever need.

Both are published by WildGuides for Princeton University Press.

Britain’s Mammals by Dominic Couzens, Andy Swash, Robert Still and Jon Dunn price £17.99

Europe’s Birds by Rob Hume, Robert Still, Andy Swash and Hugh Harrop price £20