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Field Guides
Roger Tory Peterson's original bird guide

The book that started it all: the original Field Guide to the Birds

Flower_guide_cover (44K)

Audubon's field guides use pictures instead of drawings

When you're interested in nature, as I am, you often spend a lot of time out in it, on nature walks and suchlike. When you do, you usually want some kind of reference to tell you what it is you're seeing. That was the idea behind Roger Tory Peterson's Field Guide Series, and where Peterson went others followed. Now, my library includes a whole shelf of field guides.

Bird Guides

As far as nature-watching goes, I'm a birdwatcher first and foremost. So my first field guides were all bird guides. There isn't any one best bird guide, so I've accumulated several of them. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages, but all of them are useful at different times.

  • BIRDS EAST OF THE ROCKIES, A FIELD GUIDE TO (Field Binding)
    Author: Peterson, Roger Tory
    Copyright:1980
    Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
    ISBN: 0-395-36164-8
    Peterson's Field Guide to Eastern Birds, field-bound version. Best bird guide ever published for eastern NA.
  • BIRDS OF NORTH AMERICA (Golden Field Guides)
    Author: Robbins, Bruun, Zim
    Copyright:2001
    Publisher: St. Martin's Press
    ISBN: 1-58238-090-2
    Perhaps the best of the three bird guides that I have: lightweight and durable, with good paintings and descriptions of the birds covered, plus sonagrams of some of their calls. A whisker ahead of the Peterson Field Guide to Birds of Eastern North America.
  • BIRDS OF NORTH AMERICA, A FIELD GUIDE TO
    Author:
    Copyright:1999
    Publisher: NGS
    ISBN: 0-7922-7451-2
    National Geographic's field guide to birds. Not bad, but not as good as Peterson's. Also a bit large to easily carry in the field.
  • BIRDWATCHING SITES - EASTERN U.S., National Geographic Guide To
    Author: White, Mel
    Copyright:1999
    Publisher: Nat'l Geo
    ISBN: 0-7922-7374-5

  • BIRDWATCHING SITES - WESTERN U.S., National Geographic Guide To
    Author: White, Mel
    Copyright:1999
    Publisher: Nat'l Geo
    ISBN: 0-7922-7450-4

  • GUIDE TO BIRDS OF BRITAIN AND EUROPE
    Author: Bruun, Delin, Svensson
    Copyright:2001
    Publisher: Hamlyn Books
    ISBN: 0-600-60052-1

  • WESTERN BIRDS, A FIELD GUIDE TO
    Author: Peterson, Roger Tory
    Copyright:1990
    Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
    ISBN: 0-395-51424-X

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The Peterson Field Guide Series

My favorite field guides, and the ones I use most often, are the Peterson Field Guide Series. While others put out better individual guides on one topic or another, I think the Peterson guides are in general the best there are. Roger Tory Peterson basically invented the field guide as a type with his FIELD GUIDE TO THE BIRDS, first published in 1934. He used painted portraits of the birds matched with short descriptions of them, with both the descriptions and the portraits pointing out two or three distinctive "fieldmarks" that distinguished that specific bird species from all other similar birds. This was so useful that it became the signature of all the Peterson Field Guides: the description with fieldmarks in italics, matched with the painting which had arrows pointing out the fieldmarks.

  • ANIMAL TRACKS, A FIELD GUIDE TO
    Author: Murie, Olaus J.
    Copyright:1974
    Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
    ISBN: 0-395-18323-5
    Peterson's Field Guide to animal tracks, scats, and other field signs. Focuses on mammals, with a little information on birds, reptiles, and other animals.
  • MAMMALS OF NORTH AMERICA, A FIELD GUIDE TO
    Author: Burt and Grossenheider
    Copyright:1980
    Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
    ISBN: 0-395-24084-0
    Peterson's Field Guide to the mammals of North America. Field-bound version.
  • MEDICINAL PLANTS OF EASTERN/CENTRAL NORTH AMERICA
    Author: Foster and Duke
    Copyright:1990
    Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
    ISBN: 0-395-46722-5
    A field guide that deals specifically with medicinal plants native to eastern and central North America. It may not appear to be much practical use these days, but it's fascinating anyway, simply to read about all the different types of medicines one can find in ordinary plants.
  • REPTILES AND AMPHIBIANS (Eastern Region), A FIELD GUIDE TO
    Author: Conant and Collins
    Copyright:1991
    Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
    ISBN: 0-395-58389-6
    Peterson's Field Guide to reptiles and amphibians of eastern and central North America.
  • REPTILES AND AMPHIBIANS (Western Region), A FIELD GUIDE TO
    Author: Stebbins, Robert C.
    Copyright:1985
    Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
    ISBN: 0-395-38253-X

  • STARS AND PLANETS, A FIELD GUIDE TO
    Author: Menzel and Pasachoff
    Copyright:1990
    Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
    ISBN: 0-395-34835-8
    Peterson's Field Guide to stars and planets. Field-bound version.
  • TREES AND SHRUBS, A FIELD GUIDE TO
    Author: Petrides, George A.
    Copyright:1972
    Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
    ISBN: 0-395-35370-X

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National Audubon Society Field Guides

The Audubon Society's field guides use photographs instead of drawings or paintings for illustrations. The photographs are helpful in some cases, such as wildflowers, because a photo is full-color and puts the flower in its proper environment. In other cases, such as birds, the photos aren't nearly as good as paintings. However, the Audubon guides' layout suffers from one major flaw: the photographs and descriptions are in separate sections, so you have to flip back and forth between them. This makes these more useful as references, where you can look up a species in the index and go directly to its photo and text. They are not very good as actual field guides, when you're trying to identify a bird or flower or something that you don't know the name for. In a few cases I have both the Audubon and Peterson guides to the same subject; in others, I have the Audubon guide because there's no matching Peterson guide or because the photos are more useful than the drawings.

  • NORTH AMERICAN FISHES, WHALES, AND DOLPHINS, A FIELD GUIDE TO
    Author: Boschung, Herbert
    Copyright:1983
    Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf
    ISBN: 0-394-53405-0
    Audubon Society field guide to North America's freshwater and saltwater fishes, whales, and dolphins.
  • NORTH AMERICAN FOSSILS, A FIELD GUIDE TO
    Author: Thompson, Ida
    Copyright:1995
    Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf
    ISBN: 0-394-52412-8
    Audubon Society's field guide to common North American fossils.
  • NORTH AMERICAN INSECTS & SPIDERS, A FIELD GUIDE TO
    Author: Milne, Lorus and Margery
    Copyright:1980
    Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf
    ISBN: 0-394-50763-0
    Audubon Society's field guide to North American insects and spiders.
  • NORTH AMERICAN MAMMALS, A FIELD GUIDE TO
    Author: Whitaker, John O.
    Copyright:1980
    Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf
    ISBN: 0-394-50762-2
    Audubon Society field guide to mammals of North America.
  • NORTH AMERICAN TREES, A FIELD GUIDE TO
    Author: Little, Elbert
    Copyright:1980
    Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf
    ISBN: 0-394-50760-6
    Audubon Society's field guide to trees of eastern North America.
  • NORTH AMERICAN WILDFLOWERS (Eastern Region), A FIELD GUIDE TO
    Author: Niering, William A.
    Copyright:1979
    Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf
    ISBN: 0-394-50432-1
    Audubon Society's field guide to wildflowers of eastern North America.
  • NORTH AMERICAN WILDFLOWERS (Western Region), A FIELD GUIDE TO
    Author: Spellenberg, Richard
    Copyright:1979
    Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf
    ISBN: 0-394-50431-3

  • WETLANDS, A FIELD GUIDE TO
    Author: Niering, William
    Copyright:1985
    Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf
    ISBN: 0-394-73147-6
    Field guide to wetlands wildlife, both plants and animals. Too large to be easily carried, and fragile binding.

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Field guides from other publishers

Finally, I have several miscellaneous field guides. Some of these are on specialized subjects. Others I use as supplements or alternates for Peterson or Audubon guides.

  • FIELD GUIDE TO THE GRAND CANYON
    Author: Whitney, Stephen
    Copyright:1982
    Publisher: Wm. Morrow & Co.
    ISBN: 0-688-01328-7

  • FOSSILS, SIMON & SCHUSTER'S GUIDE TO
    Author: Mondadori, Arnoldo
    Copyright:1986
    Publisher: Simon & Schuster
    ISBN: 0-671-63132-2

  • GEMS AND PRECIOUS STONES, SIMON & SCHUSTER'S GUIDE TO
    Author: Mondadori, Arnoldo
    Copyright:1986
    Publisher: Simon & Schuster
    ISBN: 0-671-60430-9

  • McCLANE'S FIELD GUIDE TO FRESHWATER FISHES OF NORTH AMERICA
    Author: McClane, A. J.
    Copyright:1978
    Publisher: Holt, Rinehart & Winston
    ISBN: 0-03-021116-6

  • MUSHROOMS, SIMON & SCHUSTER'S GUIDE TO
    Author: Mondadori, Arnoldo
    Copyright:1981
    Publisher: Simon & Schuster
    ISBN: 0-671-42849-7

  • TREES OF NORTH AMERICA (Golden Field Guide)
    Author: Brockman, C. Frank
    Copyright:1986
    Publisher: Golden Books
    ISBN: 0-307-13658-2

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