Book Review: Audubon Eastern Birds
National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Birds: Eastern Region by John Bull and John Farrand Jr., is a really nice field guide for getting an overview of the kinds of birds you are seeing in your backyard or at parks. There is an explanation of the range maps and types of birds at the beginning, and there are beautiful color pictures of the birds in a special section, organized by type of bird and color. I especially liked the section on owls. They also show both male and female birds when they have different coloring. The next section is a section of bird descriptions and range maps that correspond to the bird photos. There is also a description of their calls, but sometimes it can be a little hard to transcribe bird songs. You just have to make sure that you keep the page numbers straight, because the number of the “plates”, (photos of the birds), are different from the page numbers of the bird descriptions, and you just need to make sure you have the right number, or you’ll turn to the wrong page. All in all, I think this is an excellent book, but I would like it if the descriptions of the birds were more detailed. There is also an Audubon Western Birds book as well.
Book Review: Field Guide to Tracking Animals in Snow
by Louise R. Forrest, illustrations by Denise Casey
This is a little late in the season, but we just got a bunch of snow last week, so it is still relevant. This is a nicely laid out book that contains information about all of the mammals in North America, and also their track patterns. It could also be used as a way to track animals in sand or mud as well. The text is accompanied by beautiful drawings, and there is an introduction at the beginning of every section that covers information on that family of animals. Also at the beginning is a very detailed introduction on the different track patterns that are formed in the snow.
Reference: Field Guide to Tracking Animals in Snow, Louise R. Forrest, Stackpole Books: Mechanicsburg, PA, 1988
This is a photo I took last year in Michigan of an Eastern Chipmunk in a Rhododendron bush. They gather many seeds, nuts and fruit in preparation for their winter sleep. It is not a real hibernation though, because they wake up periodically to eat from their store of food. They do have a somewhat lower body temperature when they sleep, however. There are many different regional chipmunks in different areas across the country. It can be rather hard to tell them apart. I reviewed a guidebook last year, The Audubon Guide to Mammals, that has a section that covers different kinds of chipmunks.
Book Review: Reptiles and Amphibians of Michigan
This is a field guide to the many reptiles and amphibians of Michigan. The pictures are really beautiful, and the version I have also comes with a CD of frog and toad songs that you can use to aid your identification. There are different chapters for turtles, snakes, lizards, salamanders, and frogs and toads. There are also interesting introductions to all of these animals, showing how they are an integral part of the ecosystem. All in all, I found this to be quite an informative book, one that would even be useful to people outside of Michigan, since a lot of these animals appear in other states as well. I learned about quite a few animals I had never heard of before. At first it might appear that Michigan is not the best environment for these animals, since they are cold-blooded, but they all hibernate for the winter (which is detailed in the book), so it works out fine. Some of these animals have unusual names, such as the Queen Snake and the Eastern Hognose Snake. Others have an unusual appearance, such as the Blue-spotted Salamander and the Northern Leopard Frog. Also of interest is that the Painted Turtle is the Michigan State Reptile.
Reference: Reptiles and Amphibians of Michigan Field Guide, Stan Tekiela, Adventure Publications, Inc., Cambridge MA: 2004
Book Review: Night Sky
The book Night Sky by Jonathon Poppele is a field guide put out by Adventure Publications. It was a National Outdoor Book Award Honorable Mention. Basically, this is a great introduction to stargazing, and perfect for warm summer nights in the backyard, camping trips, or trips to the dark sky park (where you can stargaze at night). It shows every constellation in the night sky, and tells when the best times for viewing are, as well as the best times of year, what times of year you can see the constellation, the mythology of the name, and how the constellation was discovered. In the back of the book, there is a guide to the planets and solar system.
Reference: Johnathon Poppele, Night Sky, Cambridge, MN: Adventure Publications, 2009
Animal Tracks of the Great Lakes
Animal Tracks of the Great Lakes is a small book, but it covers most of the main animals of the Great Lakes region. It could also be used in other regions as well, since a lot of the animals are common in other areas. In addition to animal tracks, it also has descriptions of the animals, and beautiful illustrations. This is good as a quick reference book, but also is fun to read.
Reference: Ian Sheldon, Animal Tracks of the Great Lakes (Lone Pine Publishing, 1997) 159 pgs.
Click for more info:
Animal Tracks of the Great Lakes at Indiebound.org
Peterson Guide to Animal Tracks
Book Review: Peterson Guide to Animal Tracks
The Peterson Guide to Animal Tracks is a very thorough book on how to track North American animals, mainly mammals. The authors have a thorough knowledge of the subject matter, and include information and photos on tracking animals in various conditions, including: sand, mud, and snow. There are beautiful line drawings of animals, as well as photos of animal tracks, and pictures of further signs of animals, like nests and scats. Some of the more interesting drawings are of different kinds of rabbits, a weasel peeking out of the snow, and a comparison of fox, coyote, and wolf tracks. There is also an introduction and an extensive bibliography.
Reference: Olaus J. Murray and Mark Elbroch, A Field Guide to Animal Tracks, third edition (New York: Houghton Mifflin 2005), 391 pages.
Book Review: Butterflies of the North Woods
Butterflies of the North Woods by Larry Weber is an excellent field guide for identification of butterflies. It is part of the North Woods Naturalist series, covering the states of Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Ontario, Canada. How many times have you seen a butterfly flying by, and weren’t sure what it was? This field guide not only has excellent photos, but it also has a lot of information on the habits of butterflies, such as what food they eat and what food the butterfly caterpillars eat. It really helped me out, because we get a lot of brown butterflies with eyespots in this area that all look very similar. It helped me to differentiate between them, by comparing the number of eyespots, etc. Also included is an interesting section on the history of butterflies, such as: butterflies are really a type of moth that may have started flying during the day to get away from moth-eating bats. There is also information on day-flying moths that only look like butterflies. Also part of the series: Moths and Caterpillars of the North Woods, Dragonfies of the North Woods, and Damselflies of the North Woods.
Reference: Larry Weber, Butterflies of the North Woods, 2nd edition,(Duluth,MN:Kollath+Stensaas Publishing, 2006)
Book Review: Moths and Caterpillars of the North Woods
An interesting field guide is Moths and Caterpillars of the North Woods by Jim Sogaard (Duluth,MN: Kollath+Stensaas Publishing 2009). This guide focuses totally on moths, unlike other guides that also cover butterflies. It is part of the North Woods Naturalist series, and covers the Great Lakes states of Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Ontario, Canada. This is a really excellent guide because the pictures are very good, and the information is easy to understand. It even contains a natural history of moths, and has some information I didn’t know about, such as: butterflies are really a type of moth, and butterflies may have developed the ability to fly during the day in order to get away from moth-eating bats. Moths have been around since the time of the dinosaurs, and have developed many different colorings and defenses. Some of the moths are as brightly colored as butterflies, while others are camoflaged to look like tree bark. Some of the plain looking moths are very brightly colored as caterpillars, or have unusual tufts of hair. All in all this is an interesting book, because moths don’t seem to be talked about as much as butterflies. This is one of the reasons why the author wrote the book: he thinks that butterflies are great, but that moths are interesting as well, and deserve a book of their own.
Book Review- National Audubon Society Mammals
John O. Whitaker, Jr., National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Mammals, (New York: Chanticleer Press, Inc., 1996, 2nd edition).
This is a fantastic field guide to mammals. It has a lot of information and good photos, and I have used it as a source for a lot of my articles (posts). The photos look realistic,like the photos were taken in the wild, and each family of animals has a seperate introduction, so you can see how all the animals in that group are similar. The information onthe individual species give helpful info on how to identify these animals, the kind of tracks they make, other signs they leave, a range map, and their habitat. All in all it is a good investment, and it often includes interesting facts about these animals that you might not know. I got this book some time ago, so there might be a newer edition.