Along the Natchez Trace

Monday, May 13, 2013

This One is For the Birds...

There are a lot of field guides on the market and I know a lot of us have our favorites.  My very first bird field guide was a little book...  about 3 x 5".  It was one of the "Little Golden Book" series.  I don't remember how old I was when it was given to me, but I know that I wasn't nearly as young as my own kids were when they received their first bird book....  they were hardly more than infants.

Eventually I got the Peterson Field Guide to the Birds, and from there my library of field guides quickly expanded.  The Peterson series has field guides to everything from the clouds and the constellations to animal tracks (and scat), flowers, ferns...  you name it!

Then when I was in the recreation and wildlife program in college I acquired more technical books.  Donald J. Borrors book of insects was one of my favorites... I mean, really, with a name like that, how could you not like it as a reference for insects?

Newcomb's Wildflower Guide surpassed the Peterson guides for being "user friendly".  Years ago it was difficult to find a good field guide for butterflies and moths, but somewhere in storage I have a long out-of-print book with decent color plates... enough to get me by at the time.  Later I think Dover publications came out with a guide...  and then... wow!  Kauffman, Peterson etc etc...

When David Sibley first published his bird field guide it was a full-size book...  big and too cumbersome for easy use in the field.  But I think it was one of the first major breaks we made from our old Petersons.  As time went on, Bill found that he likes to use the National Geographic Field Guide to the Birds of North America.  And now that the Sibley's are broken down into Eastern and Western USA (and much easier to handle) that has been my choice.

As soon as we buy a new field guide, we take it to Kinko's and have the binding cut off and a spiral binding put on...   makes it a LOT easier to use in the field.

When we packed our motorhome in early 2001 to travel the USA taking along our field guides was a high priority.  I have no idea how much they all weighed, but it had to be considerable.  Not only did we have those, but as we traveled to new places, we'd buy field guides pertinent to that region. Eventually we were overwhelmed with books and resorted to putting all but those we thought we'd be using soon in our storage place in Ohio.  I have books on wildlife in Alaska and along the northwest Pacific coast stored there that maybe someday I'll get to use again..

The internet and Google have really alleviated much of the problem of "too many books".  Now we carry only about a dozen field guides with us.  And...  yes... at least 4 of those are for the birds.
One really great book we have is The Birder's Handbook.  This one's not a field guide, but has tons of information.  Once you recognize what bird you're seeing, this book tells you much more than a field guide does.  After posting yesterday about the woodpeckers here, I looked up just how long after they hatch those little guys will fledge.  A whopping 30 days!  That's a long time for their parents to catch and carry food to them.  Even after they fledge, they will hang around with their parents throughout the season.  (does this sound like modern-day kids to you?)
Besides giving information about breeding, habitat, diet, incubation etc, it also has about 250 essays covering all aspects of avian natural history.  Actually, it's set up so that on the left hand page are all the "bird facts" and the right hand page has the essays.  And along with the bird "information" you're given the page of the essay that would pertain to that fact.  Pretty neat, huh?

 I am by no means promoting any particular book here...  but I love my books and always find it interesting to learn what other folks use and why.  I like my Kindle to read my mystery novels, but it will never replace my field guides!

That's All For Today!


  1. I seldom carry a book in the field anymore. Just too much stuff with my cameras and all. However, my go to guide is Sibley's also. The Birder's Handbook is something I have as well. Great minds and all that... ;)

  2. There are many great field guides available , but i really like some internet sites. These sites have several photos, sound and motion.

  3. I have had a Peterson's for a very long time. I thought about updating it, but it does almost everything I want it to. A good field guide, for sure.

  4. I have the Natl Geo birds book but it doesn't have the spiral binding. I would really appreciate that feature. I have some other bird books but always go back to that one.

  5. I use my David Sibley birdbook a lot. It always straightens me out! LOL. Sorry I've missed commenting on your blog...we've been so busy...which will continue for a couple more weeks. Spring stuff, etc. Don't give up on me. Even if I don't have time to comment, I'll be looking at your blog.