More Field Guides from Cricket, Allen, and Michael!

I try not to look at my podcast stats too closely, but do keep an eye on trends and outliers. And in case you missed it, the episode I did with Cricket Raspet and Allen Fish on field guides was an outlier – in a good way! It was a top 3 episode for both first 7 days and first 30 days!

When we finished recording, it was clear that we all had more gems that we wanted to tell you all about. So here goes, some bonus field guides!

More From Cricket Raspet

The Kingdon Pocket Guide to African Mammals by Jonathan Kingdon – maybe the best mammal guide ever, with beautiful paintings that are full of life.

Hawai’i’s Sea Creatures: A Guide to Hawai’i’s Marine Invertebrates by John P. Hoover – marine guides, especially to inverts, are difficult because of the sheer biodiversity, and many of them just include the coolest species. But this book is pretty comprehensive and was super useful in IDing species with few iNat observation.

Florida’s Living Beaches: A Guide for the Curious Beachcomber by Blair and Dawn Witherington – A really nice themed guide to Florida’s coastal wildlife.  It covers just about anything you might find on or near a beach, living there or washed up, from shells and plants to minerals, fossils and seed pods.

More from Michael Hawk

Dragonflies and Damselflies of the West by Dennis Paulson – one of the best field guides I’ve found, period. Great photos, great information, going a bit above and beyond identification and into natural history. For those in the Eastern USA, Dragonflies and Damselflies of the East by Dennis Paulson

Kaufman Field Guide To Butterflies Of North America, by Jim P. Brock and Kenn Kaufman. To my surprise, there aren’t many great butterfly field guides. Don’t get me wrong, there are other good ones, and some good regional ones. But this one manages to cram a ton of information into a very small book. And to my surprise, many of the butterfly classes I’ve looked into recommend this book, despite some of the taxonomy being out of date.

Trees of Western North America by Spellenberg, Earle, and Nelson. I’ve owned a couple other tree guides, including Sibley’s Guide to Trees, but this one wins hands-down. Yes, it is limited to western North America, but that affords it to go into more depth and most species. This is an illustrated guide.

The Australian Bird Guide by Peter Menkhorst, Danny Rogers, Rohan Clarke, Jeff Davies, Peter Marsack is NOT a small guide, but it is super thorough and jam packed with detail. One of my favorites.

Birds of Europe by Lars Svensson, Dan Zetterström, Killian Mullarney is the USA publisher’s version of the famed Collins Guide for Europe. This is THE bird guide for anyone in or traveling to Europe. Compact (but larger than the Sibley east or west guides), and with smaller text and less white space, it is high value! If you are in Europe, just look for the Collins Bird Guide.

More From Allen Fish

I travelled in France-Spain and UK in the 1990s and was thrilled at the wide range of taxonomic field guides in many large book stores – my best acquisition – the best raptor guide (in French but also available in English)

Guide des Rapaces Diurnes by Benny Gensbol – 2004 edition publisher Delachaux et Niesltle – Gensbol does something no one has done since for raptors at least – he includes rich ecological chapters on each species with range maps and photos, and then has superb plates that show a range of plumages types for each species, painted. He shows age, sex, morphs, and molt! Molt is a great underappreciated aspect of ‘large bird” identification, really the next renaissance for raptor ID. For getting eagles, buteos, condors right – some knowledge of molt is helpful.

Guide des Oiseaux de L’Amerique du Nord by Chandler Robbins, Bertel Bruun, and Herbert Zim, illus by Arthur Singer – in French. 1986, Broquet Publ.

This is the same blue-covered second edition Golden Guide or “Robbins” as many birders called it. Why in French? Just a reminder that many North Americans speak French first or second – and the chance to call out “Sacre Bleu! Crecerelle d’Amerique!” instead of merely … American Kestrel. Or Moqueur Polyglotte instead of Northern Mockingbird. What do you think is Pic a Bec Ivoire? Or Chouette des Terriers?

International guides also brings up guides that cover the world – can these ever really be field-guides? I suspect it depends on the taxonomic group. Princeton has done some amazing books in the past twenty years. Given my raptor-procentrism, I do love:

Raptors of the World, by James Ferguson-Lees. It’s so exciting to see, eg, the harriers of the planet grouped on a few pages. It forces us to think about their evolution and ecological specializations. Why does Europe have four harrier species and North America only one? Why are Bald Eagles and Golden Eagles nowhere near each other? Hmmm.

One of my favorite all-time guides is this:

Birds of Colombia, published by in 1986, just after I started at the GGRO. I was dreaming then of having a South America field site to study poorly-known birds, and I fell into the color plates by Guy Tudor as if they were a huge swimming pool. I haven’t yet made it to Colombia, but the color plates are just stunning, and dream-worthy. Same for most of the Latin America guides, however;

A Guide to the Birds of Mexico and Northern Central America, by Steve Howell and Sophie Webb is another stand-out favorite.

Great all-round guides for plates and essays? I love:

Raptors of California by Hans and Pam Peeters, (2005) and the partner guide

Field Guide to Owls of California and the West, Hans Peeters (2007). Both of these explode with life because of Peeters’ double-edged talent: he is (1) a deeply-thoughtful original writer with 50+ years of field experience as a student of raptors of the world; and (2) one of the best raptor painters alive, also buoyed by a lifetime of field observation and study. These two books stay close at hand for me. My one complaint is that UC Press made them field-guide-sized. The short stature steals from Peeters’ gorgeous and detailed paintings. Both of these books should be re-issued in a bigger format to meet the quality of artwork that Peeters has produced.


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