Field Guides for the Outdoors
A satisfying feeling of accomplishment always overwhelms me when I identify any new species of bird, mammal, and all other living things from the Natural environment. The Birds, the Mammals, the Flowers, and the Trees always seem to capture my attention first. This is partly because of their presence in the areas I frequent and my fascination with these living things.
The geologist, the entomologist, and the botanist all have their favorites as well, and many excellent field guides have been produced for this purpose. Fortunately for us, dedicated men and women have spent their entire lives studying, photographing and learning about these wonders of Nature.
To most of us, who have other areas of effort to occupy our lives, it is comforting to pick up anyone of these Field Guides to augment our knowledge and comprehension of our favorite fields of study. The Birds are the first to attract my attention with their songs and their color and a quick glance within the pages of the National Audubon Society Field Guide to BIRDS Western Region never ceases to provide an accurate description of the subject, including its habits, and a map of its range on the North American continent.
Jean Rabin Audubon was such a man. He was born in, Les Cayes, Saint-Domingue, (today known as Haiti), on April 26, 1785, and passed away on January 27, 1851, in New York, U.S.A. He was an ornithologist, a naturalist, and a painter. His passion for the study and documentation of all the American birds is well worth noting however, it is as an illustrator of birds that he has gained his great renown. The photograph at the top of this blog is Plate 1 from his immensely popular book, The Birds of America.
His most famous work, The Birds of America, is one of the finest books on Birds and in it, he identified 25 new species of birds in the United States. Thus began the age of the field guide. His influence on ornithology and natural history has no equal and even Charles Darwin has quoted him on 3 occasions in his book, On the Origin of Species.
The life of John James Audubon produced what is certainly one of the first such field guides. It also fostered the National Audubon Society. The National Audubon Society, in turn, has produced many excellent field guides that have become the gold standard of the modern era.
National Audubon Society Field Guide to BIRDS western region is one of these and it also is my go-to reference whenever I need to identify a bird species from the western region of North America. It is the “birding” bible, and a must-have for all birders.
Plate 117 offers an accurate visual description of the Ring-necked Duck, (one of my daily sightings, this Spring) and Page 408, of this field guide, goes on to describe this water bird in much greater detail. Here we can find information on its physical features, its voice, its habitat, its nesting and breeding habits, and the range it occupies on the North American Continent, and on it goes in this manner for 544 species of birds found in the western region of North America along with 676 photographs of these 544 species.
There is also a companion volume to this book called, National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Birds: Eastern Region.
This is also, the first “birding” guide book to visually organize species by color and shape, making field identification simple and accurate.
It also includes in more detail
- the parts of a bird
- a glossary
- bird-watching guidelines
- a list of accidental species
- a conservation status list
- 544 species, and
- 676 full-color photographs of these species
This exceptional Field Guide is, without a doubt, one of the go-to books of all serious birders. The National Audubon Society field guides are a must-have reference for all bird-watching enthusiasts. The 2 above-mentioned books include all the North American bird species and accidentals.
It describes their conservation status and also includes the Parts of a Bird. This is a superb volume of detailed effort, by many dedicated photographers and people of ornithology. Do yourself a favor and make this classic a part of your library.
If you have any comments, questions, or suggestions about Field Guides in any field of study I will welcome them without hesitation. I would love to hear your stories of rare sightings that you have experienced and how you happened upon them.
I am also very interested in accidental sightings and the climactic events that usually produce them.