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Recommended Reading

Books for Suburban Naturalists:

1. FIELD GUIDES---Peterson's are the best. There's a Peterson's guide for most creatures, but Eastern Trees and Wildflowers are highly recommended.

Plants are the major focus of this club, as much if not a little more than animals, since plants are less understood. To understand animals, you've got to know the plants that sustain them, shelter them....plants mean everything to animals and are their source of life. You can't be a naturalist unless you know both, and a knowledge of botany is an essential foundation for a knowledge of ecology.

Plus, creatures are furtive. Birds fly away and are mostly spotted with binocs. You've got to poke under logs or rocks to find the reptiles. And forget about mammals: most are nocturnal---you're lucky to find a footprint or pile of scat!

But plants are everywhere. They don't run or hide. They withstand immense scrutiny, which subnats do most of the time they're out in the woods, waiting for a creature to cross their path.

There's a Peterson's field guide for every topic in ecology: birds, insects, butterflies, moths, beetles, ferns, mammals, reptiles and amphibians. They're all great, and you should get others (bugs are also a good choice, because---like plants---they are ubiquitous and easy to examine).

Don't get any of those Peterson "First Guides" or any other for beginners: they only contain a smaller sample of what you'll be looking for. Half the time, you'll want to identify a plant or animal, but it won't be included.

Peterson even produces an ecology field guide: Eastern Forests by John C. Kricher. It is the best and essential reading. Packed with info, and grouped in four sections for each season, so you can approach it that way.

2. Trees, Shrubs, and Vines for Attracting Birds by Richard M. DeGraaf---Though limited to birds, it is one of the best resources; much better than piecemeal lists supplied in wildlife gardening books. Degraaf has done a lot of research on the topic---you may want to read his other works, such as Landowner's Guide to Wildlife Habitat or Technical Guide to Forest Wildlife Habitat Management in New England. Though intended for owners of large land tracts, they're still illuminating.

3. American Wildlife & Plants: A Guide to Wildlife Food Habits by Alexander C. Martin, Herbert S. Zim, and Arnold L. Nelson---No other source on the subject has been so exhaustively researched and documented. All animals included, from all corners of the United States. Three sections: part one on wildlife food habit history, studies, methodology and data interpretation; part two organized by specific animal and what plants comprise their diet; part three names each plant and lists the animals that feed upon it---so you can reference by either animal or plant. Plants are ranked for each animal by percent of diet, so there's a clearer sense of which plants are more vital. Additional notes provide details on each species.

4. Manual of Woody Landscape Plants: Their Identification, Ornamental Characteristics, Culture, Propagation and Uses by Michael A. Dirr---most comprehensive resource for all landscape designers and horticulturists. Includes every tree or shrub you're ever likely to encounter in the garden or woods, and many more you'll only find in botanic gardens and arboreta. The book serves as a good companion to the field guides, since it includes a lot more descriptive info. And very helpful in planning a wildlife habitat.

5. Observing Insect Lives by Donald Stokes---Great introduction to the study of insects. Includes a simple explanation of how to identify the different orders. Best of all, he tells a little two-page story about each of the most commonly encountered bugs, which is immensely helpful in learning their identity....more field guides should offer that. Also grouped in four sections for each season, so you focus on what's available.

6. A Natural History of Trees: of Eastern and Central North America by Donald Peattie---Though not very good for identification, this is an excellent book for the reader who has already learned to identify and now wants to learn something about them. The short, non-technical articles cover a host of topics, from botany and historical reports to the author's personal acquaintance and poetic insight towards the various trees discussed.

There are numerous books on wildlife gardening and habitat creation. Many are decent... Audubon and Cornell University produce a good one---The Audubon Society Guide to Attracting Birds by Stephen W. Kress---but limited to birds.

Table of Contents

Page title Most recent update Last edited by
Recommended Reading February 3, 2014 7:58 PM Mark
About Suburban Naturalists February 3, 2014 8:00 PM Mark

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