Monday, December 12, 2016

Holiday field guide gift guide - 16 guides for 2016 (part 3)

Slightly delayed, but here is part three of my holiday field guide gift guide.  If sorting through hundred of plants or thousands of insect species is not your thing, perhaps you might enjoy a guide to a group of animals with less members.  If you like fuzzy animals try a guide to mammals, if you prefer your animals scaly or slimy try one about reptiles and amphibians.

11.  Mammals of the Great Lakes Region (Revised Edition) by Allen Kurta (ISBN 9780472064977)

Published by the University of Michigan Press (1995), this book is an update of a guide that was originally published in 1957.  It's probably no surprise that I own a copy of the earlier publication as well.

If you are looking for a guide to the mammals of Michigan this is the book to buy.  The book focuses on the entire Great Lakes Basin, so some of the eighty-three species listed in the book are not found within the boundaries of Michigan.  The species listed with are grouped by the order to which they belong - for example all rodents are grouped together in one section.  This makes it relatively easy to find an individual species in the book.  For each species there is a list of measurements; a detailed description of the animal; a range map; and a natural history that explains such things as diet, mating habits, and habitat requirements.  There is also a black and white photograph of each species.  There is also a key at the back of the book for identifying mammal skulls.

The author's preface to the book neatly sums up why you should buy this volume for yourself or another nature lover.

     This book is not intended to be a coffee-table book, ponderous tome, detailed listing of 
     relevant literature, or an in-depth treatment of geographic variation.  It is intended to serve 
     as a quick reference for teachers, students, naturalists, and professional biologists, and to be 
     a concise guidebook, still small enough to be tucked into a backpack and carried in the field.

This edition is currently available for under $20, but I did notice that a as yet unpublished 3rd edition is available for pre-order for $24.95.  The 3rd edition will have color photographs and a section on the tracks of common mammals.  It looks like I will be buying a new field guide soon!

12.  Animal Tracks:  Midwest Edition by Jonathan Poppele (ISBN 9781591933243)

This book would be a good compliment to Mammals of the Great Lakes.  A true field guide, this book measures 5 inches by 7 inches and easily fits in your pocket.  The book includes images of tracks and gaits (walking patterns) for nearly 100 Midwest mammal species - not all species in the book can be found in Michigan.

I like this book because it is so extensive.  It covers a wide range of species, but does lump many similar species together.  Each entry includes images of their footprints, a description of the footprints (both front and rear tracks), a description of the animal's gait, a description of habitat types, and other notes on the animal including other signs to look for.  It is also helpful that the tracks in the book are life-size.  There are range maps included for each species, but some are inaccurate - for instance the book fails to show bobcat as present in Michigan's Lower Peninsula.

This book was published by Adventure Publications in 2012.  It retails for under $15.  Despite the few gripe that I listed above, at this price, you really can't go wrong.

13. Amphibians and Reptiles of the Great lakes Region by James H. Harding (ISBN 9780472066285)

This is another book from the University of Michigan Press.  Originally published in 1997, it also has an update coming in 2017.

Organized in much the same way as Mammals of the Great Lakes Region, this book gives lengthy descriptions of all species of reptiles and amphibian found within the Great Lakes Basin as well as for several species that closely approach the limits of the basin.  Each species depiction includes a detailed physical description (with a color photograph), notes on similar species, information on range (with a map) and conservation status, a description of habitat and ecology, as well as conservation requirements/efforts.

The 2017 edition will include updates range maps and more photographs.  Both the currently available edition and the forthcoming retail for under $25.  If you are a herp (reptile and amphibian) lover this is the book you need.  It is slightly large for a field guide at 5 x 8 inches, but it often finds its was into my backpack when I know I will be encountering snakes, frogs, or turtles. 

If you are looking for something completely different to study stay tuned for part 4 of my gift guide.

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