Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Field Guide Tips

The first thing I do with my field guide is put my name and address in it so if I leave it behind, some kind soul will know where to mail it to.

Then I start to look at the photos and eventually read the introduction and other helpful information. Although I will admit it may take me a long time to get around to reading that helpful information and I am always shocked at how helpful it really is and wonder why I had never read it before.

That bottom page is taped into the book and normally foldded up. It was extra information I copied from another field guide.

I like to add information to my guides. If I have several guides on one subject I will pick my favorite and use that one as the “master” guide. If I am on a trip with an expert I will often write into the margins those little gems of information that they provide. Or as I glean information from articles and other books I will add notes to my field guide. Margins are also good for writing lecture notes. If I write them down on a piece of note paper it almost always gets misplaced and is useless but if I write in my guide then I have it for life. One tip: if you are like me you will want to use a pencil instead of a pen just incase you get it wrong and have to correct what you wrote.


Besides writing in the margins I have also found it useful to tape cheat sheets into my guides. For instance I have a reduced version of bird song calls taped to the inside of my birding book. That way I can instantly look up a call and know who made it. My butterfly book has a list of host plants taped over the acknowledgements page.


I find measuring a useful tool in identification, so I try to tape an inch and millimeter ruler into the inside cover of my guides if they don’t already have one. The Peterson field guides almost always have them and you can copy it and tape or glue it into other guides.

I added a copy of more information on insects to this small guide and then used the outside pages to write on. The copied information is on the inside. I taped the edge on both sides so that I have 4 loose pages.

Two years ago I went on a spider field trip and took the recommended Golden Guide Spider book along. It is a small book and really doesn’t have much room to write marginal notes so I tipped in 4 blank pages. Take a blank piece of paper, fold it in half and then trim it down slightly smaller than your guide. Next tape the folded edge into your book. Tape on both sides of the new pages to secure it in place. Vola! 4 more blank pages for notes.

Another good thing to add to your guide is a pocket. I just take a #10 envelope, seal the flap shut and cut off one end to fit onto the inside cover of my guide. Tape it down on three sides and then you can slip in a map or what ever else you think you might need. OR you can leave the flap to the envelope open and cut it on one side to make it fit the page, and tape it leaving the flap open at the top. This may be handy for seeds or something you don’t want to fall out. I haven’t ever tried it but it may work.

Sticky notes are also good to have in your guide to use as a book mark. I try to keep at least one or two in each guide. That way when I am looking up something and have to flip back and forth from page to page I can use the sticky to keep track of where I am in the book. The sticky notes don't fall to the ground while hiking like book marks do.


These are the books that I currently have in my car. I keep them there all the time to read at the end of a field trip or while eating.   When I return home and want further study I can just take the book inside with me and learn more in the comfort of home.





7 comments:

Potomac Valley Nature Writing Group Reading List said...

This is marvelous and so helpful and inspiring. You win the 2009 Annual Nature Nerd award. In a very good way!

Ellen Rathbone said...

HM...some very interesting tips here! I'm writing in my books all the time - glad to see I'm not alone.

Martina said...

This is really impressive. Usually what I do is take photos of everything that got my interest and when at home I try to get all the information I want. But hey, I am an amateur, ;-)

squirrel said...

I am honored to have received the first annual Nature Nerd Award from PVNWG. :-)

Ellen and Martina, thank you for your comments. I treat field guides like tools so it is important to write in them and it is good to know I am not alone. I'm sure some people are agast. I too take lots of photos but I need to be careful with that because the photos have a way of taking the place of real investigation. Sometimes when I return home I see that I totally missed taking a photo of a key element. Photos are a good tool but it is so easy to rely too much on them. I enjoy both of your blogs and wish you all a New Year filled with Adventure.

Wanda said...

You impress me with your knowledge and organization, Cheryl.

SquirrelQueen said...

Great information and an impressive collection of field guides. You are far more organized than I am.

In my backpacking days I always had at least one of my Audubon field guides in my pack. They have lots of notes and well worn pages. I have gotten out of the habit of taking them along but you have inspired me to possibly traveling with them again.

Woodswoman Extraordinaire: said...

These are some great tips. I suspect I shall be adopting a few of your methods! It's amazing how the most used and most loved field guides become friends over time.