Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Resources for Nature Study in the Maritimes

Last week I ordered some field guides for our Nature Study from Formac Lorimer, a Halifax publisher. I was very happy with their service, as I received the books two days after I ordered. The books were the Formac Pocketguides Nature and Prince Edward Island Birds. Both books are by wildlife artist Jeffrey C. Domm from Nova Scotia.

The Formac Pocketguide Nature is "a visual guide to mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, insects, wildflowers, mushrooms and trees" of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island. It is very slim, with only 125 pages. I must admit that I had my doubts about how useful it could possibly be, with so much to cover and so few pages. I have already found it helpful, though. It has illustrations and facts about the most common species in each category. I field-tested it on a nature walk today and was happy to be able to identify the Marsh Marigold (growing in the cracks of a rope floating in the water at the Harvey Moore Wildlife Centre near Montague, PEI). We also saw several Common Ravens as we were driving along today (I never knew the difference between ravens and crows before.). I also learned that the yellow, dandelion-like flower that grows so abundantly here is called Yellow Goatsbeard, and the "spider dragonfly" (SA's descriptive term) we found in the house today is actually a Crane Fly.
On the downside, the species this book doesn't have are as numerous as the ones it does. We didn't find out what the bright yellow mushrooms are that were growing everywhere in the woods where we were walking. We found out about bunchberries and blue bead lilies from the interpretive signs along the way, not from this guide, though the bunchberries, at least, are extremely common in every wooded area around here that I've seen. He left dandelions out of the wildflowers section, presumeably because everyone knows what they are and he needed room for other common flowers. But the insect section was filled with things like mosquitos, houseflies, ladybugs, bumblebees and daddy longlegs. He could probably have left out the mosquito, at least, and included some more interesting common bugs (Maybe the potato beetle? They're pretty common around here.) I would also have liked to see the caterpillar stage of the butterflies and moths he chose to include.
Still, I'm happy I got this field guide. It's handy to take along on our walks, and I do like being able to look things up immediately rather than waiting to look things up online when I get home. The full-colour illustrations are beautiful, too.

The Formac Pocket Guide Prince Edward Island Birds has illustrations and facts about 130 inland and shore birds. I am thrilled with everything about this guide, including the map with 22 of PEI's best birding locations and what you are most likely to see at each one. I'm really looking forward to using this guide in our nature studies. It has one 2-step bird finder in the back to help you find things quickly based on the size of the bird.

As these have been my first field guide purchases, I haven't been able to compare their features with other guides. I really like how they're specific to my area, though. Formac Lorimer also has guides for New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Ontario birds. I'm hoping to buy their guide to Canada's Atlantic Seashore, and their Wildflowers of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island in time for next summer's nature walks.