Field Guides & Identification books

Since everyone here is a nature photographer, I thought I’d share my collection of field and identification guides. As of today I’m up to 36. (No, I don’t have a problem, I can stop anytime.:stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:)

I’ve grouped them by Dewey classification and have taken a screenshot of my virtual shelves on LibraryThing. The links go to the book records on LT as well. If you click on reviews when you get there, many of them will be mine. I’m Bookmarque on LT.

Some of them are region specific and I have come to love the Great Lakes series since it’s so localized to my area. I even have one about poop and tracks! Lol. I don’t often carry one in the field, but use them when I am editing and posting pictures so I can be reasonably sure of what I’ve captured.

Standouts are marked by :+1:

Hopefully you’ll find this list useful and I would love to see what guides you rely on either in the field or after you get home so you and ID what you photographed.

Birds & bird adjacent which apparently includes reptile & amphibians

Audubon Handbook: Eastern Birds

National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Reptiles and Amphibians

Bird Feathers by S. David Scott & Casey McFarland :+1:

The Sibley Guide to Birds by David Sibley :+1:

Scats and Tracks of the Great Lakes by James Halfpenny

Insects & Spiders -

Bees: An Identification and Native Plant Forage Guide
by Heather N. Holm👍

Bumblebees of North America by Paul H. Williams :+1:

Peterson Field Guide to Moths of Northeastern North America

Caterpillars of Eastern North America by David L. Wagner

Kaufman Field Guide to Butterflies of North America by James P. Brock :+1:

Beetles of Eastern North America by Arthur V. Evans:+1:

National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Insects and Spiders

Common Spiders of North America by Richard Alan Bradley :+1:

Damselflies of Minnesota, Wisconsin & Michigan by Robert DuBois:+1:

Dragonflies of the Northwoods by Kurt Mead:+1:

National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Seashells

Mushrooms, moss, liverworts & hornworts -

National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Mushrooms

Mushrooms Demystified by David Arora

Common Mosses of the Northeast and Appalachians by Karl B. McKnight :+1:

Mosses, Liverworts and Hornworts by Ralph Hope

Trees, ferns, wildflowers & more mushrooms -

Peterson Field Guide to Ferns Northeastern and Central North America

Peterson Field Guide to Trees and Shrubs

Wildflowers of Wisconsin and the Great Lakes Region: A Comprehensive Field Guide by Merel R. Black

National Audubon Society Field Guide to Wildflowers Eastern Region

Wildflowers of Wisconsin by Stan Tekiela

Wetland Plants of the Upper Midwest: A Field Guide to the Aquatic and Wetland Plants of Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin by Steve W Chadde

Mushrooms of the Northeastern United States and Eastern Canada by Timothy J. Baroni:+1:

North American Mushrooms: A field guide to edible and inedible fungi by Orson K. Miller

Mushrooms of Northeast North America: Midwest to New England by George L. Barron :+1:

Mushrooms of the Upper Midwest by Theresa Marrone

General and regional guides -

Mushrooms of the Midwest by Michael Kuo and Andrew S. Methven

Pond Life: Revised and Updated (A Golden Guide from St. Martin’s Press) by George K. Reid

National Audubon Society Field Guide to California

Kaufman Field Guide to Nature of the Midwest by Kenn Kaufman, Kimberly Kaufman and Jeff Sayre

National Audubon Society Field Guide to New England

And lichens, which the center of the universe is apparently Isle Royal in Lake Superior -

Lichens of the North Woods by Joe Walewski


Mushrooms Demystified is excellent if you’re a mushroom forager.

Yes it is, also for learning about mushrooms in general, although I find the taxonomy is changing a lot now that we have DNA analysis available. In terms of ID, it’s not a great one, but then again I can use 6 books and the internet and still not have an ID with pictures alone. You need spore prints which is too much of a pain when you’re out hiking.

David Auurora, the author of the book, taught a class at UCSF using the book as the text. I was fortunate enough to take it back in the 80’s. The book, in my opinion, was written for people who liked to eat wild mushrooms. Even when he wrote it there was confusion about some of the agaricus species which he discovered with stomach cramping on some and not the others. It’s very dated by npw I’m sure. There were no colorful pretty pictures. It was also oriented to the western United States. Since that class I’ve safely eaten wild mushrooms from California to Alaska.

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Wow, this is an old thread, but I thought I’d add to it since my collection has grown. One of my chief frustrations has been with spiders here in North America. The book I’ve had for years is excellent, but as with mushrooms, the more the better and even with the internet it can be hard to ID spiders.

Last year Princeton Press expanded their excellent field guide series with a huge book for spider lovers that’s reasonably priced at $35, has impressive photos and info and tips for ID -

I also picked up a few books on mushrooms, first is this big one on Boletes -

A lovely and very useful update to the classic Peterson guide that has a new way to begin your mushroom ID and doesn’t involve spore prints!!

And an updated copy of the Audubon guide. A lot has changed here and not all of it for the better. For one, the book is too big to bring into the field unless you are nuts and second the organization is also crazy and the taxonomy information appalling. In terms of starting to ID your shroom, the old book is much better even though it’s 40 odd years old. Click through to LibraryThing to see my 1-star review -

Hope that helps folks looking to expand or start a field guide collection. Feel free to hit me up with any Qs.

That is an amazing collection!! I have been using Google Lens to identify but it’s not the most reliable… As I am getting more serious about nature photography, I realize I need better resources lol. This is very helpful so thank you for updating this post!

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A good book on mushrooms is David Aurora’s Mushrooms Demystified. However, it’s mostly about mushrooms in the western US. It’s not a very flashy book but it goes into depth about the edibility of each species. I never felt safe eating wild mushrooms until I completed his course.

Yup, that’s a good one. Listed up there somewhere. Arora is a leader in the field for sure. As far as eating goes, I’m only confident in my identification of three - chanterelles (golden and the two dark horns), hedgehogs and lobsters. Everything else…not so much! Of course I always check when I bring them home and I source from the same locations.

After thumbing through the new spider book trying to get an ID on a wolf spider, I found the author uses eye arrangement an ID characteristic and it does narrow things pretty well if you have a photo of the eyes.

Anyone know of a good guide book for wildflowers that shows flowers in bloom and what seed pods look like once the bloom is gone? I’ve looked at my local library and also Amazon, but can’t seem to find anything that shows both.

Oh I hear you! So often I find a plant outside of its bloom cycle and it’s so hard to ID them! I don’t know of any major guide that will show other features, but I have a local book that does to some degree. Not every plant, but some show fruit and seeds and it’s specific to Wisconsin and the Great Lakes. It was published the University of Wisconsin so checking with your local college and university system might get you closer, especially if one of the schools has a robust botany department.

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Theresa: Like Kris, I don’t know of any major field guide that does this. However, check with your local Native Plant Society. Most (if not all) states have one and in addition they have local chapters that often have guides or know of them for the local area. Another possible source are the state universities that will often have some kind of botanical collection and they might have websites with post-flowering images. I’ve been a bit peripherally involved with native seed collection activities where I volunteer and I know they have difficulty finding pre-made materials to train their collectors.

Thanks for the suggestion, I will cont t someone in the master gardener program here in Colorado.

It looks like the Colorado Native Plant Society has a bookstore You might contact them.

I did not know about this organization. Thanks for the information,

The Seek App by iNaturalist and the iNaturalist app are two good resources for IDing plants outside of peak bloom. Seek isn’t always correct but it often gives you enough information to start another search in field guides or other online resources (like this excellent website if you are in SW Colorado:

A book I find helpful for seed pods is: PODS, Wildflowers and Weeds in Their Final Beauty, A Visual Guide by Jane Embertson.

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Princeton Press has a brand new one for the Velvet Ants of North America, available on Amazon for $35. It has some amazing photography by Joseph Wilson, a professor for Utah State University in Toole, UT. My son just happens to be the lead author, but that is beside the point here. . . .

That looks like another good one from PP. They do terrific work in this area.