View Full Version : Field Guide Recomendation Needed

5-Aug-2009, 12:46
I am looking for a good field guide to help me identify trees,plants,animal tracks etc.. while I am hiking trails in California. I have been to Barnes and Noble but the books they have divide the subject into books on trees and books on plants, and books on animals.

I am looking for a comprehensive guide.

Thanks for the help.


Darin Boville
5-Aug-2009, 13:15
A good,small one-volume guide is "The Nature of California" by Kavavvach and Leung

But you might do better with a few specialized guides, California being so diverse in habitat, etc. I have

"The Laws Field Guide to the Sierra Nevada" by Laws

"Seashore of Northern and Central California" by Sheldon

and "Birds of Northern California" by Fix and Bezener

Buy them at the usual places or support California's local bookstores and buy then here--anyplace you are likely to be photographing in will have a good selection (my local mini-mart carries many of these and many more)!


5-Aug-2009, 13:28
Aren't many good wide coverage books today

With the many diverse life zones in California (Desert, Sierra, Redwoods, Coastal Chapparal, Oak Woodland, Forest, etc, ) it would be hard to cover them all in one book for all the animals and trees and plants...etc

There were some that were specific to the life zones that were wide ranging...

One of the best for the Sierra Nevada --- "Sierra Nevada Natural History an illustrated Handbook" by Usinger and Storer was published in 1966 - had wide coverage of plants, trees, larger animals, butterfilies, amphibians, reptiles, birds, etc -- used line drawings as well as an excellent set of plates. I used to use this while backpacking in the Sierra Nevada in the 1970s/1980s. IF this is an area of interest, check used book stores -- the names of some of the birds keep getting revised by the AOU, but that's a small subset of changes.

Good luck!

Paul Hamann
5-Aug-2009, 15:56
You might want to check this one out.


I have the one for the Atlantic Coast and I like it.

6-Aug-2009, 16:59
Thank you all for the quality information.

Here is a link I found to be very helpful.



Drew Wiley
12-Aug-2009, 21:00
California is so ecologically diverse that guidebooks are difficult except in a regional
sense. I'd agree with Don that Storer and Usinger have the best little introduction to
Sierra Nevada fauna and flora. However, they also wrote much more extensive texts
too. The only work I remember that attempts to cover all the plants of California was by Munz and about seven fat volumes long. Somewhere back in my own ancient
history I obtained a degree in field biology, with much forgotten, of course.

T Astle
13-Aug-2009, 19:53
I'll second the mention of "The Laws Field Guide to the Sierra Nevada" written and illustrated by John Muir Laws. It has bugs, birds, critters, clouds, fish, fungi, flowers, stars, tracks, scat -- the whole nine yards. No, it doesn't have everything, but darn close. And although it's for the Sierra Nevada, many of the creatures and plants are found all over the state. And it's field-guide size. Highly recommended.

David Karp
13-Aug-2009, 21:19
Discovering Sierra Trees is a good little book with nice drawings.

Drew Wiley
13-Aug-2009, 21:43
When I was a kid I used to pack plaster of paris with me to make castings of animal
prints. I've run into just about every rare animal imaginable in the Sierras: fisher,
wolverine, last of the wolves (probably transient), silver fox (not gray fox), and a genuinely black mountain lion. I also found Pliocene footprints of camels, flamingos, etc, back when global warming was really the thing! Unfortunately, no room for a
field guide in my pack now, because it would take up filmholder space! I also studied geology a great deal and tremendously enjoy speculating about the many
sights on my backpacks in the hills. This past weekend I drove past a solitary wild
nutmeg tree, rare indeed, although there is a cluster of them distinctly accessible
near Crystal Cave in the Sequoia area. I tend to be the resident field guide myself
when others are hiking with me - it's amazing how much I've forgotten! But here on
the coast, when people see the big Ries tripod on my pack, they assume I've got
a spotting scope, and therefore know a lot about birds. Once a couple had their
binoculars aimed at a buzzard, and wanted to know what it was. I exclaimed, it's
the Mexican swift-winged whit-whit, and this is the first sighting north of the border!
It made their day. Forgot what I told them a crow was.