How to select and use a Field Guide.

alright so if you're in duress and feels

herping or any kind of wildlife

identification birds flowers trees

doesn't matter you're gonna need a field

guide these are one of the most

important tools something you're always

gonna want to have on you and we target

specifically about reptiles amphibians

because you know that's mostly what this

channel is about but this will this will

apply across the board to others as well

we're gonna talk about how to select a

field guide what's the what are some of

the better field guides to get and then

we're also going to talk about some of

the the more extensive reference books

and why those are important too so when

selecting a field guide let's say you're

at the bookstore or you're on Amazon

which is more likely these days you're

gonna want to look for a few things

first off now this that like books like

this are decent general guides you get

some basic information from them but

they're not extensive this was my first

field guide actually to reptiles

amphibians I got this when I was maybe

seven years old eight years old it's

pretty old and beat up but they do still

make it and sell it and just to flip

through it real quick you know you get

you get some species on there you hit

some descriptions but it's mostly gonna

be concerned with the more common

species the stuff you're more likely to

find in your backyard or the more

charismatic species like hellbenders and

alligators and things like that it's not

gonna have some of the more obscure

species it's not gonna have a lot of

subspecies you know so let's say I find

a garter snake okay that's it on garter

snakes and we all know well some of us

know there are tons of species and

subspecies of garter snakes but this has

Western Plains ribbon in common

doesn't deal to different color

variations doesn't meal with the

different subspecies the common garter

snake alone you get like your Eastern

garter snake you have your red-sided

garter snake you have tons of subspecies

of just the one snake and this

this kind of book isn't gonna do that

now I love this book when I was growing

up I pored over this book I read every

page of it and it was good for that you

know it's a good book for kids or you

know someone with a casual interest but

this is not what you're gonna want in

the field

likewise you got a lot of books like

this so familiar reptiles amphibians of

North America Pocket Guide okay

so again lots of pretty pictures in this

one I had this one as a kid too and but

it's gonna be the more common species

the more flamboyant species you know the

stuff that's gonna grab your attention

things like the snapping turtle you know

and it's got the common snap trouble

doesn't have alligator snap trail you

can't really use this as a field guide

it's more just like a general fun book

to have you know so that's how that's

off the table then you have books like

this which look more like a proper field

guide all right and this is reptiles

ribbons in the world Simon & Schuster's

guide 200 full-color photographs of

international species so this is of the

world right why would you need any other

field guide you go you got the world

right here well it only covers 200

species and the New York State alone has

70 species of reptile amphibian so 200

species is barely scratching the surface

globally and so again it's just it's a

fun book to have to look through like oh

that's a that's a pretty lizard there

the double christen bass goes or the you

know the collared lizard and you know

some unique stuff from around the world

just showcasing them some general

information about about them but

ultimately really I mean it's kind of a

useless book I don't even have if I

didn't find it cheap at a book sale so

then we get in the proper field guides

of which the two that you're most likely

to find are the Peterson and the

National Audubon Society now the

National Audubon Society I used to like

these a lot before I

I knew much about field guides and

and you know honestly looking back I

mean they're not they're not great


again you get lots of pretty pictures

and that's the benefit you get actual

photographs but you only usually get one

photograph of a species despite the fact

that there's tons of individual

variation key key identifying

characteristics aren't pointed out and

even a book like this as thick as it is

isn't gonna cover every species in a

given region so I mean it's not so this

is not a bad book but again it's not

really what you're gonna want from my

personal viewpoint species descriptions

are all in the back you're almost

relying extent they entirely on the

picture to try to identify your animal

in the field if you come across a Texas

Rose belly lizard then you have to flip

to another page to even look to see what

characteristics make it a Texas Rose

belly lizard

so with that in mind let's look at the

Peterson and here's an older copy the

Peterson this is the fourth edition this

just came out and I got mine in the mail

yesterday 14 bucks on Amazon you cannot

go wrong with this this is the old this

is an older edition this is the second

edition and defeat but the Pearson guide

is the gold standard the field yes this

is the book you want with you in the

field if you have no other book on

reptiles and amphibians this is the one

you want and the same is true for others

too like you want to feel good fish get

the Petersons you want to feel good tree

get the Peterson they do the best field

guides and the layout of the book and of

most field guides in general is that the

animals are taxonomically arranged so

you're gonna have like your own phibian

z-- first in the book because em phibian

is evolved first right okay so they're a

more primitive group primitive and then

you kind of move on you get your turtles

and your lizards and snakes and things

and but and they're but they're arranged

in a way that they're related to each

other this book

it's kind of odd it arranges them by

patterns which is you know it could be

useful in its own right too

so you got like striped snakes lump

together and solid colored snakes lump

together and but again overall it is

arranged taxonomically amphibians are

always gonna be in the front of the book

with the more primitive salamanders

appearing first so you're gonna get just

like your your amp huma's mud puppies

hellbenders cave salamanders and then

you know your lung with salamanders

which are the more recently evolved

groups towards the back of salim

intersection so okay so now you got your

field guide and you're gonna want to

know how to use it

and it's a little bit daunting because

there's a lot of information here I mean

we're covering every species of reptile

phibian in the Eastern central North

America so for starters you get the

color the color coding down here which

is a nice handy feature I like that

let's open it up to snakes alright so

the way it's gonna be outlined is you're

gonna have descriptions in there scatter

thread gonna have range maps but in the

beginning of the snake section you're

gonna have your color plates and like I

said before they're going to be

organized taxonomically so based on how

they're related okay so you're gonna

flip through here let's say you see a

green snake alright a solid green snake

and you want to identify what species it

is yeah there we go

green snakes okay so you see a green

snake there's two species of green

snakes okay there's the rough green and

smooth green all right easy enough you

narrowed it down to two species where do

you go from there okay well smooth green

snake has smooth scales rough green

snake has keeled scales there you go

it's that easy right for lively species

too there's also little arrows that

point out key features to tell them to

distinguish them from others so as an

example you look at the western milk

snake red rings very one with head black

snout normally light so it's pointing at

the snout to show you that the snow is

normally light that the head is black

and that's how you're going to tell it

from something

the Scarlet kingsnake we're going back

to the green snakes okay so maybe you

know you just saw it slithering through

the brush you didn't get a good look at

the scales you still don't know what

species it is you want to know more

you're going to turn to the page where

it has the actual information and the

range maps so 382

okay so now you're here you're here

there's the rough green snake and the

smooth green snake well okay so if you

live in New York or the Northeast

Vermont Maine anywhere up there you can

automatically rule out the rough green

snake easy right it doesn't live there

it lives here but if you live in one of

the places where they overlap you know

it might be a little bit more difficult

so let's see it really isn't a lot of

overlap for this species is there it

either way it's got to tell you more

specifically how to tell them apart and

it's also going to tell you what the

similar species is so for the rough

green snake the similar species is

obviously the smooth green snake again

have smooth scales also the North

American racer so that's a similar

species sometimes is green but has

smooth scales again so a rough green

snake a green snake with rough scales

you got that one in the bag you know

what it is but it'll also tell you how

long they get you know the record length

more specifically what colors and

patterns you can expect the habitats the

range very basic information all right

so this this is gonna help you identify

the EM on the field but if you want to

know more about that animal the field

guides only going to cover the basics

you're gonna want something a little bit

more specific and so as far as specific

books go the next book you're gonna want

is a state-specific book to wherever you

live or a regional book so north east or

south east or New York State this is

going to only cover the species that

live in your state or region so if

you're looking at salamanders you

automatically get to rule out all these

species that don't live in your state if

your state only has like a handful of

salamander species like say seven or

eighteen even I mean look at them all

it's a little daunting so you get your

regional guide it's only gonna cover

what is local to you so I can't stress

enough the importance of getting a

regional guide I don't know which states

you know most states will have them

they're not as easier to come by as easy

to come by as the

field guides but they're gonna be again

outlined in a similar way taxonomically

salamanders first all right it's gonna

in this book again it's gonna give you

some descriptions to identify in the

field at a glance but there's gonna be

suggestions for where to go in the book

to get more information so you know

you're in New York State you wanna know

more about the Eastern spadefoot toad

maybe you wanna know where to find the

Eastern spadefoot too well you got to go

to Long Island a few spots up on the

eastern half of the state I live all the

way out here I'm not gonna seeing these

from spadefoot toad so you're gonna want

a regional book all right next up are

these super specific books some of which

are more user friendly than others

but all of them are equally important so

you know maybe you want a book

specifically about snakes okay here's a

good one

snakes North America Eastern central

regions again it's kind of like that New

York State book it's only gonna cover a

certain part of the country and it's

only going to cover snakes and so the

information is going to be I mean it was

like a brief paragraph for the rough

green snake in the Pierson guide but

this book is gonna have a page and a

half of information you're gonna get

you're gonna get more familiar with

animal you can understand more about it

where you're gonna find it its life

history when it's active reproduction

what it eats books like this are

important some of them though like this

one are very technical and more for the

really the people really serious about

finding snakes I wouldn't even call this

a field guide more like a reference book

it's gonna have a lot more information

than either the field guides or the

general reference books but you know if

you're a serious student of snakes this

is the one who want you know things like

or I should say perps but we're going to

make specifically so you know you're

gonna have the common garter snake

check this out I mean you're gonna have

species and subspecies you're gonna have

really specific descriptions Geographic

variation it's gonna go into the

subspecies level you're gonna have

pictures of most of those subspecies

you're gonna have your range maps of

course but look at all this we're still

covering just that garter snake alone

and when I talk about getting into

specifics I mean getting specific so

they're gonna tell you the clutch size

they're gonna tell you the the the

length of the young I was gonna say eggs

but the common gars think it's like

birth but it's gonna give you you know

way more information than you'll ever

need but still know if you can get it if

you're into it do it again this is the

turtle equivalent of the snake look here

very specific very good reference this

is probably the books are the kind of

books these are the first and last books

you'll ever need like if you if you only

want to own one book about snakes

specifically in the United States

candidate like this will be the book to

own this will be the turtle book to own

you're not gonna need much else so you

could you could get by on let's say

let's say you're super in the snake so

you can get by on this this and this all

right you got your general field guide

you got your specifically your regional

field guide and then snakes are what

you're really into grab that guy so I

guess that about sums it up there's not

much else to say as far as field guides

go I hope I wasn't too confusing I was

trying to talk fast and make the video

short but let me know what you thought

let me know if it was helpful

yeah and happy hopping in the future I

might do some specific reviews on some

of these books I'm just kind of trying

to give you a an

overall understanding of what we're

dealing with how to use them and what to

look for when in doubt just by the

Petersons that's the one you need you

know that's the first and foremost book