Having the ability to identify plants and animals encountered in the field is like going to a movie to watch actors and a director with whose work you are familiar — knowledge enriches the experience. I’m giving two thumbs up to two recent Arizona guidebooks published by Adventure Publications, Inc.
At 174 pages, Dan Johnson’s “Fish of Arizona Field Guide” is small enough to fit any tackle box. This handy waterproof book enables you to recognize Arizona’s 70 kinds of fish. The fish, both native and introduced, are grouped in families (catfishes, bass, minnows, etc.). Each is depicted in an illustration representative of the species. As a further aid, each photo is accompanied by insets showing the characters that differentiate featured species from “look-alikes.” To clinch the identification, a blowup of the fish’s scale pattern is superimposed on the family icon.
A second page provides common names along with a description of the fish’s distribution, size range, habitat requirements, diet and reproductive behavior. For these brief, accurate accounts, the author consulted technical experts such as native fish ecologist Paul Marsh and sport fish biologist Jim Warnecke.
Extras include when and where the fish was first introduced in Arizona and a highly readable primer on fish terminology backed up with drawings of a fish’s anatomy. Size records, a glossary and an index are included. There are even directions on how to handle and measure fish.
Nearly as valuable is the “Wildflowers of Arizona Field Guide” by Nora and Rick Bowers and Stan Tekiela. Employing the same format as the fish book, but having coated instead of waterproof paper, this 431-page guide illustrates and describes 200 of Arizona’s flowering plants. Flowers are arranged by color — a highly satisfactory system that facilitates learning Arizona’s most common forbs and weeds. The superb color photos are accompanied by icons and text categorizing the plant’s height, leaf structure, most frequented habitats, seed or fruit type, taxonomic family, blooming period and distribution. A note describing the plant’s origin, importance and uses follows.
Those wanting to identify the flowers of trees, shrubs and most cacti need look elsewhere, as the flowering plants shown here mostly are herbaceous species. With this caveat in mind, I easily located all my pet wildflowers, thanks to the guide’s good photos and an easily used checklist at the back of the book. Other aides include a glossary of plant terms and a measuring scale on the cover.
–David E. Brown
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