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How do you identify the stuff

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I get guides that are specific to our area, or at least to our state. This narrows it down quite a bit. We have a little laminated series of flowers, trees, butterflies, and birds. These pamphlets have all the most common local species. It makes it very easy to identify something as there are usually only 1-3 possible candidates (sometimes more) for what you are trying to id. Our local state park provides a wonderful pamphlet identifying all the trees that grow in the park so you can teach yourself that way too. We had a great time doing that yesterday!

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The Audubon Society makes some EXCELLENT resources for this. We have a bug book and you can search through pictures that are separated into very basic groups (bees/wasps, caterpillars, spiders, &tc) and further broken down by color. The pictures have page numbers so you can find them in the reference section. We love it.


It's definitely worth the money, we payed twenty or so for our bug book :D

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First off, you might be surprised how much you do know. Unless you live in a new area, you've been seeing plant and animals which with a little investigation are not such a mystery.


If you have a good nursery near you, use them as a resource. We've found that there's usually someone who works at the nursery who is passionate about plants. Sometimes there are classes about native plants too.


Do you have a nature center? Or a bird sanctuary? The more you hit the trails and read the signs they sometimes have posted along the paths, the quicker you'll pick up the basics. Our bird sanctuary has a little shop where volunteers are happy to chat and help identify what you've spotted. Nature centers and bird sanctuaries can also have classes or guided walks.


When we first started bird watching, I invested in binoculars, a pamphlet of local birds and an inexpensive checklist. None of us felt we could do it. The check list seemed impossible. But, what happened was that there are some bird which are plentiful and very easy to identify. And that's how it started..

Before we knew it, we really knew some of the birds. We started to figure out what to look for. It got easier and easier to do. We felt more confident to take a guess, or question someone else's guess.


That's pretty much how all of nature study started for us. Start with what you know, reach out for the basics, build confidence, use your resources.


There are some great books out there, and websites too. Have you checked out Acorn Naturalist?


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A big help can be plant/animal lists of the place you are visiting. A lot of nature centers have sheets or booklets -- Trees of XYZ Nature Center, for example. If they don't have anything out, ask if there are any unpublished lists. That way you are working from a limited set of possibilities and identifying becomes easier.


Once you get to know some of the flora/fauna/rocks/whatever in a nature center, you'll find pretty similar things in nearby areas.

Edited by Alessandra
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