REVIEWS: Field Guides

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, March 1999:

Marine Wildlife
From Puget Sound Through
the Inside Passage
by Steve Yates
Sasquatch Books (615 2nd Avenue,
Suite 260, Seattle, WA 98104), 1998.
264 pages, paperback; $14.95.

On the Trail of Bears
by Catherine & Remy Martin
On the Trail of Whales
by Jean-Michel Dumont
& Remy Marion

On the Trail of Big Cats
by Geraldine Veron
Barron’s Nature Travel Guides
(250 Wireless Blvd., Hauppauge,
NY 11788), 1988. 128 pages each,
paperback, $11.95.

The first edition of M a r i n e
Wildlife, published in 1988, marked an eminently
practical departure from the conventional
field guide format. Typically, field
guides assume the users’ interests are narrow,
and therefore list only animals of one
phylum. But typically they also list all who
might reside within half a continent, so as to
be thick enough to command a broad audience
and hefty cover price.
Users accordingly must tote a
whole library in order to identify all the
species likely to be seen on one trip, which
may cause most potential users to leave all
the guides to gather dust on a shelf.
Taking the opposite approach,
Marine Wildlife author Steve Yates listed all
the species of any phylum likely to be seen
within a day’s sailing of Seattle, Victoria,
or Vancouver, and didn’t concern himself
with what might be farther distant.
Yates thus geographically limited
his sales while insuring that his guide would
become a favorite of wildlife-watchers in the
Puget Sound area.
One could wish for color illustrations;
black-and-whites fall well short of
serving the purpose when one’s surest clue to
identification is a flash of color from a bird
on the wing. But we’re pleased this title is
back in print, after years of scarcity, and
would like to see similar guides for every
region, to help the many of us who are interested
in anything we see, from aardvarks to
zebra mussels.
Translated from originals published
by Editions Nathan in Paris, 1997,
the well illustrated On the Trail of… s e r i e s
goes to the opposite extreme, focusing on
single families of wildlife but covering the
globe. It may disappoint American readers,
who if planning a trip especially to see animals
will already tend to know the basics,
and will expect from a travel guide not condensed
natural history, but rather details of
whom to call to make reservations.
What’s here is background. Once
you’ve picked a destination, you’ll need
another set of books.

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