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Pocket Guides Help Explain The Nature You See in National Parks


A series of pocket guides from Waterford Press helps you figure out what you see in national parks.

A series of inexpensive folding pocket guides can help you easily identify some of the nature you see in national parks.

Published by Waterford Press, these Pocket Naturalist Guides (MSRP $5.95) are slim enough to slip into your back pocket or daypack yet unfold to display six two-sides pages (12 panels, overall) crammed with colorful illustrations and brief descriptions of plants, animals, and marine life you might encounter in a specific park.

For instance, the Acadia National Park guide features a page on mollusks (with full-color drawings of such creatures as the Atlantic Dogwinkle and Atlantic Jackknife Clam), one on seashore creatures (sand dollars, common sea stars, spider crabs, and green sea urchins are just four examples), and five-and-a-half pages on birds you might spot, such as Leach's storm-petrel, ruddy turnstones, peregrine falcons, or red-breasted mergansers.

There's even a page in the Acadia guide for butterflies, with such entries as the red-spotted purple, the mourning cloak, and the white admiral.

Park guides offered by the publisher are Acadia, Assateague Island National Seashore (seashore life), Cape Cod National Seashore (seashore life), Cape Hatteras National Seashore (seashore life), Denali National Park (wildlife), Everglades National Park (one for wildlife, one for birds), Glacier National Park (wildlife), Olympic National Park (wildlife), Redwood National & State Parks, Rocky Mountain National Park (wildlife), Yellowstone National Park (trees and wildflowers and wildlife), and Yosemite National Park (wildlife).

Finished with a weather-proof coating, these guides can be used in rain or snow and can stand up to being jammed into a pack with other items. They also fit quite nicely within the side-pockets of your car or truck doors, or in the glove box, so they're readily at hand while you drive through a park.

If there is a flaw with them, it's that they lack a writing surface and extra space for users to jot down where and when they saw a particular bird, whale, or elk. They are not encyclopedic, but then they don't claim to be. Rather, the guides are "an introduction" to familiar plants, wildlife, and bird species.

And though perhaps somewhat old-school in these days of Wi-Fi and phone apps, these guides do offer something against such competition, believes Waterford Press CEO Jill Smith.

"With the folding format our Pocket Naturalist Guides provide, you have 120 images presented in a clean, 12-panel format, organized in the manner in which a user is most likely to find the species," she explained. "For instance, birds can be found as 'near-shore' and 'wading,' 'perching,' etc. Within that sort, they are then organized by color, so a user could be looking at a black bird and be instantly aware of the most likely candidates and find the distinguishing feature to allow them to identify the species.

"This sort of deductive reasoning using a portable electronic device would require minutes of time at the very least, with concentration on the device instead of on the subject specie," added Ms. Smith.

There also are no batteries to die, the guides weigh in at less than an ounce, and "don't require a vocabulary to describe features the way an electronic device does...experienced naturalists can use them as a quick reference guide, novices can find the species with an easy flip to one of the panels," she said.

To locate your nearest retailer, visit the company's website: , where there's a "retailer finder."

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I purchased one on Montana Trees and Wildflowers while we were on our trip to Glacier last month. The wildflowers were especially beautiful and I was surprised at how helpful this small pocket guide was to help me identify some of what we were seeing. It's an introductory guide and there are more detailed books available as well but when out hiking, sometimes you're trying to cut down on your weight which is why I like it.,com_catalog/Ite...

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