Winter loosens its grip slowly on our maple- and snow-covered mountain, but as spring takes hold, the forest celebrates the change with showy ephemeral wildflowers. The joy in the discovery of the purple-streaked white flowers is complete when you learn their perfect name: “Spring Beauties.”
One of the things I like most about working in the outdoors is the dynamic quality of nature’s beauty, and the sugarbush is an especially wonderful place to watch the changes as springtime, and new and unfamiliar plants, arrive. The constant change piques my curiosity as I go through my day, and when I get back home or to the office I enjoy looking up what I have seen in a field guide.
This year for Christmas my wife bought me a field guide titled “Naturally Curious: A Photographic Field Guide and Month-by-Month Journey through the Fields, Woods, and Marshes of New England” by Mary Holland. I have never seen anything like it: instead of being conventionally arranged by scientific classification, it is arranged month-by-month.
Each month begins with “Nature Notes” — summaries of what a particular species is doing or what sign you are likely to find. These summaries cover six categories: Amphibians, Reptiles, Birds, Mammals, Insects & Arachnids, and Plants & Fungi. The “Nature Notes” are followed by “A Closer Look,” covering seasonally relevant topics in more depth. January’s topics, for example, include black bear hibernation and birth, snow and its effect on wildlife, and — surprisingly — winter wildflowers. Warmer month topics include the naming of spring wildflowers, yellow-bellied sapsuckers, moose, and the goldenrod ball gall.
The unique perspective of examining the natural world as it advances through the seasons, and the generous use photographs, make this an excellent book for detailed nature study or casual flipping. I would highly recommend this for inclusion in anyone’s library — although I doubt it will spend much time on the shelf.