In the Barnes & Noble book store at Ridgedale yesterday, looking for a book on Minnesota butterflies, I noticed the large number of books on birds. Every time I check, the number has grown. Yesterday, I counted 107 different books on bird identification, feeding, attracting, behavior, and biology. There also are many books about adventures and personal experiences with birds.


Actually, there are 108. I ran into author Bob Janssen there, and he reminded me that his book on birds of Minnesota state parks is in the Minnesota section, not natural history. That book, by the way, is a must if you visit the parks, or want to know about good places to bird. 


I found the butterfly book I wanted — “Butterflies of the North Woods” by Larry Weber. Birding is a bit slow in late summer, but butterflies are going strong. 


That book is published by Kollath & Stensaas, publishers in Duluth. The butterfly book is one of a handsome and handy set of 19 volumes with Minnesota focus that cover insects, spiders, shells, trees, birds, mushrooms, rocks and minerals, reptiles and amphibians, mammals, agates, fungi, lichens, damselflies, dragonflies, moths and caterpillars, orchids, earthworms (!), wildflowers of the BWCA and North Shore, and fish. All are priced at $21.95. 


I like these books because, particularly for me in the case of butterflies, the contents are limited to Minnesota (and in some cases similar habitat in Wisconsin and Michigan). I have a fine North American guide to butterflies, the “Swift Guide to Butterflies of North America,” all of them, illustrated with 3,500 photos. Great book, but searching for a particular Minnesota species is work. The Weber book covers with text, maps, and photos 125 Minnesota species. The smaller number is easier much more fun to use.


When buying bird identification books, check on inclusiveness. Publishers sometimes cherry-pick species, using, for example, birds that are pretty or common or representative of others of their species. That’s an incomplete book, one likely to be disappointing eventually. ID books should be complete for the designated geography.