I love being outside and learning about our natural world; so one day last fall while I was in the library and stumbled across “The Northwest Nature Guide: Where to go and what to see month by month in Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia” it was a no-brainer for me to check it out. What I was hoping for were ideas of what to do and see during the winter. What I discovered was an excellent book full of information, and written in a style that was fun to read. While I had intended to merely skim through the book, I found myself reading large sections at a time.
The brilliant part of The Northwest Nature Guide is that it is written by the month. Right now it is February, what might we see this month? Author James Luther Davis suggests — among other things — checking out the bald eagles and viewing wintering waterfowl. He provides a “best bets” for the best places to do this in Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia. However, even if getting to the Klamath Basin (an excellent place to see bald eagles in the winter) isn’t possible, Mr. Davis provides an interesting two and a half pages about bald eagles so I can understand why we are seeing more of them in the Willamette Valley and where I might find them locally. Within the February section is also information about weather patterns on the western and eastern parts of the states, with easy to understand descriptions of why those patterns exist.
Each month is full of these details. For example, May features song bird migrations, newts, and an interesting paragraph on spittlebugs; October features fall color, salmon runs, and geese. In November, while traveling to Newport I was on the lookout for harlequin ducks, thanks to Mr. Davis’ suggestion.
I appreciate that Mr. Davis has gone beyond wildflowers, waterfalls, and general “bird watching” within his book. Of course they are there, but they are included along-side ample ideas of things to see in our natural world that many people (and books) miss.
A key feature of The Northwest Nature Guide is the numerous ways it can be used. Of course, it is laid out monthly, but it is also well-indexed so that I can, for example, look up “elk” and learn the best times to see elk at the Dean Creek Elk Viewing Area outside Reedsport. There are also maps of Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia with the location of each of the “best bets” shown. Looking at these maps, it is clear that a lot of effort went into finding “best bets” that are located throughout the states, not just in the most populous areas.
In the end, I found I couldn’t part with the book. I renewed it multiple times — the last time getting a very skeptical look from the librarian — and finally ended up buying a copy of my own.
The Northwest Nature Guide was written by James Luther Davis and published by Timber Press in 2009. Mr. Davis is a naturalist who has a degree in zoology and was the first education director of the Audubon Society of Portland.