4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars
An ultimate souvenir, 1 Feb 2002
On my first morning in the USA I sat on a balcony in New Orleans dazed, jet lagged, drinking the PG Tips tea I'd brought with me, feeling lost.
I could see trees in bloom, gorgeous fluffy salmon-pink flowers against bright green leaves. Black birds with ridiculously long tails strutted on the parking lot below. Palms of all kinds and shapes flourished in the flowerbeds and roadsides. Ghostly white birds sat hunched at the roadside ditches; fork-tailed pale birds hovered like water-kestrels over park lakes; huge butterflies like airborne sweet-wrappers in a gale wafted past my face: "Did I really see that?"
Oh yes, I was lost. I wanted to know what all these wonderful new things were, caught up in the sun, the sounds of zydeco music, and the scent of boudin and gumbo.
My hosts, internet friends, had a few bird books that were useful, if awkward to navigate, and of course just.. birds. Sensing my childlike wonder in the New World, they ferried me to a large bookshop where I quickly found the awesome range of Audubon Field Guides.
Impressed? Oh you bet. The UK has nothing to compare with them. Okay so I came out with the Florida Field Guide [the New Orleans area has much the same flora & fauna, and we were headed to Florida in a few days] but from that moment, (probably to the perplexity of my hosts), my nose was buried in a cornucopia of crystal-clear colour photographs, accurate and concise descriptions and fascinating deviations into weather, the night sky, and the Florida natural parks. Heaven!
The National Audubon Field Guide to Florida was like an open sesame to everything I saw in the rest of my trip. All of Florida's most comon and spectacular Mushrooms, Fungi, Trees, Plants, Wildflowers, Fish, Marine Invertebrates, Shells, Molluscs, Insects, Butterflies, Moths, Spiders, Beetles, Amphibians, Reptiles, Birds, and Mammals are crammed, jammed, like a Noah's-Ark-on-paper, within this compact, lightweight volume which would weigh nobody's backpack down. It was seldom out of my reach for the rest of the trip, it was my bible, showed me the wealth of Florida's abundant wildlife and enriched my experiences.
My copy has lived a bit: crinkled cover from stray splashes from my canoe trip (I painstakingly separated each and every page and only had 2 stuck together *phew*); thumb marks; and yes, a friend on every page - something I had seen and *enjoyed* seeing. It's treasured, and still comes out from the bookshelf occasionally as reference.
What a souvenir! I showed it around to family and friends, who were all impressed by its bijou excellence and quality of photographs, not to mention the brief, but precise, information. One friend, about to fly out to Florida to swim with mannatees, virtually begged me by email for its ISBN and details from Amazon to buy it.
I confess, a few things I did not find within its wealth of information, but to be able to identify bizarre, eerily beautiful Spider Lily we found on a riverbank - which captivated my Floridian host who had never seen anything like it - and to read about the alien Trumpet Pitchers, glowing "nuclear" green that we found in a swamp meadow, made it all worthwhile.
As someone who *loves* nature, this book was my most precious and useful souvenir.
Buy it, or forever be driven nuts by what you saw there.