John Hanson Mitchell admits that the term “back yard” in his title is used loosely, for it may be your neighbor’s yard or a nearby vacant lot that harbors wildlife. The point, however, is that one’s proximity to urban areas does not rule out the observation of wildlife, and one need not travel great distances to specially designated wildlife preserves to find wild animals and plants.
This field guide, divided into eight categories based on early and late phases of the four seasons, tells what one can expect to see at some time of the year. Some of the selections may strike one as mundane, such as the daddy longlegs in fall, yet the information provided about this arachnid will tell the average reader much more than he or she knew beforehand. Interesting facts are included about myriad other forms of wildlife, too, including spring butterflies, morels, fireflies, mosquitoes, grass, bird nests, running sap, woodland flowers, galls, birds, trees, and mammals.
Black-and-white line drawings accompany the text, but not on a one-to-one basis with each item identified. Most descriptions depend upon the reader’s already knowing what the wildlife looks like, with the book providing folklore and information on the habits and life-cycles of various creatures rather than serving as a field guide for identification. Other field guides will be required by the absolute novices who need color photographs to recognize the wildlife they are seeing. The author is the publications editor of the Massachusetts Audubon Society.