Vintage Golden Guides

When I was little I liked nothing better than to look through a nature book and draw the animals I saw within its pages. My Mom even gave me her Mammals: A Guide to Familiar American Species book so I could use it as reference for my drawings. That was my very first Golden Guide book and it would be years until I added several more to my bookshelf.

Mammals: A Guide to Familiar American SpeciesĀ (1955)

The Golden Guides were a series of pocket books focusing on different aspects of nature (mammals, insects, birds, etc). First published under the “Golden Press” line of Western Publishing Company in 1949, many more books were added to the series over the years. Written by experts in their field and edited by Herbert S. Zim, the books were accompanied by realistic illustrations, filling each page with visual aids and colour.

Insects (1956)

James Gordon Irving illustrated the first books, which were intended for readers of the primary and secondary school levels. The series, however, expanded from identification guides to address various other subjects of the natural world such as fossils and even a pet care book.

Fossils: A Guide to Prehistoric Life (1962)
Referring to the Fossils guide to classify my own fossil finds.
Pets From Wood, Field and Stream (1969 Edition)

While reorganizing her books one day, my Mom took down several small paperbacks from the shelf and placed them in a pile. I took a look at them and noticed the similarity of the layout, illustrations and general age of the yellowed pages. I flipped through them and made the connection to the Mammals book she had given to me years before. I asked her more about them and she told me that she got them from her days of working at The Royal Ontario Museum. Apparently the offices were upgrading their book collections and she wound up with this pile of Golden Guides. My Mom used those books as reference for her own drawings, something she taught me to do from my earliest days of showing an interest in art and animals.

Flowers: A Guide to Familiar American Wildflowers (1950)
Airborne Animals: How They Fly (1969)
Birds of North America (1983)
Non-Flowering Plants: Ferns, Mosses, Lichens, Mushrooms and Other Fungi (1967)

After looking through the books for a while my Mom told me I could keep them if I wanted. They are now reunited with Mammals on my book shelf and whenever I find a vintage Golden Guide at a used book store I add it to my collection. I only have eight books so far but one day I would like to collect the entire series. For now, I put these guides to good use for my own natural history collection, as well as a classification reference for my nature and wildlife photography.

Giant Water Bug (aka “toe biter”) specimen
Carrion Beetle specimen
Banded Woollybear specimens
Monarch Butterfly specimen
Cicada specimen
Scarab “Hermit” Beetle specimen

Michael’s Bay Pioneer Cemetery


“Manitoulin is such a healthy place they had to kill a man to start a cemetery.” I came across this quote while doing research for this post and I thought it was quite fitting.

While on our visit to Manitoulin Island we drove by the historical grounds of Michael’s Bay Pioneer Cemetery. The cemetery has been caught within a legal limbo between the property owners and the requirements of the Ontario Cemetaries Act, with the graves in serious need of upkeep and some talk of developing the land. Despite all of this, the cemetery’s fate continues to be fought for by the dedicated individuals of The Michael’s Bay Historical Society as it has for the past thirty years.




Forty-three graves were uncovered in the Methodist cemetery, which dates back to the late 1800’s. Little white crosses were made and put in place by The Michael’s Bay committee, some of which were labeled with the names and dates of identified graves. The property had become quite overgrown from neglect and if it weren’t for those markers no one would have imagined the forest floor was a cemetery.



As I crouched down to look at the crosses poking out from the greenery, like skeleton masts of a ship graveyard, I was suddenly reminded of Stephen King’s Pet Sematary. This cemetery was not for furry departed companions, though, it was a cemetery for the local people and their children, laid to rest so long ago.




William Richard Bonas ~ February 1, 1903 – May 5, 1903
James Hilson





For now the fate of this cemetery and whether or not it will be fully restored is still in the works. As long as The Michael’s Bay Historical Society and other concerned individuals continue to fight for this sacred spot in the woods, there may be hope for it yet.

For more information please visit the following links:


Friendship: picking up where we left off

It’s funny how there are some people who we can go for months without talking to, yet when we see them again we can pick up right where we left off. Time has gone by, we have kept busy with our own lives but when we’re reunited it’s as if nothing has changed. The friendships we have with these individuals are not something that we think about every day. We tend to take them for granted but they truly are a blessing; something that is constant and comforting in our lives. These friendships should be cherished because they are not easily attained by everyone.


I have a friend like this and not only can we pick up where we left off but we have also made a ritual of the time we spend together. Every time she visits, autumn, winter, spring or summer, we walk the trails of the Bailey Ecological Park. As soon as we turn into the park entrance we have one destination in mind; our favourite hangout point. Along the way we explore the various trails that wind across the hills and forest like a tangle of yarn, occasionally crossing the path of wildlife or stumbling upon interesting natural finds.

The park is a lot like our friendship. Its features change with the seasons but it stays more or less the same as a whole; the paths still lead to their various points of interest, the train tracks remain on the outer edge of the park, the underside of the bridge with its splash of coloured graffiti. These things remain constant and although the seasons can change the general atmosphere of our surroundings, the structure of the grounds remains the same. The feelings of natural simplicity and the temporary remoteness from the hustle and bustle of our everyday lives can always be counted on.

I’d like to now finish this post off with a handful of photos I took while my friend and I were out catching up along on the trails…

I was super excited to come across a morel mushroom! It was growing all by itself in a carpet of pine needles. I’ve seen photos of them but I’ve never found one in the wild before. I really dig the bark-like texture of its cap.
From above the bridge we spotted a bunch of young mallard ducks, still following their mama (not featured in this photo).


I captured a clear shot of three stream dwelling critters: a water spider, a baby minnow and an underwater snail. Can you spot them?



Grasshopper green!
A field of buttercups smiling up at the sunny sky.
When we came home the sun was shining right through our sand cherry tree, making it look as if it were aflame.

Green frog at Fairy Lake


Today was another Saturday of glorious spring weather so my family decided to enjoy it by going on a stroll around Fairy Lake. There were plenty of Canadian geese, mallard ducks and red-winged blackbirds but we didn’t see many other critters until we neared the end of our walk. As my parents headed for the parking lot my younger sister and I walked off the trail and into the bush to the edge of a still creek. The creek was so still that a film of thick algae covered the top of the water like cream over milk. With only enough time to explore one side of the creek we managed to spot a little green frog poking its head above the water. Slowly and carefully I crept closer to the edge of the bank, crossing my fingers that I wouldn’t scare it off. To my relief, it was quite the mellow little fellow and didn’t budge. I took a few photos and then my sister “dared” me to pet it, so I leaned over and stroked its back. Sure enough, it swished over the algae a little ways off and provided a different pose for me to capture with my camera. Frogs and toads are my favourite amphibians so it’s always fun to spot them on our walks.




First toad sighting of 2016!


A sunny Saturday afternoon calls for one thing in my family, a walk in the park! Today, while my dad and my sister tossed the baseball, my mom and I trekked over to the creek, cameras in hand. It was around this time last year when we made the very same trek and came across a handful of toads in the shallow water. I was hoping to spot some of the bumpy creatures today and I was not disappointed. We only saw two pairs of toads but that was good enough for me!

The first pair promptly submerged themselves under water and disappeared beneath the overhanging weeds upon our arrival. We waited a few minutes for them to come out of hiding but they only teased us with their chirping. When we moved on to the bend in the creek I spotted a whopper of a female poking her head above the water. It looked as if she had been there for a while because the mud on her nose had dried. My mom and I settled as close as we could without scaring her and began snapping photos. It was my mom who zoomed in and noticed that there wasn’t only a female, but a male as well. He was clasped onto her back and below the surface of the water, making him barely visible at first glance. If you looked closely you could even spot the strings of eggs twisted around them in the water.

So far, this has been a promising start to my critter search of 2016!

With this onset of wonderful weather, have you seen any toads or other critters lately? Tell me all about it in the comment section below!

Photo taken by my mother. Notice the string of eggs over her head.


Photo taken by my mother.
Photo taken by my mother.


A Bunny Couple in the Backyard

Yesterday evening my cat, Abigail, started to go bonkers by the sliding doors that open onto our backyard. My sister peeked behind the curtain and announced that the culprit was a rabbit. Grabbing my camera, I made my way to the sliding door and poked my lens through the curtain. Abigail was at my feet, her eyes were fixed on the fluffy ball of fur that was nibbling in the far corner of our yard. After focusing in on the rabbit my sister informed me that she saw a second one hop onto the scene! Now Abigail really had something to be excited about!



Usually she chatters and clicks if she’s bird watching. Or her tail stands on end and she plays the role of the fierce guard cat if there are cats or raccoons outside. These two rabbits were a different story. After getting over her initial excitement she sat very still and watched the two creatures with such an intensity that I didn’t dare disturb her. After all, it’s not everyday she gets to marvel at two funny looking furry animals.

Now that I think back on it, I’m guessing that she was a bit perplexed about the rabbits. Birds and squirrels are smaller than her so she knows who’s boss. Other cats pose a potential threat because they are her equals and in her mind, much like Tigger, she’s “the only one”. Raccoons are cocky and generally bigger than her which tends to grind her gears. Rabbits, though, are only a tad smaller than she is but they lack the streak and cunning of a hunter. I think when it all comes down to it, she sees rabbits as another animal like her and she’s genuinely curious.


Now back to the rabbits… They showed up about half an hour into the snow storm and they spent most of their time rooting around the snow for anything green beneath the surface. They were quite successful in finding their supper; pulling up crisp green grass and leafy plants beneath the new covering of snow. Usually we don’t see rabbits out before dark so it was a bit of a surprise, especially to see two. I suspect the pair were mates since they usually start breeding from late February to early March. I’ll be on the look out for little Bunnykins babies this spring!


With Easter approaching, this double bunny visit was such a nice surprise and allowed us to marvel out the window instead of sulk at all the wind and snow.

Do you ever catch glimpses of wildlife in your backyard? Do your household pets approve or disapprove? I’d like to hear your stories! Feel free to tell me about it in the comment section below!

A Charlie Brown Christmas tree in the middle of the forest

Today my good friend swung by for her holiday visit and, keeping to our tradition, we did some catching up while trekking the Tom Taylor Trail.

As we reached the grove of pine trees we noticed that one stood out among the rest. It was a spindly little thing covered with Christmas ornaments! As soon as I saw it, I was reminded of the Charlie Brown Christmas tree. The ornaments were mix-matched and seemed to weigh down the twig-like branches. It was the last thing I expected to see on the trail and it brought a smile to my face, as I’m sure it would for anyone else who passed it, for it gave an unexpected holiday greeting. Kudos to whoever decorated that little tree with odds and ends ornaments! It was such a festive gesture!



Further into our trek we came across massive shelf fungi growing on the limb of a fallen tree. These babies were as big as dinner plates! They were out of reach so I had a little help to get up to their level for a decent photo… Friends will do a lot for you but only a true friend would act as a human step stool for their shorty friend. Thanks again, hun!



One can find the strangest things along the back trails…


Although there was no snow on the ground, ice still rimmed the edges of the stream…


An abandoned bird nest

I’m looking out of my window right now and the snow is piling up under the glow of the street lamps. It’s hard to believe that only this afternoon there wasn’t a trace of snow to be seen in our town. My friend and I could clearly see the dividing line between the hardened earth path and the greying grass on either side. If we had waited one more day to go on our trek we would have been making our own path in the snow or following someone else’s foot steps. At least I’ll remember that the last day without snow was spent with a good friend.