Tree Identification

Quiz 52: Trees for birders

The quiz below shows four photographs of the leafy crowns of trees, as you might see them while looking for birds through binoculars or telescopes. Differences in leaf “posture”, arrangement, and color are just as obvious as differences in leaf shape, and all of these species are readily distinguishable at a glance, even in silhouette. …

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Trees in their spring colors

I’ve been neglecting trees in my posts recently, but here in Massachusetts spring is the best time of year for tree-watching, and today the sun was out offering some good photo opportunities.

Spruce, Fir, or Hemlock?

One of my main goals in creating the Sibley Guide to Trees was to apply modern methods of bird study to tree identification. This meant looking at trees at a distance and trying to figure out what, if any, differences would allow me to distinguish species quickly and reliably in just a glance. I continue …

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Identifying trees by color

Spring is always an exciting time for birdwatchers, as migrants pass through and summer residents return, all in their flashy breeding plumage. This time of year is equally interesting for tree-watching, and it is the best time of year for identifying trees from a distance by their color.

Variation in shape of Hickory nuts

Thanks to an email from Ray Telfair I’ve taken a closer look at the illustrations and descriptions of hickory nuts on pages 143 to 149 in the Guide to Trees.  I used the terms “angled” and “ribbed” interchangeably, and illustrations such as Pignut Hickory p 145 appear “angled”, which is confusing and incorrect, so I’ll try to …

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Trees with opposite leaves

In the past, tree identification guides have emphasized the presence of opposite leaves as one of the most important field marks. In the Sibley Guide to Trees I used a more holistic approach, like modern bird identification, giving equal weight to all parts of the tree. A tree might catch your attention because of its …

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