Conserving Land • Protecting Resources
Since 1987

As of January 1, 2024, the Rensselaer Land Trust has merged with the Rensselaer Plateau Alliance. For all questions regarding donations, events, land, or other matters, please visit or call 518-712-9211. For questions about the merger, use extension 101 to speak with Jim Bonesteel. You can expect a new name and logo for our merged organization by Spring / Summer 2024 and a new website by the end of the year!


Amphibians and Vernal Pools

Woodland Pool Wildlife-Photo ID Guide (PDF)
Amphibian Migrations & Road Crossing--ID Guide (PDF)Amphibian Migrations & Road Corssing--ID Guide (PDF)

Frog Call Recordings

Calls of Frogs and Toads of the Northeast (Lang Elliott)
Frog Watch New York

Vernal Pools

Woodland Pool Wildlife Photo Guide (NYSDEC)
New York: Woodland Pool Conservation
Pondwatchers Guide To Ponds And Vernal Pools – Massachusetts Audubon
Vernal Pools Association (Massachusetts)
Vernal Pools of Pennsylvania
Kenney, L.P. and M.R. Burne. 2000. A Field Guide to the Animals of Vernal Pools

Amphibian Identification

Amphibian Identification Guide (NYSDEC)

The Amphibians and Reptiles of New York State: Identification, Natural History, and Conservation. James P. Gibbs et al. 2007. Oxford University Press

Peterson Field Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians of Eastern and Central North America, 4th Edition. Robert Powell et al. 2016. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Birds, Bird Songs, and Birding

Field Guides

Sibley Field Guide to Birds of Eastern North America, 2nd Edition
Sibley's Birding Basics: How to Identify Birds, Using the Clues in Feathers, Habitats, Behaviors, and Sounds
The Crossley ID Guide: Eastern Birds
Peterson Field Guide to Birds of Eastern and Central North America, 6th Edition
National Geographic Field Guide to the Birds of North America, 7th Edition
National Geographic Birding Essentials: All the Tools, Techniques, and Tips You Need to Begin and Become a Better Birder

Apps to help with Identification

Merlin (free; with photo recognition and sound files)
Audubon Bird Guide (free; with lots of free sound files)
Raptor ID (paid)
Warbler Guide (paid)
Most of the major field guides also come in app form (paid; see the list of field guides below)

Apps to Learn Sounds

LarkWire (paid)
SongSleuth (paid)

Websites to Study Sounds

Macaulay library

Photo and Song Quizzes

Internet Bird Collection

To find places to birdwatch

Hudson-Mohawk Bird Club: covers Rensselaer County and a good way to get connected for birding in our region
Birding the Hudson Valley, by Kathryn J. Schneider. 2018. University of New England Press.



Invasive Species

Identification Guides

Invasive Plants: Guide to Identification and the Impacts and Control of Common North American Species. 2nd edition. 2013. Kaufman and Kaufman.
Species Profiles at NY Invasives Species Information
Identification Resources at iMapInvasives
Identification Guides at Capital Mohawk PRISM
Finger Lakes Invasive Species Field Guide

Information about Invasive Species

Common Invasive Species in New York (RLT)
How to Manage the Invasions (RLT)
Help RLT Stop Invasive Species (RLT)
Capital Mohawk PRISM (Partnership for Regional Invasive Species Management)
Invasive & Nuisance Species (Cornell Cooperative Extension Columbia and Greene Counties)
iMapInvasives New York
New York Invasive Species Research Institute including Best Management Practice Guides
NY Invasives Species Information
Online Guide to Aquatic Invasive Species in Northeastern North America

Many entries are from An Annotated Bibliography of Identification and Natural History of New York Native Plants, by Steve Young, New York Natural Heritage Program

Field Guides

Newcomb’s Wildflower Guide. Newcomb, Lawrence. 1977. Little, Brown and Company.
This is the most useful illustrated field guide for identifying wildflowers in New York. It has a very easy-to-use key which uses flower structure and leaf arrangement. Since plants are arranged by flower structure many similar plants are illustrated together, which facilitates identification. It includes many obscure wildflowers that are usually not illustrated in other field guides. Since it uses illustrations instead of photographs the important identification characters are easier to distinguish.

Peterson’s Field Guide to Wildflowers of Northeastern and North Central North America. Peterson. Roger Tory and Margaret McKenny. 1968. Houghton Mifflin.
This is probably the second-most useful field guide after Newcomb's Wildflower Guide and they can often be used together. The illustrations are very useful, especially with the small arrows pointing out identification characters. It’s one drawback is arrangement by flower color which is less useful then by flower structure.

Wildflowers in the Field and Forest. A Field Guide to the Northeastern States. Clemants, Steven and Carol Gracie. 2006.
This is a very useful wildflower guide based on flower color and using photos to show the plants. There is often more than one photo per plant and it is one of the few guides that has distribution maps for the plants. 

Wildflowers of New York in Color. Chapman, William K. et al. 1998.
A photographic field guide of the more common and showy wildflowers encountered in NY. The photographs are beautiful but the descriptions are fairly short with only general habitat information. It is arranged by flower color, flower structure and leaf arrangement.

General Information and Natural History

Wildflowers along the Way. Brown, Margaret and Marguerite Wellborn. 1989. Environmental Clearinghouse of Schenectady, Niskayuna, New York.
This is a small but information-packed booklet about the natural and cultural history of the most common wildflowers in the Capital District, arranged by season. There are very nice line drawings by Clem Habetler.

Trailside Notes. The Naturalist’s Companion to Adirondack Plants. Schottman, Ruth. 1998. The Adirondack Mountain Club.
This book provides an interesting look at the natural history of our most common and conspicuous wildflowers (including many found in Rensselaer County). There is a mix of science, lore, edibility and etymology and humor written in a conversational style. Over half of the book is devoted to our spring ephemerals.

A Guide to Enjoying Wildflowers. Stokes, Donald and Lillian. 1984. Little Brown and Co.
This book tells how to watch many common wildflowers throughout the year, with information on flower structure and pollinators, and on natural history.

The Naturalist's Guide to Field Plants: An Ecology for Eastern North America. 2004.
The Naturalist's Guide to Forest Plants: An Ecology for Eastern North America. 2003.
Both by Cox, Donald D. Syracuse University Press.
The books in this series contain interesting and useful information on the natural history and ecology of plant communities in our area. In addition to a sampling of the plants and animals each book has a section on naming and collecting plants and activities to do.

Wildflowers of the Northeast. Anna and Spider Barbour. 1991. The Overlook Press.
Beautiful photographs and informative text in this coffee-table book connect scientific facts about the Northeast’s natural history with what a person can witness by going out to the woods or fields or swamps.

Winter Wildflower Field Guides

A Guide to Wildflowers in Winter. Levine, Carol. 1995. Yale University Press.
This is the best book for identifying wildflowers in the winter. There are very detailed drawings of many species with excellent descriptions. Many graminoids are included and there is even a section with photographs of basal leaves that is very useful.

Weeds in Winter. Brown, Lauren. 1976. W. W. Norton & Co.
A very useful guide to wildflowers (they are not all weeds) in the winter. There is a detailed key, very nice drawings and useful descriptions and natural history information.

Winter Weed Finder. Finder Field Guides. Nature Study Guild. Berkeley, California.
One of a series of handy little pocket kinds that are basically easy-to-use keys to the species.

Guides to Specific Groups

Orchids of New England and New York. Nelson, Tom and Eric Lamont. 2012. Kollath and Stensaas Publishing, Duluth, MN.
This is a handy field guide to all 65 of our subtle to stunning Northeastern Orchids. It is a handy size for the field, has great photos, descriptions and range maps and even mentions look-alikes and how to distinguish them. Another great feature is the photos of fruits and inflorescences in the front of the book.

Field Guide to Orchids of North America. Williams, John G. and Andrew E. Williams. 1983.
This is a nice small field guide with beautiful full-color illustrations, keys and detailed descriptions. It is a very useful guide for distinguishing orchids in New York and includes a glossary of botanical terms for orchids.

Trilliums. Case, Frederick W. Jr. and Roberta B. Case. 1997. Timber Press.
This is the most detailed and complete information written about our native trilliums. There is a key to all the trilliums and beautiful photographs and range maps of each species. Here you will find information on horticultural varieties not found elsewhere.


Go Botany. Native Plant Trust
Want to know what that plant is? With our Simple Key, you can identify over 1,200 common native and naturalized New England plants! Almost all Rensselaer County plants are included.

New York Flora Atlas. New York Flora Association, Albany, NY.
This is the current comprehensive online atlas to the plants of New York. It contains county maps along with photos and information on natural history and taxonomy as well as a list of specimens for each species. There are links to other online resources for each species.



DEC Tree Key Identification Guide

Forest Trees of the Northeast. A publication by Cornell Cooperative Extension–more extensive discussion of trees.

Tree Identification Book : A New Method for the Practical Identification and Recognition of Trees. By George Symonds – good pictures for basic identification- older publication, but good resource.

Identifying trees of the East : an all-season guide to Eastern North America, by Michael D. Williams.

 Go Botany. Native Plant Trust– interesting online tree key.




The Rensselaer Grit Plateau in New York, by T. Nelson Dale.
The Rise and Fall of the Taconic Mountains: a geological history of Eastern New York, by Donald Fisher.


Ferns, Mosses, and Lichens

Fern Finder: A guide to Native Ferns of Northeastern and Central North America, by Barbara Hallowell & Anne Hallowell. Nature Study Guild, Rochester NY.

Common Mosses of the Northeast and Appalachians, by McKnight et al, Princeton University Press.

Mosses, Liverworts, and Hornworts a Field Guide to Common Bryophytes of the Northeast, by Ralph Pope. Comstock Publishing Associates a division of Cornell University Press.



Hudson River Fish

NYDEC: Freshwater Fish and ShellfishFreshwater Fish and Shellfish
The Great Hudson River Estuary Fish Count–Explore fish diversity in the river that flows both ways




National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Mushrooms, by Gary Lincoff.
Mushrooms of the Northeastern United States and Eastern Canada’s, by Timothy Baroni.
Mushrooms on Northeast North America, by a George Barron.