People sometimes contact me to ask for assistance identifying insects and other creatures they've found.
Unfortunately (especially with insects) if I don't have a photo my site with an ID, there's a good chance I don't know the answer. However, this page should point you in the direction of the tools that I use when I find something new, or want more information about a specific critter.
- Google is the obvious place to start, but to get useful information, you may need to tweak your search criteria to filter out irrelevant results.
- Google image search - when you know what a critter looks like, but not much else, an image search may return a photo of the exact species, or at least something close enough to find its genus. Searches I might perform are beetle round black orange -car -vw (note the use of minus to exclude VW Beetle cars from the results) or "resin bee" "western australia" "red eyes" (note the use of quotation marks to assemble the query into phrases).
- Google's advanced image search page will help you to construct complicated searches if you're not sure how to do it yourself.
- Google's text search can be useful to find other people's websites that may be of use. For example, you could find someone's site dedicated to Western Australian beetles. Scrolling through their pages you could find IDs for multiple species, as well as giving you an idea of beetles to look for in your area.
- The Western Australian Museum has a Digitised Types section on their website with photos of their specimens. This appears to a work in progress, but you can subscribe to an RSS feed to see new items as they are added.
- There is a Help me identify this critter or flower please discussion on the Whirlpool forums. You can ask questions, and there are links to other useful sites in the first post.
- Guide to Wildlife of the Perth Region by Simon Nevill. This book is really useful for those of us int he Perth metropolitan area, as it includes birds, mammals, reptiles, invertebrates and some wildflowers and fungi.
- CSIRO's Australian National Insect Collection includes maps to show where there are recorded sightings, and many have photos.
- Forest health fact sheets at the Primary Industries and Regions of South Australia - details of pests to SA forestry. Many species here (or their relatives) can also be found in WA.
- BugGuide.Net - not an Australian site, but very useful and well organised.
- Forensic Entomology at the Department of Agriculture of Western Australia - if you find an insect near a compost bin or dead or rotting animal or plant, try here.
- Miniature Lives by Michelle Gleeson. This book is really useful as it contains a lot more information than your average non-technical insect book while explaining everything really clearly and with some fun. It also includes quite a few of my photos!
- Birds in Backyards is a useful identification resource, and also has plenty of ways you can get involved with birds in your area, as well as across Australia.
- Readers Digest Complete Book of Australian Birds - if you can get hold of a copy, this is a very large and thorough book.
- Photographic Field Guide Birds of Australia by Jim Flegg. The copy I have (photo on left) has a plastic jacket and rounded corners, so it's great for carrying around. I don't like field guides with drawings - photos are so much more useful. The photos in this particular guide are nice and clear and location maps and descriptions really help to confirm identifications.