Exploring Philly Nature

A Guide for All Four Seasons

Bernard S. Brown, Illustrations by Samantha Wittchen
Book Cover

PB: $17.95
EAN: 978-1-4399-2121-0
Publication: Jul 22

Ebook: $17.95
EAN: 978-1-4399-2122-7
Publication: Jul 22

168 pages
5.5 x 8.5
131 color photos

A handy guide for all ages to Philly's urban plants, animals, fungi, and—yes—even slime molds

Read the Introduction


Do snakes and salamanders fascinate you or make you squeamish? Have you ever listened closely to the birds chirping in your neighborhood? Can you identify the flowers growing in Philadelphia’s urban parks? (Moreover, are the mushrooms safe to eat?) Exploring Philly Nature is amateur naturalist, urban herper,* and Grid contributor Bernard Brown’s handy guide to experiencing the flora and fauna in Philly.

This compact illustrated volume contains 52 activities from birding, (squirrel) fishing, and basement bug-hunting to joining a frog call survey and visiting a mussel hatchery. Brown encourages kids (as well as their parents) to connect with the natural world close to home. Each entry contains information on where and when to participate, what you will need (even if it is only patience), and tips on clubs and organizations to contact for access.

The city and its environs contain a multitude of species from the lichen that grows on gravestones or trees to nocturnal animals like opossums, bats, and raccoons. Exploring Philly Nature is designed to get readers eager to discover, observe, and learn more about the concrete jungle that is Philadelphia.

*people who recreationally seek out reptiles and amphibians


Exploring Philly Nature is a charming guide to the natural resources of the Greater Philadelphia region. Brown offers fun hands-on opportunities for exploration and study, whether at home, in the street, or in one of Philadelphia’s fabulous metro-area parks and preserves. Season by season, Brown guides the reader through the whole tapestry of urban nature. Under his guidance, eagles, fireflies, street rats, roadkill, and more provide an opportunity for people of all ages to experience the joy of inquiry, adventure, and discovery.”Maura McCarthy, PhD, Executive Director of the Fairmount Park Conservancy

“No one knows Philly like Billy Brown. He has stuck his nose into every corner of the city in search of wildlife and now has compiled what he has learned and shared it here for the benefit of all. The result is a masterful book that any novice or pro can use to begin exploring Philadelphia in a whole new way, while still making discoveries of their own. The tone of the book makes it accessible, approachable, and useful for layperson and expert alike, whether you’re searching for bald eagles, scarce plants and wildflowers, butterflies, or even slime molds. Brown draws on his years of experience and his network of Philly naturalists to create a great guide to exploring and understanding how Philly functions both as an ecosystem and a place where still many discoveries remain to be made. Brown shows how using nature as a filter for how we view Philadelphia changes how we see it, making you cherish it all the more.”George Armistead, cofounder of BirdPhilly and author of the American Birding Association Field Guide to the Birds of Pennsylvania

Exploring Philly Nature is a portal to the everyday natural world found in every corner of Philadelphia. It is a wonderful guide to explore nature, from the cracks in our sidewalks to widely known places like the Wissahickon to lesser known natural gems in area neighborhoods. A marvelous resource for every nature enthusiast, it is a must for parents, guardians, teachers, and others to share the ‘sense of wonder’ of nature with kids. Brown includes a thoughtful ‘kids’ note in each profile as a guide to teach the young—and young at heart—that the joys of nature are all around us.”—Leigh Altadonna, EdD, President of the Wyncote Audubon Society

Table of Contents


1. Go Birds! Watch Bald Eagles Nesting
2. Catch Creepy Crawlies: Hunt for Basement Bugs
3. Step into the Shadows: Watch Rats
4. Winter Killers: Watch Cooper’s and Sharp-Shinned Hawks
5. Tree-Hugging: Give Some Love to Some Big Trees
6. Tracing Their Steps: Track Animals in Snow, Mud, and Concrete
7. Dead Plant Time Machine: Explore an Herbarium Online
8. Cold Hands, Hot Birding: Take Part in a Winter Bird Count
9. Guess Who? Practice Tree Identification in Winter
10. Roadkill Comes Alive: Search Roads by Bicycle for Dead Animals
11. Duck, Duck, Coot! Observe Winter Waterfowl
12. Stump Yourself: Find Beaver Signs
13. Tapping In: Make Maple Syrup

14. Fleeting Beauties: Find Spring Ephemeral Wildflowers
15. The Family That Preys Together: Watch Red-Tailed Hawks
16. Amphibian Crossing Guards: Help the Toad Cross the Road
17. Feathered Fallout: Watch Spring Songbird Migration
18. A Trilling Adventure: Join a Frog Call Survey
19. Scales and All: Flip Brown Snakes
20. Cheep Thrills: Bird by Ear
21. Weeds to Watch: Find Philadelphia Fleabane
22. Get on the Ball: Watch Water Snakes
23. Join the Crowd: Take Part in a Bioblitz
24. Falcons for Dinner: Watch Peregrine Falcons While You Eat
25. Sunbathing in Armor: Watch Basking Turtles
26. Dog Vomit Is Just the Beginning: Slime Mold Search

27. Bats, Balls, and Birds: Spot Nighthawks at the Ballpark
28. Drop a Line: Go Fishing
29. Go with the Current: Paddle an Urban River
30. Nature’s Fireworks: Watch Fireflies
31. Fun Guys: Go on a Mushroom Hunt
32. Silk and Steel: Observe Bridge Spiders
33. A Flap in the Night: Go on a Bat Walk
34. Zombie Patrol: Find a Dead Zombie Fly
35. Pollinator Party! Visit a Milkweed Patch
36. The Jewels of Summer: Meet the Butterflies
37. What They Do in the Dark: Hold a Moth Night
38. Swoop into Summer: Watch Chimney Swifts
39. Wildflower Preserves: Press Flowers

40. Messing with Squirrels Has Never Been More Fun: Go Squirrel Fishing
41. Glorious Gobblers: Find Wild Turkeys
42. Touch Me Please: Squeeze Jewelweed Seed Pods
43. Rising through the Cracks: Study Sidewalk Crack Plants
44. Low Light Hightailing: Watch Deer at Dusk
45. Identity Check: Key Out Wildflowers
46. Who Goes There? Stake Out Your Yard for Nocturnal Mammals
47. Tall, Dark, and Ancient: Hike an Old-Growth Forest
48. No Lungs? No Problem: Find Red-Backed Salamanders (and Lots of Other Cool Critters) under Stuff
49. Headstone Garden: Search for Cemetery Lichens
50. Mussel Building: Visit the Mussel Hatchery
51. Rats with Wings and Other Common Birds: Start Birding Anytime
52. Autumn Glow: Take a Walk in a Field of Wildflowers

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Photo Captions and Credits

About the Author(s)

Bernard S. Brown is a nature writer for Grid magazine, co-host of the Urban Wildlife Podcast, and cofounder of the local nature hub PhillyNature.org.