Brent's Guide to Identification of all ye creatures in Ontario

Vertebrates
     Birds
     Mammals
     Herps
     Fish
All Living Nature
If you want to maximize the number of species you can find and identify, a camera is the gear of choice.  A camera can replace hauling a library of field guides into the field or even your vehicle.  A camera is only so helpful though.  In many cases getting a photograph can be rather difficult.  The creature may move quickly, or it may stay too far away for an acceptable photo.  Sometimes, particularly with bugs but also with plants, identification details can be rather small -- often beyond the abilities of most macro lens.  Occasionally species identification may depend on killing the creature (i.e spider) in question in order to get at internal genital structures.  In cases where that is necessary most naturalists will opt to be satisfied with a genus or family level identification 

A website designed to help you identify anything living in nature for camera users is iNaturalist.ca.  Through a combination of a great AI and a sizable community of identifiers on inaturalist, you can get a competent help with identification.  Since it is a community it is courtous to try to idenfication your observations first and to help identify the observations of others.  Note that not all of your observations will get identiied -- sometimes your photo is not good enough, the organism is too obscure or they simply get overlooked.  Also note that sometimes the experts for more obscure fauna and flora will be on other websites.  For example, for really obscure  bugs, bugguide.net would be more useful and even then you may have to wait awhile.  One time I waited almost three and a half years for a fly I photographed to be identified.  For more common stuff, facebook groups can be quicker than iNaturalist.  However, it is better to submit your observation to iNaturalist or some other portal rather than Facebook group or other online nature group because with a portal your observation is a scientific contribution (especially if you include a location and time for your observation).

Vertebrates
Birds (496 Species)
Field Guides:  Sibleys Field Guide to Birds of Eastern North America, 2nd edition is great as a general guide.   This is just one of lots of high quality field guides.  You can also find guides covering most families of birds -- a notable one being The Warbler Guide -- plus guides on bird song, nests, tracks, feathers and other things.  >> Birds
Camera: A high zoom camera is a must.  Or even better is a DSLR with a good telephoto amd long lens.  With birds, most of the time you don't get to choose the angle at which you photograph a bird, you just get what you get.  It is possible to identify birds from most angles with the field guides out there.
Gear: Binoculars.  Spotting scope (for lakes, lagoon, open field etc).  Tablet or cell phone with bird call apps.
Submit Sighitngs: eBird
Search: Forests (deciduous and coniferous), wetlands, fields, sewage lagoons, dumps and more.  Check in the vincinity of lakes for migrants after an overnight rain with north winds for spring and south wings for fall.  Birds can be found year round with the lowest diversity in winter and highest in mid to late May with a secondary peak late August/September.  Birds can be found mostly in the morning.

Mammals (85 Species)
Field Guides: Mammals of Ontario.  A tracking book.  Behavior of North American Mammals.  Bats of Ontario by Toby Thorne
Camera: Getting a shot of the tails to separate the white weasels.  With small mammals, a photograph of the teeth many be required.  A flash is required for nocturnal mammals.
Gear: Live trap or camera trap.  Ultrasonic detector for bats.
Submit sightings: iNaturalist
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Herps -- Amphibians and Reptiles (58 Species)
Field Guides: Lots of choices.  Metamorphosis for amphibians.
Camera: Average camera should suffice.
Gear:   Snake handling device.
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Fish (169 Species)
Field Guides:  The ROM Field Guide to Freshwater Fishes of Ontario
Camera: Any
Gear: Fishing licence, fishing net, something to hold fish temporary i.e. glass jar or minnow trap for photography, polarized glasses, binoculars, fishing rod, scuba equipment.  Make sure to clean glass jar throughly before you go to another water body to prevent transporation of invasive species..
Submit Sighitngs: iNaturalist, http://www.angleraction.org/ (fish caught in traditional sense, mostly based in USA, but I think it accepts Candian records), MNR for species at risk.
Search:  Lakes, streams and wetlands, except bogs and fens.  Habitats for fish depend on substrate (sand, silt, rubble, gravel, cobble, detritus), depth (very shallow to very deep), flow rate (calm to fast flowing), water body size, water clarity (clear to turbid), temperature (cold, cool, warm), openness (clear or with cover), and vertical position (under sand, at bottom, in middle or near surface).  Reproduction occurs within a set range of temperature for each species.

Insects
In addition to iNaturalist, bugguide.net is a key insect identificaiton spot.  As with iNaturalist you can use it is as an identificaton guide (without the AI) and as a place to send in photos to ID.  The IDs usually take longer, but more specialized experts are on there.  Bugguide.net also has an extensive crowd-source biliography.  Most of the available books and websites are listed here.   A large number of them include technical research papers that describe new species to science. In terms of a general field guide for bugs I find the Kaufman Field Guide to the Insects of North America to be the most helpful.

Butterflies (169 Species)
Field Guides: Buterflies of Ontario.  Caterpillars in the Field and Garden.
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Moths (3147 Species)
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Caterpillars
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Dragonflies and Damselflies (175 Species)
Field Guides: The Dragonflies and the Damselflies of Algonquin Provincial Park and the Surrounding Area is the main guide.  This excellent regional guide, perhaps the best regional guide in North America, only weakness is it is missing coverage of about 1/4 of Ontario's species.  The Dragonflies and Damselflies of the East can fill in the gaps.  Damselfies of the Northeast is the best guide to damselflies.  I find it helpful with the diffiuclt spreadwing family.due to the inclusion of a top down illustration.  Somatochlora of Southern Ontario is also useful for this diffiuclt and much sought for genus (aka Striped Emeralds).
Equipment to consider: Close-focusing binoculars, Insect Net, Hand Lens (for looking at small details of dragonflies and damselflies in the hand), Waders (for exploring creeks). Microscope -- for some female damselflies  and in one case male damselflies (to separate the Northern and Vernal Bluets).
Camera: If you photograph a dragonfly/damselfly after capture nearly any camera will do.  A high zoom camera can bring in dragonflies that stay far outside netting range.  A better camera will also have a good macro for separting species based on small details (such as Marsh and Hagen's Bluet).
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Beetles (3818 Species)
Field Guides:  Beetles in general have a dizzing diversity.  Beetle of Eastern North America is a heavy book, gorgous book that gets you to genus level at least.  For its weight it is reasonably priced.  Certain groups have complete species coverage.  These include tiger beetles, lady beetles, fireflies, jewel beetles, longhorned woodboring beetles and some others are available.  It is interesting that with tiger beetles and lady beetles that much attention gets focused on them despite their not being many species of them.
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Fireflies
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Bees
Field Guides:
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Bumble Bees
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Ants
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Hover Flies (284 Species)
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Grassshoppers, Katydids, Crickets (121 Species); Cicadas (8 Species)
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Other Orders with Good Books
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Plants (4461 Species)

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Trees, Shrubs, Herbs
The Newcombs guide is the main guide for most plants.  While a bit dated, it has an innovative keying system that while it takes some getting used to, it is efficient and effective.  The Newcombs is the best choice to bring into the field but if you don't bring your camera.  If you take photos of the flower, floral structure (alternative, opposite etc), and leaves plus maybe a closeup of the stem and leaves you will have enough to identify any plant with the Newcombs guide.

The limitations of the Newcombs is it doesn't cover trees, rare herbs and shrubs, newer non-native or invasive plants, and plants from far northern Ontario.  Plus it usually requires the plant to be in a flowering stage in order to use its key.  Also the taxonomy has changed a bit since its publication in 1977 -- common names and scientifc names will change plus there are some splits and lumps as you would expect from taxonomic work.

 For complete species coverage of trees, Trees in Canada is your best bet.  The species profiles of the trees are excellent.  Range maps are included. It has coverage of shrubs but is less detailed.  A new edition was recently published with some minor updates.  Shrubs of Ontario has complete species coverage of shrubs.  It features range maps.  It is an older guide and its primary use is in conjunction with other guides.  

A difficult family to identify among the trees and shrubs is the willow family.  http://ontariotrees.com/groups/82/willowid.php may help.

Aster, Goldenrods, Fleabanes, Violets, Cinquefoils

Ferns & Allies

Grasses & Alllies


Mosses, Liverworts and Hornworts (724 Species)
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Other Life
Lichens (1069 Species)
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Mushrooms (2000 Species)
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Slime Molds (100 Species)
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Spiders and Other Archnids
Spiders are difficult to identify down to species, in many cases you will have to be satified with genus.  If you take a pictures of spiders, in addition to the usual top down shot, try to get a picture of the eyes.  The arrangement of eyes can usually narrow down the spider to family.  
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Aquatic Invertebrates
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Molluscs
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Land: Identification of Eastern North America Land Snails (with slugs), Terrestrail Mollusc Key
Land - Snails:
Land - Slug:
Water - Snails and Mussels: Freshwater Molluscs of Canada https://www.biodiversitylibrary.org/item/227810#page/6/mode/1up
Water - Snails
Water - Mussels: Photo Field Guide to Mussels of Ontario

Mollusks are difficult due to the lack of good field guides -- it takes a patchwork of resouces to do it.  The one exception is the Photo Fieild Guide to the Freshwater Mussels of Ontario.  Freshwater molluscs are handled in the out of print Freshwater Molluscs of Canada.  https://ia600607.us.archive.org/0/items/freshwatermollu00clar/freshwatermollu00clar.pdf is a link to the book online which can be used.  Missing are the land-based molluscs -- snails and slugs.  
Identifying land snails and slugs in Canada : introduced species and native genera helps with this but omits many species.

Crayfish (10 Species)
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Earthworms
https://www.naturewatch.ca/wormwatch/how-to-guide/field-guide-to-earthworms/
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Other Creatures
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