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Handbook for Butterfly Watchers

This essential handbook covers where to find butterflies; how to observe and photograph them; their behavior, biology, ecology, and life histories; butterfly gardening; butterfly rearing; identification; and conservation.

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Tags: butterfly, Handbook, Butterfly Gardening, Watcher's, butterfly watchers

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  1. Michael Zeogas says:

    Move over Birds: Butterflies are the New Animal to Watch You’ll picture yourself in a serene meadow. The dewy grass will still feel wet beneath your bare feet. The sweet smell of pollen will tickle your nose, and the rising sun will set a backdrop of beautiful pinks and purples in the sky. This is how you will feel while reading this classic book.Pyle’s Handbook for Butterfly Watchers is a captivating, leisurely read that will inspire you to go out and experience nature in a way that you never have before. His writing style is beautiful and poetic. He places you in a world where butterflies flitter about without a care in the world. His love of lepidoptera is evident through the book. His organization is masterful, ranging from scientific butterfly knowledge to rearing your own butterflies to conserving butterflies. He also shares his experiences and offers his expert insight to the best spots in North America, and around the world.His book starts with a simple question that I am sure he proposed to himself before writing the book. “Why watch butterflies?” Why would anyone be interested in this activity? Moreover, why would anyone be interested enough to buy the book? Pyle claims “those who miss butterflies miss one of the greatest spectacles of all, in sheer wonder and beauty if not in size”(1). This natural history book has other fun chapters entitled “How to Find Butterflies” and “Moths: Learning to Love Them”. The book will give you a plethora of knowledge about butterflies with the less scientific approach that all will enjoy. I would strongly recommend this book both to a avid reader, and any person looking to discover a new outdoor hobby.The book is enjoyable, understandable, and readable to all adults in all fields. The themes of the book were well represented but sometimes I felt as if the author went too deeply into personal experiences from the his own past. I also thought that the title was somewhat misleading. At first glance, although it is not explicitly stated, I thought this book was a field guide, rather than a natural history book. His writing style is absolutely astonishing in a sense of lyrical beauty, however, it does not offer as much scientific information as a field guide. Perhaps this is why it is named a “handbook” rather than a field guide. For instance, he writes: “On a hot, crystalline morning I started up a steep slope, bound for a moor purple with heather and overlooking the Irish Sea, buoyant with hope and exhilaration.”(3). The text talks about why he watches butterflies but why should the reader watch butterflies? The obvious reasons why Pyle wrote this book was to share his love for butterflies with the world. This is a well written book about the natural history of butterflies and I thought he conveyed that message very well. His descriptions were idealistic and imaginative. The text seems accurate for the time it was written. One thing I noticed that seemed outdated was in the “Records and Field Notes” section, he talks of a time before global positioning systems (GPS). He claims that the only way to record where you found a butterfly was to refer to a nearby landmark and estimate how far away you were and in what direction. “The situation has improved but many naturalists still give only the nearest town or road. This is not only imprecise and perhaps miles off course, but it can also be confusing” (88). This to me seems outdated as many collectors (including college students such as ourselves) use GPS now to identify an exact location where the specimen was found.Since the author used eighteen sources for the “About Butterflies” section which was the largest science-based section of the book, and thirty sources in the “Names and Identification” section which was very scientific also, I generally assumed that the author has a immense appreciation for butterflies but didn’t necessarily have a technical education in insects. I later discovered that the author did write the Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Butterflies. This proves that Pyle does have a scientific love for butterflies also. After further research I learned that Pyle has a B.S. in Nature Perception and Protection (1969) and an M.S. in Nature Interpretation (1973). He also got his Ph. D. from Yale from the School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. Pyle clearly has devoted his life to conservation and protection of nature, especially his beloved butterflies.The book was enjoyable but to a serious collector I would suggest his Field Guide. Although beautifully written, I would recommend this book more as a leisurely read rather then a scientific database of knowledge.

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