Matthew Oates has led a butterflying life. Naturalist, conservationist and passionate lover of poetry, he has devoted himself to these exalted creatures: to their observation, to singing their praises, and to ensuring their survival. Based on fifty years of detailed diaries, In Pursuit of Butterflies is the chronicle of this life.
Oates leads the reader through a lifetime of butterflying, across the mountain tops, the peat bogs, sea cliffs, meadows, heaths, the chalk downs and great forests of the British Isles. Full of humour, zeal, digression, expertise and anecdote, In Pursuit of Butterflies provides a profound encounter with one of our great butterfly lovers, and with a half-century of butterflies in Britain.
Matthew Oates is a naturalist, writer and poet who has been obsessed by Britain's butterflies since he was at school. Intimately acquainted with all of Britain's native species, he has made particular studies of the Pearl-bordered Fritillary, Mountain Ringlet and Duke of Burgundy. But no butterfly has entranced him so much as the elusive, beautiful Purple Emperor – a butterfly we now understand much better thanks to his detailed and tireless observation. Since 1992 Matthew has worked for the National Trust, where he is currently National Specialist for Nature. Matthew has written widely for newspapers and magazines, and is a regular writer for the Nature Notes column in The Times. He lives in Gloucestershire.
"This is a very special book with many different qualities that will enthral anyone interested in the natural world. It follows the 50-year personal journey of Matthew Oates, a superb naturalist, who has spent his life in searching for a greater understanding of butterflies in Great Britain. [...] Matthew Oates modestly plays down the major contributions which he has undoubtedly made to our knowledge of butterflies and their conservation in the UK. On top of his lifetime achievements in the world of Lepidoptera, he has now applied his talents to produce an unforgettable book. His name should surely be added to the canon of Britain's finest nature writers."
– Robin Crane, British Wildlife 27(3), February 2016
"Oates [...] writes entrancingly, with the sunniest good humour. His book, with its old-school, loving erudition, is nature-writing of the sort that never goes out of fashion."
– The Sunday Times
"This book is an infectious, instantly joyful love song to butterflies [...] Written in prose as delicate and enticing as the creatures themselves, this read will release your inner flutter"
– Miriam Darlington, BBC Wildlife
" [...] a memoir which is knowledgeable, cultured and a welcome throwback to a gently comic kind of English nature writing."
– The Independent
"Oates is unquestionably authentic and his voice is vivid, witty and unapologetic [...] his writing is suffused with a love for the spirit of the English countryside."
– The Guardian
"Lyrical, eccentric, charming and historical, In Pursuit of Butterflies is altogether unique."
– Butterfly magazine
"One of the best summaries of why nature matters and how we should all care."
"The writing is perfectly judged, combining a gift for story-telling and for conveying fact with an ever-present sensitivity and self-awareness. There is the author's own poetry too, deeply felt and beautifully crafted."
– Rare Bird Alert
"It reminded me of my childhood delight in butterflies – and indeed rekindled it."
– Helen Hewett, Cotswolds Life
"When the weather turns stormy and the butterfly year is over I can turn to this book and be enchanted once again and dream of days to come next year."
– Pembrokeshire Life
"What a wonderful, passionate, inspiring, witty memoir this is! It is a joy to read, bubbling as it does with knowledge, enthusiasm and insight both into the strange world of butterflies and the arguably stranger world of human beings."
– Robert Macfarlane
"A captivating and nostalgic memoir in the great tradition of English naturalist-observers, in which Matthew Oates's love for Lepidoptera outshines even his extraordinary knowledge."
– Melissa Harrison
"Few other naturalists have quite such a depth of knowledge or passion – through which Matthew brings us new insights into the wonderful world of Britain's butterflies, surely the loveliest of all our wild creatures."
– Stephen Moss
"A unique and very personal account of 50 years of butterfly history that made me want to get out and share in the excitement."
– Martin Warren, Chief Executive of Butterfly Conservation
"This is an utterly magical book. I couldn't put it down. Matthew Oates's lifetime passion for butterflies is absorbing and fascinating, and I followed his joys and tribulations with admiration and wonder."
– Dame Fiona Reynolds, Director-General of the National Trust 2001-2012