558 pages, 17 b/w maps
With a love for adventure as great as his lifelong fascination with butterflies, America's best-known lepidopterist set himself an irresistible challenge: how many of the 800 species of butterflies known in the U.S. could he track down in a single year? Packing little more than a butterfly net and favourite binoculars in his well-travelled 1982 Honda, Robert M. Pyle embarked on the first Butterfly Big Year – a 365-day, 88,000-mile sprint to every corner of America.
Mariposa Road: The First Butterfly Big Year is part road-trip tale, part travelogue, and part memoir of people and species Pyle encountered along the way. Most of all, Mariposa Road: The First Butterfly Big Year is an unprecedented, intimate view of the entrancing world of butterflies, with new attention to their habitats in a time of environmental stress and climate change. From the California coastline in company with overwintering monarchs to the far northern tundra in pursuit of mysterious sulphurs and arctics, from the zebras of the Everglades to the leafwings and bluewings of the lower Rio Grande, Pyle completed an extraordinary journey, ruled always by surprise and discovery. With exuberance, humour, and honesty, he shares his adventures – and his amazing list of species, both identified and experienced.
"Toss out any notion you might have had about butterfly watchers and meet Bob Pyle: scientist and daredevil, philosopher and magician, pioneer and rebel, and the finest of companions for a vagabond journey. Follow him down the rip-roaring Mariposa Road and you'll never look at a butterfly, or the world, in the same way again."
– Kenn Kaufman, author of Kingbird Highway
"Mariposa Road is a mighty slice of North America, seen through the eyes of one of its most eloquent naturalists. This is extreme butterflying at its best."
– Martin Warren, Chief Executive, Butterfly Conservation, Wareham, Dorset, U.K.
"Lepidopterists will appreciate Bob's sightings, chases, and captures, and natural history remarks on species both familiar and unknown. A reader with only a general interest in natural history can vicariously join Bob on his "rays," enjoying the adventures, learn much about regional biotas, and either elect to look up specific butterflies in a field guide or choose not to. There is much for anyone among a wide readership to consume and ponder."
– Michael M. Collins, author of Moth Catcher
"Mariposa Road is at one and the same time both a serious endeavor in consciousness-raising in conservation biology, and a set of deeply personal reflections based on a lifetime of commitment to the conservation of invertebrates and butterflies in particular."
– Francie Chew, Tufts University
"In Mariposa Road we're invited along as Bob Pyle crisscrosses the country on a yearlong hunt for butterflies. He writes of the land and the creatures in it with such extraordinary vividness and grace – describes his adventures and unexpected challenges with such good humor – that we are borne aloft, we can see it all and love it, as he does. You'll never have so much fun armchair traveling!"
– Molly Gloss, author of The Hearts of Horses
"What Roger Tory Peterson was for birds, Bob Pyle is for butterflies – their most impassioned advocate and ceaseless popularizer. From the dusty heat of Texas and the tropical lushness of Hawaii to the legendary outhouse of the Midnight Sun in the Alaskan Arctic, Pyle is a traveling companion who never grows dull."
– Scott Weidensaul, author of Of a Feather and Return to Wild America
"A charming book, emanating from the traveling naturalist tradition of Roger Tory Peterson and James Fisher's Wild America, and Edwin Way Teale's four volumes on seasonal change of nature in America"
– Thomas E. Lovejoy, University Professor of Environmental Science and Policy, George Mason University and Biodiversity Chair, The Heinz Center for Science, Economics and the Environment, Washington, D.C.
"I immensely enjoyed the diverse, humorous, and incisive tales Pyle relates in his always-elegant prose, and I was very strongly moved by his subtle inserts here and there on the issues of habitat loss and conservation."
– Lincoln Brower, Professor of Zoology Emeritus,University of Florida and currently Research Professor of Biology, Sweet Briar College
"Armchair travelers who love a good yarn will find Pyle's exuberance catching."
– Seattle Times
"Robert Michael Pyle's expansive knowledge of the natural history of North America shines through."
"For the seemingly ever-growing number of Americans who are just beginning to watch, photograph, and keep life-lists of butterflies, this book will be a revelation of how deep this passion can run."
– Wall Street Journal online
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Robert Michael Pyle is the author of sixteen books, including Chasing Monarchs and Wintergreen, winner of the John Burroughs Medal. He has studied and written about natural history throughout his career, and as a butterfly conservation consultant, writer, and teacher he has worked in every state and many countries. He lives along a tributary of the Lower Columbia River in southwest Washington.