Butterflies animate our summers but the 59 species found in the British Isles can be surprisingly elusive. Some bask unseen at the top of trees in London parks; others lurk at the bottom of damp bogs in Scotland. A few survive for months while other ephemeral creatures only fly for three days. Several are virtually extinct. This bewitching book charts Patrick Barkham's quest to find each of them – from the adonis blue to the dingy skipper – in one unforgettable summer.
Barkham brings alive the extraordinary physical beauty and amusingly diverse character of our butterflies. He witnesses a swarming invasion of painted ladies, experiences the curse of the purple emperor, makes a euphoric sighting of an exceedingly rare migrant and as summer draws to a close, suffers from butterfly burnout. He meets some deeply knowledgeable and eccentric butterfly obsessives and reconnects with lovely, overlooked corners of our countryside. As he goes, he looks back at the butterfly collectors of the past and ahead to a future in which many of our butterflies will struggle to survive on an overcrowded and overheating island.
Patrick Barkham was born in 1975 in Norfolk and was educated at Cambridge University. He is a features writer for the Guardian, where he has reported on everything from the Iraq War to climate change. He is the author of Badgerlands: The Twilight World of Britain's Most Enigmatic Animal and Coastlines: The Story of Our Shore. He lives in London and Wells-next-the-Sea in Norfolk.
"Hurrah for butterfly anorak Patrick Barkham. In his brilliant book, which will bring a song to the heart of all nature lovers, he describes how he set out – successfully – to spot every one of Britain's 59 native butterflies in one action-packed summer"
– Val Hennessy, Daily Mail
"A beguiling book [...] [Barkham] criss-crosses Britain, recording his search in a vivid, adept, unapologetic voice, wonderfully catching the spirit of these ethereal creatures"
– Richard Mabey, Guardian
"This engaging and idiosyncratic account was not vritten for the experts [...] Those of us who find it hard to identify any species beyond the red admiral and the cabbage white will be astonished by the details of the teeming natural world that we so blindly inhabit"
– Margaret Drabble. Daily Telegraph
"Still more enviable than Barkham's single-mindedness is his sense of wonder [...] Enraptured, visionary, witty and erudite"
– Jonathan Keates, Sunday Telegraph