Monday, 9 April 2012

The humble British butterfly

As a schoolboy, Robin Page might have struggled to distinguish between a red admiral and a painted lady, but nowadays the author of The Great British Butterfly Safari can think of nothing less.

It has come to my attention that I am suffering from something of an addiction. An obsession, even. And the source of my fascination? Butterflies.
Beautiful, colourful and fragile. In my youth, I hardly noticed them at all. There were yellow ones, cabbage whites, peacocks and tortoiseshells –large and small – but my knowledge extended no further than that of the average schoolboy.
So how did my obsession unfold? It was all Gordon Beningfield’s fault.
He was the artist and conservationist who turned butterfly illustration into genuine art, and it was his work that converted me to the wonderful summer-long procession of everchanging beauty, which is the world of butterflies. I had caught the bug.
Before long the first and last butterfly of the year had become a matter of great excitement, as enthralling as anything else in nature.
Experts argue over the number of butterflies living in Britain. Some think 57, while others climb to 61. Ten years ago, I decided to find out for myself and embarked on The Great British Butterfly Safari, which became a book.

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