Bank Holiday Monday Book Review – Mariposa Road by Bob Pyle

Mariposa2This is a book about butterflies in the USA – and about the people who like butterflies and the people met ‘on the road’ while looking for butterflies.

The road is quite a long one as Bob Pyle tried to see all the USA’s butterflies in a year – which meant criss-crossing the USA several times to try to be in the right place at the right time.  How many miles – 88,000?!

How many butterfly species do you think there are in the USA? There are about the same number as there are USA birds – 800.  Pyle’s aim was actually to see 500 and you’ll have to read the book to see how close he got to 500 or 800.

He did also see 344 species of birds though.

This is quite a long book, and I have decided to take it slowly.  I have read bits and pieces – choosing the beginning, the end and places I know myself in between – and it is very enjoyable.  At 558 pages it is too daunting to read from end to end – or maybe that’s just me – but taken a step at a time I am loving it.

The book doesn’t have an index so I can’t find where or when Pyle saw the species I know, or visited the places I know, without a lot of flicking through pages.  I guess he wasn’t allowed more pages!

Being knocked out for kissing someone else’s girlfriend (at the age of 14, by a 23-year old cowboy), being mistaken for Santa Claus and his search for decent beer are the types of incidents and insights that maintain the pace of the book.  This is also a good guide to what to eat, and what not to eat, on the road in the USA.

Travel with Pyle and you will see parnassians, swallowtails and hairstreaks, and California, Kentucky and Texas, and you will get a glimpse of the American people too.

Pyle is a story-teller – and a very good one.  I have heard, from independent sources, that he is a brilliant and captivating speaker and that doesn’t surprise me given the way he writes.  He will be at the Butterfly Conservation Symposium next year and I will hope to be there to hear him.


Mariposa Road : the first butterfly Big Year is published by Yale University Press and is available on Amazon as is Mark Avery’s book Fighting for Birds.


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2 Replies to “Bank Holiday Monday Book Review – Mariposa Road by Bob Pyle”

  1. 88,000 miles in a year to see butterflies.

    and climate change?

    When are we going to start walking the walk as well as talking the talk?

  2. I'm so pleased to see that Mariposa Road has made it into paperback, and into the UK. I had to import my copy in hardback from the USA...

    It's a lovely travelogue, written by a knowledgeable man with a genuine passion for his subject. Good-humoured, gentle-paced stuff. It's right up there with Kaufmann's 'Kingbird Highway' and Fisher & Peterson's 'Wild America' in the pantheon of natural history road trip literature.


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