Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Bookwise: Friend, philosopher, field guide

Bird books and plant finders are not just for treks, they can bring the planet's wonders to your armchair

A friend recently gave us a field guide modestly titled Some South Indian Butterflies. He tried to buy it for us from the author, K. Gunathilagaraj, but the author made a present of it instead. So we consider this book particularly friendly.

Until now, to identify the butterflies in our green acre, I relied on a nephew and on “Common Butterflies of India” by Gay, Kehimkar and Punetha. It is an old but thorough book. From its mixed collection of line drawings, black-and-white photos and colour plates, I managed to name most of what I saw and also improve my own butterfly photos.

The new book, with colour photos on every page, is more exhaustive and easier to use. In just one read it answered several of my butterfly questions. It also replaced my confident assertions with the joys of taxonomic puzzlement. Once I would have declared that the beauty fluttering over the trellis was a crimson rose. Now I know it may be a common rose, a common mormon, a malabar rose or even a red helen. Then there are the delightful, oxymoronic names: how can a butterfly be imperial and at the same time common?

Full report here Hindu

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