Butterflies of Alabama, a new book from the Gosse Nature Guides series of The University of Alabama Press will be of interest way beyond the borders of Alabama -- to butterfly lovers, nature aficionados, conservationists and environmentalists, photographers, and outdoors people.
All photos copy-righted by Sara Bright
For added sweetness, the book’s scrumptious beauty will make it a wonderful gift in most places on the globe for most ages.
The butterflies of this state, all 84 known species, migrate, some far and wide, like the magnificent Monarch; some are highly localized and seen infrequently out of their area, like the West Virginia White.
West Virginia White ©
As luck would have it, it flutters into the northeast part of Alabama. One species has only recently been documented anywhere – the Appalachian Tiger Swallowtail – but like the West Virginia White, was spotted (in 2008) in Alabama’s Appalachian foothills.
Appalachian Tiger Swallowtail ©
To see several localized species, you’ll have to go to the beach – in Alabama, to Baldwin and Mobile counties – including the Great Southern White, Queen, and the Eastern Pygmy-Blue.
These creatures are all beautiful enough to lure you to their sites.
Butterflies of Alabama is not, however, just another pretty book. It’s an education, thanks to the fastidious work of photographer Sara Bright and writer Paulette Haywood Ogard. Each species entry includes photos and text (in non-technical language) revealing the whole life cycle in its natural habitat, from larva to caterpillar to beautiful adult.
The first in the Gosse series (published earlier this year), Nature Journal, by L. J. Davenport, also goes beyond its intended use as a nature study guide for observing Alabama’s flora and fauna species in their habitat. Each chapter begins with a photograph, some lovely, some silly (like the ocellated flounder flatfish), and some gross (like the yukky Cedar apple rust galls).
The photos are followed by an always witty and detailed essay about the species in the photo:
One drizzly spring day, while wriggling through a thicket in Franklin County, Alabama, I came face-to-face with a most horrible sight: an entire cedar tree “eat up” with orange oozes, dripping dew like a thousand noisome noses. But – intrepid biologist that I am – I felt no fear, for I only faced the teliohorns of cedar apple rust (CAR).
Cedar Apple Rust galls © L. J. Davenport
The refreshing voice and style of the essays are followed by several lined pages for your own creative observations and descriptions. Or poems. Or character studies. Or personal essays. Or whatever you’d like to write. Davenport’s essays have also, by the way, instructed you as to how to observe and detail your subject.
The Naturalist’s Art
The Gosse Nature Guides series pays homage to Philip Henry Gosse, English naturalist, watercolorist, and inventor of the marine aquarium who spent nearly a year on what was then, in 1838, the Alabama frontier teaching planters’ children in Dallas County. His original watercolors of Alabama insects are housed in the British Library in London. but can be seen and admired in the UA Press book that rounds out this trio of value-added natural history publications: Philip Henry Gosse: Science and Art in Letters from Alabama and Entomologia Alabamensis, by Gary R. Mullen and Taylor D. Littleton.
The book presents, for the first time, Gosse’s full-color art, as well as a concise biography of Gosse.
The Gosse series will continue with publications by naturalists and experts. The book on Alabama ferns is almost ready for publication, and books on mammals, birds, wildflowers, and mushrooms are in the works.
These books have made a promise: that each succeeding work in the Gosse Field Guides series will continue to offer high quality art and expertise for the general reader.