Rainbow Dust: Three Centuries of Delight in British Butterflies by Peter Marren; The Moth Snowstorm: Nature and Joy by Michael McCarthy; In Pursuit of Butterflies: A Fifty-Year Affair by Matthew Oates - review by Richard Kerridge

Richard Kerridge

The Great Thinning

Rainbow Dust: Three Centuries of Delight in British Butterflies

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Square Peg 308pp £14.99 order from our bookshop

The Moth Snowstorm: Nature and Joy

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John Murray 262pp £20 order from our bookshop

In Pursuit of Butterflies: A Fifty-Year Affair

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Bloomsbury 480pp £18.99 order from our bookshop
 

Here are new books by three of Britain’s leading natural history writers. Peter Marren and Michael McCarthy have long been controversialists, increasingly alarmed by the collapse of wildlife populations. Matthew Oates has worked in butterfly protection for forty years, becoming a public expert and adviser to the National Trust. All are well known for their columns and blogs.

Each of these books tells the story of a fascination that started in childhood in the 1950s or 1960s, and each confronts the same shocking change. McCarthy sums it up. Since his birth, Britain has wiped out half of its wildlife. Not half its species, but roughly half the total number of individuals. Most of our fields no longer teem with birds and insects. Once-ordinary creatures have become rare. McCarthy calls this loss ‘the great thinning’, and one of his examples is the memory of summer evenings when moths in

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