Nomads of the Wind Book Review

The Migration of the Monarch Butterflyand other Wonders of the Butterfly World
Ingo Arndt, Claus-Peter Lieckfeld, Peter Huemer
Papadakis Publisher, London
ISBN 978-1901092-92-9

From the publisher’s flyer

“behind the fragile beauty of butterflies lie astonishing feats and talents, some familiar, some unknown. Perhaps the most incredible feat of all is the 2000 mile migration of the Monarch butterfly. Once a year millions of Monarchs migrate from the north-eastern USA and southern Canada to the Oyamel fir forests of Mexico, where they survive the winter. But then, as soon as they feel the first warmth of spring they all set out on the return journey through the Rio Grande and Texas, procreating on the way, until the second and third generations arrive back at the Great Lakes to start the cycle all over again.

“The images originally posted here were supplied to by Papadakis publishing with written permission for their usage in this review and elsewhere on this website. The photographer Ingo Arndt later contacted, apparently unaware that Papadakis had granted permission for their usage free of charge. This was explained to Arndt and accepted by him.

Neither Papadakis or Arndt have at any time requesed that the images be removed, and neither Papadakis or Arndt have requested payment. In January 2016 Minden Pictures demanded their removal and are currently threatening to impose a charge of GBP 1420 for the past usage of these images. Adrian Hoskins and dispute liability as free usage was explicitly given by Papadakis on behalf of their client Ingo Arndt.

A Review by Adrian Hoskins

This is simply one of the most beautifully illustrated books about butterflies that I’ve come across for many years. Ingo Arndt is one of the world’s top wildlife photographers, having won numerous awards including the World Press Photo Award 2005, the German Prize for Science Photography 2006, and several awards in the BBC Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition.

The 100 or so photographs in the book are simply breathtaking – not only in terms of the technical quality which is beyond reproach, but equally in terms of composition and originality. More importantly, Arndt makes brilliant photographic observations of Monarch ecology and behaviour, producing a set of images that show he really understands the butterflies as living creatures, rather than simply as beautiful subjects for photography.

The first half of the book includes about 50 superb photographs depicting every aspect of the life of the Monarch butterfly, including a superb sequence showing emergence from the pupa, and marvellous shots of swarms of Monarchs in flight, and at roost in their millions on fir trees in the mountains of Mexico.

The text by Lieckfeld and Huemer describes the migration of an individual female known as “GJE 148” which has been tagged in order to trace her journey south from Canada to Mexico, and touches briefly upon many fascinating aspects of butterfly ecology including defence strategies, toxins, mimicry, migration triggers, evolution, and threats such as habitat destruction and climate change.

Unfortunately the style of writing is decidedly slushy and it requires some patience to pick out the facts hidden within the romanticised verse. There is nothing contained within the text that cannot be found in a more easily comprehended style elsewhere, and those interested in a factual and scientific approach to the subject will be disappointed.

The second half of the book comprises 55 stunning photographs depicting butterflies and moths from around the world. Arndt’s images are extraordinarily beautiful and original. As well as the expected butterfly portraits there are images of butterflies in flight, amazing close ups of anatomical details such as wing scales, a delightful sequence depicting a caterpillar hatching from it’s egg; and marvellous shots of bizarre looking caterpillars, chrysalises and adult butterflies and moths.

An amazing image of the world’s smallest moth Ectoedemia groskchei ( wingspan 0.12″ ), is followed by a double page spread depicting the world’s largest moth Attacus atlas ( wing area 60 square inches ); and what is probably the world’s most beautiful moth, the incredible Madagascan Comet moth Argema mittrei.

The captions accompanying the photographs are brief but rather better than the verse in first half of the book, which in the reviewers opinion is the only weakness. It would have been far better to produce a 5 or 6 page introduction covering the life and migration of the Monarch, written in a more factual and detailed manner; and for each of the Monarch images to have been accompanied by interesting captions in the style adopted in the second half.

Despite any shortcomings in the text this remains a marvellous book, which will appeal immensely to any butterfly or nature photographer in search of inspiration. It will also have considerable appeal to anyone with a more general interest in the natural world, and is more than worthy of a place on any bookshelf.

Highly recommended and superb value.