Western Books

Michael Gochfeld gochfeld at eohsi.rutgers.edu
Tue Jul 30 22:19:07 EDT 2002

I agree with the Ernest Williams assessment that hand or field, the Glassberg
book BUTTERFLIES THROUGH BINOCULARS---WEST is the most useful. It has lots of
excellent illustrations, including some species shown with several regional
variations.  It's not going to get you every fritillary (probably not even in the
hand), and there are probably hidden taxa not yet sorted out. Subspecies are
generally not dealt with in detail, but different ones are often illustrated.
It's clearly the most useful field guide currently available for this wide
region.  (I use Scott as a home reference, but can't use it in the field, and the
arrangement of specimens on the plates is most confusing).  I've never tried
using Howe as a field guide.  At one time it was widely available, but I haven't
seen it in a store for years. .

I am disappointed, however, that the Glassberg book covers the entire western
U.S.  so that Mexican species barely reaching the southern tier (and even
rarities) are depicted with common northern species.  I strongly recommended that
he continue the tradition of regional guides (like the Boston to Washington  and
the Florida guides which are easier to use.  Apparently the publisher wanted the
larger audience.  Where have we heard that before?

I did just get the Pyle book and really like it. THE BUTTERFLIES OF CASCADIA
covers fewer species in more pages (418 pp) than Glassberg, so gives a lot more
information.  It uses both photos and drawings, and is a  good field guide for
the region it covers which is mainly Washington and Oregon as well as adjacent
areas of BC, Idaho, Nevada and California.  It has a great literary style and
good coverage of early life stages.  The maps are too small to show all the
detail, and all too often I have to lament the absence of a detailed master map
so the visitor can orient to the little range maps.  This book, at least, has a
map showing the 15 ecogeographic regions it covers----though not the major cities
or rivers. In the region it covers it's a very nice supplement to Glassberg.
Bob also tells lots of nice vignettes about his experiences with the different

Most of the names he uses are concordant with the NABA names, but he takes issue
with some, preferring, for example Cedar Hairstreak to Juniper Hairstreak for
Mitoura grynea sensu latu. (In our yard we call them Olive Hairstreaks).

Mike Gochfeld

Ernest Williams wrote:

2. On books (ref: the comments below).  Currently, the best general

> field guide to butterflies of (most of) the west is Glassberg's
> _Butterflies through Binoculars: The West_.  If you haven't tried it,
> do so - whether you collect or not.  The photos are spectacular and
> extremely useful in identification.  For some species, it helps to
> supplement with other books, too.  Sometimes Scott (1986) is helpful,
> though very awkward to use; Howe (1975) adds a little about variation
> of subspecies; Opler (Peterson series, 1999) has good information but
> the visuals don't help; Pyle (Audubon, 1981) has some good points but
> doesn't supplant the others; and Tilden & Smith (Peterson series,
> 1986) is not worth bothering with.  The new regional guides to
> Alberta (1995) and British Columbia (2001) are excellent, if that's
> your interest.  I haven't seen Pyle's new guide to Cascadia.  But
> Glassberg can serve as the primary field guide to the West,
> >Does anyone know of a better ID
> >book than the Audubon field guide or the Peterson's western
> >butterflies?  I continue to get stumped when trying to ID with these
> >two sources :(
> >Bob Thomas
> >Scott's "Butterflies of North America" is a fat book, expensive, and not
> >altogether accurate - but it's a great addition to the two books you've
> >mentioned.
> >The book by the same title by William Howe is sadly out of print.  If you
> >can find one, it's another great book and a must have - even if the taxonomy
> >is way out of date.  It's wonderfully illustrated, and is pretty reliable
> >for id'ing many of the obscure western ssp.
> >Beyond that, I'm afraid you're limited to regional field guides.  Many good
> >ones do exist, though not all are equipped with plates.  Of course, there
> >are the Glassberg books - I haven't bought one yet, but they are apparently
> >getting better as field resources.
> >Mark Walker.
> >I just visited California for the first time during July 3-8 and I
> >used J. Glassberg's "Butterflies though Binoculars West" and
> >California Butterflies by Garth and Tilden for my sources.
> >Butterflies Though Binoculars was very handy came out this spring I
> >believe and it has range maps,yet it didn't have Mountain Crescent,
> >Phyciodes campestris montanus  in it.
> >Randy Emmitt
> Ernest Williams
> Clinton, New York
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