Monday, December 15, 2014

The Owl Who Liked Sitting on Caesar: Living with a Tawny Owl by Martin Windrow

Martin Windrow considered writing a book about his owl Mumble for over twenty years. Grief among other factors held him back. He needed a bit of distance and perspective before he could write openly about his subject, which he has in The Owl Who Liked Sitting on Caesar: Living with a Tawny Owl.

Windrow is a bit of a rule breaker. When he wanted an owl to live with him, British conservation laws had already forbad capturing wild species for pets. He found someone who could give him a fledgling tawny owl born of captive parents and completed the necessary official application and assurance papers. Upon receiving his owl, he then took her into a London-area apartment building where pets were specifically prohibited, hiding her from the landlord for about three years before moving into the countryside.

In The Owl Who Liked Sitting on Caesar, Windrow lovingly describes the relationship that he developed with Mumble, including all of his special accommodations to make her residence first in his apartment and then in his country home work. He also had to buy a lot of frozen mice. One of my favorite parts explains her moulting (British spelling), the long, slow annual replacement of feathers during which birds are vulnerable to predators - if they are in the wild. He also tells how wild owls were able to locate Mumble despite her initial urban setting.

Though Windrow sometimes compares Mumble to a domestic cat, The Owl Who Liked Sitting on Caesar is not a gentle read. Readers should expect some gore and excrement. Still there is a good dose of compassion in this don't-try-this-in-your-own-home book. Readers might also like Corvus: A Life with Birds by Esther Woolfson and The Bluebird Effect: Uncommon Bonds with Common Birds by Julie Zickefoose.

Windrow, Martin. The Owl Who Liked Sitting on Caesar: Living with a Tawny Owl. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2014. 302p. ISBN 9780374228460.

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