Owls loomed large in the birdscape of my suburban boyhood: tawny owls nested in the local parks, ghostly white barn owls glimmered from time to time in the dusk, and the occasional little owl – the owl of Minerva – was to be seen on nearby smallholdings. At night we would hear the tawny owls’ hoots and the less frequent screech of the barn owl. One of the things I learned from Miriam Darlington’s new book is that the French language usefully distinguishes between hooting owls, les hiboux, and screechers, les chouettes.
Today, for reasons outlined by Darlington, the owls have all but disappeared from their old suburban haunts, retreating into deeper country. Their increasing rarity makes encounters with these extraordinary birds all the more magical – and this magic, the special allure of owls, is effectively evoked in Owl