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Owl Sense by Miriam Darlington - review

The author's mission to track down all 13 species of owl in Europe seems less a labour of love than a book-writing exerciseOne darkish evening not so long ago, the nature writer Miriam Darlington stood in a wood somewhere in Devon, her feet buried in wild garlic, her nose filled with the scents of mulch and moss. Through the treetops, she could see the rising moon and a flitting bat, sights that were soundtracked by birdsong (thrushes, blackbirds, rasping rooks) and her own small contribution: an inexpert whistle. Her friend Stephen had told her to keep at this whistling. It would, he'd promised, yield results in the end - and he was right. A moment later, a "swooping shadow" appeared, "suspended on a loop of air as if there was a cushion between his wings and the ground". This was the tawny owl he had been training, here to pick up its dinner of chopped day-old chicks.Darlington's much-loved first book, published in 2012, was about otters, animals she crossed Britain to track, meeting along the way all manner of conservationists, ecologists and poets. Owl Sense is on similar territory: there are 13 species of native owl in Europe, and in her book she sets out to try to see them all in the wild, with varying results. The tawny owl, as we've seen, is fairly easily ticked off; so too are the barn owl and the little owl (and what gorgeous goblins they are, at just a few inches high). But others prove more elusive. The eagle owl requires a trip to Finland, and the long-eared owl to Serbia; still on her list even now are the snowy owl, the hawk owl, and the great grey owl. How long has Darlington been obsessed with owls? She doesn't quite say, and perhaps this is one reason why at times - usually when there's no sharp beak in sight - her narrative feels rather effortful. Delightful though her enthusiasm is, it seems worked up somehow: in the service of needing to complete a book rather than the flame that fired the project in the first place. Continue reading...
Zdroj: The Guardian

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