The Barn Owl, author: Jeff Martin

by Jeff Martin      Published by Whittet Books.   November 23rd      hardback   price £30          colour throughout, photos, maps, charts, tables         256 pages  978 1 873580 89 9     available via Book Systems Plus  and bookshops.

    I was looking through this beautiful book wishing I was a serious birder or enthusiast able to recognise one owl from another; or even harrier versus kestrel or merlin, or any other such raptors.  Except maybe Kites that are now becoming so frequent and obvious as they hang in the thermals above my local countryside.  For me an owl is an owl.

However this spring I was  driving along a nearby winding road, metalled but only slightly wider than single track and saw a bundle on top of a poled fence ahead.  As I got closer I recognised it as an owl.  It seemed large and white.  Getting closer the features of the face sharpened out of the white front  and I could see the subtly darker feathers of its wings framing side and back.  I had to drive past, no stopping but it was definitely the nearest I have got to a beautiful (wild) owl.   Some of the photographs in this book show the amazing beauty and subtle variety of plumage plus a selection of others on habitat and life.

I assume it was a barn owl but it was bigger than I expected and have never seen it since.  Maybe someone else knows better but for me it was a memorable, almost white barn owl.         Here’s the rub, this book looks so enticing that I really will have to read it page by page so next time I see an owl I will be able to understand its needs and environment as well as just being an established part of our countryside.  It is not just a book on the birds but deeply researched on habitat, coverage and requirements to endure.