In her second book, Miriam Darlington takes her readers into the intriguing world of the owl and how these fascinating, mysterious creatures have captivated the human mind throughout history to the present day.
This story begins with Miriam starting her fieldwork in Britain, where she encounters both the barn owl and the tawny owl. However, like the swift ghostly flight of the short-eared owl, this tale takes a wholly unexpected turn when she finds out that her son has a serious illness that is disabling. Miriam becomes determined to find a cure for Benji, whilst embarking on her owl quest. She carefully intertwines her passion for this species to the present day impact they have on the human spirit - how they are helping people to come to terms with their mental health and well-being.
Each chapter of this book looks in detail at the eight European species of owl and ruffles their feathers to reveal a world of myth, magic and the stark reality of the impact that the human population is having upon them. Miriam Darlington also illustrates the contradictory relationship we have with these creatures. Firstly, she discusses the 'cutification' and communalisation of these creatures into a variety of products, from cuddly toys to Harry Potter, and how they have brought us closer to wildlife. Then she shows us the cost of this by looking into the impact of pesticides, climate change and housing development on owls. She is one natural history author who has been able to marry these opposites perfectly.
What I most enjoyed about this book was the hands-on approach that Miriam had to her subject. She volunteered with the Owl and Hawk Trust and was extremely informative about how people go about surveying these magnificent creatures. She manages to paint beautiful pictures of the places she went to visit to find owls, from the rich beauty of the south of France to the moment she comes face to face with a tawny owl in a back garden.
Throughout this book the reader gets a real sense of Miriam's passion for this ornithological phenomenon. She is a dedicated naturalist who will go to any lengths to see a particular species of owl and the way she speaks about this any wildlife enthusiast will immediately be able to relate to.
As someone who has an overall interest in natural history but who has not yet specialised in one area, I found this book to be a great introduction to owls and it taught me a great amount about their behaviour and the places they inhabit. It also looks in some depth at how owls can help people to become more open in their emotions and this adds another dimension to the book by looking at wildlife from the point of view of the health and well-being of humans.
In conclusion I would thoroughly recommend this book to anybody with an interest in ornithology and owls in particular.
Ellie May Forrester is an aspiring photojournalist and freelance writer who is a passionate naturalist, and a disabled advocate campaigning for the natural world to be accessible for all. Follow her on Twitter @elliemaywrites1.