As a writer and naturalist, Miriam Darlington sets out to deepen our connections to wildlife, “to increase … curiosity for, understanding of and sympathy with the natural world”. Entranced by a close-up encounter with a captive owl, she plans to study every UK native species in the wild and learn about its biology, ecology and cultural associations.
As the project begins her teenage son Benji becomes seriously ill and the family have to adjust and provide the care and support he needs. The owl research has to fit around the changed situation but a shared love of the birds meaningfully reinforces the family bonds.
The field trips to observe the owls are lovingly described. None of the species are easy to find and Darlington conveys the thrill of the encounters, captures the unique characteristics of each and enriches her accounts with scientific and cultural detail. She is perceptive about humans’ interaction with owls, which despite the serious environmental pressures threatening the birds, gives some hope that more people are learning to value these extraordinary creatures.
Thoughtful, richly informative and insightful, this beautifully written book celebrates the joy and value of appreciating the natural world and our place in it.