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OWLS & OWLING (article first published : 2002-01-6)

First of all, let me say that my interest in owls is not taken from an ornithological viewpoint. However, I have close relationships with devoted twitchers and those who can spot a “droopheaded-batwinged marbelised poodlefanged sparrowgander” at a distance of 20 feet and describe its virtues in hushed awed tones.

Personally, I am simply fascinated by the myth and legend that surrounds owls. I am amused by their air of condescension and grandeur, filled with wonderment at their powerful silent flight and feel more drawn to them than to any other type of bird. My house is full of owl images, from ceramics and crystal to paintings and doormats, which prompts much comment from friends and family – someone even going so far as to suggest that I go into business as The Smart Owl. Maybe that may yet happen!

Owls & Owling by Warwick Tarboton and Rudy Erasmus will appeal to both birding fanatics and those who are simply interested in owls. The soft-cover 88-page A5 sized book is packed with information - details of sight ability, plumage, genealogy and habitats – laid out in an attractive manner with numerous photographs, all making for easy reading.

There is a section on the most productive way to photograph wild owls and the use of hides as well as the analysis of owl pellets. Advice is included on the proper use of rodenticides and what to do with sick or injured owls. The various centres that will accept owl specimens are listed. In Durban, this is the Durban Natural Science Museum which can be contacted on 031 300-6220.

Beginners are advised on how to start their own owling adventures and good tips are provided on how to find owls by “reading” the landscape.

Back pages are devoted to a glossary, suggestions for further reading and a clearly-set out table. The latter places owls in different categories and offers information such as size, length weight, eye colour and calls as well as breeding seasons, egg size, incubation period and post-fledging dependence.

Sponsored by SASOL and published by Struik, Owls & Owling in Southern Africa retails at R89.96.




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