The Owl Who Liked Sitting on Caesar: Living with a Tawny Owl by Martin Windrow

Owls have always fascinated me. On the rare occasions when I have seen one, I was mesmerized. My husband, a wetland biologist who roams the woods for both work and pleasure, once brought me an owl feather. It was incredibly soft, an adaptation that helps owls to fly silently, catching their prey unawares without any flapping sounds that might warn their prey.

Martin Windrow’s pet owl, Mumble, was reared for him from a hatchling, and they met when she was one month old. She appeared to be “wearing a one-piece knitted jumpsuit of pale grey fluff with brown stitching.” She jumped up onto his shoulder and nestled against his cheek “like a big, warm dandelion head” and said “Kweep!” very softly. Martin fell head over heels in love.

Over the fifteen years they lived together, Martin kept detailed journal entries about Mumble’s growth, appearance and behavior. The drawings and photographs in the book demonstrate Mumble’s favorite poses—fluffed up after her bath (Mumble adored to splash in the sink full of soapy water while Martin washed dishes), lying on her stomach with wings spread while sunbathing, pouncing on imaginary mice between the sofa cushions, and sitting contentedly on her various perches, including the bust of Germanicus Caesar.

Windrow lets us in on all the secrets of owl life—from the “disgusting bits” like bringing up pellets to a detailed description of Mumble’s preening sessions, which can take as long as an hour. Because of their long, flexible necks (which are usually hidden in their downy feathers), owls can turn their heads around 270 degrees. This makes their preening look rather like a contortionist’s act! The grooming ended with a fluff-out and a shake, followed by “a last prim, Victorian little shrug to settle the edges of her furled wings” and a final shuffle of her feet.

Windrow’s dry, witty style is perfectly suited to describing his dignified little friend. She was fascinated with his beard and loved to preen it, combing her beak through it. One night while Martin was stretched out on the sofa reading, she landed suddenly between his book and his face, half smothering him in feathers and provoking him to cry out in surprise. As Martin says, “She apparently construed the resultant burst of warm air up her petticoats as a physical liberty, because she bent forward and carefully bit me on the bridge of my nose.”

Reading Windrow’s delightful book is the next best thing to cuddling with a real, live owl of your own.

Find and reserve this book in our catalog.

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One Response to “The Owl Who Liked Sitting on Caesar: Living with a Tawny Owl by Martin Windrow”

  1. Best New Books of 2014: Sharon S’s Picks | Wake County Libraries "Book a Day" Staff Pick Says:

    […] The Owl Who Liked Sitting on Caesar by Martin Windrow One reason I like to read is to experience vicariously things I may never experience myself, or at least not in the same way. I love owls, and Martin Windrow gives me a window into what they are really like, close-up and personal. Mumbles is a charming little tawny owl who is nevertheless no pushover! I loved reading about her daily life, and her and Martin’s close relationship of many years. See my full review. […]

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