|The recently released "The House of Owls," by Tony Angell Published by Yale University Press|
Owls hold a magical allure for many people, especially for author and naturalist Tony Angell, who describes his lifelong passion for owls and the lessons they have taught him in his recently released book “The House of Owls,” (Yale University Press; $30). A nationally known wildlife artist, Angell has sprinkled drawings throughout the 192 pages to illustrate the expressive faces and personality of the different owl species.
The book begins with a personal narrative about his family’s interactions with a pair of Western screech owls that took up residence in a nest box Angell had constructed and hung in a cedar tree next to his home in northern Washington.
For the next 25 years, his family observed generations of these owls as they went about their lives hunting, courting, nesting and raising their young in the box dubbed the “Fortress.” The proximity of the owls and their tolerance of the family’s presence provided Angell with a unique opportunity to study these otherwise secretive creatures.
He observed that the male screech owl would routinely nap while perched close to the nest box when the pair had chicks. The author recalled how one afternoon hungry calls from the female and young in the box grew loud enough to be heard inside the house. He went outside in time to see the female bolt out of the box and bump her sleeping mate off his lazy perch to begin hunting.
His story also includes memories of his family’s first glimpse of young owlets that had climbed up the interior of the box to view the world beyond and of rescuing a young owlet that became grounded after an incident involving marauding crows.
But as the author stated: “Cycles of nature are the rule and part of the dynamics of changing ecosystems.” The years of the screech owls occupying the Fortress had come to an end when Angell began hearing the booming calls of barred owls, which had moved into the territory. Because these large, aggressive owls prey on smaller owls, he knew they had played a role in the disappearance of their screech owl family.
The book also contains chapters about the characteristics of owls and role of owls in folklore and modern culture, while the final section of the book acts as a field guide to the 19 North American owl species.
Angell stated: “Secretive and well concealed, these owls occupy spaces near us, and few of us notice. They render immeasurable service in suppressing pest populations, and when we hear or see them, they inspire.”
The book is available at yalebooks.com, amazon.com and select Wild Birds Unlimited locations.