Evans Mitchell’s visually oriented Wildlife Monograph Series continues with this rich compilation of the owl images of two of the world’s best bird photographers.

Covering all of northern Europe’s 12 strigiform species, the ‘personality’ of each is well captured in often thrilling pictures, the product of many hours spent patiently in the field. The first two-thirds of the book are made up of generally large images illustrating the group’s biology, with limited text describing hunting techniques, breeding behaviour and the influence of humans. The remaining third is taken up by brief species accounts and portrait photographs.

However, a picture is worth a thousand words as the adage has it, and all aspects of owls’ lives are shown, with dramatic flight and hunting shots, intimate at-nest vignettes and sinister dusk and nightfall captures.

Leafing through the pages, what really stands out are the birds’ eyes and expressions. This is absolutely anthropomorphic, but the large yellow and black irises and pupils of owls add a whole range of misattributed human characteristics that probably explain the groups’ compelling attraction for people though the ages, and certainly keep a reader coming back to wonder more at each shot.

The book suffers a tad due to a lack of sharpness in a few images, as well as the decision to have the occasional spread wing across the page gutter which slightly spoils a few otherwise striking images, but overall the photos are well produced and very informative. The text compliments them well despite its relative brevity, with anecdotal accounts from the photographers themselves adding to the characterful nuances of some of the best owl images you’ll see anywhere. 

Though not really a reference, this image-heavy and affordable coffee-table book will be a good partner to a purchase of the New Naturalist volume.