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The Owl and the Woodpecker: Encounters with North America's Most Iconic Birds    by Paul Bannick order for
Owl and the Woodpecker
by Paul Bannick
Order:  USA  Can
Mountaineers, 2008 (2008)
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

I live in a home in the woods and often, while walking, have noticed trees holed by woodpeckers, occasionally even seeing them in action. Though I've never been fortunate enough to spot an owl, these nocturnal creatures have always fascinated me, so I was intrigued to open photographer/naturalist Paul Bannick's coffee-table sized The Owl and the Woodpecker: Encounters with North America's Most Iconic Birds. A bonus to this lovely volume is a CD filled with audio-naturalist Martyn Stewart's recordings of nineteen different owls and twenty-two woodpeckers.

In his Foreword, Tony Angell speaks of mankind's long 'legacy of interpretation and celebration of nature' and of recent technology's impact on 'how we see the world', which allows the photographer 'to enter into the life of the wild as never before, at a level far more intimate than can be achieved with the naked eye.' Angell tells us that Bannick's book not only offers exceptional photos of birds (which it certainly does) but also reveals 'the remarkable relationships that exist between woodpeckers and other species, particularly owls.'

In his Introduction, Bannick speaks of how the book came about. Of his subjects he says that 'The owl adds weight and spirit to wild places'; that 'The woodpecker infuses bright colors and boisterous sounds into the landscape'; and that 'more than half of the owl species in North America rely in some part upon woodpeckers for their nest cavities.' He speaks of the birds' roles as 'natural pest-control agents' and mentions that 'many woodpeckers and owls are considered indicator species' - the status of such a species can be used to track the overall health of a natural system.

A map shows eleven regions in North America that are Owl and Woodpecker Habitats, from coast to coast, and from the Southwest to the Arctic Tundra. The rest of the book is then organized by region, each section filled with informative text (on hunting, nesting, mating, territories etc.) and magnificent photographs (as in a Gila Woodpecker feeding on a saguaro's flowers' nectar) of owls and woodpeckers found in that habitat. At the back of the book is a brief Field Guide to North American Owl and Woodpecker Species, a Bibliography, and the Calls and Drumming CD.

This is a gorgeous book, highly recommended to anyone interested in the natural world in general, and owl and woodpecker habitats and behavior in particular. And it would make an extraordinary holiday gift (I already have someone in mind for my copy.)

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