BOOK REVIEW The Alaska Owlmanac

Lew, Karen, illustrations Carol Riedner Hepler, The Alaska Owlmanac and Handy Dandy Hawk Handbook. softbound booklets. Alaska Department of Fish & Game.

Okay, so both of these little (16 and 14 pages respectively) books are out of print. They are just too delightful not to mention. Each is packed with facts; there are nine species of owls in Alaska. Three of these are found primarily or exclusively in Southeastern Alaska. If you see an owl that is generally brownish and has a dark bill, yellow eyes, and prominent ear tufts, then hear it at night; either a series of short whistles accelerating in tempo and a short trill followed immediately by a longer trill, you have located a Western Screech Owl.

The second call is noted as having an eerie quality when heard in the woods after dark.

You’ll have to look hard as this owl is only eight-and-one-half inches long. It lives in coniferous forests - where it preys on mice, voles, and songbirds - and nests in tree cavities. When startled, it will stretch tall and hold its wings close to its back, simulating a dead stub on a tree branch.

The drawings that accompany the text are equally informative and charming.

The hawk book includes eagles, falcons, ospreys, and other birds of prey. There’s a quick synopsis to tell you what you’re looking at: if you see a bird in flight; soaring in wide circles, on outstretched wings, with very little wing flapping, and if it has a fan-shaped tail, see Eagles; if it has a long tail and short, rounded wings, and if it flies with short, rapid wing beats interrupted with glides, see Accipiters. Yes, the terms are explained and there are drawings. They even add a raven so you can tell you’re not looking at a bird of prey.

These originally sold for 50 cents each. Pester Fish and Game and tell them they can raise the price 100% or more and perhaps they’ll put them back in print. These charmers deserve it!

D. L.