The Owl Who Liked Sitting on Caesar

Thursday 26 June 2014 by

The Owl Who Liked Sitting on Caesar, Martin Windrow, Bantam Press, BookThe Owl Who Liked Sitting on Caesar: Life with a Lovable Tawny Owl by Martin Windrow

Published by Bantam Press

‘Perched on the back of a sunlit chair was something about 9 inches tall and shaped rather like a plump toy penguin with a nose-job. It appeared to be wearing a one-piece knitted jumpsuit of pale grey fluff with brown stitching, with a balaclava helmet attached. From the face-hole of the fuzzy balaclava, two big, shiny black eyes gazed up at me trustfully. “Kweep,” it said quietly.’

When author Martin Windrow met the tawny owlet that he christened Mumble, it was love at first sight. Raising her from a fledgling, through adolescence and into her prime years, Windrow recording every detail of their time living together (secretly) in a south London tower block, and later in a Sussex village. This is the touching, intriguing and eccentric story of their fifteen-year relationship, complete with photographs and illustrations of the beautiful Mumble. Along the way, we are given fascinating insights into the ornithology of owls – from their evolution and biology to their breeding habits and hunting tactics. The Owl Who Liked Sitting in Caesar is a witty, quirky and utterly charming account of the companionship between one man and his owl.


Before I begin, I must prepare you: are going to want a Mumble of your own. The Owl Who Liked Sitting on Caesar is equal parts delightful, fascinating and a little heartbreaking. And you will realise that your life is no longer complete without an owl in it.

Now, before you begin, take your time. Flick through the pages and look at the illustrations that start each chapter, and then to the centre pages of photographs. You won’t understand the descriptions, but it is worth it just to marvel at Mumble in all her varying poses.

Then you can read!

Windrow explains his first initial forays in to bird-owning, with the enraged Little Owl Wellington, and then goes on to introduce Mumble. From fluff-ball to permanent fixture for the following 15 years, Mumble goes on to take over Windrow’s life (with huge joy).

I will openly admit that I have a minor obsession with owls. I think it’s their furious-curious faces. So getting my hands on this book was inevitably going to be a delight! With a blend of story-telling and facts, Windrow allows you in to his daily life with Mumble, as well as leading you through the tricky history and behaviours of owls.

You learn how a fledgling becomes a fully-grown adult in a tiny one-bedroom London flat, and decides that she is a one-man owl, to her relative freedom in a Sussex back garden and learning to snack on mice. Mumble is a unique character, enchanting and wonderful to watch. If I had one criticism, it was that I tended to skim-read the factual bits. Although these are interesting, and if you love owls they are worth the read, but I was far more interested in Mumble and her life than I was the bone structure of a Tawny.

When Mumble dies (and, no, that’s not a spoiler!) you will shed a tear. Windrow’s writing is warm and welcoming and engaging, and the small glimpse of Mumble you get is something to relish. You can easily see why Windrow fell in love with her – despite her poor table manners. In many ways a one-off book – not least because the protagonist is a pet owl. If you have ever owned a pet (it needn’t be as eccentric as an owl), you will understand the special bond that forms, and this book is a celebration not only of owls, but of that relationship.

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The Owl Who Liked Sitting on Caesar was a review copy from Random House – all views are honest and my own.

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