"The Raptors of Iowa" could just as well be titled "The Raptors of Minnesota." With few exceptions the birds featured in this beautiful slim book from the University of Iowa Press (UIP) are found here as well as to our south. The book, a touch over 100 pages long, showcases raptor paintings by the late artist James F. Landenberger.
He was best known in Iowa, a birder and teacher who became an artist. There are 32 color plates of his raptor watercolors. He was superb in that medium, judging by this work.There is a touch of Audubon here, Landenberger giving his birds postures and attitudes that convey life and, well, attitude, as did Audubon. The birds have personality.
Each painting includes appropriate background -- branches, leaves, ground vegetation, prey, cloudy skies. A favorite of mine is the rendition of a pair of Merlins streaking toward the ground. Landenberger captures not only the beauty of the birds but their spirit as well.
The art is accompanied by brief accounts of the birds' presence in Iowa. There also are four brief essays about Landenberger and about the raptors he loved.
This is a Bur Oak book, a special set of natural history books edited by Holly Carver at UIP. Bur Oak has issued 33 books, some specific to Iowa, others covering subjects with broader range.
Included are two books written by Minnesotan Nancy Overcott: "Fifty Common Birds of the Upper Midwest" and "Fifty Uncommon Birds of the Upper Midwest." Both are illustrated by artist Dana Gardner. This pair of books came out several years ago. They remain in print. Amazon has copies, along with a 2013 release by Overcott and Gardner titled "Living a Dream: Bluff Country Offerings," and other Bur Oak books.
Bur Oak Press does good work. These soft-cover books are well made, printed on acid-free paper, and designed throughout to bring pleasure to the eye. Design and content go hand-in-hand. The books by Overcott and Gardner would be excellent additions to a library featuring Minnesota birds.