Owls of the Eastern Ice: A Quest to Find and Save the World's Largest Owl

Owls of the Eastern Ice: A Quest to Find and Save the World's Largest Owl

by Jonathan C. Slaght
Owls of the Eastern Ice: A Quest to Find and Save the World's Largest Owl

Owls of the Eastern Ice: A Quest to Find and Save the World's Largest Owl

by Jonathan C. Slaght


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Notes From Your Bookseller

A captivating adventure tale in a far-off land, in pursuit of a rare and endangered owl with a 6-foot wingspan and a body resembling a "yearling bear", covered with patches of feathers. Who can resist that sense of quixotic romance? But equally moving, and very much the heart of this lovely book, is the story of Slaght's abundant passion for the discipline, patience and rigor of a conservationist's conservations and detailed fieldwork in service to nature.

A New York Times Notable Book of 2020
Longlisted for the National Book Award
Winner of the PEN/E.O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award and the Minnesota Book Award for General Nonfiction
A Finalist for the Stanford Dolman Travel Book of the Year Award
Winner of the Peace Corps Worldwide Special Book Award

A Best Book of the Year: NPR, The Wall Street Journal, Smithsonian, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, The Globe and Mail, The BirdBooker Report, Geographical, Open Letter Review
Best Nature Book of the Year: The Times (London)

"A terrifically exciting account of [Slaght's] time in the Russian Far East studying Blakiston’s fish owls, huge, shaggy-feathered, yellow-eyed, and elusive birds that hunt fish by wading in icy water . . . Even on the hottest summer days this book will transport you.”
Helen Macdonald, author of H is for Hawk, in Kirkus

I saw my first Blakiston’s fish owl in the Russian province of Primorye, a coastal talon of land hooking south into the belly of Northeast Asia . . . No scientist had seen a Blakiston’s fish owl so far south in a hundred years . . .

When he was just a fledgling birdwatcher, Jonathan C. Slaght had a chance encounter with one of the most mysterious birds on Earth. Bigger than any owl he knew, it looked like a small bear with decorative feathers. He snapped a quick photo and shared it with experts. Soon he was on a five-year journey, searching for this enormous, enigmatic creature in the lush, remote forests of eastern Russia. That first sighting set his calling as a scientist.

Despite a wingspan of six feet and a height of over two feet, the Blakiston’s fish owl is highly elusive. They are easiest to find in winter, when their tracks mark the snowy banks of the rivers where they feed. They are also endangered. And so, as Slaght and his devoted team set out to locate the owls, they aim to craft a conservation plan that helps ensure the species’ survival. This quest sends them on all-night monitoring missions in freezing tents, mad dashes across thawing rivers, and free-climbs up rotting trees to check nests for precious eggs. They use cutting-edge tracking technology and improvise ingenious traps. And all along, they must keep watch against a run-in with a bear or an Amur tiger. At the heart of Slaght’s story are the fish owls themselves: cunning hunters, devoted parents, singers of eerie duets, and survivors in a harsh and shrinking habitat.

Through this rare glimpse into the everyday life of a field scientist and conservationist, Owls of the Eastern Ice testifies to the determination and creativity essential to scientific advancement and serves as a powerful reminder of the beauty, strength, and vulnerability of the natural world.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781250798718
Publisher: Picador
Publication date: 06/01/2021
Pages: 368
Sales rank: 149,775
Product dimensions: 5.30(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

Jonathan C. Slaght is the Russia and Northeast Asia coordinator for the Wildlife Conservation Society, where he manages research projects on endangered species and coordinates avian conservation activities along the East Asia–Australasian Flyway from the Arctic to the tropics. His annotated translation of Across the Ussuri Kray, by Vladimir Arsenyev, was published in 2016, and his work has been featured by The New York Times, The Guardian, the BBC World Service, NPR, Smithsonian Magazine, Scientific American, and Audubon magazine, among others. His new book, Owls of the Eastern Ice, won the PEN/E.O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award as well as the Minnesota Book Award for General Nonfiction, and was longlisted for the National Book Award. He lives in Minneapolis.

Table of Contents

Maps xiii

Prologue 3

Introduction 7

Part 1 Baptism by Ice

1 A Village Named Hell 15

2 The First Search 25

3 Winter Life in Agzu 32

4 The Quiet Violence of This Place 40

5 Down the River 48

6 Chepetev 54

7 Here Comes the Water 61

8 Riding the Last Ice to the Coast 70

9 Village of Samarga 78

10 The Vladimir Golazenko 87

Part 2 Fish Owls of the Sikhote-Alin

11 The Sound of Something Ancient 95

12 A Fish Owl Nest 105

13 Where the Mile Markers End 115

14 The Banality of Road Travel 126

15 Flood 144

Part 3 Captures

16 Preparing to Trap 159

17 A Near Miss 168

18 The Hermit 173

19 Stranded on the Tunsha River 180

20 An Owl in Hand 186

21 Radio Silence 195

22 The Owl and the Pigeon 204

23 Leap of Faith 218

24 The Currency of Fish 234

25 Enter Katkov 241

26 Capture on the Serebryanka 248

27 Awful Devils Such as Us 257

28 Katkov in Exile 264

29 The Monotony of Failure 270

50 Following the Fish 279

31 California of the East 287

32 Terney County Without Filter 297

33 Blakiston's Fish Owl Conservation 302

Epilogue 311

Notes 315

Acknowledgments 333

Index 335

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