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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Overview

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
A PEN/E.O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award Finalist

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

"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: 9780374228484
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication date: 08/04/2020
Pages: 368
Sales rank: 3,638
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.40(h) x 1.30(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. He lives in Minneapolis. Visit him online on his website!

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