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Owls of the Eastern Ice: A Quest to Find and Save the World's Largest Owl (2020)

by Jonathan C. Slaght

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4331558,136 (4.09)31
Nature. Nonfiction. A field scientist and conservationist tracks the elusive Blakiston's Fish Owl in the forbidding reaches of eastern Russia 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. 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.… (more)
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Sort of a combination travelogue a d primer on fish owl research. Enjoyable on both levels and appreciate that the author leaves you with a sense of hope ( )
  cspiwak | Mar 6, 2024 |
I’d never heard of this kind of owl before this book caught my eye, and I learned a lot reading it. The writing was fantastic, and I enjoyed his descriptions of the people he worked with on his research project as much as his descriptions of the fish owls and other animals in Primorye Province in Russia. It was fascinating to see how he plotted out his five-year research grant, spending part of each year in Russia doing fieldwork, and spending off-season time in Minnesota, studying and developing skills (like raptor capture!) to prepare for the next season of fieldwork in Russia.

The book was a good one for my chapter-a-day approach to nonfiction, broken up into easily-digested chapters (although once I realized it was a 2-week library checkout instead of 4-week, I had to pick up the pace). He’s a good storyteller, so whatever he was describing—a colorful character he met, an aspect of Russian culture, the hardships of fieldwork in a Russian winter, or his encounters with the fish owls and other animals—it was all absorbing.

If you’re an animal lover or a fan of travel writing, I highly recommend this! ( )
  Harks | Dec 17, 2022 |
An excellent write up of field work done for a PhD study on fish owls in the Russian far east by a young American researcher. As well as telling us about the birds he also tells us a little about the fascinating life of Russians living in such isolated communities. But the impact of the outside world is severed with demand from logging and mining altering the landscape and habitat substantially. ( )
  Steve38 | Jul 6, 2022 |
Almost passed on this because the subject seemed dry, but I am very glad I took the chance. The writing is lucid and informed, and compelling from start to finish. As much about people as it is about owls, maybe even more. ( )
  Cantsaywhy | Jan 2, 2022 |
A non-fiction read in which the author recounts his quest to identify, tag, and create a conservation program for Frog Owls, the largest species of owls. These owls reside mostly in northeast Russia, Japan, and Korea. This PhD. research project was not without its problems, primarily being that the tagging transmitters did not work in spite of having a high price tag. This was a very interesting look at how one scientist tried to stave off the extinction of this owl, which is on the endangered list. 370 pages ( )
  Tess_W | Oct 10, 2021 |
Showing 1-5 of 15 (next | show all)
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Epigraph
What was happening around us was unbelievable. The wind raged furiously, snapping tree branches and carrying them through the air . . . huge old pines swayed back and forth as though they were thin-trunked saplings. And we could not see a thing -- not the mountains, not the sky, not the ground. Everything had been enveloped by the blizzard . . . We hunkered down in our tents and were intimidated into silence.
--VLADIMIR ARSENYEV, 1921, Across the Ussuri Kray

Arsenyev (1872 - 1930) was an explorer, naturalist, and author of numerous texts describing the landscape, wildlife, and people of Primorye, Russia. He was one of the first Russians to venture into the forests described in this book.
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For Karen
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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.
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Nature. Nonfiction. A field scientist and conservationist tracks the elusive Blakiston's Fish Owl in the forbidding reaches of eastern Russia 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. 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.

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