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Owls of the Eastern Ice: A Quest to Find and…

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

by Jonathan C. Slaght (Author)

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2491385,886 (4.05)22
Title:Owls of the Eastern Ice: A Quest to Find and Save the World's Largest Owl
Authors:Jonathan C. Slaght (Author)
Info:Farrar, Straus and Giroux (2020), Edition: Annotated, 368 pages
Collections:New Books website, Your library

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


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Showing 1-5 of 13 (next | show all)
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 |
As a fledgling birdwatcher, Jonathan Slaght, in the far eastern Russian province of Primorye, saw, and managed to get a picture of, a very large, and unfamiliar, owl. When he sent the picture to experts, they identified it as a Blakiston's fish owl, the world's largest, and most elusive, owl.

When Slaght took that picture, the fish owl had not been seen that far south in a hundred years. Its range stretches from Hokkaido, Japan, to Primorye in Russia, and it's both elusive and endangered. Slaght was working towards his Ph.D., and had found his research topic--very little was known about Blakiston's fish owl, and it's endangered. Learning more about both the bird itself, and its habitat needs, to create a conservation plan, would be an excellent project.

In this book, he tells us of his winters in remotest Russia, tracking extremely elusive birds, learning, first of all, just how little is known of them when he starts, including the fact that they have no clue how to sex the birds correctly. They nest in big, old trees, preferably with a side hole--a really large one, because this are very big birds. They're not migratory; they stay in their territories year-round, and only breed on average every two years. Their hunting territories are large, but they stick close to the banks of the rivers,

The birds are fascinating.

Tracking, catching, tagging, and releasing them in a far eastern Russian winter, over several years, is physically and emotionally stressful.

But some of the most entertaining parts of the book are about the people--his Russian field assistants, but also the locals who put them up, make sure they have supplies, tell them about the risks and opportunities, who are quite bemused by the fact that they're studying birds...and who, in the course of their hospitality, always bring vodka, and believe that a vodka bottle once opened, does not need its cap ever again, because the company keep drinking until it's empty. The Russian banya--a steam room with wooden benches, followed by going out to cool off with bracing applications of snow--becomes and important way of connecting with a skeptical local who can provide some assistance. There are wild stories about survival in this region of extreme winters, and colorful characters who can be both incredibly challenging and incredibly welcoming and helpful.

It's well worth your time. You'll learn about the Blakiston's fish owl, far eastern Russia, and just how hard naturalists work, often in dangerous conditions, to both learn about and preserve endangered species.


I bought this audiobook. ( )
  LisCarey | Aug 5, 2021 |
Readable but not particularly involving, more mishaps and misfits in Eastern Russia than birds, wild life, and scenery though those are all there, just not communicated with the impact of the other bits. It's good to know that a small population of fish owls exist and that the author got his Ph.D. and a job he wanted though I at no time felt taken on a quest. ( )
  quondame | Jun 16, 2021 |
Owls of the Eastern Ice by Jonathan C. Slaght

Having previously read The Tiger: A True Story of Vengeance and Survival by John Vaillant, with this book I've returned in my reading to Primorye, Russia. The fish owl is a symbol of Primorye’s wilderness almost as much as the Amur tiger, and as with the tiger the needs of fish owls and humans are inextricably linked in Primorye, indicative as it is of the connectedness of all life on our little blue canoe.

The accounting in this book is but one small conservation effort, and until a critical mass of humanity appreciates the necessity, our species designation of Homo sapiens (Latin for 'wise man') is no more than self-aggrandizement. Sorry to be so blunt, but the truth of the statement is blatantly obvious. Have we been rendered unable on the whole by our genetic makeup to recognize it? If so, our species as it currently exists will be short lived, because our excesses are altering the environment which sustains us at an exponential rate relative to natural causes.

This writing might bore strictly entertainment or fanciful escapist readers, but for readers pondering the state of the natural world that sustains us this book is entertaining in its way and very informative. There can certainly be no complaints about the quality of the writing, nor the presentation. The presentation by a valiant conservationist is straightforward, beginning with the instigation and planning of the fish owl study, the intermediate search for viable populations, then the capture and tagging of the owls for telemetry study. Along the way there is adventure, interactions with humans and wildlife, and more subtle and limited commentary than there was in John Vaillant's book about the Amur tiger.

"Primorye is, more so than most of the temperate zone, a place where humans and wildlife still share the same resources. There are fishermen and salmon, loggers and fish owls, hunters and tigers. Many parts of the world are too urban or overpopulated for such natural systems to exist; in Primorye, nature moves in a flow of interconnected parts. The world is richer for it: Primorye’s trees become floors in North America, and seafood from its waters is sold throughout Asia. Fish owls are a symbol of this functioning ecosystem, a demonstration that wilderness can still be found. Despite the ever-increasing network of logging roads pushing deeper into fish owl habitat, and the resulting threats to the owls, we continue to actively collect information to learn more about these birds, share what we discover, and protect them and the landscape. With proper management we’ll always see fish in the rivers here, and we’ll continue to follow tracks of tigers that weave among pine and shadow in search of prey. And, standing in the forest under the right conditions, we’ll hear the salmon hunters too—the fish owls—announcing like town criers that all is well: Primorye is still wild."

My apologies to those that find my commentary ruffling, but understand that I'm nearing the end of my days and am deeply saddened by how we are endangering the future of our youth and innocent life forms. ( )
  LGCullens | Jun 1, 2021 |
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