Mr. Slaght has discovered Fish Owls and wants us to know them too. So he takes us to the forests of eastern Russia, north of Vladivostok, to trap, tag, and follow them. And these are no cute little owls - six plus foot wingspans, two feet tall, huge talons, and - when you see the pictures - not really cute. These are big, reclusive, stunning birds. Finding them is not just difficult, it is dangerous in the sub-zero of the Siberian winter, and the partial, slushy thaw of the early spring with Amur tigers strolling about. And not just the owls are characters - this team of searchers and helpers are just as ornery and fascinating. Loved this devotion to a bird that we would not want to meet in a dark alley, but enhances our amazement at what is around us - lovely.
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.