Community Library Assistant and English Language Instructor Karen Little recommends Owls of the Eastern Ice: A Quest to Find and Save the World’s Largest Owl, by Jonathan C. Slaght.
An owl that feeds mostly on fish? Particularly salmon? How odd. Not strange at all for the Blakiston’s fish owl, world’s largest and one of the rarest owls.
Jonathan Slaght, author, scientist, and conservationist, describes this fish-eating owl, “Bigger than any owl he knew, it looked like a small bear with decorative feathers.” The enormous owl sports a wingspan up to six and a half feet, stands over two feet tall (about the size of a fire hydrant), and can weigh up to eleven pounds. In addition, the owl is notable for its intense yellow eyes. Despite its large size, the Blakiston’s owl is elusive. And endangered. And Slaght is on a mission to help save it.
Slaght’s first-hand account to protect the world’s largest owl takes the reader to far reaches of eastern Russia where he and his small team of research assistants set out to find the owls, track them, document their patterns and habitat, and develop a conservation plan to help safeguard their survival.
They encountered salmon poachers, illegal loggers, and an eccentric hermit living in a deserted World War II power station. There was also the threat of meeting an Amur tiger…
Studying the owls is easiest in winter because their footprints can be tracked in the snow, but the harsh conditions create challenges and dangers. Slaght’s group faced setbacks with blizzards, equipment breakdowns, and vehicles getting stuck in the snow or sinking through ice. They encountered salmon poachers, illegal loggers, and an eccentric hermit living in a deserted World War II power station. There was also the threat of meeting an Amur tiger roaming in the owls’ habitat.
The adventure was a wild ride for me with emotional highs and lows. I was filled with joy when the team found a displaced pair of owls after a typhoon had destroyed parts of their habitat, and I grieve that it might be too late to save the Blakiston’s fish owl.
Less than 2,000 fish owls survive in the wild. Will these enigmatic owls slip toward extinction? Can humans and the Blakiston’s fish owl live together sharing the same resources in this remote part of the world?
Read the book to find out!
Available in print and eAudiobook here. (I recommend the hardback format, which contains remarkable photographs.)