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Publisher's Summary

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 more than 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.

©2020 Jonathan C. Slaght (P)2020 Tantor

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Absolutely captivating!

I found this book absolutely captivating and could not stop listening. As a birder, I found the owl research fascinating and informative but it was the wild characters and places that made the story such a page turner.

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Gripping story nominated for national book award

My favorite kind of audiobook is a memoir read by the author. Slaght reads his exquisite work with humility, honesty and a touch of humor. For a scientist who also has the gift of being able to write graceful and compelling prose, the audiobook reveals another of his talents- he entertains us with the voices of the characters he meets in the woods of the Russian Far East along with his fellow scientists. As a conversation biologist, Slaght is a careful and curious observer who is fueled by determination that can be almost blinding. Slaght reminds us that these are the identical attributes you need to write an achingly beautiful book.