With its wild yellow eyes and outsize ear tufts, the Blakiston’s fish owl resembles a mad professor, and once Slaght caught sight of one as a teenager in Russia in the 1980s, he never forgot it. So when he needed a dissertation topic in 2006 he designed a five-year project to study the owls’ habits and develop a plan to rebuild its dwindling populations. His riveting account of these winter field studies in Russia’s far southeastern Primorye Province is written with both passion and scientific exactitude—and well leavened with humor and striking prose. Attentive to the owls’ entire ecosystem, Slaght interweaves detailed descriptions of the birds’ hunting prowess and haunting courtship duets with vivid portraits of the fish, insects, plants, and mammals they share the forests with. This last includes not only tigers and deer, but loggers, poachers, and all manner of colorful backwoods characters, both sober and not. Throughout, Slaght treats all his subjects with empathy and insight—reserving harsh judgment only for his own perceived failures to protect the owls from the disruption of capture and tagging his study imposes—evidence enough that, despite moments of stress, these birds are in good hands.