I’ve been quite busy the last year working on my fish owl book for Farrar, Straus, & Giroux (and Penguin in the UK), so have been a little quiet on these pages. Popping my head up to share some remarkable bird news out of Russia.
It was just reported that a Russian-American team of biologists found the nest of a globally-endangered Nordmann’s greenshank (Tringa guttifer). What’s amazing about this find is that, until June 2019, only a single person in the entire world had ever seen one of these nests. Dr. Vitalii Nechaev found five nests in 1976, but not a one had been seen since then.
Nordmann’s greenshank, one of the most endangered shorebirds in the world, is thought to have a population of fewer than 2000 individuals, and they nest only in Russia. They have experienced a steep population decline in recent decades, linked largely to habitat destruction and illegal hunting in Southeast Asia where they spend their winters.
Their nesting habitat is quite remote, which is one of the reasons it’s taken more than four decades for a nest to be rediscovered. To reach the site, the ornithologists took a motorboat along the Sea of Okhotsk coast, then walked inland several kilometers through coastal wetland teeming with bears.
Please see the recent New York Times article for more details. Let’s hope this discovery will lead to more revelations about this endangered species that can help protect it from extinction.
Another good year! In total, I worked on 19 stories (down from 22 in 2016).
The most important writing development of 2017, without question, was finding a home for my Blakiston’s fish owl book manuscript. Or, should I say, two homes: the manuscript was picked up by Farrar, Strauss, and Giroux in the United States, and Penguin secured rights in the United Kingdom. This is a natural history travel adventure—a non-fiction account of my first five years searching for and studying this endangered species. I’m looking forward to spending some of 2018 working with my editor to revise and refine my 115,000-word text (~400 pages). I’m guessing the book will come out in 2019, but we’ll see.
Thanks for reading in 2017….let’s see what happens in 2018!
Books: 1 under contract, 1 in print
My account of fieldwork with Blakiston’s fish owls, tentatively titled “Owls of the Eastern Ice,” was picked up by Farrar, Strauss, and Giroux in the United States. Penguin UK secured rights in the United Kingdom.
Scientific American: 4 entries into my East of Siberia series (14 to date), as well as an OpEd about tigers for Global Tiger Day
Audubon: an article about the threat of bird hunting in Southeast Asia to critically-endangered Spoon-billed sandpipers
Mongabay: an article about how tigers adapt to varying environments across Asia
Wild View: 6 entries for this Wildlife Conservation Society photo blog (30 to date), including one that made the Top Ten List for 2017
Medium: an article for Earth Day 2017 about the need for science-based decision making in conservation.
Print Articles: 1
Minnesota Conservation Volunteer: a short article about a pair of Merlins (small falcons) nesting a stone’s throw from my back porch in Minneapolis
Scientific Articles (in print): 1
Oryx: Slaght, J.C., B. Milakovsky, D. Maksimova, I. Seryodkin, V. Zaitsev, A. Panichev, and D. Miquelle. 2017. Anthropogenic influences on the distribution of a Vulnerable coniferous forest specialist: habitat selection by the Siberian musk deer Moschus moschiferus. Oryx doi: 10.1017/S0030605316001617
Scientific Articles (accepted but not yet in print): 2
Slaght, J.C., T. Takenaka, S.G. Surmach, Y. Fujimaki, I.G. Utekhina, and E.R. Potapov. 2018. Global Distribution and Population Estimates of Blakiston’s Fish Owl. Chapter in Biodiversity Conservation Using Umbrella Species, Springer (scheduled for March 2018)
Slaght, J.C., S.G. Surmach, and A.A. Kisleiko. Ecology and conservation of Blakiston’s fish owl in Russia. 2018. Chapter in Biodiversity Conservation Using Umbrella Species, Springer (scheduled for March 2018)
Television Appearances: 2
News interview (in Russian) with OTV about my Arsenyev translation (Across the Ussuri Kray, Indiana University Press, 2016).
News interview (in Russian) with VestiPrimorye about my Arsenyev translation (Across the Ussuri Kray, Indiana University Press, 2016)
This Spoon-billed sandpiper hatched somewhere in the Arctic of northeastern Russia, in the spring of 1988, a diminutive fluff camouflaged among the tundra vegetation. A few months later she flew south for her first winter, aiming instinctively for the intertidal mudflats of Southeast Asia.
About two thousand miles into her journey—still in Russia—she found herself on a wide, sandy beach washed by the Sea of Japan. It was the first day of September, and she was mixed in with other migrating shorebirds, some possibly making this trip for the first time as she was. Someone else was on that beach that day: a young boy named Anton, and Anton had a slingshot.