Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Eagle Dreamers

I must assume that ALL my readers have seen some version of this:
 I have gotten over 100 emails, and they are still coming in. The one most saw was a BBC article (see David Zincavage's blog), but I like the photographer's, and his background info. It seems that the wild men of central Asia, as pragmatic as can be, have not opposed the few brave young women who have decided to take up this difficult but thrilling way of life (not exactly a"sport" by the way, as some call it, unless at the games at the annual fall "fiestas" there and in the 'Stans).

I was delighted by the photos, and the whole phenomenon. But I thought the real pioneer was being ignored-- Lauren McGough, who contacted us when she was 16, went out to hunt for a month with the late Aralbai, "The Coolest Man in the World" (Google it up), then returned on a Fulbright to spend a year there as an apprentice, then another year back and forth to the 'Stans and Mongolia. She is now in Scotland writing her doctoral thesis, and has continued flying eagles on the plains here and in Scotland.

Lauren is not worried, though she has a sensible distrust of the accuracy of the press: "The photos are just brilliant of course - I recognize in that smile the pure joy of flying an eagle! I always have mixed feelings about media articles of Mongolian eagle culture, though. Its hard not to be possessive of "my" subject!...  If I can find the funds, perhaps visiting the girl myself would be a compelling epilogue. It in a way, it is like coming full-circle, from my own 14-year old self that used to daydream her red-tail was an eagle. Or something!"

After I got her notes I wondered: Olgii Aimag is not too big; could the young Kazakh girl have heard about the strange American berkutchi? Could it have swayed her father?  Could she have seen this not- very tall American with the huge eagle named after the Milky Way?

There is going to be a book, and it will have insights I never dreamed of. Meanwhile, back in the USA, the government is considering shutting down the (at most) 6 eagle annual falconry take, while wind farms and eagle- killing natives are given a pass. Sometimes I think I should go off to live and die in Asia, where eagle dreamers get some respect.


Annie said...

I have no doubt Lauren's reputation had some influence, and equally, that she can find funding to travel and meet this young lady. Nat Geo, Outside, Discovery...or even the straight news mags, although the story would be much shorter. Lauren rocks! Looking forward to the meetup!

Daniel Gauss said...

..and now featured on the GoPro site:
the "Photo of the Day"

danontherock said...

Wonderful stuff.

Central Asia would probably suit me fine. I have been to Kazakhstan several time.


Steve Bodio said...

I didn't know this-- we should compare notes. I am now writing about it, years later.

I LOVE it there!

Anonymous said...

the eagle is released with the leash attached?

Steve Bodio said...

Not usually. Photography can create odd situations.

Anonymous said...

Anyone else notice the very wolfish looking dog(?) peeking out from behind the left side of the eagle, in the 2nd photograph-from-the-bottom?....L.B.

Steve Bodio said...


Anonymous said...

...maybe Laika(Vladimir should chime in), but interesting since we have been discussing the Livestock Protection Dogs crossing with wolves phenomenon, and this dog IS surrounded by livestock in the background! This subject was also recently brought up on the "Psychology Today" website, in the "Animal Behaviour" section where I often go to tilt windmills with city folk(a sport of mine)--under one of Mark Derr's posts. Where he also mentioned a recent case of a female WILD wolf being captured and SPAYED and released again--her crime? Mating with a Livestock guardian!!! I also saw an article once (in Russian, alas, so I couldn't read it very well) about some Laika/wolf crosses used for hunting. They had photographs, and they made BEAUTIFUL, functional-looking dogs, for sure!....L.B.

Steve Bodio said...

Vladimir at least used to have photos of a couple of handsome wolf cross dogs working as bird dogs, retrieving ducks from water, etc. Wonder if he still has them.

The spayed wolf thing seems crazy-- akin to Swedes shooting a hybrid hawk for the crime of mating with a peregrine.

(Other post) I will check in Mannix which as you rightly assumed I have!