Over the weekend, S and I went to Big Almaty Lake. This lake, up in the mountains above the city, is the main water source for the city. While there we also visited an observatory and a falcon show. More about the lake and the observatory later. Today, I wanted to start to talk about the Falcon Show.
When we signed up for this trip– it was a little something organized by my office for some out-of-country visitors, we had no idea what the Falcon Show was. Basically, historically, in Kazakhstan, Golden Eagle Hunting has been a national sport. No, this does not mean they hunt eagles. Rather, they hunt with Eagles. Like how in Wisconsin people hunted with big dogs. According to one website (found by google search):
Hunting with Golden Eagle is one of the most unique features of Kazakh life. The hunter is named kusbegi or berkutchi. The experience of wild bird training was gained by Kazakh kusbegi over centuries, the secrets were imparted from father to son and kept very secret. At the present time we can meet few people with such knowledge. These masters have an innate gift for wild bird training. For hunting they tame falcons, golden eagles and eagles. Names of birds are given depending on their appearance and battle characteristics. Hunting with Golden Eagles has been practiced for ten centuries.
At the show, we learned about the birds and their training (granted, it was all in Russian). One key thing that I liked was learning that the birds can not be training via punishment– only positive reinforcement. We saw eagles, haws, falcons, owls, and buzzards. Here is a little piece of what we saw.
In this one, the falcon is literally so fast that my camera couldn’t see it: