Troutbirder II

Troutbirder II
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Friday, December 4, 2015

Golden Eagles Of Mongolia


"Thou hast chosen war. That will happen which will happen, and what is to be we know not. God alone knows." Thus spake the Great Khan Ghenghis to his people and they rode forth from their desert homeland, on their small ponies, to conquer the world..... And they almost did. They created in centuries long past, the largest empire the world has ever seen. From China to India, from Russia in the north to Persia ind the south and further west into Central Europe, where they were finally turned back at the gates of Vienna on the Danube. That empire eventually faded away as all others have. Today, though, a small in population but independent nation (Mongolia) lies as a buffer between China and Russia.
When I heard of a program on the Golden Eagles of Mongolia being sponsored by the St. Paul Audobon Society, I was intrigued. Upon learning further, that the programed involved an Eagle Festival, where mounted hunters carried their trained eagles with them, I was even more fascinated. I headed north, one hundred miles to the Twin Cities, not to miss it.
Ron Winch and his wife Toni Melitsch gave the program based on their attendance at the festival. A "retired" 3M photographer, he now travels worldwide giving back to worthy conservation and environmental organizations as well as being a regular contributor to books and magazines. His goal is always entertainment, enlightenment, and education to inspire the viewers to become better stewards of the environment. He certainly succeeded based on what I saw.
 In recent times the eagle hunting tradition was dying out among the Kazhac people of Northwestern Mongolia. The eagle festival began, as such things often do, as a small event with the hope of preserving some of the old ways. Later, as interest revived, it began to achieve that goal and become a major tourist event as well. This year some 84 nomadic hunters rode on horseback from as far as 150 miles with an eagle on their arm for the event. And what an event it was. The settin of desert, mountains, colorful dress of the local people, their rounded tent homes (Gerts) and magnificent eagles shown through the means of digital photography, added up to a wonderful two hour program.  I was so glad I was able to  attend.


My own interest in golden eagles began several years ago by participating in the National Eagle Centers golden eagle survey. Over one hundred people were trained in identifying golden eagles from immature bald eagles. The goldens visit Minnesota from Canada in the winter and return to their habitat in the far north to breed in the summer. Our group identified over one hundred of these magnificent birds last year. I did learn, however, that the Mongolian birds were slightly larger than their Canadian cousins. Although my "team" spotted three goldens that  year, I've yet to have gotten close enough to take a decent picture with my little point and shoot. The Rocky Mountain West hosts many of these birds year around and world class amateur photographer Mona (Montanagirl) graciously allowed me to use one of her many wonderful pictures. The picture and the link to her nature blog is shown below.
http://girlinmontana.blogspot.com/

9 comments:

  1. I like this, and the way it leads to a trudge to the Twins. With the Mongolians on their little ponies in the back of my mind, I could really picture it. Hopefully it will inspire more Kahn like behavior of me, who can't seem to make it downtown on a weekend to go to the movies. In my defense I drive 500 miles a night during the week but there's got to be more to life than sleeping all weekend.

    I thought the falconry in Mongolia with eagles rang a bell, and indeed, some time ago I'd come across a little piece about Mongolian girls doing that and a quick search of my Facebook activity log led me right to it! If anyone is interested:

    http://www.grindtv.com/random/mongolian-girls-becoming-eagle-hunters-to-keep-ancient-tradition-alive/

    The story isn't as good as yours but it is kind of cool seeing a young girl do this. Thanks for this, tb. I hadn't seen anything from you in awhile and was wondering if you'd gone into a kind of hibernation up there, with your arm dangling over the side of the recliner and the missus gently prying the remote from your hand.

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  2. I came across a video clip at some point of a golden eagle taking down a wolf. Impressive.

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  3. magnificent! (go, montanagirl, go!)

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  4. This festival seems so obscure to me. I would probably drive a lot of miles to check it out myself.Nice photos too!

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  5. Interesting. Thanks a lot for the link to Montanagirl. What great photography.

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  6. How wonderful that you could attend the festival. There is so much of interest in our world and you seem to find it all and I appreciate that you share it with us !!

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  7. Amazing!
    I think you would love the book Ali and the Golden Eagle, by Wayne Grover -a true story!

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  8. The program sounds fascinating and exciting. I wonder how does one train an eagle? I saw my first golden eagle this summer at a local wildlife refuge. It was thousands of feet in the sky and the sun shimmered off it so much it was a shiny gold thing. Prior to seeing it I never even knew it existed let alone could be trained. It's wonderful you were able to see the show.

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  9. We saw one in winter but didn't get a photo. I have only seen that one up here:)

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