A 13-year-old golden eagle huntress in Mongolia
April 15, 2014 7:40 AM   Subscribe

No bubblewrap or helicopter parents in evidence.
posted by GallonOfAlan at 7:48 AM on April 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

No bubblewrap or helicopter parents in evidence.

Hey I'd let my kid be a "free-range" tweener too if he had a 15 pound eagle to back him up.
posted by nanojath at 7:54 AM on April 15, 2014 [16 favorites]

That one got me in the cockles of the heart, it did. Helps that I love raptors in general.

It never occurred to me that they would release the eagles back to the wild after a few years of service. And that this process works.

posted by Thistledown at 7:58 AM on April 15, 2014 [3 favorites]

Stunning photographs, wow.
I, too, had no idea that the eagles could be released back into the wild. I loved learning that, especially the detail about the final thank you gift the eagles are given. Seems like a pretty good life for the eagle, all around.
posted by TwoStride at 8:11 AM on April 15, 2014 [2 favorites]

I love these photos, especially the one where she's cuddling the eagle. If I tried that with my cockatiel, I would be very, very sorry.
posted by Calzephyr at 8:13 AM on April 15, 2014 [2 favorites]

Yes! Yes to this!
posted by Mister_A at 8:18 AM on April 15, 2014

There's another photographer who has been active in Mongolia, photographing eagle hunters, reindeer herders, and bear trainers. His name is Hamid Sardar-Afkhami, and his work is amazing. I did not know it was possible to be such a person as this, and now I feel I may have missed my calling.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 8:19 AM on April 15, 2014 [18 favorites]

Beautiful! Thanks for sharing this.
posted by brilliantine at 8:31 AM on April 15, 2014 [2 favorites]

guys I think I know what the next YA trend's gonna be

Sam Gribley's lawyers would like a word with you.
posted by bondcliff at 8:39 AM on April 15, 2014 [8 favorites]

Look at that smile... It warms even my black heart.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 8:41 AM on April 15, 2014 [4 favorites]

I read "A 13-year-old golden eagle huntress" as "a female eagle that is thirteen years old and hunts for its food".

How long can eagles live?
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 8:44 AM on April 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

I prefer the smile when she RELEASES THE GIANT KILLER DEATH BIRD
posted by echo target at 8:44 AM on April 15, 2014 [7 favorites]

Golden eagles can live decades (to 30 or 40 in the wild). They don't reach full adulthood until they're five.
posted by rtha at 8:51 AM on April 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

Katniss Shmatniss.
posted by The Tensor at 8:52 AM on April 15, 2014 [2 favorites]

That's a Roc.
posted by GallonOfAlan at 8:56 AM on April 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

Roc can be defeated only by paper.
posted by Mister_A at 8:59 AM on April 15, 2014 [2 favorites]

It's like something I thought only existed in fantasy books or cartoons. Very beautiful. Photography can isolate moments and places in an ideal way. But is it ideal if it's from reality? If it's from reality, can everyone experience it and not just see a picture of it? Probably not. So it is a fantasy, in a way. It's like a painting you want to enter.
posted by ChuckRamone at 8:59 AM on April 15, 2014

Amazing. In particular this doesn't seem real. It looks like something from a mid-1980's Frank Miller comic. In fact, I'm pretty sure it is.
posted by The Bellman at 9:07 AM on April 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

I think in a past life I was a falconer. I love seeing birds of prey. We have plenty of hawks in our area, which I love when I get to see them on the signs on the side of the road. Alas I know not much more than what they look like or their vision. The irony is that I'm very much prey, not predator.
posted by symbioid at 9:20 AM on April 15, 2014

For those of you who need some lady-hawkin' on your bookshelf: Hawkmistress!

It has an exclamation point in the title.

You may want to skip Stormqueen!. It's pretty terrible. Despite having an exclamation point in the title.
posted by BrashTech at 9:34 AM on April 15, 2014 [3 favorites]

These are gorgeous, but not all of the images in the first link are Ashol Pan. The BBC has mixed up photos of other apprentices and hunters. Ashol Pan is the one wearing the gold embroidered parka in the eagle photos.
posted by oneirodynia at 9:34 AM on April 15, 2014 [2 favorites]

Previously: Golden Eagle kills deer.
posted by Kabanos at 9:44 AM on April 15, 2014


I was worried that you were about to show us a Broderick, Hauer, and Pfeiffer retrospective....

I've met a few falconers, and, as far as "returning" the birds, each of them said that, pretty much any time you let them fly, there was a chance they would decide to go off on their own. Like you couldn't ever really "own" a raptor; they just worked with you for a while for room and board, and, when it was time to go do other raptor things, well, that was the end of it.
posted by GenjiandProust at 10:08 AM on April 15, 2014 [6 favorites]

She deserves something much more eloquent, but HOLY SHIT THAT'S AMAZING is about all I've got.
posted by Space Kitty at 10:10 AM on April 15, 2014

I demand a best-selling YA lit series about this young woman. Stat.
posted by Sara C. at 10:38 AM on April 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

So good!
posted by zscore at 10:44 AM on April 15, 2014

I read that as "13-year-old who hunts golden eagles" and got confused.

Those are gorgeous pictures, and the symbiosis is stunning.
posted by divabat at 11:22 AM on April 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

Changed my mind.

Not a YA series.

A superhero comic.
posted by Sara C. at 11:33 AM on April 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

From Mallory Ortberg at The Toast:
I make jokes about movies on the Internet. I am nothing; I am less than nothing. I have never left an offering of thanks on a mountain for a golden eagle that served at my side.

It is all I can do to keep from flinging my cat out the door in disgust, for he has never leapt from my arm off a wind-blown steppe in order to catch a fox for me. He is an idler, a trifler, and a blood-sucking non-producer, and I am no better. Ashol-Pan, I do not deserve to inhabit the same planet as you. I will endeavor to make myself worthy of you for the rest of my life, you eagle-wielding teen who strides the narrow world.
What she said. Also, yes, give me a YA series about Ashol-Pan and her animal companions.

I know it's gotta be a hard life out there on the steppes, but goddamn, those photos trigger some intense desires to flee this urban life for the austere purity of a nomadic life of golden eagle-assisted hunting on the sere and lovely steppes of Mongolia.
posted by yasaman at 1:38 PM on April 15, 2014 [2 favorites]

These images are breathtaking and they pull at my soul in mysterious ways. I have not the words, but Mallory Ortberg comes damned close.
posted by blurker at 1:52 PM on April 15, 2014

The photographer looks happy, too. I can see why.
posted by Omnomnom at 1:54 PM on April 15, 2014

wow. dang. beautiful. thank you.
posted by jammy at 4:46 PM on April 15, 2014

The mountains surrounding her village were often seen by outsiders as obstacle courses to be tackled, challenges to be conquered and boasted about, or avoid in fear. Scary, treacherous, intimidating.

For Ashol-Pan it was her playground: trees to clamber on, caves and shrubs as hiding spots, and the mountains themselves as towers for her to view her world from up high. Just like Ake’s eagle, she imagines.

Today, like many other days, she has accompanied her father to one of his hunts. While he readies his regal golden eagle for today's hunt - perhaps a fox to replace the tattered fur in his old hat, or a hare for dinner - Ashol-Pan plays explorer, imagining herself as her father's eagle, traversing great heights and lengths to find sustenance. All in a day's work.

She swoops close to a nearby plateau, a little too high for her growing body to reach - maybe she'll grow big enough soon enough. There is a nest sitting on the plateau, filled with cracked eggshell - and on the ground was a tiny ball of mud-brown fluff, pecking curiously at Ashol-Pan's feet before nuzzling against her ankles.

"Oh, what is this?"

She picks up the fluffball and finds that it is an eaglet, barely a few weeks old, eyes bright and wide. She looks at the eaglet closely and notices that one of its wings seem to be a little bent.

"Oh little one! What has happened to you? Where is your Ake and Ana?"

She looks around for eagles like the one her father has, ones that could be the eaglet's parents, but she doesn't see any flying about. She tries to climb up to the plateau for a better, but it's difficult to scale the rock surface while still holding the eaglet.

Not long after, her own Ake comes for her.

"Ashol-Pan! Where are you? It's time to go home!"

Her father sees her try to reach the plateau, almost dangling off the edge. He grabs Ashol-Pan off the plateau and sets her safely on the ground.

"What were you trying to do, Ashol-Pan? You could have fallen and hurt yourself!"

"I was trying to help it, Abba," says Ashol-Pan, showing him the eaglet she has cupped in her hands. "I think it is hurt, its wings are not right. I wanted to find its Ake and Ana, maybe they can help him."

"It's a good thing I came to find you, or else your legs would be just like his wing," replies her father. He looks at the nest on the plateau - a little too far away even for his grown-up body. Just as he does so, a large golden eagle, about the same size as Ashol-Pan, flies by, a rabbit in its claws. Ashol-Pan sees the ribbon on the eagle's foot; it's her father's hunting eagle.

"Could your eagle be its Ake?" asks Ashol-Pan, holding up the eaglet to its elder self. Her father's eagle peers at the not-quite-fluffball-anymore but there does not seem to be any recognition.

"It would have to be its Ana, dear girl - all hunting eagles are female," answers her father. "Even so, I don't think they're related. My eagle comes from further away, and besides, she would not have laid eggs here when she has been with us for some time."

Ashol-Pan looks at the eaglet, who looks back at her with perhaps a sense of sadness - or longing - or some care-for-me plea only baby eaglets have. If this little one has no Ake or Ana...who will take care of it?

"Can we take it home, Ake?" asks Ashol-Pan. "Just like you bring home your baby eaglets?"

Ashol-Pan's father takes a closer look at the eaglet. "Usually we take in strong, healthy eaglets," he replies. "The hurt ones don't make good hunters."

"But we can help it get better! Like how I got better when I hurt my leg or arm, we can do that! Then it can be a good hunter!" says Ashol-Pan. "Please, Ake, please?"

Ashol-Pan's father thinks for a moment. He's trained and taken in many eagles since he was a young boy, barely older than his daughter now. He has helped heal broken wings or talons before, but that was a sign of the eagle's end of service; he'd never trained an injured eagle to hunt before. And again, the weaker eaglets don't usually get selected anyway.

He sees the look in his daughter's eyes, matching the face of the eaglets. Whatever kind of plea the eaglet's making, Ashol-Pan's picked up on it.

Maybe just for a while.

"OK, we can keep and care for this one here," says her father, "but once it is healthy it is time to let them go. And you have to make sure you take care of it well. I can help and teach you, of course, but this little one is your responsibility. Understand?"

Ashol-Pan was beaming; she could swear the eaglet was smiling too.

"Yes, Ake!"

After dinner that night - the roasted hare captured by her father's eagle - Ashol-Pan fashioned a small nest out of some nearby leaves and twigs, and sets the eaglet gently inside. She then finds some gold thread, leftover from her Ana's sewing efforts, and - following in her father's footsteps - ties the string around its leg; a difficult endeavour, given the size of the eaglet, but one she manages after a while.

"There you go, Altyn," naming her eaglet. "As bright as the gold string around you."

[more to come, maybe?]
posted by divabat at 5:09 PM on April 15, 2014 [12 favorites]

This is beautiful!
I recommend the documentary Kiran Over Mongolia for more on this way of life. A great film!
posted by kermadec at 3:19 AM on April 18, 2014

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