Lauren: Further Adventures

Lauren is winding up her “Apprentice Berkutchi” Fulbright in Mongolia by studying Cinereous vultures (Aegypius monachus) in the Gobi (these huge birds, which we saw in the Altai, are rivaled in size only by Lammergeiers in Asia). Meanwhile her young eagle shocked everyone by building a nest and laying (infertile of course) eggs. She has also been riding camels, which she enjoys, and seeing nesting Sakers and breeding argali sheep. We hope to see her in August; meanwhile a short note from the field.

“Hah – love the workout plan. Excellent ideas. I don’t see any reason why you couldn’t make it work. You come to Asia for dogs, hawks, eagles, or falcons, and I will see you on horseback there!
“I’ve not seen any real dark sakers yet. But lots of very light colored ones. We banded four fledglings at a nest last week, I’ll be sure to send pictures as soon as I can download them. I also climbed into my first-ever Golden Eagle nest. It was wonderful – two 3-4 week old eaglets, a clear male and female. You better believe I’ve got a picture of that! We also saw, in Dundgobi aimag, a clear-as-day Houbara bustard. I don’t think they’ve ever been noted this far east before – we were astonished. The purpose of my last stint in the Gobi was to help but satellite transmitters on five Cinereous Vulture adults, to mark exactly where they migrate to (they’ve been spotted in South Korea). I thought eagles were big – these are 22lb birds, though surprisingly laid-back once captured. Although they are prone to regurgitate – I now know what it is like to get a splat of fermented goat innards on me!

“I’m just back in Olgii now, ready to head to the countryside to visit Alema [Her eagle– SB] . I can’t recall if I told you, but she started nest building by the perch, and laid eggs! She has spent the last month on her “nest” instead of the perch. I could not believe it – for a two year old (I’m pretty sure) eagle trapped in October!

“Re: Canat’s offer for your pickup – that’s great! [He once told me he would trade a camel, a horse and saddle, an eagle, and a negotiable amount of sheep for my King-Cab 4 X4 F-150 pickup– catch being I would pay all costs shipping both ways across the Bering Straits!-SB] I can picture him saying that too. I had a herder offer to give me his horse for my binoculars (just run-off-the-mill Bushnells). He said, “I can always get another horse, but those are one-of-a-kind”.

“Thank you for the update and all the details. I really like hearing how you both are doing. When you wrote, “I am beginning to think that giving up on the life of adventure is premature” I smiled really big. Damn straight.”

All photos by Lauren but the last, by Andrey Kovalenko.


  1. No–a protegee of sorts, but I couldn't be prouder. We first "sent" her there when she was 17, alone, in winter, to fly eagles (under the protective wing of my old friend Canat).

    She is now in her twenties and is finishing up her Fulbright–an apprenticeship as the first female Berkutchi– eagler– ever. LOTS on the site about her year & more; just type "Lauren" into the "search" box by the Blogger symbol in the upper left corner (you will also get a bit about Reid's daughter of the same name but 90% this Lauren, with excellent photos. and her reports).

    My own (step)son is also a constant presence here in links and comments: "Peculiar" of Odious and Peculiar blog, and under his own name (Jackson Frishman) proprietor of the new wilderness photo blog Crest, Cliff, and Canyon. (Click on "About me" for some of our bios).

    LOTS of "backstory" on this blog– ask away!

  2. Steve, I'm writing an article for International Wolf, the quarterly membership magazine of the International Wolf Center, about eagle hunting in Mongolia, since there are several astounding videos on the subject online.

    One English eagle falconer who has traveled, lived and hunted with the locals said these are mostly done for show, for tourists, with pups or young, captured wolves who have had their jaws wired shut so they don't have the advantage – that once wolves were hunted 'for real' for subsistence living and many eagles died in the hunt, but now the nomads are paid to create these shows and do it for the money and the sense they are preserving their heritage. I've got your book Eagle Dreams coming to me, but wonder if you've encountered that, and can comment on it. Thanks!!

    I love reading/seeing what Lauren is doing – what a wonderful young woman!

  3. Tracy– I'll write you at greater length but as far as YouTubes and the like your informant– my friend Al Gates?- is sadly right. Most Kazakhs don't like wolves and see no reason not to make these films for money.

    The common practical quarry for eagles is fox– what Lauren has been taking, with the exception of an accidental wildcat.

    But some of the back- country Kazakhs were still hunting full- size adult wolves when I was there, including my late friend Manai who is on the cover of Eagle Dreams. (I never saw it done, though we looked, but have a photo of a fresh wolf pelt taken by his eagle a week or so before, quite big– so was the eagle!)

    Trouble is, it IS dangerous for the bird– only the best birds and hunters could accomplish it– easier to do the fake show off kind. There are plenty of good fox hunters with a sense of their own limitations all through Kazakhstan and Mongolia but I suspect fewer real wolf hunters left.

    I'll send a photo or two.

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