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Ambassadors Programme

Explorer

Alessandra Meniconzi

Nov11

The Berkutchi

By Alessandra Meniconzi, Friday November 11, 2016
Kazakhs ride their horses proudly like warriors, defying the glacial cold weather which rages in this remote land. The man transports an enormous falcon on his forearm, protected by a thick leather glove. Taken on an EOS 5D Mark III with an EF70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens; the exposure was 1/16sec at f/5.6, ISO 100.

Kazakhs ride their horses proudly like warriors, defying the glacial cold weather which rages in this remote land. The man transports an enormous falcon on his forearm, protected by a thick leather glove. Taken on an EOS 5D Mark III with an EF70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens; the exposure was 1/16sec at f/5.6, ISO 100.
© Alessandra Meniconzi

My first encounter with the Golden Eagle hunters was in Kazakhstan in 1998. At that time the preparations for the journey took up more than a year of my time. In fact, in order to visit Central Asia, one needs visas, permits and letters of invitation by both central and local authorities. The multitude of bureaucratic complications to obtain these permits and their elevated costs are due to the fact that my journey was organised without the aid of tour operators.

This Autumn I decided to rediscover this most fascinating and ancient method of hunting with the Golden Eagle. A blustering and biting wind accompanies me in the boundless silence of West Mongolia, at the feet of the Altai Mountains. Here I met the Berkutchi, which in Kazak language means “hunters with the eagle”. They are men that with extreme patience and dedication have domesticated the different qualities of the Golden Eagle to their advantage.

The raptor, with its untamable courage, its fast flying abilities, acute vision and hearing capabilities has become man’s irreplaceable hunting companion that cannot be replaced. The most favoured bird is the Golden Eagle, or the ‘Berkut’, which is considered the most intelligent, powerful, and aggressive. This traditional form of falconry is found throughout the Eurasian Steppe and the origin of using wild birds as assistance during hunting is now being lost over time.

The imposing dimensions of the raptor with a weight of between six to eight kilos and a wing opening which exceeds two metres all equip it with an extraordinary precision in catching its prey, reaching 300km per hour in its breathless dives. Taken on an EOS 5D Mark III with an EF24-70mm f/2.8L II USM lens; the exposure was 1/400 sec;  at  f/5.0, ISO 100. Flash: fired

The imposing dimensions of the raptor with a weight of between six to eight kilos and a wing opening which exceeds two metres all equip it with an extraordinary precision in catching its prey, reaching 300km per hour in its breathless dives. Taken on an EOS 5D Mark III with an EF24-70mm f/2.8L II USM lens; the exposure was 1/400 sec; at f/5.0, ISO 100. Flash: fired
© Alessandra Meniconzi

The eyes and head of the Golden Eagle is covered by a 'Kolbuchok', a kind of hide hat which is used to avoid the raptor being distracted during transportation and when not hunting.  The cap is only taken off when the falcon spots a prey. Taken on an EOS 5D Mark III with an EF70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens; the exposure was 1/40 sec at f/8, ISO 400.

The eyes and head of the Golden Eagle is covered by a 'Kolbuchok', a kind of hide hat which is used to avoid the raptor being distracted during transportation and when not hunting. The cap is only taken off when the falcon spots a prey. Taken on an EOS 5D Mark III with an EF70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens; the exposure was 1/40 sec at f/8, ISO 400.
© Alessandra Meniconzi