Interview with falconer Sary Satylganov at his home in Ak Sai Sovkhoz, Kyrgyzstan. Conducted by researcher Dennis Keen and interpreter Abai Aitikulov. Only English is transcribed:
Um, so since we were talking about cleaning, it was making me think about how they clean the beaks after eating, so you remember in Kazakhstan, we saw that they offered their hands, and the eagles went like that, but here we haven’t seen that, it seems like usually they clean their beaks on the glove
Or they, just the man cleaning it by himself, like this, taking.
So I guess just tell him about how they do it in Kazakhstan, and ask if they ever do that here, and if there’s a reason why there’s that, that difference.
So I explained him, I told him what the difference is, and I asked him…
He says that also, so he knows that Kazakhs do that, they offer they fingers and then bürküt cleaning its beak to the fingers, but here he says people not offer they fingers but bürküt by itself cleans to the glove here, and sometimes with the two, this fingers, eagle hunters cleans its beaks…
Just pinching the beak…
Yeah, but he used to use also his hands, like he was offering like this. Like this.
With the fingers sort of curved around
Here, like this. And then even his bürküt, the falcon was putting his beak inside and was cleaning itself, he was telling.
So he’s kind of cupping his hand and then the eagle…
Like this, and they was cleaning. And he says actually there’s no difference, the important one when they feeding the raptors, you have clean the holes in the…
Yeah the nostrils where they, he is breathing, it’s important that it be clean, not dirty, not bloody, if it will be bloody than inside the hairs, the lips stick together, stick to each other, the hair, and it will be hard for him to breathe, that’s why you have to clean the nostrils.
But also, I mean, it seems like maybe it’s not good for the bird to clean itself on the glove, because then the glove, I’ve seen it gets very, very very bloody. Is that hard to wash out?
He says yes that’s true, but…
He says it’s better not to offer a glove, but offer a hand or fingers to clean the beak. In the wild, in the nature, the wild eagles they actually clean it with a talons, a talon, his beak, and his nostrils, but as his talons, his feet is rope, tied with a rope, it’s better to offer a hand or a fingers to clean, that’s the better one, best one, he says.
But when the gloves do get bloody, do you just wash it out with soap and water and then it’s clean?
Yeah, could be washed out.
The other thing that I was thinking about was, he was talking about that one man that didn’t hunt with his bürküt for two years, and about how you know, that’s not good for the bird, and I was thinking about how there’s, maybe there’s a lot, there’s a lot of people like that now, because there are all those men, like especially on the north shore, on Issyk Kul, who have their birds to take photographs with tourists. So, does he know anything about these men, and like, are they, I mean, do real bürkütchüs sort of look down on these people?
He says yes that man was not setting, or even training, hunting with his eagle for two years, two years, twenty four months, a long time for a bürküt not to hunt, he says, and he says actually I didn’t like that man after that, because even he could come to me and ask me to give one live bürküt, to train and to set his bürküt to that fox, and I could do that even, he says, but I didn’t like that man, and he said that it might be that he think that that man was also doing that, earning money with his bürküt, like showing taking pictures with the tourists, he says actually it’s not good, I don’t like it, the bürküt is not just an animal, it’s your partner. It’s not good to treat with the bürküt, with the raptor like that, he said, because its like a child getting used to you, trust you, but you are using him in this way, not good he says. He also don’t like this people.
I was just thinking, is there a name for this kind of people, because you wouldn’t call them a bürküt, because you wouldn’t hunt with them.
He says actually, they are not münüshkörs, they are not bürkütchüs if they are not doing hunting, and if they are not doing hunting they have to just set it free. But there are no names for these kind of people.
It seems like maybe now there’s a lot of them just because the economy in Kyrgyzstan is bad, so maybe people think, well this is an easy way to make money, to sell these photographs to tourists. But is this a recent phenomenon, or did people do this during the Soviet era with tourists then?
He says yeah, that’s the Soviet time there were no that man because there were no tourists because the country was closed for the tourists, but now as the Kyrgyzstan became independent, and as the tourists, visitors, a lot of tourists, visitors are coming to the Cholpon-Ata, to the Issyk-Kul, he saw on the TV one guy had the baiköbök raptor [Eurasian marsh harrier], and it looks like a kush, falcon, baiköbök…
Is it this one, baiköbök?
And he’s telling to the visitors that’s its a falcon, but it’s a not falcon, it’s a baiköbök, and he earning money from it.
I remember when we were in Cholpon-Ata there was that man who, remember we met one of these people who, he had, he had do you remember that?
Yeah, he had the eagle and he was hugging it and petting it, and he said that it was a male eagle. Is there any other situation, example, where someone would have a male eagle? Or is it only people like this who don’t hunt?
I asked is it true that münüshkörs just have the, the taking the female bürküt only, he says no, same with the male bürküt he says, münüshkörs have and the male bürküt and the female bürküt, not depends, there is no difference, just the female one little bit bigger than male bürküt, but the they are both same skills.
Really? Because I thought it was almost always women, female…
No, he says female bürküts just bigger, that’s it, just tough, they are both same, no difference.
But for example, I imagine that female bürküts are preferred then, because they’re bigger. so when they’re going to the nest, to find a bird, do they check first to see if it’s female or male, because they want the female?
He says when they going to the nest, it’s impossible to define the sex of the burkut, when it will start to fly, it will start to hunt, and that time you can define the sex, he says now they don’t care about the sex.
So how can you tell that, you said when they start to fly, when they start to hunt, then you can tell the sex. So how?
He says it’s easy to define, just from the beak. So female beak, female has a long beak, but the male eagle has a short, shorter beak, and it’s more like, not…
Not thin, not straight, but it’s more like this…
Thick, yeah, but with female it’s bigger, longer, and thinner.
Um, what was I gonna say. Oh is there, do they have different names for a male eagle versus a female eagle, because remember there was a different name for a male itelgi, right, it was like…
Chuylu, itelgi. Not itelgi, chuylu and kush.
No. Just the bürküt. Erkek bürküt, urgaachy bürküt. Female bürküt or male bürküt.
So the only difference is the size? Because I thought I understood that in the wild, the female bürküts are the ones who do most of the hunting, so that they have, they’re more naturally better hunters.
It’s a bullshit.
Same male too would be sharpsighted.
He says so in the nature, in the wild if the parents would be good, good bürküts, if they will treat well as the parents to the chicks in the nest, the two chicks, female and male, they both will be sharpsighted, but if the parents will not treat well, so one will be sharpsighted and one will be weaker, he says.
Alright, I think my last question is about, is about the weight of the eagles, how you know, cause this is the most difficult part is that you don’t want it to be too thick or fat, and you don’t want it to be too thin, sort of this optimal weight, right, that you want to keep it at. And one of the ways they tell is feeling it, right, and that’s how they can know how fat it is, know know how thin it is. So what I want to know is that, is this something you just have to learn by experience, or is there some rule of thumb. Do you know what a rule of thumb is?
Rule of the…
Rule of thumb means like a simple thing to remember, so you know…
So he says so it’s easy, that you have to check also the breast, here, the breast, the meat on the breast, here also…
Yeah, here, the bones. Here. And…
And here the bone will be just, like can be touched because if it will be thin, here the long bone
It’s like below the breast…
Can be easily touched by the finger, and also from the wing, you also can see from the wing and the feet, and he says…
He says it’s easy that if he thin, than here his meat will be too soft.
This is on the wing?
Yeah on the wing. When you put, touching his meat here, then you can just even move, it will be thin. Here you can touch his bones if it thin, then there will be no meat, just the bones and you can touch, and here too just the bones will be, like I have, I have only bones so I am thin, you don’t have the bones, you are fat.
Fuck you fucker.
I have only bones and I have also here soft, it means I am thin, same as the bürküt. And if he has, if he’s fat as you, it will have more hard meat here, and here too it will have a meat, and here too it will be a meat. But you can feel the bones. But if you want to set your bürküt and if you want that he will hunt successfully, it’s important then he will be little bit, he will be thin, like me, not hard and not soft, a little bit you can touch the bones, as he will be hungry he will easily get prey.
He says now he’s telling his secrets that knows only he. So his claws, yeah, these two…
Two Zhem basars.
The first finger, it’s sort of like the index finger, it’s the first one after the thumb.
Yeah it’s calling zhem basar. And the range will be only this, so it’s like five six centimeters, and you have to tied it up with a rope here, in the soft place of the talon, of the claw.
Wait, what is five or six centimeters?
So the distance between the left, between the right and the left fingers. Distance.
Oh like, but can’t they spread their legs? I don’t understand.
So now it’s a, this is five, yeah? This is ten, the distance between the two feets, two these fingers should be only like this, like six or five centimeters, see, see? From here to here, like six centimeters distance.
Okay. This is just when it’s sitting down?
At this distance it should be tieded up, two fingers to each other, then he can’t take off his tomogo or he can’t, he can’t touch you with his claws when you’re feeding, because he’s a child, he wants to get it, and when you’re getting meat, he will try to get it by his claws, by his talons, and he will not hurt you, because his talons, two talons, two his fingers tied together at the distance fix six centimeters, and he can’t take off his tomogo, and he will get used to it, and when later…
Do you understand the centimeters?
Yeah I just didn’t understand what you’re saying, I thought we were still talking about the weight.
No, now we’re just talking about tying their feet together, six centimeters apart.
Tying this fingers, zhem, zhem basar fingers. Two zhem basar of the right and left feets
With a rope.
With a rope, but softly, not hard, not to a talon, to a nail, fingernail, just for this place, softly you tie a rope and the distance between each other five six centimeters, like this, and you tying up this, and then he can’t take off his hat, his tomogo or he will not hurt you like, he will not do, I don’t know, to hurt you with this claws, with his talons, and when you’re feeding he will not try to take from you the meat, but just will be like a nice boy.
Because as his fingers will be tieded up to each other, he can’t take his other feet, or this feet because it’s tieded to the other! Иf he will do this he will just drop down, and that’s why for him it will be not comfortable, and he will not take from you a meat, but it will eat as you are giving. And so he will be calm, and he will get used to it, and you will understand when he will get used to it, and you can just not tied it, and he will not take off his tomogo, so it’s a just a psychology.
This is just at the beginning, it’s training. So you keep it on there all the time for this first period, do you keep it on there all the time?
Yeah all the time, but when you are, of course the one time you will take it off, when you are doing the training set, you are setting, you will take it off right? Because it’s, he needs it to move. And he says that you will understand when you will take it off this, he will not try to take off his tomogo, or to hurt you or to get from you the meat.
He says, so, secret number two, about the tomogo. he says when you first teaching, training for tomogo to your eagle, when you make the tomogo, you’re putting the tomogo to his head, after three minutes you take it off, and see is it not wet, that it’s not squeezing his eyes, or his eye, and then you are again putting it, after a couple minutes you again take it off, and you again putting that. So it’s important to never hurt the eagle, because never make the pain his meat or his some places, feets, eyes, everything, that he will not be disappointed with you, or will upset you, and, because he will gonna remember that remember that bad things too and never forget it, that’s why it’s important to when you first using the tomogo also it’s important he says when you’re putting that things, that, here, with the leather actually, it’s origin one, but he says it’s important for first time to train him and to get used to him with the, how say, it’s the plastic, not plastic, but it’s a…maybe I will tell to write in english, it’s a rezina, like in a condom, soft…
Rubber. So it’s not as hard as a leather, and it can not hurt, and he will faster get used to tomogo, because it’s soft here, and then you will switch it, change it with the leather, kayish, this thing…
Because this part is often annoying to the eagle, they don’t like it?
Yeah. So important thing is never hurt the eagle, make them pain.
So, so if you put it on first, and you see that it’s wet,
You have to..
Is the, is the leather, the leather can stretch, you can just *tch tch* and the leather will bend?
So it’s important only not about the eyes, he says, if his eyes are hurt, you take a stick and making it bigger, yeah? That it will be more bigger, and you will put it back and check, but also important thing the tomogo can also squeeze his head, and it’s important you can put inside a sticks to make it bigger, or actually the smart one is to put the metal things, like decorations and it helping it to make it bigger the leather on his head, like you’re putting it and I don’t know, settling it, with a, like, stuffing it…
Stapling the decorations into the tomogo…?
Into the leather, like making it bigger, and it also makes more do the tomogo decorative, like look nice, but it also helping to make it bigger, and you putting it back to the head.
How do you know if its too small for the head?
He says that, so some bürküt has bigger head, some has smaller, and it’s easier to understand that because when you’re putting it you can feel it, he says and some bürküts also they here, sometimes they doing like this…
The back of the head there’s like a bump…
Yeah bump, and it’s important like here will be more little bit space, that he will not never squeeze it, sometimes it will get a bump, or sometimes it just will get down.
Oh the feathers, it will sort of flay its feathers up, right.
Remember when we were in Kazakhstan and we saw that metal stencil for the, for the tomogo, it was like the example for it, and that’s how they cut out from the leather, does he use something like that? And, you know, how do they determine how big to do it? They just have to make it one size and then fix it?
He says yeah, it’s same here, there one model, like, for construction, construction model, and they doing, cutting from the, by the help of the model the size of the model, and it depends is it has big or small hands, you can make it smaller or bigger, but the example is always wide, he says, the model.
It’s sort of like just an average size head, and then they have to just fit it and see how it fits and then change it
Change it, make it bigger or smaller, and he said as the gyrfalcons has smaller head, they also has for the other model, for tomogo construction, and tomorrow Ruschek will show us that. Okay, shut up.