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Today, we look for treasures

Birding might be one of the nerdier activities out there, but there’s a reason so many people do it — because it turns everyday life into a never ending treasure hunt. Which is why, for the past decade or so, I’ve always carried binoculars with me when I hike, and there are always field guides in the glove box of my car.

There are people out there that are truly obsessed with birding. And good at it. There’s even a thing called a “Big Year” where they try and ID as many birds as they can in 365 days. The record? 6,852 different species.

I am neither obsessed nor good at it. But I did create a point system for car rides. It goes like this: Hawk on a wire = 1 point. Hawk flying = 2 points. Hawk on the ground = 3 points. Hawk hunting = 4 points. Hawk with prey = 5 points. Eagle = 5 points. Negative 1 point if you call out a vulture or a crow.

Here in Kyrgyzstan, we can’t even play this game because birds of prey are so prolific.

It’s amazing. And when you hike, raptor-shaped silhouettes invariably dance at your feet. This shadow show sets off some evolutionary trigger to crane your neck skyward, just to make sure it’s not a pterodactyl. It never is. It’s usually an eagle, hawk, osprey or some other bird that snacks on the rabbits, mice and marmots below.

We even got the chance to meet a man, Rusulan, that hunts with eagles. On a mountainside outside town, he shared his story, demonstrated his craft and even let us hold his eagle. We decided it was worth 100 points.

taylor

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