This essay illustrates the resurgence of falcons and modern falconry through the efforts of the Arabian world, led by the United Arab Emirates. It begins with wild Saker falcons high in the mountains of Mongolia then on to artificial nesting sites on the Mongolian Steppe sponsored by Abu Dhabi. 5000 artificial nesting sites have been created to make up for the lack of natural nesting sites. Mongolia also provides a window into the devastating effects of poorly designed power lines on raptors around the world.
The images move to captive-bred falconry in Scotland and talk about how the breeding of today’s superior falcon bloodlines has diminished the trade in wild- capture falcons by creating a predictable hybrid super-bird, the current standard for much of the Arab world of falconry. We see master breeder Howard Waller at work in the Scottish highlands as he breeds birds for Sheik Butti Maktoum in Dubai. We then move on to the U.A.E to meet Sheik Butti bin Maktoum, a master falconer in Dubai and one of the very first to fly captive-bred Gyr falcons.
The Sheik’s influence on the Arabian falconry world has been profound, changing thinking away from wild-capture birds to captive super-falcons. Amongst the modern methods, the ancient training techniques still survive today; early morning training sessions are the norm across the region. The bond between this father and his sons grows stronger through this process as falconry provides all the lessons for necessary for a meaningly and successful life.
The Arab world sees Falconry as a direct line to the past and it has tremendous cultural significance. It’s a powerful discipline to train falcons for two hours every day before first light before the desert heat makes it prohibitive. These birds come from much colder climes and after training are returned to air-conditioned lodging. All this training culminates in falcons hunts across Asia. These days the hunts are done with a majority of captive-bred prey birds, in particular Houbara Bustards.