I had an interesting conversation with the lady who sells me apples. She explained to me that the official bird of Kazakhstan is the Ьеркут (Berkut). I'm not really sure how we got on the subject of birds. Actually, no, I am. I absolutely know why we started talking about birds, and that there is a certain breed of local, existing in every culture, who upon finding out that someone is a foreigner feels it is necessary to tell something about their culture. This telling does not rely upon any rational scheme for deciding what is worth telling, does not, generally, spring from any previous experience with the foreigner in question, and almost always consists of random facts.
The official bird, then, of Kazakhstan is the Ьеркут. Ьеркут is not a word in English, but extrapolating from my recent experience this spring in looking up, I've come to the fairly certain conclusion that it translates roughly to crane. Cranes, these days, are flying everywhere. I suppose it's a sign of spring. Spring is in the air, cranes are in the air. I've never seen such cranes as they have here in Astana. They soar above streets and above buildings, stark against the blue sky. Sometimes they appear in groups, sometimes singly. The great cranes of Kazakhstan, I think they must be symbols of rebirth, or growth, or something even more poetic, heralds of the trip that pilgrims will soon embark upon in just a few short years to this unique city.
Now, I've never been much of a birdwatching aficionado, but I did manage to snap some shots of the cranes in the almost year that I've been here. You might be surprised to know that they even fly in the winter, though there are a good deal less of them. Here are some pictures of the spring flocks.
|This flock has been living here since before I arrived in Astana.|
Sometimes the numbers change, but it's always been there.
|One of my favorites. I really like the juxtaposition of urban space and natural fauna.|
|Don't be fooled by the snow, it really is spring.|
|I believe this building's going to be an opera house. These cranes know where it's at.|
|Oddly, they never seem bothered by the large amount of construction going on.|
|I think this is a family unit. Anyway, they're quite close-knit.|
|A little obscured by the tree, but they're there, off at the city limits.|