The long drive North happened again with another trip to check on the status of the Golden eagles we are monitoring this year. This visit was to try and locate active nest sites and incubating bird, we had three territories to check only one of which had shown any real activity on my last visit. The weather was fantastic once again and I’d had the intelligence this time to stay in a hotel, not the back of my van with the dog as a hot water bottle. The moors and mountains of Scotland are big in fact they feel very big when you don’t frequent them very often, the first site was suppose to be a short walk in which I suppose it is if your a Red deer!! On the way to the first territory we spotted a male Hen harrier performing a stunning sky dance only to be joined by two other birds, a female Hen harrier also known as a ringtail chasing off a Common buzzard. This was not just a real treat but also a very important siting as a national Hen harrier survey is taking place this year so this siting will be passed on to the relevant people. If that wasn’t enough once on the moor to our first territory we watched another male Hen harrier ghost its way over the heather, they truly are stunning birds. At the eagle territory I couldn’t locate an active nest but found plenty of signs of a roosting bird including pellets, faeces, moulted feathers and plucked grouse feathers.
As you can see from the picture it can be a long walk in, Golden eagles inhabit some pretty remote terrain and pairs can cover huge areas in search of food know as territories. Nest sites also known as Eyries can be used for decades by pairs of eagles and last year a national survey was completed to check all known Golden Eagle territories, final figures are yet to be released but initial figures show a slight increase in pairs since the 2003 survey.
Striking a pose for the camera – not really I’m just showing that I can still put my foot in it. It being a bog that went past my knee! My £14 wellies I had bought from Tescos earlier didn’t stand a chance, nothing a 20km walk couldn’t dry off!
Even when incubating eggs eagles are susceptible to disturbance so I sneaked in and found a rock to sit against and take in the view. A telescope is vital for this as the Eyrie can still be a 1km away at times, all of this work is done under licence with the birds welfare in mind at all times. Even with out the siting of eagles or nest the view is quite simply stunning.
It’s not just Golden eagles that can be seen on the long walks. Moor land is a unique habitat of flora and fauna, two high lights for me had to be seeing Golden Plovers in full breeding plumage and two male Hen harriers, it’s crazy to think these birds are still heavily persecuted. If you happen to be in Scotland this year and see a Hen harrier make sure you share your sightings with the Scottish Raptor Study Groups as they are carrying out a National Hen harrier survey this year.
Can you spot the nest? It’s not a great photo but not bad through a scope on full zoom using an iPhone! This nest had a bird presumed to be the female incubating, the nest is a large stick structure on a rocky outcrop and this was the site where I had the amazing views of the pair of eagles in my previous blog. We’ll be back in a month to check for chicks!
Once again Scotland hasn’t disappointed, it’s a real pleasure to be part of studying and monitoring some of our most iconic species of raptor. The picture above shows the stunning landscape(s), all important binoculars, red deer antler and vertebrate found up on the hill – a vital part of the eagles survival and my £14 wellies because every little helps.
Thanks for reading!