David Adam ..... Scottish creative artist ...... author of Wildsketch ..... social realist in Postcard from Brechin
Studio and Wildsketch journal
Studio and Wildsketch journal
Cold fingers of harr creeping up from the sea coddled the heathered land into a chestnut coloured sleep, and feathered fingers spread in a desperate flight as young eagle hunted grouse during twilight's glow, and her belly rumbled with emptiness as the coming march of Winter whistled o'er the hills of her belonging.
All of my sun-smacked day was spent reaching two remote Golden Eagle roosting locations within the high hills and I regularly check these spots for activity because they are frequently used by young eagles foraging on the Glen Esk grouse moors. Many rookie young eagles find their way onto food lucrative shooting estate moors that are not, and never have been, occupied by territorial adult eagles that can be aggressively defensive to vagrant birds.
I bother checking these locations because evidence of existence does not necessarily rely on observations. Often we hear of so called experts casting disparaging remarks about the lack of wildlife on moorland because they have not seen anything move in front of their agenda tinged faces .... huh, experience tells me that nature does not perform somersaults just because you are there!
Checking the 'not so obvious' can reveal insights that indicate an eagle's presence, or sometimes its age by feather study, or nutritional condition. A roost site decorated by plenty of fresh liming and regurgitated pellets might suggest that food is plentiful or, as I found today, there seems to be a shortage in supply ..... certainly I did not find any plucked Mountain Hare, Rabbit or grouse carcasses on my travels of some eleven miles, which is unusual.
Feathers at these locations are gathered up, leaving a reasonably clean site so that a reckoning can be made at the next inspection of whether or not an eagle has been visiting. Certainly suspicions might be raised when an eagle that was obviously frequenting a location a month ago, suddenly does not. Fortunately most sites that I visit do have evidence of fairly continuous usage, but my doubting persecution honed principle of 'used to be' or 'should be' is always at the back of my mind when a raptor seemingly vacates the area.
The 'used to be' factor is very common nowadays, for example, one of the eagle roost sites used to be the location for nesting Peregrine Falcons many years ago ..... did the falcons leave because the eagles suddenly appeared one day, doubtful because eagles have always been here, or was their departure down to illegal persecution, possibly. Peregrines have had a chequered history in this glen where around five nest sites have 'gone' over the years ..... Peregrines and grouse moors cannot co-exist in the opinion of some hardened attitudes.
The case for 'should be' and 'will be' nesting Peregrines or, indeed, Hen Harriers should be on the lips of everyone with an interest in the future well being of this special glen environment ..... one that provides a home for wildlife, but importantly provides people with their inherent livelihoods ..... surely there is enough room for both, or will 'could do better' be etched eternally in Werritty stone.
Our young Golden Eagle is this year's fledgling from an estate across the march, methinks, and the bird is on the prowl but struggles in hunting accomplishment when compared to an adult bird in flight. She flaps huge wings frequently to stay aloft and impatiently moves from one hillside to another when prey fails to show. This eagle will have to have a fast learning curve in order to survive through a Grampian winter season ..... next year will surely tell.
All text, photographs and sketches done on the 7 November 2020 and subject to copyright - no reproduction.
David Adam Sketchbook
My new book 'Wildsketch' is available from Blurb bookshop
Income from book sales will form a donation to CABS (Committee Against Bird Slaughter)
If you are inspired to go out into the hills and glens of Scotland please leave it as you find it, respect the environment, do not litter or discard so called 'biodegradable' fruit and especially if you are a dog walker keep your beast on a lead and do not bag up its waste then chuck it by the wayside. I recently came across one black poo bag neatly hung on a tree branch for someone else to take home and also a bright blue one thrown in the moorland verge .... why?
Moorland birds like Curlew, Golden Plover, Dunlin, Dotterel, Red and Black Grouse, Ptarmigan and many raptors nest on the ground, it is advisable to keep dogs at heel or preferably on leads when walking on the high plateaux of the Cairngorms during summer months.
Please be aware that it is illegal to disturb nesting eagles or other raptors and you may do so inadvertently in your journeys into the highlands. Observe protected species at a respectful distance usually from about 1000 metres and for short periods of time only.
No wildlife was unduly or knowingly disturbed by my presence or for the purposes of this web page other than what would be expected on a normal hill walk. Many geographic names and location recognizable photos have been omitted to prevent persecution or inquisitive disturbance to named species.
Canon camera 200D with optical zoom lens EFS 55-250mm used; please note that the zoom range distance if given is calculated by OS map from subject location to camera.