Sea Eagle hunt

Published: 20th January 2010

Spotted an adult White-tailed Eagle at the mouth of the River Loy on Monday (18th), just a few hundred metres from Glenloy Lodge. It flew off from a tree, circled close above my head then disappeared languidly upstream. I returned home for lunch, and shortly afterwards Angela and I went looking for it in the hope of getting some pictures. We soon came across the same bird, slightly further up the river, perched in one of the taller trees. Access was across a rather open bog, and despite our best efforts at concealment the bird was having none of us. So, we returned for the car, hopped in and drove up the Great Glen, hoping for further sightings. We eventually tracked the eagle down to the canal below the locks at Gairlochy. It flew down across the canal to the river, where it landed and poked away at something on the edge of the water, with its feathery feet getting well and truly wet. It then flew up into a nearby tree where it sat for ten minutes  or so, occasionally picking at whatever it had carried to the branch, whilst I watched and Angela attempted to get some photos. This time the bird was not phased, and we had some great views (but unfortunately no great photo opportunities), before the eagle eventually flew off in the direction of Loch Lochy. I subsequently learnt that a pair had been performing a courtship flight not too far from where we were watching it (as the eagle flies). Breeding attempts were not successful locally last year, so fingers crossed that “our” Sea Eagles have more joy in 2010. It would be great if they became a regular sighting in the area throughout the year.

We had an outing across to the Cairngorms yesterday, where they are still enjoying deep snow cover. The drive across was quite productive, with sightings of a Greyhen flying across the road (and a Blackcock on the return journey), Red Deer, Buzzard and Raven. A pair of Red-legged Partridge on a wall near Laggan looked most incongruous in the snow. We were less impressed with the hundreds of Pheasant, relatively scarce at home, both in the fields and splattered across the roads. Business accomplished, we set off for the little cafe featured in Autumnwatch, in the hope of easy views of Red Squirrel and Crested tit. Although we greatly enjoyed our coffee and strudle, we only saw a large number of Coal Tits and not a lot else. Parking nearby we set off for  walk around a frozen loch – rather tricky in deep snow that had iced over where others had already passed. Close to the car park, amongst Scots Pines  by the edge of the loch, Angela soon spotted a Red Squirrel. On our approach it shot off up a tree, but soon returned to forage around the base of the pines as we kept still to watch. The woods around us were full of birds, and eventually we spotted at least one Crested Tit. This was very tame and also foraged in low branches very close to the ground, near to where we were standing. None of the tits stayed still for very long, however, and getting decent photos was a different matter. Suitably enthused we set off for a bracing walk, but saw virtually nothing else, although we did hear what we thought was probably a Capercaizlie. A further excursion to Loch Garten in the hope of a short walk in search of these woodland grouse proved fruitless as the RSPB reserve there is closed until April. I wonder what happens to all the birds and squirrels that are used to being fed there when the visitors are about – a missed trick over the winter, perhaps? On the way home we caught the sunset over Loch Laggan – a fitting end to a fine winter's day.