The Old and the New – summer and autumn
Despite the disappointment of both pairs failing to breed in 2011 it is always worth watching eagles throughout the year, even during the summer months when eagles are harder to locate. The morning of the ninth of July was rainy so when the skies cleared at mid-day I headed out to vantage point overlooking part of the young pairs home range. No sooner had I sat down I saw the male hunting over a ridge above a native pinewood. The bird appeared to be behaving mischievously, it stooped at a roe deer causing it to flee downhill and into the woodland and then from nowhere, the female’s appearance triggered one hour and forty minutes of the birds chasing each other through and under the woodland canopy, mock fights on the moss covered boulders on the woodland floor and pulling pine branches off the canopy of one particular tree. The next visit was on the ninth of October, the birds were only seen for a short time on the southern part of the same woodland. The birds were again chasing each other and picking up and retrieving items from the heather and also breaking bits off the trees on the upper tree-line. These young birds were clearly at home in the old pinewood and I could not help wondering if these birds had been brought up in tree nests or are all young eagles adept at flying through open woodland?
A few days later I was at a vantage point in the old pair’s home range by 1030, it was quiet at first with a few thrushes, a crested tit and a buzzard breaking the silence. At 1150 the old male appeared circling below me lower down the slope, it was soon flying low over the tree I was sitting under and my note book summed up this encounter in one word – amazing. The male then went in to a full display over the trees higher up the slope before heading off east with purpose. I quickly followed round the hill to another vantage point. The next sighting was about twenty minutes later, the male was over a far ridge displaying again and soon after his mate who was about half a kilometre away was also in full display mode. It took about another ten minutes to find the reason for the adult’s behaviour – two young eagles were in the middle of the old bird’s home range. The old birds were clearly in control of the situation and at no point did they make any aggressive attacks towards two young birds who were recently fledged juveniles, which I suspect the adults are likely to have recognised. Incredibly, both juveniles were satellite tagged and they remained in the area for at least another hour. A couple of phone calls over the next few days confirmed the origin of these unrelated young birds. One was from a nest two home ranges to the east and the other from a nest more than 50km to the east. The tracking data for the latter bird confirmed that this was its first trip away from its natal home range and, that it returned home that evening.
2012 for both the young and old birds mirrored 2011, neither pair laid eggs. At the start of another year hopes are high that the young pair will breed for the first time in this, the Year of Natural Scotland.
Keith Duncan, January 2013