Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Ptarmigan nest sites

Rock Ptarmigan in Scotland usually nest close to boulders, which probably reduces the risk of detection by predators as their cryptically patterned plumage merges well with the colour and form of the lichen-covered rock. It was wet, in low cloud yesterday and this bird's back was covered with pearls of moisture.   

There are few human artifacts in the ptarmigan habitat of the high ground in the Highlands, but one such is the erection of snow-fences at the ski-resorts. And these decay over the years. I have known several ptarmigan nests to be placed near these, presumably for shelter from predators, but possibly also from wind, rain and snow. There are two such nests in my study area this year.One is at the base of an upright but partially broken fence.

Another nest was placed under a section of fallen fence. Both birds sat still, confiding in their camouflage for protection.

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Golden Eagle paper

A scientific paper of which I am a co-author has been accepted for publication by the journal Ornis Fennica.

Adam Watson, Stuart Rae & Sandy Payne: Mirrored sequences of colonisation and abandonment by pairs of Golden Eagles Aquila chrysaetos.

As the summary states:
'We report colonisation by extra breeding pairs of Golden Eagles Aquila chrysaetos, and
subsequent abandonments, in part of northeast Scotland during 1895–1985. The number
of pairs rose from three in 1895–1937 to eight by 1948, and then fell to four during 1959–
71 in reverse of the colonisation sequence. This fits the concept of hierarchic quality of
habitat used, or of bird quality. Possible mechanisms to explain this are discussed.'

This is now available for view in the online early page of their website: 

Mixed Spring 

This Spring in Scotland has been mostly cold with a long run of northerly winds. There was a warm spell earlier though and this well-grown leveret has escaped the worst weather.

A colony of common gulls nesting on the Aberdeenshire hills have done less l, as this clutch of abandoned eggs shows. The nest was abandoned during a snow storm which has covered the eggs, and since then  one of the eggs has been eaten.

 Meanwhile, these house martins are busy collecting mud for their nests. Taking advantage of the wet  weather.

Friday, 11 May 2012

New book out

My new book on eagles has just arrived from the printers and is now available from Langford Press. , and also Amazon, Borders etc.

That was the plug. As for content, what do you get. Well, I have tried to portray my experiences and knowledge of golden eagles and their ecology in the Scottish Highlands, using words and photographs all taken by myself. This is not a dry academic text, nor is it a coffee-table book. Rather, using the high quality production of Langford Press, and modern styling, the book gives a feel of what it is like to walk hundreds, thousands of miles over many years, let's say about forty years, studying golden eagles. I have shared the Highlands with these birds; the weather, the scenery and all that is there. And I have collected a long run of scientific data, with the results published in academic journals. Eagles are an integral part of the Highland ecology, and in this book I have tied together various strands of the one and the whole.

          The nictitating membrane flicks across an eaglets eye. Photographed at 1/800th of a second.

On still mornings, eagles will simply sit on a highpiont and watch for prey, only rising in the sky when the wind rises.

Meanwhile, I am currently busy in the Highlands, studying eagles, the story never stops......