Tuesday, 19 July 2016

Honeysuckle Eyrie

The Golden Eagle breeding season is almost over, with most of the chicks fledging soon or having already left their nest. This one was jumping about and exploring its surroundings, taking very short flights between the nest and an adjacent ledge. It hadn't yet taken its first full flight a few days ago, but it might have done so by now as I write this.

This bird has been reared in one of my favourite eagle eyries, set below a deep overhang with a lush growth of honeysuckle which was in full bloom. How did the honeysuckle get there? Perhaps the eagles brought in sprigs to add to the eyrie and seeds came with them. The plant is certainly vigorous, probably a result of fertilisation from the droppings and prey remains in the eyrie.

This the first time I have seen a chick fledge from that nest since I first knew it in 1982. The birds have alternative nests on nearby cliffs and last year they raised a chick in one of those, which is very high and rather inaccessible. In the past, the birds' breeding efforts usually failed if they tried to nest on this relatively low and accessible crag. Disturbance was the most likely cause for their failure as they were usually successful if they nested on the big cliff. This territory is on ground once used for sheep rearing, and now that sheep numbers have been greatly reduced in that area and in the Highlands in general, there seems to be less disturbance.

There was a heavy mist when I checked the eyrie, some would call it rain, but the chick was well sheltered by the overhang. I was soaked through. The chick had a lovely big nest to play about in, and the view from the cliff is quite dramatic. What a wonderful eyrie to grow up in.

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