Friday, 18 June 2010

Ringing golden eagle chicks

I spent Monday ringing golden eagle chicks with Ewan who is studying their habitat use. All three nests were in Scots pines and there was only one chick in each, which is unusual for the area they live in. They often rear three chicks as there is abundant prey in the area, mostly mountain hares, red grouse and ptarmigan.

Ewan climbing up to one nest which requires skilled rope-work to do so safely.

Me with a five-week old chick. The eyries are so large that there is plenty room to sit on the nest along with the bird.

Two plucked red grouse lie in the nest with the chick.

Sunday, 13 June 2010


It is raining so I have taken time out. While staying with friends I noticed the rainwater droplets forming on the plants outside the kitchen window, particularly on the blue petals of the mecanopsis, Himalayan poppies. The rain stopped so I dashed out and took the advantage of the fresh light and colour saturation, which brings out the blue of the petals - that is usually washed out by bright sunlight.

Saturday, 12 June 2010

Great days on the hills
The past week has been a bit mixed weather-wise in the hills. But I have managed to grab some brilliant days out on the tops. The shot below of cloud rolling over the summit of Blaven in Skye was taken while I sat out the end of a wet and windy period. I was busy checking greenshank and twite for colour-rings when I looked up and saw these fantastic patterns weaving through the pinnacles.
The next three shots were taken on a traverse of the Grey Corries two days later. Clear blue sky with fluffy clouds, no wind and easy walking once up on the high ground. The snowy peak in the far distance is Ben Nevis. There is so much variety of terrain in the Scottish hills. I'll never be bored.

Sunday, 6 June 2010


I was out at the seacliffs today checking on the stage of breeding seabirds. The first kittiwake and guillemot chicks are now hatching.
A newly hatched kittiwake peaks out from under its parent.

If you look closely, you can see tiny balls of fluff under the bellies of the adult guillemots.
The first ptarmigan chicks have hatched at the Cairnwell, my main study site. I photographed this hen as she ran around me trying to lure me away from her chicks.
Another hen was off her nest feeding and being escorted by her mate. And another cock bird up on Glas Maol was standing on watch over his hen while she sat on her nest. There was a dunlin nesting close by and I photographed both together, which is unusual.


Last weekend I went to Sutherland and met up with several other wader enthusiasts to catch and colour-ring greenshanks. This was a pilot study to test how readily we could catch adult and young birds. This proved to be successful and we marked eighteen birds with individual combinations of colour rings and metal BTO rings. One bird we caught was a control of a bird originally ringed at Montrose last autumn. More details should be posted on the Grampian Ringing Group blog site at

An adult greenshank with colour rings.

A brood of three greenshank chicks with colour rings.

The greenshank which was ringed at Montrose last autumn and breeding in Sutherland in 2010.

For the first week of my trip I went across to the west and climbed several hills, part for fun and part of study where ptarmigan live, which habitats, over what bedrock etc. I based myself at the KingsHouse in Glen Coe from where the morning view was of the Buachaille Etive Mor, perhaps the finest-shaped hill in Scotland.

I had some great days out on these hills, in sun, and cloud, but no rain or midges. The view below is of the fine ridge climbing up to the summit of Sgorr Dhearg on Beinn a' Bheithir.
Another hill I went up was Beinn Sgulaird in Appin, above Loch Creran, where I found a female ptarmigan sitting on her nest and nine eggs - a large clutch for the western Highlands and an indication of good quality food on the base-rich bedrock in the area.
Long-eared owl chicks

I am in Scotland for a few weeks and one of the first things I did on arrival was go out in the evening with my brother to ring some long-eared owl chicks. These birds nest in old crow nests, set in dense conifers - sitka spruce in this case. Nice and dark under the canopy for the owls to hide in during the day. The chicks have big orange eyes and the beginnings of their ear tufts. At this age they are highly mobile and can easily clamber around the nest tree branches.