Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Snowy Mountains

I was snow-boarding up in the Snowy mountains last week, and it was snowy. There was a steady south-east wind bringing in cold moist air all week. This created constant light snowfall and freezing fog. The best riding was through the woods on deep consolidated snow, picking your own slalom route through the trees.

 The leaves on the snow gums were coated with thick ice as the fog froze around them.

 The granite tors were coated in ice too.

The whole landscape was deep in winter's grip. Wonderful stuff.

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Ringing a Golden Eagle Chick

Yesterday I was up in one the more remote glens in the Scottish Highlands ringing a Golden Eagle chick. The eyrie is set in a high corrie, on a cliff overlooking the wide glen below.

There was only one chick in the nest, about six and a half weeks old. It would have hatched in mid-May when the weather was rather wet and windy, which could explain why there was only one chick when eagles in that area can easily rear two chicks per year. Eagles here usually lay two eggs and as there was no sign of a failed egg, it could be assumed that one chick had died earlier - perhaps due to the adults not being able to provide enough food for two.

Ewan Weston clambered over to the nest and ringed the chick as well as collected DNA samples for parental identity and other relatedness with other samples from birds collected over recent years. The nest is typically large for a golden eagle and easily big enough to hold our weight and size as well as that of the chick.

 Prey items in and around the eyrie included mountain leveret, red grouse chick, meadow pipit juvenile and a water vole - a species considered rare in the UK now, although they are common in some Highland glens such as where this one would have been caught.

Monday, 4 July 2011

Barn Owls

Summer is well on in Scotland with most birds feeding large young and many are fledged. One species which is often a little later to breed is the Barn Owl and today I went with my brother Rab to a barn owl friendly farmer, Chris's barn. The nest is is a box placed for the owls on top of a stack of round hay bales and there were three chicks and a dud egg in the box. The chicks were a perfect age for ringing.

Barn owls have long pointed faces, not round faces like other owls such as Tawny or Great Grey. The chicks are very docile, almost falling over in a sort of drowsiness trance while being handled. And they have black eyes, none of those piercing yellow or orange irises like Short-Eared or Long-Eared Owls.