Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Sea-eagle and sandpiper

It has been a hectic week, or rather two weeks for me recently, trying to study greenshanks and golden eagles in the far north of the Scottish Highlands. All due to late snow showers and strong northerly winds. It's rather difficult to watch birds when I can't hold binoculars steady or even hold myself steady in buffeting winds. But, today turned out successful and I am back early enough to post an update.

The young white-tailed sea-eagle lifts off its feeding site leaving some morsels to a waiting raven

One evening last week, while out watching greenshank, I noticed a great black-backed gull standing on a hillside above a river. That seemed a bit out of place out on the moors, so I spied it, and immediately I saw why it was there. A white-tailed sea-eagle was a little downhill from the gull, feeding on something, I couldn't make out what. But I would not have noticed the eagle itself as it was an immature bird with no white on it. It's dark grey-brown body merged into the grey-brown hillside in the driving rain. I noticed the gull only because it was white on a dark background. I stopped and watched until the eagle had eaten enough and flew off. And as it did so, I grabbed a few poor long-range photographs through the rain, to check if it was ringed. And it was, but I couldn't make out the colours or numbers on the ring. It looks like it had been ringed as a nestling in 2014 by one of my colleagues in the Scottish Raptor Study Group, so I sent them a copy of the photograph in case they can make something of it.

Blue over yellow on the left, and dark green over metal on the right - the male of a pair a common sandpipers that have bred in the northern Highlands three times and been to Africa twice in that time, at least.

Then, on the next morning, on my way out to look for greenshanks, I saw a pair of common sandpipers feeding along a loch shore, so I stopped to check their legs for colour rings, and sure enough, both were ringed. These had been ringed by Ron Summers and Brian Etheridge of the Highland Ringing Group two years previous and when I told them about my sightings, they said the birds had not been there the day before, so the sandpipers had only just arrived back from their winter quarters in Africa that morning, or the night before. And there they were, looking as fresh as can be, having flown all those miles, not once but for their third time at least, back to their breeding grounds by a Highland loch. Wonderful birds.

No comments:

Post a Comment