Archives for November 2009

Searching for golden eagles

BBC Autumnwatch wanted to see some golden eagles for their last program of the autumn, this Friday, and wondered if I could help. This morning, I took them to a good place, but after standing around in the cold for more than an hour no eagles had joined the ravens soaring above us. Kate Humble had asked me about the winter lives of eagles and how best to see them, but sadly no eagle appeared above us so we had to leave. Some miles further on, I suddenly found two eagles soaring just above the road, with one of them chasing a young red deer. I stopped and waved to the following vehicles. Cameramen,crew and presenter all jumped out and we had the most marvellous views of three golden eagles above us in bright sunshine. A really white marked juvenile, a 3-year-old and a near adult; we did not get all 3 together in the same field of view but often two were together playing in the skies. Eagle sightings at any time of the year are just so much luck.

Tom, our satellite tagged eagle, is still remaining in remote mountain country on the borders of Highland, Aberdeenshire and Perthshire; he seems very settled there.

Tracking the godwit

In the last few weeks, the satellite tracked bar-tailed godwit has been spending most of its time at Whiteness Sands to the west of Nairn. At high tide it has sometimes been roosting at Ardersier, where we caught and marked it last March. It proved to be a nonbreeding bird which summered in the Moray Firth, mainly in the Dornoch Firth and north to Brora.

Today, I decided to try to find it and have a look at what it was doing at low tide. I went to the big sand flats at midday, as the tide was dropping, and first all counted the waders from the dunes. 530 oystercatchers, 59 curlew, 800 knot, 120 dunlin, 19 sanderling, 32 ringed plover and 19 bar-tailed godwit. The godwits were too far out to check for a satellite transmitter, so I walked out over the sand flats. After a good bit of searching, I located the bird feeding with 4 other godwits at the edge of the water. It seemed very attached to a female godwit, which in this species is larger. The godwits were actively catching worms, digging down through the sand with their long bills. Our satellite tagged bird was behaving just like the rest, and it was good to see that it was in excellent condition and that the base of the bill was bright orangy – it looked to be heading into summer plumage, and hopefully next February – as long as it avoids peregrine falcons – it should head off to the continent and then later in the spring to Siberia.

The godwit with its satellite transmitter