Sunday, 15 July 2012

Eagles and Otters

Out again today and our first stop produced 3 otters feeding in a freshwater loch on Benbecula. Initially difficult to see as they were feeding under the semi-emergent vegetation before they came out on the bank and lolloped around in an exuberant manner. They re-entered the loch to fish with one of the two youngsters showing well chasing and catching eels around a rock promontory before finally disappearing on a small vegetated island. In all we probably watched their escapades for 30 - 40 minutes before moving on to North Uist. Short-eared Owls appeared in good numbers as well as a couple of male Hen Harriers before once again we located another family of otters with 2 youngsters.

After around half an hour of watching the family feeding and running around on a small rocky island the 2 youngsters decided to swim to our side of the tidal inlet. The 2 of them gave excellent views as they swam through the aqua-marine waters stopping to feed on small fish within 30 feet of the shore. Eventually they appeared to hear the shutter of the camera clicking and they headed back towards the haven of their rocky island, calling for mum as they swam. They clambered out on the rocks and after a short grooming session settled down to snooze in a tangle of furry bodies.
Following this was going to be difficult but our Golden Eagle sighting was also something quite special. The first bird rose to the south of us providing us with good views as it sailed past our elevated position. Without a wing beat it soared away into the distance where it began to circle and was joined by a second larger bird, the female of the pair. They circled for a while before one suddenly folded it's wings and began to rocket towards the moor in a shallow stoop. Close to the ground it pulled up at the last minute as a female Hen Harrier twisted out of reach. The second eagle joined in the pursuit stooping at the harrier as it desperately tried to evade both birds. There was another attempt by the eagles to catch the harrier but each time the harrier managed to out manoeuvre them. After a frantic few mintues as the eagles circled the harrier managed to gain some height and eventually spiral up on a thermal above it's attackers. Almost at cloud height the harrier folded its wings and left the scene as fast as it could leaving the eagles behind.

One of the best things about being out in the field showing people the wildlife of the islands is that every now and then you witness a piece of fascintaing behaviour which allows a little more insight into the lives of the animals of the islands.

Western Isles Wildlife

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