21 May 2018
This morning I scrambled up a small ridge near a track. It was a long walk from where the van is parked and It was misty – the wind-blown edges of the low cloud. It was an area I had marked out on my first visit to the district 3 years ago, but since then a lot of engineering work has been going on – diggers, generators, stone breakers, rollers, the works. Even if there was an eyrie there I felt sure the disturbance would have driven them away at least for this year. Nevertheless, It still looked like my best chance, so I spent time scanning the cliff. I can’t say how I found it, but eventually I got the big lens focussed on a little smudge on the cliff face and there they were: an adult Golden Eagle standing by the nest and bits of white fluff poking up. I didn’t have the 1.4 extender on the lens but fired off a load of shots anyway. The light was fairly good and the eyrie was inside my half-mile limit – just.
Back at the van I anxiously went through them, cropping, enhancing and sharpening. They were not portrait shots but good clear pictures of the bird in its true environment: rocks and pine trees in the highlands.
I decided to return in the afternoon with my pop-up hide, tripod and both extender lenses. It was a gamble with the weather. Visibility was poor, but if the light was going to improve it would do so in the afternoon. I set up the hide as quickly as possible, got inside and set up the tripod and camera. First I tried the x2 extender. It was a stationary subject so I could push the shutter speed down, but there was not enough light. The x 1.4 was better and I got a few good pictures confirming that there were two sturdy youngsters still in their down. The adult bird maintained the same stance for the hour I spent watching – didn’t seem to move a muscle – and she was looking slightly over her shoulder towards me all the time. Eagles of course have much better eyesight than humans and I had little doubt that the watching was mutual. Lots of movement from the youngsters; none at all from the parent. I was happy with this because it meant she was not concerned enough to fly off. The mist turned to rain, visibility declined, my legs and feet were getting wet as the wind blew the tent against them, and much more importantly, my lens was getting wet. It was time to call it a day; time indeed to call it a very special day. It’s an hour’s walk back and my shoulders were complaining at all the weight, but so what – I feel like a proper bird photographer. Now I can set off tomorrow morning early on my 2 day drive home feeling that I have achieved what I set out to achieve – some pictures of Golden Eagles too sensitive to publish!