I have a new lens; more of that later. Today I have something more important to do than testing lens combinations, more important than doing a bit of re-wiring in the camper, even more important than scouring ebay for the next bit of photo-tech: I have borrowed books to read.
On Boxing Day there was a brief window of fine weather forecast in the morning so I decided early to drive down to the nearest place to see interesting flocks of birds: a wetland reserve with a name which conjures up the sounds of ducks and birds with long beaks – Penclacwyth near Llanelli. It’s about a 45 minute drive from here and as I passed Llandovery in the grey light of a mid-winter dawn, I pondered on how I would get more information about the eagles of Scotland. Specialist books on birds are expensive and I had just spent a large chunk of capital on a big lens. Driving is a good way of relaxing the subconscious. It allows space for random thoughts, and there it was! Ping. A light went on. Did I not have a friend who has (probably) the largest collection of books on nature in private hands? Hadn’t I been reminding myself to email him? This is the local man who has rescued 9 species from extinction, chief and founder of the Mauritius Wildlife Foundation and international expert in the techniques used in the conservation of endangered species. We had seen very little of Carl Jones and his family (Paula and their two young children Oliver and Eleri) lately since we had gone to London to see him collect the prestigious Indianapolis Prize for being a “Conservation pioneer, leader and hero.”!
With eagle in 2003
Acceptance speech in 2016
The next we heard was that his life was in danger: he was about to start a daily treatment regime in Swansea for prostate cancer. Emails passed to and fro. The treatment had, so far, been successful and he was in Mauritius until Christmas. Carl would surely be able to lend me a book on eagles – after all he had owned and flown a captive one for years. It would be a good excuse to drop in without ceremony, catch up on their news and enjoy a conversation with old friends. (Both adults are deaf friendly: Carl has a loud voice and Paula a clear one.) I would ring on my way back in the afternoon.
I was nervous about how I would find them, so was very relieved to find Paula looking fit, healthy and cheerful, Oliver even taller and still a little shy, Eleri little more than a pair of gorgeous bright eyes peeping out from behind Paula, and Car, now officially in remission, thin and greying but cheerful and more than happy to talk. I left there with seven books – almost all of them collectors’ items. They are:
- The Golden Eagle by Seton Gordon
- The Golden Eagle with chapters on The Sea Eagle by J Whitaker
- The Golden Eagle by Jeff Watson
- The Return of the Sea Eagle by John A Love
- A Saga of Sea Eagles by John A Love
- The White Tailed Eagle in Norway by Johan Fr. Willgohs
- Highland Birds by D. Nethersole-Thompson
So that’s my research programme. I owe it to Carl not to waste any more time browsing the internet for things of interest, and checking messages on Facebook. Some of the books will be hard going, but I don’t need to read every word to increase my knowledge of these wonderful birds. After all I am starting from a very low base. I know a lot more about kites than I do about eagles and that’s not saying much.