Feathered Friends

Driving along Glengorm’s access road is something that I do daily. As a commute, it takes a bit of beating – and not just because of the scenery.

On Mull, being a birdwatcher with a driving licence really puts your peripheral vision to the test. There are few things more frustrating [and potentially life-threatening] than spotting choice birds behind the wheel.

Clearly, safety has to be the priority here… but that doesn’t mean we have to like it!

Some of my best encounters with birds of prey have taken place on the Glengorm track. Happily, this stretch of road is quiet – so pulling over isn’t often a problem.

Yesterday I was treated to an outstanding view of a peregrine falcon, resting on a sun-warmed outcrop.

This is not a bird to be passed up – ever – so I carefully wound down the window.

His glossy head bobbed up and down menacingly. Around it, small birds fizzed and tweeted in an agitated satellite belt.

I have a couple of peregrine wing feathers at home. They are boldly zigzagged in black and white – everything about them is sharp and precise, just like their owner.

On other days it might be a hen harrier or even a tiny merlin that I stop to watch. The open expanse of heather surrounding the road is a magnet for upland species.

But my favourites, without doubt or hesitation, are the resident pair of golden eagles. The wind has to be just right to keep them near to the track, so seeing them on my commute is always a treat.

The female is the loveliest – perhaps due in part to her larger and more impressive size.

The feathers around her nape have that special silky quality that you sometimes get on cockerels. When the sun catches them just right, they shine like plate armour; slipping seamlessly layer by layer as she turns her head.

Just by looking at them, you know that they would be impossibly soft and cool to the touch.

When I see the eagles close to the road they tend to keep their distance; higher up, they will sometimes circle low and tilt their heads down.

I wonder if they recognise me – they certainly don’t come across many other people wandering through their lonely hills.

Invariably, I will be grinning like an idiot and teetering about on my tip-toes to try and get a better view… they’re probably expecting me to keel over and die at any moment! This behaviour must seem very strange from their perspective.

Unfortunately, they have not been successful in rearing young since my arrival on Glengorm. I’m hoping against hope that this year will be different.

Seeing this pair with chicks would surely make for a blue-sky kind of day.

Stephanie Cope

Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetos), Falconer's bird perched on ground (controlled), Southern Scotland, February
Thumb & main image credit: Laurie Campbell  – www.lauriecampbell.com