During a wildlife excursion on the Isle of Mull this Autumn we observed a ‘once in a lifetime’ natural spectacle. It was mid-afternoon and we were travelling west alongside one of Mull’s many sea lochs, which indent the island greatly. I was scanning the terraced skyline and spotted a large bird stooping down vigorously at something on ground level which was out of view. The general profile and behaviour of the bird confirmed that this was a Golden Eagle and it was in hunting mode.
As the group and I got into a better position we discovered that the noble bird was mobbing a Red Deer ‘nursery group’ consisting of adult females (hinds) and their young from this year (fawns). The eagle managed to break a mother and it’s youngster away from the herd and the avian predator then made a very bold move; it attempted to grasp the fawn in it’s talons, but was unsuccessful. This action was amazingly captured on camera by one of our guests, Dawid Banasiak.
I’ve read about this behaviour in Golden Eagle literature but feel privileged to have been in the right place to witness this eagle ecology taking place. Golden Eagles are highly opportunistic hunters and can prey on anything from a Meadow Pipit of 15g to a new born Red Deer at 15kg.
I’ll always remember during primary school on a class trip to a natural history museum I saw a stuffed Golden Eagle, so powerful and elegant on display. My thoughts were, “There is no way that can be a species in existence today, it has to be something out of a fairytale movie!” Since then, wild encounters with this species have helped inspire me and spark a more committed interest in our natural heritage. In Italian this species is called Aquila Reale, the Royal Eagle, and on every Golden Eagle encounter in the wilds I am tempted to bow down when I see that heraldic pose!