17 June 2020

Eagle People Profiles - David Anderson


by Rick T.

17 June 2020

Todays Eagle People Profile features David Anderson, a researcher and raptor worker with a huge wealth of experience of working with Golden Eagles and other birds of prey.

David also works closely with the project, offering advice, guidance and fitting the translocated birds with their sat-tags prior to release.

Many thanks to David for contributing to our project blog.

'My first real sighting of a golden eagle was with my grandfather at Edinburgh Zoo, where 2 eagles were held in a cage near the top of the Zoo. On subsequent visits I would race to the top of the hill just to stare in wonderment at them. Knowing what I know now about Eagles; this was a pitiful existence for a bird that has such mastery of the air.

My first ever real encounter with a wild golden eagle was in the mid 70’s; I was 14 years old on a field trip to Benmore field centre in Cowal in south Argyll. It was a bright, dry day in February where snow-capped hills filled the glen. With 20 other kids, teachers and instructors, our first challenge was to scale a mountain. This was not really the group you would wish to be with when hoping for a wildlife encounter!

After an hour or so into our climb things became quieter as much of the nonsense was taken out of the kids by the steep terrain on this adventure. I was as fit as a butcher’s dog in those days and loved to be out in front with one of the instructors. As we started climbing a very steep snap the group became more strung out, I spotted a pack of grouse coming over the ridge and heading down our way. I could not believe my eyes as 14 ptarmigan in full winter plumage were cutting across the hillside against a background of snow and broken patches of heather and molinia. This was magic I thought, having never seen ptarmigan before; brilliantly white and they came so close we could see the red wattle above the eye.Then over the ridge in hot pursuit, an adult golden eagle appeared, ‘Eagle!’ I shouted out to the others.It glided across the hill face without a beat of its wings. She never caught up with the ptarmigan on that occasion; no doubt we had ruined the hunt.She only stayed in view for a few minutes or less before disappearing over the ridge. I couldn’t believe my eyes or my luck, what a day and what an encounter!

Some 10 years after this encounter, I moved to Cowal as a researcher with the Forestry Commission. As part of my work, I would go on to find the nest of this pair, which I have monitored every year since. I have often wondered if it was the bird I had seen on that day who’s nest I found 10 years later, sometimes it’s better not to know all the answers and just to wonder. The eagles are still resident in this territory; however the ptarmigan have sadly long since gone.

I am extremely lucky where eagles are concerned, I have been at the sharp end of up-to-date eagle research in this country for many years. I have had literally thousands of encounters with a bird that I still admire and feel privileged to work with. However, that first true encounter, as a boy, still sticks with me as if it was yesterday. I hope that many more people will also have the privilege to be inspired by such encounters. This is one of the many reasons that I support the south Scotland golden eagle reinforcement project.'


Photos: Top - David Anderson with sat-tagged adult male Golden Eagle. / Middle - Golden Eagle eaglet (2 & a bit weeks old)./ Golden Eagle eaglet (5 weeks old). All photos - David Anderson.