9 February 2024

Meet Donald (F47)


by Rick T.

9 February 2024

Donald (F47) is a young male eagle who was collected from a very accessible low crag in Tayside and Fife on the 7th June 2023. No climbers were required at this site as it was possible to walk up to this eyrie due to its remote and undisturbed location.

Donald shared an aviary with another young male Haworth (164) and was released on the 19th of July, weighing 4kg.

Donald was named by the John Muir Trust in memory of Donald Macleod, a respected local surgeon and committed John Muir volunteer who sadly passed away last year.

John Muir Trust Glenlude Manager, Karen Purvis, remembers pillar of the Borders community and dedicated conservation volunteer Donald Macleod who sadly passed away in 2023.

Glenlude – our 149-hectare site near Innerleithen in the Scottish Borders – was bequeathed to the John Muir Trust by the late Sheila Bell who wanted to ensure that her restoration of the former sheep farm and conifer plantation would continue.

During my 12 years of caring for Glenlude, hundreds and possibly thousands of volunteers have contributed to transforming the site’s non-native conifer plantations into flourishing native woodlands, creating a mosaic of native habitats and increased biodiversity.

Among our earliest volunteers was Donald Macleod, who I first met at a Glenlude open day in 2012 along with his wife Lucile. Donald soon became a key member of our regular conservation work parties and our local Borders Members’ Group. He would turn out whatever the weather with a smile and his legendary banter to plant and tend young trees, build brash hedges, rebuild drystone walls, remove old fences, and greatly assist us in our work to make Glenlude the thriving place it is today.

Donald Macleod planting trees on his 80th birthday at Glenlude.

Well known in Borders and international rugby circles as the ‘Rugby Doctor’ for his pioneering work in sports medicine, Donald also supported countless local committees and community events at a grass roots level. Passionate about supporting young sports people and a keen rugby player in his youth, he was the president of Selkirk Rugby Club before becoming president of the Scottish Rugby Union. While in post he also chaired the Ettrick Sports Committee - a small local group that brings friends and families from the valley together each year.

Donald’s love of the hills and the outdoors shone through, along with his passion for cycling (he cycled from Lands’ End to John O’Groats for his 70th Birthday) and walking the Ettrick Hills with his family.

In 2023 our partners in the South of Scotland Golden Eagle Project invited us to name one of their young golden eagles who were about to be released into the Southern Uplands following translocation from nests in the Highlands.

To commemorate Donald’s dedication to caring for nature, people and community, which epitomises the spirit of our conservation volunteers, it was fitting that an eagle – a symbol of wild places and the restorative power and freedom they offer - should bear his name.

Above: Talla (left) and Donald (right) shortly after release - Summer 2023 – Credit: John Wright/SSGEP

Raptor worker Dan Spinks of Tayside & Fife RSG who monitors the nest said:

‘We have worked well with the donor estates in Angus this year and last. We really appreciate the support and enthusiasm of the landowner and his team with the golden eagle monitoring on this estate, and with the (SSGE) project in 2023. The collection process and relocation team were great to work with too, and they were very attentive to the birds needs. Cat and her team have kept us up to date with how the F47 got on in the aviary and his subsequent fledging and exploration of the Borders. F47’s sibling fledged in July and is also doing well in Angus. We look forward to hearing more of ‘Donald’s updates!’

The owner of the donor sporting estate in the Angus Glens added:

‘I have mentioned F47 to most of our shooting guests who were all intrigued about the project and delighted to hear of its success; helped by numerous sightings of his sister as she watched from up on high – undoubtedly with one eye on any pheasants missed by the dogs’.

A huge thank you to everyone who contributed to this blog.