23 May 2020

The Wright Strokes - Sketches from Eagle Country #3


by Rick T.

23 May 2020

Eagle Officer John Wright relives one of his most memorable Eagle encounters.

It all started with a male Capercaillie…..

It was late January 1994 and I was walking along a track in a Caledonian pine forest on Deeside when I noticed a large black object out of the corner of my eye. I turned my head to find a male Capercaillie standing bolt upright 15 metres from the edge of the track.

I had seen Capers before but never this close. We had a staring competition for 60 seconds before the Capercaillie decided to throw in the towel and fly off like a rocket deeper into the forest. While I was processing and reliving the Caper that was now burnt on to my retinas, I suddenly noticed a dozen or so black birds heading straight towards me from the moor. They were Black Grouse, 11 males, and they weren’t happy. They landed in the top of a Scots Pine and hunkered down nervously for several minutes before the group exploded out of the tree and flew further into the forest.

Before I could wonder what had upset them, two adult Golden Eagles came in from the moor. That explained the blind panic of the grouse. I stood rooted to the spot as one of the eagles entered the forest and flew at great speed in between the tree trunks like a giant accipiter, no more than 50 metres from me. It was clearly very focused on hunting as it had completely failed to see me standing out in the open.

I made a few quick pencil sketches and added some colour when I got back to the car. I’ve encountered Golden Eagles in many countries since but none have ever come close to matching what I experienced in that Caledonian pine forest - John Wright

All sketches - John Wright