Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Tough Times of a Top Predator

The current snow is making it tough for nearly all our wildlife. Voles are happy enough tunnelling under the snow, and moles are cosy underground, but for pretty much everything else it's tough.

Our top predators will struggle to catch a meal, though they may be able to scavenge on carrion if other animals don't make it. However, one of our eagle chicks lost the battle for survival late in the autumn before the snow was upon us.

This particular chick had been tagged and had a satellite tracker on it, as it was hoped to follow its movements as part of the Cairngorms National Park Raptor Track project ( Somebody noticed that it hadn't been moving for a while - definitely a bad sign. One of the rangers went to find it with staff from the RSPB, which was easier than it might have been because its satellite tracker was still working. The chick was definitely dead but otherwise looked in reasonable condition. In fact, it was amazing to see such a powerful bird up so close, and because it was so young it still looked very pristine.

Juvenile golden eagle found among scree

The talons and beak of a golden eagle are amazing
It was sent away for a post mortem and other tests to ascertain why it died. Thes tests have all come back but have shed no light on the bird's death - no poisons, traumas or injuries, and it wasn't too underweight so it didn't starve. So it remains a mystery, all that we know is that it's a great shame that it hasn't survived to adulthood to find a territory of its own and for us to have learnt more about it and other eagles by following its movements. Hopefully this year the eagle parents will be successful again and a new chick may have more luck.