Patience pays off for eagle-eyed Angus

AB IMAGES  SCOTLAND'30  JACKSON STREET'PENICUIK'MIDLOTHIAN'EH26  9BH
AB IMAGES SCOTLAND'30 JACKSON STREET'PENICUIK'MIDLOTHIAN'EH26 9BH

ASTONISHING images of golden eagles hunting in the Borders have been captured by a local photographer.

Freelance photographer, Angus Blackburn, took the amazing photographs recently at a secret location in the region.

His pictures show a bird which experts estimate to be around seven years old and Angus says the giant bird of prey was hunting hares at the time he managed to get it into view through the lens of his camera.

Golden eagles are extremely rare in the Borders and their exact locations are a closely-guarded secret.

Penicuik-based Angus, who has contributed numerous fantastic pictures to the pages of TheSouthern over the years, says he has spent many hours over the years waiting patiently to get just the right shot when it comes to wildlife photography.

“I have spent many an hour crouched waiting for the moment to capture on camera wildlife in action. When that time comes you have to be prepared to work quickly as events unfold and are gone in the blink of an eye,” he told us.

“I wear a ghillie suit, the sort of item worn by snipers in the Army, to keep myself disguised – but even then any sharp movement by me will be spotted by the birds.

“The eagle came in with the sun behind it and above my position. When the hare was spotted the eagle rose up for a moment – the hare, still not moving, was hidden from view – and then plunged down on its prey.

“I moved round to a different position, by which time the sun had come out low in the sky from behind some clouds. The evening light falling on the bird gave it a spectacular golden colour with its hackles raised having just made the kill.

“It was a privilege to be there and witness such a special event in nature.”

Currently, those involved with surveying the eagle population of the Borders put the resident number of Scotland’s most majestic bird in this region at just one solitary male.

Neil MacDonald has extensive experience as a volunteer worker for the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds in the Borders, including surveying the local eagle population.

He says Angus’s photographs will be the first time that the majority of Borderers will have seen images of local eagles hunting in the wild.

“At the moment the Borders only has one resident eagle, an adult male. The bird in Angus’s pictures is probably a juvenile passing through the area.

“We had hoped last year the resident male might find a mate but it was not to be and eagles are now on the verge of extinction in the Borders.

“Angus’s photographs will be the first time many people have seen images of a local eagle. Apart from a handful of hill farmers and those involved with bird surveys, most people just don’t get the chance to see eagles in the Borders.”

And Neil says unless something is done, photographs such as those taken by Angus will soon be a thing of the past.

“The Minch Moor together with the Ettrick, Yarrow and Peebles areas were the core area for eagles historically in the Borders. We know they were there.

“But posionings plus forestry have brought them to vanishing point from this part of Scotland and I and many others fear that the disturbance from wind farm construction plus the threat from turbine blades will be the final nail in the eagles’ coffin.

“If something is not done now it will be bye-bye Borders eagles for at least the next 25 years.”