Although I am not a morning person, I was very willing to get up slightly earlier yesterday in order to see the golden eagles that I was promised. The purpose of this survey was to locate the nest (John luckily had a good idea of where it was) and determine if there were any chicks and how many. This early start was necessary as it was quite a hike to this nest following a fairly precarious path along a cliff, one that apparently is prone to rock slides which was not the most reassuring of thoughts! We eventually arrived at a site that was close enough to the nest to see it through the use of a telescope and this was the start of our vigil. This can be a tedious part of conservation work as during surveys the majority of time is spent watching nothing and it takes a certain level of willpower to stick it out. This is particularly the case in Scotland as the weather was not in our side as we were bombarded with icy cold winds and rain, despite the fact that this is July!
Although these weren't the most comfortable of conditions, it did not make the moment when we first got the glimpse of the chick any less magical. This chick was obviously as unimpressed with the weather as we were so didn't venture to the edge of nest for long but it allowed us to see that it is maturing well with much of its head covered with its adult black feathers and only a small amount of down feathers around its beak. Now that this chick has got to this stage of maturity its chances of survival are much higher which of course made us all very happy. We didn't see any signs of a second chick which is a shame as eagles often have two but the rearing of one healthy chick is defiantly a success considering the fact that there is only around 400 breeding pairs left in the wild.
The next challenge for me will be to get a closer look at the adult birds as the closest I got was only a far away silhouette but this requires even more intense rock climbing so I may have to work on my fitness before that happens!
The next survey of the day included a bat count that we conducted at about 10 in the evening as it began to get dark. The most common species of bat here is the pipistrelle bat and there are 2 areas on the island that they are known to colonise, although the are prone to changing the roost sites frequently which can make keeping track of numbers more difficult. This survey was straightforward as it began after the first bat was sighted and then it was just a matter of counting any bats seen coming out of the roost site after that. This took about an hour and ended when no new bats had been sighted for about 10 minutes. There was defiantly a contrast in bat numbers between the roosts, with my team counting around 150 compared to the 6 the other team observed which they were not overly impressed about! The most bats that have been counted at one site on Eigg so far has been over 250, I can imagine that was a long night!
My day ended therefore with a midnight walk across the island to a very welcome bed and the comforting thought that I will now get a couple of days off. However, I'm already excited about next week's adventures...