A Prince Holding Court

I saw him as soon as I came over the rise. Hard not to, perched on a rock some hundred yards ahead, completely out of scale in this landscape.

I heard of them being seen around here time from time, but this is the first I have laid my eyes on one, the first time I have come close to one at all. A young bird judging by the colouring, just sitting there, that unmistakable long neck and large beak, the pronounced shoulders -- the royal posture of a sea eagle.

Of course, I have neither binoculars nor a camera, not even a phone. I am three hours into a short run that got a bit out of hand when, on the spur of a moment, I decided to wade through the loch into the no-man's land. But,

Don't need no Real-to-Reel
to tell me I've been there,
I ken that fine.*

And so I forget about the midges (and the dozens of ticks crawling over me) and just stand here watching, in awe.

The thing that takes me by surprise the most is not the eagle, but the other birds. There are about a dozen, perhaps more, mostly crows (hooded and not) sitting in a circle around it. A tight circle, two, three yards away, quite unconcerned, preening their feathers. Like a scene from the Jungle Book: a Prince holding Court.

I am seen. The eagle flaps lazily and flies in my direction, passing maybe thirty yards away, checking me out. An about turn, back at my eye level, this time no farther than fifteen yards. You read about the two-plus meter wing span, but o' my, pictures and numbers didn't prepare me for the reality.

The eagle lands back at its perch, the other birds settling once more around it; the Court is back in session. Eventually the Prince gets bored and takes off once more in the direction of the sea, and the Court rises again.

One of the carrion crows follows it, trying to peck its back.

Keep your friends close but your enemies closer.

The difference in size makes it look rather comical! The eagle seems unperturbed and, with a nonchalance of an apex predator, keeps rising and rising until it's just a dot high up in the sky.

And me? I'll be back here an hour later, with two cameras and five lenses, and the immutable Time laughing behind my back. Never mind, I ken that fine. (And you? You get a picture of a sunset instead.)


[*] Andrew Greig, Men on Ice.