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Sea eagle encounter

White tailed sea eagle perched on a cairn
This is the very image I saw on that morning. A white-tailed sea eagle perched on a cairn.

‘What a funny cairn on that hill’, I say while eating my morning porridge. Usually, on the islands and mainland Highlands, you see these stacks of stones on the highest point of the island. In the days before GPS, they were used as naval markers.
But this particular one looks a bit funny. Perhaps a cairn builder who took his job a bit too seriously and build it just a tad too big?
Alexander grabs his camera and zoomed in on the stack. ‘That is no stack but a bird sitting on the stack, a rather large bird. Probably an eagle.’

The bird perched on the stack has a good vantage point to overlook Loch Roag. It overviews all comings and goings in the bay, potential food or potential rivals.
We finish breakfast while watching the bird. Perhaps the bird observes us as well, but we will never know.
After coffee, we start to clear out and put our stuff back in the boat. We set out for the Callanish circle today.
The bird left the hilltop as we climb into our kayaks. In flight, we could clearly see the bird is showing all the telltale signs of a sea eagle. On big broad wings, it is circling at a high altitude, looking for food. At least I think it is looking for food, isn’t that what drives birds of that size?
We enjoy the scenery of the islands. Got out the boat to have lunch at the bridge of Little Berneray. Walk up to the standing stones near the bridge, just everyday things.

I paddle just a few meters behind Alexander just looking around when I see a big shape in the sky just above Alexander’s head.

I cry out in complete silence, my mouth hangs open and it is mouthing unuttered words. My eyes are almost popping out of my head. Feeling soooo excited, my mind is blowing, I’ve got shivers going through my spine. No camera to take a picture of that moment, of course, didn’t think of it, my mind was doing something else entirely.

I borrowed this picture from

It is the sea eagle, checking out the kayak, just a few feet above the boat. As Alex looks up, the eagle changes course and flies off. If Alex would have reached out he could have touched the bird.

Only when the event is over I find words for what I just witnessed. I do cry out to Alexander… But he seems a bit oblivious of the event. The first sound I do utter is yelling and then; ‘Did you see that!!! Did you see that!! Wow!! I mean, that was close!’ But then in Dutch. Somehow I utter true amazement in Dutch.

I can not stop talking about how amazingly grey the eagle was. And the size, it was massive! Big yellow talons, big yellow beak! It is too much to comprehend the moment. My face is still doing the open mouth, popping eyes thing.

But why, what was the intention of the bird with this flyby? Did Alexander look like a nice appetizing snack or was it just curious? Did it check the boat out because it never saw a kayak before? Maybe we looked like two struggling half drowning animals in the water. Deer do swim from island to island. A swimming deer could be a potentially easy meal for an eagle of that size.
I question this way too much, that is too much human behaviour projected on a sea eagle. I might even think the bird was giving Alexander directions to the pub or the best way to catch a deer.

Calanish circle
Callanish stone circle.

We arrive at the Callanish stone circle, and although it is ancient and interesting I cannot enjoy the world heritage site because I’m still too much in awe of the eagle encounter.

1 Comment

  1. The Cedar Journal on 02/11/2019 at 12:07

    I bet that was spectacular!! I love it when bald eagles fly down in front of me and pick fish out of the water. Only I don’t like it much when I am fishing and not catching anything myself.

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