Wednesday, 13 April 2016

The Last Eagle

It started with a question, 'has anyone seen the eagle?' followed by the long-expecetd news that England's last remaining resident Golden Eagle at Haweswater has not been seen so far this Spring during weekend searches.

It was with a heavy heart that I broke the news on the BirdGuides twitter account this evening. It may yet prove false but after 12 years soaring the skies above Riggindale alone, if not this Spring it will surely happen before we see out the decade.

The Haweswater Golden Eagles probably provided many thousands of birders they're first experience with an iconic bird, for many it will be the only Golden Eagle encounter they have had in England. We'll wake tomorrow to a country less wild than before, nature one step further from us, one step closer to simply being a shadow of itself.

Like many the Lake District eagles provided some of my formative birdwatching experiences. Trips across at Easter became an annual pilgrimage for several years. Coming from the East Coast the trip would regularly provide the first chance to catch up with spring migrants as we walked around into the steep-sided valley to the cries of Lesser Black-backed Gulls from the island. A Wheatear sat up on a rock, perhaps a Ring Ouzel singing from high above before . Peregrines would always show first, sometimes we'd have to make do with a smudgy shape just visible above the eyrie. One or two trips we hit lucky with an eagle soaring out from the rocky valley sides, mobbed by a Peregrine. It was special, it felt like meeting royalty.

We would head back east refreshed, exhilarated for another year, a fix of pure wildness mainlined. I hope that this loss becomes the spur to take action. I don't know if a reintroduction is possible, I suspect it's doubtful that more than a handful of pairs could exist in an England that increasingly feels like a place hostile to nature but I know that without them we live in a country that's a poorer place.