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Your first sighting of a Golden Eagle is usually a large bird predator breaking the skyline, and often being chased by Ravens or Hooded Crows, particularly during the breeding season, May to July, when all birds are very territorial in their behaviour. Here you will often see the White Tailed Sea Eagle and Golden Eagle together; then it is easy to tell them apart. The Sea Eagle is bigger by a third, than the Golden Eagle. Your first impression of a Sea Eagle, is an immense pair of very broad wings. The tail is wedge shaped and only two thirds the width of the wings. The head seems to protrude well in front of the large square ended wings, whereas the Golden Eagle has a smaller head and longer tail, which it twists to steer, rather like a Red Kite. In summer, you will usually see adult birds of both species, which means that you should see the white tail and pale head of the Sea Eagle, and the golden head and dark tail of the Golden Eagle. Outside the breeding season, the watcher could mistake a young Golden Eagle for a Sea Eagle, because they have white tail with a black band; however, the silhouette is never like that of the bigger Sea Eagle. The young Sea Eagle also has a dark tail which can add to the confusion.
If you have limited time in The Highlands and Islands, we strongly recommend that you join an organised wildlife tour on the island.
Sightings during the breeding season are quite different to sightings in the autumn or winter. For instance waders are very territorial during spring and summer and yet they are highly sociable in the winter months. A Golden Plover will nest on some remote and bleak moorland and yet outside the breeding season they can be in large flocks in a field quite close to a road.
I often get asked about bird watching gear and my answer is to recommend bringing sensible footwear because in Scotland you will be walking on rocky, boggy and perhaps seaweed covered terrain. Wear layers of clothing and always carry a lightweight waterproof. It can also be extremely hot and sunny here and therefore bring a couple of t-shirts and a pair of shorts. The sea off Mull and the other Hebridean islands is particularly clear and you will almost certainly be tempted to have at least a paddle off one of our beautiful white sand beaches, so bring swimwear.
Regarding binoculars and possibly telescopes. It is very big country here and you will get excellent use out of a telescope. Whether you are a birdwatcher or not, binoculars are “essential”. If you are joining one of Scotland’s land based wildlife tours you will probably find that they provide you with binoculars for the day, but often sea trips do not, remember there is always a chance of seeing that distant whale. Binoculars are great for scanning seabird colonies, or looking for dolphins offshore. That sitting Eagle on a mountain side can also drive you potty if you do not have your binoculars with you.
Finally remember you are coming to one of the best nature watching destinations in the world where the scenery can be equally spectacular.
The Common Buzzard (Buteo Buteo) is a large bird of prey and one of the most visible of Britain's raptors. The Common Buzzard has a large British population and can often be seen on a clear day out in the British countryside. It can be observed either sitting on a fence post awaiting its next meal to pass by or soaring swiftly in groups of two or more on the afternoon thermals. Buzzards are to be found throughout much of the UK but are still best found in hilly terrain in the West of the UK, especially in areas with barren open ground. Some good places include Dartmoor and the Forest of Dean in Gloucestershire. In Scotland, because of their size, behaviour and markings, the Common Buzzard is often mistaken for juvenile Golden Eagles, especially when they are soaring.