A Fieldworker’s Guide to the Golden Eagle
…educated by experience and an open mind
By Dave Walker| Whittles Publishing | Paperback | Feb 2017 | 253 Pages | 45 Colour Photos | ISBN: 9781849952248
The Publisher’s View: The Golden Eagle is generally thought to be a well-known and well-documented species. However, much of the available literature is not necessarily in a form that can readily be used in the field.
In fact, although much existing information about Golden Eagles has little supporting evidence it is still largely accepted without question. A Fieldworker's Guide to the Golden Eagle addresses this important issue and in doing so the author queries numerous long-held beliefs about Golden Eagles. He suggests that failure to recognise the limitations of the available evidence is not only detrimental to understanding eagle ecology but that it can undermine conservation efforts. The Fieldworker's Guide questions the reliability of existing knowledge and promotes a better understanding of the species through improved fieldwork.
With 37 years of active, year-round investigative fieldwork experience of the Golden Eagle, the author has vast knowledge enabling him to shed light on these matters. He has a history of undertaking novel research on post-fledging studies, territories and the impact of changes in land use. In this context he discusses how best to undertake fieldwork to produce objective results, avoiding the influence of expectations and recognising the many pitfalls into which an unwary observer might stumble.
A Fieldworker's Guide to the Golden Eagle objectively reviews all aspects of Golden Eagle ecology, taking examples from many different locations and from site-specific studies in Scotland to compare and contrast the reliability and relevance of the evidence, highlighting the differences between casual and intensive fieldwork. It reviews all the elements of Golden Eagle ecology, from the species status, through the activities and roles of eagles of different gender, age and status, via territories, food and breeding, to habitat preferences, usage and even the influence of weather and observer activity on behaviour and observations. It also gives due consideration to the failed and non-breeding elements of the population, topics that are widely ignored despite such eagles forming the bulk of the population for most of the year.
To provide a better understanding of what fieldworkers and birdwatchers are likely to encounter, the author reviews the month-by-month activity of all classes of Golden Eagle and the influences that affect how their ecology is understood.
The Author: Dave Walker is also the author of the acclaimed Call of the Eagle
Fatbirder View: The publisher’s release says that this book will be of particular appeal to everyone with an interest in raptors and I have no doubt that is true. I am sure it will be instantly required reading for anyone undertaking fieldwork, whether it be the conservation of eagles or re-introduction programmes or general conservation where raptors are a focus. There is a lot in here of general interest too.When I started looking at the pictures I quickly began to understand what makes a habitat suitable for them, just by reading the picture captions! Mind you I wasn’t fond of the odd way they were displayed - if horizontal divisions between illustrations is good enough for just about every other book I’ve ever seen that should tell us that some ‘clichés’ are about common sense and viewing ease not just convention!Reading the text soon immerses you in the world the author inhabits and although this really is a guide, it is no less fascinating for that. One also gets the sense that there are plenty of misconceptions about eagles, their territories and breeding needs, and not just among us lay readers. I recall being in the car in a western isles’ glen watching an eagle trying to lift the carcass of a dead lamb. She patiently ignored the several buzzards and hoodies who were trying to defend the carrion, but left empty handed as the still born lamb was simply too heavy. I followed her return to the eerie, which was easily viewable from the road. That sighting remains a highlight of my birding life decades, and a dozen foreign forays, later because an adult eagle is not just top of the food chain, but top of most birders’ love list. Read this book and you will find it easier to find and watch them yourselves, and with a depth of understanding absorbed from someone who has been educated by experience and an open mind.
23rd March 2017