Highlight was golden eagle perched on a rock

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JOHN has now placed an almost spiritual faith in the powers of a fly called a Verminator. Amongst friends it is called Oggy’s fly, as it was from Oggy’s box of salmon flies that John first selected it, and originally we did not know its name. This year it has been amazingly successful on our two previous fishing trips to Sutherland (we are back again) and once more the Verminator has struck lucky with salmon and sea trout. All put back of course to follow the estate’s restocking policies.

At home Geoff is keeping an eye on the farm. Although we bought Geoff out of the farm partnership several years ago, he frequently helps John out and in return can borrow any of the farm machinery and tackle for his own use. It works well. Our house sitters, who have their caravan parked up under the big shed, use the farm house during the day but prefer to sleep in the caravan at night. A perfect solution.

I get a constant stream of text messages and pictures from them of the shed swept clean of straw, front yard cleared, lawn mowed and garden borders weeded. I would plan to stay here for even longer and maybe they might decide to paint the window frames.

But despite the fact that Scotland is John’s dream holiday destination, nowhere keeps him away from home for long. The occasional lambs we see on the hills are much further behind than ours and remind him that he must get some of our own lambs to market next week. Getting stock to be market fit is a hard do and with quite a few bulls and heifers still to sell in the yards means we can never be a way for long. We know the animals will be well looked after by Geoff, but it is John’s day to day knowledge of working with the stock that enables him to make the right choices for market or breeding purposes.

A high point yesterday (literally) was seeing a golden eagle perched on a rock as we rounded a bend climbing to a hill loch. It was only a few feet away, a magnificent bird that swiftly climbed into the sky and away out of sight. Donald the head stalker who was with us to ghillie whilst fishing, remarked that it is one of a number of pairs of eagles that regularly breed on the estate. Most carry satellite tags, put on whilst chicks in the nest by licensed bird charities, and in this way their movements can be monitored.

Earlier in the year one eagle split from its mate and flew more than a hundred miles further south to another sporting estate. The tracking revealed its course was quite erratic. A fortnight later its mate flew in a straight line, no stop offs here or there, met up with her mate for an hour, and then returned back to her home territory.

Presumably demonstrating extremely specialist knowledge for breeding purposes.