A relieved wildlife enthusiast has been reunited with his lost golden eagle thanks to quick thinking gamekeepers in Angus.
Les Gibson 54, from County Durham, lost two-year-old ‘Odin’ 9 days ago when flying him at Glen Muick Estate in Aberdeenshire.
A skilled falconer, with 20 years of experience with buzzards and hawks, Mr Gibson last saw Odin flying onto neighbouring ground at Glen Tanar before losing sight of him altogether.
The young eagle was buffeted in high winds, with its tracking transmitters waterlogged, and Mr Gibson from Consett who was on holiday in Scotland feared he would never see his prized bird again.
Desperate, he took to social media to ask members of the public to mount a watching brief for the lost bird of prey and, after days of insomnia due to worry, his SOS was answered.
The online messages were seen by gamekeepers at Millden Estate in Angus and, when a young gamekeeper spotted an eagle sitting on a meal of fresh rabbit, he contacted his head gamekeeper Mark Palmer.
“The eagle had leather straps or ‘jesses’ on its feet,” said Mr Palmer, 33, who saw the pleas on social media when he returned from holiday from Tenerife.
“I had seen the posts about the lost eagle so I contacted Les Gibson and told him we had spotted a bird with ‘jesses’ on its feet.
“Les came up, stayed over locally on the Friday night and we went out onto the moor to have a look on Saturday.
“We went out onto the top of the hill and saw a good sheltered bit where an eagle would look to find prey.
“We started looking around and there he was, about 200 yards away. Les was ecstatic.
“He had been through so much worry. We were just glad we could help out.”
Using a lure of hare, Mr Gibson managed to coax Odin back in.
Despite the young bird’s ordeal, his ecstatic owner found him to have thrived on the grouse moors of Angus, enjoying a plentiful supply of food.
Mr Gibson said: “It was unbelievable to see him again.
“I didn’t sleep a wink after he went missing.
“He was a bit wet but I put him on the scales and I would normally fly him at 7 lbs 5 or 6 ounces.
“I didn’t have enough weights with me to get a definite reading but he was up at 8lbs, which shows he had fed well in Angus.
“Normally, when you are flying an eagle you can feel the keel bone but he was too plump for that.
“When they have fed, it is harder to lure them back in with food. I thought he might have shied away but he recognised my vehicle and, thanks to some brown hare, I managed to walk him in.
“I had people calling me and saying he had been seen in Aberdeen and in car parks in Dundee!
“When I got the call from Mark, I knew that was more likely. I’d like to thank the gamekeepers at Millden for looking out and acting so quickly.
“I never thought I’d see him again after losing him so long ago, and in such bad weather.”