A golden eagle sat in the cage. In half an hour it had killed, plucked and devoured the crows, leaving only feathers and seven pairs of feet

Alan, a Highland gamekeeper, set out up the glen in his Land Rover, and as he passed his crow-trap, which stood 50 yards off the track, he noticed a flurry of movement. Scrutiny with binoculars revealed that the wire-netting cage had caught seven hoodie crows. He made a mental note to despatch six of them as soon as possible, leaving one as a decoy; but at that moment his wife came through on the radio to say that somebody wanted to speak to him urgently on the telephone. He therefore turned round and drove home.

Back on the spot 40 minutes later, he again looked at the crow trap and was surprised to see no movement. His first thought was that some officious hiker had opened the door and released the captives; but when he went closer he discerned a single golden eagle, sitting half-stupefied on the ground.

Somehow the huge bird, with its eight-foot wingspan, had slid down the narrow funnel in the roof of the cage. In little over half an hour it had killed, plucked and devoured all the crows, leaving nothing but a mass of feathers and seven pairs of feet. By the time Alan let it out, it was, as he put it, "stuffed to the beak", and could scarcely take off, but away it lumbered, leaving him amazed at the eating power of one large raptor.

Such are the stories one hears during a deer-stalking holiday; and although the prime object of the enterprise is to cull stags, the peripheral observation of nature is always one of the chief delights. Once you have laboured up to the high ridges and corries which the deer frequent, you are in a different world.

This year we were haunted by ravens - although whether they were a sign of good luck or bad, nobody could agree. To the Romans it would have mattered greatly if they had appeared flying from left (sinister) to right (dexter), a bad omen: with us, they were often circling high overhead, and their abrupt, guttural cries seemed to be urging us to hurry up and produce a gralloch - the intestines of a deer - for them to feast on. As I ground up steep faces, I sought to ease my passage by mentally reciting lines from Edgar Allen Poe and frequently returned to the hypnotic refrain: "Quoth the raven, 'Nevermore'."

Otters also entertained us. One stalking party, looking down from the heights above Loch Shiel, spotted some creature crossing the half-mile- wide sheet of water and sending out a wide, V-shaped wake. Excitable observers might have leapt to the conclusion that this was Shiela, the local monster; but in fact our people, watching through binoculars and telescopes, could see that it was an otter, which in due course came ashore and, after an exploratory lollop along a forestry track, swam back the way it had come.

Another evening as we drove home along a river-bank, we noticed movement in a grassy ditch beside the track on our right. Inadvertently we had cut off two teenaged otter cubs from the water: charming creatures, furry and almost black, the size of magnum ferrets, they scampered up and down, chippering furiously, until they got their bearings and made a dash for home.

By no means all the wildlife was so attractive. The grass and heather were alive with ticks, and bath-time every evening revealed several embedded like nasty little black scabs in legs or body. Opinions varied about how best to dislodge them. "Salt," said some people. "Disinfectant or insect repellent," said others - but all agreed that if you pull off the body, leaving the jaws embedded in your skin, the place is liable to fester.

Less injurious, but almost more irritating, were the insects known as keds, which land on face or hands and sidle crab-like into the nearest recess they can find, mercifully without biting. Davy, another stalker, recalled how one evening in the pub a ked crawled out of his hair and advanced across his forehead - whereupon all the other customers fled in disorder, supposing this wild man of the woods to be alive with vermin.

On a loftier plane, every day we saw golden eagles, and none more majestic than the one that launched off from a crag below us. Out it went over the glen, gliding arrow-straight like a Stealth fighter, with never the slightest movement of its wings. For at least two minutes we watched it through binoculars: in that time it must have flown a mile out over the abyss - and still its wings were motionless. In its power and menace, its range and grace, it seemed the very spirit of that high and rock-bound wilderness.

Suggested Topics
John Travolta is a qualified airline captain and employed the pilot with his company, Alto
people'That was the lowest I’d ever felt'
Life and Style
healthIt isn’t greasy. It doesn’t smell. And moreover, it costs nothing
Jonas Gutierrez (r) competes with Yaya Toure (l)

Newcastle winger is in Argentina having chemotherapy

Arts and Entertainment
Blossoming love: Colin Firth as Stanley and Emma Stone as Sophie, in 'Magic in the Moonlight'

Actors star in Woody Allen's 'Magic in the Moonlight'

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
peopleThe Times of India said actress should treat it as a 'compliment'

Watch this commuter wage a one-man war against the Circle Line
We are phenomenally good at recognising faces; the study showed that humans have been selected to be unique and easily recognisable

Human faces unique 'because we don't recognise each other by smell'

Arts and Entertainment
You've been framed: Henri Matisse's colourful cut-outs at Tate Modern
artWhat makes a smash-hit art show?
Home body: Badger stays safe indoors
lifeShould we feel guilty about keeping cats inside?
A male driver reverses his Vauxhall Astra from a tow truck

Man's attempt to avoid being impounded heavily criticised

Arts and Entertainment
US pop diva Jennifer Lopez sang “Happy Birthday” to Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, president of Turkmenistan
musicCorporate gigs become key source of musicians' income
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
filmsDaniel Craig believed to be donning skis as 007 for first time
The Guildhall School of Music and Drama is to offer a BA degree in Performance and Creative Enterprise

Arts and Entertainment
Emma Thompson and Bryn Terfel are bringing Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street to the London Coliseum

Returning to the stage after 20 years makes actress feel 'nauseous'

Arts and Entertainment
Pulp-fiction lover: Jarvis Cocker
booksJarvis Cocker on Richard Brautigan
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke and Pharell Williams in the video of the song, which has been accused of justifying rape
music...and he had 'almost no part' in writing it
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

March On Cancer™ - Local Marketing and Promotions Volunteer

This is an unpaid voluntary role.: Cancer Research UK: We need motivational vo...

SEN Coordinator + Teacher

£1 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Job Purpose To work closely with the he...

Maths Teacher - Evening session

Negotiable: Randstad Education Birmingham: I am looking for a qualified experi...

Teaching Assistants

£50 - £85 per day: Randstad Education Preston: Rapidly developing and growing ...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week