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
Life and Style
“What is it like being a girl?” was the question on the lips of one inquisitive Reddit user this week
peopleDave Legeno, the actor who played werewolf Fenrir Greyback in the Harry Potter films, has died
Arts and Entertainment
Armando Iannucci, the creator of 'The Thick of It' says he has
tvArmando Iannucci to concentrate on US show Veep
Life and Style
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Luis Suarez looks towards the crowd during the 2-1 victory over England
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

German supporters (left) and Argentina fans
world cup 2014Final gives England fans a choice between to old enemies
Arts and Entertainment
A still from the worldwide Dawn of the Planet of the Apes trailer debut
peopleMario Balotelli poses with 'shotgun' in controversial Instagram pic
A mugshot of Ian Watkins released by South Wales Police following his guilty pleas
peopleBandmates open up about abuse
Basketball superstar LeBron James gets into his stride for the Cleveland Cavaliers
sportNBA superstar announces decision to return to Cleveland Cavaliers
Javier Mascherano of Argentina tackles Arjen Robben of the Netherlands as he attempts a shot
world cup 2014
Arts and Entertainment
The successful ITV drama Broadchurch starring David Tenant and Olivia Coleman came to an end tonight
Four ski officials in Slovenia have been suspended following allegations of results rigging
sportFour Slovenian officials suspended after allegations they helped violinist get slalom place
14 March 2011: George Clooney testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during a hearing titled 'Sudan and South Sudan: Independence and Insecurity.' Clooney is co-founder of the Satellite Sentinel Project which uses private satellites to collect evidence of crimes against civilian populations in Sudan
Arts and Entertainment
Balaban is indirectly responsible for the existence of Downton Abbey, having first discovered Julian Fellowes' talents as a screenwriter
tvCast members told to lose weight after snacking on set
Life and Style
More than half of young adults have engaged in 'unwanted but consensual sexting with a committed partner,' according to research
Life and Style
A binge is classed as four or more alcoholic drinks for women and five or more for men, consumed over a roughly two-hour period
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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

JavaScript Developer (Angular, Web Forms, HTML5, Ext JS,CSS3)

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: JavaScript Dev...


£50000 - £70000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Business Analyst Consultant (Fina...

SAP Data Migration Consultant

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client, a FTSE 100 organisation are u...

Programme Support, Coms, Bristol, £300-350p/d

£300 - £350 per day + competitive: Orgtel: My client, a leading bank, is curre...

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice