I've just been watching a programme in the Natural World series which appeared on the Eden Channel of Sky Television entitled " White Falcon, White Wolf", which was excellent and which I can recommend absolutely. Filmed on Ellesmere Island at the northern tip of Canadian Territory it follows the fortunes of a pair of Gyr Falcons and a Wolf pack. Unbelievable close-ups, flight shots , activity shots...... the lot, wildlife filming par excellence!! Other "stars" include Snowy Owls, Arctic Foxes, Musk Ox and Arctic Skua.
With the recent saga here on Islay relating to the Gyr the film provided some useful reference material relating to plumage details, size comparisons and the like. The nest site was magnificent and, based on studies of prey bones at the rear of the ledge,has apparently been in use for several hundred years! On Ellesmere Island the breeding cycle is closely synchronized to the appearance of young Arctic Hares; elsewhere Gyrs can rely heavily on sea birds. This caused me to consider the sad condition the Islay bird was finally discovered in and reflect on the fact that, just around the corner of the island it frequented was a breeding cliff used by Fulmar and only 100m or so away. At regular intervals birds have been returning there since Christmas and would have been easy prey, if desired, as would the local Herring and Common Gulls. We will now obviously never know the reason why such a magnificent predator met its demise, but the sight of it scattering local Rock Doves around the village as it moved through and the excitement of confirming that the white sentinel atop McKenzie Island was again the bird in question will long remain as a memory.