I took the opportunity to go on one of the tourist boats out of Portree to see the sea eagles. You pay your £15, are herded onto the boat with a dozen or so others, and motor out to the rock where the eagles nest. This year, apparently the resident male has found himself a new female, and they've nested in a slightly different spot to last year. Hence the hilarious spectacle of visitors sitting glued to a TV monitor this spring, watching an empty nest.
Anyway, the boat rocks up at the appointed spot, and a couple of other boats materialise nearby. This is as slick a tourist operation as it gets on Skye. By now the chick knows the signs, and is screeching for his dinner.
Mr Captain pulls a dead mackerel out of the coolbox, injects it with air so it won't sink too fast (it's amazing how fast a dead mackerel sinks), and lobs it as far as he can - 15-20 yards - from the stern.
The iconic, free, noble, independent spirit of everything wild ruffles his feathers, shakes and shits. He goes 'Meh, alright then,' and flaps lazily towards the boat. With the economy of effort that is the mark of a true predator, he makes the dive, grabs the fish, and flaps off, avoiding the mobbing gulls as he heads back to the rock. He lands only half-way up - why waste energy carrying a fish 100ft higher than necessary?
Soon the chick has joined him and is tucking into breakfast. The captain tells us how lucky we are, and we scoot off to look for seals, otters and porpoises. Careful not to over-feed the goose that lays the golden egg, they throw only one fish per trip. That way the eagles are still hungry when the 12 o'clock boat comes round. And the 2 o'clock, and the 4 o'clock.
I was thrilled by the sight of the eagle; its power and beauty and grace. And yet I wanted to cry. It was like I was 10 again, peering through the bars at the polar bear at Chessington Zoo. At least these eagles are free, but they've been reduced to a freak show, dependent on humans to throw them their dinner.
I just longed for the eagle to look down from his rock and screech: "Yer can stick yer crummy mackerel where the sun don't shine - I'm off to kill a sheep!"
...talking of which, something is killing lambs on Skye. The farmers are worried, and they don't know where to point the finger.
It started in June. Up till then, lamb losses were normal - the odd one taken by a fox, a few killed by crows and ravens. The ravens on Skye are beyond a joke - I watched 24 wheeling like vultures over the Portree road one morning. They have learnt to descend on the sheep 'park' mob-handed, and work together, like Jurassic Park's velociraptors, to separate a lamb from its mother. Once the lamb is isolated, their huge beaks rip out its eyes and tongue in a flash. Like the velociraptors' dinner, you're alive when they start to eat you... Is that cruelty? You can't blame the ravens; they wouldn't undersand the concept. Yet the suffering is immense. Funny thing, nature. Anyway, the farmers apply to SNH for a licence to protect their sheep and are graciously granted permission to kill one a year. If that's not taking the piss, I don't know what is. And don't even get me started on cormorants!
Anyhow, in June the mysterious killer struck. It's been killing sheep almost daily since. The lamb (born in April) pictured was found by the farmer last Tuesday. It has puncture wounds and tears around the neck. This one was lucky - it was found still alive, brought in and given penicillin, and now it's healing well. Many others have simply died or disappeared.
The vet thought the culprit might be an otter, or an eagle. The farmer has seen otter attacks before and doesn't think that's the explanation. He's sure it's an eagle. Probably not a sea eagle, he says, as he rarely sees those on his hill - although the crofters at Glendale are losing lambs to the sea eagle - but a golden eagle was seen in this area on the Monday, the day before this sheep was found. He cupped his hands into talons and held them over the lamb's neck. His fingers fitted the marks remarkably closely.
He's stoical about it, but he can't afford to lose lambs like this. At up to £70 per lamb, at this rate he'll be bankrupted.
He explained his philosophy about foxes to me: "I don't mind the foxes living on the hill," he said, "but every so often one turns killer. We shoot that one, and the killings stop."
I didn't ask whether he applied the same principle to eagles. I suspect I knew the answer already.
Real places, real people, scraping a real living doing real work and dealing with real problems. It's a million miles from the desk pilots with their romantic notions of how the countryside ought to work.