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7 Feb 2024

Field Notes: A soaring tribute

Glenlude Manager Karen Purvis introduces Donald – a golden eagle recently relocated to the Scottish Borders - and the inspiring volunteer he was named after.

Donald the eagle in flight - John Wright/SSGEP

In 2023, our partners in the South of Scotland Golden Eagle Project invited us to name a young male golden eagle who was released into the Southern Uplands – also home to our site at Glenlude.

This 149-hectare former sheep farm and conifer plantation in the Scottish Borders was bequeathed to the John Muir Trust by the late Sheila Bell, who wanted to ensure that her restoration of biodiversity at Glenlude would continue. 

During my 12 years of caring for Glenlude, hundreds and possibly thousands of volunteers have contributed to transforming the site’s non-native conifer plantations into flourishing native woodlands, creating a mosaic of native habitats and increased biodiversity.

Among our earliest volunteers was Donald Macleod, who I first met at a Glenlude open day in 2012, along with his wife Lucile. Donald soon became a key member of our regular conservation work parties and our local Borders Members’ Group. He would turn out whatever the weather with a smile and his legendary banter to plant and tend young trees, build brash hedges, rebuild drystone walls, remove old fences, and greatly assist us in our work to make Glenlude the thriving place it is today.

Donald Macleod - Glenlude volunteer

Well known in Borders and international rugby circles as the ‘Rugby Doctor’ for his pioneering work in sports medicine, Donald also supported countless local committees and community events at a grass roots level. Passionate about supporting young sports people and a keen rugby player in his youth, he was the president of Selkirk Rugby Club before becoming president of the Scottish Rugby Union. While in post he also chaired the Ettrick Sports Committee – a small local group that brings friends and families from the valley together each year.

Donald’s love of the hills and the outdoors shone through, along with his passion for cycling (he cycled from Lands’ End to John O’Groats for his 70th Birthday) and walking the Ettrick Hills with his family.

To commemorate Donald’s dedication to caring for nature, people and community, which epitomises the spirit of our conservation volunteers, it was fitting that an eagle – a symbol of wild places and the restorative power and freedom they offer - should bear his name.

  • South of Scotland Golden Eagle Project collected Donald (F47) - a young male eagle - from a low crag in Tayside and Fife in June 2023. Donald shared an aviary with another young male Haworth (164) and was released in July 2023 weighing 4kg.

Donald the eagle right and Talla left - John Wright/SSGEP

^ Talla (left) and Donald (right) shortly after release - Summer 2023 – Credit: John Wright/SSGEP

Green leaves - David Lintern

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