Calendar An icon of a desk calendar. Cancel An icon of a circle with a diagonal line across. Caret An icon of a block arrow pointing to the right. Email An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of the Facebook "f" mark. Google An icon of the Google "G" mark. Linked In An icon of the Linked In "in" mark. Logout An icon representing logout. Profile An icon that resembles human head and shoulders. Telephone An icon of a traditional telephone receiver. Tick An icon of a tick mark. Is Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes. Is Not Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes with a diagonal line through it. Pause Icon A two-lined pause icon for stopping interactions. Quote Mark A opening quote mark. Quote Mark A closing quote mark. Arrow An icon of an arrow. Folder An icon of a paper folder. Breaking An icon of an exclamation mark on a circular background. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Caret An icon of a caret arrow. Clock An icon of a clock face. Close An icon of the an X shape. Close Icon An icon used to represent where to interact to collapse or dismiss a component Comment An icon of a speech bubble. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Ellipsis An icon of 3 horizontal dots. Envelope An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Home An icon of a house. Instagram An icon of the Instagram logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. Magnifying Glass An icon of a magnifying glass. Search Icon A magnifying glass icon that is used to represent the function of searching. Menu An icon of 3 horizontal lines. Hamburger Menu Icon An icon used to represent a collapsed menu. Next An icon of an arrow pointing to the right. Notice An explanation mark centred inside a circle. Previous An icon of an arrow pointing to the left. Rating An icon of a star. Tag An icon of a tag. Twitter An icon of the Twitter logo. Video Camera An icon of a video camera shape. Speech Bubble Icon A icon displaying a speech bubble WhatsApp An icon of the WhatsApp logo. Information An icon of an information logo. Plus A mathematical 'plus' symbol. Duration An icon indicating Time. Success Tick An icon of a green tick. Success Tick Timeout An icon of a greyed out success tick. Loading Spinner An icon of a loading spinner. Facebook Messenger An icon of the facebook messenger app logo. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Facebook Messenger An icon of the Twitter app logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. WhatsApp Messenger An icon of the Whatsapp messenger app logo. Email An icon of an mail envelope. Copy link A decentered black square over a white square.

Brother’s tribute to John Love, the man who brought sea eagles back to Scotland

The world renowned ornithologist carried the eagle chicks from Norway to Rum in a Nimrod.

John Love, popular ornithologist, musician and advocate of Scottish culture. Image, with permission from John's Facebook page.
John Love, popular ornithologist, musician and advocate of Scottish culture. Image, with permission from John's Facebook page.

John Love and sea eagles – the nation’s biggest raptor – will forever be synonymous.

The renowned ornithologist, fiddler and Antarctic cruise ship guide has died aged 77.

Highland upbringing

Born in Inverness on August 19 1946, John was passionate about the planet and its wilder inhabitants from an early age.

Son of former Queen’s Own Cameron Highlander Harry Love, and civil servant Agnes Love, in 1955, when I was two, John was just seven and our older brother Jim was 10, our father died.

John attended Central School then Inverness Royal Academy. He became a member of the Scottish Ornithologist Club before deepening his passion for nature by studying zoology at Aberdeen University.

There he became part of a close band of biologists and birders, graduating in 1970.

Scottish Natural Heritage appointment

John and two classmates began PhD projects at Aberdeen University’s Culterty field station on the Ythan Estuary.

John was already familiar with Culterty, having focused his honour’s field project on herring gull predation of mussels.

Naturalist John Love at home on South Uist. Image by Susy Macaulay.

Measuring energy flow through ecosystems was pioneering ecology in the early 1970s. John was tasked with continuing to describe the energy flow between mussels and birds for his PhD.

This led him to Rum and then to South Uist as area officer for Scottish Natural Heritage overseeing South Uist, Barra and St Kilda.

Sea eagles ‘champion’

The reintroduction of sea eagles to Scotland took place from 1975 to 1986.

John managed the “six-week” project which went on for more than a decade.

After visiting Norway with the help of an RAF Nimrod to collect chicks, he spent many years on the Isle of Rum, ensuring they flourished. He fed them, in remote cages, in all weathers.

A sea eagle in flight, shared by John’s family.

Although controversial at the time, sea eagles are now a more familiar sight. The successful breeding programme has transmitted to the wild, with the magnificent white-tailed eagles soaring around the Hebrides.

Highland naturalist Roy Dennis, who spearheaded the sea eagle project, paid tribute to John at his funeral. Describing him as the sea eagles’ “champion” he added: “Whenever we see sea eagles in the sky, we will remember him. A lasting memorial above our heads.”

Lord of the Isles

Such was John’s passion for, and devotion to, all of Scotland’s islands he was described by friends as “Scotland’s other national treasure” or “the Lord of the Isles”.

Of particular importance to him were St Kilda, Fair Isle, Iona and Canna, not forgetting Rum.

While living on the island it became a bugbear to John that the private owners of the island added an “h” to the spelling.

John Love, an advocate and enthusiast of Highlands and Islands culture.

“The story goes that they didn’t want their island or title to be connected to the alcoholic drink,” said Roy Dennis, ” so despite the traditional spelling an h found its way in there.

“John researched it all and when the land owner persuaded the local post office to be renamed as Rhum, he stepped in and convinced them to scrap the modern affectation.”

Island culture

John was also passionate about the history and culture of the island. He immersed himself in the local culture and its preservation, easily slotting into community life where he relished playing his mandolin and fiddle at ceilidhs.

John Love, right, with Roy Dennis at a sea eagle nest at Bodo, Norway, June 1984. used with permission from

Rum was also the subject of one of the many books John penned. Aside from two acclaimed books about sea eagles, he also wrote about Rum, Scotland’s lighthouses, sea otters, penguins among other subjects.

His final book about Highland naturalists, which includes Roy and himself, is currently with John’s publisher, with hopes to bring it to print next year.

Sought after guide

For 19 years John also worked as a guide and commentator on specialist cruise ships, notably with Noble Caledonia.

So highly regarded, many passengers would first check if John – a qualified RIB pilot – would be there before booking.

During his tenure he was made godfather of one of the vessels, the “Hebridean Sky”. He journeyed to Sweden for the ceremony and it was an honour he treasured.

The Hebridean Sky – of which John was “godfather” – on it’s maiden visit of the vessel to Invergordon port. Picture: Paul Campbell.

Katarina Salen and Dr Kim Crosbie, of Noble Caledonia, were among those to pay their respects at John’s funeral.

As a cruise ship guide he travelled the world. Often accompanied by his fiddle, he visited two favourite destinations, Antarctica and Madagascar. For John, however, nothing could beat sailing around the British Isles and his beloved Hebrides.

Unexpected loss

John died suddenly in his cottage in Snishival, South Uist on October 17. He lived on the islands for almost 30 years but still called Inverness home, where his funeral took place.

We are planning a celebration of John’s life in South Uist in the Spring of 2024, full of Gaelic songs and fiddle music.

Although he is gone, John will not be forgotten and will forever be a friend to all whom he met. Most of all, John will always be a member of the family.

He is survived by myself, my wife Maureen, his niece Heather, nephew Jamie and Jamie’s daughter Lucy-Jordan.

John Love, as he’ll be remembered by his family.

He was particularly close to cousins Murdo, Ann and Dorothy and their families. As well as those in Slough, Flora and Gerald.

Our brother Jim, a journalist, predeceased us in 2006, age 63.

Reflecting on John’s life four key words sum it up. Family, friendship, photography – and the fourth is the link that chains the quartet together – wildlife.

Roy Dennis added: “John’s loss is felt terribly. He’s a miss to everyone who knew him, and to Scotland.”