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THE WILD BUNCH; EXCLUSIVE Heard the one about the stoat, the rabbit, the cat, the fox and the rare white-tipped eagle...check out these amazing pictures of battle for survival in Perthshire moors Have you taken an amazing snap of nature in the raw? Upload pictures with your details to www.sundaymail.co.uk/wildbunch or send them to Wild Bunch, Sunday Mail, One Central Quay, Glasgow G3 8DA.We'll pay pounds 100 for the best ones publicshed.

Byline: By RAYMOND HAINEY

THEY may lack the sheer power of Serengeti lions - but these incredible photos prove the wildlife warriors in Scotland's hills are every bit as ruthless.

The brutal battle between a rabbit, a stoat, a cat, a fox and a white-tailed sea eagle was captured in a series of startling images by wildlife photographer Keith Ringland.

Keith, 50, set up his gear at a secret location on a Perthshire hillside hoping to capture a white-tailed eagle in flight.

What he got was nature in the raw and an incredible sequence of photos.

He started shooting when he heard the cries of a terrified rabbit being chased by a stoat into a gorse bush.

The squealing attracted a feral cat which attacked the stoat and forced it to flee empty-mouthed.

Then the cat pounced on the helpless rabbit and snatched it into its jaws.

But before it could make off with its dinner, a fox popped up and made a play for its prey.

The cat was forced to drop the stunned rabbit - only for it to be picked up by the fox, which ran off with it.

But as the fox prepared to rip the rabbit to pieces and begin his feast, another predator appeared. A rare white-tipped eagle circled overhead, ready to swoop. The fox was forced to retreat into the gorse bush with the rabbit clamped between its teeth to avoid an aerial attack.

Wildlife guru David Bellamy said: "This really is the food chain in action. These photographs are superb.

"To have someone there with a camera to capture something like this is amazing.

"If someone knows his territory, they do see the most amazing things but to get photographs is extremely rare."

He added: "Competition for food is always fierce, especially in the winter and these photographs capture that graphically.

"Winter is an ideal time to see this sort of thing. Most good gamekeepers or ghillies will have great stories like this to tell."

Bellamy urged more Scots to get out into the countryside, which he has dedicated his life to protecting.

He said: "I live in the country and I regularly see bigger animals chasing smaller ones. Often one animal will get frightened off and another one will take the chase on."

For Keith, the amazing food fight is a highlight of his 25-year career.

He revealed that it was by pure chance that he was there to see it. Keith said: "This was the most bizarre and exciting series of events within three or four minutes I have seen. I only caught it on camera by accident.

"I had heard there was the chance of seeing a white-tailed eagle so I was in the area on a planning trip.

"I was just sitting on a river bank when the whole chain of events kicked off. I heard the rabbit squealing when the stoat attacked and grabbed my camera.

"The rabbit's noise attracted all these other creatures to the scene very quickly.

"It just shows how much competition there is for food at this time of year."

SUNDAY EMAIL

r.hainey@sundaymail.co.uk

CAPTION(S):

Talon spotter: Keith; 1 Run rabbit run: The feral cat chases the stoat, right, into a gorse bush and stands guard, growling to make sure it stays there while the injured rabbit lies on the ground, too stunned to hop away to safety; 2 I smell trouble: Seconds later the fox arrives and starts sniffing out the gorse bush where the stoat is hiding. The fox knows there is food close by and starts to hunt it down. Before long the fox has spied the cat trying desperately to escape with the prized rabbit in its jaws; 3 Surrender: The cat knows when it's beaten and retreats behind the gorse bush, watching sulkily as the fox spies the bunny trying at last to hop away from danger. But Mother Nature is cruel and it has no chance against the nimble-footed fox; 4 Time for dinner: The famished fox has seen off all its smaller adversaries and the rabbit's fate is sealed as the fox scampers back to its den; 5 Air attack: But the fox got away just in time because a rare whitetipped eagle was ready to swoop
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Publication:Sunday Mail (Glasgow, Scotland)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Jan 11, 2009
Words:713
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