COUNTRYSIDE warden Roy Rhodes had seen plenty of action over the Darwen and Turton moors. But this was different. It was a hoarse cawing and squawking noise he had never heard in several years in the job; a harsh commotion and it was getting louder. And LOUDER!

Roy looked up towards Darwen Moor from the Cadshaw Valley where he was walking with his dogs and saw, to his amazement, a large bird with a wingspan of perhaps five feet, dodging the attentions of half a dozen black carrion crows who were diving at it in turn.

Blimey, thought Roy, they’re attacking a buzzard. And then, in a split second, as the squabbling birds came towards him, the crows calling repeatedly as they do when attacking, he realised what he was seeing!

“Bloody hell!” he called out, scaring his dogs who backed away, wide-eyed. He grabbed his camera, struggling to fit his 10x lens.

“It’s a GOLDEN EAGLE,” he shouted to the four winds, clicking away as the birds swung over towards the A666 near to the junction with the road down to Chapeltown.

It was the morning of October 28, 1983. And Roy remembers it as though it were yesterday.

He told me: “It wheeled slightly in front of me with the crows still after it. The eagle was showing the tail pattern of an immature bird and had a yellowish beak. It was perhaps two years old and had yet to take on that lovely golden sheen. Wing span? Probably close to six foot even then.”

It might not have been the best photo ever taken of a golden eagle, but there haven’t been any recorded sightings since in Lancashire other than two or three over the Bowland hills on the Lancs-Yorks border.

Roy recalled: “It glided and flapped occasionally down towards the A666 near Greens Arms Road and I lost sight of it. A few seconds later it reappeared, having lost the attentions of the crows, moving steadily west up the Cadshaw Valley and then north-west the way it had come towards Darwen Tower and then further west towards Preston.”

Ornithologist Steve Martin and Roy both live in Belmont. Steve told me that golden eagles have been absent as a resident species in England since the sole remaining male died in 2016. He was the last bird of a tiny population that bred in the Lake District between 1968 and 1996. His mate had died in 2004. In Scotland the situation is much more rosy.

Roy’s eagle probably came from the Lake District, but Scotland can’t be discounted.

Mr Rhodes worked as a printer on the Bolton Evening News for several years before joining North West Water where he undertook conservation, access and recreation work on their reservoirs .He became a project officer covering a wider area.

It was an interesting job which suddenly became very interesting, on that late October morning nearly 40 years ago. There was barely any wind, broken clouds and sunny spells as he set off early up the south side of the Cadshaw Valley from the main road with his dogs, camera and binoculars to look at future work sites and an old bell pit.

It turned out to be a morning he would never forget.