First of all, major apologies for the delay. Debby and I are flat out at the moment with monitoring the eagle nests on Mull and trips are also running daily at the hide. There never seems to be a spare moment. I suppose too, if I'm honest, I've been putting off having to write this news. How can I put this? Things are not going according to plan for Frisa and Skye - or us.
Despite a good, normal incubation and all the right signs in the run up to the magical Day 38 and the hatch, something looks like it went wrong for Frisa and Skye very soon after. There was the expected fidgeting and restlessness; the looking into the nest cup and even on Sunday afternoon, signs of a likely attempted feed. Sunday night was horrible here with gales, sleet, snow, rain and very low temperatures. By Monday morning, despite an early hopeful sign, there have been no observed feeds since. We now strongly suspect the first tiny eaglet which would have been small enough to rest in the palm of your hand, succumbed to the rigours of the hatch and perhaps the wintry conditions. The hatch is probably the toughest test in the life of an eagle. It can take up to 48 hours for the eaglet to break free and in this case it may all have proved too much. That, for now, is the theory and the bad news. But there is good news too - or at least some more hopeful news.
Since Monday, Frisa and Skye have resumed incubating their second precious egg. It might not hatch for another day or so so we are still just about in the time frame for egg number two to hatch successfully. We can only watch, wait and pray that they succeed after all this effort. We will of course let you know the outcome, either way, but please bear with us. We're possibly more stressed and exhausted than Frisa and Skye are at the moment. For them, it's a loss they can't really comprehend and they still have work to do - an egg to try to hatch. Where there's life, there's hope.
RSPB Scotland Mull Officer
Today at Loch Frisa, as we all prepare ourselves for the inevitable, an eagle's head in the clouds is pretty much all that's been visible. The dreich weather continued to cast a gloomy blanket over the forest and loch. And over the eagle's nest . As the rain fell, the soggy head and beak of Frisa (or was it Skye?) was just about visible above the rim of the nest. Sometimes the head shook, sending a small shower of droplets into the air. Sometimes the incubating bird stood for a minute or two, looked forlornly into the nest cup and shook hard, sending a bigger shower of droplets into the air.
Then there was a wing stretch or a squirt of relief over the side of the nest. And you just knew that bird had been there for far too long. The other was sat in the loch-side tree. No intention of moving. The last changeover was at 11.30am. It was now 5.30pm. And then the cloud descended completely and the nest and the eagles vanished from view. In some ways it was a relief not to watch.
Since Day 1, the team of volunteer eagle watchers from the local community and visitors who have helped out, have kept a daily log. A minute by minute record of Frisa and Skye's behaviour, change-overs and events. While the cloud was down, I re-read it all again to see if there were any clues to explain what was transpiring now. There were none. It had all been a very normal, routine incubation. A week is a long time in Nature. Just last Sunday, we were 'phoning round everyone with the good news of a likely hatch. Today I read a brief entry in the log from one of the watchers this morning which I'll let you see now. It kind of sums it all up.
"This is the saddest watch I've done. All around there are signs of new life and then I look at a magnificent bird sitting resolutely on a failed egg. Does she sense that all the time and effort spent this year will come to nothing? Or does she still hope? Frisa and Skye, you have my sympathy - but more than that - you have my profound respect"
Dave Sexton RSPB Scotland Mull Officer
At last, we and indeed the eagles, have been enjoying some warm sunshine - and I really mean warm. In the last week, the larches have started sprouting and have that lovely green hue about them. The number of sand martins has increased and there is a really frenzy of activity with them relining their burrows. Peacock and small tortoiseshell butterflies are out and about and a lovely sound to be heard was the welcome return of the willow warbler, all the way from Africa. It never fails to amaze me the distance these tiny birds fly and they return to the same place each time - migration is a pretty incredible feat of nature!
Well Skye and Frisa have continued their duties, incubating those precious eggs. With the incredibly warm weather we have had, the off duty bird has really taken advantage of the thermals and they have been flying to some incredible heights - probably spending a bit longer away from the nest much to the annoyance of the duty bird but they are both taking turns in doing some amazing flying displays for the visitors. As mentioned previously, Operation Easter is in full flow with our nests being watched as we edge ever closer to hatching. To say this is an uneventful period would be an understatement. We have encountered RAF fighter jets across the loch, a sea plane landing on the loch, and just yesterday, we all held our breath as one of our nests was threatened by a grass fire which took 4 appliances and most of our volunteer fire fighters to bring it under control. At one point, it came dangerously close to the nest, but thanks to the fantastic work of the firefighters, they got the fire under control before it got too close. Phew!
I know its not a good photo, but this was Frisa enjoying a well earned break from nest duties - she rose higher and higher until we finally lost of sight of her - just look at that amazing wingspan!
We have another new attraction at Loch Frisa! Many of you who have visited will know we have a variety of feeders in front of the hide. A flock of siskins have become regular visitors to the feeders and our visitors have been completely mesmerised by them. They are quite feisty little birds but the antics of them each trying to get a turn on the feeder have been providing great entertainment. I just hope Skye and Frisa dont get offended with all the eyes on the feeders instead of them!
Siskin frenzy on the feeder - photo Debby Thorne
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For the latest viewing details of the Eagle Hide, please check regularly Mull Eagle Watch
White Tailed Eagle Information Officer, Mull
As I sit and type this, the rain is lashing against the window and its blowing a hoolie outside. By complete contrast, yesterday was a beautiful, warm sunny, spring day. On Wednesday we had snow and blizzards! There is a saying on Mull that you can experience all four seasons in one day - well it is certainly doing that at the moment - I daren't put the winter woollies away just yet!
Well what a week it has been. As well as working at the hide, I also help out with Mull Eagle Watch, doing shifts where I can to help watch Skye and Frisa and their precious eggs. Operation Easter is like a big neighbourhood watch where our most visible and vulnerable nests are watched 24/7. Sadly, in this day and age, there is still the threat from egg thieves but increasingly the threat is from disturbance. Volunteers come from all walks of life, both on and off the Island but with one aim - to protect our rarest bird of prey. This weekend we have been joined by air cadets and Duke of Edinburgh students who have been camped out around the Island in some really testing weather. They have done a stirling job and our thanks go to all the volunteers who help out in some form or another. It is also a great opportunity also to to just sit and watch the behaviour of the eagles and how they interact with each other, as well as spotting some of our other spectacular wildlife - golden eagle, hen harrier, black throated divers to name a few!
I was on duty on a day when we were experiencing complete white out conditions followed by spells of sunshine - really bizarre weather. Frisa was settled on the nest and Skye was sat in a tree just feet away. You could see the blizzard coming - Frisa hunkered down and Skye gripped the branch a little tighter - when it arrived they both took the full force of it - as quickly as it arrrived, it disappeared - Frisa stuck her head up and Skye was looking on as if to say "you ok dear - that was a nasty one!" Thoughout the course of the shift, we had several repeats of this episode - it was as if through thick and think they would see it through - together!
In complete contrast, the next morning saw a frosty start which then turned into a glorious day and as we arrived at the hide for the morning trip, we were greeted by our sand martins who had just arrived back from Africa! The change of temperature would be bit of shock for them. They didn't hang about and got straight on with the task of checking out their nests and bringing in new material. We also spotted both pairs of pied and grey wagtails - also re-visiting last year's nests to see what repair work is needed. I find this quite an exciting time of year - Spring is here (despite the snow) and the garden is coming to life, our spring migrants are starting to arrive - still waiting to spot a swallow - and there is an anticipation of what is to come! The geese that have spent the winter here start their journey north back to their breeding grounds to make way for the spring arrivals. I saw my first wheatear yesterday.
Greylag goose - photo Debby Thorne
Today, one of our regular readers, the Hilsons came and visited at the Hide. To say they were treated to a special display by Skye and Frisa is bit of an understatement. In between nest duties, both birds came over to say "hello", show off their beautiful white tail and gave a wonderful flying display in really strong winds. At one point, we saw Frisa suddenly drop out the sky, legs down as if to pounce on some prey, only to re-appear being chased by the ravens - she then turned and chased the ravens as if to say "now see what I can do". Pretty spectacular stuff. They were also treated to a vist from Dave to the hide - they have been to Mull several times and always seem to miss him, but today they finally came face to face and had a great chat in between watching some spectacular flying from the birds.
Well, I have to mention the polar bear! The amount of coverage the story received has been quite incredible - lots of people contacted us asking where they could see it - and of course we told them to take care as polar bears can be quite dangerous. Thank you to everyone who commented - but I will still keep my eyes open around Loch Na Keal - you just never know ......
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Loch Frisa is a really special place with an abundance of wildlife from the eagles of course, the divers, sand martins, our first butterfly spotted on Friday (small tortoiseshell), hen harrier, goldeneye - the list just goes on. Dont just read about it, come and see it for yourself! Full details here Mull Eagle Watch