Sunday evening, sat looking out on a flat, mirror like Sound of Mull with the sound of oystercatchers and curlews as my background music - I'm not sure it gets much better.
At Tiroran Community Forest South West Mull & Iona Development Trust I am lucky to have an office where I can listen to the sounds of goldcrests, buzzards mewing, song thrush singing, siskins creating havoc as the youngsters take over the feeders, all trying to find a perch to call their own. Oh yes, and of course, white tailed eagles calling, including our chick which shouts out to the adults when its hungry. The chick is now just over 11 weeks old and when I left yesterday, had ventured out on to a supporting branch, which holds the nest, and then carrying out some amazing wing exercises - huge wings flapping to build up the muscles, accompanied by some serious hopping that would be right at home in the Hop Skip and Jump event in the forthcoming Olympics in Rio.
We are at the stage now where the adults ease off bringing in food in an attempt to encourage the chick out of the nest. The chick may do a short flight but usually hop down the branches of the tree onto the ground. Fingal and Iona will still bring in food but deliver it a distance away "if you are hungry, come and get it!" - then the fun begins as the chick starts to follow the adults, learning to fly and hunt - sometimes landing on branches that cant support its weight - great fun to watch. So, we are now just waiting for the chick to take that leap of faith and Go!
Here is a short video clip taken on Saturday of the chick flapping those huge wings.
It really is an amazing time of year as the Island seems to be alive with all manner of wildlife. At Tiroran, the golden ringed dragonflies are everywhere along with dark green fritillary butterflies. This week hen harriers have fledged around the Island, and the local kestrels at Tiroran have been keeping us entertained with their flying antics. As I drive along the shores of Loch na Keal, I have watched the Grey lag geese as they began incubation, and now leading their goslings across the grass to the shoreline - just amazing how quickly they grow.
Grey lag goose and goslings
Golden ringed dragonfly
Dont forget - you need to book to join a Ranger led trip either at Tiroran or West Ardhu North West Mull Community Woodland - just call the VisitScotland office at Craignure on 01680 812556.
Keep up with Steph and the eagles at West Ardhu, Star and Hope - here is a link to the blog https://mulleaglewatch.com/2016/07/24/an-eagle-called-hope/
Until next time ......
RSPB Ranger, Isle of Mull
It has been a busy time at Mull Eagle Watch - lots of visitors coming to see the white tailed eagles, here at Tiroran and at our other site, West Ardhu North West Mull Community Woodland Fingal and Iona's chick at Tiroran is not far off fully grown and is now over 8 weeks old. We think it is a male but are waiting on the DNA results to confirm this. In the meantime he is doing some serious wing stretching, building up the muscles needed for the inevitable fledging which can happen between 10 and 12 weeks of age. Fingal and Iona, as ever, are proving to be excellent parents bringing in plenty of food - the chick is old enough now to feed itself. Just yesterday, Fingal flew in with a seabird and the chick grabbed it from him and took it to the rear of the nest where he proceeded to devour it. This gives Fingal and Iona some respite from the task of feeding and we have been having some great views of them sitting side by side, as well as enjoying some of the lovely weather we have had and giving us some spectacular flying displays against the backdrop of Ben More, our Munro on Mull.
As well as our eaglet, there has been plenty of action from other wildlife around the forest. On the feeders, we have enjoyed great views of newly fledged siskins, greenfinch, chaffinch, robin but the highlight for me was when the female great spotted woodpecker which came down to the peanut feeder with her youngster. I was lucky enough to capture a little video clip in between trips.
It seems no matter where you turn, there is something exciting to see; golden ringed dragonflies, dark green fritillary butterflies and behind our viewing area a vole has made its home and is a joy to see.
Come and join us on a trip - you never know what you might see. Booking is essential and can be done through our friends at Craignure Tourist Office on 01680 812556. See what Steph has been up to at West Ardhu blog
Ranger, Isle of Mull
Last Saturday, we were celebrating the official opening of the South West Mull & Iona Development Trust Community Forest at Tiroran. Mull Eagle Watch were delighted to be a part of this wonderful day and visitors were amazed to see a display from Iona, the female, having a grapple with the local buzzard who had flown a bit too close to the nest. As well as enjoying the sunshine and the delights of the forest, visitors enjoyed views of the 2 chicks on the nest and at the end of the proceedings, as if on cue, Iona did a fabulous fly over as if to wish everyone good luck in the new community forest.
Visitors to Tiroran Community Forest with great views of the White Tailed Eagles
photo Debby Thorne
This week has been very busy with the ringing team on the Island. As the Tiroran nest is one of the last to hatch, they were left until last to have their leg rings put on to ensure the chicks were big enough. So Friday morning dawned and our visitors on the morning trip had great views of Iona, as she sat in a nearby tree as the ringers climbed the tree to the nest. It really is a strange sight seeing a grown man appear on a white tailed eagle nest. After they had put on the rings, weighed and measured, Dave Sexton and the ringers, Justin, Jo, Marc and Andrew came up to report on their findings. When I saw Dave's face I knew something was wrong and in that instant I knew what he was going to say. "the little one didn't make it". There was a sizeable difference between the 2 chicks and I knew it would be tough but I had everything crossed for the 'little one'. My heart sank - and managed to put on a brave face - I was gutted. Its funny how we always want the underdog to pull through. It will be sent away for research to see if there are any clues as to why it didn't survive - there was certainly plenty of food on the nest - we have experienced some real extreme weather on Mull from snow just before hatching to very hot and humid. At the moment, we just don't know why but will let you know if we are able to find out anything more. The first chick is doing great and we await to see whether its male or female.
Here is the first photo of the chick - you can see it still has some of the fluffy down on top its head and on the wings - this will disappear as more of the dark brown feathers come through. It has 2 leg rings - one is a BTO (British Trust for Ornithology) and the other is a coloured leg ring with the chick's unique numbers.
As you can see, a very healthy looking chick, now 6 weeks old. Iona and Fingal will now concentrate on bringing in food for their youngster - who is now starting to feed itself, tearing bits off and rummaging around the nest. In due course, our local primary children will name the chick so will keep you posted.
Mother Nature can be cruel at times but sometimes its her way of saying something just isnt right. However, Fingal and Iona still have a very healthy chick and we are getting some great views of it moving around the nest as well as great flying displays from Fingal and Iona.
Come and see us at Mull Eagle Watch Booking is essential - call our friends at VisitScotland Craignure on 01680 812556.