After a weeks holiday I had probably the most enjoyable trip of the year today at Mull Eagle Watch with a great group of 20 visitors. The weather was overcast this morning and rain was forecast this afternoon, but it held off until after the walk when I was on the way home.
After giving an introduction about white-tailed eagles at the hide, we walked all the way to the end of the forest track without seeing a single bird, but there, in one of the large conifers overlooking the bay was Iona, our adult female. We had great views of her sitting serenely with her pale head plumage and huge yellow feet, perching on a topmost branch looking out over Loch Scridain. Suddenly, a buzzard appeared and flew toward her, starting to mob her where she sat. After a few moments of ducking and wing flapping as the buzzard dived toward her head, she took off, pursued by the distinctly smaller bird of prey. Both birds flew low in front of us, the buzzard above and behind, mewing constantly.
I suspected Iona was heading off to roost on one of the trees near this years nest and sure enough, when we got back to the hide, there she was in the top of a spruce tree. After more good views through the scopes, of her regal self, she flew off along a ride between the trees, down to where their favourite pool for drinking and bathing stands below a waterfall.
We had overrun our alloted 2 hours, so the visitors gradually wended their way, happy having not only had great views of a white-tailed eagle, but also learnt a lot about the birds. i packed away the scopes and binoculars and as i drove away through the forest, there was Iona sat again in the top of a large spruce near the nest, watching me as I passed.
I haven't seen our juvenile white-tailed eagle for the past couple of weeks. It was a female chick for our pair again this year and has now been named 'Thistle' by the children from Ulva Ferry School on Mull. Good luck to Thislte over the next 4-5 years as it roams over a wide area searching for a mate. Hopefully it will then set up a territory with its new partner in the ongoing recolonisation of Britain to take up its rightful place as a breeding bird throughout these islands.
The ranger-led trips at Mull Eagle Watch will be happening each weekday until the 2nd October. Book on 01680 812556.
John Clare, RSPB Community Information and Tourism Officer at Mull Eagle Watch on the wonderful Isle of Mull.
The white-tailed eagle chick from the Glen Seilisdeir nest fledged safely back at the beginning of August and, after over a week spending much of its time on the ground in the clearing below the nest, is now to be seen soaring high above Tiroran Forest and the adjacent moorland.
Last week the visitors to each trip of Mull Eagle Watch had probably the most spectacular views of the year. We are now walking around 1 mile along the forest track to an area of most spectacular views over Kilfinichen Bay, out over Loch Scridain and up to Ben More. This is the place where the eagles are currently most often to be seen, perched on some of their favourite lookout spots, or soaring over the tops of the huge spruce, larch and pine trees. We are also regularly seeing a sub-adult white-tailed eagle, probably a chick raised by this pair several years ago and on one day this week we watched as this bird performed an aerial ballet with this years juvenile: a wheeling and tumbling duet, with one of the eagles flipping over and showing its talons, seemingly part in play, but also with the serious edge of practising for future territorial disputes and mating rituals.
Yesterday, the visiting RSPB Aberdeen Local Group watched as the eagles soared over the adjacent moorland, being mobbed by our local pair of buzzards. A large flock of hooded crows were also in attendance and three ring-tailed harriers, probably the mother and two juveniles, swooped and dived, mobbing both the crows and the eagles. In the afternoon, another group of visitors were even more privileged to have close views of Iona and the juvenile flying low overhead, heading off across the Glen to alight on the moorland. Iona had obviously dropped food for the youngster, because as soon as it landed, it mantled its wings, shielding the prey before starting to rip it up with its big powerful beak.
The chick will spend a few more weeks at least in its parent’s territory, mastering flight and hunting, but still being supported by Iona and Fingal. Then it will be off, ranging far and wide in its 4 or 5 year journey to maturity, finding a mate and establishing its own territory. Provided its survives the first year, often the most critical time of its life, it may return with its mate to establish a territory close to the parents range.
Mull Eagle Watch walks should be continuing until the end of September (2 hours starting at 10am and 1pm most weekdays). Booking is essential on 01689 812 556.
John Clare, Isle of Mull Community Information and Tourism Officer.
For 5 months this year I have been leading trips to watch the pair of white-tailed eagles that are nesting in Tiroran Forest, Glen Seilisdeir on the Isle of Mull. There have been some memorable moments during that time: our two adults mating in a tree after the female had laid her first egg, the first sight of the downy white head of the chick after it had hatched, food being brought to the chick on the nest, aerial battles between our white-tailed eagle adults and intruding sub-adult golden eagles, and the first hesitant flight of the juvenile. But this week the most magical experience of my year occurred, with a close fly past of this year’s juvenile.
I was standing by the telescopes, outside the hide, searching the nest area for any signs of the birds in the last 10 minutes before I was due to collect the visitors for our first trip of the day. Suddenly, a huge dark bird appeared in the sky and passed directly overhead about 20 feet above the ground, almost blocking out the sun. I could see every detail of its plumage: the enormous ‘fingers’ of the primary feathers at the end of the rectangular wings, one of which had slight damage along its leading edge, the distinctive wedge shape of the pale tail feathers with their darker brown margins, and the ruffling of the soft feathers on the head and breast. I could see its eyes clearly, looking directly at me as I stood, rooted to the spot. No time to rush and get my camera. Probably just as well as I wouldn’t have been able to concentrate on the bird and appreciate the majesty and close proximity of this youngster that has been the focus of our attention and concern this year at Mull Eagle Watch.
I would like to think it was looking at me with appreciation for protecting it this year, but I am certain it was just interested in another new sight, another new experience at the beginning of the learning process, of the development to an adult, of the search for a mate and territory, and of what we hope will be a long and productive life, helping to repopulate Scotland and beyond, getting this wonderful bird of prey back where it belongs.