It's been a very turbulent month up here on Loch Frisa, it started off in the best way possible with our Sand Martin chicks fledging and playing around with each other hunting for insects and often trying to get back into the nest-hole, but more often than not careering straight into the bank instead! It then got even better when we noticed the Swallows eggs were no more, but had turned into little pink chicks on our tv screen and for a couple of weeks we were treated to really close quarter views of the adults, who by that time were used to us being outside the door and let us watch them as close as 3 ft away, feeding their offspring constantly much to the delight of all of or visitors.
We were only a week away from our Swallows getting their chicks to fledge when we had two days of really heavy rain and disaster struck..... overnight the chicks had got terribly wet and in the morning when we turned on the tv to see how they were doing we couldn't see any movement...... we waited with baited breath hoping that one of the adults would nip in with some food and see the chicks spring to life but nothing....... our chicks had succumbed to the weather and our hearts sank. It had all looked so good...... how cruel nature can be sometimes.
By this point, our eaglets were getting very close to the stage where they would be thinking about making their first leap from the nest and so we decided to go up the nest site to ring the chicks and to put small satellite tags on to them so that we can find out where they go in the next couple of years. This went fantastically well, and we managed to find out who the chicks were..... a male and female, both really healthy and looking like proper eagles now! Knowing this, we asked local primary schools to come up with some names for the chicks and the pick of the bunch came from Salen Primary Schools Gaelic Unit. The male has now been called Mara (meaning 'sea' in Gaelic) and the female Breagha (meaning 'beauty' in Gaelic), and I think that they are just perfect for our Frisa eaglets!
After the ringing, the chicks got straight back to flapping furiously in preparation for their first flight, when it would be we couldn't tell, until suddenly on the 12th we saw a big chocolatey brown bird flying over the tree-tops. I looked at Julie our Forestry Commission Ranger and we both shouted at the same time....... "CHICK!!!!!!!!" It was a fairly wobbly flight, but all of us watching were so thrilled to see one of our chicks on it's maiden voyage! We found out later that it was Mara who made the first move, and we hoped that Breagha would follow suit and appear very soon.
Eagle chicks tend to fledge within 24hrs of each other, so the next day we all waited peering at the nest waiting for Breagha to spread her wings and take the plunge, but for all of the encouragement we or Skye and Frisa could give her, she wouldn't budge and sat on the nest continuing to flap furiously.
A week went by and still Breagha had not made it out of the nest....... had something gone wrong? Was she ill or worse... injured??? It set our minds racing and now I know how a father feels when their child is poorly, I had hardly any sleep for the whole week..... we watched as the adults often disappeared behind the trees to drop some food off for Mara (who by now was just getting his confidence back to try to fly again after his first attempt), and still Breagha was on the nest...... 8 days....... 9 days....... something had to be wrong...... day 10 arrived but we could see nothing on the nest...... Had she finally made it? A quick phonecall later and it was confirmed...... she'd finally fledged, the satellite tag reading showed she was sat behind the trees near to where Mara had been. He had now started to get the hang of this flying business, and was beginning to look very comfortable in the air, but still we waited for the first glimpse of his sister in the air with him.
Finally on tuesday we saw them both sat in the field next to the lochside, standing proud and back together again. We all breathed a massive sigh of relief..... it was ok, they'd both made it. Skye and Frisa must be beaming seeing their yougsters looking so fit and healthy, especially after their devastating loss last year, and you know what....... so are we!!!!!
If you'd like to follow the progress of Breagha and Mara from the comfort of your own homes the link for the tracking page is www.rspb.org.uk/wildlife/tracking/mulleagles/
As many of you know (and some not....), we up at Loch Frisa have been hoping to get a webcam up to our sea-eagles nest, but due to many unforseen problems it has been a long time in coming. Eventually 2 weeks ago we managed to put it in place to beam live pictures to the hide and the worldwide web, but our eagles unfortunately didn't take to it too well. Why that was we may never know, but we felt it was necessary to take the camera back out and leave our eagles be for this year, which is of course very much a shame, but it's more important that they successfully raise their chicks, who by the way, at just over 9 weeks old are now the size of turkeys!!!! Both really healthy and very, very hungry!! Skye and Frisa have been working their tails off to satisfy their voracious appitites, bringing in fulmars, rabbits.... you name it.... they're catching it, but still our not so little eaglets demand more and more!!!
Although it is a real pity that we haven't got a camera on our eagles nest this year, we have been able to put one overlooking a pair of swallows. They've only just started to build their nest in the last couple of weeks and in quite an unusual place too........ right on top of the security light above the hide door!!!! With our solar and wind power we knew the hide was environmentally friendly....... and it looks like our swallows quite obviously agree!!
At the moment our swallow has four browny-speckled white eggs in her nest which she's been sat on for almost a week now and as I'm writing I can see her sat perfectly comfortably in there, keeping them nice and warm on the T.V screen in the hide! Hopefully in a week to 10 days we'll have some more wee chicks at Loch Frisa!
It looks like our Sand Martins eggs have hatched now as well, the parents constantly nipping in with food and popping back out carrying a little white parcel in their beaks....... always good to keep the burrow tidy!!
But it's not just been the birds around us keeping us all entertained...... we've had some fantastic butterflies and dragonflies darting about too! Dark-green and Small Pearl-boardered Fritilleries, Common Blues, Broad-bodied Chasers and Golden-ringed Dragonflies are just some of the non-feathered flying highlights, but today we've had the best of the bunch. Unfortunately though, it was after everyone went home after this afternoons trip. A I walked out to fill up our feeders at the feeding station in front of the hide, a little mottled butterfly whizzed past me...... quickly getting my bins on it I followed it until it came to rest on the head of a nearby thistle. I crept closer to get a better look, and there basking in the sunshine was a Chequered Skipper, but before I could grab my camera out of my pocket, off it went again zipping down the track..... what a fantastic little gem, a very rare butterfly indeed, and not often seen on Mull..... a truly lucky find!!!!
So summers in full swing, there are more and more hungry mouths to feed appearing every day and our eagles and eaglets are still putting on a fantastic show for everyone who comes to visit us at Loch Frisa. It won't be long before the chicks get to their time to fly the nest....... the past few weeks and months have flown by, it seems only yesterday that Skye and Frisa were sat on the nest protecting their precious eggs from the elements and now they've hatched and their almost fully grown eagles!!! Kids eh...... they grow up so fast don't they!!!
At the time of writing, poor old Frisa and Skye are sat on their perching tree, soaking up the sun and trying to catch their breath after tireless trips too and from the nest bringing more and more food for our ravenous chicks! It's just non stop for them at the minute, as the chicks - (who are looking more and more like eagles every day now, and have turned from little white bundles of fluff to big brown bundles of fluff as their feathers come through!!!) - just want to eat, eat more, have a snack then have dinner, tea and supper all in the space of an hour!!! As is true of most youngsters, they certainly have hollow wings!!!! And the amount that they have grown in the last couple of weeks has been astonishing!!
Sea eagles are fantastic parents, and do as much as they possibly can to keep their young fit, healthy and content in the nest, and Sye and Frisa really are running themselves ragged to cope with their babies demands! Fulmars, rabbits and other bits and peices have been brought in, and our visitors are amazed at the sheer range of food our eagles eat..... fish, seabirds, ducks, geese, you name it, our eagles will eat it!! (in the past there have been records of sea eagles who have brought in the odd feral cat to the nest!!! You can just imagine Tiddles looking at the eagle thinking "Yummy! That looks tasty!!!"....... and the eagle staring straight back and thinking exactly the same!!!)
So all is still well up on Loch Frisa, and with more birds being seen up at the hide, our species list has now grown to a fantastic 69, with Osprey, Whinchat and Whitethroat the latest summery additions, the Sand Martins still excavating, Siskins on the feeders, and of course the stars of our show the eagles on top form, it looks and feels like it's going to be a great summer!!
First off, apologies to all of you fantastic eagle lovers waiting for all of the news from our eagles at Loch Frisa, it's been a very busy few weeks, and with waiting for press releases, and the following flood of visitors to come and see our new local celebrities I'm afraid my blog is now a bit behind the times....... So let's get you all right back up to date with all the latest happenings on the wonderfully sunny Isle of Mull!!!
As you now know, our chicks have successfully hatched, but it wasn't until just last Monday that we actually saw the first glimpse of one of our little bundles of white fluff!! What a thrill it was, watching Frisa bend down into the nest, and carefully place a wee morsal of food next to our ravenous chick, and seeing chick #1 reach up to fill his/her little tummy with a bit of fulmar freshly brought back to the nest by Skye!
The visitors watching with me must have thought I was crazy as I danced about the field, proud as punch, smiling from ear to ear after seeing our chick for the first time..... I know it's an eagle chick, but I almost feel responsible for them, and to finally catch a glimpse of my little hatchling was absolutely amazing!!!!
Frisa and Skye continue to delight, with each visitor opening their mouths in awe each time they fly around showing their incredible size and their majestic grace. In week 6 they started to come out and perch on the perching tree together, giving people the chance to compare the differences between them, (Frisa being slightly larger and more silvery on the head and chest), and giving us a great sign that the chicks are strong and healthy enough to be left on their own for a while..... the first week of an eaglets life is a very dangerous one as they can't keep themselves warm, so mum and dad have to brood them constantly, but with both adults out and about, the chicks have got past with crucial stage with flying colours and the lovely sunny weather that we've had has meant that they go from strength to strength!!
It's fascinating seeing our little eaglets, just how small they are.... it's amazing to think that at the moment you could fit them both in the palm of your hand, but in just 10 weeks they'll be pretty much fully grow eagles preparing to take their first flight!!! Talk about having a growth spurt!!!
Now we're back on track, all we can do is hope that the chicks continue to do as well as they have been, and keep watching this space for any more news from the Mull eagle project!!!
It's been a fantastic and really exciting week down at Loch Frisa, the sun has been shining, and everyday we've been treated yet again with spectacular views of not only our eagles Frisa and Skye, but of several juvenile birds with white and yellow tags as well as a few golden eagles scouting by too! At one point on saturday, we were fortunate to see 5 eagles at the same time!! Frisa on her perching tree, 2 wandering adults and a juvenile sea eagle circling above along with a goldie for good measure!!
And as if there wasn't enough excitement for the week with all the views we were getting, the time had come........ everyday we watched and waited for any sign that the chicks had hatched..... and finally on sunday we were rewarded with what we had been waiting for, Frisa perched on the side of the nest, stripping little bits of meat off something she'd brought back and bending her head into the nest to feed her newly hatched chicks.........SUCCESS!!!!!
But the challenge has only just begun for Frisa and Skye, now most of their time will be spent searching for more and more food to bring back for our ravenous little eaglets...... how they put so much away is quite beyond me....... hollow wings no doubt!
The next couple of weeks is crucial for them too, baecause they can't control their body temperature yet, so mum and dad will have to constantly brood them to keep them nice and warm, all we can do is keep watch and hope that the sun keeps shining to give them the best chance possible!!!