Monthly Archives: May 2014

Protective parents

Almost two weeks on and things are still going well with Iona, Fingal and the offspring. John managed to get a glimpse of at least one chick in the nest for the first time this week when Fingal perched his heavy weight on a branch, giving us a clear view in. So we know one chick at least is doing great. We have our suspicions that we do have two youngsters but still cannot say for definite. Now that the chick(s) can maintain their own body temperature a little better, the adults are incubating far less. They still work hard to keep them dry in our rainy weather but now spend a lot of time sat on favourite perches nearby, keeping an ever watchful eye over the territory and one adult will always be on hand to defend the chick(s). Despite growing quickly they are still very vulnerable at this stage, species like hooded crow, raven, buzzard, golden eagles or intruding white-tailed eagles pose a threat if the chicks were left unattended for long.

Very damp Fingal

One morning last week we had a great deal of action. Both Iona and Fingal were getting pretty agitated by an intruding sub-adult white-tailed eagle. They have been fairly tolerant of the birds that hang around but it must have been pushing its luck this time. It took to flying around directly above the nest, often stopping briefly to perch nearby, but not for long before it was pestering the pair again. We heard lots of vocalisation from Iona and Fingal, both showing their annoyance at the bird. With one parent on the nest the other took to the air multiple times, we had no real conflict – often you see things like talon grappling in similar scenarios. Maybe they settled their differences amicably?

I had an extra special moment yesterday during lunch, so unfortunately I was the only one to witness – a golden eagle flew right overhead and the best part was the constant calling coming from it; so rare to hear this species, they are much less vocal than our white-tailed eagles. I know people who’ve watched eagles for a long time and still never heard one!

Tripadvisor certificate

Certificate of Excellence

We’ve just been award a Certificate of Excellence 2014 from Tripadvisor. This is brilliant and really shows our hard work and efforts put in. Thank you to everyone who has left us a review – it means a lot to everyone working here, and of course Iona and Fingal are thrilled too!
We are also applying for the Scottish Thistle Awards this year which will be very exciting if we are shortlisted. Right now, I’m working on our green tourism file – we are currently rated at silver although we’re always trying to improve things to reach for gold.

Another eagle education

Since my last post I’ve been to another of our primary schools; Lochdon Primary this time. Another great group of children and they enjoyed learning about the island’s wildlife, eagles and how predators and prey link together to keep everything running smoothly. I love working with the children; they are always enthusiastic and come up with brilliant, interesting questions that I try my best to answer.

Lots of scopes and cameras

I also had a visit from George Watson’s college. We got some views of the eagles and nest through the scope before building up our eagle nest – this proved to be exhausting as they’d already climbed Ben More – our only Munro – earlier that day. Unfortunately I discovered that our life size nest might be out of action for a while due to our very bad tick year.

Wonderful wildlife

Other sightings at the hide include our local golden eagles and buzzards, often perfectly timed to arrive just at the end of our trips. We have a large herd of red deer feeding on one ridge line. We’ve lots of flying beetles around, including the tiger beetle. Many more butterflies around making use of our sunny spells. Greenfinches have been joining our regular chaffinches and siskins. I’ll also take the time to mention midge repellent for anyone that is due to visit us – thankfully most days we have a nice breeze to keep them at bay but if not they can make a lovely meal of us all.

Brilliant bats

This week in addition to the hide I am also running a ranger service event, if you are about come along to my bat walk – we’ll spend some time leaning about our island bats and take a walk with detectors to listen and see them. We’re meeting in Aros park, one of our lovely forestry commission sites near Tobermory at 8.30pm, give me a call on 01680 300640 or 07540792650 to book for the session.

Thanks for reading again – Rachel.

 

Happy Birthday chick

One week on and our first chick was one week old yesterday, still unable to maintain it’s own body temperature, still very vulnerable to bad weather and still very small and downy. We haven’t yet been able to get a good view of the chick itself, nor have we confirmed whether or not we have a second chick. The second egg would have hatched over the weekend if at all, so we’ll keep an eye out for any signs. As the chick or chicks get bigger they’ll be able to keep themselves warm, meaning the parents don’t need to incubate, we should begin to see them sat next to the nest more and hopefully give a better view in. They’ll also need to increase the prey brought in, to support quickly developing youngsters, a growing chick needs a vast amount of energy.

Visitors at Mull Eagle Hide

We’ve had some great visitors at the hide, along with some great sightings too. On Monday we had a large coach party of visitors after our regular trips, many of these visitors were bird ringers around the country. To make my day even more special, I got the chance to put a face to a name; Brian Little MBE. I’m from Northumberland, and Brian has been integral to bird of prey research based in the county. He has been ringing birds for over 50 years and created the basis for monitoring merlin and tawny owls. He was amazingly knowledgeable, and it was brilliant to chat to him.

Eagle education

On Tuesday afternoon I visited Ulva Primary school to run a session about eagles and wildlife. I thoroughly enjoyed it and so did the kids I think! It was lovely sunshine so we spent the whole time outside, with a bit of running about as predators and prey, then various activities afterwards – all aimed at highlighting the wildlife on our island and how every species links together. I think it’s important to look at things as a whole, rather than one species like the white-tailed eagle.

Ulva schoolchildren

I’m looking forward to seeing them again in June, when they visit the hide for some more fun and games. I have another school visit on Friday too, it’s great to work with the children.

Wildlife watching

Some good wildlife to look out for in general on the island at the minute, things like green hairstreak butterflies on gorse, the flag irises are beginning to flower too, along with sea pinks.

Sea pinks

Sea pinks

Most of our migrant bird species are here now and settled down for business; listen out for chiffchaff, common sandpipers and warblers. You’ll see our swallows, house martins and sand martins are here too and our auks are back in our waters, breeding out on the Treshnish Isles.

Shore at Mull

Marine life is looking great too, with good sightings from our local Hebridean waters, lots of common dolphins around, plus our local bottlenose dolphins have been seen in Salen bay this week.

Thanks for reading!

Parents again

Just a very quick post, but I had to let you all know we’re now parents! The first egg hatched on Wednesday, with a dramatic change in behaviour; much more prey being brought into the nest site and a lot more activity on the nest itself. We can clearly see the adults bending over to pull small pieces of prey off for the chick. Still lots of incubating going on, first of all due to the cold and wet weather we’re having, the young chick needs to be kept warm and dry and also because we hope a second is still to hatch. Fingers crossed!

White sea eagle on nest

Our drop-in day yesterday went well with a nice group of locals calling into to see how things work at Mull Eagle Watch this year. Thank you to those that did make the time to come along, great to see you all and put some faces to names. Lots of people also enjoying our influx of siskins to our feeders, taking plenty of photographs.

Mull eagle watch
We’re getting a little busier again after a small lull following the late Easter. Some good sized groups today with great views of both adults throughout the session, in flight, perched nearby and right on the nest. Iona took herself down to the burn and came back up looked wet and dishevelled after clearly having a bath, she then sat holding her wings out to dry in the breeze, great to see.

I’ll have more for you early next week and maybe another addition to the family.

Excited about eggs

We’re into May already, this season is flying past, it feels like only a few days ago when I wrote about Iona deciding on a nest site and laying her first egg. Well it’s been almost 38 days since that first post…and 38 days is the incubation period of the white-tailed eagle. Now the anticipation is rising at Glen Seilisdeir as we await the imminent hatching of the first egg, if our calculations are correct that could be today, or maybe Wednesday. Unfortunately for our pair, the weather has turned over the weekend. No more blue skies and sunshine for Mull, but heavy rain and gusty winds instead. Hopefully both Iona and Fingal are experienced enough to cope with this weather as the eggs hatch out, and we think the situation of this year’s new nest will help a lot too.

Mull eagle watch flag

We should see a change in behaviour when the first chick hatches. So far the birds have not brought much prey into the nest but we’ll probably see this increase. The youngsters need freshly caught prey rather than carrion to gain enough energy and nutrition to grow so prey like fish and seabirds will become important. The chicks will be incubated for a while after hatching, they are still very vulnerable, especially when the weather is poor but the parents may begin to move around much more on the nest too.

Fingal and Iona raised one chick last year which was named Orion by some local school children. Across Scotland white-tailed eagles often raise two chicks to fledging, they’re much more productive than golden eagles that usually only raise one chick and have a very high chance of failure. Fingers crossed that our pair do a little better this year at their new nest and hopefully we’ll have two chicks to contribute to the Scotland-wide population.

Ticking over

Things have been ticking over nicely after Easter, albeit a little more quietly with the children back to school. There have been some good sightings as usual at the hide, with regular golden eagles, a first year white-tailed eagle and sub-adult birds about still too – we even had a young bird attempt to land on the nest with the adults again! Last week there was a sheep carcass nearby too, and our visitors got some great views of Fingal, our adult male feeding on it.

As soon as we know something about the hatching and chicks I’ll let you all know. Don’t forget to keep in touch on our Facebook page too. I have my first classroom visit this week too, to teach the children about eagles and our island wildlife with some games which will be fun, as well as our drop in day on Thursday this week – if you are reading this and live or work on the island do come along and see us.

Mull Eagle Watch visitor nest

Legally protected

Also, a quick reminder that the white-tailed eagles are a heavily protected bird and disturbance won’t be tolerated. You should not be within 200m of a nest site – if you find you are, without being aware initially, please carefully retreat as soon as you notice. Please be aware of birds and any signs advising you not to stop, it is illegal to park in passing places as this is dangerous and blocks the road.

We’ve had an alert about a particular individual this week enquiring about getting within 30m of an active nest site – this is completely illegal, disturbing and dangerous to the birds. If you see anything suspicious anywhere on the island please call either the police on 121 or Dave Sexton, the RSPB officer on 07818 803 382.

Thanks for reading!