Owls, eagles and kids – what could be better?

Mull eagle chick

So yet again it’s been a busy week with lots going on. Following on from my trip to clean out barn owl nesting barrels earlier in the season I joined our FCS wildlife rangers, John Jackson and James Grieg on Monday this week to ring chicks. Barn owls last year across the whole of the UK had a very poor year, with on 20 per cent of traditional nest sites being occupied according to the Barn Owl Conservation Trust. We were expecting a good season here on Mull, the winter was mild and many barrels we checked in April were occupied by both male and female birds. We were disheartened to find on Monday that none of the barrels had youngsters present. There were signs of adult owls, with moult feathers and pellets but no egg shells or young. We’re still holding out hope that we may have some later clutches, the nest sites will be checked again in a few weeks time to make sure we don’t miss them. One natural nest site we checked which is made up of a cave/tree root structure was active with two adults leaving as we approached. We could also hear chicks but we couldn’t reach them to ring, they had chosen a deeper tunnel this year.

Happy family

Weather over the last week has been classic Mull with constant changes, going from bright sunshine to mist, haze and drizzle – great for midges! Earlier this week we had a very damp day and true to the nature of large predators, our adults eagles decided they’d much rather sit around for long periods of time. Thankfully their favourite perches are easily seen from the hide meaning we could enjoy views of white-tailed eagles preening, resting and monitoring the area for incomers all day – brilliant. We have our first photographs of Iona and Fingal’s 2014 chick, very exciting to see. On yet another drizzly, dull day the ringing team made it to Glen Seilisdeir to climb the nest tree. We can now 100 per cent confirm we have one healthy chick, with no un-hatched eggs or any indication of another chick being present earlier in the season.

Mull eagle chick held by ringing team

This took place on 13th June; the chick was 5 weeks and a few days old. In the photos you can clearly see the size – just look at that powerful beak! It looks like the body has some catching up to do, the beak is often a good indication of sex (females always being substantially larger), but we’re still waiting on confirmation of this – last year’s chick was a female. For now the beak is dark, along with the eye. Gradually over years this will change, the beak turning bright yellow and the iris will turn golden, giving rise to the Gaelic name for our sea eagles;  Iolair Suil na Grein, meaning “eagle with the sunlit eye”. Plumage is currently predominantly brown. The white tail and blonde head take around four and half years to gradually moult in.

mull eagle in flight picture by melanie milne

Picture by Melanie Milne

Tobermory Primary – top kids!

Yesterday I spent the entire day at Tobermory Primary School with four different classes going from teeny tiny P1 children, through to P6/7. I have to say I was slightly nervous for a whole day in school with the kids, I usually have one group for an hour and give them back…but it was brilliant. I thoroughly enjoyed it all and met some fantastic children. All were keen and excited, never failing to tell me lovely stories about their own wildlife encounters or asking me innovative questions. As I’ve said before I think it’s so important to get our younger generations interested in wildlife and I think we managed this yesterday.

Here are some of the things the kids said they learnt..

“That all animals and wildlife are linked together, like a giant web”
“I didn’t know that golden eagles were smaller than white-tailed eagles”
“I know that golden eagles have feathers all down their legs, sea-eagles don’t”
“that plankton is one of the most important things in the world”

Hopefully they’ll have lots of exciting wildlife encounters over their summer holidays and I might see them again. Last week I also popped down to Iona Primary School to spend some time outside in the sun with the kids there, and it was a great afternoon.

Visit to Iona

Wonderful webcam

I hope you’re all enjoying our live webcam online at the minute, the chick is looking enormous now (the webcam is running from 6am-8pm currently). If you see anything interesting we’d love for you to send us some details or for you to post it directly onto our Mull Eagle Watch Facebook page, unfortunately I can’t watch it as much as I’d like, although I do get to see the real thing most days. I’d just like to thank all of our partners and those involved with the webcam; Forestry Commission Scotland, Scottish Natural Heritage, RSPB, Mull and Iona Community Trust, Police Scotland. With a special thanks to Peter Carnyx and Chris Baker for making it all work.

Thanks for reading again, I’ll be back soon! Meanwhile, keep an eye on the webcam and our Facebook page. We have another addition to social media for you too; we’re now on Twitter as @Mulleaglewatch. We’ll run alongside the existing @skyeandfrisa page but follow us for tweets about Iona, Fingal and their chick at the hide.

Rachel

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