3rd November 2018
My goodness, it has been the most challenging season for Mull Eagle Watch! We’ve had some great highs and way too many lows but still, we managed to salvage the season and end with some fantastic and well-deserved news. Here is a summary of the key events that occurred this summer.
The season got off to a fantastic start at our brilliant new host site, Craignure Golf Course, where we watched the long-established white-tailed eagle pair, Scalla and Anna, beginning their breeding season. Sadly, within a week of Anna laying her eggs – and within a week of us starting our tours – the nesting attempt had failed. We think the cause was another adult bird whose interference may be to blame for their eggs breaking. The pair remained around the golf course for the next month, giving our visitors fantastic views, but ultimately decided to explore further afield.
Anna landing in the nest at Craignure Golf Club
With no sea eagles to see, we turned our attention to the coast and were pleasantly surprised by the rewarding sights of distant golden and white-tailed eagles, otters and seals in the Sound of Mull, common and Arctic terns and a great variety of waders including curlew, ringed plover, turnstone, dunlin, common sandpiper and sanderling.
Ringed plover on the beach
Arctic tern at Craignure Golf Course
Tern chick at Craignure Golf Course
We also decided to return to our usual location at Tiroran Community Forest to watch our old friends Fingal and Iona. The view of their nest this year was unbelievable! It was relatively close and very visible, giving our visitors unbeatable views of the parents and chick at all times. But disaster struck again; just two weeks into our tours here, the chick passed away. The post-mortem revealed that it had died from a chest infection. A huge blow to the project but even more heart-breaking for the eagles.
Iona and chick on the nest in Tiroran Community Forest
Just as we felt well and truly defeated, the opportunity arose to return to West Ardhu to run tours and we jumped at the chance! Parents, Hope and Star, had two adult-sized healthy eaglets when we arrived and visitors flocked to the site to see them. Here, we saw lots of young kestrels whizzing around, the occasional sparrowhawk, the very rare golden eagle and of course, the white-tail family flying in and out and all around to the delight of our visitors.
Hope flying past at West Ardhu
Hope and Star’s male eaglet
So despite the challenges this summer has thrown at us – due in large part to the high nest faliure rate of the eagles (9/22 failed) -, we seem to have unbelievably pulled through and even ended on a surprising high; amazingly last night, we took home the Working Together for Tourism award from the Highland and Islands Tourism Awards. A real testament to the success of this partnership and how the partners and other organisations can pull together. And not forgetting the 5* Visit Scotland rating we were awarded based on an eagle-less tour at Craignure Golf Course!
RSPB Mull Officer, Dave, collecting the HITA award!
Thank you to all who supported us this season whether that be by attending a tour, donating to us or just reading this blog and our other social media posts. And thank you to all the partners: Mull and Iona Community Trust, Police Scotland, Scottish Natural Heritage, Forestry Commission Scotland and the RSPB and also to Craignure Golf Club, South West Mull and Iona Development (Tiroran) and North West Mull Community Woodland Company (West Ardhu) for hosting us.
We hope to be back next year, so see you then!
RSPB Community Information and Tourism Officer