Update on the Craignure Golf Course Birds – July 2022

“The island’s white-tailed eagles are having a mixed season so far. A fuller blog on the season overall will follow later this summer but for now this is just to update you on Scalla and Anna, the pair of sea eagles we have focussed on at Mull Eagle Watch in recent years. They nest overlooking Craignure Golf Club who have kindly hosted the project before the pandemic and other factors intervened to pause the public viewing and guided walks.

This year, the pair decided to ‘up-sticks’ and move and build a brand new nest which was impossible to view safely so again, public viewing was impossible. Sea eagles do this kind of move on a fairly regular basis and usually for no apparent reason. It’s just part of their ecology. They had nested in their favourite old pine tree for about 10 years and had given us all amazing views of life at the nest. But over last winter, they decided it was time for a change of scene and switched to an oak!

All was going well for them and they hatched successfully but at some stage during the cold, wet and windy weather which typified the weather conditions on Mull in most of early to mid-May, something went badly wrong. It’s likely the chick(s) succumbed to the weather which is probably one of the greatest causes of nest failure for eagles here. Even if they are being brooded by an adult (which they need for the first 10 days of life to avoid hypothermia) there may be times an adult has to come off, perhaps to feed and that’s when the weather can cause problems. There were several days in a row when the adult eagles will have had trouble hunting. Conditions and visibility were so grim that getting enough food would have been a problem. Sadly, Scalla and Anna will have no chicks this year.

They remain on territory, as they do all year round, but with nothing to tie them to the nest area, they start to roam and drift further afield so sightings have become less and less in recent weeks. They’ll be fine and will now undergo a moult and be ready to start nest building again in the autumn ready for next year. The big question is: where will they choose? Will they persevere with their new nest? Will they revert to the old favourite? Or will they start again somewhere else? It’s all anybody’s guess at this stage but we’ll be keeping a close eye on them and will keep you posted”

David Sexton RSPB

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