A busy Easter at the nest

We’re now a few weeks into our 2014 season at Mull Eagle Watch, and have enjoyed a busy Easter. Iona and Fingal are now sharing the duties of incubation although it seems Iona has been doing the lion’s share of work! However over the last few days the pair have shared the job with regular changeovers at the nest. We aren’t sure how many eggs the pair have but we’re hoping they probably have 2 or 3, we’ll know more when the chicks begin to hatch which will be on the 6th or 7th May. The new nest is holding up well with the wind and rain we’ve had over the last few weeks, with much more shelter than last year to protect the incubating bird and eggs.

Visitors to Mull Eagle Watch over Easter at the hide
Visitors to Mull Eagle Watch at the hide over Easter

With it being the Easter holidays we’ve had some great families and groups of children visiting the hide. Lots of them were really knowledgeable about wildlife and eagles already. They asked fantastic questions throughout the trips, showing a huge interest in the birds. We spent some time most days building up an eagle nest, getting hands-on and active. We all worked together as a team to build the nest – which can be up to the size of a double bed! We learnt about eagles and their nest as we built; how deep do they get? How many years can one nest be active? Are they always big enough or do chicks sometimes fall out? What is the biggest nest ever recorded? Did you know that sometimes nests get so big they can cause a tree to fall over? All the children got good views of the eagles and other wildlife too.

Kids having fun in a nest they built at Mull Eagle Watch
Kids having fun in a nest they built at Mull Eagle Watch

An Easter treat

One day we had a really special morning; the eagles had a carcass up on the ridge above the nest site and there was a huge amount of activity taking place. Carrion plays an important part in the diet of many species of eagle, especially throughout winter – although they will readily feed on carcasses whenever it is available. We counted six eagles at one point, a combination of white-tailed eagles (both adults and sub-adults) and golden eagles all flying around the ridge and often landing to feed. The whole time this was going on Iona sat quietly on the nest. Moments like that are very special and our visitors were extremely lucky to see such a spectacle.

We also had a sub-adult bird spending a lot of time in the area; both Iona and Fingal are very tolerant of this individual, allowing it to sit up above the nest. Well, most of the time…one afternoon it pushed its luck and actually landed on the nest and was promptly pushed straight back out! We think it may be one of the pair’s youngsters from a previous year; they would be much less tolerant of a stranger.

A Siskin bird on a feeder
A Siskin bird on a feeder

We’re seeing lots of other wildlife around the hide too. There are bird feeders up nearby with chaffinches, siskins and coal tits feeding regularly. We’ve had some sightings of the common crossbill around the hide and forest too. Look out for any trees which are heavy with cones and you might come across some feeding with their distinctive bill. The children unearthed an interesting beetle too – the “bloody-nosed beetle”. This is a leaf beetle that can’t fly but can “spew” blood from its nose to defend against small mammal predators, interesting…

A Bloody Nosed Beetle
A Bloody Nosed Beetle

We are lucky to be seeing golden eagles almost every day; they use the ridge line above the forest and soar around beside Ben More. Of course the buzzard tends to make daily appearances, along with ravens and hooded crows. We’ve even had some distant sightings of kestrels, hen harriers and sparrowhawks.

Along with our regular blog we have some various ways you can keep up to date with us at Mull Eagle Watch; you can “like” us on Facebook to see daily updates, sightings, photographs and more, both myself and John update daily on this dedicated page. We’re also on Twitter: just search “skyeandfrisa” for regular tweets. Lastly, we’re on TripAdvisor – we’re a five star attraction and would like to thank everyone that has left us a review. Thanks for reading!


Fingal and Iona choose their nest

Mull Eagle Watch re-opened for the season this week, with our first visitors on Monday, after the previous week of preparations. We spent time getting the hide ready and full of information with examples of tags, pellets, leg rings, feathers…and even some stuffed birds! There was a spot of tidying up to do after some recent renovations, and we also had to wait while Iona and Fingal decided on a nest site.

Mull sea eagle hide
Mull sea eagle hide

The feathered pair were seen near the nest site they have used for the past few years, with some mating and both birds appeared to be using the tree as a roost site. But they were regularly seen on the other side of the glen too – on a different site where they also used to nest, although we know that this nest itself no longer exists. The question was…where had they built their new nest?

We waited impatiently, with John our RSPB Information Officer spending a lot of time following the birds and carefully watching their activities. White-tailed eagles are usually very faithful to their own laying date. For Iona and Fingal last year this was the 26th March. But this date came and went without event. Thankfully by Friday 28th Iona had decided she was happy and settled into a brand new nest site across the glen to lay her first egg. Luckily we have good views of the new nest site from the hide itself and we also have a shelter slightly further down the track to give two viewing points.

Sea eagle at nest on Mull
Iona at nesting site

The nest is further away than previous years, but we have great cinematic and picturesque views of the whole glen, including the stunning peak of Ben More, the island’s only munro. This gives us a better opportunity to see the birds in flight around the nest site, along with other birds including golden eagles, buzzards, hen harriers and much more. We provide telescopes and binoculars to help our visitors spot them and we will also have a camera up and running soon too. Another bonus is the new nest site may be much safer for the chicks, with a more sheltered position from inclement weather. Last year’s nest had dealt with some strong winds and rain and had looked rather precarious over the winter.

This week we had some great views with our first few groups of visitors. Iona and Fingal are sharing incubation, so we witnessed some changeovers, during which Iona perched nearby in a favourite tree, enjoying her time off the nest to preen. Of course we had lots of other wildlife too, including spectacular views of golden eagles over the hide and glen and our local pair of Buzzards being very vocal whilst soaring around the site.

If you’d like to join us for a trip to visit Mull Eagle Watch and the opportunity to see Fingal and Iona in action, please call the Craignure Tourist Information Centre to book (booking is essential) on 01680 812556. We are open Mon-Fri and run two trips per day at 10am and 1pm, with trips lasting about 2 hours. Both John the RPSB officer and I (Rachel the new Seasonal Community Trust and Forestry Commission Ranger), will be on hand the entire time to provide information, help you spot the birds and answer your questions.

Isle of Mull landscape