Tag Archives: butterflies

Fast approaching fledging

Edging closer to fledging

Things are progressing on Mull and our eaglet is now almost 11 weeks old. We’re getting rapidly closer to the time of fledging for our chick which will be in the next 1-2 weeks. Many other eaglets from other nest sites around the island hatch earlier than Iona and Fingal’s, so will be nearer the all-important first flight than ours. This is a really critical time in the life of a young bird, even more so when you have an 8ft wingspan – mastering these wings on your maiden voyage isn’t easy and it can all go very wrong, so we’ll be watching with both nerves and excitement as the time draws closer. Our chick has already started exploring some of the branches edging the nest and is often really visible whilst standing up tall and prominent. Our adult eagles are still bringing prey into the nest site and we’re often getting great views of them in flight. They don’t usually spend much time on the nest itself now though and our chick will be feeding itself.

Raptor sightings

We’ve been veering from one extreme to another with weather again. It seems we get one glorious day with clear blue skies, and then two wet days making the midges explode in the forest. The eagles have been active though and on most trips we’ve had great views throughout the trip time, we’ve even been struggling to fit all of our usual talks and information in – but we don’t mind being interrupted by eagles! Golden eagles and buzzards have been showing well, yesterday we were treated to a fantastic close view of a golden eagle, with a buzzard following closely to mob the larger bird. Very privileged to see golden eagles close up, they’re normally very secretive! Have a look at the golden eagle ringing process in photos to get an insight into their eyrie. Some days we also get a visit from the local sparrowhawk. These small raptors get a lot of hatred, even in the bird watching world unfortunately as they are wrongly accused of eating ALL of our garden birds.  The raptors are an indicator of the health of the other wildlife and so if you have a visiting sparrowhawk it means you have plenty of prey to support the next level of the food chain – we should cherish our raptors, especially in our garden.


Juv white-tailed eagle with mountain backdrop (Ewan Miles)

Butterflies and wildflowers

Along with the larger species associated with Mull it’s a great time to enjoy the smaller species like our wildflowers and insects. We’re lucky here that most of our road verges aren’t strimmed regularly, meaning they look amazing and are teeming with wildlife. Unfortunately elsewhere in the UK this isn’t the case as we lose a huge area of habitat due to council regulations each summer. Next time you’re out, take a moment to appreciate how good the road edges look! We had a great ranger event at Treshnish Farm, an area farmed in a wildlife friendly manner. The Coronation Meadow there is fantastic, full of incredible flowers and all the associated bird and insect life. Walking through a meadow like this is a great way to connect with nature and we’ve lost the majority of our UK wild flower meadows due to changes in management practice. Dark-green fritillary are on the wing right now, they’re a large butterfly with powerful flight, along with common blue and day flying moths like the chimney sweeper.


Dark-green fritillary (Ewan Miles

Chimney Sweeper Moth

Chimney sweeper moth

Thanks for reading and look back soon to see how our eaglet fares in the next few weeks. Rachel 🙂


Flying high

sea eagle Iona on MullSo eventually – almost a whole seven days after our chick turned 12 weeks old – she fledged. Last Monday, she was right on the edge of the nest, exercising those huge wings, looking like she’d be off any minute, but she clung on to familiarity till Tuesday.

She didn’t get far and spent all of Wednesday out of sight, low down in the brash below the nest site. We could hear her calling, and both Iona and Fingal were perched about giving moral support. Thursday we were very privileged to see her get to grips with flight, she soared above the trees, breaking the skyline to demonstrate her fantastic size and shape. She dropped her legs down to break as she came in to land, showing instinctual behaviour. Absolutely brilliant to see and it almost brought a tear to my eye after three months of watching her grow up!

Experienced eagles

Despite having fledged, we’ll still see the youngster and the adults around the area. Chicks tend to stay with the adults for another few months after fledging, often until October time. This period is critical for the survival of the juveniles, as they need to learn how to hunt and fend for themselves before winter, which is one of the toughest times during their life. Iona and Fingal are experienced eagles and will probably teach her how to hunt, how to find carrion carcasses and more. Then instinct will take over again and she’ll head off into the big wide world, nor forcing from the adults.

Juveniles have four to five years of roaming around before hitting adulthood themselves and so our youngster could head off in any direction, maybe to Ireland and back, or over to East Scotland. She’ll likely find a mate whilst far away from home here on Mull, meaning less chance they’ll be related. She’ll eventually settle down in a territory of her own, maybe not far from her home nest site on Mull.

Persecution problems

Thankfully the Isle of Mull is a relatively safe place for all our raptors to breed, without the issue of illegal persecution. Unfortunately not all of the UK matches up to our standards and our eagles have a lot to face when they move away from the safety of the island. Illegal persecution of our birds of prey is worse now than it has been in years, with many birds being shot, poisoned and trapped – despite the fact it has been illegal to do so since 1954. Hopefully our fledgling won’t cross over any particularly bad areas but it’s very likely she will, we wish her all the luck.

It isn’t just our eagles that are killed though, the hen harrier is on the brink of extinction in the UK and others like the buzzard, red kites, peregrine and goshawk are regularly killed too. Often this is linked in with driven grouse shooting, although not all estates are responsible. This Sunday gone it was Hen Harrier Day 2014, to raise awareness of the ongoing raptor persecution in the UK. If you didn’t get along to a gathering, please take a minute to show your support by signing Mark Avery’s petition, taking a hen harrier selfie with a poster or changing your Facebook profile picture!

red admiral butterfly

Visiting hide

We’re still running daily trips at the viewing hide; we have a good chance of seeing our eagles and lots of other wildlife too. Often we will go for a wander through the forest to look for our eagles hunting, butterflies, golden eagles, red deer and more. Knapweed is flowering at the moment and when the sun is out our butterflies make a feast of it. We’ve had lovely dark-green fritillaries, peacock, red admiral, scotch argus, meadow brown and common blue enjoying it recently. We’re also thrilled to have the company of a sparrowhawk regularly, often coming into the bird feeders to hunt – fantastic birds!

Call 01680 812556 to book – we run a 10am trip and a 1pm trip, Mon-Fri.

Thanks for reading, I’ll keep you all posted on our chicks progress. Also, please send your eagle name ideas for our webcam chick. We need lots so we can come up with a great shortlist!

Scottish success!

Still sitting…

Our chick is still in the nest! Probably not for long now though, as it turned 11 weeks old yesterday. We’re waiting with baited breath for that first flight – or jump as it can sometimes be. The adults, Iona and Fingal seem to be bringing in less prey. They’re still around the area, spending a lot of time perched nearby in a tree or the ridgeline, but it might be that they’re trying to encourage the chick to take that leap. Adult eagles don’t get much holiday time and so the faster the chick fledges the better. It will probably stick with them for a few more months and leave in October, giving Iona and Fingal some free time. Not for long though as they can begin pair bonding, nest building and territory defence as early as December or January.

We’re still getting great sightings at the hide. Our chick is much more visible now and this fantastic sunny weather makes for brilliant soaring and golden eagles have been up in the air too. We’ve also had some lovely butterflies about, with meadow brown and Scotch Argus of note recently.

Fantsatic weather at Gribun Cliffs

East coast celebrations

Absolutely brilliant to hear the latest from our friends over on the east coast of Scotland where the final reintroduction of white-tailed eagles took place. This came to an end in 2012, when enough birds had been brought over from Norway and released. They’re still being heavily monitored with the use of wing tags, leg rings and VHF radios. Last year saw the first successful breeding pair over there, although their chick disappeared in April this year. The same pair this season have raised another chick. It was ringed a few weeks ago and East Coast Officer, Rhian Evans thinks it might be a male. Let’s wish him every success for fledging. Unfortunately, the eagles have lots to contend with including wind turbines and illegal persecution. Hopefully the eagles will increase on this season’s three nesting attempts across east and central Scotland in 2015.

Springwatch youngster has flown

You might have seen our famous webcam star in the news again recently. Following the issue of the intruding eagle and the chick’s 30ft drop adventure, it has successfully fledged. She has been seen in flight within the territory and is doing fantastically well. She has been one of the stars of favourite TV show, Springwatch this year, along with featuring on the UK’s first ever white-tailed eagle webcam, available for the whole world to see.

Name that eagle

We’re now asking you to get involved; can you contribute a name idea for this chick?

We’d like it to be appropriate for an eagle and have something to do with Scotland to go along with the Scottish Homecoming 2014, the Commonwealth Games and all the other exciting things happening here this year. Maybe something Gaelic or traditional? If you have an idea you can send it to us via a private message on our facebook page, leave a comment on this blog post or even email me on mull.ranger@forestry.gsi.go.uk.

You’ll get entered into a pot; we’ll then shortlist our favourites and let everyone vote online. Get naming!

August – Show extravaganza

We’ve got lots going on over the next month so if you’re about on the island come and join us. I’ll be at both Bunessan and Salen shows in August (1st and 7th August). I’ll be there for Mull Eagle Watch with some lovely displays and some eagle related activities for children. On the same stall we’ll have the Ranger Service display and again, lots of activities for the children to enjoy. Come and say hi, ask questions and just have a chat.

If you enjoy a good blog, we have a Mull and Iona Ranger Service blog now too. Follow us to keep up to date on events, shows, activities, talks, walks and more. Look out for some lovely local photos and posts on the recent goings-on.

Mull Eagle Watch Trips

Still lots going on the hide too so call 01680 812556 to book in. Great for families, we’ve got plenty to keep the children occupied throughout the trip and hopefully they’ll get to see one of the largest eagles in the world! Even after our chick has flown the nest we’ll still have good sightings and we’ll often take a wander through our forest to see what we can find.

Mull Eagle Watch

Thanks for reading. I’m looking forward to those eagle name ideas!

Rachel 🙂

Eagle Antics

We’re still speeding through the season, into July already and we’ve even had some glorious sunny days to show for it. Our eagle chick is eight weeks old on Wednesday this week and seems to be doing very well. Just yesterday I had some great views of it stretching and exercising those huge wings in the nest. On very hot days it often hunkers down into the nest to keep cool, raptors can only pant to lose heat, they aren’t able to sweat like we can. Despite the nest being quite sheltered from most conditions it is difficult to shelter from the sun at the very top of a tree! Still a few weeks left in the nest, most chicks fledge at around 12 weeks old and even after that we’ll still get brilliant sightings in the area. Other wildlife sightings at the minute include some brilliant dragonflies with lots of golden ringed – the longest British species. We’ve also had a small pearl-bordered fritillary butterfly. Plenty of buzzards and golden eagles, but also some great views of both male and female sparrowhawks with a few sightings of prey being carried.

Seasonal Seals

Every year white-tailed eagles make the most of seasonal food and at the minute we’re seeing Iona and Fingal bring in common seal afterbirths (the placenta and other gory treats!). Lots of people find this a bit disgusting, but if you take it from an eagles point of view it’s an excellent food source; it won’t run away, not too heavy to carry in flight to a nest and it’ll be extremely nutritional for our chick. Iona dropped into the nest on Friday after approaching the area like an arrow; she was going so fast we couldn’t tell what she had been carrying. She was closely followed by Fingal carrying a rather unpleasant looking food parcel which he ungraciously dumped with the youngster. We had great views of his very red feet whilst he perched nearby. We often see “red-tailed eagles” about at this time of year instead of that lovely crisp white tail. This demonstrates how adaptable the generalist predators are, taking what they can when it’s available.

Mugshot of the intruder

Mugshot of the intruder

Head for heights?

Our webcam proved extremely useful over the weekend, giving us a valuable insight into what can go wrong at eagle nest sites. First of all we had someone share a screen grab of the nest site with an intruding bird sat on the nest. We’ve seen this couple of times at the hide but the adults were always on hand to defend the nest and chase off the intruder. We’re not 100 per cent sure if the intruder is related, but it was action stations yesterday to rescue the chick. Unfortunately it had fallen about 30ft from the nest to the forest floor below. It could be that the intruding bird spooked the youngster or actually pushed it out; we’re hoping we can recover some footage and check what happened. Thankfully because of the webcam we could rush in with a rescue bid on Monday. The chick appeared healthy and was returned to the nest by FCS climbers. It was left happily feeding on some rabbit and salmon. Great outcome as every chick is important in a population of eagles – they take such a long time to build up their numbers. Thanks to everyone that was involved!

Mystery Shopper

Great news for all of us involved with Mull Eagle Watch as we flew through our mystery shopper visit and report again. It’s a brilliant feeling to know all that hard work pays off. The hide and trips are highly rated and we hope this shines through to all of our visitors. We’re into Scottish school holidays now, shortly followed by the English kids, so July and August will be busy which is great, just need some nice weather to go alongside.

Coming up…

Tomorrow I’m running a Ranger Service event starting from Calgary Bay. We’ll head off for a wander towards Caliach Point and stop plenty of times to “Sea Watch”. We’ll look for marine life including minke whales, basking sharks, dolphins, porpoise, seals and seabirds. Often scanning the area from the shore is just as productive as watching from a boat with the added bonus of wildflowers, butterflies, dragonflies and more. If you’re reading this and would like to come along give me a call on 07540 792 650 for some more information.

Next week on Thursday 10th I’m running “Out and About for Otters”. This one is great for both adults and children – a definite hit with families. We’ll spend some time on the shore of Loch Na Keal learning about otters, looking for signs and playing some games.

“Adventure of the Week” is going to be a new little feature for MEW. Every week we’ll recommend a reserve, forest, woodland or beach to visit. Some may be local to Mull; others might be further afield in West Scotland. This is a great way to support similar sites across the area that provide amazing places to view wildlife, get outdoors and enjoy the summer. Look out for our info board at the hide and our posts on Facebook/Twitter for these ideas.

Adventure of the Week this week goes to…Scottish Beaver Trial – Knapdale

european beaverA great family adventure for the beginning of the school holidays. Get outdoors to enjoy the beaver trail, explore the area and become beaver detectives to spot busy beaver signs. The Beaver Trial has been a great success, similar to our white-tailed eagle reintroduction – amazing to get some of our lost species back into the UK. Visit for the insight into a stunning mammal and the chance to see them in action – if you’re very lucky and patient!

See the Scottish Beaver Trial website.

The Beaver Trial is run in partnership with Forestry Commission Scotland (just like MEW), Scottish Wildlife Trust and the Royal ZSL.

Thanks for reading as usual, hope you enjoyed it – Rachel

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.


Super spring and (hopefully) super summer

Bluebells on Mull

Another lovely week here on Mull, we’ve been blessed with some great weather; glorious sunny afternoons, making for brilliant wildlife watching. Everything is still going to plan with Iona and Fingal who are sharing incubation duties throughout the day. Not too long now before we hope to have hatching chicks!

Sensational season?

Over the whole island it looks like it may be a productive year. We’ve already heard of the first minke whale sightings in our waters, along with news of basking sharks heading north, passing the Irish coast as I type! Last season the sharks were slow in arriving, probably linked to low temperatures and therefore low amounts of plankton that these giant fish feed on. You can follow some sharks that were tagged in our Hebridean waters last season online.
Puffins are back in the waters here now after a winter out at sea and they should be heading onto islands like Lunga soon to start breeding.puffins

The trees seem to have burst into various shades of green recently, obviously making the most of the energy from sun. The blackthorns are in flower and the flag irises should be about to open too, followed by our lovely bluebells soon enough. We’ve seen a lot of butterflies about too, mostly Peacocks. We even came across a rare oil beetle on the track up to the hide one day. These beetles have a fascinating lifecycle; they rely on solitary bees, without them the larvae would never reach maturity. The beetle larvae hide in a flower to hitch a ride back to the bee’s nest, once inside the larvae feed on the bee’s eggs and its store of pollen and nectar to eventually emerge as an adult. These beetles are declining, as are bees. We’re very lucky to have them in the forest at Glen Seilisdeir.

An oil beetle

A rare Oil Beetle

So many eagles!

Thursday morning started out being a dull, chilly day. It was a morning for woolly hats and gloves. We were a select few for the first trip that day and enjoyed interesting debates and discussions about various wildlife issues, from the badger cull and pine martens on Mull, to the on-going raptor persecution across the mainland. We had a volunteer from an osprey watch too and it was great to compare the white-tailed eagles to the amazing migratory fish specialist. We waited patiently for a changeover and were rewarded when Fingal came into the nest, he sat around for a while before taking over duties too so we got a good view of him.

Eagle on Mull

Over lunch the sun came out and really warmed the area, giving way to stunning, clear blue skies. Perfect for eagles! A larger group for the afternoon session, and what an afternoon it was! We lost count of eagles; they were obviously making use of the warm air thermals, enjoying the height without wasting energy. We saw both white-tailed eagles and golden eagles distantly over the hillsides and by the peak of Ben More. We also had a changeover, with both Iona and Fingal taking turns to pose for us on a nearby treetop. As we enjoyed this spectacle, I looked directly up to see five eagles right above us – four sub-adult white-tailed eagles and a young golden eagle! What a sight! Safe to say we were all very excited. The sightings continued in the area until we all had to tear ourselves away with some guests heading off for a quick BBQ before rushing for the ferry.


As you may know, with Iona choosing a new nest site this year we had to make some quick adjustments to the viewing area with some tree felling and a new shelter. One thing we are still in the process of changing is the camera we had on the nest last year. We’ve had problems with our cable and then our TV screen… We’re almost sorted with it now though and should have a live feed of the nest site inside our hide and hopefully an online webcam too.

Lastly, I’ve been busy working on some new activities for our younger visitors so watch this space for some interesting videos and photos of us enjoying the new tasks. I’ll also have some school visits too, making sure our younger generations get a balanced education on our island wildlife, eagles and how everything interacts.

Thanks for reading!