Tag Archives: education

Fledge!

Wednesday 19th July 2017

One day after posting about the imminent fledging and the larger, female chick made the jump!

Fledged Female

On arriving at West Ardhu (North West Mull Community Woodland) on Thursday 13th July to set up for the forthcoming trips I checked the nest site and suspected that one of the eaglets may have fledged, but it wasn’t until further into the morning session we knew for sure when we were only seeing one youngster in the eyrie. The smaller chick, which looks like a male was still in there, giving us great displays of wing flapping and helicoptering but he was definitely alone! He was also very vocal and I suspect that he could see his sibling beyond the conifer trees – maybe he was wondering why she’d made a break for it?

Hope and Star

Great view of Hope (below) and Star (above) sitting together recently

 

First flight

We didn’t spot the fledged bird at all throughout Thursday, so after two days off I retuned on Sunday to provide a trip and see if we could confirm that she was okay. We had good views through the telescope of Star (the adult male) and also enjoyed the remaining eaglet’s antics in the nest. Suddenly, the male took off and the fledging appeared in the air alongside him! The visitors were treat to amazing views of the two in flight together over the woodland – this also confirmed my suspicions that the fledgling was a female; she was much larger than the adult male when in flight.

The male quickly settled back down to conserve energy, whilst the youngster relished the opportunity to stretch her wings with a strong wind to help. She gained height and disappeared out of sight.

Crash landing

On Monday morning we had some more great sightings. The fledgling had returned to the nest tree and was perched above the remaining chick, probably wondering why he was hanging around in there! She took off and then returned to a nearby conifer tree but missed the first three branches at least, managing to settle a little lower in the tree than she’d anticipated. The next day she popped back into the nest – maybe in hope of an easy meal. She then played at being a kite – hanging onto the branch with her enormous yellow feet whilst allowing her open wings to be buffeted by the wind.

Fledged eagle

Fledged eaglet perched up above the eyrie

 

Visiting soon? What to expect…

So, at the moment when visiting West Ardhu be prepared to for an array of sightings – we’re still seeing the remaining chick in the nest through the scopes, although we’ll be expecting him to fledge in the next few days. He hasn’t yet branched out much and so should have some exploring to do around the edge of the eyrie first. When he does fledge we’ll have four eagles in the patch, giving us really great chances of spotting birds in flight, as well as perching close by. The fledged juvenile eagles will remain in the area for another couple of months to learn from their parents and get to grips with being an eagle before spending much of their first winter fending for themselves.

Sightings can be slightly less predictable without birds being confined to the nest, but we’ll do our best to give you a great visit, share our knowledge and to spot wildlife for you – including our eagle family.

Other sightings

As usual we’ve been watching out for the vast array of species found in the woodland at West Ardhu. Along with our White-tailed eagle family we’ve spotted Buzzards, Bullfinches, Siskins and Crossbills. A Sparrowhawk pair appear to be nesting nearby and often fly past carrying prey. Insect life has included Red Admiral butterfly, Golden-ringed dragonfly, Giant Wood Wasp (Horntail) and lots of Clegs!

Join us for a guided trip…

You can book with Mull Eagle Watch by calling 01680 812556 or by calling into the Craignure Visitor Information Centre.

Visit Hope, Star and their two youngsters (both soon to be fledged, but in/around the area) or why not visit Iona, Fingal and their eaglet at Tiroran Community Forest? This chick has a couple of weeks before it’s ready to fledge, so watch out for updates on that in the near future. You can head over the read Meryl’s RSPB Mull Eagle Watch blog.

Back soon with more updates and you can watch out for the Mull country shows coming up too; we’ll be at Bunessan Show on Friday 4th August and Salen Show on Thursday 10th August so pop over and say hello!

Thanks for reading, Rachel : )

Advertisements

Eagle Watch Update

Working with wildlife

Whoever said working with children and animals was a bad idea almost hit the nail on the head. They should have emphasised working with wildlife can also be very trying. We’re waiting patiently to see whether Cuin and Sula decide to settle on their previous nest site, they’ve been very busy having territorial disputes with a neighboring eagle pair and so have been slightly distracted. We won’t know anything further until Sula actually sits down and lays an egg, so Mull Eagle Watch is waiting with baited breath. We’re hopeful and we should know fairly soon, some birds have laid already and are now incubating eggs but each pair are quite faithful to their timings each season.

Gribun

Loch na Keal and Gribun Cliffs

Booking for 2015

We’re aware that many of you are looking forward to your visit this season and many of you have already tried to book in. Unfortunately we can’t take any definite bookings yet, until we’re 100% sure of an opening date. So, if you’ve already called the Visitor Information Centre in Craignure the best option is to wait a few more weeks before calling back – and keep an eye on our social media too.
Don’t panic; if you’re trying to book well in advance you won’t miss out if you don’t book now. But we’re sorry for those of you that are visiting in the next few weeks as we might not be up and running quite yet.

Meanwhile…

I thoroughly enjoy working with our local schools and children, and I’ll visit as many as possible throughout the season to run sessions on both of our eagle species. This allows me to help dispel myths about our birds. These include “the birds are big enough to carry off children and dogs”, “eagles eat all the lambs on the island”, and “white-tailed eagles are bad news for golden eagles”.

In the last few weeks I’ve had the chance to do some bird box and bug hotel building with Lochdon and Ulva primary schools. This is great fun and gets the children outside and excited about our smaller wildlife. Getting muddy to create a bug hotel is especially fun. This is a brilliant way to collect up unwanted garden materials or items – just add them to your bug house. The kids will be able to enjoy this year round and continue to develop it.

I also joined up with Emily, the NTS Ranger for the south of the island to run a mountain session in Bunessan Primary school. We worked together to learn about mountain climbing and human needs, and how we must take the correct equipment otherwise things could go drastically wrong. This led nicely onto our mountain wildlife and the adaptations they need to allow survival in a difficult habitat.

 

Go geocaching

“Geocaching?” I hear you say.
Geocaching is a worldwide game revolving around GPS and hidden boxes. It can be accomplished with a simple and free app on a mobile phone or tablet device and a bit of fresh air. It’s a great way to encourage families to spend more time outdoors, bringing a tiny bit of technology into a regular walk. The excitement of hunting out a hidden box without being caught by “muggles” is brilliant for children and whilst they’re out there nature might catch their imaginations too. I’ve been out and about to hide some more geocache boxes which are hidden and maintained by the Mull and Iona Ranger Service. It’s a good excuse to get out of the office and I’m now hooked on geocaching.
If you’d like to know more head to the geocaching website.

River Seilisdeir

River Seilisdeir

Springtime wildlife

If you’re heading to Mull soon, or are lucky enough to live here this is a great time for our wildlife. Eagles are busy all around the island. You might catch either species displaying, or defending their territory. I was privileged enough to witness a male golden eagle displaying recently whilst the larger female soared above. Buzzards and hen harriers are also more visible right now. Meadow pipits, pied wagtails and wheatears are arriving on our shores, just in time to provide a tasty snack to our raptors. Alongside voles and mice these small birds are highly important for hen harriers and buzzards. Adders and slow worms will be warming up and considering emerging from hibernation. Other amphibians are already busy; frogs and toads have laid their spawn in most cases.

Bat Bonanza

Lastly, if you’re on the island around Easter time look out for our Ranger Service events, the first one is an evening bat walk in Aros Park.

Wednesday 1st April at 6.30pm – join us for a walk around the part with bat detectors! All welcome. £5 adults £3 children. Please call 07540792650 for more information.

You can find more event information on the ranger service blog.

New beginnings

Blimey, it’s March already and I’d promised you another blog in January, where did that time go? Well, I’m now in the office full time in preparation for Mull Eagle Watch 2015 – very exciting. Many of you will follow us through regular social media like Twitter and Facebook; if you did you’ll already know about our brand new location for the coming season. If not, we have some news!

Tiroran Forest & Glen Seilisdeir

Glen Seilisdeir has been home to Mull Eagle Watch for three years now and we had a great time there with our eagles, Iona and Fingal. All of the rangers during that time had some amazing experiences and the pair did very well in producing chicks. One youngster successfully fledged in 2014, which Ulva Primary School named Thistle. I’m sure for 2015 these birds will continue to breed in the same area and fingers crossed they manage to produce many more chicks in the future.

Last year the future of Tiroran forest was uncertain, as it was put up for sale. But thankfully the local island community the South West Mull and Iona Development (SWMID) group launched a plan to raise funds and purchase the site. Recently, we heard in the news that the Scottish Land Fund has awarded SWMID £750,000. Hopefully, Tiroran forest will transfer into community ownership and open opportunities for sustainable income, training and development of wildlife habitats. We have our fingers crossed things go to plan, and wish the development group lots of luck in their venture. I’m sure they’ll enjoy having Iona and Fingal for company!

New beginnings… almost!

So, new beginnings for Mull Eagle Watch this year for the location and our eagle stars. But, some of you might already know that John Clare and I are both returning for another season of wildlife and ranger duties, we’re both looking forward to it. So where is the viewing hide going to be?

Sula & Cuin

Loch Torr and Quinish forest in the north of the island will be playing host to our eagle viewing hide this season. If you caught any of BBC Springwatch last year, or watched the webcam we had live on a nest, you’ll remember the eagle pair; Sula and Cuin. You might even remember all the drama when the chick, now named Sona, was unceremoniously shoved from the nest by another eagle, later to be installed back to safety by Forestry Commission Scotland tree climbers. Well, you’ll get to know this pair of eagles much better this season as they’ll be our Mull Eagle Watch family.

Sona on leg ringing day, a few weeks before being pushed out!

Sona on leg ringing day, a few weeks before being pushed out!

East coast of Scotland eagle

This is a really interesting pair of eagles. Cuin was born and bred on the island and is now almost 8 years old. Sula is a bigger bird because she’s the female, and we’ll know it’s her because she is wing tagged. They’re white with the black number 5 showing. This is the interesting part; she travelled over to Mull from the Scottish east coast where she was re-introduced as a chick. So in reality, she is actually a Norwegian bird. This just demonstrates how successful the whole re-introduction of white-tailed eagles has been, with the final east coast phase ending in 2012. You can find out more on the East Coast RSPB eagle blog .

Sona – 6 months on

The webcam chick that successfully fledged even after the traumatic fall was named Sona. Thanks to the leg rings fitted to her in the nest we’ve been able to follow her progress and are happy to say she is doing well! She’s made her way down to Dumfries and Galloway, where she is enjoying the plentiful wintering geese. Lots of wildlife watchers have caught her in photographs and regularly report her movements.

Sona, captured in Dumfries and Galloway (thanks to Ruth Eastwood)

Sona, captured in Dumfries and Galloway (thanks to Ruth Eastwood)

Thanks for reading, check back soon for more and I’ll get some photographs of the new location too! In the next few weeks our webcam should go live again, but in the meantime here’s another camera to keep you entertained.
Rachel 🙂

Eagle heights

Silhouette of white tailed sea eagle

I returned to the eagle hide last Monday after a week off the island and what a treat I got for my first trip back. We were a select bunch that morning and after an introduction we set off for a walk along the forest track in search of our eagle family.

They are now spending much less time around the nest site and are to be found nearer the hunting area of Loch Scridain. We stopped to view the 2013 nest site and were thrilled to see our juvenile female roosting there. We had a good sighting before she readied herself for takeoff and took to the air. Carrying on further through the forest the track opens out over the stunning vista of the loch.

It was a very blustery day and our eagles were taking full advantage, our youngster appeared overhead, very low and demonstrated she knew exactly what to do with those huge 2.5m wings. She floated above us for minutes; what an amazing encounter with a bird we’ve watched grow up! It only got better when both Iona and Fingal came in on the wind to do the same thing, almost like they were having a wee look at us for a change and not the other way round. Wildlife is incredible but even better when you feel a connection like this one.

Going for gold

Some of you may know we are a green tourism business and for the last two years we have been awarded silver for our efforts to be sustainable, ethical and environmentally friendly. We focussed even harder this year and developed a detailed “green file” and came up with ideas for the future too. So, we are thrilled to let you know we have been awarded the GTBS Gold Award for 2014 following our visit a few weeks ago. This shows our dedication to the wilderness we work in and our aim to keep it that way, whilst having a minimum impact on the environment and the smallest carbon footprint possible. Hopefully we can continue to develop this and encourage other businesses on Mull to join in too.

We also had our mystery visitor from Visit Scotland recently too. They thoroughly enjoyed the trip and we held onto our five stars as an excellent wildlife experience.

Shelley, Orion and…

At the end of last week I made another trip to Ulva Primary School, a group I have seen a couple of times this season and thoroughly enjoy working with. They were chosen as the local school to name Iona and Fingal’s chick this year so I went along to spend an hour with them and gather their ideas.

We recapped things I had taught them about eagles earlier and they remembered everything really well! We then thought about some of the eagles that already have names on the island and matched up pairs and found the odd names out. I asked them to draw something that conjured up Scotland and home for them, with thistles, haggis, kilts, heather and Ben More amongst the ideas. I wanted our name to link in with themes of Scotland, the Commonwealth Games and the Year of Homecoming – and it’s safe to say we had some fantastic suggestions from the group.

John and I will narrow this down and hopefully we’ll have a name for our youngster by the end of the week. The previous names for the Glen Seilisdeir chicks are Shelley and Orion, both great names!

Some don’t like the idea of naming a wild, majestic bird like the white-tailed eagle and I wouldn’t appreciate it if every bird on the island had cute and fluffy names, but the benefits of getting children involved are brilliant. It’s worthwhile for our few “high-profile” birds I think.

Thanks for reading again. Only a few weeks till the end of my season now but time for a few more blog posts.

Rachel 🙂

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 🙂

Small but mighty

Enjoying a break from rock poolingI thought I’d treat you all with two blog posts in one week for a change, but less of our larger wildlife and more of the smaller critters. I’ve just got in from a glorious few hours looking for signs of otters and other shoreline wildlife with a lovely couple of families. The children were thoroughly engrossed in learning, exploring and being at home with nature. Working with our younger generations is one of my favourite parts of the job, it’s brilliant to look at wildlife and simply enjoy it as it is – getting back to rock pooling, paddling, catching tadpoles and exploring the smaller things are some of the best ways to do that.

Shoreline search

We got out our nets, tubs and containers, clip boards and binoculars before trooping off to search. We looked carefully about the sandy shore line for tracks and prints, finding lots of bird tracks, although no otter tracks. We fished in rock pools to find crabs, beadlet anemones, limpets, barnacles, prawns, shrimps, cockles, fish, hermit crabs and more. We also hunted out some otter prey remains, finding lots of crab claws. We found lots of goose poo, which is basically just grass; lots of “erghhhs” and “yuks” as I pulled one apart to show them – a goose can eat more grass than a sheep! It’s safe to say we all left with wet feet, dirty hands and shell filled pockets and we loved it.

Homes for nature

The weather has been fantastic over the last few days and we’ve had plenty going on at the hide. We had a coach party yesterday join us along with lots of dragonflies and butterflies enjoying the sunshine including dark green fritillaries, golden-ringed dragonflies and common hawkers.

bug homes
I’ve been working on improving our area for wildlife and providing some homes for our smaller wee beasties. We now have some shelter for slow worms, lizards or adders – they love to hide under things for shelter and the heat. We’ve also just added two new bug homes which will hopefully become home to some bees, beetles, spiders, lacewings or ladybirds. Our larger insects like the predatory dragonflies rely on the small insects for food, so hopefully we can help them out. We already had some bird boxes up along with our barn owl/tawny owl nesting boxes.

It’s easy to make a difference by doing something simple, you don’t even need to spend any money, and you can make bug homes like ours with natural materials you can find in your garden or park. If everyone in the UK had a little space for wildlife in their back garden we’d have a huge nature reserve that we’re all a part of! How about a home for hedgehogs or a frog hotel?

Thank you

A lovely thank you

I was over the moon to receive a thank you card from Tobermory Primary school for my visit; they made a homemade eagle card with lots of lovely drawings. All the drawings have a huge yellow beak and they also have yellow feet – well remembered and they are great white-tailed eagles! Here are a few photos showcasing the art.

Thanks for reading! Rachel

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