Tag Archives: hatching

Terrific Twosome!

Sunday 30th April 2017

Our West Ardhu eagle pair, Hope and Star are proud parents to two chicks this season at Mull Eagle Watch. 

We had a good idea that the pair were due to hatch around this time after settling down to incubate mid March. White-tailed eagles have a 38 day incubation period. Throughout the incubation period we were unsure how many eggs had been laid, generally one or two eggs (occasionally three) are laid in Scotland and most pairs raise one or two chicks. We’re always hopeful that pairs hatch two eaglets – the eggs hatch a few days apart, meaning one youngster is bigger and stronger; more likely to survive the hardships of weather or lack of prey.

Our first indication of something exciting occurring in North West Mull Community Woodland was last Tuesday. From our viewing hide we watched as the adult female (Hope or Yellow C) began to move around much more in the nest – throughout the incubation period she had spent the majority of the time sitting steadily, with little activity. But, she began to spend more time stood up, looking down into the nest cup and we could only imagine what was happening at her reptilian feet. Was the first chick hatching? Could she hear the chick from inside the egg? Eagles chicks are audible from inside the egg up to 15 hours before the hatching process begins. The hatching process itself is arduous and can take over 30 hours in some cases.

This increased behaviour on the nest has continued since. Th eagle pair have been busy on the eyrie and the male has been spending more time visible, often perching nearby or on the nest tree itself.

Screen Shot 2017-04-30 at 18.41.43

Star perched near the nest (Image: Meryl Varty)

 

We had confirmation from Dave Sexton, our RSPB Officer for the island on Friday 28th April that the nest held two very young chicks or eaglets – at only a couple of days old! We’re now keeping our fingers and toes crossed that this pair of youngsters will both make it. The weather has been fairly unkind so far, with strong, cold Northerly winds. It seems we’re coming into warmer weather in the next few days which will help. Star and Hope fledged two eaglets in 2015, and one last year so we know they’re good parents – lets wish them all the support for 2017!

More than eagles…

As well as our adult pair of eagles, we’re spotting juvenile white-tailed eagles often. Plus, we’ve recently had brilliant views of a female hen harrier working the rough area in front of the eagle nest tree! We’ve also enjoyed buzzards, sparrowhawk, drinker moth caterpillars, violet oil beetles, willow warblers and our first grasshopper warbler of the season today!

18010587_1264229133624801_6141557648438807991_n

Phone photo of a juvenile white-tailed eagle!

Join us on a tour: 

You can join us on tours to see Star and Hope at West Ardhu or head to see Iona and Fingal in Tiroran Community Forest. Iona and Fingal are still incubating and are due to hatch soon! You can keep up with Meryl, our RSPB Ranger based at Tiroran, along with the pair, Iona and Fingal by reading the RSPB Blog.

Booking is through the Craignure Visitor Information Centre – you can call them on 01680 812556.

Tours run everyday and last around two hours each.

Advertisements

Iona & Fingal – parents again

Harvest to hatching

Weeks on from the last blog post and we’re back in action at Mull Eagle Watch after a short closure. We took the decision to close our viewing hide and access to the forest during an intensive tree felling period to ensure safety of visitors and quality of the visitor experience. The Forestry Commission Scotland work was unavoidable due to a tree disease called Phytophthora ramorum, which impacts many tree species, particularly larch. To prevent further spreading of the disease the trees were removed from the forest. We know the clear felled areas can look ugly, but within a few weeks’ varied insect species and small mammals like voles will re-colonise, giving rise to a whole host of other wildlife. While we were busy running drop-in sessions elsewhere on the island Iona became a parent once again. At least one chick hatched somewhere around May 5th. We’re not yet sure if we have one or two chicks in the nest as they’re still very small and are incubated almost constantly. The parents are both very busy bringing in prey.

The view in our car park a few weeks ago!

The view in our car park a few weeks ago!

Wild weather

Despite it being the month of May, our weather isn’t playing ball and could be making things very difficult for wildlife. Many species of bird will either be incubating eggs or have youngsters to provide for. The cold temperatures can be a real threat to eggs. For Iona and Fingal this means the chicks must be constantly kept warm, they cannot regulate their own body temperature for a few weeks and certainly aren’t waterproof, so heavy rain is also an issue. Iona is spending the majority of her time on the nest, whilst Fingal hunts and returns with prey. Hunting becomes even more difficult in poor weather and requires more energy to battle against strong winds and to fly when wet. Home improvements are also on Fingal’s to do list. We watched as he took off from his perch to return minutes later with a large branch. He dropped this into the nest rather unceremoniously and returned to his perch tree. Iona was unimpressed with his décor and shuffled the branch till she was happy.

Very damp Fingal

Often the view we get after heavy rain

Sightings

Along with our white-tailed eagle pair, we’ve been seeing lots of other wildlife. We’ve had some amazing sightings of golden eagles, we think at least one non-breeding pair are holding a territory nearby. We’re seeing these birds regularly and can recognize one individual thanks to very pale plumage above. Both species of eagle were always native to the UK and so can live alongside one another. Disagreements do occur though and often in a dispute over territory the golden eagle will come out on top despite being smaller. We’ve seen interactions between the two species over the last week, very exciting to witness. Buzzards are a regular species within the glen and we’re also spotting a pair of sparrowhawks too. We even saw a female hen harrier high up on the ridge line with nearby golden eagles during one trip! Smaller wildlife is just as interesting and our bird feeders are entertaining our visitors too. We’ve had siskins make an appearance along with chaffinches, coal tits and great tits.

Booking your visit

We’re running trips as normal now but booking is essential. Please call the Craignure Visitor Information Centre on 01680 812556 to book your places. Trips are twice daily (10am-12.30pm and 1.30pm-4.00pm) Monday to Friday.
The trips can include a very short walk from the car parking area to the viewing hide. Bring your own binoculars and scope if you have them, but we do have spares and telescopes for all to use.

The viewing area this season

The viewing area this season

Scotland’s Big Nature Festival

Why not come and join in the festivities at the Big Nature Festival? Mull Eagle Watch is holding a stall on site to promote white-tailed eagles and our wonderful wildlife island. Organized by RSPB, the weekend is jam packed with talks, walks, workshops, demos and stalls – all about nature and wildlife!
The event takes place on Saturday 23rd and Sunday 24th May at Levenhall Links, Musselburgh.

Thanks for reading. Updates will be more regular now after a rocky start to the season here so check back soon! Rachel 🙂

Happy Birthday chick

One week on and our first chick was one week old yesterday, still unable to maintain it’s own body temperature, still very vulnerable to bad weather and still very small and downy. We haven’t yet been able to get a good view of the chick itself, nor have we confirmed whether or not we have a second chick. The second egg would have hatched over the weekend if at all, so we’ll keep an eye out for any signs. As the chick or chicks get bigger they’ll be able to keep themselves warm, meaning the parents don’t need to incubate, we should begin to see them sat next to the nest more and hopefully give a better view in. They’ll also need to increase the prey brought in, to support quickly developing youngsters, a growing chick needs a vast amount of energy.

Visitors at Mull Eagle Hide

We’ve had some great visitors at the hide, along with some great sightings too. On Monday we had a large coach party of visitors after our regular trips, many of these visitors were bird ringers around the country. To make my day even more special, I got the chance to put a face to a name; Brian Little MBE. I’m from Northumberland, and Brian has been integral to bird of prey research based in the county. He has been ringing birds for over 50 years and created the basis for monitoring merlin and tawny owls. He was amazingly knowledgeable, and it was brilliant to chat to him.

Eagle education

On Tuesday afternoon I visited Ulva Primary school to run a session about eagles and wildlife. I thoroughly enjoyed it and so did the kids I think! It was lovely sunshine so we spent the whole time outside, with a bit of running about as predators and prey, then various activities afterwards – all aimed at highlighting the wildlife on our island and how every species links together. I think it’s important to look at things as a whole, rather than one species like the white-tailed eagle.

Ulva schoolchildren

I’m looking forward to seeing them again in June, when they visit the hide for some more fun and games. I have another school visit on Friday too, it’s great to work with the children.

Wildlife watching

Some good wildlife to look out for in general on the island at the minute, things like green hairstreak butterflies on gorse, the flag irises are beginning to flower too, along with sea pinks.

Sea pinks

Sea pinks

Most of our migrant bird species are here now and settled down for business; listen out for chiffchaff, common sandpipers and warblers. You’ll see our swallows, house martins and sand martins are here too and our auks are back in our waters, breeding out on the Treshnish Isles.

Shore at Mull

Marine life is looking great too, with good sightings from our local Hebridean waters, lots of common dolphins around, plus our local bottlenose dolphins have been seen in Salen bay this week.

Thanks for reading!

Parents again

Just a very quick post, but I had to let you all know we’re now parents! The first egg hatched on Wednesday, with a dramatic change in behaviour; much more prey being brought into the nest site and a lot more activity on the nest itself. We can clearly see the adults bending over to pull small pieces of prey off for the chick. Still lots of incubating going on, first of all due to the cold and wet weather we’re having, the young chick needs to be kept warm and dry and also because we hope a second is still to hatch. Fingers crossed!

White sea eagle on nest

Our drop-in day yesterday went well with a nice group of locals calling into to see how things work at Mull Eagle Watch this year. Thank you to those that did make the time to come along, great to see you all and put some faces to names. Lots of people also enjoying our influx of siskins to our feeders, taking plenty of photographs.

Mull eagle watch
We’re getting a little busier again after a small lull following the late Easter. Some good sized groups today with great views of both adults throughout the session, in flight, perched nearby and right on the nest. Iona took herself down to the burn and came back up looked wet and dishevelled after clearly having a bath, she then sat holding her wings out to dry in the breeze, great to see.

I’ll have more for you early next week and maybe another addition to the family.

Excited about eggs

We’re into May already, this season is flying past, it feels like only a few days ago when I wrote about Iona deciding on a nest site and laying her first egg. Well it’s been almost 38 days since that first post…and 38 days is the incubation period of the white-tailed eagle. Now the anticipation is rising at Glen Seilisdeir as we await the imminent hatching of the first egg, if our calculations are correct that could be today, or maybe Wednesday. Unfortunately for our pair, the weather has turned over the weekend. No more blue skies and sunshine for Mull, but heavy rain and gusty winds instead. Hopefully both Iona and Fingal are experienced enough to cope with this weather as the eggs hatch out, and we think the situation of this year’s new nest will help a lot too.

Mull eagle watch flag

We should see a change in behaviour when the first chick hatches. So far the birds have not brought much prey into the nest but we’ll probably see this increase. The youngsters need freshly caught prey rather than carrion to gain enough energy and nutrition to grow so prey like fish and seabirds will become important. The chicks will be incubated for a while after hatching, they are still very vulnerable, especially when the weather is poor but the parents may begin to move around much more on the nest too.

Fingal and Iona raised one chick last year which was named Orion by some local school children. Across Scotland white-tailed eagles often raise two chicks to fledging, they’re much more productive than golden eagles that usually only raise one chick and have a very high chance of failure. Fingers crossed that our pair do a little better this year at their new nest and hopefully we’ll have two chicks to contribute to the Scotland-wide population.

Ticking over

Things have been ticking over nicely after Easter, albeit a little more quietly with the children back to school. There have been some good sightings as usual at the hide, with regular golden eagles, a first year white-tailed eagle and sub-adult birds about still too – we even had a young bird attempt to land on the nest with the adults again! Last week there was a sheep carcass nearby too, and our visitors got some great views of Fingal, our adult male feeding on it.

As soon as we know something about the hatching and chicks I’ll let you all know. Don’t forget to keep in touch on our Facebook page too. I have my first classroom visit this week too, to teach the children about eagles and our island wildlife with some games which will be fun, as well as our drop in day on Thursday this week – if you are reading this and live or work on the island do come along and see us.

Mull Eagle Watch visitor nest

Legally protected

Also, a quick reminder that the white-tailed eagles are a heavily protected bird and disturbance won’t be tolerated. You should not be within 200m of a nest site – if you find you are, without being aware initially, please carefully retreat as soon as you notice. Please be aware of birds and any signs advising you not to stop, it is illegal to park in passing places as this is dangerous and blocks the road.

We’ve had an alert about a particular individual this week enquiring about getting within 30m of an active nest site – this is completely illegal, disturbing and dangerous to the birds. If you see anything suspicious anywhere on the island please call either the police on 121 or Dave Sexton, the RSPB officer on 07818 803 382.

Thanks for reading!