Bird F, our wandering bird, has continued to clock up his air miles arriving on Mull last week!
A large male with two white talons and the first collected for the project, he has always been a wanderer, reaching Stonehaven within 3 weeks of release. Then he popped into our Loch of Strathbeg reserve before settling in St Fergus in late September where he remained for 3.5 months feasting on rabbits and geese. He suddenly moved round to Findhorn bay in January and then down to Grantown in mid February.
Until I received an excited call from Dave Sexton on Mull saying he’d just spotted a sea eagle with an aerial on its back! Dave had been watching the famous Loch Frisa pair and saw 3 youngsters including a radio-tagged bird come into roost with them! Dave called the Irish sea eagle project first to check it wasn’t one of theirs and I then headed over a few days later armed with my tracking gear. I finally identified it as bird F on Saturday 1 March, still in the Loch Frisa area and on Sunday near some greylag geese.
Dave on Mull said: 'We’d like to extend a warm ‘Mull Eagle Watch’ welcome to bird F (or ‘Fife’ as he’s already known here). It’s great that he’s so fit and strong and surviving his first winter. I’d like to say that of course I think 'west is best' but then I am biased! Who can blame him for spending a few days on this beautiful island? It bodes really well for the whole project that the populations are starting to mix like this. Fife is quite a sea eagle pioneer isn’t he?
'The Mull public viewing pair (16 year old female Frisa and 14 year old male Skye) were watching him closely as he flew in to roost quite near their new nest. There was no aggression from them at all, in fact sea eagles are incredibly sociable. They will have been the first adults that Fife will have seen since he was a chick in his nest in Norway being fed by his own parents last spring. I wonder if there was just a flicker of a memory for him?'
If you want to come to Mull to see Frisa and Skye (and maybe Fife!) this year, please call 01688 302038 to book.
Some birds will always wander outside of the release area and a bird from a previous project did return to Norway so there is nothing to worry about in terms of the east coast’s suitability for sea eagles.
Being sociable birds, the large numbers of sea eagles on Mull will have attracted him to the area. It is also worth remembering that the long-term goal of the east coast release project is to strengthen the Scottish population as a whole and inject some new genes so bird F maybe contributing to this a little earlier than expected.
In years to come when there are more birds on the East coast, this may attract wintering west coast birds to stay over here so there will certainly be mixing of both populations.
Our sociable group of birds is beginning to split up again. After being on his own for four months bird T the male who was near Braco has finally been joined by bird 5 a female. The two have been inseparable for the last 3 weeks, flying together, showing talons and calling to each other so much so that it looked like love was in the air! However, it is worth remembering that they are only 10 months old and still learning their social skills. Young sea eagles will often behave like this with several different partners until they find the right bird for them and are not usually mature enough to breed until 4 or 5 years old.
In early February bird 5 also showed a lot of interest in a captive sea eagle being flown at a Safari park and spent a few days watching from the treetops. Without adults in the area, the young birds are extremely interested in any other large birds they encounter.
We have not yet had any reports of our birds fishing, but I was lucky enough to see 5 & T whilst they watched some fishermen on the river Earn (unaware they were being watched!) so it may not take long. As opportunist predators sea eagles have a very varied diet. In their current location, where they are surrounded by ducks, geese, swans, waders and rabbits they are finding easier things to eat. Bird K has headed to Loch Tay and other birds are in the Loch of the Lowes area, where there is a fantastic group of lochs containing lots of food. Bird C has wandered back to Fife, we still have a bird on the Isle of May and today I located bird 7 another of our females, soaring high on the thermals above Gartmorn Dam country park, near Alloa.
February was also a busy month for our field teachers visiting 12 primary schools near the release site to tell them about sea eagles.