April, 2009

Wildlife

Wildlife
We're about more than just birds (though obviously we like them a lot).

Mull Eagle Watch

Follows the fortunes of Mull's white-tailed eagles and the Isle's other fascinating wildlife
  • Battle of the Titans

    It's when the RSPB mobile 'phone goes early on a Sunday morning that you fear the worst. Mike who was camping nearby first raised the alarm. The extra help we get from Strathclyde Police were next on the scene. An extraordinary scene lay before them: two adult white-tailed eagles on the ground, talons locked together, wings spread out across the grass, heads high, hackles raised and beaks in full attack mode. They must have been fighting for sometime already. Both birds were panting with exhaustion, occasionally resting, then resuming their assault on each other with added vigour. Down and feathers lay round about. Incredibly they must have locked talons in mid air and then tumbled earthwards which they will have thudded into with force.

    A further 30 minutes elapsed before one bird, a female without wing tags, finally broke free and flew away apparently unharmed. But back in the field, the resident female with the distinctive yellow wing tags and a black spot, was floundering. Several times, she too tried to take off but couldn't. Her right wing trailing and a leg seemingly unable to support her weight. After two or three more attempts she half flew and half limped from the field down to the shingle spit at the head of the sea loch. As I watched her I could see she was a shadow of her former self. Her feathers were no longer sleek and smooth; they were ruffled and unkempt. She kept preening and fiddling with a place on her right wing suggesting some kind of wound. Every now and then she would throw her head back and call loudly to her mate who by now had been sitting on the nest within sight of the great battle for the last five hours. He must have been hungry and needing to stretch his wings but he sat tight on the eggs - torn between flying to his mate and hearing the early cheeping of his chicks from within the eggs. She too must have been desperate to return to her duties at the nest but she needed longer to recover - if she was going to recover. Two hours after she had made it to the beach, she started a more concerted effort to take flight. It was now her fourth attempt. We held our breath and had begun to make plans of what we would do next if she really was unable to fly. She started to run again with wings flapping and cleared the ground by a few inches. Flying low over land and then the loch she slowly, painfully gained height, inch by inch. The mocking flock of gulls all around her didn't help. It's as if they sensed she was not her normal self. But she battled on and eventually seemed to be flying more strongly. She circled high, lost the gulls apart from one persistant common gull and then glided puposefully back towards the nest and landed carefully in a neighbouring tree. The outburst of welcome calls from the male and her response back to him sent shivers down the spine. Yellow black spot was back. She may have been shaken but her spirit wasn't stirred. She still owned this place and at this stage, with eggs about to hatch, no one was going to take it from her.

    Next time...anticipated hatch news from yellow black spot and an update from Loch Frisa

     Dave Sexton RSPB Scotland Mull Officer

  • Hatch update

    Finally, one evening this week, I had the briefest glimpse of one of our precious sea eagle chicks. A weak, wobbly white wee head appeared for a second or two as Frisa looked down proudly at her new offspring. I could only see one. We hope there may be two. Frisa tenderly fed tiny morsels of food, pausing occasionally to gaze around and to look to the far horizon for any sign of Skye approaching with new prey for the family. For a few days this week the weather has been fine but today the heavens opened and it's been dreich and chilly all day. Precarious times for tiny down covered chicks still small enough to sit in the palm of your hand. Day by day they will get stronger. We watch closely and will them to keep going.

    This weekend we invite anyone involved in providing for visitors to Mull & Iona and further afield to come and see us at the hide. We will be there to welcome you from 1200 noon to 3pm on Saturday and Sunday. There will even be some light refreshments to tempt you if Frisa and Skye and chick(s) are not enough!

    Meanwhile Mara and Breagha are well and on Mull as the map opposite shows. They are not far from the scene of a major incident involving two of our breeding female sea eagles recently which I will tell you all about next time. We don't want Mara or Breagha getting mixed up in anything like that. It was terrifying. More soon...

    Dave Sexton RSPB Scotland Mull Officer

  • We have a hatch!

    In haste, as I need to get up there to check all is well today, but Frisa and Skye have successfully hatched young at Loch Frisa this year! They are right on schedule and so far, all seems ok. At least two rabbits have been taken in as food and Frisa has been tenderly feeding tiny morsels to the chick(s). We hope there are two but time will tell. A big thank you to all the local Mull Eagle Watch volunteers, Strathclyde Police, Air Cadets and visitors who have kept an eye on things for us over the last 38 long days and nights. We still have a very long way to go - 12 weeks in the nest in fact - but it's a great start to the season at the Eagle Hide.

    I just wanted to share this breaking news story with you and I will give a full update later. Got to dash.......................

    Dave Sexton RSPB Scotland Mull Officer