March, 2011

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
  • Are you sitting comfortably?

    then I'll begin.  How many times have you heard that phrase - for me as a young girl watching Jackanory and waiting with baited breath for the latest instalment of a story - and then counting the hours until the next programme to find out what happened next. 

    And so at Loch Frisa - we begin the next instalment of the story of  Skye and Frisa - only its not fiction, its real life.  Well I am delighted to report that Frisa and Skye are now settled on to their nest  and we are in the midst of watching them closely.  Everything so far is going well and as it should.  Mull Eagle Watch is in full swing and our nests are now under the watchful eye of a team of locals and volunteers.

    If any of you use Twitter, there is now a dedicated account for Skye and Frisa - their address is @SkyeandFrisa - and you can keep up to date with the goings on at Loch Frisa as well as Mull's other sea eagles.

    I am sure you will all join me in crossing everything possible for Skye and Frisa this year.

     

    Frisa - female sea eagle - photo Debby Thorne

     

     

    Frisa, our female sea eagle - photo Debby Thorne

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    The one really important change this year is that trips will start from the north end of Loch Frisa.    The meeting point is on the Tobermory to Dervaig road - the signs are in place and details can be found at Mull Eagle Watch  Bookings can be made via our friends at the Visitor Centre at Craignure on 01680 812556.

    This morning as I drove up the track this morning, I was delighted to see 6 sand martins flying over the loch - what a welcoming sight.  We were lucky to see a pair of grey wagtail and a pair of bullfinch too as well as the usual flock of siskins and chaffinches on the feeders.  The black throated divers and curlew are calling too and we had a great view of a male goldeneye and goosander. 

    Its that time of year when there is so much activity - we are seeing flocks of grey lag geese heading off to their breeding grounds and watching the arrival of our summer visitors such as the sand martins and swallows.  I wonder how long it will be before we hear our first cuckoo?  And of course, the days are longer now - with the clocks changing at the weekend, it was gone 8.00pm here before it started getting dark.

    The latest news on Kellan - the Garnett family are great supporters of our sea eagles and were delighted to catch sight of Kellan having a good old feed - its great when our visitors take the time to let us know of any eagle sightings - each snippet of data is valuable and helps us fill in tiny pieces of a huge jigsaw puzzle.

    And finally, just heard some incredible news - The Lady of the Loch, or Marge, depending which website you follow, the oldest osprey has returned to Loch of the Lowes for the 21st time - absolutely amazing. 

    Stand by for the next thrilling instalment!

    Debby Thorne

    White Tailed Eagle Information Officer

    Isle of Mull

     

     

     

     

  • Tough love

    I don't know what to make of Kellan today.

    Kellan was the only chick from a pair of white-tailed eagles on Mull. He was found by a friendly farmer last autumn with a broken wing and other injuries. After months of expert care from the Scottish SPCA he was as ready as he was ever going to be to return to the wild and came home to Mull in December. Since then he has made amazing progress; he can fly and perch well; he has adapted his flight brilliantly to his mended wing injury; he has found carrion on the hill (some provided by local estates and the Forestry Commission Scotland) and he's defended it against other eagles. And just last week he was starting to explore further afield.

     

     

     

     

    Kellan gaining in strength under the care of the Scottish SPCA
    Photo by Colin Seddon/SSPCA

     

     

     

     

     

    But the time has now come to wean him completely of the 'unexplained' food offerings high on the hill. Just as his parents would have done last autumn, the amount of food available to him has been gradually reduced in recent weeks and now he must find his own way in the world. It's a tough world for eagles, never knowing from one day to the next what is coming their way. Feast or famine; storms and calm; friends and foe. Luckily for him, unlike some other parts of Scotland, most on Mull are friends.

    But now as his parents settle again for a new breeding season it is time to cut the apron strings for good. They won't want him around now as they will soon need to tend to new offspring in a few weeks time. It is time for some tough love. It's the natural way of things, the circle of life.

    The temptation, of course, is to keep him safe; to keep providing for him and to keep him here. But that's no life for a wild eagle. He's not a pet, he's a free spirit who was given a second chance by some very caring people but now it's up to him. Last week he'd taken a big step and flown strongly across the glen and on to a new estate. He seemed  to be on his way to a new life. But today he was back on familiar territory. Had he found his own food and come home triumphantly? It's impossible to know at the moment. I hope more anything that he has.

     

     

     

     

    Kellan views the outside world for the first time in 3 months

    photo copyright - John McAvoy, SSPCA

     

     

     

     

    As I left him tonight, I looked around the hillside: there were rabbits out grazing - everywhere I  looked - I've never seen so many rabbits on Mull; there were red deer galore - hinds, year old calves and some stags - some will be weak after a very tough winter and an even tougher early spring; some won't make it and there will be fresh carrion for Kellan nearby and further afield. On the shore, there were gulls, sea duck and auks close in; some will die and wash up with the tide and if things got really tough he could scavenge along the strand line. He couldn't be in a richer feeding environment if only he cares to go looking for it. Just like all other young eagles have to do.

    He is special; he has survived so far against all the odds and numerous predictions from some who thought he wouldn't survive three days, let alone three months back in the wild. Now he faces his toughest test yet and no one can predict the outcome. Tough love can be tough to do sometimes.

    Dave Sexton RSPB Mull Officer 

     

  • TGIF

    Sorry for the delay in updating things for you. It's just that time of year...

    It's been a long day and the eyelids are drooping so just for now, here's today's busy headlines. One day on Mull in 10 bullet points.

    • 0900 Loch Frisa: now you see them, now you don't. Frisa & Skye AWOL. Not a hint. They're not where they should be. Worried.
    • 1100 New pair just established have had their first nest severely blown around in the gales so it's back to square one for them. Both sitting close together in the remains of their nest. Sad.
    • 1300 Fruitless search for second new establishing pair. Not in any of their usual areas or perches. Meet landowners. The clock is ticking. Have they snuck off somewhere else? Frustrating.
    • 1500 Our 2008 satellite tagged sea eagle 'Breagha' sighted on the beach at Killiechronan. I knew from her last data set she wasn't far away and there she was looking quite grown up at nearly 3 years old. Fabulous.
    • 1600 Breagha steals some prey off another immature on the hill. That's my girl!
    • 1630 YBS and mate side by side and getting ready...  Exciting.
    • 1645 No signal from Kellan. Worried again.
    • 1730 Finally found another pair re-building on an old nest after their favoured 2010 nest and tree vanished in the storms. Relieved.
    • 1830 At last a weak signal from Kellan and a long way from his usual haunts since release. Is he finally on the move? Snow, sleet, dusk and gales closing in. All done in.
    • 1930 Home. Family. Fire. Pizza. Beer.  But not necessarily in that order.

    TGIF.

    ps if Debby's still awake and wants to add some great pics from the Eagle Hide trip today or anything else, I think this blog could do with some illustrations! Debby?

    Goodnight.