Thank you all for your patience and interest in the progress - or otherwise - of Frisa and Skye and all their fellow white-tailed eagles on Mull.
As you can imagine it's been a hectic period throughout incubation and now into the early chick stage. Everyone here does their best to keep them safe and to try and ensure they're all successful but there's always the hand of fate which intervenes to make some pairs succeed and others to fail. This year for reasons we're still not clear on, Frisa and Skye will not be raising any chicks although they are still present at Loch Frisa and still usually showing well. Their incubation period went smoothly but their hatch day came and went - just like last year. It hit everyone here involved with this special pair very hard. We just were not expecting it. They seem to be over their disappointment already so we now must follow their lead.
Thankfully this year we have been able to retrieve one intact but addled egg for analysis which may provide us with some answers - or not. We just don't know at the moment but will keep you posted on any significant developments.
We haven't been completely silent by any means since the last blog and have been trialling Twitter@SkyeandFrisa as a quicker, more instant way to keep you all up to date. It would be interesting to know what you think of this, whether you still like Blogs as well or if Twitter does the job? With only the two of us here there may be periods of apparent inactivity on the social networking scene but rest assurred we'll keep the updates going whenever we can!
So trips to the Eagle Hide continue to be very busy and they now offer a unique 'Forest Drive-thru' experience which has never been done here before. Working with our friends at Forestry Commission Scotland, visitors meet the Rangers at the north end of the Loch Frisa track on the Tobermory to Dervaig road and then head into the forest along a good track, stopping at various intervals to look for eagles, harriers, divers, ravens, deer and a whole host of smaller forest birds. Skye and Frisa are usually to be found on a favourite hill or tree and you conclude the visit at the amazing Eagle Hide where you can learn about their whole story and the saga of Mull Eagle Watch. Well worth the £5 adult/£2 children cost which goes to the Mull & Iona Community Trust to support local projects here. For more information check out the Date with Nature pages on the RSPB main website, Mull Eagle Watch or the Forestry Commission Scotland website under Mull sea eagles. To book a trip call 01680 812 556.
Meanwhile, other eagles on Mull - golden and white-tailed - hatched their eggs during a beautiful spell of calm, dry, warm weather. They couldn't have had a better start in life. They need to be brooded by an adult for a good ten days to two weeks before they can control their own body temperature so they are very vulnerable at this stage. As a result Mull Eagle Watch does not end when the eggs hatch! In fact there's now the long 12 weeks to go before they fledge. But that's a while away for now. We've been seeing several white-tailed eagle nests with two white downy heads of the chicks just beginning to appear above the rim of the nest. It's always a fabulous heartwarming moment and you realise that at least they're through the hazardous hatch stage which is probably the most dangerous time of their little lives.
Some of the chick 'twins' have been having wee battles in the nest to work out who is in charge and who will get the first feed when an adult returns with prey. With golden eagles this can sometimes end in the death of the smaller or weaker chick. White-tails seem generally more amiable and less aggressive in the nest although they do sometimes have a bit of a tussle. At this early stage there is always an adult brooding or nearby so perhaps the chicks have less opportunity to get bored and start a fight. To see the mighty form of an adult with that yellow cleaver like beak tenderly offering morsels of food to tiny chicks is a sight you never tire of witnessing.
So what will the coming weeks bring? The weather has certainly gone down hill since hatching so they're not out of danger yet. We may well lose other chicks but we're ever hopeful that most will now go from strength to strength. For us? Well, we've dusted ourselves down, taken a deep breath and just keep on going because there's still so much to do. It means a great deal to us to know we have such a dedicated troop of RSPB supporters and followers out there who care about the eagles as much as we do. It really is much appreciated.
Once more unto the breach dear friends!
Dave Sexton RSPB Mull Officer