He had that same carefree swagger that I remember. I could see that 'I don't give a damn' glint in his eye. Everything about him said: 'don't mess with me' but still there was a deep vulnerability and an occasional lack of confidence. It made me respect him even more.
But there he was in front of me. KELLAN IS BACK! The accident-prone, 2010 Mull white-tailed eagle chick - who broke a wing, a leg, was at death's door and spent 4 months in the care of the fantastic Scottish SPCA - has made it through.
I couldn't quite believe my eyes last night. At dusk, as the rain intensified and the wind picked up, there was an immature white-tailed eagle hopping, jumping and half flapping along the flat lands of the huge flood plain in the heart of Mull. The awkward bird jumped up on to a wall and sat there, disconsolate and bedraggled. At the time, my first thoughts were of Kellan. Everything about the bird suggested it was him. But the radio was still silent. No signal. I couldn't be sure. Maybe we had another injured eagle on our hands?
So this morning, now with the sun shining and a stiff breeze still blowing, I returned.
And there he was. Unmistakable. Kellan really was back!
He had made his way up hill from the flood plain and with his wings outstretched, he was drying himself in the warm wind. He looked in great condition. As he preened himself, lots of down drifted off across the purple heather. He's been moulting and he looked paler, more mottled and more 'weathered' since I last saw him in early May. His radio tail mount must have either been moulted or fallen off or simply stopped working as it was scheduled to do about now.
Eventually, by mid morning he was dry. He then simply held his wings open and let the gusty Hebridean wind do the work. It lifted him off the tussock and he quickly gained height. All of a sudden, he again looked like a 'normal eagle'. He glided, flapped twice, circled and vanished over the ridge into a neighbouring glen. His crop was full - he had fed recently and as he slipped out of sight, I simply shook my head in disbelief. A-maz-ing!
Kellan has, again, defied the odds. He did survive that massive storm back in May. He probably hadn't been carried off across the Sound of Mull as I'd wondered at the time. He had simply kept his head down, sheltered in the forestry and then meandered his way up the glen. Sometimes flying, sometimes walking. But whatever way, he'd made it. And now he's in a good place. He's on a friendly Mull estate which will now be stalking red deer and leaving generous piles of gralloch for any eagles which happen to be flying (or walking) by. It'll give Kellan a great start to his second winter back in the wild.
Sure, he found it tough taking off from the flat flood plain. But he's learned to simply walk up hill. And when he's ready, he then launches himself into the wind. And then he's as good as the rest of them. What a bird. What a survivor. They don't come any tougher than Kellan. Don't you just love him?
It's good to be back on Eagle Island.
Dave Sexton RSPB Mull Officer
I'm sure you have by now, but if by chance you haven't voted yet for Treshnish Farm on Mull, Argyll & Bute - the only Scottish farm in the 'UK Nature of Farming Awards 2011' - please do so now! Just visit the RSPB web site www.rspb.org.uk/farmvote
Go on, do it for Kellan - and spread the word to all your e-mail, text, Facebook and Twitter contacts.