The white-tailed eagle chick from the Glen Seilisdeir nest on the Isle of Mull has flown from the nest. On Friday afternoon the 12 week old chick was still exercising its wings on the branches around the nest. By mid-morning on Saturday it had gone. No-one saw it fly and so the watching and waiting game was on to check that it had fledged successfully and not plunged to death or serious injury from 70 feet up in the nest tree as some Mull white-tailed eagle chicks had done in the past.
Several visits on Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning, and constant watching from houses adjacent to the woodland brought no sight of the chick. Careful listening around the nest site also brought no results. Iona, the adult female, sat in the nest tree, seemingly unconcerned, preening her feathers, while Fingal, the adult male, was nowhere to be seen.
Eventually on Sunday afternoon distant calls could be heard. The juvenile bird was obviously hungry and asking its parents to bring food. Later in the evening it was spotted in the tree above the nest and it was certain that it had survived its first flight and was now able to manoeuvre adequately.
Large numbers of visitors turned up at Mull Eagle Watch today to try to see the newly fledged chick, but it eluded everyone. In the morning, neither of the adults were spotted either, and it was the plaintive calls of a young buzzard that were most audible. When the afternoon visitors arrived at the viewing area, Iona was sat on her favourite perch: the branch protruding to the right of the nest. At one point she hopped up onto the nest, finishing a few small scraps of food from the carcass of the shag, brought in by the male last week.
We will be continuing to run the Mull Eagle Watch trips at Glen Seilisdeir until the end of August and hope that visitors will get spectacular views of the white-tailed eagle family in and around the nest tree and flying over their forest home. To book a trip ring 01680 812 556.
Remember the RSPB and Forestry Commission/Mull & Iona Community Trust Rangers will be at Bunessan Show this Friday 2nd August and at Salen Show next Wednesday 8th August so Mull Eagle Watch trips will not be happening on those days.
It has been a week of real development for the white-tailed eagle chick on the nest at Mull Eagle Watch, Glen Seilisdeir. It reached full size over a week ago, but since Monday it has gradually ventured further and further out on branches around the nest, unsteadily at first, but with more confidence as the days have passed. The wing stretching and flapping have increased and its call is less chick-like and more adult in sound and volume.
The chick was 12 weeks old yesterday and this is the time, on average, when most white-tailed eagles fledge: literally take the plunge and fly from the nest. In this case it is a drop of over 70 feet, and this is why it is one of the most critical times of the birds life and fraught with danger. if a gust of wind catches those huge wings before it is ready to fly it can fall from the nest, often killing or badly injuring itself as we saw with the bird Kelan in 2011.
Visitors to Mull eagle Watch this week have not only been treated to the antics of the chick, but have seen regular visits by both adult birds. One day the male, Fingal, brought in a dead shag, depositing it smack in the middle of the nest. immediately the chick flapped its way back from where it was preening itself, perched on a branch half hidden at the rear of the nest., and started to feed, tearing large strips from the breast of the bird. Fingal had to vacate the nest quickly to avoid being trampled in the rush. Later, the female, Iona, flew down from her regular roost site in the tree above the nest, and attempted to feed on the shag herself. in a flash the chick charged at its mother and mantled over the carcass.
Next week we expect to see the chick make its first flight, so if you are a resident of Mull, or are on the island on holiday, do come along to Glen Seilisdeir on one of the twice -daily, 2 hour visits (10am and 1pm). To book ring 01680 812 5586. Also do come and visit the RSPB and Mull Eagle Watch stands at the Bunessan Show on Friday 2nd August and Salen Show on Wednesday 8th August.
When I arrived at the viewing hide this morning with the early sun shining through the trees, the chick was on the nest and both adult white-tailed eagles were in the nest tree. The female Iona was sitting high up in the branches above the tree looking her usual majestic self, while the male Fingal was on his favourite branch behind and to the left of the nest. The chick, anxious for more food, leapt unsteadily across the nest and (for the first time I had seen) ventured out onto a branch, the same one that the male was sat on. Immediately the male left the branch and flew round onto the nest and then onto the branch protruding from the front of the nest.
Later, when I returned with the morning group of visitors, both adults had flown and the chick sat preening its feathers. After lunch (and the unexpected appearance of a large black bull along the forest track) and having collected the second group of visitors for the day the chick still remained in its lonely position on the nest. Suddenly, a short while later, the chick stretched it's wings, started flapping and whether by accident or design ended up sitting on the same branch that had been occupied by the male in the morning. After a few unsteady seconds it gained its balance and remained there for the rest of the afternoon.
Is this the first step to the initial flight? Will the chick be back on the nest in the morning? Watch this space to find out.