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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.