Iona and Fingal are having to pull out all the stops to bring in food for their offspring, so on most days we are seeing lots of activity around the nest. We are still seeing other eagles soaring and flying over, including the non-breeding pair of golden eagles that appear to be looking to set up a territory nearby. The chick(s) will be growing rapidly in the coming week and we should shortly be able to get clear views of them moving around the nest.
We were very lucky to get a flying visit from my favourite nature writer, Richard Mabey, this week. He and his wife visited Mull Eagle Watch and I took them on a short tour of Loch Scridain to try and see otters and other wildlife. Unfortunately, we missed out on the otters, but had great views of eiders, grey herons and great northern divers.
BBC Springwatch starts tomorrow 26th May at 8pm. It is being broadcast from RSPB Minsmere, but hopefully there will be lots of footage of Isle of Mull white-tailed eagles and other Mull wildlife. We are also hoping to get a live webcam on one of the white-tailed eagle nests, so watch this space for details.
The sightings at Mull Eagle Watch just keep on getting better, especially now the adult white-tailed eagles are feeding their offspring. Fingal the male, particularly, is bringing in increasing numbers of small prey items including fish, gulls and greylag geese, while before the first egg hatched on 7th May, both adults were taking it in turns to incubate the eggs or feed on the carcase of a red deer up on the moorland above Tiroran Forest. Fingal was also seen being mobbed by 12 hooded crows as he perched precariously in the flimsy top of one of the big Sitka Spruce trees close to the nest.
One of the sub-adult white-tailed eagles, which is probably one of this pairs offspring from a previous year, has again tried to land on the nest, and again been chased off by the male. Orion, last year's juvenile, is also still in the territory and is regularly seen soaring with other birds and hunting over the nearby Loch Scridain.
There are usually good views of golden eagles too, with a juvenile occasionally flying low over the hide, and a spectacular sight one afternoon of a new pair of golden eagles chasing off a sub-adult white-tailed eagle (the golden eagles, although smaller, are well able to defend their territories and food from the larger white-tailed eagles).
Our visitors are often entranced by the behaviour of the other birds we see such as the great spotted woodpecker that some days drums out its territorial signal throughout the trip, but especially the numerous siskins that have been attracted to our bird feeders. The males stand out with their bright yellow-green plumage and black caps. Other sightings include common crossbill and cuckoo, and we are treated every day to the song of willow warbler, song thrush and blackbird.
This week we have also seen a wide range of invertebrates during the trips: green hairstreak, speckled wood, green-veined white, speckled yellow moth, large red damselfly and a number of beetles including the predatory wood tiger.
The 2 hour ranger-lead Mull Eagle Trips at Tiroran Forest, Glen Seilisdeir (NM 480 303) start at 10am and 1pm each weekday. To book telephone 01680 812 556 or call in at the Visit Information Centre in Craignure.
John Clare, Community Information and Tourism Officer
Iona and Fingal, our pair of white-tailed eagles, are parents again. On Wednesday morning this week I arrived at the Mull Eagle Watch hide early, hoping that there would be signs that the first egg had hatched, exactly 38 days after we saw the female hunker down on the nest to start laying. As soon as I trained the telescope on the nest it was clear that both adults were there, their pale heads and huge yellow beaks visible through the dark green foliage of the Sitka spruce in which they have made their nest in Tiroran Forest this year. It was soon clear that they were both bending down, tearing small pieces from the prey that Fingal had obviously brought in fresh that morning, and feeding their first hatchling of 2014.
This year we are not as close to the nest tree so we probably won’t be able to see for a week or two whether other eggs hatch. In the meantime, however, we may be able to tell by the level of feeding activity if there is more than one chick, and as the chick(s) grow rapidly, we will soon hopefully see at least two small downy heads above the rim of the giant nest. The nest is in a superbly sheltered location so that hopefully bodes well for the safe fledging of the juvenile(s) in twelve weeks time.
Our visitors to Mull Eagle Watch have been delighted again this week with the variety of views they have had of both the white-tailed eagles and golden eagles. There has of course been increasing activity on and around the nest: more changeovers with both birds taking turns at incubation, often with the other adult bird preening and guarding the nest in the top of a tree close by. Last years juvenile, Orion, has continued to make regular appearances flying over the forest, and practically every day we have seen two or more golden eagles soaring and interacting over the adjacent moorland.
The nesting activity of other birds has been apparent too, with courting chaffinches, willow warblers and siskins, and drumming from our local great spotted woodpecker, which regularly perches on our entrance gate, hammering away at the timber. On the warmer days we have seen peacock and green-veined white butterflies, and green hairstreaks perched on the tender green shoots of the gorse that is flowering so profusely along the edges of the forest track.
There was a Mull Eagle Watch Open Day for local businesses this week, which drew a good attendance. Several people brought their cameras with long lenses, and at one stage the eagles were upstaged by the antics of the male siskins on the bird feeders that are located close to the hide. Our new covered (but open-sided) viewing areas have been welcomed and we can now ensure that our visitors can remain in the dry while watching the white-tailed eagle nest. Allowing owners to bring their dogs to the hide this year has also been very well received: dogs no longer have to be left in stuffy cars and one of the owners does not have to miss out on the trip.
Numbers of visitors have been steadily increasing, so do book early to ensure you can visit on the day you want to. Telephone 01680 812556 or call in at the Visit Information Centre in Craignure.