September, 2014

Wildlife

Wildlife
We're about more than just birds (though obviously we like them a lot).

Mull Eagle Watch

Follows the fortunes of Mull's white-tailed eagles and the Isle's other fascinating wildlife
  • Perfect Day

    After a weeks holiday I had probably the most enjoyable trip of the year today at Mull Eagle Watch with a great group of 20 visitors. The weather was overcast this morning and rain was forecast this afternoon, but it held off until after the walk when I was on the way home.

    After giving an introduction about white-tailed eagles at the hide, we walked all the way to the end of the forest track without seeing a single bird, but there, in one of the large conifers overlooking the bay was Iona, our adult female. We had great views of her sitting serenely with her pale head plumage and huge yellow feet, perching on a topmost branch looking out over Loch Scridain. Suddenly, a buzzard appeared and flew toward her, starting to mob her where she sat.  After a few moments of ducking and wing flapping as the buzzard dived toward her head, she took off, pursued by the distinctly smaller bird of prey.  Both birds flew low in front of us, the buzzard above and behind, mewing constantly.

    I suspected Iona was heading off to roost on one of the trees near this years nest and sure enough, when we got back to the hide, there she was in the top of a spruce tree. After more good views through the scopes, of her regal self, she flew off along a ride between the trees, down to where their favourite pool for drinking and bathing stands below a waterfall.

    We had overrun our alloted 2 hours, so the visitors gradually wended their way, happy having not only had great views of a white-tailed eagle, but also learnt a lot about the birds.  i packed away the scopes and binoculars and as i drove away through the forest, there was Iona sat again in the top of a large spruce near the nest, watching me as I passed.

    I haven't seen our juvenile white-tailed eagle for the past couple of weeks.  It was a female chick for our pair again this year and has now been named 'Thistle' by the children from Ulva Ferry School on Mull.  Good luck to Thislte over the next 4-5 years as it roams over a wide area searching for a mate.  Hopefully it will then set up a territory with its new partner in the ongoing recolonisation of Britain to take up its rightful place as a breeding bird throughout these islands.

    The ranger-led trips at Mull Eagle Watch  will be happening each weekday until the 2nd October.  Book on 01680 812556.

    John Clare, RSPB Community Information and Tourism Officer at Mull Eagle Watch on the wonderful Isle of Mull.

  • Flying High

    The white-tailed eagle chick from the Glen Seilisdeir nest fledged safely back at the beginning of August and, after over a week spending much of its time on the ground in the clearing below the nest, is now to be seen soaring high above Tiroran Forest and the adjacent moorland.

    Last week the visitors to each trip of Mull Eagle Watch had probably the most spectacular views of the year. We are now walking around 1 mile along the forest track to an area of most spectacular views over Kilfinichen Bay, out over Loch Scridain and up to Ben More. This is the place where the eagles are currently most often to be seen, perched on some of their favourite lookout spots, or soaring over the tops of the huge spruce, larch and pine trees. We are also regularly seeing a sub-adult white-tailed eagle, probably a chick raised by this pair several years ago and on one day this week we watched as this bird performed an aerial ballet with this years juvenile: a wheeling and tumbling duet, with one of the eagles flipping over and showing its talons, seemingly part in play, but also with the serious edge of practising for future territorial disputes and mating rituals.

    Yesterday, the visiting RSPB Aberdeen Local Group watched as the eagles soared over the adjacent moorland, being mobbed by our local pair of buzzards. A large flock of hooded crows were also in attendance and three ring-tailed harriers, probably the mother and two juveniles, swooped and dived, mobbing both the crows and the eagles. In the afternoon, another group of visitors were even more privileged to have close views of Iona and the juvenile flying low overhead, heading off across the Glen to alight on the moorland. Iona had obviously dropped food for the youngster, because as soon as it landed, it mantled its wings, shielding the prey before starting to rip it up with its big powerful beak.

    The chick will spend a few more weeks at least in its parent’s territory, mastering flight and hunting, but still being supported by Iona and Fingal. Then it will be off, ranging far and wide in its 4 or 5 year journey to maturity, finding a mate and establishing its own territory. Provided its survives the first year, often the most critical time of its life, it may return with its mate to establish a territory close to the parents range.

    Mull Eagle Watch walks should be continuing until the end of September (2 hours starting at 10am and 1pm most weekdays). Booking is essential on 01689 812 556.

    John Clare, Isle of Mull Community Information and Tourism Officer.