July, 2017

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
  • Watching, waiting, anticipating... a fledge!

    22nd July 2017

    The eaglet at Tiroran Community Forest is just over 10 weeks old today and is set to fledge within the next couple of weeks.

    White-tailed eagles usually fledge at 12-13 weeks old so it has a little longer to go yet before it makes its first flight and our visitors are seeing it becoming ever-more active in the nest.

    We’ve been seeing the chick – who we think is female and is now adult-sized – flapping and stretching its wings, looking increasingly eager to leave the eyrie. One visitor this week was also thrilled to witness it attempting to grab passing feathers with its feet! I must say, it does look quite boring up there.

    Tiroran eaglet having a good flap

    We’ve also started to see the chick mantling over the food the adults bring in for it. Mantling is a feeding behaviour in birds of prey where they hunch their shoulders and spread their wings out to conceal their prey from potential thieves and consume it in peace. Chicks can often do this in the nest to protect their food from hungry siblings but as this chick has no one to compete with, it is perhaps just practicing.

    The Tiroran eaglet mantling over it's lunch

    It is a very exciting but nerve-wracking time; we’ve been seeing the huge eaglets hopping and flapping about on the nest, practicing for that crucial first flight but one gust of wind and it could all go terribly wrong, as has happened in the past with two of Fingal and Iona’s chicks on separate occasions.

    Over at the West Ardhu nest, one of the two eaglets has successfully fledged but her smaller sibling is yet to make his move.

    Once all the eaglets have fledged successfully, we will be calling on local school children to name them. At that stage, we be more certain that they will survive life outside of the eyries. Waiting until then is also a good idea as once the chicks are 10 weeks old, they are adult-size and this gives us a better idea of the sexes.

    In addition to our eagle family at Tiroran, we’ve frequently been spotting red deer, golden eagles, sparrowhawks, and an array of beautiful wildflowers and butterflies including speckled woods and orange tips. Dragonflies are zooming past almost daily and this common hawker dragonfly landed on my arm this week to tuck into the fly it had caught.

    Common hawker dragonfly against backdrop of Ben More

    Visitors to Tiroran can still expect to see the chick on the nest for at least a couple more weeks. Once the chicks at both sites have fledged, they will be returning to the nests occasionally but sightings of the eagle families are less guaranteed and the Tiroran tour will involve more walking.

    But there's more reason than ever to visit Tiroran now that Tiroran House Hotel have opened their lovely new tea room next to the forest. And they are now selling their very own 'White Tail' gin. Visitors to this hide may be given a voucher for £2 off a bottle, and what's more, they will donate £2 back to the forest to aid the conservation work here. Who could say 'no'?!

    To find out more about the goings-on at West Ardhu, head over to Rachel’s blog on the Mull Eagle Watch website.

    To book on a ranger-lead tour, contact the Visitor Information Centre in Craignure in person or on 01680 812556. Tours are free for locals.

  • All in a flap

    4th July 2017

    The huge eaglet in Tiroran Community Forest has been getting flappy and giving our visitors fantastic views!

    The chick, who we think may be a female (according to the measurements taken by the ringing team back on 9th June), is becoming ever more active on the nest, much to the delight of our Mull Eagle Watch visitors. With brown plumage, it is rather camouflaged on the eyrie but of course, our fantastic Swarovski and Viking scopes allow us to see right into the nest and watch its every move.

    Both tour groups today were spoilt with views of the adults soaring around overhead, flashing their gleaming white tails at their admirers gasping away far below. I could barely get a word in edgeways for being interrupted by the adults appearing in view!

    And at 8 weeks old, the chick is feeding itself with the prey its parents are bringing in. It still has two weeks to go until it reaches adult size and a further two before it makes its first big leap of faith. We’ll hopefully get to see some branching in the coming weeks – when the eaglet hops around in the nest and on surrounding branches before it finally jumps off for good. But it already looks like its becoming unsettled and bored as it watches the world go by outside of the eyrie. Today, I watched as the eaglet had a right good flap about. Its incredible to see just how huge its wing span is when only two months ago it was in an egg not much larger than your standard apple! Oh how they grow up so quickly.

    Eaglet flapping its wings 

    Once hatched, the chick was a pale grey ball of fluff who since sprouted black feathers and now, boasts rich dark brown plumage. When the chick was ringed at four weeks old, the team found a single black feather in the nest which is believed to be from its deceased sibling and we now hold this at the eagle hide for visitors to view.

    The Tiroran eaglet in the eyrie at four weeks old (photo: Rachel Pate)

    Feather from the deceased chick 

    Along with the feather is another new addition to my box of props – a collection of bones. These were recently found at the base of Fingal and Iona’s first ever nest. The team were sent up this tree too after ringing to reinforce the nest just in case the pair decided to try it out once more. It succumbed to very wet and windy weather in 2004 and fell apart, sending the precious eggs tumbling down to the unforgiving ground.  

    Previous prey item remains

    The ringing team securing Fingal and Iona's old nest (photo: Dave Sexton)

    Other wildlife

    The forest is alive with the chirping, chattering and warbling of our songbirds and their new offspring. And on those few sunny days we have enjoyed, we've been marvelling at the beautiful golden ringed dragonflies whizzing about the place.

    We have been seeing the charming chaffinches with their newly-fledged young, teaching them how to stuff their beaks on the bird feeders.

    The grass is always greener: a jealous siskin and a chaffinch on the Tiroran feeders

    And a handsome male great spotted woodpecker who we’ve been watching for months, recently introduced to us his offspring. Dad perched still for one second, allowing me to take this single snap.

     Male great spotted woodpecker in front of the Tiroran eagle hide

     

    Thanks for reading, and remember to head over to head over to Rachel’s blog on our Mull Eagle Watch website to catch up with the West Ardhu family.

    If you’d like to see our eagles in person, please pop in to the Visitor Information Centre in Craignure or give them a call on 01680 812556

     

    Thanks and bye for now,

     

    Meryl

    RSPB ranger

    Mull Eagle Watch