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.
Great information - ta.