Thursday, 25 June 2009

Will they ..... won't they

After last week's appalling weather we are once again blessed with blazing sunshine. There were times last week when we were seriously concerned for our Sea Eagles' nest. Two active chicks weighing nearly six kilos each on a nest battered by the wind and beaten by torrential rain seemed a recipe for disaster - especially when we saw the adult birds bringing in extra material to shore up the nest. On Monday this week the cloud was so low it was impossible to see the nest tree, let alone the nest and chicks.

But Tuesday dawned bright and warm, and our Skye and Frisa were busy hunting to feed their chicks. Although the adults always keep a "larder" of food on the nest in case they are unable to hunt, last week's supply must have been rapidly depleted. We were able to go back down to our forward hide where we can see the nest and the chicks. The first visitor to look through the scope was almost speechless, as one of our chicks was right on the edge of the nest flapping its wings hard. This behaviour has continued on and off all week, and at ten weeks old the chicks could fledge at any time now, although they usually go at around twelve weeks.

We are waiting to see the adult birds bring in food and sit in a nearby tree with it; this is the signal for the chicks to leave the nest for the first time. We can barely tear ourselves away at the end of each day, as we don't want to miss that first flight.

When the chicks first take off it will only be for a short hop, but each "flight" will be a little longer. Usually the flights are quite successful, but the first few landings are not so good with the chicks trying to land on branches that are too small for them. They spend time on the ground too, and in previous years we have received calls from members of the public telling us that a chick must have injured its leg because of the way it is walking. In fact the birds are quite ungainly on the ground and tend to look like John Wayne as they waddle about.

Our red breasted mergansers have beaten the eagles to it, as we have seen the female this week with a little flotilla of chicks behind her. The sand martins are on their second brood, the young greater spotted woodpecker is changing daily and has really mastered the peanut feeder, and the buzzards are due to fledge any day now.

Our hay meadow next to the forward hide is a mass of wild flowers with yellow rattle, ragged robin as well as common spotted orchids and fragrant orchids.

So we continue to watch our two chicks with bated breath and I hope that my next blog will describe their first flight.

Friday, 5 June 2009

Healthy chicks and happy children

On Wednesday this week our chicks were ringed; we have two healthy, well-fed chicks at Loch Frisa. It was a very hot day and the team had their work cut out, but fortunately both Skye and Frisa were away hunting and this year's chicks were co-operative as usual. As yet we don't know the sex of the chicks, but blood samples were taken when the chicks were ringed and the results will give us the answer. As usual, food was left at the nest in case the adults were away for long, but we needn't have worried! Frisa soon came in, checked out her chicks and seemed very surprised to see a supply of halibut in the nest!

We have had visits from two schools this week. A group of 17 third year high school pupils came over to the island from Oban and had great views of the adult sea eagles and the chicks at the nest. We also talked about food chains and had great fun taking apart Barn Owl pellets and identifying the bones in them.

Today the children from Lochdonhead Primary School (here on the island) came to visit and had a lovely time watching Frisa who sat up in a nearby tree and gave us great views. The owl pellets were very popular again and the children ended up each with a little pot of bones to take back to school.

Our chicks are seven weeks old now and growing by the minute. With approximately five weeks to go until they fledge they have become more and more active giving our visitors great views.