Friday, 2 April 2010

It's great to be back!

I'm delighted to say I'm back after six months away from Loch Frisa - although I have to say that I couldn't stay away completely and had to pop back from time to time to see how Skye and Frisa were doing!

The hide is now open again all week, and this year our White-tailed Sea Eagles have chosen one of their old nests. They are just over half-way through incubation, and as ever are being model parents. As one bird leaves the nest the other takes over immediately and we can often hear them call to each other when it is time for a changeover.

The weather this week has been changeable to say the least; as the clocks went forward last weekend we all thought Spring had truly sprung. How wrong we were! On Wednesday temperatures plummeted and we were treated to a day of blizzards, sleet, hail and strong winds. We had to cancel trips to the hide as the track was too slippery to drive along, but by the afternoon the snow was beginning to thaw and on Thursday the weather was improving (although still bitterly cold).

It is always a worrying time when the weather changes for the worst whilst the eagles are incubating eggs. The sitting adult needs a break from incubation from time to time, whether to go hunting or to stretch their wings and legs, but the changeover needs to be rapid to avoid the eggs chilling.

Two years ago another pair of Mull's Sea Eagles were disturbed by a photographer who stood under their nest to try to take the ultimate photograph. The female eagle was sitting on the nest at the time, on the first day of incubation. She was frightened off the nest and was away for long enough for her eggs to chill and die. Of course, she could not be sure that the eggs weren't viable, and the pair went on to incubate for over 60 days (when the normal incubation time is around 38 days). It was heartbreaking to watch them sit there day after day long after the date when their eggs should have hatched.

Fortunately our excellent "Operation Easter" Scheme (of which more later) meant that the photographer was arrested, charged with reckless disturbance, fined and had all his photographic equipment confiscated. Last year the birds built a new nest and successfully reared two healthy chicks, and they are incubating eggs again this year - not bad for a pair of birds over 30 years old. We would normally expect them to stop breeding in their early to mid twenties.

The weather today is beautiful; one of those clear, crisp days with blue skies and brilliant sunshine that make you glad to be alive. Our eagles must think so too, as at the 10 a.m. changeover Frisa (our female) stretched her wings and, after checking that Skye was safely settled on their precious eggs, flew off into the sunshine to find her breakfast.

Just to convince us that Spring really must have arrived, our Sandmartins have arrived back from Africa and are already checking out last year's nest holes in the old quarry wall at the rear of our visitors' car park by the hide. Lapwings are flying across the fields in front of the hide and our feeders are a constant hive of activity with chaffinches and siskins squabbling over the feeders and a Greater Spotted Woodpecker coming in to the peanut feeder.

At present our hide is in the same position as last year and we are not able to see the nest, although we have excellent views of the "off-duty" bird sitting in their favourite perch just opposite the hide. We can't risk moving the hide at this sensitive time whilst the birds are still incubating, but as soon as those eggs have hatched the hide will be moved into position and we are promised excellent views of the nest, chicks and adults. 2010 is destined to be an exciting year for us, for Skye and Frisa, and for our visitors. Do come to see us if you can.

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