Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Bouncing Buzzard Baby!

After all the disappointment of our Sea Eagles' nest failing this year we've been hoping for some good news from our Buzzard nest. Yesterday we arrived at the hide and turned on the camera just in time to see the female showing off her first chick. The tiny, white ball of fluff must have hatched on Sunday and, thanks to "Buzzard-cam", we were able to share the happy event with our visitors. During the morning "mum" left the nest briefly and re-appeared with a Slow Worm which she proceeded to tear into minute pieces to feed to her chick. It was a little hit and miss to begin with as the new mum struggled to aim the morsels of food at the wobbly chick, but after a short time they got it right and the wee one greedily grabbed at the food until it had had enough. It was a little disconcerting to see the slow worm still wiggling, but mum was not put off and finished off what was left. Later in the day she brought in another Slow Worm - she must have found them easily available as she was only away from the nest for a couple of minutes.

The second egg is still to hatch, but as there was a four-day gap between the eggs being laid we are not expecting to see chick number two until at least Thursday. Today rabbit was on the menu, so it looks as though the male Buzzard has finally come into his own and started hunting to feed his offspring. To date he has not been a very attentive partner, leaving the female sitting on the nest for hours on end, then coming to relieve her for around five minutes before disappearing again. We have often seen him hunting near the hide whilst the female can be seen on screen calling for him to take over from her. The emphasis on sharing the incubation is very different to Sea Eagle behaviour, where Skye and Frisa have always taken equal turns at sitting on their eggs. It will be interesting to see how hard our male Buzzard works to feed his family, although for the time being it is up to him to bring in the bulk of the food as the chicks will need brooding for two or three weeks until they can control their own body temperature. On the day our first chick hatched the weather was dry and very warm, so we are hoping that the weather stays favourable - we don't want a repeat of the night that Skye and Frisa's chick hatched!

Speaking of our Sea Eagles, they have finally given up incubating their remaining egg (almost!). Skye lost interest about two weeks ago, but poor Frisa's instinct was so strong that she remained on the nest for 75 days (compared to the normal 38 days' incubation time). Even yesterday she spent some time sitting on the nest - it must be so hard for her to see an egg in her nest and have to fight the instinct to incubate it. Today the weather was fine and Loch Frisa looked beautiful, and it was such a relief to see Skye and Frisa sat side by side in their favourite tree. They have been very vocal, throwing their heads back and calling time and time again - it's amazing how far that call carries. They are both moulting now and are busy preening out all the loose feathers. Every so often they have a little shake and clouds of wispy white body feathers decorate the branches around them.

Even though their nest has failed, Skye and Frisa are still giving us great views. Loch Frisa is their territory and they will always return here after they have been hunting, so whilst we can't show off their chicks this year, there are plenty of opportunities for our visitors to see them perched or in flight.

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Still waiting

Although it is way past time for Skye and Frisa's remaining egg to hatch, they are still incubating, taking it in turns to sit on the nest whatever the weather. There is an outside chance that they might have recycled and laid another egg, but this is so rare it is really clutching at straws. It is more likely that the eagles just aren't quite ready to give up yet, but sooner or later they will lose interest in the remaining egg that hasn't hatched, and go back to normal everyday life. I think this is beginning to happen now as the off-duty bird seems to be spending longer and longer away from the nest, rather than being on hand to relieve the bird that is sitting.

Once they have given up we will start to see more of them again, sitting in their favourite perch trees preening, and hunting for prey. Frisa has already started to moult - we have watched her pulling at a wing feather that was sticking up at a strange angle, but wasn't quite ready to come out.

Our Buzzard-cam is as popular as ever, with the female appearing to do most of the incubating. She calls when she has had enough and usually the male returns to take over, although yesterday he was hunting over the hill opposite the nest and ignored her calls before returning to the nest for five minutes. When he took off again his mate came back immediately, but was obviously not happy and took out her frustration on a twig in the nest.

The farmer who lives further along the track told us that he often sees Barn Owls hunting the fields close to the hide, so we have now put up a nest barrel in an isolated tree. We are planning to put a camera in the barrel next week, so hopefully we will be able to watch a Barn Owl family later in the season! Barn Owls do well on Mull - I monitor them and ring the chicks and in a year when there is a good population of Short-tailed Field Voles on the island we can have around 25 nesting pairs. There is plenty of excellent habitat, not too much fast traffic and usually a good food supply. Their only real problem is a lack of nest sites - Barn Owls like to nest in isolated hollow trees or old barns. There is at least one pair nesting in a cleft in a cliff face, but we also have a number of nestboxes and nest barrels fixed onto trees, and these are proving popular with the owls.

Next week is Mull and Iona Wildlife Week, so the island will be busy. We're expecting plenty of visitors to the hide and there are other events planned all around the island.