Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Going out on a high

Once again my final week of the season has come round and on Friday I sadly have to tear myself away from the hide - though I don't think I'll be able to stay away from Loch Frisa for long, and I can envisage at least one visit a week to check out the eagles.

It's been an odd year with no chicks for our pair to rear, and sometimes it has been a struggle to guess what they are up to, but with some extra effort on our part we have managed to keep up with them and our visitors have, as always, been thrilled at the spectacle of the fourth largest eagle in the world gracing our skies.

From the poignant days when we watched Frisa sit on her second egg day after day (78 days in all - a record for a White-tailed Sea Eagle), through the period of limbo when she left the nest and seemed to be at a loose end, the birds are now wowing our visitors with spectacular flights.

It's early days yet, but already they have taken a look at a nest for next year, though who knows which one they will choose, or whether they will build a new nest altogether? We have seen them talon-grappling over the loch, flying together, or sitting in the trees preening each other - all part of pair-bonding and a great sign that they are gearing up for next year.

We've also been treated to views of a number of juvenile Sea Eagles recently, sometimes flying with the adults. All the young birds fledged around seven weeks ago and are beginning to explore further afield - there are few territorial disputes now as we are outside the breeding season so there are no nests for the adult birds to defend. We have seen up to five Sea Eagles flying close together, and the Golden Eagles have been making plenty of appearances too. Mull has the highest density population of Golden Eagles in Europe with over 30 pairs on the island, and 2010 has been one of the most productive years for fledged chicks for a long time.

The Sand Martins and Swallows have left, great skeins of Greylag Geese are flying in to increase our already large population, Fieldfares and Redwings have been seen as well as Bewick Swans. Autumn is truly upon us.

Yesterday I had a full trip at the hide; right on cue as we arrived both birds flew in to their favourite perches in the Larch trees and settled down together. It was a typical September day on Mull, and although it had been dry and sunny a sudden squall blew through with both eagles getting drenched. Frisa moved deeper into the Larches nearer the hide whilst Skye flew into one of the Spruce trees. As the rain cleared and the sun came out again, Frisa took off and treated us to the best display I have seen all year. Leaving the Larches she flew round to the track in front of the hide. We all rushed outside and there she was, perhaps 30 feet over the car park, circling slowly on those enormous wings and looking down at us. She stayed for almost ten minutes before gradually getting higher and drifting off. One lady was in tears, saying she had waited so long to see a wild Sea Eagle, and that it had made her holiday. I was full of emotion myself, and almost wished that that had been my last day - what a wonderful way to remember the Loch Frisa Sea Eagles.

Till next year .....!

Friday, 3 September 2010

Mull Sea Eagle hide - a four star experience

This year we decided to apply for Visit Scotland accreditation, and shortly after putting in our application their assessor visited the hide. Imagine our delight when a couple of weeks later we heard that we have achieved four stars! I'm told it's quite unusual to score this highly at the first application, so we're very proud - and determined to pull out all the stops and achieve the ultimate goal of five stars next year!

As usual when all the children go back to school the weather changes for the better, and this year is no exception with a week of fabulous warm, sunny days. Fortunately for us there is usually a slight breeze near the hide which stops us from becoming too hot and has the added bonus of keeping the midges at bay! The eagles have been performing well this week too, with plenty of great views of Skye and Frisa soaring overhead and enjoying the thermals. Normally birds of prey tend to fly when they need to hunt, and spend the rest of the time just sitting, digesting their last meal and conserving energy since they don't know where the next meal is coming from. But on a lovely warm day, when the hot air currents mean the birds don't need to flap their wings in flight, I am sure that our eagles fly just for the sheer joy of it. They find a thermal and just sit on it with their wings outstretched, circling higher and higher, almost like they are on a lift, then glide across the sky. It is a joy to watch them. I was once lucky enough to go up in a glider and fly with a colony of Griffon Vultures in South Africa - the nearest thing to flying like a bird I'll ever experience. Every time I see Skye and Frisa fly I envy their freedom and am in awe of the way they can drift across the sky so effortlessly.