Monday, 4 April 2011

Back in Business at Loch Frisa

Well, the last six months have flown by and, as expected, I wasn't able to keep away from Loch Frisa during that time! Skye and Frisa kept us guessing as usual, building a new nest at the North end of the loch and then ...guess what? They flew back to the "Springwatch" nest and laid their egg(s) there.

So another season starts and I am delighted to be back in post (as of today) and privileged to follow the lives of these very special birds. Our eagles are about mid-way through their 38 days of incubation and are sharing their responsibilities on the nest.

Followers of our "celebrity pair" will know that they are using the same nest they used last year, and with that comes the same problems. The nest is very close to the Forestry track which, of course, is a public footpath. So in order to protect the birds and those precious eggs "Operation Easter" has swung into action and we have brought all the necessary technology into play.

"Operation Easter" is now in its 10th year and was originally the brainchild of Finlay Christine who was at that time the island's Police Wildlife Liaison Officer. Volunteers from the island, visitors, and the Mull Bird Club organise themselves to watch Mull's White-tailed Sea Eagle nests during incubation, backed up by the police. It seems ludicrous that it should be necessary in this day and age, but these rare birds are still at risk from egg collectors, and the possibility of disturbance by greedy photographers wanting to take the ultimate picture from a position too close to the nest.

Our dedicated team of watchers guard the nests 24/7 from a safe distance, aided by CCTV and alarms to notify us when someone is walking past the nest. This year the hide will be in a different position, to the north of the nest, so visitors to the hide will be escorted in from the Dervaig end of the track.

At the moment we are using a temporary hide as we can't move the main hide past the eagles' nest whilst they are incubating eggs. We will wait around two weeks after the chick(s) hatch and then tow the hide along the track to its new position. Once the eagles have chicks to feed they won't leave them, so they will be safe whilst the hide is moved.

With the new site comes a whole host of new views of the loch and the wildlife around it. Today the weather has been appalling with strong winds and torrential rain, so the on-duty eagle has been sat tight on the nest, with just its head visible to our visitors. But we have a Raven colony on the cliffs above us so we can watch the adults bringing in food to their young, and this morning we were lucky enough to see a pair of Golden Eagles flying right above us, being harrassed by one of the Ravens.

The drive from the meeting point to the hide is a little longer than last year, but the views are spectacular and we have already seen Hen Harriers. So despite the weather my first day back has been all it promised to be, and I'm looking forward to keeping you up to date with events at Loch Frisa. Until next time.

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