Thursday, 19 April 2012

Glad to be back!

mull sea eaglesAfter what seems like a very long (and extremely wet) winter, I'm finally back watching eagles and sharing the experience with our visitors at our wonderful new location.

Our resident pair of Sea Eagles have been named Iona and Fingal, and are proving just as devoted parents as Skye and Frisa did at Loch Frisa. Iona (the female), previously known as Green T because of her wing tag which she lost this winter, was reared on the Isle of Skye by her parents who were from the first release of Norwegian Sea Eagles on the Isle of Rum. After fledging in 1998, Iona was first seen on Mull in 2001. Fingal (the male) was part of a second release scheme and was brought over from Norway in 1997 with 9 other chicks. All 10 were released on Wester Ross. Fingal was originally known as Blue 6, but lost his tags in 2006. Following his early visits to Mull. he paired up with Iona in 2002. After a couple of false starts the pair finally fledged one chick in 2005, and have successfully fledged five chicks in total.

Our new set-up at Glen Seilisdeir is very different from Loch Frisa - we still have a wooden hide where visitors can listen to our introductory talk inside (if it's raining), and pick up leaflets, booklets and make any purchases. We then drive half a mile along the track to our viewpoint car park where we all carefully close car doors and make sure no car alarms have been set, before silently walking 100m to our viewpoint - an outdoor hide just 300m from the nest! As I write the eggs are just over three weeks through incubation, so in around two weeks we should spot the first food being brought in and tiny morsels gently fed to a tiny fluffy white chick. With luck a second chick will hatch a couple of days later.

Our "rustic" hide is a clearing in the forest, expertly prepared with a thick layer of wood-chip on the ground, shielded from the eagles' view with a screen of spruce prunings and set up with spotting scopes and binoculars so that all our visitors get the best possible view of the eagles. And what views they have been getting! We watch the adult birds taking turns at incubating the eggs, carefully rearranging sticks on the nest, and preening their loose white body feathers prior to going through their full moult. Iona usually does the night shift, with Fingal coming in to relieve her in the morning and then they take turns to incubate the precious egg(s) during the day.

Recently whilst Fingal was incubating he must have become a bit "peckish" because he suddenly took off and flew towards Loch Beg. Our hearts were in our mouths as there was no sign of Iona and the eggs would chill if they were left for long. We timed his absence and after just three minutes Fingal returned with a large fish, settled himself back on the nest and proceeded to eat his catch. He must have been able to see the fish from his position on the nest, and temptation must have got the better of him!

All our visitors are thorougly enjoying the experience, especially the "wild" hide where they can really feel at one with nature.

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