Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Have they, or haven't they?

white tailed sea eagle
Sea Eagle in flight - photo courtesy of Alan Jack
 This week we are playing the waiting game. Our egg(s) are due to hatch any time now and everytime the on-duty adult stands up on the nest, we wait with baited breath to see a tiny, wobbly white head, or the other adult bringing in food.

Yesterday afternoon the weather was superb (as it has been for over two weeks now), and the conditions were perfect for a precious Sea Eagle chick to come into the world. But the adults seemed to be just turning the eggs and then settling down to incubate again.

Maybe they could hear the first chick cheeping inside the egg as it started to break its way out using the tiny egg tooth on the top of its beak. Or maybe not! Eggs can easily take 36 hours to hatch, so, like Iona and Fingal, we must be patient and wait for that first feed!

We can't help thinking back to last year, when the beginning of May saw horrendous winds sweep the west coast of Scotland, and the eagle nests were all checked the next morning. We were convinced that at least one nest tree would have come down, but no, everything was intact and Mull's Sea Eagles successfully fledged 11 chicks in 2011.

We suffered even stronger winds over the winter months with one gust on Mull recorded at 165 mph. Surely some of the eagles would have to build new nests this year to replace those damaged? Sea Eagles are obviously better nest builders than we give them credit for as most nests survived. One nest did collapse and the following day the eagles there carried out a hurried repair job - only for the winds to return and the new nest be blown out of the tree too. But Sea Eagles are resilient birds and it's always surprising to see how quickly they put their nests together.

The new "wild hide" - photo courtesy of Alan Jack
Our new viewing hide, set into the woodland, is proving a huge success. Everyone says they feel closer to nature, and the smell from the pine trees is all-pervading. The shading at the front of the hide means that the eagles can't see us although they know we are there.

Occasionally they will hear something and if we happen to be looking through a telescope at the time we see a beady pale lemon eye staring back at us.

With luck we will soon be watching food being brought in for the chick(s) by the parents, and then tiny slivers will be torn off and fed tenderly to their offspring. I wonder if we'll have a hatching today?

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