Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Drama at the nest

The Sea Eagle chicks are now seven weeks old and still growing rapidly. They are much more active on the nest now, pulling apart their own food when the adults are away although Iona still tries to feed them, tearing off tiny pieces of food as if they were still very small. Their diet has been very varied this week with fish, seabirds, pieces of a dead seal etc. and yesterday Fingal excelled himself by bringing in a mink. The chicks made short work of it but had to share it with their mother who is obviously very partial to mink.

We have yet to find out the sexes of the two chicks but, if I had to make a guess I would say that we have a male and a female as one chick is much bigger than the other and with only two days between hatching there would not usually be such a large size difference. The larger bird has already started standing on the edge of the nest and exercising its wings although it will be three to five weeks or more before it is ready to fledge. It's always a frightening time for those of us watching the nest when the chicks are wing-flapping as they stand right at the edge of the nest and it's a long way down if they slip.

Visitors at the viewing hide
Visitors at the viewing hide.  Photo Sue Dewar
Yesterday afternoon there was plenty of drama with the local Buzzard coming rather too close to the nest for comfort again. We can just hear the Buzzard chicks calling for food in the background, so the temptation for the adult to steal a piece of food from the eagle nest must have brought the adult Buzzard in.

It was not a good plan, though, as both adult eagles were at the nest and Fingal flew up, flipped over backwards with his talons in the air, and tried to grab the Buzzard. Although he didn't manage to catch it, the Buzzard got the message and took off with Fingal in hot pursuit. Our chicks are now much the same size as the Buzzard so we weren't worried that they were at risk, but the parent birds were outraged at the audacity of the smaller raptor trying to take the food that they had caught for their own chicks. It was an exciting time for our visitors and ourselves, but after half an hour everything had settled down and the nest returned to being a peaceful family roost.

Next week I am on annual leave so I can only imagine how much the chicks will have grown by the time I come back.

Thursday, 14 June 2012

What - no food mum?

Another busy day at the eagle hide with the parent birds, Iona and Fingal, putting in more appearances at the nest than of late.  Yesterday we didn't see very much of our adults but they must have been busy hunting, as all sorts of food could be seen on the nest, including the intestines of a fairly large mammal which the chicks proceeded to play tug-of-war with whilst we were trying to eat our packed lunches!

Today the adults have been backwards and forwards to check on their youngsters, and probably to see how much food was left uneaten.  It would appear that there wasn't very much as Iona and Fingal have spent a lot of time out catching food.  This afternoon the female brought in a fairly large white bird - probably a gull - which she insisted on plucking before letting the chicks start to eat.  The local Buzzard was showing a lot of interest in the nest too, prompting the adults to return frequently to persuade it not to come too close.

The six-week old chicks on the nest with Iona nearby
Photo: Sue Dewar
 When Iona flew in late this afternoon she had a quick check on the nest to satisfy herself that all was well, before flying to a nearby branch.  It was easy to see the chicks' disgust as they tottered around on the nest searching for food. Eventually, they decided there was nothing much to eat and settled back down for yet another snooze. 

And a final note - we heard today that our White-tailed Sea Eagle family at Glen Seilisdeir will feature on tonight's final episode of Springwatch, starting on BBC2 at 8pm.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 

Monday, 11 June 2012

Mull Sea Eagles go green (and silver!)

Following our recent assessment for the Green Tourism Business Scheme (run by Visit Scotland), I'm delighted to say that we have been awarded a Silver award for the Eagle Hide. I'm told that it is not often for a Silver to be awarded at the first attempt so we are very proud.

Although we don't need to generate much electricity, our TV monitor and CCTV camera with all the attendant wiring are run from our bank of solar panels, and we have the option of a small wind turbine if we need any further power.

Over the last two weeks we have been visited by primary school children from all over the island and they have had a great time watching our rapidly growing chicks on the nest, learning the story of the White-tailed Sea Eagles and impressing us with their own knowledge of the eagles and other birds of prey on the island. Before going to the viewing hide the children built a life-size eagle nest out of branches, twigs and sprays of foliage collected from the forest.

Lochdon School sitting on the nest frame
Lochdon School sitting on
the nest frame before building

The children had great fun building the nest and all were surprised at the size of nest needed for the adult Sea Eagles and their rapidly growing offspring. Iona and Fingal's nest is about 2m across by 0.75m deep, and is extended every year the birds use it. By the time the children got to see the eagles through our telescopes they had realised just how much work the adult birds had to do before they could lay their precious eggs.
The hide continues to be as busy as ever, and our two chicks are now five weeks old. Both are doing well, and I hope to have more news of them when they have been ringed.

Ulva Ferry School with their finished nes
Ulva Ferry School with
their finished nes
 In the meantime, if you are planning a visit to the hide please book as far ahead as possible as most of our trips are filling up very quickly, and we don't want anyone to be disappointed.

Stop Press: We have been told that the footage taken by Iolo Williams at our hide will appear on the BBC Springwatch programme on Monday 11th June (or possibly later that week).