Friday, 20 July 2012

We have lift off!

Three week old chicks - helpless and looking more like
ET than a Sea Eagle! (Photo: Justin Grant)
Yesterday our first chick finally took to the skies - briefly. It had been getting more and more adventurous over the last few days, jumping in and out of the nest, walking along the branches towards the next tree, and flapping its wings like mad. Rather than gripping on with its talons, it has been using the nest as a trampoline, getting higher and higher each time. And then, with one huge jump it spread its great wings and took off, doing a circuit of the tree, gliding down below the nest before circling round and landing again next to its sibling. Whilst we watched it did the same again twice more, each time flying a little further.

During the day there was no sign of our adult birds. They had probably brought food in for their chicks before we arrived, and then flown off to hunt for themselves. I wonder if they had been perched up in the trees opposite the nest watching their youngster's antics from afar.

The younger bird is growing faster now and getting more adventurous, also flapping its wings and venturing to the edge of the nest. It seemed totally flumoxed by the antics of its sibling, looking around the nest when it took off and then showing surprise when it landed back.

The film crew who have been positioned in a hide nearby have been able to zoom in on the birds and tell me that it will be a while yet before the second chick fledges. When the adult feathers grow down they are protected by a waxy sheath which gradually peels off before the feather unfurls. The younger bird still has a lot of flight feathers still "in the blood" as it is known, and will not be able to fly properly until they have grown through. Once the larger chick has fledged completely, the other chick will be getting first pickings of the food its parents bring in, so it will soon catch up, and then we'll be able to watch it take to the skies too. It's hard to leave the hide each evening with so much going on.
Our six week old chicks with mum Iona.
(Photo: Sue Dewar)

We have also had two sub-adult Sea Eagles in the area - one about two or three years old, and the other a bit older. The younger one has been in to look at the nest whilst Iona and Fingal have been away hunting and I wonder whether it is a bird which fledged from this pair in the past. It has kept its distance when the adults are about - very wise as they would not be happy if they found it close to the nest.

Hopefully I will be able to get some pictures of the chick flying as it becomes more proficient; something tells me I will not be able to stay away this weekend!!


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