Tuesday, 28 August 2012

An empty nest, and all's well at Glen Seilisdeir

Adult Sea Eagle being mobbed by a Hooded Crow
(Photo: Sue Dewar)
 Firstly, my apologies for the gap between postings. The last couple of weeks has been hectic to say the least and I’ve barely been in the office.

The good news is that our second chick finally left the nest just over three weeks after his sister. To begin with the female chick kept returning to the nest as the adult birds were still feeding her brother there, and if the adults weren’t around she continued to bully him and snatch his food.

Thankfully, Iona was usually on hand to see
fair play, and eventually her daughter discovered that she could fly just as well as her parents and began to concentrate on following them and learning to hunt for herself. She has given us some great displays but the highlight was one day when both adults and the female flew together over the forest and up towards Ben More, getting higher and higher until the three of them were just dots in the sky. A cheeky Buzzard mobbed the young female relentlessly but she was having none of it and managed to shake him off.

Once the young male was allowed to eat his food in peace he really started to fill out, his tail and flight feathers grew down properly and he began wing-flapping exercises to strengthen his muscles ready for his first flight. Sadly we weren’t around when he finally took off, but the following morning we could hear him calling from somewhere in the forest and after a few days he proved that he too could fly when he appeared back on the nest. The adult birds occasionally bring food in and leave it there (and it doesn't take long for the chicks to find it), but most of the time they are trying to encourage both fledglings to follow them and learn how to hunt for themselves.

After the wonderful weather we have had on Mull this summer, yesterday we had torrential rain and strong winds and when I went to the hide I was relieved that the chicks had fledged as they would have been wet and miserable sitting up there exposed to the elements.

With the Scottish children back to school now I can now tell you that Bunessan Primary School (whose turn it was to name our chicks) decided to call the young birds after their school colours. So our young male is Gorm (pronounced Gorum) which is Gaelic for Blue, and the female is Buidhe (pronounced Bweeya), Gaelic for Yellow. Both chicks will stay in the area with Iona and Fingal for several weeks yet, perfecting their hunting and flying skills before eventually exploring the rest of the island and beyond. For a while they may enjoy the company of other young Sea Eagles fledged on Mull this year; in the autumn we often see groups of them perched together like a Sea Eagle youth club! Then they will begin their four-year journey of discovery, each year their tail feathers becoming whiter, their beaks turning yellow and their body and head feathers becoming paler, until at five years old they will look just like their parents. At that stage they will be searching for a mate and a territory of their own - who knows where they will end up?

This is our last week at Glen Seilisdeir - the hide closes on Friday 31st August as essential logging operations begin in the forest on Monday. It has all gone far too quickly, but it has been a real privilege to watch Iona and Fingal incubate their precious eggs through to hatching, and to watch Buidhe and Gorm grow from wobbly four-inch high, fluffy white chicks to full-grown magnificent Sea Eagles. Over the next few days I will gather together all the images that I (and others) have taken at the hide and post them on my final blog for this year.

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