Can you recall where you were and what you were doing 25 years ago? I was living in Hertfordshire, sitting behind a desk working for a large pharmaceutical company and listening to Wham 'Careless Whisper', Dire Straits 'Money for Nothing' (remember that video?), and my favourite band, Simple Minds singing 'Don't You Forget about me'! In the news that year - fire engulfed a wooden stand at Valley Road, Bradford during a football match killing 56 people; 38 spectators were killed during rioting at the European Cup final between Liverpool and Juventus at the Heysel Stadium in Belgium; the film 'Back to the Future' opened in the US; LiveAid concerts in Philadelphia, Pennysylvania and London raised over £50million for famine relief in Ethiopia; the first version of Microsoft Windows was released; Dian Fossey, the American mountain gorilla scientist and naturalist was found murdered in Rwanda. To be honest, there wasn't a huge amount of good news around that year - or was there?
On the Isle of Mull, back in 1985 something truly amazing was about to happen.
In one of Mull's most scenic glens, a young bird was about to take a huge leap - not just any bird and not just any leap. A young sea eagle had the hopes of his species truly resting on his wings - after an absence of nearly 70 years, a white-tailed eagle chick was about to take its first flight in Scotland.
Last week, we were joined on the island by our RSPB friends and colleagues Roger Broad and Justin Grant - they are BTO licensed ringers and were here to start the exciting but tiring job of ringing our sea eagle chicks. I was lucky enough to be able to join them on one of the sessions. It was a beautiful sunny afternoon as we headed off. As we arrived at the tree where the nest was located, Dave pointed out a long-since fallen tree where 25 years earlier he had been watching a nest waiting for a young sea eagle to take its first flight. Ironically, it was only yards from where we were standing. I can't begin to imagine how that must have felt watching a young sea eagle and holding your breath as it takes its first flight - the first flight for a sea eagle chick in Scottish skies for a generation. I felt quite humbled to be on that same spot watching another sea eagle chick, who would soon be taking its first flight. But for that first chick 25 years ago, taking its first flight - things didn't go quite as planned. You can read Dave's blogs from that incredible experience The best and worst of times and A new dawn Meanwhile, our chick was successfully ringed, measurements taken and DNA swabs taken to establish the sex. As I left, I gave a backward glance and whispered "Godspeed little one - soon you will be spreading your wings and venturing into the big wide world - stay safe!"
photo: Justin Grant
One of Mull's single chicks in the nest after ringing under SNH licence
At Loch Frisa, we have been delighted to see the return of Skye and Frisa. During this wonderful weather we are experiencing, they have being doing some fantastic synchronised flying displays and lots of calling to each other in mid air! They have also been making lots of contact with each other - almost talon grappling at one point - as if they are re-affirming their bond with each other. It is just great to see them back together.
Skye and Frisa back together again! (Skye sat above Frisa)
Our buzzard chick is growing at a phenominal rate! Each day I switch on the camera you can see the changes - its feet are huge - just like clowns feet - far too big for its body! The sand martins have fledged one set of youngsters and its a delight to watch the youngsters following their parents over the loch diving and swooping, catching insects.
Some of you may have seen the following photos in the Press this week - they were taken by Iain Erskine under SNH licence.
This photo really highlights the broad depth of wings of an adult white tailed eagle which was being harrassed by a hooded crow
photo - copyright Iain Erskine
"Go on punk - make my day!"
Great shot taken by Iain Erskine (under SNH Licence) - adult white tailed eagle being mobbed by a buzzard
(photo copyright Iain Erskine)
Dont forget, if you are visiting Mull, come and see Skye and Frisa at the only sea eagle viewing hide in the world. Mull Eagle Watch
White Tailed Eagle Information Officer, Mull
After all the sadness at Mull earlier in the season I cannot beleive what is happening at Loch Lowes this weekend, very sad to watch. Hopefully the new dad will continue to feed the chicks as they should soon be feeding themselves. Hope Frisa and Skye are well.
PS. FOR DAVE/DEBBY: on the WTE Forum, the graph (by Ame) is on p. 148 and their queries on Love's comments are on pp. 188-190. I do hope that you can help with this research. They are also interested (secondarily) in lamb predation; pp. 190-191.
I have been wondering why the Lake District has not been suggested for sea eagle re-introductions: is it perhaps too wet? Well, Northumberland perhaps, then?
ALSO, DAVE/DEBBY - those doing research on the Estonian WTEs are looking for data re: incubating/feeding (relating to male/female parental participation). They note in the WTE Forum that John Love's comments (1983) are linked back in time to Willgoh's doctoral thesis of 1961. Are there more recent records for the Scottish birds? Can you perhaps help them out with any information? It is surely research that is well-deserving of support and a graph based on this year's nest has already been produced and (generously) put in the public domain.
Hi Mex that is incredible but just shows how tough raptors are unless of course shot or poisoned.Would Dave comment on the fact that i imagined that the Sea Eagles would have done really well in East Anglia as i imagine as there is much lower rainfall they would really benefit from that as long as of course they could be protected.I really wish RSPB who i must say get it right probably 99% of the time would soften their attitude to land owners,please give it a try and see if you benefit because unless you can get land owners on side and get the Sea Eagles in other areas i doubt they will ever colonise England as the odd ones that do come will be so vulnerable to all sorts of persecution,would like to be wrong on that but history with raptors in some or even most areas of England is very bad.Personally i would still go to Mull to see them as there is so many other things there as well so it is not intended as a personal benefit thing.
1) 1985 was the first time I had heard of sea eagles - I was on holiday on Orkney that summer, and visited the Tomb of the (Sea) Eagles at Isbister!!! 2) RE buzzards and sea eagles: someone on the Estonian WTE Forum noted that in the recent publication of the Denisia27 conference, there are 4 reported cases where live buzzard chicks have been found in WTE-nests together with WTE chicks, and the buzzard chicks (even two chicks of different sizes, .i.e. from different nests!) have indeed fledged along with the WTEs. They are supposed to have been brought to the nest by WTE parents as lunch for the WTE chicks, but by some miracle the buzzard chicks have survived the flight. Then their hunger calls must have softened the senses of the parent eagles and they have begun to feed them as their own chicks." Thought you would all find that interesting - and indeed uplifting!
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