Iona and Fingal, our pair of white-tailed eagles, are parents again. On Wednesday morning this week I arrived at the Mull Eagle Watch hide early, hoping that there would be signs that the first egg had hatched, exactly 38 days after we saw the female hunker down on the nest to start laying. As soon as I trained the telescope on the nest it was clear that both adults were there, their pale heads and huge yellow beaks visible through the dark green foliage of the Sitka spruce in which they have made their nest in Tiroran Forest this year. It was soon clear that they were both bending down, tearing small pieces from the prey that Fingal had obviously brought in fresh that morning, and feeding their first hatchling of 2014.
This year we are not as close to the nest tree so we probably won’t be able to see for a week or two whether other eggs hatch. In the meantime, however, we may be able to tell by the level of feeding activity if there is more than one chick, and as the chick(s) grow rapidly, we will soon hopefully see at least two small downy heads above the rim of the giant nest. The nest is in a superbly sheltered location so that hopefully bodes well for the safe fledging of the juvenile(s) in twelve weeks time.
Our visitors to Mull Eagle Watch have been delighted again this week with the variety of views they have had of both the white-tailed eagles and golden eagles. There has of course been increasing activity on and around the nest: more changeovers with both birds taking turns at incubation, often with the other adult bird preening and guarding the nest in the top of a tree close by. Last years juvenile, Orion, has continued to make regular appearances flying over the forest, and practically every day we have seen two or more golden eagles soaring and interacting over the adjacent moorland.
The nesting activity of other birds has been apparent too, with courting chaffinches, willow warblers and siskins, and drumming from our local great spotted woodpecker, which regularly perches on our entrance gate, hammering away at the timber. On the warmer days we have seen peacock and green-veined white butterflies, and green hairstreaks perched on the tender green shoots of the gorse that is flowering so profusely along the edges of the forest track.
There was a Mull Eagle Watch Open Day for local businesses this week, which drew a good attendance. Several people brought their cameras with long lenses, and at one stage the eagles were upstaged by the antics of the male siskins on the bird feeders that are located close to the hide. Our new covered (but open-sided) viewing areas have been welcomed and we can now ensure that our visitors can remain in the dry while watching the white-tailed eagle nest. Allowing owners to bring their dogs to the hide this year has also been very well received: dogs no longer have to be left in stuffy cars and one of the owners does not have to miss out on the trip.
Numbers of visitors have been steadily increasing, so do book early to ensure you can visit on the day you want to. Telephone 01680 812556 or call in at the Visit Information Centre in Craignure.
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