For 5 months this year I have been leading trips to watch the pair of white-tailed eagles that are nesting in Tiroran Forest, Glen Seilisdeir on the Isle of Mull. There have been some memorable moments during that time: our two adults mating in a tree after the female had laid her first egg, the first sight of the downy white head of the chick after it had hatched, food being brought to the chick on the nest, aerial battles between our white-tailed eagle adults and intruding sub-adult golden eagles, and the first hesitant flight of the juvenile. But this week the most magical experience of my year occurred, with a close fly past of this year’s juvenile.

I was standing by the telescopes, outside the hide, searching the nest area for any signs of the birds in the last 10 minutes before I was due to collect the visitors for our first trip of the day. Suddenly, a huge dark bird appeared in the sky and passed directly overhead about 20 feet above the ground, almost blocking out the sun. I could see every detail of its plumage: the enormous ‘fingers’ of the primary feathers at the end of the rectangular wings, one of which had slight damage along its leading edge, the distinctive wedge shape of the pale tail feathers with their darker brown margins, and the ruffling of the soft feathers on the head and breast. I could see its eyes clearly, looking directly at me as I stood, rooted to the spot. No time to rush and get my camera. Probably just as well as I wouldn’t have been able to concentrate on the bird and appreciate the majesty and close proximity of this youngster that has been the focus of our attention and concern this year at Mull Eagle Watch.

I would like to think it was looking at me with appreciation for protecting it this year, but I am certain it was just interested in another new sight, another new experience at the beginning of the learning process, of the development to an adult, of the search for a mate and territory, and of what we hope will be a long and productive life, helping to repopulate Scotland and beyond, getting this wonderful bird of prey back where it belongs.

John Clare, Isle of Mull Community Information and Tourism Officer.