As ever, it was a report from one of the farmers here yesterday which alerted me to some exciting developments. Many of the farmers help me so much in my field work and monitoring and they also do their bit to protect the eagles and help make Mull the wildlife haven it is. This call came from a farmer on the far south-west tip of Mull, down on 'the Ross'. He wasn't entirely sure what he'd just witnessed but he knew it was worth reporting. I'm always very grateful for that.
He'd been out feeding his cattle and sheep on a gorgeous warm October day and was on his way back to the farm when he noticed two figures sitting down on the beach. Some late tourists perhaps enjoying some solitude on the beautiful, wind swept expanse of sand? He looked again as he got closer. They weren't people - they were eagles! For a moment, he wasn't sure which sort. They were dark, more golden eagle-like but he'd never seen goldies behave like this, sitting together on the beach!
But his description from then on gave the game away and has now been confirmed by our satellite tracking. The farmer could see a short aerial on the back of the eagle. We now know that Mara was on one of his long distance (ok, not that long distance) flights away from Loch Frisa, all the way down to the Ross of Mull. But best of all, Mara has a new friend! He was sitting on the beach watching the waves come in and out with a male chick from another nest on Mull in 2007 - it was 'White E'. White was the colour to be seen in last year. We've recorded him on and off over the last year, over on the mainland, visiting other islands but now back on Mull. For a few days he'd actually been seen at Loch Frisa so perhaps Mara had simply followed him off on an adventure?
It's very encouraging to see Mara doing what young sea eagles his age should be doing. He's exploring his surroundings, a little further day by day and socialising wirh other immature sea eagles. You do sometimes wonder about their vocalisations: "I've got wing tags. Never did like white and why 'E'? What on earth does that stand for? Anyway, what's that on your back?" "Some sort of sat tag thing. No idea what it does. No tags for me but a nice silver and red colour ring. Like it?"
The farmer was intrigued by the whole story that I was able to tell him about the history , so far, of these two young birds. Nobody particularly enjoys seeing noble birds like sea eagles with wing tags, colour rings and sat tags but for a few pioneering individuals, it does help tell us so much about their lives and this helps us manage the project overall for the benefit of the whole population. Fortunately there are still many 'untouched' eagles out there for the purists to enjoy, uncluttered by various tracking devices and looking serene. For those chosen ones, they seem to get on with their eagley lives perfectly happily and blissfully unaware of all the carry on around them by the scientists.
But for these two youngsters setting out on life's (hopefully long) journey there is now at least one more person out there on the Ross of Mull who will enjoy hearing of their adventures and exploits and who will pick up the 'phone the next time he spots them - or others - over the coming months. Tonight the wind is picking up, it's wet and blustery and I hope Mara has made it home safe to Loch Frisa. We'll have to wait for a new set of satellite data to tell us - or perhaps a friendly farmer might report him? Or maybe, 'White E' has taken him further afield - even off Mull for the first time. Is this the beginning of that great five year wander before he settles down? What will Breagha be feeling if her brother has left and when will Frisa and Skye notice he's really gone? These and many other unknowns will surface in the next few weeks and we'll be there to report on them.
For me though, for now, I have to tear myself away from this amazing place as I'm travelling south for meetings tomorrow night; then it's half term and time for a short holiday with the family. I'll be checking sat tag data whenever I can access it and will be reporting back on their progress. Or if I can't manage it, I'll try and find some nice, kind colleague in our Data Management Unit who can to keep you posted. Thank you for all your interest, support and encouraging comments up to now. It's very heartening to know someone out there is reading all this each night! And to know how much you care about the work we do and the fabulous white-tailed eagles of Mull. All being well, normal service will be resumed...stay tuned! Until the next time...
Dave Sexton RSPB Scotland Mull Officer
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