Even with the thick cloud this week, it's been noticable how light it is at night with the full moon occasionally breaking through. And for several evenings running at about 7 o'clock, just as the moon is rising, there have been excited shouts from the children of "Barn Owl!" We've raced to the conservatory at the back of the house to watch the beautiful pale form of a barn owl floating over the rushy pasture at the bottom of the garden. One evening we all snuck quietly outside and crept down to the fence as the owl quartered closer and closer to our tight little group watching spellbound from behind the hedge. It was so intent on hunting, it never looked our way. Twice it dropped into the rushes after a vole but came up empty-taloned. Eventually it drifted further down towards the bay and we lost sight of it as the light faded. Watching out for the '7 o'clock barn owl' has become something of an evening fixture in the schedules this week. As good as it is it sure beats 'The One Show' for live action.
At about this time of the day, as a lone song thrush sings on well into dusk, I often wonder where Mara and Breagha are roosting for the night. Always hoping they've found a safe perch in a wind-proof tree in a forest or on a mossy crag in a sheltered corrie. This week our amazing satellite data has shown us something very touching about our famous twins, something we couldn't ever have known without the space-age technology. There have been several occasions when Mara and Breagha have met up again and spent time flying closely together. The GPS satellite readings have plotted them flying side by side over some of Mull's highest hills and through our deepest glens. I wonder who is following who? They've perched together on ice-cracked boulders near the summits, surveying the endless, wild country all around them in search of a fresh, running hare or a tough old carcass to feed on. At this toughest of times of year, they will not be too fussy what they eat to keep themselves alive.
I wonder how many other sea eagle siblings are spending this much time together after so long out of the nest? The scientists may tell us that this is all just a coincidence of course. That sea eagles are so 'hard wired' that there is no room for such sentiment or compassion. And yet Mara and Breagha have grown up together in their tree-top eyrie. Week after week, month after month - for over three months in fact - they will have heard each other's food begging calls as first one, then the other will have spotted Frisa or Skye in the distance returning home with prey. Then for another three months after fledging before their first solo flights to the mainland last autumn, they were never far apart and will have inevitably formed a close bond. From a purely survival point of view, two sets of piercing eagle-eyes are better than one but maybe it's more than that. Maybe there's a sense of safety in sticking together and a feeling of comfort in knowing you're in familiar company.
So as the weak Mull sun sets at the end of day and the far brighter early spring moon rises, where do Mara and Breagha head for? The data shows us that on at least one night they made for a traditional sea eagle roost which has attracted young eagles for over 30 years now - probably much longer. There's always been something about the area which has been a magnet for young birds out on their own. These youth clubs are important learning and socialising venues and our two will know they'd be safe there for the night. Just as they'd spent the day together, they roosted close to one another through the bright, moon-lit night. Maybe they glimpsed hunting barn owls too emerging from the ruined byre up the glen? The moon's reflections on the loch will have illuminated the splash and ripples of passing sea trout heading through the loch and into the mouth of the river. Perhaps the silvery V-shaped wake of an otter following the fish will have caught their eyes as they peered down from their roost high in the branches. The hours of night passed peacefully for Mara and Breagha. Each bird safe in the knowledge that the other was nearby, until the first hint of dawn appeared as a pale yellow glow in the eastern sky. The first song thrush sang again from the same wood, then a robin, then the chaffinch, all gradually tuning up for the forthcoming full-on dawn chorus. A small flock of woodpigeons clattered out of the wood and startled our two young eagles. They ruffled their feathers with a shake, stretched out a foot with clenched talons and then a wing. The moon had all but vanished now as their new day was just beginning. What would it hold for them? Where would it take them? Would this be the day their close bond weakened and they ventured off again on their own? I wonder where they'll both be by the time of the next full moon...
Dave Sexton RSPB Scotland Mull Officer
Have booked holiday in May and dragging my partner along telling him there are lots of mountains he can climb while I look at Sea Eagles. Then it's over to the other side of Scotland to see the Ospreys. More mountains I tell him! I've so enjoyed the blogs all over the winter and to 'keep in touch' with bloggers whom I now regard as friends. Hope all our birds keep our of harm's way and more little Eagle and Osprey chicks appear this year.
Wonderful story again Dave thanks so much. I found it so heartwarming knowing that Mara and Breagha seem to share a close bond. It must be a real treat to watch the barn owl as well, such beautiful birds and better than anything on TV as you say.
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