16th June 2017

On Friday 9th June, Mull Eagle Watch visitors witnessed the special moment when our chick at Tiroran Community Forest earned its very own leg rings.

At the beginning of the tour, we were admiring Iona, perched atop one of her favourite trees where she could still keep an eye on the eyrie. The chick was nowhere to be seen in the nest, nestled down fast asleep. Little did it know…

We waited in anticipation for the first hour of the tour before we finally saw the first member of the ringing team reach the nest. You often struggle to gauge just how big these eagle nests are until you see two adult humans perched on it!

The two ringers in the Tiroran nest handling the chick

We watched as the chick was fitted with two rings: a British Trust for Ornithology ring on its right leg and a black ring on its left leg which ties in with the International White-tailed Eagle Colour Ringing Programme (see photo below of a chick from a previous year wearing its new rings). Since this species was declared vulnerable throughout Europe a few decades ago, more information was needed about migration routes, wintering areas, survival rates, homing tenacity, population, age structure, ages of breeding birds, and causes of death. Thus, this ringing programme was established in 1976 to help with the conservation efforts of the eagles.

 

Eaglet from previous year looking thrilled with its new accessories

Measurements of the chick were taken including its weight and beak size as this can be an indication of sex with females having a chunkier beak than males. We can’t be 100% certain but it is likely a female chick! Whilst up on the eyrie, the team had a good poke around and were seen holding up various manky-looking (and probably smelling) prey items including dogfish, rabbit and hare which will soon be devoured by the growing chick who is still reliant on its parents to feed it.

You may be wondering about this second chick I mentioned on the previous post. During the few days preceding this event, I was growing increasingly concerned about the second eaglet. Visitors were enjoying excellent views of one flapping its fluffy wings and sitting with its mother to enjoy the warmth of the sunshine on the few occasions it appeared. ‘If this chick was so visible, surely we should be seeing the second one too?’ I kept thinking. And, sadly, my suspicions were confirmed once we watched the team descend the nest tree after handling just one.

Eaglet and Iona relaxing in the nest earlier in the week

I was thrilled when I could finally confirm the presence of a second chick a whole two weeks after it had hatched. A great start to the season with both the Tiroran and West Ardhu nest holding two chicks. So this news came as quite a blow. Still, with one less mouth to feed and one less body to shelter from this current bout of miserable weather, the hopes for the remaining eaglet are even higher.

This series of events is remarkably similar to last year’s when, on a Friday in June, the team ascended the nest tree and later informed the RSPB ranger, Debby, that the second chick did not make it. Despite their best efforts, Fingal and Iona usually only fledge one young but they have successfully raised twelve eagles during the 16 years they have been breeding together which is a huge boost to the species’ population in Scotland.

At 39 days old today, the chick is doing very well and was deemed healthy by the ringing team. So it’s looking good for our survivor.

The two chicks at West Ardhu are healthy too and were ringed on Wednesday 7th June. Here are two photos of the pair being ringed and looking bewildered after the ordeal!

Let’s all cross our fingers and toes for this precious Tiroran eaglet who will be named by local school children when it finally fledges!

Come and see our eagle families at Mull Eagle Watch.  Booking is essential - call VisitScotland Craignure on 01680 812556. And to catch up with the latest with Ranger Rachel and the West Ardhu family, find her blog here.

Bye for now,

Meryl

RSPB Community Information and Tourism Officer

Mull Eagle Watch

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