Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Isle of Mull - Day Four: Eagles Galore

Tuesday, 4th March

Surprise, surprise the weather forecast was wrong!  I woke to not the glimmer of promised sunshine, but drizzle. I had been looking forward to today and had hoped for good weather.

I've written a detailed blog on my entire week of eagle watching here, but the following is what happened on this particular day.

9.45am, we headed along Loch na Keal.  Through the gloom a shaft of sunlight lit up an area of trees on the opposite side of the loch: the place where White-tailed Eagle regulars Yellow Black Spot (YBS) and her mate are often seen. Could it be a sign?  Yes! As we got closer, there they were sitting in a tree.

YBS, top, and her mate, with his back to us (can just see his white tail)
A mini watercolour sketch I did previously of YBS
 and her mate. I've always wondered what she was saying to him!
A short while later, I said goodbye to Graeme and Corbie Labrador, who were heading off to hike up Ben More (mad, given the weather!), and I went on my eagle watching adventures with fellow eagle enthusiasts, Debby and Dave. We arrived at our location, seeing a Sparrowhawk and Snipe en route.

After a short wait, the first of the adult White-tailed Eagles appeared and we watched it fly just above the trees, then with legs down, it grabbed a branch from the top of one of them and carried it back to the nest. What strength they have!

This particular adult flew out several times gathering nesting material, but there was no sign of its mate.  Then there was movement, and we could finally see the second Eagle fly in, and they sat side by side near the nest: we only knew they were sitting together having seen them land there.  As you can see from the photo, they were very well hidden!

Nest, centre of photo, with two White-tailed Eagles just above it ...
you'll have to take my word for it!
Knowing this pair of Eagles were safe and well, we headed back, spotting a small group of Fallow Deer munching at the gorse along the way.

We said goodbye to Dave at this point: check out his book Birdwatching on Mull and Iona a great little guide going to Mull who enjoys watching birds and wildlife.

Next, stop was Glen Seilisdeir.  Driving along Loch na Keal, we passed Graeme's car parked at the start of the Ben More walk, and had a (sympathetic) giggle knowing he was somewhere up in the murk and we were nice and dry and warm in the car.

At Glen Seilisdeir, there was no sign of the adult White-tailed Eagles, Fingal and Iona, any where near their nest site. We waited and waited, but eventually decided to call it a day and headed back up the road.  I took one last look back .... and to my surprise, there was an incoming White-tailed Eagle!  As it flew into the forest, we could see it wasn't one of the adults, but a juvenile.  It went to land in a tree, turning with legs and talons outstretched, but decided against it at the last minute and disappeared from view.  Scanning with the binoculars, eventually spotting an Eagle sitting in the trees.  It was Fingal and Iona's youngster from last year, Orion.  It was lovely to see him, having followed his progress online from hatching to fledging.

Juvenile White-tailed Eagle, Orion

You can watch Fingal and Iona safely from the Mull Eagle Watch hide without risk of disturbing them at this crucial time. *

Time for a cup of tea, so we headed back to the cottage.  Graeme and Corbie Labrader were already back. Apparently, it was very wet and windy on Ben More, and gave up trying to get to the top!  Here's a couple of photos from their hike:

Ben More: Corbie was happy, he had snow rolls
Ben More: View of Loch na Keal, Eorsa and Ulva
At one point, I happened to look out of the window and saw that familiar dark blob... it was a White-tailed Eagle flying by again.

Later in the afternoon, the sun finally appeared.  So I headed back to see if Fingal or Iona were home.  They weren't.  We had a short walk before heading home.  Just as we had started to drive along the main road, I spotted one of the adult Eagles flying low in front of the trees, across the road and out of sight.  Nice to see one of them at last, even if it was all too brief!

Loch Scridain
Driving back, the late afternoon sunlight gave a warming glow to the Gribun cliffs, the waterfalls replenished after the morning's rain.

Gribun cliffs
What a fantastic day, seven White-tailed Eagles, as well learning a bit more about these amazing birds. I don't know if I can ever top seven in a day, but happy to give it a go!

 You can read my other Mull Diary Blogs here:
© Karen Hartnell - all images and text may not be reproduced in any way. 
Photos copyright Karen Hartnell and Graeme Low 

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