Mull White-tailed Eagle Watch Update:Irresponsible Photographers Threaten recovery.

For some years I’ve been doing email updates each season to a large number of people who have been involved in Mull Eagle Watch over the years. Over time emails have changed, people have moved and so on, so the list is probably now very out of date. So instead I’ll post updates on Mull Birds and the Mull Bird Club websites courtesy of Alan Spellman and Andy Oldacre and hope that this way the eagle news reaches the people who want to keep up to date. 

WTE IN NEST PORTRATE

Mull Eagle Watch has evolved considerably over the years to keep pace with the growing white-tailed eagle population and the number of people from on and off the island who want to be involved. Some nests are now watched over by local residents, others by trusted volunteers and visitors, some by wildlife tours and for others their best protection is their remoteness. The threats too have changed from the early days of egg collectors (who haven’t completely gone away but the threat has slowly diminished) to irresponsible photographers who feel they are above the law and put a photo above the welfare of the bird. The last two prosecutions here have involved photographers disturbing nesting sea eagles and both incidents were spotted by volunteers and wildlife tours so the system is working.

The healthy population of white-tailed eagles on Mull shows that they are breeding successfully and that the current Mull Eagle Watch system is broadly effective with 20 territorial pairs now resident here. There are good years and bad years with natural failures and occasional incidents but overall the trend is encouraging. So how are things looking in 2014?

WTE FISHING

I am hopeful that 15 young sea eagles are currently on the verge of fledging and some have already done so. Some sites are well known and can be covered here. The pair known as Fingal and Iona at the Mull Eagle Hide has one chick in the nest which is about to fly any day now all being well. Trips to the Hide can be booked on 01680 812 556 and run Monday to Friday 10am and 1pm. They will continue even after the chick fledges as the birds will still be very visible. Please support this community run project if you’re coming to Mull. The rangers John Clare and Rachel French will  ensure you have a memorable trip.

The pair which are widely watched from Killiechronan at the head of Loch na Keal (Territory 29) have fledged two chicks this year. Our old timers at Lochdon (T2) sadly failed for unknown reasons. We’ve thought before that this is the beginning of the end for these birds now in their early 30’s but then they bounce back and surprise us, so we’re not writing them off yet! At Craignure golf course (T27) this pair has one chick which is due to fledge shortly. They are best viewed from the layby a short way north of the golf club car park where a yellow Mull Eagle Watch sign is in place. Long time favourites Skye and Frisa (T18) have a single chick up and about already and the pair regularly seen on whale watch trips out of Tobermory (T51) also has a single chick. All the others are quietly getting on with things and I will give a final count on all the Mull fledged eaglets later in the autumn.

Eagle Chick Head

This year Mull Eagle Watch pioneered a UK first with a new webcam from a sea eagle nest with the male Cuin and the female Sula (wing tagged White 5 from the 2007 east coast release scheme). They were also filmed for this year’s BBC Springwatch and the webcam enabled us to reveal a remarkable event when an intruding one year old sea eagle forced this year’s chick out of the nest. The chick survived unharmed and was rescued before Forestry Commission Scotland rangers helped return her to the nest. She has recently fledged successfully – this time under her own steam! The webcam can be visited at www.carnyx.tv although the nest is now empty.

In other news, with BBC Springwatch we tracked down Skye and Frisa’s 2005 chick Itchy who is now a father himself and has one chick this year. It was the first time I’d seen him in 9 years and was quite a moment. It made all the effort of Mull Eagle Watch over the years worthwhile and seeing Itchy soaring out over the sea with his white tail gleaming in the sun was a sight to behold. PC Finlay Christine was there the day we ringed Itchy and his brother Scratchy in 2005. He is much missed and worked tirelessly for Mull’s eagles; he would have been very proud!

Dave Sexton
RSPB Scotland Mull Officer
david.sexton@rspb.org.uk   

2 comments to Mull White-tailed Eagle Watch Update:Irresponsible Photographers Threaten recovery.

  • Terry Pickford, North West Raptor Protection Group

    Every one on the Island of Mull should be very proud and pleased with what has been achieved since 1974. I am quite sure most of the residents on the island appreciate the honour bestowed upon them by this wonderful project. Keep up the excellent work, but remember pioneers like Seaton Gordon and others of the same ilk did not live long enough to witness their dream come true.

  • Andy T

    How were the photographers disturbing the nest? it makes the headlines then you do not elaborate on it?

    Editor’s Comment. Andy, we understand in the instance referred to the two photographers disturbed the nest in order to obtain their images without a licence.