Scotland’s rarest bird of prey – the white-tailed (sea) eagle, hashad one of the most successful breeding season’s in recent years,with a record eight young eagles flying the nest on Mull.
The huge birds, which have captivated the public and tourists across Scotland since their re-introduction during the 1980’s have become a well known sight across the west coast – in particular Mull and Skye – where they bring a massive boost to the wildlife-tourism industry, attracting bird enthusiasts from across Europe.
Conservationists and islanders alike have been celebrating this summer after monitoring research showed that 24 young sea eagles had successfully fledged across Scotland, with nearly a third of the young birds flying the nest on Mull – much to the delight of RSPB Scotland’s Officer Dave Sexton:
"Mull has had its best sea eagle year yet with 8 young eagles on the wing. The local community, the volunteers and Strathclyde police should feel proud at what's been achieved, it's been a superb team effort”
Mull’s sea eagles also won the affections of up to three million television viewers a night during June, when established pair ‘Skye’ and ‘Frisa’ – resident sea eagles on Mull – took pride of place on BBC Two’s Springwatch series, which as Mr Sexton added gave a huge boost to the island:
"The BBC's Springwatch programme added over a thousand more visitors to the viewing hidecompared to2004, leading to up 40 extra visits being required. We hope to follow the progress of Frisa and Skye and especially youngsters Itchy and Scratchy in the coming winter months. Please let us know if you see them.”
The encouraging news comes at a time when many of Scotland’s birds face an uncertain future, perhaps due to climatic change, with other birds of prey such as red kites in central Scotland suffering lower than usual breeding success up to 60% down on previous years, after poor spring weather conditions.
The chequered history of many of Scotland’s birds of prey is now being brought to life through projects such as the RSPB’s “Aren’t Birds Brilliant” scheme and many other RSPB Scotland partnership projects bringing birds of prey closer via CCTV links and viewing hides, to both adults and children alike from Caithness to Galloway.
One of these projects - Mull Eagle Watch, involves a host of partners ranging from the police, local residents, community groups such as the Mull & Iona Trust and major national organisations including Forestry Commission Scotland and Scottish Natural Heritage, all working together to protect the eagles, whilst allowing the public to enjoy the spectacle of seeing them in their natural environment. The Mull Eagle Watch team is grateful for the kind support from Heritage Lottery Fund via the Nadir Trust.