Dad goes missing

Eagle named W with chick

Some of you may have noticed that the male (W) has not been seen of late. We can confirm that he has been away from the nest for the last three days. While unusual for the male to disappear while there is a chick in the nest it can happen, as Dave Sexton (RSPB Scotland) told us. “In the past, we’ve had males go missing during the breeding season. It could be for all sorts of reasons but being paired with another female somewhere (which happens in small, establishing populations) or being killed in a fight with another eagle are probably the most common. Where we could, we’ve always tried to give the surviving female a wee helping hand by supplying easily accessible food nearby if she has a small chick to feed. She probably couldn’t do it alone. In the past, mankind has persecuted sea eagles so much (to the point of extinction) that I have no qualms at all in helping them like this in times of need. It seems to me to be the very least we can do. Wishing ‘P’ and her feisty chick every success from Mull Eagle Watch.”

It will be tough for Mum to raise the chick on her own, but we are giving her the best chance possible by providing fresh fish and other meat twice a day. In another week’s time the chick will be less vulnerable: brown feathers will be appearing through the grey down and s/he will be able to regulate its own temperature and will have a very good chance of surviving and fledging in 8-10 weeks’ time.

What should you expect to see over the next few days? Some viewers were worried yesterday because they couldn’t see either parent at the nest, but mum was never far away: in the warm weather, she spent much of the day perched close to the nest off-camera, popping into the nest every hour or so to feed the chick. As it got cooler in the evening she stayed in the nest with the chick and, as night fell, brooded it until first light this morning. If the weather stays warm this is the pattern we are likely to see over the coming week. But if it gets cold or wet again, mum will brood the chick until the weather passes. Once the chick has its brown feathers, brooding will tail off even in wet weather.

Many thanks to the ‘surrogate dads’ aka the suppliers and deliverers of the fish, including Brendan O’Sullivan (Harbour Queen), Micheal McSweeney (NPWS), Steven Keane (Fish Market Bantry), Castletownbere Fishermen’s Co-op and Star Seafood.