North West Mull Community Woodland Company [NWMCWC] has become the first community woodland in Scotland to host a successful breeding pair of White-Tailed Sea Eagles.
Co-operation between the local community, forest managers [Tilhill Forestry], harvesters and the RSPB meant that these protected birds were given the best possible chance of success. Two chicks were ringed in June 2015 and fledged the nest in August.
This milestone coincides with the 40th anniversary of the reintroduction of white-tailed sea eagles to Scotland. The pair are one of a hundred now breeding in the country.
Although these eagles were first reintroduced on Rum in the Small Isles, some chose Mull for themselves. With the energetic and expert guidance of RSPB Scotland’s Mull Officer, Dave Sexton, Mull has become synonymous with the breeding and protection of white tailes sea eagles, with constant and integrated community involvement exemplified in the ongoing Mull Eagle Watch patnership.
Mull has been home to breeding sea eagles since 1985, with numbers increasing to 20 pairs in 2015.
The female of this NW Mull pair is a local girl, hatched on Mull in 2006 and who has attempted to breed previously but unsuccessfully at a nearby site. The male is a younger bird who displaced his rival during the winter months. There is considerable optimism that the pair will return to this nest for next year – a nest built in a safe and sheltered location.
Colin Morrison, Chair of NWMCWC, says: ‘We have worked with our harvesting partners and RSPB to ensure best practice has been adhered to. This has meant the sea eagles could breed successfully whilst harvesting also continued in the vicinity. We are now considering the possibility of creating viewing opportunities next year should the eagles breed again in the same site.’
Dave Sexton, RSPB Scotland Mull Officer says: ‘Within certain limits, sea eagles are capable of happily co-existing in active commercial forestry as this case shows. They are quite curious and tolerant of human activity and even seem to like to watch what’s going on. All the partners in this remarkable case worked very closely together to ensure the 2 chicks fledged successfully and it’s one of the most satisfying projects of its kind I’ve ever been involved with.’
Iain Moody, Tilhill Forestry Harvesting manager says: ‘The key to this good news story has been the close co-operation and regular communication between the local harvesting contractors, ourselves as Works Managers, the Landowners and, especially, the local RSPB officer. A success like this shows us that active timber harvesting and wildlife conservation need not be mutually exclusive.’
And who would ever have have imagined that such activities might successfully coexist? This has been exemplary work and NW Mull Community Woodland Company can be proud of it as well as excited by it.