Sea eagle chick flies high after nest disaster

Mira the miracle sea eagle chick caught out hunting on camera with dad by Amanda Fergusson.

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A miracle sea eagle chick who survived falling out of its nest has been caught on camera.

Amanda and David Fergusson who run Lochaline Dive Boat Charters unwittingly caught the youngster, now nicknamed Mira for miracle, safe and well on camera months after Mull RSPB officer Dave Sexton gave it up for dead.

Mr Sexton was horrified when a routine  check on a pair of sea eagles along the Sound of Mull last year revealed their nest was hanging vertically in a tree smashed by a gale.

The sea eagle’s nest was just hanging out of the tree with no sign of the chick anywhere.
RSPB oficer on Mull Dave Sexton was able to read the ring on this adult male to identify his origins. Photograph by Amanda Fergusson.

He raced up closer to the tree and saw there was no sign of their chick, he thought it had died after wandering off dazed or been attacked and eaten as prey.

A week later he checked the same area again and after spotting an adult bird sitting high up the hillside on a crag,  started wondering if the chick could possibly have survived.

Another time he visited he saw an adult eagle flying in the area carrying prey but it went over a ridge and out of sight, however he swore he caught the distant call of a sea eagle chick.

‘Next day I was back again; found an adult again on the same crag and this time in the still air I could clearly hear the food begging calls of a chick! The adult sea eagle kept looking down so I tilted the telescope down to the base of the crag and sitting there, shouting its head off at the parent, was the chick! I couldn’t believe my eyes. At five weeks old when it fell out it couldn’t stand up or walk, let alone fly so it must have used all its strength to slowly shuffle its way gradually uphill through bracken and over rocks. It will have been fed on the ground by the parents, getting stronger and more mobile by the day until several weeks later it reached the top of the wood and out onto open ground. As I watched it even started to exercise its wings. It was just incredible that it had survived all the trauma and ordeal of its nest collapsing and thanks to the fantastic efforts of its ever attentive parents, it had made it this far,’ said Mr Sexton.

The next few times he checked there was no sign of the chick and he had to wait until late summer before he heard its call again and saw it soaring into view, closely followed by its parents.

‘The perfect family picture and then they slowly drifted out of sight. It was one of the most satisfying experiences of my life and testament to their incredible ability to survive in this harsh and unforgiving landscape,’ he said.

That was the last Mr Sexton saw of the chick until Amanda caught it on camera by chance, out hunting with an adult eagle down by the coast.

‘Even when chicks start to fly they are still not safe so to know that the chick had made it through autumn and into the early winter, helped by the parents, was just fabulous to see. There’s every likelihood it stayed with the parents for a few months more before slowly dispersing and beginning its own journey in life,’ said Mr Sexton, who was also able to identify the origins of the male eagle of the pair to a nest in Morvern in 2008, because he could read the colour ring A9/69 on his leg.

‘Apparently Amanda has very recently been out and had an immature sea eagle coming down for fish and she was wondering if it could be this same chick. I’ve said it’s entirely possible as it will have watched its parents doing this and will have learned what to do. In reality it could be an immature from anywhere by this stage and it wasn’t ringed, so we’ll never know 100 per cent but I’d say the odds are that it is our bird again!’ said Mr Sexton.

Normally the RSPB run an award-winning Mull Eagle Watch programme, a big attraction for wildlife tourists, but coronavirus closed it for this year.

Sea eagles are UK’s biggest bird of prey and the fourth largest eagle in the world, closely related to bald eagles in the US.