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White-tailed Eagles of Mull

I have been looking forward to this week for a long time. When my good friend, Pete Walkden moved from his Birmingham home to Mull early this year, I was excited to be able to visit as soon as possible.

I have been keeping up to date with Pete's photos this year and, apart from his incredible otter images, it was the White-tailed eagles that really excited me. I have only visited Mull once, about 15 years ago, and we were lucky enough to see one then and, ever since, I have longed to get a better view and to be able to photograph them.

These eagles became extinct in Britain in the early 1900s but were reintroduced in the 70s.

The first successful breeding of the re-introduced white-tailed eagles occurred on Mull in 1985. This year there were 22 breeding pairs her in Mull and they are a real success story. The growth in numbers is down to considerable effort and protection measures by conservationists and volunteers.

Knowing how keen I was to photograph these impressive raptors, Pete booked me a trip on the Mull Charters; a boat trip out to the territories of some of these wonderful birds.

After a few days of lovely weather, the day dawned grey, breezy and wet, but it was going to take more than that to dampen my enthusiasm and we headed to the Ulva ferry, where we would pick up the 'Lady Jayne'. We were clad in our waterproofs and set for wet weather...

I have got used to seeing Pete's photos, but I knew it was going to be a challenge to track these raptors as they passed and came in to take the fish put out for them.

This is one of Pete's slow motion videos of these eagles. This is about a quarter of the speed the action really happens at, so it is over in a flash!

I am still on a learning curve with my new(ish) camera (Canon R6), but with some settings advice from Pete I was ready for the challenge!

Seeing one perched up on the headland, it was difficult to gauge their size.

The first close view of these eagles will remain in my mind for a long time. It's tempting to view spectacles like this through the lens of your camera, but I resisted the temptation and just watched this huge eagle soar into view; a master of the air, wings stretched and tips lifting in the breeze. They really are huge; the largest bird of prey in the UK and the 4th largest eagle in the world. Their wing span is over 8ft and they are certainly impressive birds. Moving fast, it soared over us, circled around and then deftly plucked the fish from the surface of the water.

It is really hard to track them in the air and as they swoop in, they are moving fast. Keeping them in focus and in the frame is a challenge. I had lots of blurred shots, shots with a tiny part of the eagle or sometimes nothing at all in the shot!!

The trip was nearly 3 hours, travelling around to different territories and different eagles, so I was able to have several attempts and gradually got better. I took hundreds of shots, as you can imagine. These are some of my favourites from a truly incredible experience. The weather was challenging, as was the light, but even so I was thrilled with the images I captured for my first attempt.

The time went SO quickly and I was sorry when we turned for home. I could have watched these fabulous birds all day. We have another trip out booked on Sunday, so fingers crossed for slightly brighter conditions!


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