Bird movements

Ring number 94 or ‘Ralf the regal eagle’, as he’s been nicknamed by the warden, has been on the Isle of May for a month. During his time on the island he was seen pouncing on a young herring gull (no mean feat for a small male eagle!), eating other gulls and fulmars (thankfully without getting oiled) and he also made his YouTube debut, standing on a rock before taking off! And finally on Sunday (21st September 2008) he was seen heading for Crail on the mainland.

Bird 80, our largest female, has been commuting daily between the Montrose basin and release site in Fife!  She has been seen eating common gulls in Montrose during the day and then returning to the release site to roost.  Joining her at Montrose, although not doing the commute, has been another female, number 93.

It still amazes me how this year’s birds are going to almost the same places as last year’s birds did. I had a call on Friday from Euan McIlwraith,  a reporter on BBC Radio Scotland’s Out of Doors programme, who had spotted a young sea eagle at RSPB Fowlsheugh (just south of  Stonehaven) whilst walking the north sea trail.  His call was nearly to the day that a bird reached this area last year.

Bird K, a female from last year, dropped into the Argaty red kite centre, near Stirling last week. The bird soared high above the hide and was mobbed by up to 20 red kites before moving on. Last year bird T spent a week roosting at the site.

Another of last year’s females ‘C’ reminded us of how far these birds can travel. After being radio-tracked and seen flying above Lochearnhead, she then flew over 40 miles along the river Earn back to Fife, where she was then seen flying with 1 of this year’s males.


We are still maintaining the food dump near the release site in Fife which is currently being used by 9 birds.  We leave food out for the youngsters, to help them out while they are learning how to find their own food. This mimicks the support that the adult sea eagles would give them in the wild.

In the last 2 weeks we have seen the eagles starting to play fight and attempt to lock talons, an important social interaction for year’s to come when they start breeding. The young birds are also getting more skilled at swiftly turning 90 degrees in mid-air to give any mobbing buzzards or crows the brush off.

Elaine (project assistant) and I recently spent a day at a small area of Scots pine woodland near Loch Tay, where based on radio-tracking and sightings, we suspected last year’s birds had been roosting. We found a lot of sea eagle feathers confirming that they use this site regularly and also a few pellets and food remains.  Sea eagles are extremely sociable birds forming roosts in a similar way to red kites. This could prove a useful site to monitor their diet.…talking of which, the pink footed geese are now starting to arrive, which the eagles took a great interest in last year, so I expect we’ll see some big movements over the next month or so.