In the past month, the young sea eagles seem to have finally read the project proposal documents and gravitated towards the coastal areas, estauries and lochs that we believed they would seek out.
Birds X & H continue to be seen daily at Loch Leven, roosting on the islands, where they keep themselves a safe distance from people. We have been recording their diet through observations and collecting regurgitated pellets and the birds are living up to their roles as generalist predators feeding on geese, rabbits, cormorants, ducks and a dead swan. Their laziness continues to amaze people and we watched them go into roost at 3pm one day!
A group of 2008 and 2009 birds have been roosting in Tenstmuir forest since mid February and are being seen regularly over Tentsmuir forest, on the beach, the Eden estuary and over St Andrews. On the beach they have been feeding on dead seals and attempting to catch gulls. Its well worth looking skyward if talking a walk along the beach this weekend and thanks to everyone who has emailed in sightings so far. On Monday morning, I watched a 10 month old male (tag V) get a real shock as he drifted into peregrine territory, the latter made a huge commotion and repeatedly mobbed and attempted to pull feathers from the young sea eagle's wing before he drifted back towards the coast!
Tag '0', a 2009 female who has been moving between Forfar and Coupar Angus, visitied the Montrose basin two weeks ago to the delight of many visitors. In 2008 and 2009 we have seen the young eagles shift south-west into Central Scotland in February, this hasn't happened this year and we are really starting to see the majority of birds tied to the Tay estuary and surrounding area. One of the exceptions to this is of course Ralf, who first appeared at Loch of Strathbeg a year ago. He was seen with an unmarked juvenile last week, perhaps a wandering eagle from the continent who have appeared in north-east Scotland fairly regularly in the last few years. Spring often brings some interesting movements as the types of food available change, (with migratory geese leaving and less carrion around) the problem with a re-introduction is that we release small numbers of birds each year into an area with a lot of great sites for them and they just can't be everywhere at once! But we do hope some of the birds will stay at sites where people can see them easily and enjoy the return of this fantastic bird.
I met with staff from Natural England and RSPB working on the proposed project in Suffolk last week, the habitats and wealth of food look fantastic in the proposed release areas, feelings are running high with many people concerned about the re-introduction of this large predator and we certainly had our share of opposition and wariness in Fife before the project began, but we are really pleased with how things are progressing and many of those with concerns have been pleasantly surprised at how the birds have fitted into the area and found plenty of natural food.
Although the weather has been ideal for tracking, this is also the time of year that I have to spend some time in the office applying for our annual licences to collect birds from Norway and import them and plan the logistics for the arrival of the 2010 chicks. Sea eagles in Norway continue to build up their nests, often in the snow preparing for egg laying in April.