After nearly 8 weeks in captivity our 19 young sea eagles have finally been released in Fife this week, marking the fourth year of East coast releases and a total of 63 sea eagles released since 2007.
On the 11th August, we weighed and measured all the birds and fitted them with their wing tags and radio backpacks. The colour for 2010 is yellow with a black letter or number. All of our birds had put on weight with the young male who made an appearance at Edinburgh airport increasing from 2.5 to 4.5kg. This is the first time the birds have been handled since arrival and they were none too pleased to see us! It took five of us to get the tags fitted (working in two teams) as well as our vets Jo and Clare giving the birds the once over. I managed to jinx the whole day by proudly proclaiming that we'd got away 'injury free' before we had done the two large females in the very last cage and sure enough someone was bitten on the upper lip as he removed the hood of one bird before placing it back in the aviary! (Sorry Ewan!). Many thanks to Justin, Dave, Jenny, Ewan, Les, Jo and Clare.
Although this is year four, releases are always a tense time and the eagles always do something different. As in 2008 and 2009 the forecast for release week was dire, heavy showers, not good weather to take your first flight in! However, I've learnt to ignore the forecast and sure enough we had blue skies for all four releases and anaged to release 4-6 eagles each day without us or the birds getting wet!
Our first 3 females and a male shot out on Monday, these included Mari (tag O) and Vilde (tag E) two siblings from triplets who are named after two of their young human neighbours in Norway who live just 700m from the nest and only 300m away from the parent's night time roost.
I will get some photos uploaded shortly, but you can see some fantastic shots of the first release on Monday taken by RSPB volunteer Dean Bricknell (Scottish Nature photographer of the Year 2010)
Mike Dilger and the team from Tigress turned up on Monday afternoon to film with us for the next two days which will be broadcast on the One show on the 26th September. Its always great seeing people's reactions to a release and even Steve their seasoned wildlife cameraman found it quite emotional!
We were lucky to only have one bird crashland in the spruce this year which then made its own way out and all birds landed without injury. However, we still saw some comedy moments, with a couple of birds seeming quite surprised once the wind lifted their wings and nearly tipping backwards, whilst one of the last birds to be released (tag 7, one of the three males aka 'the three amigos' in previous blogs) got some height and then managed to do a 180 degree turn and fly back over the roof of the cages, something I had not seen any of the other 62 eagles do over the last four years!
A big thankyou to Fife Police who have helped keep the release site safe once again and it was great to have them and a lot of our project volunteers who work hard year round on the project at the release on Thursday as well as STV filming the whole event on Thursday. Once everyone had left yesterday, it was back to the hard graft as volunteer Neil Blair and I cleaned out the aviaries and stocked up the food dump on the roof, before leaving the birds in peace to explore their surroundings.
On Thursday one bird had got 3km from the site and we were also excited to discover one fof last year's birds had popped in to say hello! A 2009 male, turquoise tag 1 is currently moving around North-East Fife. So do keep an eye out for him and our all our birds, many of our older birds are spread throughout Perthshire and one of our 2008 birds is moving around Flanders Moss and please do report sightings to firstname.lastname@example.org as with 52 eagles to track I will need some help!