After popping in and out over the last couple of months, two 2009 birds, the large female turquoiseH and small male turquoiseZ (named Norbett) have taken up residence at Loch Leven again in the last week, being seen daily out on the ice. The extremely cold weather has caused their radio frequencies to shift, so after a stomp up Vane Hill (at -8 degrees!) I could initially only pick up one, but Colin Shaw soon found the huge female in the scope and we were able to tune into her new winter frequency.
The eagles with their second year plumage are looking fantastic out on the frozen loch, and have already been spotted chasing wildfowl, snapping at crows, attempting a mid-air swan attack and having a stand off with a fox. If you have any spare time over the next couple of weeks I really would recommend a visit to the only place in Scotland where you can sit in the warmth of the cafe with a cuppa and watch Europe’s largest bird of prey. This is the second winter the birds have visited the site and as we enter another winter its great to see the patterns develop and to see the birds end the year back where they started it.
I was hoping that turquoiseX may also join them, but heard that he has been spotted on Mull today, presumably shifting west to try and find food where there is less snow as red kites from Perthshire have also been doing over the last couple of weeks, being seen in unprecedented numbers on Mull and surrounding islands.
A great Christmas present for sea eagles all over Scotland is the news that we have received stage 1 approval for Heritage Lottery Funding. This is to fund a range of activities across Scotland and specifically on the East coast we are hoping to train and involve more volunteers, broaden our education project and fund a 6th year of releases. A lot more hardwork is now underway by RSPB staff to get the detailed funding application in for the next three years.
Our smallest male from 2010, yellowZ (of chicken munching fame) has moved down to the Doune area from the Inner Forth, whilst other 2008 and 2009 birds are using the Carse of Gowrie and Angus amd have been spotted near Blairgowrie in the last week.
Please don’t forget to send in any sightings of sea eagles over the festive period and Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all supporters of the East Scotland Sea Eagle project and a special thank you to project volunteers who have been out in all weathers tracking the birds and to everyone who has sent in sightings in 2010.
Iain who wrote the last blog post has been snowed in at Vane Farm for the past week, you can see some photos of the reserve here:
We were down to only stocking the food dump once a week as the eagles were mainly catching their own food and leaving most of the venison for the crows and magpies and we haven’t been able to get up to the wood at all in the last week due to the snow and ice.
As the colder weather has set in I wanted to see how yellow3 our rehabilitated female is getting on and spent some time watching her, I found her in a tall scots pine overlooking a flooded field where she perched for over an hour watching the ducks below before swooping down and catching a teal, which she took to a drier bit corner of the field to eat, its great to see her in such great condition and reassured me that she isn’t relying on the food dump and that her time in captivity hadn’t removed her wild behaviour.
Another female, YellowC who was last spotted in Glen eagles at the start of November has just been spotted at Loch Scridan on Mull with some other juveniles.
With the help of volunteer Dan Spinks we’ve been pinning down a new communal roost site near Fettercairn in Aberdeenshire, this involves getting out with the radio-tracking gear at either end of the day (when the eagles are either leaving or arriving at the roost) and trying to get enough bearing on their signals from different hill tops to get the location pinned down. Once you’ve doen that you often end up with an are of up to a 1km square of woodland to check and have to try and see the birds go in or walk through the wood until you signs of the birds, feathers pellets and droppings. Another good clue with sea eagles is that they really like to have a view of water it can be the coast, a river or just a small lochan. There have been 2008 and 2009 birds roosting there since October, up to 6 at a time and its incredible to think that this is probably the first time theres been a sea eagle roost site in this part of the country for hundreds of years. When I went up at the end of November to check which birds were suing the site I was amazed to see (and hear with the tracking gear) that yellowO had joined the others. He is the smaller male sibling of yellowE a female, who has been in the north-east since early September often popping into Meikle Loch. This is the first time he has moved more than a few miles from the release site in Fife, where he was the regular under-dog at the food dump. I wonder if he will keep moving north-east and find his sibling again or whether he’ll stay put over the winter?