There is often a lot of coverage in the media regarding the perceived bad relationship between RSPB and gamekeepers on grouse moors, what often doesn’t make the headlines are the many occasions when both sides are quietly getting along.
Two weeks ago, following what was hopefully the last batch of snow, we received a call from a gamekeeper on an estate in Angus to report a young sea eagle that had become grounded by the weather and seemed in a bad way. The caller was extremely helpful providing us with the location and happy for us to head up to the area whenever we could weather permitting. It was another three days before myself and Iain were able to make the 5km walk into the hills to check the location, due to the continued snow. Fearing the worst, of finding an injured or dead bird I had bin bags, gloves, towels and a falconers hood in my rucksack and kennel in the car in case it needed to go to the vets. We made our way up check the area stopping with the radio-tracking gear along the way and once we reached the area the bird was last seen split up in different directions to search the plateau. Iain finally picked up yellowK flying along one of the glens below. The cloud was coming and going so weren’t able to see the bird at first, but could tell from the signal that it was on the move. A good sign suggesting it was doing ok
We finally lost it so made our way back down, checking as we went with the signal coming and going, we then had to jump in the car and follow the eagle with the car aerial down the glen. Finally we spotted it flicking off crows and flying determinedly into roost about 20km away from where we had first found it. The eagle was obviously now doing ok and we were glad to be able to report this back to the estate and were really grateful to have been told about the bird. I believe the eagle probably got stuck in the uplands in bad weather and had struggled to get out and find food as sea eagles are less adapted to the uplands and hunting fast moving prey such as red grouse and hares favoured by golden eagles. A happy ending for all concerned. RSPB fieldworkers are also currently out on several estates across Perthshire and Angus monitoring black grouse, hen harriers and red kites.
Another ‘RSPB moment' happened earlier the same week; I was at Vane Farm, delivering training to eight new volunteer field teachers who are helping RSPB staff to deliver sea eagle visits to 70 schools across Fife and Tayside. After lunch I headed up to the visitor centre and there was a sea eagle sitting near one of the scrapes, near enough to be seen with the naked eye! It was turquoiseZ. I headed back down to let the field teachers know who gave a collective gasp and stampeded up the stairs to spot the eagle! Our volunteers came from areas of Fife, Lothian and Tayside and would not have expected to see a sea eagle on their doorstep just five years ago.
Some of our turquoise tagged, 2009 birds are returning from the west with turquoiseX (Hamish) at SWT Balgavies Loch on the 17th March and I watched 2008 female A9/90 and turquoiseK attempting to fish at low tide opposite Invergowrie on the Tay estuary last Thursday. Another 2009 bird has been way up north at Loch Fleet and around Caithness. One of the birds normally pays a visit to the northern isles in April/May each year so this maybe where this bird is heading....
Finally just to end a busy week as I headed down south on Friday to visit family I was alerted by the power of Facebook that yellow1 had popped into Argaty red kites, possibly the same bird as paid Loch Winnoch a visit. Finally I'd just like to say a huge thank you to everyone who wrote a letter of support for the project to help us secure Heritage Lottery Funding which will help support the project and vastly increase people involvement to protect our growing population over the next three years. We will get a decision in June, so fingers crossed!
....Then head to an RSPB reserve!
A yellow tag (2010) bird was spotted at Loch Winnoch this morning, the tags were too far away to read, but I'm hoping it might be one of the west coast wanderers heading home from Mull! Hopefully it will pop back in on the weekend and we can identify it. TurquoiseH (2009 female) has been back at Vane Farm this week.
Moving further north turquoiseZ and turquoiseK have been regularly popping into Loch of Lintrathen and Backwater reservoir in Angus over the last couple of week. A 2010 female provided a good meal for a peregrine up on the Lecht in North East Scotland flushing a red grouse as it glided over the moor, this was quickly snatched by a peregrine that had been shadowing the larger bird.
As a wee reminder of how to identify the released East coast birds for anyone out spotting this weekend the markings are below in order from 2007 to 2010