The news was finally official yesterday that RSPB has been awarded £235,000 to fund sea eagle work across Scotland for the next three years. Many thanks to everyone who pledged support for our bid and our partenrs who helped us right such an exicitng bid.
Entitled SEEVIEWS, the See Eagle Education, Viewing, Interpretation and Engagement within Scotland project will primarily focus on engaging and educating the public about one of the country’s most iconic species.
Through field teaching, volunteer monitoring, CCTV cameras and public exhibitions in sea eagle strongholds like Mull, Wester Ross, Skye and Eastern Scotland, the scheme will allow more people to see and better understand these rare birds of prey, thus improving the species’ chances of long-term survival. In turn these activities will give local people and tourists the chance to get involved in sea eagle conservation.
Public access and education will form the focus of the project but in East Scotland this will allow us to go ahead with a sixth year of releases, bringing the total number of birds released as close as possible to 100. Population modelling, past experience and monitoring of survival rates has shown that this is crucial in order to establish a healthy population. The money also means we are looking ahead to breeding and how we can start showing you the first sea eagles breeding in eastern scotland for over 200 years as well as funds to get you involved in helping to protect the first nests. There are also proposals for a sea eagle sculpture in Dundee working with Duncan of Jordantsone Art College and local schools.
This year's chicks are unaware of their windfall, but did enjoy the heavy downpour on Saturday sitting out in the rain to rid themselves of any feather fluff and parasites. About half the young birds are flapping now and beguinning to make adult calls, although a bit of more chick like squealing still comes from some hungry mouths at feeding time!
After a whirlwind arrival day meeting Stewart Stevenson - environment minister and the Norwegian Consul, the chicks have now been in captivity for two weeks and are growing fast. We have just had the sexes back and we have 10 males and 6 females, we thought we had an even split when we were collecting in Norway, so obviously have a couple of big males! The chicks weighed between 3.5 and 5.5kg when they arrived. They a bit calmer and more wary of noise than last year's batch. We have put two eagles in each avairy except one of the large females who had a wheeze when collected from the nest is on her own meaning the three smallest chicks have also had to go together. The female was put on antibiotics and antifungal medication in Norway, but was not getting any better, coughing and wheezing but also wolfing her food down. Jo one of our vets got in touch last week to say that she had tested positive for gape worm, a parasite in the throat so we have treated her and are just waiting another couple of weeks to re-test her before we can put her in a clean aviary with another bird. We have not seen this parasite in the young eagles before and expect she got it from eating some bird prey brought to her by the adults in the nest. Our smallest male is just starting to use his feet to help rip up his food so no longer needs it chopped up and another male did his first wing flaps the other day, despite his wing feathers only being half grown! All the birds are also starting to take more interest in what is going on outside the cages they have also been enjoying sitting out in the cooling rain looking less than majestic with their feathers flattened down. we are feeding them a mixed diet of haddock (off-cuts of Arbroath smokies) venison (mainly unwanted bits from Highland Game in Dundee this year) and grey squirrels from the Scottish Wildlife Trust cull around Aberdeen. Birds from previous years are still spending a lot of time on the firth of Forth.