2012 has been another interesting year for the project. We were lucky to have more funding from HLF and LEADER for this year’s translocation to go ahead and to fund two fantastic new posts on the project-Meriem Kayoueche Reeve as “SEEVIEWS Community Engagement Officer” and Heather Richards as “Sea Eagle Project Assistant”. They both worked incredibly hard and contributed enormously to the project. Meriem’s work made new connections in the local community and engaged the tourism industry in preparation for when white tailed eagles establish here on the east coast of Scotland and become a potential tourist draw. Just imagine a situation in Fife/Tayside like that on Mull and Skye with Mull’s eagle hide receiving a 5* tourist attraction certification! Something to aspire to!
Despite a poor breeding season in Norway with only six young eagles being collected, they all did well during their time in the aviaries in Fife and all “fledged” with great success in the presence of our hard working volunteers, major funders, and of course the media!
Three birds frequented the food dump left for them on the roof of the aviaries and we got some great photos of the interaction between them. Grey “H” made a rapid escape down to Inchkeith Island where he has been spending time since and being spotted near Kinghorn loch in south Fife. Grey “T” ventured north towards Stonehaven whilst “A” and “X” remained in the release wood until recently. One of them moved to Rossie bog this week and another one has been spotted near Auchtermuchty!
Sadly as happens every year, not every bird survives and loosing one or two individuals is “normal”. However, as there were so few birds released this year, loosing two birds hit pretty hard. Within days of release, Grey “O” was electrocuted under power lines; a common cause of death amongst all cohorts released on the east coast and also in Norway. On the day I decided to take a few days off and visit family in Wales, Grey “R” was found dead on the shore on the south Fife coast...I should have known not to venture too far! Unfortunately the cause of death remains unknown but not suspicious.
With winter here now, as we all hoped, some special visitors arrived at RSPB Loch Leven. Turquoise “H” – a 2009 female was the first to appear. This is her third winter in a row at Loch Leven. This year instead of her usual partner in crime (Turquoise “X” who is currently on Loch Etive!!) she was joined this winter by Yellow “O” a 2010 male, and Red “E” a 2011 male! All of them have been seen moving between Reed Bower Island and Castle Island, and rumour has it that Douggie in the cafe has been making some “eagle buns” to celebrate!
Two (and at one point, three!) turquoise tagged birds (2009) are being seen regularly around Tentsmuir point and the Eden estuary. So there are plenty of places to go and enjoy east Scotland sea eagles over the Christmas holidays!
We recently received some very sad news regarding an Irish released white-tailed eagle that became a bit of a celebrity during his visit to east Scotland last year (see here).
Male tag “3”, affectionately nicknamed “Irish Brian” by his Scottish followers was released in County Kerry in August 2010 and spent is first winter in Kerry and along the coast of west Cork.
He then appeared on the Banffshire coast in October 2011 when a sea kayaker reported seeing an injured white-tailed eagle stranded in a cove. After rescue and a long rehabilitation by SSPCA (see here) he was successfully released from the east Scotland release site in Fife much to the delight of his Scottish fans and project staff!
(Karen Hartnell's artist interpretation of "Irish Brian's" visit.)
He then made his way to Drumpellier country park in Lanarkshire in February this year (see here) where he was photographed by rangers and seen by members of the public. Then suddenly, after disappearing off the radar for a while, project staff in Ireland were delighted to discover that he had made the journey all the way back to Ireland when his signal was detected in west Kerry in September!
Sadly, two months later in November, a mortality signal was detected from his transmitter, and male “3” was found dead on a hillside near Glencar in County Kerry. Unfortunately, the carcase was too decomposed to obtain adequate samples, and therefore the cause of his death will remain unknown. Three Irish released white-tailed eagles were found poisoned in this area in spring 2008 alone. Most poisoning incidents to date in Ireland have been during the lambing season (Feb-May) when poisons have been laid illegally for foxes and crows.
One hundred WTSEs have been released into the wild in Killarney Nat Park, Co. Kerry between 2007-2011, in an effort to re-establish the species in Ireland since its extinction in the early 20th century. In 2012 the project was boosted by the first nesting in the wild in over 100 years when a pair nested in Co. Clare. The Irish White-tailed Sea Eagle Reintroduction project is a collaboration between the Golden Eagle Trust and the National Parks & Wildlife Service of the Department of Arts, Heritage & the Gaeltacht. Visit the project website at www.goldeneagle.ie
Finally, as predicted by many, the snow has arrived and so have the white-tailed eagles on Loch Leven!! And not surprisingly, it’s the usual suspects that have turned up. Turquoise “H” (wing tag), a 2009 female appeared on Reed Bower Island on the 4th of December, soon to be followed by another bird yesterday.
Thanks to Karen Hartnell for reporting the sighting and for being quick with her camera to take some superb pictures!
We have yet to confirm the identity of the second bird, but we suspect it might be Turquoise “X”- a male who usually accompanies Turquoise "H" to Loch Leven at this time of year.
Loch Leven is an amazing place to watch the birds as there are telescopes set to look out over the loch from the cafe...which also has amazing food, coffee and cake!!