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Thu5th May 2005

This year’s breeding attempt had failed by late April. There was concern when the male bird, Yellow Two Spots, was not seen near the nest site in late April and early May. But a second Yellow tagged eagle was seen near the incubating female on the 9th May. The female was last seen sitting on the egg on the 10th May - the due hatching date was the 5th May. Two eagles were seen soaring and gambolling together on the hillside near the nest on the 16th May and the local farmer also saw this pair the day before.

On the 13th May, a Blue tagged eagle and a Yellow tagged eagle were seen together in a second known territory. I searched all the nearby suitable nesting areas and found some regular perching spots and some downy eagle feathers around the rock faces where the eagles had been noted previously. Blue 0 had roosted on these rock faces one night last November. Finally, I decided to investigate a crag about a kilometer away from the recent sightings. Last winter a farmer told me that his elderly aunt used to call this crag ‘Eagle Rock’. There was some eagle down and a moulted eagle primary feather below ‘Eagle Rock’, which prompted a thorough search. Eventually I located a rudimentary nest on an exposed ledge. It had up to 25 pieces of wood rush and 8 heather twigs arranged in the shape of a nest. The surrounding vegetation had been flattened and the nest material was probably added over the previous 3-4 weeks. There was one eagle wing covert and almost a dozen pieces of eagle down present also. Our second territorial pair, Blue 0, a three-year-old female and Yellow Three Spots, a four-year-old male, built this nest. It is interesting that the pair built a nest at a site known to local people in previous centuries. The place name was never documented and only survived, for over a hundred years, through folklore’s oral tradition. Blue 0 was radio tracked in the same area on several separate dates during May and early June.

Green K and Green N were radio tracked in the Bluestacks during May. Green X was near the Donegal/Fermanagh Border in mid May as was Green O. Red F, a second year female, was radio tracked in a distinct area on the 1st, 2nd and 3rd May.

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Tue5th Apr 2005

Red K was seen near Glenveagh and Red F had returned to the north of the Donegal during the month. Blue 5 was again in its favoured haunts in early April. Red X was radio tracked near Dunlewey, adjacent to Glenveagh, on the 26th April. At the same time a very distant spec a couple of kilometers to the east was identified as a Golden Eagle as it soared effortlessly upward toward the tumulus clouds. A second eagle joined it and both birds soared together into the grey cloud and were lost from view. I checked and rechecked all the eagle radio signals and slight frequency variations but got no radio signals. Green A, H, T, N, X and O were all noted briefly visiting the Bluestacks during the month.

There was a very interesting report of a “grey tagged sub-adult Golden Eagle” from Loch Ba, the Isle of Mull, Scotland on the 7th April. The observer said the tags were much smaller than the tags used on the local White-tailed Eagles. Our tags are much smaller than the WTE tags. We have not used grey wing tags on the Glenveagh Golden Eagles but we believe nobody else is wing-tagging eagles in Scotland or Ireland. The observers may have seen sky-blue tags, as used on the 2002 cohort. There was a sighting of a Golden Eagle with sky blue tags on 20th April 2004 near Binevenagh, just across the mouth of Lough Foyle from Inishowen, Donegal and it is only a few short hops over to the North Antrim Coast and over to the Mull of Kintyre. Loch Ba is approx 203km from Glenveagh as compared to a dispersal of 412km down to the coast of Kerry. There have been reports of Golden Eagles in Wales over the last 18 months – but they could be falconry birds, Scottish young or Glenveagh birds.

The breeding female, Yellow Diagonal Bar, continued to sit during April. A quick clutch check three weeks into incubation confirmed the nest was secure and very dry. The one egg was measured and was an average size (59.5mm x 74.8mm). The male was seen regularly on site, incubating, loafing nearby or adding greenery to the nest. All was well for the first four weeks of the 6-week incubation. But on Friday the 22nd April the male did not attend the nest once during an entire 10-hour observation stint. The female was sitting on Saturday but there was still no sign of the male. By Sunday it was apparent the male was missing or dead. The female came off the eyrie and was calling and yelping for the male. She would normally be relieved of her incubation duties at least once a day. In an effort to keep her sitting I went back to the nest and placed in some deer venison on the edge of the nest. The egg was cold and when examined its contents were found to be watery. It was either an infertile egg or the egg failed early during incubation.

In early May, after many more visits, we assumed that the male bird was dead. But on the 9th May a yellow tagged male (with the same amount of white on the underwing and the same missing primary as Yellow Two Spots) landed near the nest for about 40 seconds. The tag markings were not visible and it could possibly have been Yellow Three Spots. A further 8 hours watching at the nest on the 9th and 10th May showed the female sitting constantly and no sign of the male. So at present there is uncertainty about the status of Yellow Two Spots.

Four years after the first releases, Golden Eagles are an Irish breeding species again, which has several positive implications. The breeding failure by two inexperienced 4-year-old birds is not surprising. As more eagles reach maturity and gain breeding experience in Ireland, over the coming years, we look forward to the first egg hatching and a Donegal bred eagle taking to the skies.

Both 4-year-old birds that bred were among the 6 birds imported in 2001 –the low numbers partly attributable to the Foot and Mouth outbreak. Like all other reintroduction programmes the number of birds released will be critical to the success of the project. Only 35 Golden Eagles have been released in Donegal over the last four years. We still intend releasing 60-75 birds in Donegal as per our original licence application to Scottish Natural Heritage. Therefore we have applied to SNH for a licence extension, from 5 to 8 years. We aim to collect our fifth cohort from Scotland in late June 2005. With your help we can ensure Golden Eagles are successfully reestablished in Ireland.

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Sat5th Mar 2005

The nest was monitored from a safe distance regularly during March. Both adult birds were observed near the nest site. The male bird still retained a thin band of white in the middle of its upper and lower wing. Some deer carcasses were left out opposite the nest during the first half of the month and though the eagles were not seen at the food dumps, small white flecks of white down and large white eagles splashes (faeces) suggested they were eating this carrion. We also left out sticks near the food but none of these were taken to the nest.

The female, Yellow Diagonal Bar, was first seen incubating on the 24th March 2005. Incubation went well throughout March with the male taking on the occasional bout of incubation with quick and deliberate changeovers.

On the 2nd and 4th March, Blue 5 was noted in the same area that it has favoured since April 2004 and again this could be an indication of a second territory with a single three year old male alongside the two other territorial pairs. On the 4th March Yellow Three Spots and Blue O’s radio signals were picked up briefly as they appeared to soar around a mountain on the edge of their territory prior to roosting. Frustratingly, I could not get a visual on the two birds and both signals faded and stopped at the same time suggesting a mutual flight path. Blue O was seen by John Cromie and colleagues in Birdwatch Ireland doing an undulating display flight on 23rd March but no other birds were seen associating with it.

There were unconfirmed reports of two immature Golden Eagles together in early March near St Finans Bay, Kerry in the extreme southwest of Ireland –some 412 km from Glenveagh. There were also records from Bin More Mountain in Tyrone and a record from near Spiddle in County Galway during March. Green F, Green X, Green H, Green K, Green N, Green A and Green T were all radio tracked or seen during the month in various parts of Donegal. Red K was noted again near Glenveagh on the 2nd March. Red F was again radio tracked in Donegal on the 23rd for the first time since 8th October 2004.

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Sat5th Feb 2005

The radio signal from Blue O picked up in Mayo in November 2004 has turned out to be an errant signal from another local radio tag not attached to an eagle – so there is no evidence that Blue O was in Mayo. Blue O was radio tracked or it was identified by wing tags in its territory on the 5th, 13th, 18th, 19th, 21st and probably on the 26th February. This 3-year-old female has now established a territory and was seen mutual high soaring with its probable mate on the 7th December 2004. It is likely it is paired up with a four year old male, Yellow Three Spots, which was radio tracked in the same area on 1st February, though its radio appeared to be intermittent when it was last seen on the 24th January.

Green A, Green H, Green F, Green K, Green O and Green T were noted in Mid Donegal during the first half of the month. Supplementary feeding was stopped at the end of January but Green N and Green X were still in Glenveagh on the 21st February 2005. The last of the 9 remaining first year birds, Green C, was radio tracked just outside Buncrana on the Inishowen peninsula, to the north of Glenveagh, on the 10th February.

Red K, a second year male, was noted moving about Cark Mountain and the edges of Glenveagh during the month. Blue 3, a three-year-old male without an active radio tag, was seen in the head of Glenveagh on the 24th February 2005 and it may be beginning to establish a territory in the vicinity.

A lot of effort was spent during the month trying to pin down Yellow Two Spots and Yellow Diagonal Bar, the four year old territorial pair. Though there was a weak signal from Yellow Two Spots on the 21st February it’s radio signal was probably only intermittent by then and has not been working since. This pair was seen at several locations 7 kilometres apart during the month.

At last on the 28th February, I spotted the pair of Golden Eagles chasing a pair of Ravens above and around a suitable nesting site. After a long circuitous walk checking potential nest sites and possible feeding sites the two wing tagged eagles appeared overhead and drifted away again. I quickly checked as many of the ledges as I could and eventually I scrambled up to look under an obvious overhang- i.e. an overhanging rock, which often shelter eagle eyries. It became obvious the main overhang only had a steep sloping rock face underneath it. But I scrambled up the last few feet anyway and there it was, a new neat small green Golden Eagle nest just under the extreme edge of the overhang.

What a great nest site choice. The nest was primarily made out of fresh heather twigs and sprays and a few old dried out stalks of thistles and some fresh green woodrush. I could not see a single branch from a tree in the nest. The nest was already firmly cupped. How appropriate, a green nest made with thistles – Brilliant!

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Wed5th Jan 2005

A third year bird (fourth calendar year), Blue 5, was radio tracked roosting with the first year eagles, near the release cages on the 7th January for one night only. On the 10th January Red K was radio tracked in Glenveagh and on the 19th January Red X was seen and radio tracked high soaring with a first year bird very close to the release cages. Red X had not been recorded since September 2004 and like several other second and third year birds has returned to Glenveagh very briefly, over the last few months.

On the 24th January, Yellow 3 Spots and Blue 5 were seen and radio tracked in South Donegal and an active radio signal from Green T was also noted in the same area. Joe recorded Blue O and Yellow 2 Spots in the same general area on Sunday 23rd January.

In early spring, Green C was noted to the north on the Inishowen peninsula, Green S has died and the other 8 first year birds have been noted alive in Glenveagh National Park up to mid January. The second and third year birds are still moving around quite widely and we hope one or two of the yellow-tagged (4th year) birds may establish territories in the coming season.

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