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Tue5th Aug 2003

The eleven young birds were measured and fitted with red wing tags and radio tags on the 9th August. An older eagle was noted near the release area on the 8th August. On the same day a member of the public reported a Golden Eagle being mobbed by Herring Gulls and gliding 200ft above Bunbeg harbour, West Donegal. On the 11th August the birds were released and settled near the cages. By the 15th, 10 of the birds had visited the nearby food dump and the remaining large female, Red A, was attending the food dump by the 17th. On the 16th Red A was noted soaring with four Buzzards over a kilometre from the food dump. A visitor to the Park saw Red A flying briefly and then watched it perch on a boulder for four hours, in the hope of seeing more flying activity, before giving up! By the 22nd most of the newly released birds were engaging in tentative short bouts of soaring.

On the 18th signals from both Yellow Two Spots and Blue 5, at 9.22 pm, showed that both birds were still active at that time. Two blue-tagged eagles were seen over the Glenveagh Waterfall on the 30th August.

On the 26th August a wildlife ranger Niall Cribbon (NPWS) saw and photographed a Golden Eagle in Connemara National Park, 210km to the south of Glenveagh National Park. I spent a day radio tracking in the vicinity on the 28th but did not see or detect any eagle. On the 29th Ger O Donnell (NPWS) saw the Golden Eagle fly over one of the hills I had been radio tracking from the day before. This bird was first recorded by Ciara Flynn (NPWS) on the 5th July near the Twelve Pins and may have been present since early June (N Cribbon pers comm.). We suspect it is one of the released eagles but are unable to confirm this.

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Sat5th Jul 2003

By the 5th July there were twelve young eagles being fed and reared in the release cages in Glenveagh. One of the birds, collected in early July, was noted with a drooping wing. Unfortunately, an examination and an x-ray by a local vet revealed the eagle had suffered a large chip to a bone in its left wing. A second opinion was sought from a bird of prey veterinary expert in London. Both vets agreed that the degree of calcification around the fracture indicated the injury had occurred some time before the bird was collected. The bird was sent to Dublin Zoo for long term husbandry and veterinary care, as it was not fit for release.

The birds were placed in five cages (3 with two birds and 2 with three birds) and developed quickly during the good weather. The eagles were fed venison, rabbits and crows. By the end of July all the captive birds were out on the perches away from the nest platforms. The two young eagles collected from Mull had whiter underparts in comparison to the remaining birds.

During July, Yellow Horizontal Bar and Yellow Two Spots, Blue 0, Blue 4 and Blue 5 were noted in the Derryveagh Mountains. Yellow Three Spots was noted only once during July at the head of Glenveagh, probably during a brief return visit to the release area. Blue 3 was seen once, a short distance from the Derryveagh Mountains, on 22nd July. Blue 0 was not noted near its regular haunts in Glenveagh after the 17th July, despite several days radio tracking.

In fact Yellow Horizontal Bar (C), Yellow Two Spots (X), Blue 4 (C) and Blue 5 (X) were the only older birds noted in the Derryveagh Mountain range during late July, August and September. These four birds were some of the strongest individuals amongst their respective cohorts. The two yellow-tagged birds were not acting as a pair but the blue-tagged birds were occasionally recorded near each other.

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Thu5th Jun 2003

During two trips to Scotland, in the second half of June and the first few days of July, 12 Golden Eagle chicks were collected across Scotland. Six of the birds came from the Hebrides including Skye, Mull, Canna and Lewis and the other six birds were collected in Cowal, Sutherland, Angus, Tayside, Badenoch and Invernesshire. We are once again very grateful to all those who helped identify potential donor stock, namely the Argyll, Highland, Tayside and Central Scotland Raptor Study Groups, the Highland Foundation for Wildlife, Forest Enterprise, Scottish Natural Heritage, the National Trust for Scotland, RSPB, landowners, gamekeepers and estate staff. We would also like to express a particular gratitude to the people of Canna, young and not so young, who helped Kevin collect their bird on what seems to have been a memorable day.

Due to the preparation for the new arrivals, annual holidays and two trips to Scotland there were fewer days spent radio tracking the released birds during June. However, we have recorded 5 of the 8 first year birds after the 1st June, their assigned birthday, and therefore at least 62% of the 2002 cohort survived their first year. The other three birds were alive on or after the 14th May and we hope we can relocate these birds in the near future. 3 of the 5 birds from 2001 have now been noted as third year birds. The other two birds, which were last noted in April, are known to be more nomadic and may be more difficult to locate (see table below). However, further radio tracking in the coming months should help clarify the status of these birds. It is hoped the new batch of birds will be released in mid August.

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Mon5th May 2003

Blue 9 stayed near Dunlewey in late April and was still in the south Derryveagh area in early May along with 5 other first year eagles. A seventh bird was noted in the Glendowan Mountains at the time. The remaining first year bird Blue 3, was proving to be quite enigmatic. For example, it was noted near Slieve Sneacht on the 20th March and was next recorded again near Slieve Snaght on the 24th April and it was not noted again until the 12th May when it was recorded again near Slieve Sneacht and it went unrecorded again until the 26th May when it turned up in Glenveagh National Park.

On the 12th May, 7 of the 8 first year birds were noted or seen the Derryveagh range as were 3 of the 5 second year birds. On the 14th May, 4 eagle pellets containing Hare and Red Deer hair were collected under a Rowan tree. A skeleton and fur from a young fox cub was also recovered nearby on a hummock and is likely to have been eaten by an eagle. Blue 2 was seen soaring later that day and was covering a huge area quite effortlessly. 7 of the 8 first year birds were noted in the Derryveagh range that day. From mid May onwards the first year birds became more difficult to locate. In general it is known that Golden Eagles can be more difficult to see during the long days of summer as they can spend long periods simply loafing or perching near the ground or on a suitable ledge. The 2001 cohort were known to have dispersed more widely during May-July 2002 also.

During May Yellow Horizontal Bar was noted regularly in its favoured area, Yellow Two Spots was also quite sedentary whilst Yellow Three Spots continued to be noted in various locations.

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Sat5th Apr 2003

There was a notable rise in the number of sightings of dispersed golden eagles during April.

There was an unconfirmed report in a local newspaper of two golden eagles over Killeter Forest, in Tyrone (adjacent to the Donegal border and less than 10km from the Blue Stacks) on the 20th April. Geoff Campbell (from the Environment and Heritage Service in Northern Ireland) saw a blue-tagged eagle over Binnevenagh, north of Limavady, County Derry/Londonderry on the 22nd April. This is only 10km east of the Inishowen Penninsula, Donegal. The bird was apparently disturbed by a nearby army helicopter. On the same day there was a report of a golden eagle over the western end of Boa Island in Lower Lough Erne, County Fermanagh. (Joe picked up a radio signal from Red A from a 10km square NE of Lower Lough Erne on 2nd & 3rd May). A golden eagle was also seen passing over Buncrana town centre, Inishowen at a considerable altitude at the end of the month

Golden eagles in the Blue Stacks, Donegal could easily disperse to the east over Killeter Forest, Tyrone and move to the south or southeast over a loose chain of smaller mountains to Lower Lough Erne, Fermanagh and south or east into Leitrim. This would save the eagles crossing southward over open water in Donegal Bay. So the golden eagles have probably dispersed through or visited Donegal’s four neighbouring counties since February. The Leitrim sighting was approx 73km, the Binnevanagh sighting approx 70km and the Fermanagh radio-location approx 60 km away from the release site in Glenveagh National Park. Interestingly these distances are close to the median ranging distance (63km) for 1st and 2nd year Scottish golden eagles based on BTO ringing recoveries. Of course the golden eagle sightings in Connemara, Clare and Kerry last year, which may relate to released birds, would suggest greater immature dispersal distances (210-350km).

Red S, the bird with the failed radio transmitter, was probably seen in Glenveagh on the 18th April, as there was no signal coming from the red-tagged bird under observation. Red H, Red L, Red N and Red O have not been recorded since early March or February. It can be difficult to assess how many first year birds have dispersed. Over the last two seasons between 30-60% of first year birds seem to be outside the core area (within a 30km radius of the release site) at any one time. The first year birds are also constantly on the move. For example, Red A had returned to Glenveagh National Park on the 22nd April for the first time since 28th January. It only stayed near the Park for one day and was back in the Blue Stacks by the 25th and had moved on to Fermanagh by the 2nd May.

7 (64%) of the 11 first year birds were known to be alive in April. The four remaining birds have probably dispersed outside of Donegal during February and March. 3 (37%) of the 8 blue-tagged birds are noted regularly in Donegal and there also appears to be a blue-tagged bird with a faulty radio near Glenveagh. Two (33%) of the six yellow tagged birds are monitored regularly and a third bird with a faulty radio was last noted in March. These are absolute minimum survival rates, which we expect will increase over the coming months due additional sightings and radio tracking.

There may be up to fifteen golden eagles in Donegal and up to 9 birds elsewhere in the country. The above report underlines the need to establish a wider network of contacts, especially in the counties along the western seaboard and the western half of Northern Ireland, in order to map the whereabouts of the wandering eagles. We are very grateful for all the sightings that have been passed on to us to date and we look forward to your continued support over the coming years.

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