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Wed21st May 2014
The first white-tailed eagle chicks of the year have been hatched in Co Clare and westCork in recent weeks, it was announced today.
 
The rare birds were born in nests at Mountshannon, Co Clare and Glengarriff in west Cork, according to the Golden Eagle Trust which runs the reintroduction programme .
 
The chick born in Mountshannon is a sibling of a bird which was shot and killed three months ago. The deceased bird was one of two chicks born to the Mountshannon pair last year which became the first chicks to fly from a nest in Ireland in over a century. The crime is under investigation by the Garda.
 
The chick born in Glengarriff, the first of the year to hatch, uunfortunately died at two weeks old. This was likely due to a combination of bad weather and inexperienced adults, Golden Eagle Trust project manager Dr Alan Mee said.
 
Nesting pairs at sites in Kerry and Galway have also laid eggs which have yet to hatch. At least half of the fourteen pairs of eagles across four counties have nested and laid eggs in recent weeks. Some pairs, including a nest in Killarney National Park, failed to breed.
 
These are the latest chicks in the reintroduction programme which began in 2007 with the release of 100 young Norwegian eagles in Killarney National Park .
 
Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Jimmy Deenihandescribed it as a “very promising development” after the shocking killing earlier this year ” “That was a dark day for this ambitious project to reintroduce these magnificent birds of prey into Ireland,” he said. “I hope these young eagles will have a long life in our skies,” he said.
 
The pair at Mountshannon gives the general public a chance to see some of the most “spectacular birds” at “close quarters”, he said.
 
Dr Mee warned about risks of disturbance during the early stages of nesting which would be detrimental to success and could result in chicks being left unguarded.
 
“We would caution people not to approach the nest area but instead avail of the unique opportunity to watch from a nesting pair of sea eagles from nearby Mountshannon pier,” he said.
 
The increase in the number of nesting pairs is “encouraging” and “bodes well for the future of the species” he said. White-tailed eagles can live for 25 to 30 years and generally mate for life.
 
“Ultimately the viability of the reintroduced programme depends on these chicks going on to breed themselves in Ireland. Each step brings us closer to that goal,” he said.
 
The reintroduced birds came from Norway and the Norwegian Ambassador to Ireland also welcomed the news: “ This is an excellent example of international cooperation on the practical level, aiming at preserving nature and biodiversity for the benefit of future generations,” Roald Næss said.
 
The white-tailed eagle reintroduction project is managed by the Golden Eagle Trust with the National Parks and Wildlife Service. One hundred white-tailed eagles were released in Killarney National, park between 2007 and 2011 and 29 have been recovered dead mainly due to illegal poisoning.
 
The birds were historically a part of the Irish landscape before being made extinct here in the early 20th century due to human persecution.
White-tailed eagle chick hatched in Clare
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Wed5th Mar 2014

One of the first two White-tailed Eagles to fledge successfully from a nest in Co. Clare in 2013 has been found dead in Tipperary. The young male eagle was reared by a pair of White-tailed Eagles at a nest on Lough Derg, near Mountshannon, Co. Clare and successfully flew from the nest in July 2013 along with its sibling. After a few months of care by its parents both young eagles began to disperse more widely and become independent of their parents. The last confirmed sighting was of one of the two juveniles near Dromineer, Co. Tipperary, on the east shore of Lough Derg in January.

After information supplied by a member of the public and a subsequent search on lands on the shore of Lough Derg by an officer from the National Parks & Wildlife Service (NPWS) and the Golden Eagle Trust Project Manager, Dr Allan Mee,  the dead White-tailed Eagle was found near Ballinderry, North Tipperary, on the north-east shore of Lough Derg. Subsequent post-mortem by pathologists at the Regional Veterinary Laboratory at Knockalisheen, Limerick, and radiographs showed the young eagle had been shot, the body holding some 45-50 shotgun pellets.   Subsequent post-mortem by pathologists at the Regional Veterinary Laboratory at Knockalisheen, Limerick showed the young eagle had been shot, the body holding some 45-50 shotgun pellets. The impact of the shooting broke one of its legs and wings but the bird survived some weeks after the shooting before dying. The horrific nature of the bird’s shooting and ultimate death has shocked all those involved in the reintroduction project.

Jimmy Deenihan TD, Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, said:  “I am shocked by this crime. The birth of this bird was a special day for nature conservation in Ireland. So much work has gone into reintroducing this species here, and there has been wonderful cooperation by many different groups to achieve successful breeding.  To have all this undone is a significant blow. Eagles are protected by law. I would urge anyone with information to contact An Garda Siochána or my Department’s staff in the area."

Finding one of the first two young White-tailed Eagles to fly from a nest in Ireland shot dead is heart-breaking”, added Dr. Allan Mee, Reintroduction Project Manager. “It is absolutely incomprehensible that someone would shoot one of these magnificent birds but even more shocking is that one of the first two Irish-bred eagles has been shot only 7 months after leaving the nest”.

 “Although all losses impact the project, for me the loss of this male, the first Irish-bred White-tailed Eagle of the reintroduction programme, is especially difficult to take”, added Dr. Mee. "This bird and its sibling were the hope for the future of the species in Ireland. Many people spent months closely watching this bird’s progress until it flew from the nest near Mountshannon last year. I feel gutted for these people as well as the bird. Let’s hope its sibling and the other chicks to fly from nests in Ireland in 2014 will see a better fate. Ultimately it is up to ourselves to make this happen by cherishing the wonderful wildlife we do have, including eagles, and their habitats.”

The loss of one of the new generation of Irish-bred chicks comes as a serious blow to the reintroduction project.  White-tailed Eagles reach maturity and begin breeding at about 4-5 years of age. The goal of re-establishing a viable population of the species depends on young Irish-bred eagle surviving and breeding themselves into the future.

 Local NPWS District Conservation Officer Stefan Jones stated that the available evidence indicated that this offence resulted in an especially drawn out and horrific death for this bird:  “This bird would have been unable to fish and forage as normal, and it appears  that it slowly starved to death as a result. Bearing in mind the broken limbs and the fact that it had approximately 50 shotgun pellets in it, it is amazing it managed to survive for such a period. 

 John Harvey, Chairman of Mountshannon Community Council, reflected the shock felt locally in East Clare at the news that the first White-tailed Eagle chick reared in Ireland has been shot. “We are absolutely appalled that someone could have done this to such a magnificent bird. The chicks that flew the nest in Mountshannon last year captured everyone’s imagination. Local people have been heavily involved in watching the breeding pair here and the progress of their two chicks. We are sickened to think that someone would callously shoot them. It feels like we haven’t moved on as a people all that much since the dark days when these magnificent birds were wiped out.”

Investigations are ongoing by both An Garda Siochána and the NPWS and into the shooting.  White-tailed Eagles are protected under the Wildlife Act (1976) and it is an offense to shoot or otherwise harm the species. Anyone with information on this crime should contact, in confidence,  An Garda Siochána at 067-50450 or the National Parks and Wildlife Service at 076-1002501.

First Irish-bred White-tailed Eagle found dead in Tipperary
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Thu13th Oct 2011

The 5th year of collecting and releasing White-tailed Sea Eagles, to re-establish the species as a breeding bird in Ireland after a gap of over 110 years, went well this summer and all birds are now out there soaring freely in the skies on the south-west and possibly beyond. Collecting the sea eagle chicks began on the islands of Hitra, Froya, and Vikna on 17-19 June thanks to the superb efforts of the collecting team there: our good friends Martin Pearson, Inge Dahlø and Asgeir Øestvik on Hitra-Froya; Bertil Nyheim, Frithof Pedersen and Steiner Garstad on Vikna. In total 12 birds came from Hitra-Froya and 6 from Vikna. Over the next few days (20-22 June) a further 5 birds were collected: one collected by Livar Ramvik and Duncan Halley on the mainland at Snillfjord (this bird is now our sat-tagged male Ingar!); one collected at Byneset near Trondheim by Torgeir Nygard and myself; 2 collected on islands in Flatanger by Torgeir and myself, ably assisted by Ole-Martin Dahle. The final bird, a male chick, was collected from a big Norway Spruce high up above a town on the coast of Norway by Torgeir, Duncan and myself. This was the 23rd bird collected in 2011 and the 100th bird collected over the 5 years of the release phase of the reintroduction programme! And fittingly this last bird was on a big tree with a big nest on the broken top of the spruce with string winds and rain added to the mix! It was a good feeling to collect this last bird but I for one was glad to get down out of there!

During my stay in Norway the birds were again housed in a converted barn in Stjordal and expertly looked after by our good friend, Tom Roger Østeraas. Almost as importantly we were made at home and looked after by Aud and Arne Moxnes. Birds were measured and blood sampled to confirm sex and their health status checked by a vet. We ended up with 15 females and 8 males, a strong bias towards females which is what we aimed for to balance the sex ratio in Ireland. On 25 June I flew from Trondheim to Kerry with the 23 eagles. For once it was raining and cool in Norway but dry and warm in Kerry when we got there. Staff and volunteers from Killarney National Park were in hand to help with transferring the birds safely and smoothly to the flight cages in the park where they were housed over the next few weeks. Birds were tagged and transmittered in late July ready for release. Again, this wouldn't have been possible (or half as fun!) without the help of so many, particularly Damian Clarke and Anne Fitzpatrick (NPWS, Wicklow Mountains NP), Eimear Rooney (Queens Univ, Belfast), John Lusby (BirdWatch Ireland), Barry O'Donoghue (NPWS, W. Cork), Anna McWilliam, Arthur Allen, and Daniel O'Lachlan (Tralee IT).

On 4th August we released the 1st batch of 10 birds with another 10 taking the wing the following week. Our final three held on until 25 August when they were finally ready for release. All releases went pretty smoothly despite the poor weather especially on the 1st and last releases. Minister Jimmy Deenihan attended the 1st release which was almost a no-show because of the weather. The final release was the only one to have a hiccup, partly to do with having to release birds in dodgy weather for a 1st flight. Two of the 3 birds released on 25 Aug didn't make it much beyond the cages on day 1 but thankfully all were flying fine and made it to the feeding sites along the lakes within a few days. Although most birds remained around the Lower Lake over the next month (into mid-Sept) three birds had departed by mid-Aug and have not been picked up by telemetry since. Its likely that these birds are now exploring the country as we speak. Reports have been coming in from west Cork, Clare, Galway, Donegal and Fermanagh but more of that anon.

At this moment most of the 2011 released birds that are still left in the release area (6-12 birds) are to be found in the Long-Range to Black Valley area as well as around Lough Guitane SE of Killarney. Look out for sea eagles on the move where you live, especially along the west coast and along the Shannon valley and report any sightings to me on this website by clicking on Report a Sighting on the home page! Thanks a million!

The 100th bird in the bag!
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Sat23rd Apr 2011

A White-tailed Eagle has been killed in Kerry after being hit by a wind turbine blade. The eagle, a 3 year old female released in Killarney National Park in 2008, was found below a wind turbine at the Silahertane Wind Farm on the Kerry-Cork border south-east of Kilgarvan on 9 March 2011. The strike with the turbine blade severed a wing and fractured a leg. Post-mortem at the Regional Vet Lab, Cork, and toxicological analysis at the State Laboratory, Celbridge, Co. Kildare, revealed very low concentrations of Nitroxinil (Trodax) in the liver but this was considered to be non-significant, probably due to consuming traces of the drug in sheep carrion. This is the first documented mortality of an eagle due to collision with a turbine in Ireland. There have been no documented deaths due to turbine strikes of Golden Eagles or White-tailed Eagles in the UK to date although eagle collisions with turbines have been widely documented in Europe and USA and red kites have been killed by turbine strikes in Scotland.

?It is sad to lose an eagle in this way,? said Dr Allan Mee, Project Manager of the White-tailed Eagle Reintroduction, ?especially as this three year old female would have been one of the first birds from the release programme to form the nucleus of a breeding population. We were unaware of any birds roosting in the area of the wind farm at the time. The nearest roost to the wind farm is only 1.5 kilometres away and had been used regularly by eagles during late 2009 and early 2010 and occasionally since then. The risks are probably greatest when birds begin to leave the roost and use the slopes to gain height during which time they are flying low enough to fly through the wind farm. Interactions with other eagles such as chasing and displaying could also increase the risk from turbine strikes as birds may be largely unaware of any risks from collisions during such interactions, as has been suggested by studies at Smola, in Norway?.

Over the next few years it will also be important to assess how much White-tailed Eagles use the existing windfarms and whether they avoid windfarms to any extent. We will also work with wind farm operators to help reduce the risks of further collisions where possible. Despite the loss of this eagle to collision, it should be borne in mind that mortality due to poisoning has been by far and away the greatest threat to eagles and other scavenging birds of prey in Ireland and indeed in the UK. Over the past three years 9 White-tailed Eagles have died due to poisoning alone. Seventy-seven White-tailed Eagles have been released in Killarney National Park since 2007. To date 16 sea eagles have been recovered dead, 9 have died due to poisoning alone, the greatest mortality threat to the species reestablishment.

Collisions, such as flying into powerlines or being hit by trains, are also a serious risk to large birds of prey. In Germany collisions with trains are one of the most significant causes of accidental death of White-tailed Eagles. In Scotland at least two reintroduced White-tailed Eagles have been hit by trains while two reintroduced Red Kites in Wicklow have also been killed in this way where they were attracted to railway lines to scavenge on pheasants killed by trains. Studies in Hungary have also shown that 40,000-170,000 birds are killed annually by electrocution with 36% of the victims being raptors, including 42 Imperial eagles recovered dead between 2001 and 2009. The cumulative effects of anthropogenic (man-made) mortality factors such as poisoning, collisions, electrocution and turbine-strikes, has serious implications for the viability of raptor populations, particularly raptors such as eagles that have low reproductive rates.

WTSE turbine fatality
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Mon1st Nov 2010

Well its lashing rain in south Kerry on the "first day of winter" with any self respecting eagle likely to be keeping his/her head down and weathering the storm in the hope of better days to come! We've had some glorious days in October but the weather has definitely taken a turn for the worse alright. During October, apart from a few individuals, most 2010 released eagles have been largely resident in the Killarney valley, especially the Upper Lake and Long Range areas. Despite the fact that we stopped supplementary feeding in early October the class of 2010 has been slow to get the hint and disperse. The exception has been blue tag male 3 who has been all over the south-west coast. On the last blog I mentioned that he was missing until spotted and photographed soaring around the cliffs of Blananarraguan, the iconic sea-watching point on the westerly tip of Cape Clear Island, on 18 September by Dick Coombes. He was also seen on Three Castle Head just north of Mizen Head on 22 September. Blue 3 was then seen regularly on Dursey Island on the tip of the Beara peninsula in late September and early October (D. Cooke, K. Grace). Other sightings of WTSEs in west Cork may have included male 3 including 2 birds at Lissagriffin near Mizen Head on 19 October. Unconfirmed reports were of two birds fishing on Lough Allua near Ballingeary, Co. Cork, in mid-October and 6-8 birds over nearby Shehy Mountain in late October.

Other interesting reports away from Kerry were 3 birds west of Oughterard, Co Galway, on 24 September and 2 there on 1 October (inc 2009 male Rbar), and one at Upper Lough Erne, Fermanagh, on 6 October. A tagged WTSE was also reported from Ballycotton, Co Cork, on 27 September. Other reports have been birds at Pollardstown Fen, Kildare, on 19 October, at Portumna Forest Park, Lough Derg, Co. Galway, on 24 October and near Ballieborough, Co. Cavan, on 28 October.

Perhaps the most interesting record was for 2008 male K. Male K had been frequenting the Dingle peninsula in March but was spotted in the lake country west of Oughterard by NPWS ranger Aonghas O'Donnell in May. On 7 October Brendan Dunlop of the Northern Ireland Raptor Study Group, picked up a signal for K from the NE Antrim coast looking straight across the 20km of sea to the Mull of Kintyre, Scotland! Its likely K had been some time in Scotland and may have been on his way back to the shamrock shore after a sojourn with his Scottish cousins. K is the fourth definite record of an Irish WTSE in Scotland but it's likely that several others have been to Scotland undetected. Brendan & Marc Ruddock also got to grips with 2009 male < in NE Antrim on 18 September (see photo).

Good news to report on Ollie, yellow tag 2007 male. In the last blog I mentioned that hehad lost his 'mate', red tag 2008 female dot, who disappeared in early May. Thankfully she is back in Kerry and the two have been hanging out along the Iveragh coast and Lough Currane. One of my most memorable days tracking eagles so far was on a flat calm evening in late October with the sun setting over the Iveragh coast and the loud yelping calls of female dot echoing across the bay from her perch on a big tree (close enough to see her calling!). Nearby Ollie seemed unsure whether his summer of solitude wasn't all that bad after all! Girls, can't live with 'em, can't live without 'em!

Another bird to return to Kerry was yellow tag 2007 male 1. He was seen in Kenmare Bay on 30 September and joined by 2007 female X. Since then he has been seen on his own and with 2008 female T. It will be exciting to see if any of these birds begin to pair off over the winter and maybe attempt to nest in 2011. Fingers crossed!

As you will have read from the Red Kite project update Damian Clarke has defected back to the National Parks & Wildlife Service. Damian, your wit and repartee will be sadly missed:-( Seriously though, Damian has done a great job on the kites, not to mention his many side projects on buzzards, peregrines, ravens and nightjars. I'll be calling on his tree climbing expertise among other things in the future! And of course kites will still be a part of his work with NPWS for many years to come.

PS: Hope ye are all enjoying the Eagles Return series on RTE. Congrats to John and Cepa at Crossing the Line and the many cameramen including Mick O'Rourke, Ross Bartley, Gabe (???) and Dom Pontillo. It was a long time in the making and gives a good insight into the reintroduction projects, the good days, bad days, hopes for the future and the threat to the future of Irish eagles and kites from poisons.

2009 Sea Eagle in Antrim
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