In general the 2002 and 2003 golden eagle cohorts were more sedentary during their first winter than the initial cohort released in 2001. The first red kite cohorts released in Northern and Central Scotland tended to be more dispersive than subsequent cohorts in both these release programmes also. The presence of some older birds probably helped anchor more of the newly released young in subsequent years. The release and presence of larger numbers of birds in the second and subsequent release years in North Scotland and Glenveagh may also have been a factor.
We stopped feeding the young eagles on the 25th January 2004 in the hope that there would be more dispersal this spring. We do not feel the Derryveagh Mountains could easily sustain up to 11 immature golden eagles and we did not want the birds to become overly dependent on food dumps. By early February there was a noticeable decrease in the presence of first year birds in Glenveagh, only Red F, O and T appeared to be present. By 3rd February, Red K was recorded over the Glendowan Mountains, Red H was over the Aghla Mountains and Red C was noted south of Fintown – all to the south of Glenveagh. Red A and Red L were recorded from the Blue Stacks on the 7th and 9th February. Red H, Red N Red T and Red O were noted roosting in the Park on the 9th or 12th February. Some of the birds were initially wandering up to 30km away before occasionally returning to the release area.
On the 16th February Red A had moved to County Leitrim, where it was radio tracked by Joe Kavanagh near Glenaniff and seen subsequently. The bird was known to have stayed in the Dartry Mountains, south of Lough Melvin for at least 5 days. Red C was in the Blue Stacks by the 20th February. Red L was in the Aghla Mountains at the time, while Red C, K, O, T and X remained predominantly in the Derryveagh/Glendowan Mountains. Red F was recorded from South Donegal between the 21st -23rd February, Red N was in the Blue Stacks from the 20th –29th February but Red H was not recorded after the 10th February. Red S was seen in the Park on the 10th February. Blue 0, 5 and 8 were noted regularly in either the Derryveagh or Blue Stack Mountains during the month.
On the 3rd February a third year male, Yellow Two Spots and probably a third year female (possibly Yellow Diagonal Bar) were seen soaring and gliding together. The same male was seen on the 23rd skydiving (undulating display flight) and mutual high soaring with a second bird in the same area. Yellow Three Spots was recorded 4 times during the month also.
Aongheus O Domhnaill (a member of the National Parks and Wildlife Service staff in Glenveagh) observed the following and several other records within this quarterly report. On the 21st February, a red-tagged golden eagle was seen in the Derryveagh range taking off with a small piece of vegetation. It then proceeded to repeatedly drop and attempt to catch the clump of vegetation over a 10-minute period, making 32 catching attempts in all. Most catching attempts were unsuccessful, the bird often dropping the clumps too close to the ground to allow sufficient time to retrieve it from the air. It also had difficulty in dropping the clump cleanly and often used the other talon to dislodge the clump. A blue-tagged female then appeared and started an undulating display flight. Half an hour later she reappeared and was suddenly approached by another blue-tagged bird (a probable male), which flew toward it at speed and in an aggressive manner. The female rolled over and locked talons with the aggressor in mid air and both birds cartwheeled 7-8 times before being lost from view where they may have come to ground, out of sight.
During the month a cameraman, Brian Black, was extremely lucky and managed to get some footage of an adult fox jumping up and snapping at Red O, which was hovering above it. We were watching the eagle continuously returning to the same spot on the slopes of Glenveagh and wondering what was attracting it. We had a sudden glimpse of something under the eagle, but we were not sure if the bird had dropped something or an animal had jumped at it. It was only when Brian saw the footage on screen that he realised it was a fox. It is an extraordinary and very fortuitous piece of footage.