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Tuesday, 08 December 2009 18:17

What's going on with White-tailed Sea Eagles?

Star and Fiadhna movements 2009 Star and Fiadhna movements 2009 (c) allanm

This is my first entry into the blogosphere and I hope to keep any of you interested in the progress of the White-tailed Sea Eagle Reintroduction up to speed with the latest goings on. Today I?ll start with a quick resume of where the project is today. Future entries on this (hopefully) fairly regular blog will focus on the movements of the satellite tagged sea eagles and any interesting eagle facts/fiction.

Ok, just to bring you up to date. In 2009 a further 20 chicks (13 females and 7 males) were collected in Norway in June thanks to the great efforts of our Norwegian friends and eagle experts: Drs. Torgeir Nygård and Duncan Halley, Ole Martin Dahle, Inge Dahlø, Steiner Garstad, Bertil Nyheim, Asgeir Øestvik, Tom Roger Østeraas, Martin Pearson, Frithof Pedersen, and Livar Ramvik. After some weeks in captivity in Killarney National Park (KNP) the birds were released in August. After release we provided food twice weekly for the birds at 2-3 sites (food dumps) for 2 months. In Norway fledgling eagles are fed by their parents for some time after they leave the nest until they become independent and start to leave the nest area. However, here in Kerry our young eagles don?t have their parents to do this so we provide food to help them survive this critical time when they might have problems finding their own food. Although most of the released birds remained near the food dumps for 1-2 months after release, in contrast to previous years almost all had dispersed to some extent by mid-September. Most moved to the Mangerton Mountain area to the south of Killarney. But at least three made long distance movements, two birds within 2 weeks of release and without ever visiting the food dumps.

Movements of satellite-tagged male Star and female F (named Fiadhna) were tracked remotely via the Argos Satellite System. Both birds dispersed away from the KNP on 14 October, a week after release, without apparently feeding. Star moved east into north Cork roosting just south of Mallow on 16 August. On 17 August Star travelled over the Ballyhoura Mountains into Co. Limerick, roosting 4.5 km north of Kilfinane (just 7 km from where I grew up!). Star moved a short distance north into Co. Limerick over the next two days before reaching the River Shannon near Castleconnell, just NE of Limerick City on 20 August. Over the following two days Star moved north along the Shannon roosting south of Athlone (21 Aug), past Lough Ree and Lough Allen, reaching the Sligo coast by 1300 on 22 August. Over the next 2½ months Star remained on the north Sligo coast (280 km NNE) within a very small range (8 km) between Mullaghmore and Streedagh Strand. During that time Star was recorded feeding on gulls and beached dead seals, doing what a sea eagle should do! Star moved south to Lissadell on the north side of Drumcliffe Bay on 3 October before moving south across Sligo Bay on 7 October. Star remained in the Skreen area over the next few weeks (But more of Star later).

Female se eagle Fiadhna left KNP on 14 August moving a short distance north before dispersing east to the Nagle Mts (north Cork), the Knockmeldowns (Tipperary) and Comeragh Mountains (Waterford) on 16 August. The following day Fiadhna headed north past Kilkenny City before roosting that night near Athy, Co. Kildare. Fiadhna remained near Athy on 18 August before heading north into Westmeath the next day. On 20 August Fiadhna continued north into Cavan and Monaghan before turning north-west, crossing into Northern Ireland and roosting 5 km north-west of Armagh City. Next day Fiadhna headed due north along the west shore of Lough Neagh before reaching the north Antrim coast near the Giant?s Causeway (414 km NE). Fiadhna took up residence in nearby White Park Bay for the next two weeks before she moved 20 km ESE into the North Antrim Hills on 7 September. Fiadhna remained in the Ballypatrick area until 20 October before moving west towards Ballycastle then south into uplands east of Ballymoney where she remains at present.

Other big movers have been males 1, 9, and female X (2007 release), female H and male L (2008 release) and female II (2009 release). Female II was seen on the shore of Lough Neagh in Northern Ireland (355 km NE) on 12 October but was found dead nearby 5 days later (more about this anon). Male 1 was last seen on Lower Lough Erne, Co. Fermanagh, in November 2008 but was recently seen again on Lough Corrib, Co. Galway and later at Bellacorrick, Co. Mayo. Male 9 (Ollie) has been faithful to Lough Lein in Killarney ever since he was released apart from a few days in east Cork, but he flew all the way to the Inishowen Peninsula (390 km NNE) in Donegal in April this year. After several weeks in Donegal he returned to Killarney and has been here since. Female X had been missing for some time when she was seen eating a fish on the shore of Loch Poulary (632 km NE) in Glen Garry in the western Highlands of Scotland on 3 February this year. The loch was frozen over at the time but sea eagles are hardy birds! By May X was back in Kerry.

Two others (L and H) spent the summer in Scotland in 2009. Satellite tagged male L left Kerry on 20 April travelling to Sligo (260km NNE) in a day before settling in south Donegal. On 21 May he crossed from Antrim to Kintyre in Scotland travelling north along the west coast to the Kyle of Durness in Sutherland before heading east to along the north coast of Scotland. On 28 May L crossed the sea to Hoy in the Orkney Islands (910 km NE), then on to the islands of Rousay and Westray before returning to Caithness on 31 May. L then retraced his route west before summering on the Kyle of Durness until late September. On 23 September L began moving SE to the Dornoch Firth then SW to the west coast and onto the Island of Mull on 19 October, then onto Jura and Islay. L left Islay on 11-12 of November and was in Donegal on 13 November before moving south into Fermanagh, Leitrim, Roscommon. As of the 3rd December L had moved south along the Shannon into east Galway (see Maps and Tracking).

As far as we know female H is still in Scotland. On 3 August she was found in Glen Artney near Comrie in Pertshire (602 km NE). By 20 September she had moved north into the Cairngorm Mountains where she was seen on the ski-slopes at the Lechtd (minus snow) and later along the River Avon where she may be feeding on salmon (705 km NE). It seems only a matter of time before male L is back in Kerry after his long trip. Hopefully female H will also make it back to Kerry safe and sound sometime in the future. Watch this space!!

Last modified on Friday, 09 March 2012 10:46