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Sun5th Dec 2004

Green T was recorded roosting near Glenties on the 2nd December. Green T left the release area and food dumps for good, only 12 days after it had been released, on the 25th August. The records show that Green T can only possibly have eaten at the artificial food dumps for a maximum of five days before it left Glenveagh National Park and started foraging for itself.

By the 7th December, Blue O had returned to South Donegal and was seen mutual high soaring with a second eagle, which did not appear to have an operating radio transmitter. Blue O was tracked to it roosting place that evening but it has not been noted there after dark on several subsequent visits. Red A was noted roosting several kilometers away on the same evening.

Green A was back roosting near the release site in Glenveagh by the 8th alongside Green F, Green H, Green K, Green N, Green X, Red A and Blue 5. At this time Green O and Green T were in the Blue Stack Mountains and Green C and Green S were unaccounted for. Green O visited Glenveagh several times during the latter part of December. Red K was noted in Glendowan on the 9th December and in Glenveagh on the 24th December.

Green S was found dead near the top of a mountain within 2km of the release site on the 10th December 2004. It had probably been dead for 6-8 weeks and its flesh and organs had decomposed and only bones and decomposing feathers were left. No postmortem was carried out and the cause of death is unknown. This bird had remained near one of the initial food dumps, after the other eagles had moved to nearby feeding stations. It was found within 14 metres of a deer fence but I suspect it died from natural causes, either from malnutrition or disease.

There was an unconfirmed report of a Golden Eagle near Moll’s Gap, near Killarney National Park, Kerry on Christmas Eve.

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Fri5th Nov 2004

Four first year eagles had left Glenveagh by the 1st November 2004, namely Green A, Green K, Green O and Green T. Green K was back in the Park by the 4th.

On the 10th November Green F was noted near Slieve Snacht during the day but had returned to roost in Glenveagh by the evening. Green C was recorded near Eadarnaí Mór and Green A was radio tracked in the Blue Stacks. Blue 5 was noted in the Glendowan Mountains on the same day. Yellow Two Spots was noted in the Blue Stacks on the 17th November, as was Green A. Green C was last noted in Glenveagh on the same day.

Blue O was not to be found in its usual haunts in south Donegal in early November. On the 24th November Dennis Strong (NPWS) picked up the radio signal from Blue O through the large roof antenna on top of the Mayo National Park Offices in Ballycroy. No signal could be got through the hand held directional aerial on the ground but the bird was presumably within 20km of the offices. There was an unconfirmed report of an eagle flying south of Louisburgh, County Mayo the previous day and another unconfirmed report from near Maum, County Galway the day before that.

A cameraman filming in Glenveagh got footage of Blue 3 at the food dump after first light on 27th November. There was no signal from Blue3 as the cameraman was dropped off before dawn, that evening or the following day. The footage shows that the radio backpack was attached to Blue 3 but the aerial was only 4 inches long. As a result the signal from this transmitter may not be audible anymore. All transmitters have a 12-inch aerial when fitted. The transmitter design has an extra protective sheath outside the aerial at the base of the aerial – extending four inches away from the transmitter itself. The aerial may have snapped off at the junction with the protective sheath or it may have been pulled away from the transmitter altogether.

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Tue5th Oct 2004

Green O was noted in Glenveagh National Park on the 5th, but was absent by the 7th and noted in the Blue Stacks on the 9th, 11th, 12th and 15th before it was seen back at the food dumps in Glenveagh on the 17th October. Red F roosted in forestry below Benbulbin, Sligo on the 6th and was seen on the higher slopes of Benbulbin by Joe Kavanagh on the 8th at 5.30pm. There was a report of a Golden Eagle flying high over Sligo Town, 11 km south of Benbulbin, at 4pm on the same day.

A radio signal from Green T (the bird that left Glenveagh in August) was noted from the 10km Square around Lough Salt on the 22nd. The radio signal volume was variable suggesting movement i.e. that the bird was alive.

During the autumn the project team became aware of a rumour that some Hooded Crows, Ravens and a bird with ‘a pouch on its back’ were shot whilst scavenging at sheep carcasses left on the hill. We were concerned that the pouch may refer to a radio back pack on an eagle. Golden Eagles and Ravens are fully protected under the Irish Wildlife Acts. The matter was investigated fully by the NPWS and it turned out to be based on second hand information that lacked crucial details such as names, location and date. However, we would like to take this opportunity to request that all eagle sightings and any rumours of dead eagles be passed on to the project team as soon as possible. A quick email or phone call with the relevant details would be greatly appreciated. Given that the status of each bird, in such a small population, is so important - it would be unfortunate if significant data went unrecorded, especially from outlying areas.

Ken Crane and Kate Nellist, who were instrumental in the collecting 20% of the released Irish Golden Eagles, from Skye, visited the programme in October. During their visit we noted a pair of yellow-tagged eagles on the wing. There was a noticeable size difference between the male and female. They later saw one of the eagles chase a Buzzard, before one of the eagles went into an undulating flight and displayed with 3 steep dives before going out of sight. They also saw both eagles talon grappling. One of the birds was identified as Yellow 2 Spots from its radio signal and the second bird appeared not to have an operating radio transmitter. It may be Yellow Diagonal Bar, the female that associated with Yellow 2 Spots last spring. Yellow 3 Spots was radio tracked near Lough Derg, on the Donegal Fermanagh border on the 10th October.

Red K was in moult when seen near Glenveagh on the 20th October. Eddie Dunne, a wildlife photographer, noted Blue O attending the food dump in Glenveagh on the 21st October in association with the green-tagged birds. There were no signals from this bird in the surrounding area on the 20th or the 22nd, suggesting it was a very brief visit. Blue 5 was noted east of the Park on the 27th and Blue O was radio tracked toward the Bluestacks on the same day.

On the 27th October the discarded radio transmitter from Red T was recovered from a hillside in the Derryveagh Mountains. The transmitter was probably dropped in August/September, 12 or 13 months after it was attached. The cotton stitching had rotted away and the Teflon ribbons, holding the radio transmitter in place, had opened out. This is the first evidence that the released birds can drop their radios. While it is reassuring to know that the backpacks will fall off in time, it is disappointing that this radio only stayed in place for little over a year. Some radios are still attached after 3 years.

35 Golden Eagles have been released in Glenveagh over the last four years. Based on our experience to date, we may be able to collect and release 10-12 birds next year, which would still leave us short of our original target of releasing 60-75 birds over five years. Since July 2004, 21 of the birds released in Glenveagh have been noted alive. Two of the 35 birds have been recovered dead, so the Irish Golden Eagle population contains 21-33 birds at present.

Joe Kavanagh, Sligo Birdwatch Ireland, provided significant radio tracking data for the above repor.

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Sun5th Sep 2004

Blue O was still in the Blue Stacks in early September. On the 6th September, Red K’s radio signal indicated it was flying in Glenveagh while Red F and Red X were seen flying near Dunlewey, just west of Glenveagh. On the 4th September a runner, training for the Dublin City marathon, saw a Golden Eagle snatch an unsuspecting Hooded Crow in mid air and fly off toward Errigal Mountain, Dunlewey.

On the 9th September, the remains of the weak female released in 2002, Blue 9, were located by radio tracking above Dunlewey. It was long dead and only a few bones and the quills of some large feathers were recovered. The radio tag was partially submerged in water but was still working. The remains were in a forestry drainage ditch, which deflected the signals upward in a vertical direction. This bird probably died from natural causes last winter or spring.

Green X was tagged on the 8th September. This female was very feisty and difficult to handle, which was a good sign! Green X was released on the 10th and by the 15th it was noted flying away from the nearest food dump with a full crop. By the 28th September, the two Park Rangers, Seamus Mc Ginty and Larry Mc Daid, spotted Green C perched on the eastern edge of the park near Gartan as the birds began to disperse.

Red F was radio tracked in the western Blue Stacks on the 15th & 20th September. On the 23rd September, Blue 5 (3rd year male) was seen flying above Moylenanav, Glendowan. This bird had not been radio tracked in Donegal since 19th April 2004, suggesting it had been outside of the county during the summer. On the 27th September Joe Kavanagh radio tracked Red A, probably settling to roost, near the Cliffs of Magho, south of Lower Lough Erne in western Fermanagh. By the 2nd October Red A was near Dough Mountain, Manorhamilton, Leitrim at 13.30 hrs but had gone 30-40km NE, in strong westerly winds, to the Blue Stack Mountains, Donegal, by 15.00 hrs.

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Thu5th Aug 2004

9 of the 10 birds imported in 2004 were fitted with radio transmitters and wing tags on the10th August. The tenth bird was not marked as its right thigh (tibia) had a hairline fracture. The birds are marked with a rectangular PVC tag placed in the middle of each upper wing. This year’s wing tag colour is Green. There are no colour bars at the bases of the tags but the white letters on each tag are 75mm high, instead of 50mm. The releases were postponed on the 12th due to bad weather, but the cages were opened on the 13th September. The 9 birds began to feed at the food dumps on the 18th. Green T was in the feeding area on the 14, 15, 16, 17, 18 and 19th but was not located on the 20th or 21st of August. It was back in the Glenveagh National Park on the 22nd but was absent from the Park on the 25th & 26th. On the 30th August it was seen in marginal farmland to the north of the Park, near Creeselough. Despite several days’ radio tracking and searching in this area, and surrounding areas, in early September, Green T was not located. This was the first time a newly released eagle left the feeding stations so quickly.

This year’s cohort included 8 females and 2 males - a 7 to 3 ratio would have been ideal. We deliberately collected more females this year in an effort to counterbalance the suspected loss of 3 females to date (2 probable deaths and 1 in Dublin Zoo).

Red A returned to Arroo, Dartry Mountains in County Leitrim on the 3rd August and was present on the 4th also. Joe Kavanagh saw it briefly. Red F and Red K were radio tracked west of Glenveagh on the 11th. Red K was in the Blue Stacks on the 12th and Red F was near Crocknapeast Mountain, SW Donegal, on the 13th. Red K was back near Dunlewey, adjacent to Glenveagh on the 20th. Blue O was radio tracked in the Blue Stacks Mountains repeatedly during August.

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