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Fri27th Nov 2009

Just a brief one.

Satellite data just in, Conall came back to roost south of Glencar Lough on the night of 23rd/24th Nov. This is some 11km away from the feeding area in Lurganboy and is a safer and quiter place to roost. It obviously has a pretty good mapping system, as it is clearly finding its way around Leitrim and returning to favoured roosting spots.

It has now gone between over 70km away from its nest site. (When, I was putting in these figures my brain automatically switched to "protection mode" i.e don't give an exact distance, in case some clever clogs could use it to pin point last year's nest.)

There is a White-tailed Eagle in County Leitrim today as well - see web site. I wonder will the two birds interact over the next week or so? Birdwatchers had a great time watching a White-tailed Eagle and Golden Eagle over Pollan Dam, Buncrana, Donegal last Summer.

Conall Map Nov 09
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Tue24th Nov 2009

This will be an occasional ad-hoc update, as often as additional information comes to the fore that is not obvious from the Tracking data relayed on the website.

I can already see the emails asking for more details and more frequent updates! But the Golden Eagle Trust does not have the resources to satisfy the wishes of some keen supporters of the project for constant updates. Our emphasis and focus will firmly remain on conservation management on a daily basis. Though we will divert as much energy as possible to Promotion and web site activity as is feasible for a busy under resourced charity. Additionally, we will not add in comments on the maps themselves, unless something noteworthy occurs.

So please do not expect regular periodic updates - this is just an avenue for giving occassional added value to the Satellite maps.

Monday 23rd November 2009
Several phone-calls came in this morning of a Golden Eagle feeding on a dead sheep in a field near Lurganboy, Manorhamilton, County Leitrim. (Thank you, "Max" for the reports). Apparently, the eagle was quite slow to take off on the approach of the observer. This sometimes happens when immature birds have gorged themsleves on carrion, especially if they are feeding on low-lying or flat ground where there is less chance of catching updraughts during a take-off.

However, in light of previous incidents involving "groggy" kites or eagles that had consumed poison, it was a slight worry.

A member of Birdwatch Ireland checked out the location at lunchtime and they reported that the carcass, the eagle was feeding on, was actually a Fox (Thank you M.C.).

So hopefully Conall will have eaten enough food to get him over the next few days. This recent spate of poor weather will have been a real test for an inexperienced eagle, wandering around an unfamiliar landscape, trying to locate enough carrion or prey.

It will be interesting to see where Conall goes next, will he settle in Leitrim for a spell or will he make a brief return visit to Glenveagh?

Conall Map Nov 09
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Tue17th Nov 2009

Two Golden Eagle Chicks that hatched in April have now fledged and left an eyrie in Glenveagh National Park, Co. Donegal. The youngest chick was removed from the nest at four days of age and fostered by captive Harris Hawks before being returned to the original nest and reared by its eagle parents, alongside the older chick. Both chicks are still in the vicinity of the nest and are likely to be mentored and provided with food by both adults until sometime in October. It was extremely likely that the weakest second chick would have died at an early stage, if the temporary intervention was not initiated.

Fortunately, this year's new eyrie was in a very sheltered position on a large ledge, tucked between two protruding rock faces and under a large overhanging rock. This is only the second successful breeding attempt by Golden Eagles, since the Golden Eagle reintroduction project started in 2001. In 2007, this same pair of adults reared a single chick in Glenveagh. The female was collected from Assyant, Sutherland in Scotland in 2001 and the male was collected from the Isle of Skye in 2002. The adult eagles were reintroduced into Glenveagh National Park as part of the Golden Eagle reintroduction programme, which commenced in Glenveagh National Park in 2001. The Golden Eagle Trust Ltd and the National Parks and Wildlife Service are managing the project. The project began with funding from the National Millennium Committee in 2000 and has been funded since by the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, EU LIFE Nature, the Heritage Council, Údarás na Gaeltachta, KPMG and others.

The fostering of the second golden eagle chick was a new and innovative departure for the Irish project. Though the procedure was successful it was more complicated than initially envisaged. The adult eagles quickly accepted the returning chick after 3 weeks of fostering by captive Harris Hawks, at Pedro Soltani's falconry centre in Glenties, County Donegal. The female was seen to tenderly preen the fostered chick for 40 minutes during its first day back in the nest. However, close observation revealed that the chick was unable to stand upright to snatch food proffered to it by the female. A sitting chick is a behavioural response indicative of a well fed chick. The female actually tried to gently nudge the chick several times to stand up and be fed. The chick was therefore removed again within 24 hours and brought to the Animal Hospital, in Castlebar for a veterinary check. It appears that despite the calcium supplements provided in the food given to the chick by the Harris Hawks, that the lack of small bone fragments in the initial diet of the chick had lead to a weakness in both legs. The chick responded very well to a further two weeks in captivity entailing daily medication. It was returned to the nest a second time, as soon as the course of medication was complete and once again the adult eagles quickly accepted the chick. The chick's mobility and positional response during feeding was now fully correct and the parents started and continued to feed both chicks over the remaining weeks in the nest.

Some food items were noted during the nest visits and a detailed search of the nest for prey remains will be carried out shortly. However early indications suggest, that the diet is quite similar to the 2007 diet, with Irish Hare being the main food item, followed by badger cubs (3 confirmed in 2009), fox cubs and grouse. As the chicks grew older, the adult birds only visited the nest with food once or twice a day.

The project team are delighted with the outcome of this year's breeding attempt and hope to be able to use similar techniques, with requisite adjustments, in the coming years in order to maximise the productivity of such a small national population. We would like to express our gratitude to the falconer Pedro Soltani and to the Vet Niall Curran, of the Animal Hospital for all their support and professionalism over recent months.

Elsewhere in Donegal, a second pair of Golden Eagles once again laid two eggs, which failed to hatch. This is the fourth time that eggs laid in this territory have failed to hatch. The eggs were proven to be infertile this year and we will do all we can to rectify this problem in 2010, if possible.

In total, 8 territories were noted in Donegal in 2009. 5 territories contained adult or sub-adult pairs and three territories held single birds. One newly established pair of Golden Eagles has occupied a territory including the mountainside where a poisoned Golden Eagle was found in February 2009. The bird was poisoned with Paraquat. The Golden Eagle Trust would ask all landowners, in the vicinity of the poisoned eagle and the newly established pair not to leave out poisoned meat this winter/spring. Apart from the established pair within the confines of the National Park, we do not normally divulge the location of territories in Donegal for security reasons. However, in this instance we would like to publicly inform landowners within the above territory, within a boundary from Dunlewey, to Crolly, Loughanure, Dungloe, Doocharry, Lough Barra and Slieve Snacht to be aware that there is a new pair established here and please, please consider alternative methods of controlling foxes and crows. If one uses poison legally you are obliged to erect poisoning notices, inform the Gardai in writing, not use banned substances and not use dead livestock as poisoned meat bait. We would ask anyone who finds dead animals in suspicious circumstances or any form of meat bait on the hillside in this territory, not to touch the items, but take good notes or grid references of its location and inform the Golden Eagle Project team or the local Gardai immediately. A satellite tag has been attached to one of the Glenveagh Golden Eagle chicks, which will enable us to follows the chick constantly throughout the Northwest over the coming years. We hope it may even act as a slight deterrent to anyone considering using poison illegally rather than using legal control methods.

As a direct result of the poisoning in February, Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) called an immediate review of the Irish project and the licences they approve for the collection of donor stock. There had been strong public criticism in some Scottish media of the wildlife legislation and the attitude toward eagles by the farming and shooting community in Ireland by the Scottish Gamekeepers Association. SNH carried out a thorough and independent review of all aspects of the project. The National Parks and Wildlife Service and the Golden Eagle Trust were involved in the process and were able to reassure SNH of the widespread support for the project, despite the ongoing threat of poisoning. SNH issued their findings in late June, which was broadly supportive of the project whilst also identifying some timely recommendations. Unfortunately the necessary timeframe for the report and issuing of this year's licence did not allow time for chicks to be safely collected from eyries in the last days of June.

Project manager, Lorcá¡n O Toole, from the Golden Eagle Trust Ltd, said, "It was really encouraging to see an Irish Golden Eagle eyrie with two healthy chicks. We know from local family stories that Glenveagh usually had an eyrie with two chicks over a hundred years ago. It has been a difficult year after picking up a poisoned dead Eagle in February and as a direct result, the disappointment of not being able to collect Scottish chicks this year. But to have two chicks fledge renews our belief that we can see Eagles take root in Ireland again. The involvement and support of nearly all the hill farmers in the Derryveagh Mountains and the Donegal IFA have been significant ingredients of the project's success to date. It is important that we recognise and encourage the vital role and responsibility farmers have in sustaining Ireland's landscape and wildlife".

Pat Vaughan, District Conservation Officer, National Parks and Wildlife Service, said, "It is great to have Golden Eagles breeding in the wild in Glenveagh National Park once more. This year's success is a credit to all those involved, including the volunteers and NPWS staff who monitored and guarded the nest over the long breeding season. We are also grateful to all the farmers and landowners within this Golden Eagle territory, adjacent to the National Park, for their continued support."


Notes
The Golden Eagle Reintroduction Project has released 53 Birds in Donegal from 2001 to 2008. Young chicks were collected from nests in Scotland and reared in avian cages, without human contact, for a further 5-7 weeks before being released.

The released birds have been seen or followed using satellite or radio transmitters and have wandered widely. Birds from Glenveagh have been noted in upland areas throughout most of Ulster and all coastal counties from County Down to County Kerry. There has been one confirmed sighting of a Golden Eagle, released in Donegal, in the Cairngorm Mountains, Scotland.

To date, Golden Eagles are the only Irish predator known to kill badger cubs, fox cubs, Ravens and Hooded Crows. Hill farmers have noticed in some areas that the presence of eagles has caused the local Hooded Crow and Foxes to move their nests or dens and thereby actually improve the survival rate of nearby newborn lambs.

Golden Eagles can live up to 30 years. They normally take 4-6 years to breed and can produce young for up to 20 years. Golden Eagle eggs are incubated for 6 weeks (42 days) and the chicks can take up to 12 weeks (84 days) to fledge.

The Golden Eagle donor stock was collected from Scotland under a special licence from Scottish Natural Heritage. Only one chick can be collected from nests containing two young. Every year scores of bird of prey enthusiasts help monitor potential donor stock nests. The Scottish Raptor Study Group, the Highland Foundation for Wildlife, the Forestry Commission, the National Trust for Scotland, and the Royal Society for the Protection of birds have all played a key role in collecting young. The Irish Golden Eagle Reintroduction Steering Group would also like to thank all the Scottish landowners, deerstalkers and gamekeepers who have supported the project to date.

For further details contact:

Lorcá¡n O Toole
Project Manger
Golden Eagle Trust Ltd
Churchill, Co Donegal
TEL: 00 353 + (0) 87 131 0177

or

Pat Vaughan
District Conservation Officer
National Parks and Wildlife Service
Glenveagh National Park, Co. Donegal
TEL: 00 353 + (0) 87 2646419

Female/ chicks July 09
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Fri15th May 2009

A pair of Golden Eagles has hatched 2 young chicks in Glenveagh National Park, County Donegal. This is the same pair that reared a chick in 2007, but they failed to breed in 2008. The chicks are still quite young and it is hoped that they may fledge in late July.

“This project has previously suffered from setbacks due to poisoning and today I wish to highlight the positive and announce that 2 chicks have hatched. This is a flagship biodiversity project which also has the potential to attract much needed tourism into the Donegal area,” so said John Gormley TD Minister for the Environment, Heritage & Local Government, today (15 May 09) as he outlined progress on the Golden Eagle Project.

Golden Eagles have bred every year in Donegal since 2005, but only one chick has fledged in this time. This pair of Golden Eagles has benefitted greatly from being within Glenveagh National Park and its wildlife management system and augment the Park’s Castle and Garden features, which make it Donegal’s premier visitor attraction.

Golden Eagles usually lay two eggs, 2-3 days apart, and as a result the older chick is always bigger and stronger than its younger sibling. On average only 5% of breeding attempts manage to rear and fledge two young. Shortage of food or sibling aggression can result in the loss of the second chick, usually within 3 weeks of hatching. These predators are dependent on feeding chicks with live medium sized prey, which they hunt during suitable weather conditions. Like many predators, this species has evolved to rear one strong chick if there are food shortages, rather than two weaker chicks.

In 2007, this breeding pair in Glenveagh National Park hatched two young but the second chick died and disappeared after only 6-8 days. In light of this experience and the project’s ongoing difficulties in managing to identify and collect sufficient Scottish donor stock from the dwindling number of Scottish nests containing two chicks at 5-8 weeks of age, the Golden Eagle Project Steering Group discussed and agreed to intervene and try to ensure that any ‘second’ chicks found in Irish eyries, particularly at this crucial stage of the entire reintroduction project.

“The weaker chick was removed under an NPWS licence and examined before it was placed in the care of an expert falconer in Glenties, Pedro Soltani. I would like to take this opportunity to thank Mr Soltani for his expert help in this area. Experience from abroad, involving the fostering of vulnerable chicks, had indicated that the best way to rear a very young eagle chick that could not feed itself or keep its own body temperature at night time, was to place it with a breeding pair of captive birds of prey,” added Minister Gormley.

“It is hoped to return the second chick to the Glenveagh nest very shortly as its feathers have begun to emerge through its white down in recent days. This will be another anxious period as the older chick could still possibly bully the returning smaller chick,” he continued.

Results from other similar initiatives would suggest that the risk of the adults rejecting the returning chick or the chick failing to beg sufficiently for food from its parents are very unlikely, but we are unaware of any similar projects specifically with Golden Eagles. However, the considered view of the project steering group was that it was in the best interests of the chick, and the wider project, to enhances its possible survival rate through fostering rather than observe the natural outcome, with its resultant 5% survival rate potential. However, the project team clearly recognise that this type of licensed experimental manipulation is only warranted in exceptional cases, especially at this critical stage of the project and with such a fragile national population.

The older chick has also developed well in the eyrie over the last few weeks. The adult birds returned to the nest shortly after its sibling was removed and have been feeding and brooding as required.

A second pair of Golden Eagles is incubating eggs elsewhere in Donegal at the moment, though this pair has not managed to hatch any young to date. 4 other territories are occupied (by two young pairs and two single adults) and a fifth pair and another single bird seem to be establishing themselves this year in Donegal also (possibly a total of 8 territories in Donegal). The fate of these birds will largely depend on whether or not they encounter poisoned meat baits over the coming years. And whilst we have continuously stressed the support the project receives from the large majority of landowners in Donegal, we must highlight that one or two individuals using poison each spring will take a steady toll on eagles annually.

Indeed several sheep farmers have actually said they have noticed fewer incidents of newborn lambs being attacked by Hooded Crows in the upland areas where Golden Eagles have become established. Golden Eagles catch and eat crows, which tend to be very weary whilst traversing eagle territories.

“The current level of unlawful poisoning; using banned substances, lacing dead livestock left above ground, without notifying the Gardai in writing or without erecting appropriate signage; cannot be allowed to continue. My officials have already prepared a draft of new regulations which will effectively make it illegal to put out poisoned meat or fish- based bait for any purpose. I am anxious to have these regulations put in place as quickly as possible,” continued Minister Gormley.

The Golden Eagle Trust project manager, Lorcán O Toole said “This is a very welcome and timely for the Golden Eagle project. After the difficulties we have encountered with the unforeseen shortage of Scottish donor stock and the disappointment that the Glenveagh pair failed to breed last year and the confirmation of a Golden Eagle poisoned in February, this pair has once again restored the project’s momentum. We have an anxious few months ahead. It would be very encouraging if the pair can manage to successfully rear a chick again and if everything goes well, they could even rear both chicks in Glenveagh. Nonetheless we are very aware of the potential pitfalls and have experience of natural failures in the past. But hopefully come August, the occasional visitor walking down the Glenveagh path may have a brief encounter with a family party of three, or even four, soaring Golden Eagles. Just imagine that!”

He went on to say, “Once again we would like to highlight the support the project has received from the vast majority of farmers and people living in the Hills of Donegal. The project team also wish to thank the NPWS conservation rangers and staff in Glenveagh and Donegal and numerous volunteers who have played a key role in monitoring the nest to date.

The exact location of the nest has not been revealed to the public in order to minimise disturbance to the birds. Glenveagh National Park management urge visitors to the Park not seek out the eyrie.

For Further Information Please Contact
Lorcán O Toole
Golden Eagle Project Manager
087 1310177

Ronan Hannigan
Golden Eagle Trust
087 2587344

Dave Duggan
NPWS
087 2735066


Notes for Editors.

  • The Golden Eagle project was established in 2000 as part of the National Millennium Committee celebrations. 53 birds have been released in County Donegal between 2001-2008. It is hoped that up to 75 birds may be released as part of a national programme aimed at restoring these native birds in Ireland. The project is managed by the Golden Eagle Trust in partnership with the National Parks and Wildlife Service, of the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government.
  • The female Golden Eagle in Glenveagh first bred in 2005 but her single egg failed to hatch. She failed to breed in 2006, before changing mate and joining the male in Glenveagh in August 2006. They bred successfully in 2007, rearing the first chick as a result of this restoration project. However they failed to breed in 2008 though they remained in Glenveagh throughout. The female was collected from Assyant (an estate famed for the buy-out by the tenant crofters), Sutherland, NW Scotland in 2001 (now an 8 year old bird). The male was collected from a sea cliff on the Isle of Skye in 2002 (now a 7 year old bird).
  • This year the eagles occupied a new nest site in Glenveagh, which was discovered in the early spring and has been monitored since by the Golden Eagle Trust, the NPWS staff in Glenveagh National Park and volunteers. The nest was monitored from a safe distance. A number of weeks ago the female was seen tearing of small strips of meat and gingerly feeding it to the newly hatched chick. A subsequent nest visit confirmed that two chicks had hatched and the second weaker chick was removed at four days of age.
  • Golden Eagles have a very long incubation period (6 weeks) and fledging or chick stage (approx 12 weeks before chicks can fly) and therefore only a minority of breeding pairs ever successfully rear young. But because Golden Eagles have comparatively long life spans (up to 25 years) the species can survive on its relatively low annual production rates. In Scotland, on average, only 25% of the breeding population rear young in any given year. At the top of the Irish Food Chain, Golden Eagles will only ever have a relatively small but scattered distribution across the Mountains of Donegal and other parts of Ireland.
  • There was some concern during the recent spell of heavy and prolonged rainfall, over five days, in Donegal the week before last. However the adult eagle was seen to stand over the chick, which stood between its legs, during the worst of the rain, Though the eyrie is very well sheltered from above by an overhanging rock, the strong gusts meant a lot of rain was actually blown horizontally onto the nest. The chick is just now showing the tips of it primary feathers quills through its white down. The food items noted in the eyrie, during the two brief visits, included several hares and a young badger cub.
  • The second Glenveagh chick was placed, under a small wire cage initially, into the nest of a pair of captive Harris Hawks, in Mr Soltani’s falconry centre, that had been incubating dummy eggs up to that point. The dummy eggs were removed as the chick was presented. It was with some trepidation that we watched how the foster parents would react to their new foster chick. But their behaviour, seen through a CCTV system overlooking the nest, was very benign and the cage was lifted off the eagle chick within 8 minutes. And after some further inspection, both adult Harris Hawks started to feed the chick within 29 minutes of its arrival. Close monitoring by Mr Soltani has shown that the birds have been exemplary parents, regularly feeding and brooding the eagle chick, which is developing quickly along an expected growth pattern.
  • The chick was a mere 220 grammes when it was placed in with the foster parents but had grown to 595 grammes within 5 days. We hope to return the foster chick to the nest when it is approx 1.5kg.


More background Details on the Golden Eagle Project can be found on the website www.goldeneagle.ie - Please consider signing the anti-poison petition. More information on Glenveagh National Park can be found at www.npws.ie

New chicks
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Mon2nd Mar 2009

POISONED GOLDEN EAGLE FOUND IN GLENVEAGH NATIONAL PARK

Toxicology tests carried out yesterday confirm that a Golden Eagle found recently in Glenveagh National Park was illegally poisoned.

Recovery
A satellite tagged Golden Eagle was found dead on a hillside in County Donegal on Thursday, the 19th February 2009. The bird (Dark Blue/Light Blue L) was found within Glenveagh National Park, on the mountains between the townland of Tore, Crolly and Dunlewey village. The bird was located at the remote spot using an accurate locational signal relayed via satellite to the project’s computers , from the satellite tag attached to the bird prior to release, and using a hand held Global Positioning System (GPS) to arrive at the exact co-ordinates on the mountain. This young female was collected from the island of Mull in Scotland and released in Glenveagh in August 2008 and was approx 10 months old. The State Laboratory, at Backweston, Celbridge confirmed on Sunday 1st March that the bird died from poisoning. For operational reasons, the type of poison used is not being disclosed at present.

The bird was found facing down in rank heather, wings out stretched. It had a full crop of food when found, indicating it had eaten shortly before it died. Some of its feathers on its left wing were broken, suggesting the bird had been thrashing about in pain prior to its death. The bird was dead for over 2 weeks, but was probably frozen and covered in snow for some of that time.

Satellite Tag
The North Star satellite tag was purchased and attached to the eagle primarily to try to uncover and locate birds that may be persecuted, and left uncovered in any remote spot in the Northwest of Ireland, and difficult to locate by more conventional radio tracking devices. Unfortunately this relatively new tracking device, utilising small solar panels for power, did not work as effectively as envisaged and did not transmit data from where the bird was prior to its untimely death.

History of Persecution in this Area
Apart from the loss of this bird, we believe we may have lost others birds to persecution in this area, since 2005. We know that a young pair of Golden Eagles (Blue 5 and Green N) that occupied a territory centred around Tore and Dunlewey, incorporating Crocknafarragh, Grogan More, Eadarna Mhor and Eadarna Bheag, Crocknasharragh and the Slieve Snaght Mountains, in the spring of 2006. Neither of these birds has been seen since and eagles very rarely die from natural causes at that age and we now believe that they were also poisoned. Though we accept we have not recovered other eagle corpses, we believe that several other Golden Eagles have died in this vicinity and we strongly suspect that these birds had been persecuted.

Local Support
The Golden Eagle Trust is very anxious to highlight the enormous support and goodwill the project enjoys in Donegal, among the rural and urban communities, the farming and tourism sector and indeed beyond Donegal itself. We have a very good relationship with the Donegal Irish Farmers Association. We do not see this as a classic wildlife versus farming interest clash, because the Golden Eagle project enjoys widespread support among Donegal rural communities, where farming and local tourism play such an integral part of the economic and employment for local communities. Dunlewey and Crolly are well known tourism sites in Donegal and Golden Eagles have helped raise the profile of their respective Mountainous backdrops.

The person that put out poison on this meat bait would have been aware of the presence of Golden Eagles in this area, as it is within or adjacent to the release area in Glenveagh National Park. They would have been aware of the risk to scavenging eagles from all poisoned meat baits. Indeed the Golden Eagle Trust has spoken to all key stakeholders in this particular area, unlike areas further afield. They clearly have little respect for the native wildlife or heritage they are surrounded by. But we would nonetheless appeal to them, even if they have no regard for eagles that they would acknowledge that their indiscriminate poisoning has a negative impact on the local tourism sector and the crucial employment this provides for some of their neighbours in West Donegal during these difficult economic times.

At this stage, if they were unmolested, Golden Eagles would now be breeding in this area, boosting the business of local B&Bs, hostels, hotels and restaurants in Dunlewey, Gweedore and Crolly. Whilst Golden Eagles are difficult wild animals to observe, their presence and the media interest they generate have clearly helped the wider promotion of this beautiful part of Donegal. Glenveagh National Park is the primary tourism attraction in Donegal and the Golden Eagle project has helped increase its visitor numbers year on year since its inception in 2001.

Golden Eagles are a crucial part of Ireland’s natural and cultural heritage and this project has been largely funded by taxpayers money (especially the funding from the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Údarás na Gaeltachta, the National Millennium Committee, the Heritage Council and EU LIFE Nature). We believe the vast majority of local people, their community representatives and local businesses support the aims of the Golden Eagle restoration programme and would condemn this wilful waste of public resources. While no Irish individual or group owns these wild birds they are clearly a key measure of the Irish people’s attitude toward the countryside we all inhabit.

Post Mortem
The Garda Síochána was informed of the incident immediately and their inquiries are on- going. The dead Golden Eagle was brought to the Department of Agriculture, Regional Veterinary Laboratory in Sligo for a post mortem. The bird was x-rayed and shooting has now been ruled out as a cause of death. The young female was found to be in excellent condition, with large reserves of fat visible during the post mortem and clean plumage indicative of an active and healthy bird. The crop, where eagles store eaten food prior to digestion was full of fresh meat, usually an indicator that the bird died shortly after eating meat or meat bait. Samples from the food in the crop and samples taken from the eagle’s organs were sent to the State Laboratory, in Backweston, Cellbridge for toxicology analysis. Samples were also sent to the Irish Equine Centre for DNA analysis, to determine the type of animal used as the meat bait, as part of the inquiry.

Future Outlook for the Golden Eagle Project - What can be Done?
The loss of several Golden Eagles, probably due to human persecution, on the edge or within Glenveagh National Park represents a real threat to the entirety of the Golden Eagle project. Though many birds have repeatedly passed through this area unmolested, we acknowledge that we may have unwittingly lost several more birds in this area. Such a concentrated loss of birds represents a real threat to the potential success of the entire project. We have already been severely criticised by some of the Scottish estates, who provide the majority of Scottish donor stock, for the poor enforcement of poisoning legislation in Ireland and this recent incident could seriously undermine future efforts to complete our release programme quickly.

If this project is to succeed the authorities need to acknowledge this ongoing risk to Eagles, both in Donegal and Kerry, and wholeheartedly enforce all the conditions of the current poisoning legislation and ancillary regulations including; requiring poisoning signs to be erected by landowners using poison and the requirement to inform the local Garda station in writing that poison is being used. Under Animal by products regulations, dead livestock, if found, can no longer be intentionally left above ground and used as poison meat baits. Many landowners are dependent on both the Single Farm Payment, which clearly states the need for cross compliance with the Birds Directive (protecting Annex I species such as Golden Eagles), and the Rural Environment Protection Scheme (REPS) which was established to protect the environment.

We have been lobbying the Department of Environment and the Department of Agriculture (in submissions as part of periodic reviews of the Rural Environment Protection Scheme) for a complete ban on all poison meat baits for the last 8 years. Unfortunately, the lack of confirmed poisoning results was often deemed to undermine our case - though the obvious consequences of scavenging birds of prey eating poison meat baits were clearly known across other European wildlife and agricultural sectors. Over the last the last 16 months alone, we have managed to recover and confirm that 1 Golden Eagle, 4 White-tailed Eagles and 1 Red Kite have been poisoned in Ireland. The Irish poisoning legislation is now demonstrably in breach of the European Birds Directive.

The Golden Eagle Trust has asked and believe that the key statutory authorities, namely the National Parks and Wildlife Service, the Department of Agriculture and the Garda Síochána, will liaise fully and continue to investigate this incident, carry out inspections locally and try to ensure anyone involved in the illegal use of poison to be held accountable under the law and fined if breaches of their the Single Farm Payment scheme agreement are uncovered. We would also appeal to people living in the area to be vigilant and notify the authorities if any suspicious dead carcasses or meat baits are found or if their dogs or pets are found dead in suspicious circumstances in this area. Some poisons can be lethal to adults and children, so please do not touch any of these dead animals before or after reporting them.

The Golden Eagle Trust would like to fully acknowledge the fulsome support from the Irish Farmers Association in Donegal and emphasise our belief that the actions of the individual responsible for this indiscriminate use of poison in no way represents the legitimate and vital role farming plays in the rural fabric of West Donegal. We are determined to tackle this problem vigorously. We firmly believe a small viable Golden Eagle population can easily co-exist with hill farming in this area, as happens elsewhere in Donegal, and continue to enhance Donegal’s heritage and continue to attract visitors to Donegal. Whilst it is embarrassing and demoralising to confirm the use of poison within or on the edge Glenveagh National Park, we sincerely hope this incident will galvanise widespread local, and vocal, support from the vast majority of people who respect the beauty of their Donegal homes and heritage.

Lorcán O Toole, Golden Eagle Project Manager
Golden Eagle Trust, Carrowtrasna, Churchill, County Donegal
2nd March 2009.

Notes
Please contact the following for more details or their views concerning the incident;
Lorcan O Toole Golden Eagle Project Manager Tel. O87 1310177
Davie Keith, Irish Farmers Association, Raphoe tel 086 2625589

Dead Golden Eagle
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