A rollercoaster year for sea eagles in Ireland, say the Golden Eagle Trust

Published by Ian Carey on

Image: V O’Sullivan

September 22nd, 2016

The Golden Eagle Trust have given a snap shot of the breeding season for Sea Eagles on their facebook page.

The post explains the highs and lows of the 2016 breeding season and how despite some difficulties there have been a number of breakthroughs too.

They explain that the breeding pairs in Mountshannon and Kerry failed to produce chicks but despite this there were other pairs that managed to raise chicks for the first time.

Here is the post in full along with some of the images they posted on their facebook page:

“It’s been a roller coaster kind of year for nesting sea eagles. The (too!) high hopes of spring, when pairs begin egg laying, were soon tempered by a couple of failures, the most unexpected of which was our ‘bankers’, the Mountshannon pair. Successful every year since 2013 and fledging 4 chicks in that time, 2016 proved that nothing is a 100% certainty. Less unexpected was the failure of our resident trios in Kerry, 2 females and a male at one site and 2 males and a female at another. So thoughts of chick numbers reaching double figures were soon revised downwards!!

“Despite this 2016 has been something of a breakthrough year for the project. Not just 5 pairs rearing 6 chicks to fledging but two pairs rearing their first chicks after a couple of ‘practise’ years. On top of that another pair reared two chicks successfully. Perhaps most significant was the good news story that is ‘Eddie’, the Glengarriff pairs first fledged chick after 2 years of failure, especially as the pair lost their chick in 2015 on the pint of fledging. And Eddie has proving nothing if not resilient!

“And if you’re old enough to remember the 1988 winter Olympics you’ll know why we called him Eddie…! At 10 weeks of age he was clearly less developed than he should have been for his age. So it was quite a shock on tagging day when, before anyone had started to climb to the nest, Eddie decided to save us the effort and jump, half-parachuting to the ground and landing within a whisker of my head!

“Happily, he saved his next big jump, four weeks later, for his first flight. Having watched him right through from hatching for the best part of 3 months, local NPWS Conservation Ranger Clare Heardman could breathe a sigh of relief …. phew! Since then Eddie has been doing really well, soaring or hanging out with the local seals (see the pics). Like Mountshannon the Glengarriff sea eagles have become local celebs. While our other eagle sites will be kept confidential to keep disturbance to a minimum there are just some sites like Glengarriff that are made for fantastic eagle viewing while the nesting pair can be protected by the many people that are now invested in making nesting a success!

“The other pair successful for the 1st time was 2008 female red dot and 2010 blue 15. This Kerry pair failed last year at hatching but this year pulled it off at our first Sitka plantation site (see pics). This female has quite a history having lost her first mate back in early 2011, when they were our very first territorial pair. Shortly after his loss she deserted the site and, amazingly, was spotted at a small lough on the Inishowen peninsula in Donegal, the same lough her dead mate had been seen at almost exactly 2 years earlier, over 400km away…..coincidence?!!

“Three years later she lost her 2nd mate to a powerline collision and missed yet another breeding season. She soon paired up with 2010 male 15 who had been ‘on the scene’ for some months while her 2nd mate was still alive. Last year, 2015, was her first breeding attempt and this year, eight years after release, she finally saw her first chick take to the wing. Hopefully it will be the first of many in the years to come….

“Two of our class of 2016 are satellite tagged so, once they have moved away from the nest areas, we will be able to track their movements as they explore the island of Ireland…and perhaps beyond. One of these has already had quite a first couple of months…..but more of that anon!

“Many people helped either through monitoring nesting pairs or helping access nests (under licence from NPWS). Special thanks go to Damian Clarke for his tree climbing skills, Clare Heardman, Alan McCarthy, Tony Nagle, Frank McMahon, Pascal Dower, Penny and Chris Cobey, Patrick McDaid, Helen Carty, Bob Foyle, Shane O’Neill, Maura Turner, Gearoid Jackson, James Leonard, Vera O’Rourke, Noel Lyons, Mike O’Shea and John O’Shea. Thanks to Clare, Alan and Valerie O’Sullivan for the pics ….and the craic!”

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Ian Carey

Ian is the editor of the Green News. He works as Communications Manger with the Irish Environmental Network.