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Mon30th Apr 2012

A pair of White-tailed Eagles has been confirmed nesting near Mountshannon, Co Clare, the first documented nesting attempt for the species in Ireland in over 100 years. Nest building began in recent weeks with the birds spending much time in and around the nest site before laying eggs. Although the nest has not been visited to confirm the presence of eggs to avoid any unnecessary disturbance, the behaviour of the birds indicated that the birds have nested. The breeding pair, which settled in the area in early 2011, was released in Killarney National Park, Co. Kerry, as part of the White-tailed Eagle reintroduction programme developed and funded by the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht in partnership with Golden Eagle trust. This is the first known nesting since the reintroduction programme began .

"This is a truly momentous event", said Dr. Allan Mee, project manager for the Golden Eagle Trust. "It seems a long time since we collected these birds as chicks from nests in the wild in Norway and to see them now nesting in the wild themselves in Ireland is the day we have all been waiting for". The breeding pair, a four year old male and three year old female, was collected in 2008 and 2009 respectively on the island of Frøya off the west coast of Norway. White-tailed Eagles are fully mature and usually begin to breed at five years of age but birds in Scotland have very occasionally bred as early as three. "We had hopes that this pair might try and build a nest but because the birds are relatively young we really didn't expect them to breed", Dr. Mee added. "The odds are stacked against young first-time breeders because they have no experience of nest-building, mating and caring for eggs and young. They have to get everything right to succeed. But this pair has impressed us so far. Once they settled down to incubate the clutch of eggs both parents were very diligent. The nest has only very rarely been left unattended and birds have been quick to spot potential dangers such as the presence of hooded crows which might predate the eggs. Since the eggs take some six weeks to hatch they still have a long way to go. But so far so good".

In Norway news of the nest was also greeted with delight. The Norwegian Institute for Nature Research (NINA), one of the Norwegian partners in the reintroduction programme commented: " NINA is delighted to hear of the first breeding attempt of the white-tailed eagle in Ireland for 110 years, and proud to have cooperated with The National Parks and Wildlife Service, The Golden Eagle Trust, and the Norwegian Ornithological Society in the effort which has led to this success. The event is receiving considerable media attention in Norway and we hope the birds will be given the freedom from disturbance they need to maximize the chances of successful breeding. The NINA part of the programme was led by Dr. Torgeir Nygård and Dr. Duncan Halley."
- Norunn Myklebust, Director, NINA

The Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Jimmy Deenihan T.D. said:
"I am delighted with this news after years of hard work by many on this project. We are working hard in my Department to protect and enhance our natural heritage and this development is a great boost. Already the White-tailed eagles are a wonderful asset to tourism around Killarney and wider afield in Kerry, and their spread will benefit business as well as giving joy to anglers and naturalists around the Shannon."

Over the past four years White-tailed Sea Eagles have dispersed throughout Ireland and beyond. Many eagles have been reported from Northern Ireland and at least six birds have travelled to Scotland. One male that spend 8 months away from Kerry in 2009 travelled over 2,000 kilometres to the Orkney Islands off the north coast of Scotland before returning to Kerry. In early 2011 this male was found paired with a female in south Kerry. Immature White-tailed Sea Eagles may disperse over a wide area but once birds begin to mature and pair up at 4-5 years old they establish territories along the coast and inland lakes where they are resident throughout their lifetime.

The news of nesting White-tailed Eagles has generated a lot of excitement locally in east Clare and is likely to attract the attention of people keen to see the birds. However disturbance, particularly during the early stages of nesting when the birds are on eggs, would be detrimental to the pair' success. "We are very conscious of the risk of disturbing the birds especially at this stage of nesting. Disturbance could result in the birds leaving the eggs unguarded for a period during which the eggs could be predated or be chilled or the birds could desert the site. White-tailed Eagles are a protected species and it is an offence under the Wildlife Act to willfully disturb birds at the nest during the breeding season. We would caution people not to approach the nest area but instead watch from the viewing area onshore where we will have a telescope for close viewing. Information on the birds, their ecology and conservation will be available. We would like to acknowledge the goodwill and assistance of the local community and Clare County Council before and during the nesting period".

Whatever the outcome of this nesting attempt, the signs are good for future breeding in the area and at a number of other sites across Ireland in the near future. Birds can live for 25-30 years and generally mate for life with adult pairs remaining within their home range throughout the year. First time breeders, especially young birds, often fail at their first attempt. However, with the goodwill and support of local communities the birds should have a bring future.

This is fantastic news for County Clare and reflects the outstanding landscape and biodiversity we have here that can attract such beautiful birds" said Shane Casey, Biodiversity Officer for Clare County Council. "While it' understandable that everyone will want to visit the area and have a look for themselves, its important to remember that this is a very sensitive and critical time for the birds, and as such we need to show some patience and responsibility, and let nature take its course unhindered. We are all hopeful that this story ends in a chick, but we must remember that this is already a success story, and that the first white-tailed eagle egg laid in Ireland in over a century was laid right here in County Clare!


NOTE: White-tailed Eagles are a protected species and it is an offence under the Wildlife Act to willfully disturb birds at the nest during the breeding season.

Cad a dhéanfaimid feasta gan adhmad? Now what will we do for timber,
Tá deireadh na gcoillte ar lár;..... with the last of the woods laid low?...
..Ní chluinim fuiaim lachan ná gé ann, Ducks' voices nor geese do I hear there,
ná fiolar ag éamh cois cuain, nor the eagle's cry over the bay,
This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it www.goldeneagle.ie This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it www.goldeneagle.iewww.facebook.com.www.goldeneagle.ie This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
  • The White-tailed Eagle, Golden Eagle, and Red Kite Reintroduction Projects in the Republic of Ireland are managed by the Golden Eagle Trust in partnership with the National Parks & Wildlife Service of the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht in the Republic of Ireland. One hundred White-tailed Eagles have been released between 2007 and 2011 in Killarney national Park, Co. Kerry. To date 20 birds have been recovered dead.

  • Over the past four years White-tailed Sea Eagles have dispersed throughout Ireland and beyond. Many eagles have been reported from Northern Ireland and at least six birds have travelled to Scotland. One male that spend 8 months away from Kerry in 2009 travelled over 2,000 kilometres to the Orkney Islands off the north coast of Scotland before returning to Kerry. In early 2011 this male was found paired with a female in south Kerry. Immature White-tailed Sea Eagles may disperse over a wide area but once birds begin to mature and pair up at 4-5 years old they establish territories along the coast and inland lakes where they are resident throughout their lifetime.

  • The Norwegian Institute for Nature Research (NINA) and the Norwegian Ornithological Society were the partner organizations for the White-tailed Eagle Reintroduction in Norway. The NINA part of the programme was led by Dr. Torgeir Nygård and Dr. Duncan Halley.

  • Historically, the White-tailed Sea Eagle was once a respected and conspicuous part of the Irish landscape, before it was driven to extinction in the early 20th century.

  • Their images were drawn on the page margins of early Irish manuscripts, such as the Book of Kells. The decline of eagles in the late 17th century was lamented in the famous Tipperary poem; Caoine Cill Cháis [Lament for Kilcash]

    Writing about Irish eagles in his book, 'The Way that I Went'( 1937), Robert Lloyd Praegar stated, "Heaven help the bird that ventures near the 'Island of Saints'".

    Now in 2012, we have come full circle. Eagles are nesting once again along the Shannon. The nest is only 2km from the famous Early Christian Monastic site at Holy Island, Mountshannon. Hopefully, the ongoing revival of the ancient co-existence with nature, will see eagles breeding on Ireland's waterways and coasts for centuries to come.


    1. Dr. Allan Mee,
    Project Manager, Irish White-tailed Sea Eagle Reintroduction Programme
    Golden Eagle Trust
    Tel: +353-873117608

    1. Lorcan O'Toole
    General Manager, Golden Eagle Trust
    Tel: +353-871310177


    Click on Facebook icon on GET homepage at - Or search for Golden Eagle Trust after logging into your Facebook account.

    2. Shane Casey
    Biodiversity Officer
    Clare County Council,
    Áras Contae an Chláir,
    New Road, Ennis, Co. Clare
    Tel: +353-65-6821616


    Here are some links to guest houses and information on the area which may be of use for anyone who intends to travel to Mountshannon.

  • Sunrise bed and breakfast is situated on an elevated site just 300m north of Mountshannon in Co. Clare. Experience the peace and tranquility of the East Clare countryside with panoramic views overlooking Lough Derg (River Shannon) and the Arra Mountains.

  • Lakeside Holiday Park is set in the heart of the countryside surrounded by woodlands, mountains, islands and the truly spectacular lake of Lough Derg. An exceptional location full of natural beauty and wilderness.

  • http://www.mountshannon-clare.com/

  • http://www.visitclare.net/


    The Golden Eagle Trust Limited need your support to carry out these important and exciting conservation programmes as well as to implement new initiatives. We would be very grateful for any donations from individuals or organisations. Annual sponsorship or indeed one-off donations are very welcome. Donations and sponsorship can be either for the Golden Eagle Trust Limited or for a specific project. You will receive a receipt for each donation received, so that you can claim any appropriate tax relief on the donation.

    All cheques or postal orders should be made payable to the Golden Eagle Trust Ltd and sent to our registered address:

    The Golden Eagle Trust Ltd
    22 Fitzwilliam Square, Dublin 2

    Given the Golden Eagle Trust Limiteds track record in species recovery and conservation, your support is guaranteed to be used effectively to benefit extinct and threatened birds.
Sea Eagles nest for the first time in 100 years
Sun26th Feb 2012

Since December 2011, the RSPB Red Kite Officer, Adam McClure, had picked up the radio signal and had several sightings from an unusual visitor - one of the Dublin kites - to my embarrassment the kite was less than two miles from my house on the Ards Peninsula, Co Down.

Last Tuesday, Andrew Murray and I had a work experience student, Phillip Patton from Regent House, Newtownards working in the office and helping with some of the fieldwork. We all decided to head out and see if we could get a closer look and a photograph and Phillip wrote down his experiences of the day:

"I arrived at Dr. Marc Ruddock's house early on Tuesday morning for work experience and was given a great opportunity to radio track the red kite which had found its way from its Dublin release site, in Donabate, to within just two miles from the project manager's house over a hundred miles away! It was a great experience for the three of us involved and it's one I won't forget. We began the radio tracking at Marc's house and first travelled to the area they had last spotted the bird just a week before and RSPB had told us the birds were usually seen but there appeared to be no sign. So from there we began to scour the whole of the Ards Peninsula up and down listening closely to the radio for any sign of a beeping noise. Time went by and it felt as if we were searching for a needle in a hay stack and might never find it but just as we were giving up hope we heard it...

We followed the beeping noise down countless country lanes, eyes peeled for anything moving in the skies. We had a few false alarms, most notably a peregrine falcon and several buzzards. We first found the bird soaring across a farmer's field too far away to get a decent view or picture so in attempt to get a better view we drove down a narrow lane but it came to a dead end and we were forced to turn back and try another route.

The second time we spotted the kite we were driving down another very narrow lane surrounded by high hedges which made spotting it much more difficult. Luckily Marc saw the red kite taking off from a fence post and he quickly jumped out onto the roof of his car and began taking photos. It was a spectacular sight, very striking even on such a miserable day. It was flying low over a field and just as it was about to disappear out of sight over the brow of the hill, the bird turned to show its unmistakable wing tags, blue and white with the clear 'B1' markings on both wings.

This kite is not alone on the Ards peninsula and is in fact one of two spotted in the area, we got a brief glimpse of another kite with brown and white wing-tags heading along the shore edge, but were not able to confirm the codes".

Since the trip out with Phillip and Andrew; Adam McClure, RSPB, has confirmed that Blue White B1 is usually seen together with Brown White 39. This was bird fledged from a nest of two young near Downpatrick by two adults which were released in 2008 and known by their wing tags Brown Black A and Brown Black T and named affectionately Caelum and Troy.

Back in the office, we searched the database and discovered that Blue White B1 was collected in Wales on the 12th June 2011 by Tony Cross from the Welsh Kite Trust and my good friend Dr George Henderson. This kite came from a very special brood of chicks being part of a nest with four young, the first ever brood of four discovered by the Welsh Kite Trust. Blue White B1 was released from Newbridge Demesne along with the other kites in July 2011 and prior to release had wing tags and the radio-transmitter fitted by Dr Allan Mee, the white-tailed eagle project manager who came up from Co. Kerry to help with the tagging. From measurements made in the cages it is estimated that Blue White B1 is a male.

Great to see the kites doing well across the island of Ireland and utilising new areas and amazing to think that one of the Dublin kites appeared to have followed me home!

A day out kiting...
Wed6th Oct 2010

Following a difficult start to the year, with the poisoning of Conall, one of the Glenveagh Golden Eagle chicks from 2009, the encouraging outcome of the 2010 breeding season has provided a timely boost.

The Golden Eagle pair in Glenveagh had previously reared a single chick in 2007 and two chicks in 2009. This year the Glenveagh pair returned to their 2007 eyrie and successfully reared one chick which left the nest in late June. The picture above shows a small fox cub brought into the nest. The diet contained mostly Hares again this year and during an end of season search of the nest vicinity the remains of a predated adult Raven were also found. So considering the number of badger and fox cubs this pair predated previously, it is clear that this pair is having an impact, to some degree, on the food chain locally. The chick and adults have been seen in Glenveagh and the Glendowan Mountains up to the end of September.

In total three Golden Eagle pairs laid eggs in County Donegal in 2010. The eggs from a second pair again failed to hatch in 2010. But the project team were delighted when another pair of young birds, breeding for the first time, fledged two young in July in an area of hill sheep commonage. These birds have been resident for several years now, feeding on dead sheep during the winter and seabirds, rabbits and hares during the summer. The attitude and support of the local sheep men has been exemplary and the Golden Eagle Trust would again like to highlight this example of the co-operation between hill farming and wildlife interests. The farmers themselves have actually noted a decline in the number of attacks on newborn lambs, lambed outdoors, by nearby Hooded (Grey) Crows. And they acknowledge that the arrival of Golden Eagles into their glen has impacted on the previously unnaturally high number of Hooded Crows locally.
One of this brood of two was satellite tagged and its movements are now available on the GET website, as it wanders away from its natal area.

5 young Golden Eagle were also imported from Scotland, under licence from Scottish Natural Heritage, and released in Donegal in August. 58 young Golden Eagles have been released since the project began in 2001 and our aim is to collect and release 75 birds in total. In an effort to improve our knowledge of the dispersal routes of these young eagles along the west coast, and assess their survival rates, three of the released birds were fitted with Satellite Tags and their movements will shortly be available on the website.

Based on second hand information gleaned from Mongolian Eagle owners, via Roy Dennis in Scotland, we looked at the number of single scales above each talon on some of the released eagles. To our surprise one male eagle had 3 single scales on its middle toe, one female had four scales on the middle toe and the biggest female, as denoted by all our biometrics, had five sales. So even after 10 years of releases, we are still learning. And we will keep an eye out in future years to see if this was a mere statistical quirk or whether the number of toe scales is indicative of the strength of an individual!

Golden Eagle Chick Glenveagh
Thu26th Aug 2010

There are already many reports coming back to us with sightings and hen harriers displaying and occupying territories, great to hear! It was great to meet so many of you during the hen harrier workshops. There were 102 people that attended the workshops and thank you for all your participation and enthusiasm for the survey and the hen harrier. Thank you too for all your hard work and efforts in surveying to date.

Should you require method statement and the recording forms for the survey please email This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it Anyone not already participating in a square your hen harrier sightings or incidental observations during 2010 are invaluable and please complete a recording form or complete the online recording form and don?t forget to provide a grid reference (maps can be provided if you let me know which 10km square the sighting was in) and record the behaviour and habitat in which the birds are seen, as per the instructions. If anyone would still like to take on a square, or part of a square please let us know which county you are in and we will provide maps and aerial photographs for the area and an outline of existing coverage or indicative territories at this stage. Alternatively we are organising small teams to cover some areas and if you would like to participate in one of these teams please also let me know and we will contact you during these "flying squad" visits, if you would like to get out and enjoy surveying for a day or two. Maps and recording forms will be provided on the day and we will do all the data entry.

Look forward to hearing from you all during the season and please do not hesitate to get in touch if you require any further information or share updates for your survey areas.
Attached to this update are some photos (albeit small/poorly focussed ones) which perhaps many of you amateur photographers - like me - are used to seeing such dots in the sky and only being able to zoom in on them digitally which I managed to get of a male hen harrier displaying and pulling some fantastic inverted dives and loops.

Hen Harrier in flight
Thu26th Aug 2010

During March the Irish Raptor Study Group and Golden Eagle Trust Ltd organised a series of workshops to meet the fieldworkers involved in the National Survey. Six workshops were run at various locations across Ireland to allow as many people as possible to attend. Workshops took place in the Charleville Park Hotel, Co. Cork, the Hodson Bay Hotel Athlone, Co. Westmeath, the Mill Park Hotel, Co. Donegal and the Wicklow Mountains National Park offices, Co. Wicklow.

The primary aim of the workshops was to meet the survey participants and provide a series of talks on hen harrier ecology, the survey methods and requirements. Each workshop culminated in the surveyors volunteering for the survey selecting survey squares for monitoring during the National Survey. This provided a great opportunity for surveyors to meet each other and for the survey co-ordinators to meet everyone involved.

The workshops began with an introduction to hen harrier ecology which covered ageing and sexing, habitats to survey and ecological points that were relevant to the survey such as ranging behaviour. Talks focussed on interpreting hen harrier behaviour to assist surveyors in identifying suitable areas for nesting identify territory and/or nest locations and what to expect during fieldwork when trying to locate hen harrier territories and nests.

Disturbance, legislation and health and safety issues were also covered and importantly allowed an opportunity for explaining the justification and importance of the National Survey for hen harriers. The hen harrier is protected by the EU Birds Directive and listed on Annex 1 and as such monitoring, research and protected areas are a vital component for the conservation of the species. In addition, survey and monitoring data collected during national surveys are vitally important as these data are used by the government and other agencies to help inform management and conservation decisions.

The fieldworkers were also encouraged to record additional information such as details of any other raptors seen, wing-tags details for hen harriers and collect prey remains when these were encountered during the survey. Survey materials, such as maps and recording forms were all provided at the workshops and were then sent out electronically to all survey participants.

The Donegal workshop in particular proved to be quite an adventure with huge snowfall occurring the preceding day ? thanks to all of you who braved the snow to make the workshop. My 16 year old Landrover Discovery proved what terrain they are capable of going through/over/around when we trusted the sat-nav for the ?shortest route? to the workshop ended up taking 5½ hours travelling through the middle of the Sperrin Mountains through deep snow-drifts to get to Donegal the night before the workshop. We had a Golden Eagle Trust meeting in Glenveagh after the workshop and Brendan Dunlop and I had a chance to get out and help check a one of the golden eagle territories after the workshop and were rewarded after a snow trek (and a snow-ball fight!) in the Donegal Mountains with a distant sighting of an eagle. Unfortunately the Landrover only made it three quarters of the way home and the rest on the back of an AA truck and had to be retired for the rest of the season!

Thanks to everyone for their participation and involvement in the workshops and particularly to the hotels for providing such great hospitality, scones, jam and cream. Particular thanks also go to hen harrier researchers Barry O?Donoghue and Mark Wilson for providing additional talks on Irish hen harrier ecology and the on-going hen harrier research at UCC (University College Cork).

Hen Harrier in flight
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