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Fri17th Apr 2015

A White-tailed Eagle has been found dead in the nest at a nest site in Connemara. The six year old female eagle was discovered dead in the nest on 1st April by Conservation Ranger Dermot Breen and recovered by a team from the National Parks & Wildlife Service on 2nd April. Subsequent post-mortem at the Regional Veterinary Laboratory in Athlone and toxicology analysis at the State Laboratory, Celbridge revealed the bird had been poisoned. 

The female White-tailed Eagle was released in Killarney National Park in 2009 as part of a reintroduction programme for the species managed by the Golden Eagle Trust in partnership with the National Parks & Wildlife Service.  The female eagle settled in the Roundstone area of Connemara in 2012 where she paired up with a male. In 2014 the pair laid eggs at a nest in a remote site but the eggs failed to hatch chicks successfully. Both birds were on the point of nesting again this year at the same nest when tragedy struck. Indeed the post-mortem found the female to contain two developing eggs, so this female was within a few days of laying eggs.

The loss of this breeding female comes as a serious blow to the reintroduction project.  White-tailed Eagles reach maturity and begin breeding at about 5 years of age. Seven pairs laid eggs in nests in the wild in 2014, with one nest near Mountshannon, Co. Clare, successfully fledging chicks in 2013 and 2014. It was hoped that the Connemara pair would one of a number of successful nests in Ireland in 2015. The loss of a breeding adult has been found to lead to the desertion of breeding sites with potentially serious implications for the long-term viability of the reintroduced population.

This is the 13th confirmed poisoning of a White-tailed Eagle in Ireland since the reintroduction project began in 2007. The use of poisons to control foxes and crows has been banned since 2010 but the illegal use of such substances remains a huge threat to wildlife including birds of prey which consume carrion (dead animals).Over the five years of the release phase of the project 100 young eagles were collected from nests in Norway and released in Killarney National Park, Co. Kerry. Thirty one of the released eagles have since been recovered dead with illegal poisoning by far and away the greatest threat to the recovery of this once native eagle to Ireland. Despite these losses the number of pairs in the wild rose to 14 in 2014 with most birds now mature enough to breed.  

 “This is a very disheartening incident as the killing of this breeding female has effectively put an end to any breeding attempt of this incredible species in West Galway for at least another five years” said NPWS Conservation ranger Dermot Breen. “To see the female lying dead on her nest was a very sad and sickening sight especially with the knowledge that she would have been due to lay two eggs. Historically up to 14 pairs were known to have bred in the Connemara region up 1838. Connemara lost its White-tailed Eagles shortly after this with the introduction of poison. It’s deeply frustrating to see history repeating itself. I’ve encountered no negative feedback from any local farmers with regard to the presence of the eagles over the last three years. Many landowners would ask how the eagles were doing and would tell me if they had been lucky enough to see them in the locality. The loss of this female is also a great loss to tourism in the area. Connemara is world renowned for being an area of unspoilt beauty. Unfortunately this illegal and irresponsible action is likely to tarnish Connemara’s green image, an area that relies heavily on tourism. “

“Although all losses impact the project, the loss of this female is very difficult to take” said Dr, Allan Mee, Project Manager with the Golden Eagle Trust. “She and her mate had been resident in Connemara for the last four years and it was only a matter of times before they produced chicks. It is likely the nest site they chose had been used by White-tailed Eagles in historical times, so losing this pair is devastating. Although the male may remain on his territory for some time, to date we have found that the loss of a breeding adult results in birds deserting the area and remaining some years before they find a mate again. The female’s mate is one of our satellite tagged eagles (male Star) who has travelled the length and breadth of Ireland several times before settling in Connemara. It’s tragic to see him lose his mate just on the point of nesting”.

“Over the years we have endured too many losses to illegal and indiscriminate poisoning. We have tried to address this by raising awareness both of the law and the threat posed by poisons to wildlife and farm dogs. While we believe our awareness efforts have been productive it is clear that some individuals are still resorting to using poisons on meat baits such as dead livestock. While their target may be foxes and crows we know to our cost the devastation this causes to our rare and protected birds of prey. We have to continue to get the word out there that this practice is no longer acceptable. We hope that all farmers and farming organisations will rightly condemn this practice which has no place in today’s supposedly more enlightened environment”.


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 the Environment, Heritage and Local Government in the Republic of Ireland.


·         Releases of birds have taken place every year for five years (2007-2011) in Killarney National Park, Co. Kerry. In August 2011 the final cohort of 23 birds were released bringing the number released to 100 over the five year release phase of the programme.


·         Dependent on maintaining survivorship within parameters derived from the reintroduced Scottish population this number should be sufficient to re-establish a viable self-sustaining breeding population in Ireland.


·         As Sea Eagles breed at about five years old it was expected that the first Irish nesting attempts would be in 2012/2013. In 2012 the first nesting attempt occurred in Co. Clare, the first breeding in the wild in over 100 years. 


·         In 2013, the first wild-bred chicks fledged successfully from a nest in Co. Clare with a further successful chick fledged in Clare in 2014. The number of adult pairs has increased steadily from one in 2010 to 14 in 2014.



1.       Dermot Breen

Conservation Ranger, National Parks & Wildlife Service

Tel: +353-879337664

Email: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it


2.       Dr. Allan Mee,

Project Manager, Irish White-tailed Sea Eagle Reintroduction Programme

Golden Eagle Trust

Ardpatrick, Kilmallock, Co Limerick, Ireland.

Tel: +353-873117608

Email: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Website: www.goldeneagle.ie

Facebook: www.facebook.com. Click on Facebook icon on GET homepage at www.goldeneagle.ie

Or search for Golden Eagle Trust after logging into your Facebook account.

Poisoned WTE Connemara
Sun15th Mar 2015

 The Golden Eagle Trust, Irish Raptor Study Group and BirdWatch Ireland have formed an exciting conservation partnership and collectively are co-ordinating the 2015 Irish Hen Harrier Survey for the National Parks & Wildlife Service of the Department of Arts, Heritage & the Gaeltacht.

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. Several declines were recorded during the last survey in 2010 and it is important that we re-survey to establish the status of the species in Ireland.

Similar to previous years the survey will cover all suitable hen harrier habitats within 10km grid squares during the breeding season (April to August) and perhaps you would like to undertake the same squares you participated in during the previous surveys. New surveyors are very welcome and training will be provided during some nationwide workshops later this month.

We would like to invite you to participate in the upcoming survey and hope you will enjoy the fieldwork and the collection of this important data. We hope you will consider volunteering to support this conservation task and hope you will all be able to cover a 10km square (or two) or perhaps put together your own small team and cover a number of squares. Standardised methods will be available at the workshops and by email.

We look forward to working with all of you over the coming months. If there is anything you need from us for in relation to the survey please feel free to contact any of us at any time by email or by phone, contact details below.  

We also invite you to attend any (or all) of the up-coming survey training workshops which will cover hen harrier ecology, methods, reporting and other research opportunities during the course of the survey.  These workshops will also allow people to meet other fieldworkers and discuss the methods and survey requirements. Survey material will be available at the workshops, but we will also forward potential survey allocations, recording forms and detailed survey instructions electronically in due course. If you wish to participate in the survey but are unable to attend any of the workshops, please let us know and we will forward all information electronically.

Participation on the workshops is free. Whilst numbers are not limited, we ask you to indicate your preferred venue and date and register in order that we may estimate numbers of participants with the hotels for catering purposes. Please browse through the workshop material and then follow the instructions on the booking form to confirm your preferred venue or correspondence details for electronic communication in relation to the surveys.


Dr Marc Ruddock                                            Dr Allan Mee                             Mr John Lusby

Tel. +353 (0) 873578590                                 Tel: +353 (0) 873117608           Tel. +353 (0) 85 7201892

This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it     This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it        This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it



In order to book a place on one of the workshops please click on the following link:



Workshops will be taking place at:


1) Charleville. Charleville Park Hotel, Main Limerick Road, Co. Cork.Saturday 21st March 2015.

Web: www.charlevilleparkhotel.com                             Phone: +353(0) 6333700


2) Charleville. Charleville Park Hotel, Main Limerick Road, Co. Cork.Monday 23rd March 2015.

Web: www.charlevilleparkhotel.com                             Phone: +353(0) 6333700


3) Athlone. Hodson Bay Hotel Athlone, Co. Westmeath. Saturday 21st March 2015.

Web: www.hodsonbayhotel.com                                     Phone: +353 (0) 906442000


4) Gort. Lady Gregory Hotel. Ennis Road, Gort, Co. Galway, Monday 23rd March 2015.

Web: www.ladygregoryhotel.ie                                      Phone: +353 (0) 91632333


5) Donegal. Mill Park Hotel. The Mullins, Donegal Town, Co. Donegal. Tuesday 24th March.

Web: www.millparkhotel.com                                        Phone: +353 (0) 749722880


6) Cavan. Errigal Country House Hotel, Cavan Road, Cavan Town, Co. Cavan Wednesday 25th March 2015

Web: www.errigalhotel.com                                            Phone: +353 (0) 495556904


7) Wicklow. Wicklow Mountains National Park, Kilafin, Laragh, Co. Wicklow. Wednesday 8th April 2015.

Web: www.wicklowmountainsnationalpark.ie            Phone: +353 (0) 40445800



Parking is available at all locations free of charge


Participants will be provided with tea/coffee on arrival, lunch is not provided but all hotels can cater for lunch at reasonable rates.


Accommodation is not included and participants are responsible for making their own arrangements, if required.


Participants will need to bring a notebook and pen to the workshop. Hand-outs (hard copy and electronic data sheets) will be provided.



0930 - 1000am    Arrival & Tea/Coffee

1000am    Hen Harrier Ecology (Short break 1130)

·         Description

-Physical characteristics



·         Behaviour

-Breeding biology

-Dispersal & survival

-Winter ecology

·         Population & status


-Conservation status

- Population size

-Population distribution

National Hen Harrier Survey 2015

·         Introduction

-Aims & objectives

-Licensing & disturbance

-Access issues

·         Field surveys

-Defining the survey area

-Timing of surveys

-Available resources

-Habitat mapping

-Health & safety

·         Establishing territory occupancy

·         Establishing breeding outcome

-Proof of breeding


-Classifying nest habitat

·         Other behaviours & habitat

·         Data recording & reporting

Other Recording

·         Recording threats and pressures in the area

·         Recording other priority bird species

·         Recording of prey or feather samples

1230pm   Survey area allocation

1330pm   Summation & Close

Standardised recording forms, method statements and maps will be available at the workshops, but will also be circulated electronically to all survey participants.

Hen Harrier pair
Fri13th Feb 2015

After 3 years apparently well-settled on territory and paired with a female in west Connemara, something is going on with 2009 male Star. Over the winter he made a couple of excursions away from Connemara to south-east Galway but returned to his territory. Not so just now though.

After returning to his territory on 6th Jan he headed east on 13th Jan roosting on the shore of Lough Corrib, the to Loughrea in SE Galway on 15th, then the shores of Lough Derg near Portumna on 18th, east into north Tipperary near Lorrha on 20th, north into south Offaly on 21st, to Lough Ennel in Westmeath on 23rd,  and on to nearby Lough Owel on 24th Jan where he spent the next few days.

On 28th Jan Star headed east into Meath then south to roost near Blessington, Co. Wicklow nest day. On 30th he headed further south to roost near Tullow, Co. Carlow, then south-west into Tipp roosting between Fethard and New Inn next day. On 1st Feb Star started to head back north-west to roost near Feakle in east Clare, then on to the west shore of Lough Corrib next day. On 7th Feb he finally returned back on territory to roost near his 2014 nest site. On 9th Feb he was back on the shore of Lough Corrib where he remains for the moment.

Although it’s as yet too early to be definite, all the evidence from his movements away from his territory suggests that something bad has happened to his mate. It’s just too unlikely that he would be spending so long away and travel so extensively round Ireland (see the map showing his GPS satellite tracks) if he had a mate still on territory. Over the next couple of months we should be able to confirm this but if something has happened to his mate (2009 female) it’s unlikely we will ever know for sure what as she doesn’t have a working transmitter to relocate her. Star will be keen to breed again this year so let’s hope he finds his old or a new mate pronto!

Star on the move again!
Tue23rd Dec 2014

Looks like 2009 released WTSE male Star will be spending Christmas on leave from his territory in south Connemara! Star took off and headed south-east across Galway Bay on 10th Dec, roosting the night just east of Gort on the northern edge of the Slieve Aughty hills. On 13th Dec he crossed into Co. Clare to roost near Lough Graney. Over the next nine day days (to 22 Dec) Star moved to the Loughrea area. This is the second trip away from “home” since the summer and both times he returned to the same area in south-east Galway. Meanwhile back at the ranch his mate (2009 tag semi-circle) must be wondering where he’s got to. But then as we don’t have a satellite tag on her she could also be taking time out before getting down to nesting in a few short months?! Let’s hope Star finds his way safely back to Connemara soonsmiley

Happy Christmas to you all and keep a look out for eagles and kites on your travels!

Star 22 Dec 2014
Fri12th Dec 2014

Over the last four and a half months or so since she took her first flight from her nest high up in a Scots Pine near Mountshannon, Co. Clare, its been fascinating to see the 2014 WTSE chick Aoibheall explore her watery environment on beautiful Lough Derg. Over the first four months she has been pretty much a ‘homebird’ staying within a kilometre or two of her natal area most of the time and only very occasionally (13-15 Oct) roosting away from Mountshannon. All that began to change in late November. On 23/11 she roosted for the very first time on Inis Cealtra (Holy Island) within a stone’s throw of the ancient round town and monastic settlement founded originally back in the late 7th Century by St. Caimin (hence the name of Aoibheall’s male parent!). Perhaps she was looking for the ancient ones blessing before she headed off on her travels?!

On 25/11 she had left Lough Derg for the first time and travelled 15km west to roost between Bodyke and Tulla. Coincidentally, on the very same day, Caimin (the Mountshannon male WTSE) was spotted by NPWS ranger Áine Lynch at Parteen Weir 18km south of Mountshannon and downriver from Killaloe. Over the years we’ve never had either adult this far from their territory. No distance for an eagle for sure but perhaps Aoibheall started her journey once he left? As in 2013 the adult male has shown what a brilliant parent he is. 

On 26/11 Aoibheall returned east to roost in Raheen Wood near Tuamgraney on the edge of Lough Derg and next day was back in the nest area where she remained until at least late on 30/11. Although there was a gap in the GPS data over the next two days (due to low light levels resulting in the solar powered battery losing charge), by mid-day on 2/12 she had moved half way up the lake on the Tipp shore before roosting 12km north on the Galway side of the lake. Over the last 10 days she has been exploring the north end of the lake from Dromineer to Portumna (see map of her GPS tracks).

Not only has the GPS data been brilliant at tracking her movements it’s been exciting (and a little nerve-wracking!) to see her first-hand coping so well in the wild. On 5/12 she cruised all round the north end of the lake from Terryglass to Portumna and back, landing for a while on some of the islands. On 10/12 she spent over an hour soaring and hovering into the teeth of a gale. Looking at her she seemed to revel in it. She could have landed at any time but hey, landings for wimps (!), only descending to cover when a big wintery shower hit the lake. At one point she was mobbed by a male Kestrel, looking for all the world like a gnat in her presence. Following that a young Peregrine falcon joined in the fun and began dive-bombing her before heading off south.  

It’s going to be interesting to see how long she stays on the lake and whether she returns to base in Mountshannon at any time or just keeps on going.

Bain taitneamh as an tsaoilsmiley

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