It is with great sadness that we are finally able to announce that the young white-tailed eagle which fledged from the Fife nest in 2014 has come to grief. His carcase was recovered in April 2015 on farmland near Pitlochry, lying below an electricity distribution pole. “14White A” as he was known after the colour and letter on his wing tags, was fitted with a satellite transmitter which ceased to function, prompting a search of the wider area where he was last known to be spending time. A local farmer got in touch with project staff after finding the carcase on his land, and reading the contact information on the reverse of the wing tags. The carcase was recovered immediately by RSPB and Police Scotland staff who then submitted it for post mortem. Despite the circumstances suggesting electrocution as the obvious cause of death, the condition of the carcase made it difficult for this to be determined. As per protocol, the carcase was also tested for suspicious substances and for evidence of lead shot, but thankfully, all came back negative. Unfortunately, the nature of events that occurred around 14White A’s death will remain a mystery, but we are relieved and confident that there was no foul play to blame – simply a case of choosing the wrong place to perch!
Since the first birds were released in Fife in 2007, eight young white-tailed eagles (of 85 released) have succumbed to the same fate, which is also not uncommon on the continent - in Norway electrocutions and collisions with power lines are known to be the main cause of death for young white-tailed, especially juveniles and second year immatures. In Germany it accounts for 10% of white-tailed eagle deaths, and is a big contributor to white-tailed eagle mortality in Hungary. Historically, white-tailed eagles have coexisted closely with humans and in a modern landscape, it’s almost inevitable that threats such as electricity poles, wires and even train lines will have some effect on their survival.
In the early years of the East Scotland Sea Eagle project, Scottish Power very kindly adapted some electricity distribution poles and transformers in the immediate vicinity of the release site in order to help reduce such incidents in an area with a high number of young inexperienced birds.
We are extremely grateful to the farmer for getting in contact with us so quickly after finding the carcase, and we encourage anybody who comes across a carcase to get in touch as quickly as possible so that we are able to determine cause of death and better understand survival in our population.
Turquoise 1 and Z have done it again. The six year old pair of white-tailed eagles that bred for the first time in 2013 in a Forestry Commission wood in Fife have fledged their third chick this year. The recently fledged youngster was tagged with a white wing tag with the letter “T”, and thanks to Forestry Commission Scotland, was fitted with a GSM transmitter so that it’s dispersal can be monitored closely. This chick was one of two chicks that hatched in this nest in Fife this year – see article in Fife today here, and the Courier here from earlier in the summer. Unfortunately, “White T”’s sibling didn’t survive and is thought to have died of natural causes in the nest at around 4 weeks old. Thanks to careful observation our amazing nest watch volunteers, the events at the nest were documented thoroughly throughout the season.
Below is a guest blog written by Forestry Commission’s Environment manager for Tay district - Graeme Findlay which formed part of a recent press release about the successful pair:
The National Forest Estate is home to many treasured species of wildlife – from colourful dragonflies to majestic red deer to rare white-tailed sea eagles. Forests are great places for wildlife providing lots of different habitats, from the airy canopy to sheltered forest floors.
Our forestry work is planned to make sure the woods provide the best possible conditions for wildlife. We take special measures to look after some species, such as protecting exclusion zones around osprey and golden eagle nesting sites. We even make sure that the trees along salmon rivers cast the right sort of dappled shade: fish are part of the forests' wildlife too.
One of our biggest success stories is the white-tailed sea eagle. These birds became extinct but are now living here again after a re-introduction programme that brought chicks over from Norway to Fife.
We're working closely with partners like Scottish Natural Heritage and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds to protect forest areas that are part of the sea eagles' territory, and make sure their nesting sites aren't disturbed.
There are now 100 pairs of white-tailed sea eagles living across Scotland. One of the latest eaglets to hatch in a Fife woodland has been tagged and ringed in advance of its first flight away from the nest.
This is the third successful nesting attempt for this pair, who have fledged a single chick each year since 2013.
Graeme Findlay, for Forestry Enterprise Scotland's team in Tayside, said: "These magnificent birds are known to travel far and wide as they hunt for food and look for a suitable place to claim as their own. Now that this chick has been fitted with a GSM transmitter, its movements and its health can be monitored, giving researchers a wealth of valuable information."
Rhian Evans, RSPB's East Scotland Sea Eagle Officer, said: "Thanks to the dedication of more than 30 RSPB Scotland volunteers, the progress of this nest has been thoroughly documented throughout the season, and the nest protected from disturbance. We are delighted that the chick has made it through to fledging despite a challenging season for many other species.
"This chick is one of five to fledge across the East of Scotland this year in what is a milestone year for white-tailed eagles - the 100th Scottish pair was announced this year in Orkney, and in a year when we celebrate 40 years since the reintroduction program began."
We look forward to following the progress of this newly fledged youngster as it disperses away from its natal area over the coming months, and takes up a territory of its own in a few years time.
To mark this special anniversary year and the successes of the reintroduction in Fife, a Sea Eagle Celebration Day will be held at the Burgh Chambers and Gardens in Tayport from 12 pm on Saturday 22 August. Everyone is invited to come along, take part in some fun activities, crafts and a BBQ.
As some of you might already know, 2015 is a very special year for sea eagles in Scotland. It has been 40 years since the first sea eagle chicks from Norway were released and 30 years since the first wild chick fledged. This anniversary year has also seen the sea eagle re-introduction programme reach the important milestone of 100 breeding pairs in Scotland.
To celebrate these significant achievements and the successes of the East Scotland Sea Eagle Reintroduction Project, we are holding a celebratory event in Tayport which we would like you to be part of!
A public event will be held at the Burgh Chambers and Gardens on Queen Street, Tayport from 12pm on Saturday 22 August to celebrate sea eagles with the local community, and will include various activities and fun for the family.
We'd love to see you there!