For the second year in a row, our pair of white-tailed eagles in Fife have hatched twins! This will be the pair’s fourth breeding attempt, having started breeding for the first time in 2013. The adults (2009 released “Turquoise 1” and “Z” after their wing tags) fledged single chicks in 2013 and 2014, and last year for the first time they hatched twins. Sadly, the second chick died in the nest of natural causes at around 4 week old. Hopes are high this year for the pair’s second set of twins who are thought to have hatched around the 5th of May. Our dedicated team of over 30 vigilant volunteers are monitoring the nest every day to record the birds behaviour and to deter any disturbance to the nest.
This exciting news was shared by the Courier earlier this week (see article here).
Elsewhere across East Scotland we are eagerly awaiting news of hatching from Scotland’s 100th pair on Hoy, Orkney, while our pair in Speyside have also hatched twins. Unfortunately our pair in Angus failed at an early stage during incubation. In Perthshire, 2009 female "Turquoise H" hasn’t attempted to breed again since her long term partner, "Turquoise X", left the territory and started spending time in Argyll. This is very unusual behaviour for a monogamous species, but she has found a companion in a younger wild fledged male from the west coast. He even accompanied "Turquoise H" to her regular haunt at Loch Leven during the winter!
We are keeping our fingers crossed that both Fife twins fledge this year!
To help people try to see white-tailed eagles in Fife, RSPB Scotland, Forestry Commission Scotland and Scottish Natural Heritage will be running guided walks at Tentsmuir National Nature Reserve on Sunday 17 July, Saturday 6 August and Saturday 27 August. For more details or to book a place, phone 01738 630783 or email email@example.com
Below is a photograph taken by project volunteer Richard Tough of the adult male from Fife – Turquoise Z
2015 saw five chicks fledge from territories across the East of Scotland. Two pairs that had not been successful before fledged twins – one of these pairs was in the Angus glens. This pair attempted in 2014 but failed before the eggs hatched. On closer analysis it was found that the eggs were infertile - probably due to the inexperience of the male who at the time was just three years old. In 2015 however, the pair raised two strong chicks on a diet consisting mainly of lagomorphs!
Both chicks were wing tagged and fitted with satellite transmitters. It is important for us to be able to gauge the survival of the wild-fledged young from the East of Scotland. After losing both wild-fledged young from our Fife nest in 2013 and 2014, it seems all the more important to understand what’s happening to this new generation, and whether there are further issues that need to be addressed before determining the success of the project.
This new white-tailed eagle population core that is forming now across the east of Scotland are using the landscape in a different way than their counterparts on the west coast, with different land use here in the east, and different prey available to them. We have a lot to learn about what is important to them and how they disperse if we are to continue to protect them in the future.
"White K" and his sibling "White E" in their nest.
The satellite tagged youngster from Angus - “White K”(named after the colour and letter on his wing tag) and his recent travels have shown us all of these things. “White K” left his natal area around the 19th of September, but remained in the Angus glens until the 11th of October. From the 23rd of October, both “White K” and another satellite tagged youngster from a nest in Speyside started using the same roosts independently and occasionally simultaneously, and both spent a significant amount of time in Deeside and in the northern Angus glens during winter -probably making the most of deer the grallochs available on the higher slopes!
With daylight length increasing, weather improving and the bird becoming more confident on the wing, he started making some epic journeys across Scotland! This is typical of young white-tailed eagles as they spend the first few years of their lives exploring the landscape and visiting other birds before finding a territory for themselves at around 4-5 years old.
By the 20th of February, “White K” was spending time in Aberdeenshire – this is his most northerly haunt to date. However, on the 21st he had started to head south back to Deeside where he had been roosting previously, before heading south west through Glen Shee and roosting near Pitlochry in Perthshire. As if that wasn’t far enough, the following day, he passed Blair Atholl, and flew across Lochs Tay and Earn before settling to roost for the evening just east of Loch Lomond. Clearly not fazed by this, “White K” turned West, crossing Loch Lomond and Loch Goil before eventually reaching the eastern shores of Loch Fyne where he spend the next few days!
Google Earth map of "White K"'s journey to Loch Fyne from Aberdeenshire.
After spending a few days exploring this beautiful part of Argyll, “White K” retraced his route, and from Strachur, he headed East once again, crossing Loch Katrine through Strathyre to Lochearnhead where he soared over the ridge between Loch Tay and Loch Earn. On Saturday the 3rd of March he was spotted soaring above the Perthshire glens interacting with a young golden eagle. He sat and watched while the golden eagle ate a mountain hare.
We hope that “White K”’s spectacular and adventurous journeys will continue until he finds a mate in a few years’ time and raises chicks of his own.
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.