We had an incredible amount of volunteer support this season with over 40 individuals giving up their time for our nest watch surveillance scheme. The value of an additional 80 eyes and ears is not something to be scoffed at.
From April to August individuals booked their slot in the hide to do their bit and help protect our first breeding pair of white-tailed eagles in Scotland in over 200 years. Elizabeth, one of our incredible volunteers, was in charge of the rota and her kitchen table fast became eagle headquarters.
Of course, we had a lot of volunteers as well as RSPB Scotland, Forestry Commission Scotland and Scottish Natural Heritage staff to thank at the end of the season. With additional funding from Heritage Lottery Fund we were able to do this in style and organise a "thank you" get together with a tasty dinner supplied by Wild Rover Food.
The Burger Queue
Elizabeth sums up our thoughts on the evening perfectly:
I really enjoyed yesterday evening, it was really special to have everybody together to celebrate and I got to meet some of the volunteers who I had only communicated with by email!
You might think Europe's largest bird of prey is pretty tough. But in terms of disturbance - especially around the nest site - they are very sensitive. Eagles and their nests are protected by the law and it was our job to make sure they were not disturbed whether intentionally or recklessly.
Our famous Fife breeding pair (picture taken by volunteer Raymond Leinster)
Our hide was over 300m away to make sure we didn't get in their way. So it wasn't always easy to see what was going on but we were still treated to some spectacular sights. Read on for some of our volunteers favourite moments from the 2014 nest watch season:
Murray: My memorable moment is sitting in the hide through a hail and lightning storm, worrying that the sitting female might desert the nest. But she sat tight, shook herself off after the storm passed and settled on the egg again - a great mother!
Ali and Kenny: The standout moment for us was on the afternoon of Sunday 1st June. It was a day of clear blue skies with a hot sun beating down which prompted us to set up the telescope outside the hide. The forest was alive with birdsong and the drone of insects but above these sounds we were sure we could hear an eaglet cheeping. A sweltering hour spent staring through the heat haze down the telescope finally paid off – a white downy head with black eyes and beak appeared above the nest rim. Our first glimpse of the 2014 East Scotland sea eagle chick.
Linda and David: On dreich days when you could barely see the nest or when the birds were inactive you could be sure of activity at the hide!! Our outstanding memory of our time on nest watch has to be the sight of the young bird 'trampolining' on the nest the day after the 'bling' was fitted as if to say "Look at me I am all grown up and ready to leave home".
Some of our visitors to the hide
Richard: As I am a relatively new member of the team perhaps my experience is limited ,however my first viewing of the Sea Eagle family was indeed exciting and also historic. Managing to see both Parents and the recently fledged second Sea Eagle on the east coast of Scotland was a privilege.
Margaret: It has been a real privilege doing the nest watch and seeing the progress of the chick up to the time of fledging, also meeting other people who were doing the same. The moment that I will always remember will be the last hide day with Rhian and Daniel when the female was on the nest feeding her young fledgling.
Karen: I will never forget nervously watching the chick attempt his first 'branch out' from the nest, bouncing around on the branches of the nest tree, and then a couple of weeks later seeing him flying. I had a great view of him perched in a tree recently - he was completely unaware of the excitement, heart-stopping moments and laughs he and his parents have given us!
White A out and about
We are not sure how many white-tailed sea eagle nests we will have next year or how many eyes and ears we will have helping us protect them. But lets hope our famous Fife pair will triumph again next year making it third time lucky!
A 2011 released white-tailed eagle from east Scotland has recently made an appearance on the Isle of Skye!
Red L stayed in Fife for seven months after her release before making her way to highland Perthshire where her radio signal was detected near loch Tummel. Three months later, she was photographed on the Ardnamurchan peninsula. In June 2012 she arrived in Skye for the first time. Since then she has been to Mull where she was spending time with some other immature white-tailed eagles.
There has been limited contact with Red L for the past year until recently when boat operators in Portree on Skye were reporting seeing a wing tagged eagle....
So I went to investigate, and here’s what I found:
This is one of the few images captured of an east coast white-tailed eagle swooping for a fish!
For an opportunity to get a closer look at her, it’s worth visiting Skye and taking a boat trip from Portree.
While you’re there, why not visit the Aros centre to learn more about white-tailed eagles on Skye?
Explore the coastal path from Dundee to Broughty Ferry for stunning views of the Firth of Tay. Whilst walking or cycling along this section you will come across our sculpture installed this spring. This was an exciting art collaboration with Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design and Dundee City Council. It was made possible by additional funding from Heritage Lottery Fund. Keep an eye on our events page for October plans.
In the meantime, it's well worth a visit to find out what its all about. But don't forget to take your binoculars as you never know what you might see...