The RSPB's annual Eaglewatch in Orkney has started, the charity announced this week.
As in previous years, Eaglewatch will operate from the Dwarfie Stone car park in Hoy, which looks onto the white-tailed eagles’ nesting site on the Dwarfie Hamars. RSPB Scotland volunteers will be there every day to provide visitors with equipment and expertise to help spot the birds, along with other wildlife. Furthermore, there will be various exhibits on display, including eagle feathers and talons.
Lee Shields, Hoy Warden for RSPB Scotland, said: “It’s getting to that time in the year where we start looking out for signs of breeding and keeping our fingers crossed. We welcome anyone who would like to see the birds to join us at Eaglewatch and enjoy this natural spectacle.”
White-tailed eagles are the largest birds of prey in the UK, and are often referred to as ‘flying barn doors’. They were driven to extinction in the UK in the early 20th century, before being steadily reintroduced between the 1970s and 2000s, using birds from Scandinavia. While the reintroduction focused on mainland Scotland and the Western Isles, birds started appearing in Hoy of their own accord in 2013.
After several years of scouting territory and failed nesting attempts, 2018 saw Orkney’s first white-tailed eagle chicks for 145 years. They were named “Bakko” and “Craggie” by the pupils at North Walls Community School, and at least one has been spotted flying over the hills during the winter.
As well as being a conservation success story, the eagles are also expected to bring economic benefits to Hoy and Orkney as a whole. In 2018, Eaglewatch attracted over 6000 individual visits, while eagle-based tourism is estimated to contribute £5million annually to the island of Mull.
Mrs Shields added: “After the success of last year, it would be wonderful to see something similar again.
Although whatever happens, seeing these magnificent birds in Hoy is always an exhilarating experience.”
RSPB Scotland’s Eaglewatch project will be running 11am – 4pm daily, until late summer or early autumn. The exact finishing date will be determined by the behaviour of the eagles. Call 01856 850176 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.