Those eagerly awaiting Orkney's first sea eagle chicks in over a century will have to wait a little longer, it seems. Both adult birds have been seen off the nest in recent days, according to the local RSPB Scotland team - a strong sign that the young pair has not been successful in raising a family this year.
Alan Leitch, RSPB Scotland's Sites Manager in Orkney, said: "The birds have certainly kept us guessing this spring. It was quite a late start to incubation, and then in the last few weeks it hasn't been clear whether or not any eggs might have hatched. But with both birds spotted away from the nest at the same time over the last few days, we can be sure enough that they are not raising chicks."
"It's still all looking promising for the future, though, as the young pair will have matured and gained much experience during their first two nesting attempts - to fail at early attempts is just part of a normal learning curve. Sea eagles tend to come back to the same nest site so let's hope Hoy will yet be home to Orkney's first chicks in more than 100 years."
"We want to say thank you to everyone who has been helping look after these birds, particularly the brilliant volunteers who have been pointing them out in all possible weather to visitors on Hoy. The team has manned an informal viewpoint at the Dwarfie Stone car park every single day since Easter, welcoming over 2300 people so far."
"If you'd still like to see the eagles, now is a great time - the pair are perhaps being spotted even more often now that they're not incubating, and are likely to stay around the Dwarfie Hamars for the next few weeks at least."
The RSPB Scotland team will continue manning the viewpoint from11 am - 4 pm each day as long as visitors are getting good views. For up-to-date information call 01856 850176 or visit the RSPB Orkney Facebook page.
1. The best place to view Hoy's sea eagles is the small car park for the Dwarfie Stone, in the valley between Moaness and Rackwick. It is manned by RSPB Scotland staff and volunteers each day between 11 am and 4 pm with a telescope and binoculars available to use.
2. A three-phase reintroduction programme for white-tailed eagles began in 1975. The east coast phase (the most recent) was a partnership between RSPB Scotland, Forestry Commission Scotland and Scottish Natural Heritage with funding from Leader (2011-2013) and the Heritage Lottery Fund (2011-2014). Between 2007 and 2012, 85 birds were released on the east coast of Scotland, with the first successful nesting attempt made in 2013.
3. More information on sea eagles can be found here.
4. The RSPB is the UK's largest nature conservation charity, inspiring everyone to give nature a home. Together with our partners, we protect threatened birds and wildlife so our towns, coast and countryside will teem with life once again. We play a leading role in BirdLife International, a worldwide partnership of nature conservation organisations.