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The story of Ireland’s First takes flight

Mayo man Nigel Beers-Smith took up residence at Mountshannon Harbour six months ago when he decided to embark on Ireland’s First, a story of the first pair of white tailed sea eagles to have successfully bred in Ireland for over 100 years.

Since then he has spent each day documenting the White Tailed Sea Eagle family of Bushy Island both photographically, digitally by video and in print.
He is now at the point where publication is imminent the Bangor Erris man said he will truly miss these amazing birds of prey when he leaves Lough Derg and Mountshannon behind him.

He decided to do the book when he heard about the white tailed sea-eagle pair on the news last year. He had been following the eagles for a couple of years and started filming and photographing them last year.

“After last year’s nest failure, I began to document this fantastic story. I returned to Mountshannon in mid-February for this exciting and historic event. Initially, I came down to film their mating displays — where the eagles fly high into the sky and then clasp talons while cart wheeling to the ground.

“It’s a spectacular event to watch. I filmed, photographed and documented every day for more than six months. I’ve captured them building the nest, mating, fishing and many more things besides. This story offers a huge insight to these magnificent birds. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed every moment, but there have been some serious ups and downs.

“This book will help you see what these birds have had to endure to make it the success story it is. I just think they are magnificent creatures and they are great to see doing their thing catching fish and flying around,” he said.
The book is a daily diary of Nigel’s experience documenting the birds over the six month period featuring photographs from each day. The front cover features the male white tailed sea eagle as he prepares to tuck into a fish he’s just caught.

This is one of the many moments captured by Nigel photographically which will feature in the book.
“I got a brilliant shot this morning of the male and the chick flying. The chick was chasing the male for an eel that he had caught. I’ll miss them when I leave. I’m doing a documentary so I have been filming here as well. I haven’t got all the footage for that documentary yet so I could be a month to six weeks more here. It’s been great, and the people have been great. From doing the project here you notice how many people are interested in it and there are so many visitors that come down to see the sea eagles,” he said.

Although it is not yet in print yet Nigel is already inundated with requests but he is holding out for one final photograph to top off his collection.
“I’m waiting on one last photo, either of the female with the chicks – I missed a photo of them yesterday. I would love to get the four of them together but I don’t know whether I will get that. I got three of them yesterday but I didn’t get the female close enough to the chicks. She has been passing and helping out, but she hasn’t been close enough for me to get her in. It will be a happy ending to the story, even though it is a perfect ending but I just want the photo to prove it,” he said.

The book will be ready on time for the Christmas market, and more than likely much sooner than that, if Nigel is successful in his quest for the family portrait.
Ireland’s First will feature more than 400 pages of up-close photographs of these magnificent birds from nest building to fledging and from a pair to a family. For more information visit www.irelandsfirst.com.

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