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Baby boom for sea eagles
The White Tailed Eagle viewing point in Mountshannon. Photograph by John Kelly.

Baby boom for sea eagles

THE Mountshannon White Tailed Sea Eagles have welcomed two chicks this past week and visitors are expected to flock to catch a glimpse of the new arrivals.

The new chicks bring the number hatched there to six. Four of these survived to fledge but, sadly, one was shot in Tipperary in its first year.

Last year, the birds were unsuccessful in breeding but Dr Allan Mee of the White Tailed Sea Eagle reintroduction project says the hatching of two birds this year is very promising.

“It’s pretty much always two eggs and then not always two chicks hatch, or one or both might die at critical times of hatching. Fingers crossed both will make it – certainly one will, but two only make it in a good year. But then, Lough Derg has been very productive – there’s plenty of fish – so I’d be pretty hopeful” Dr Mee said.

He said, so far, the reintroduction scheme has had six nests hatch chicks. They are very hopeful for a good year.

“Last year, we had 10 pairs nesting and we had seven chicks fly the nest so this year we are hopeful of even more. The pair failing to hatch in Mountshannon was a blow. I felt sad for the birds skipping a year, and for the people in Mountshannon because they had the information point open all summer. When you don’t have birds always on show, it’s tough,” he added.

In order to minimise the risk to this new pair of chicks, Dr Mee said it is important that the public observes the 150m exclusion zone around Cribby Island, where the eagles are nesting.

“Over the Easter weekend, a barge moored there overnight, even though the signs were there to keep a 150m exclusion zone. As far as I know, the birds weren’t disturbed, because they were at the other side of the island, but had they pulled up in front of the nest, it could have been a major difficulty.

“You are always hoping that people will obey the signs. We just want to minimise the risk, especially after last year when they failed and there was some evidence of them being disturbed. Especially too for Mountshannon, now that they are more dependent on the eagles being there and with the viewing and information point,” he said.

Vera O’Rourke, who is a volunteer at the information point, explained it is now open to visitors midweek from 12 noon to 4pm and from 12 noon to 6pm at weekends. These hours are expected to be extended, as they expand the numbers available to provide the service.

Vera said she is delighted to see two new chicks in the nest and has also appealed to visitors to respect the exclusion zone. “Cruisers, barges, jet skis and bigger motor boats, it’s not that we don’t want them in the area, we just want them 150m out, to keep moving and not to stare up at the birds. If they stop up under the nest, the birds won’t do what they need to do – feed and nurse the chicks.

“Most people are great. The viewing point gives people an opportunity to see them up-close with the binoculars, so there is no need for people to go out in a boat to disturb them,” Vera explained.

She said the viewing and information point is unique to Mountshannon and offers people the very best opportunity to see the birds up-close.

“There is no place like this in the country, where the birds are situated and you can view them. They are such magnificent birds to see and, from now on, there will be more and more activity every day. Now that the chicks are there, the adult birds are feeding continuously and fishing. In a few more weeks, the chicks will be seen and that will be very interesting. To follow the chicks and their development and to see them take off for the first time will be amazing,” she said.

Vera said the village is always looking for volunteers to get involved over the summer months, whether that is helping out at the viewing and information point or in some other capacity. She said anyone who wants to get involved can contact her through Mountshannon Community Council.

By Carol Byrne

THE Mountshannon White Tailed Sea Eagles have welcomed two chicks this past week

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