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A White-tailed sea eagle. Photograph by Valerie O'Sullivan.

Further success for White-Tailed Eagle project

A NUMBER of White-Tailed Eagle chicks have been released into the wild at Lough Derg, boosting the ongoing project to reintroduce the species in South East Clare and a number of other Munster locations.
A total of 21 chicks were released at four locations by staff of the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) who had been keeping the chicks at purpose-built enclosures at the Shannon Estuary, Waterford and Killarney National Park.
The clutches had arrived from Norway five weeks ago in the hope of further bolstering Ireland’s existing White-Tailed Eagle population, and the reintroduction programme, which began in 2007.
The re-establishment of breeding White-tailed Eagles at sites like Lough Derg and Killarney National Park has proven hugely popular with local residents, while the potential for economic benefits from sensitive, sustainable ecotourism was experienced in Mountshannon, when the first breeding pair nested within sight of the village in 2012, attracting thousands of visitors.
Once a conspicuous part of Ireland’s landscape, they were driven to extinction in the late 19th century, a development which the programme seeks to reverse.
“They’re at the stage now where their muscles are strong and their feathers are developed and they’ve gone out into the wild,” said Eamonn Meskell, Project Manager of the White-Tailed Eagle Project with NPWS.
All of the birds have been tagged to enable researchers to track them in the wild.
“Part of the process was, in the third week, the NPWS fitted each eagle with a satellite tag for the specific purpose of when they did go out into the wild, that we’d be able to follow their process and their progress,” Mr Meskell added.
“We’re able to track them now and see how they integrate into the existing population that we have in the country.
“They’re well spread out and they’re in the natural areas of The Shannon Estuary and Lough Derg and Killarney National Park and The River Blackwater.”
Mr Meskell, who is advised by Dr Allan Mee, project manager of the reintroduction project said ongoing co-operation from landowners is an important factor in its success.
“There is still a threat from rodenticides for rats and mice and another big [threat is] foxes. That population has to be managed. [People] shoot them during lambing season. That’s not a problem. The problem is the leaving of the carcasses in the field with the lead in them.
“The eagles, who generally feed on dead animals and fish, they ingest the lead, so there’s a problem with lead poisoning there. It’s a big killer of White-tailed Eagles.
“What we’re saying is that if the foxes have to be culled, please manage them in a way that you take them off site and dispose of them the proper way.”
The first phase of the reintroduction project ran from 2007-2011, managed by the NPWS and the Golden Eagle Trust, when 100 chicks were released into the wild.
Since then, over 35 Irish-born chicks have fledged here, with nest sites in Clare, Kerry, Cork, Tipperary, and Galway.
The Second Phase was launched last year, when ten Norwegian-born chicks were flown into Ireland and released into the wild on the Shannon Estuary and Lough Derg.
Of these ten, nine are still alive, and have travelled throughout the country, with one even travelling as far as Scotland.

About Fiona McGarry

Fiona McGarry joined The Clare Champion as a reporter after a four-year stint as producer of Morning Focus on Clare FM. Prior to that she worked for various radio, print and online titles, including Newstalk, Maximum Media and The Tuam Herald. Fiona’s media career began in her native Mayo when she joined Midwest Radio. She is the maker of a number of radio documentaries, funded by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI). She has also availed of the Simon Cumbers Media Fund to report on development issues supported by Irish Aid in Haiti. She won a Justice Media Award for a short radio series on the work of Bedford Row Project, which supports prisoners and families in the Mid-West. Fiona also teaches on the Journalism programmes at NUI Galway. If you have a story and would like to get in touch with Fiona you can email her at fmcgarry@clarechampion.ie or telephone 065 6864146.

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