Following a difficult start to the year, with the poisoning of Conall, one of the Glenveagh Golden Eagle chicks from 2009, the encouraging outcome of the 2010 breeding season has provided a timely boost.
The Golden Eagle pair in Glenveagh had previously reared a single chick in 2007 and two chicks in 2009. This year the Glenveagh pair returned to their 2007 eyrie and successfully reared one chick which left the nest in late June. The picture above shows a small fox cub brought into the nest. The diet contained mostly Hares again this year and during an end of season search of the nest vicinity the remains of a predated adult Raven were also found. So considering the number of badger and fox cubs this pair predated previously, it is clear that this pair is having an impact, to some degree, on the food chain locally. The chick and adults have been seen in Glenveagh and the Glendowan Mountains up to the end of September.
In total three Golden Eagle pairs laid eggs in County Donegal in 2010. The eggs from a second pair again failed to hatch in 2010. But the project team were delighted when another pair of young birds, breeding for the first time, fledged two young in July in an area of hill sheep commonage. These birds have been resident for several years now, feeding on dead sheep during the winter and seabirds, rabbits and hares during the summer. The attitude and support of the local sheep men has been exemplary and the Golden Eagle Trust would again like to highlight this example of the co-operation between hill farming and wildlife interests. The farmers themselves have actually noted a decline in the number of attacks on newborn lambs, lambed outdoors, by nearby Hooded (Grey) Crows. And they acknowledge that the arrival of Golden Eagles into their glen has impacted on the previously unnaturally high number of Hooded Crows locally.
One of this brood of two was satellite tagged and its movements are now available on the GET website, as it wanders away from its natal area.
5 young Golden Eagle were also imported from Scotland, under licence from Scottish Natural Heritage, and released in Donegal in August. 58 young Golden Eagles have been released since the project began in 2001 and our aim is to collect and release 75 birds in total. In an effort to improve our knowledge of the dispersal routes of these young eagles along the west coast, and assess their survival rates, three of the released birds were fitted with Satellite Tags and their movements will shortly be available on the website.
Based on second hand information gleaned from Mongolian Eagle owners, via Roy Dennis in Scotland, we looked at the number of single scales above each talon on some of the released eagles. To our surprise one male eagle had 3 single scales on its middle toe, one female had four scales on the middle toe and the biggest female, as denoted by all our biometrics, had five sales. So even after 10 years of releases, we are still learning. And we will keep an eye out in future years to see if this was a mere statistical quirk or whether the number of toe scales is indicative of the strength of an individual!