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Fri12th Dec 2014

Over the last four and a half months or so since she took her first flight from her nest high up in a Scots Pine near Mountshannon, Co. Clare, its been fascinating to see the 2014 WTSE chick Aoibheall explore her watery environment on beautiful Lough Derg. Over the first four months she has been pretty much a ‘homebird’ staying within a kilometre or two of her natal area most of the time and only very occasionally (13-15 Oct) roosting away from Mountshannon. All that began to change in late November. On 23/11 she roosted for the very first time on Inis Cealtra (Holy Island) within a stone’s throw of the ancient round town and monastic settlement founded originally back in the late 7th Century by St. Caimin (hence the name of Aoibheall’s male parent!). Perhaps she was looking for the ancient ones blessing before she headed off on her travels?!

On 25/11 she had left Lough Derg for the first time and travelled 15km west to roost between Bodyke and Tulla. Coincidentally, on the very same day, Caimin (the Mountshannon male WTSE) was spotted by NPWS ranger Áine Lynch at Parteen Weir 18km south of Mountshannon and downriver from Killaloe. Over the years we’ve never had either adult this far from their territory. No distance for an eagle for sure but perhaps Aoibheall started her journey once he left? As in 2013 the adult male has shown what a brilliant parent he is. 

On 26/11 Aoibheall returned east to roost in Raheen Wood near Tuamgraney on the edge of Lough Derg and next day was back in the nest area where she remained until at least late on 30/11. Although there was a gap in the GPS data over the next two days (due to low light levels resulting in the solar powered battery losing charge), by mid-day on 2/12 she had moved half way up the lake on the Tipp shore before roosting 12km north on the Galway side of the lake. Over the last 10 days she has been exploring the north end of the lake from Dromineer to Portumna (see map of her GPS tracks).

Not only has the GPS data been brilliant at tracking her movements it’s been exciting (and a little nerve-wracking!) to see her first-hand coping so well in the wild. On 5/12 she cruised all round the north end of the lake from Terryglass to Portumna and back, landing for a while on some of the islands. On 10/12 she spent over an hour soaring and hovering into the teeth of a gale. Looking at her she seemed to revel in it. She could have landed at any time but hey, landings for wimps (!), only descending to cover when a big wintery shower hit the lake. At one point she was mobbed by a male Kestrel, looking for all the world like a gnat in her presence. Following that a young Peregrine falcon joined in the fun and began dive-bombing her before heading off south.  

It’s going to be interesting to see how long she stays on the lake and whether she returns to base in Mountshannon at any time or just keeps on going.

Bain taitneamh as an tsaoilsmiley

Fri28th Nov 2014

Over the last few weeks Aoibheall (2014 Mountshannon chick) has been very settled in and around its nest area and showing little sign of making a big movement away. She did make it a few km east along the shore towards Whitegate but soon returned to her usual haunts. Last weekend she visited Inis Cealtra (Holy Island) for the first time and roosted there overnight which is remarkable given how close it is to where she was hatched. Last week all three, parents and chick, could be heard calling excitedly on the offshore islands from Mountshannon pier. Maybe parents know something is up and it’s time for Aoibheall to spread her wings?!

Last Tuesday (25th Nov) one of her parents, male Y (Caimin) was spotted by N Tipperary NPWS ranger Aine Lynch at Parteen weir south of Killaloe, 18 kilometres south of Mountshannon! Of course 18km is nothing for a White-tailed Sea Eagle, but given how faithful they are to their breeding ranges this was quite a trip away.  

Finally in the last few days Aoibheall took off and headed west inland roosting overnight between Tulla and Bodyke (25/11), the same day Caimin was at Parteen....coincidence? The next day she headed back to roost near Tuamgraney, on the edge of Scarriff Bay. By now she may be back home but we will know more soon.

Tue18th Nov 2014

Seems like most or all our adult WTSEs carrying satellite tags have pretty much settled down on territory (not counting the 2014 WTSE chick Aoibheall who has plenty of free time to explore her world for the next 3-4 years of course!). 2009 released male Star found his ‘Des Res’ in a beautiful corner of the Connemara coast in spring 2012, found a mate and nested for the first time this year. Although the pair failed at the point of hatching we’re hoping for big things in 2015. 2009 released male Eddie has had a pretty eventful life too having been found with a broken wing by Kerry farmer John O’Sullivan, rescued and re-released in Killarney National Park in Oct 2012. Funnily enough Eddie has settled only a few km away and within sight of John’s farm (to whom we owe a debt of gratitude!). Also to Currow falconer Pascal Walsh for helping retrain Eddie how to fly! Eddie has yet to breed but like Star we’re hoping he will nest in 2015 having found his own territory on the Iveragh peninsula.

2011 female Zanzi seems to have finally settled ‘next door’ to Eddie on the Iveragh peninsula (on the map of Ireland both Zanzi and Eddie’s range look pretty much the same). She has had her own spell of wandering, spending several months in north Mayo before returning to Kerry. After spending much of the last year ranging all over the Iveragh and Beara peninsulas, the last few months have been settled on Iveragh. At this stage we don’t know if she is as yet paired up or not but time will tell. Partly by chance there is a real shortage of males in the part of south-west Kerry where Zanzi is with at least 4 unpaired females, all of breeding age, in a fairly small area. On the other hand one of our breeding territories just across the Kenmare river on the Beara peninsula is a ‘ménage a trois’ of 2010 female 16 and 2011 males L and M!! Anyone tuning in the latest series of ‘Vikings’ on RTE will know that Scandinavian females are no shrinking violets!!  

Last but not least 2011 male Ingar has been settled on the Fermanagh lakes since April. We don’t know as yet if he has found a mate or whether he will stay but looks like he has found his home in the beautiful lakelands of Upper and Lower Lough Erne. This would be our first WTSE territory in Northern Ireland and roughly half way between the Kerry release site and the most southerly breeding site of the Scottish population. Maybe the first steps towards a greater pan-Celtic WTSE population? One day, hopefully, we will have enough an Iolar Mhara pairs out there to ‘join the dots’ between populationssmiley

Sat tagged WTSEs on territory
Mon10th Nov 2014

Ingar has been pretty much settled back on Upper Lough Erne, Fermanagh, in the last couple of weeks and looks likely that he will spend the winter there. Lots of great wooded islands and shoreline to choose from. Its amazing how individual birds change in their habitat use as they get older and presumably think about settling down, establishing a territory and breeding. Ingar spent much of his first two years of life inland in the mountain and valleys of west and south Kerry presumably because there was rick pickings to be found for a scavenging eagle, ie., dead animals. But since he arrived in Fermanagh his focus has really shifted to the lake-shore, not only because its got good fishing but because its prime real-estate for a territorial eagle. And so far it seems like he has it all to himself. With a bunch of unpaired females in Kerry I'm hoping one of them will take a trip up north over the winter/spring......watch this space

Ingar 10nov14
Tue28th Oct 2014

Aoibheall has been making some nice flights south and south-east to the Tipperary shore and also one flight east towards Williamstown. The autumn weather is still pretty mild and windy but the days are getting shorter as we lead into the winter. Aoibheall is showing all the signs she might spend the winter on Lough Derg

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