Two pairs of Golden Eagles managed to rear and fledge one chick each in Donegal this season. Despite a spell of exceptionally bad weather in mid May, a single Golden Eagle chick fledged from two separate nests in recent weeks. In addition, two young Golden Eagle chicks were imported from Scotland and released in Glenveagh National Park, Donegal in mid August.
In a report Lorcan O’Toole of the Golden Eagle Trust, says this brings to 60 the number of chicks collected and released in Ireland over the last ten years. As a result of the release programme eight wild bred Irish Golden Eagles have now fledged over the last five years.
He said after a very harsh winter and a very wet period in May, the Golden Eagle Trust is delighted that two pairs of Golden Eagles managed to endure the weather conditions in the exposed uplands and fledge young again this year. The Glenveagh pair shifted nest site this season and selected a new site several kilometres from their 2010 eyrie. Two eggs were laid but only one egg hatched. The young chick developed slowly during the earlier part of the season – possibly as a result of a limited hunting and feeding, by the adult eagles, due to the prolonged period of wet weather. One of the widespread mountain fires in early May also destroyed potential feeding grounds within part of this territory.
The second pair used a nest site only 30 metres from last season’s eyrie. This coastal pair again fed primarily on seabirds and rabbits. The Golden Eagle Trust would like to acknowledge the support of the local sheep farmers at this site, who have been very co-operative since the eagles settled on site, he said
The Irish Golden Eagle Reintroduction Programme is managed by the Trust, in partnership with the National Parks and Wildlife Service. It is aimed to release up to 75 birds during the course of the project.
The Scottish Golden Eagle breeding season results were quite poor nd the stormy May weather was identified by Scottish fieldworkers as the most likely cause.
The new focus on the improved poisoning legislation by the Department of Agriculture and the National Parks and Wildlife Service has resulted in a reduction in the number of eagles and kites poisoned in 2011. However, poisoning remains a threat as a recent case of poisoned Buzzards, uncovered by Birdwatch Ireland, suggests. Wildlife groups need to continue to raise awareness of the poisoning issue among the hunting lobby, racing pigeon enthusiasts and farmers
The spate of uncontrolled wild fires in Donegal in early May impacted on several Golden Eagle territories. One empty nest that had been built by a pair of eagles, that did not lay eggs, was burnt and large parts of three other eagle territories were burnt. These fires wiped out the nearby breeding efforts of the local Hare and Red Grouse populations. The Irish Farmers Association, Teagasc and the Heritage Council are actively pursuing funding to implement best practice upland sheep farming management projects, which would benefit Irish mountain wildlife.
In total there were eight Golden Eagle Territories in Donegal this year, five occupied by pairs and three single birds holding territory. The Red Kites in Wicklow fledged at least 17 young in 2011 and the White-tailed Eagles, released in Killarney National Park, have begun to establish up to four territories in several separate counties.