Eight more young golden eagles released in southern Scotland

Eight more young golden eagles have been released in southern Scotland as part of the project to bolster the tiny remnant breeding population there, which has been suppressed for decades, largely due to illegal persecution (e.g. see here for a recent example).

The eight eagles were collected as chicks from nests further north with expertise and assistance provided by members of the Scottish Raptor Study Group. The eaglets were cared for in aviaries at a secret location near Moffat until they were fully developed, and were then fitted with satellite tags and given a final health check before being released in to the wild.

This brings the total number of golden eagles successfully released in southern Scotland to twelve, where they’ve joined a small number of other young golden eagles that have hatched in the wild there in the last few years and who remain in the area, all of them also being satellite-tracked to monitor their survival.

The South of Scotland Golden Eagle Project is coordinating these releases and this lottery-funded project still has a number of years to run and more eagles are expected to be released in the future.

Up until now, the released birds and the wild birds have been observed interacting well (e.g. see here) and now the numbers are slowly increasing it’ll be interesting to see whether there are more flights over the border into northern England.

Two videos have been produced to illustrate the process of the eagle releases this year – the first video is about how the young eaglets are collected from their nests, and the second video explains what happens while the birds are being held in the aviaries up until the point of release. If you can ignore the tedious background muzac the content is very good:

19 thoughts on “Eight more young golden eagles released in southern Scotland”

  1. Hello, Great work you are doing Ruth.

    I wondered if you are managing to get any leverage with the Green Party and the latest agreement – in terms of actually getting action on licensing?

    I am a member but haven’t had time to do all the reading on the agreement etc (poor excuse)

    BW Phil

    1. Hi Phil,

      It’s not leverage with the Greens that is required – they are fully on board and have been pressing for grouse moor reform for a number of years. It’s the SNP that requires pushing – they’re finally pointing in the right direction but are far too slow in making any forward progress. The Greens, if their members support the agreement, will be perfectly placed to apply some serious pressure from within.

  2. Yes the music/muzac was a bit iffy in places, but great videos. Being upfront like this makes it harder for the opposition to fill an information gap with propaganda and smears about raptor workers and satellite tags. On the whole those young birds are probably doing a bit better than ones that weren’t taken from the nest in spite of the initial disruption. No veterinary checks for them, no guaranteed supply of food that won’t have any bits of lead or other unnatural toxins in it. A few years ago when an osprey chick tragically died during a RSPB ringing operation it pointed out it was not only an extremely rare incident on many occasions ringing birds in the nest actually allows staff to remove plastic waste and even more importantly discarded fishing tackle like line and hooks that had a fair chance of entangling and killing osprey chicks. Ringing ospreys has almost certainly saved their lives by this, but what was frustrating is that this point was briefly mentioned after an accident when it really should have been highlighted when the good deeds were actually done. The RSPB showing pictures of the potentially lethal human crap it had pulled from nests would do a lot to steal the thunder from the arses trying to malign raptor workers. As someone who has a good day if he does the washing up without breaking a cup I’m in awe of the hand/eye co-ordination and delicacy of those who work with birds of prey.

    1. Yes the pro shooters love to blather on about that accident as if it were an almost daily occurrence, conveniently forgetting the hundreds if not thousands of birds killed every year by the illegal persecution they condone.

    2. Is it likely that a fish, with a hook and some line attatched, is in some way more likely to be caught by an Osprey?

      1. REALLY good point! An acquaintance of mine had cast his line in a loch up north, when he turned round the actual rod and reel had been pulled in by what must have been a biggish fish. It would have eventually pulled several hundred metres of nylon line from the reel as it lay on the bottom of the loch. He later actually saw his fishing float being towed across the surface so the hook was well set in whatever had pulled the rod in. He tried to cast another line and hook across that line to retrieve it, but he was unsuccessful. That seriously impeded fish would be easy prey for a cormorant, otter, an osprey if the fish wasn’t too big for it or even a sea eagle. Whatever caught it would also have a hook and hundreds of metres of potentially lethal nylon line to deal with, it takes a very long time to degrade. And if nothing catches it before it inevitably dies then it becomes aquatic carrion carrying the same problem.

        The very first time I was taken fishing when I was about 11, at the end of the session, to my great horror, my ‘mentor’ cut off the line below the float complete with hook and lead shot and threw it in the water. I’ve found dead birds that have swallowed line with a baited hook left on it. It’s long overdue that compulsory training and licencing was required for fishing, a comprehensive ecological audit on where it currently stands wouldn’t hurt either.

        1. I do vaguely recall reading about a dead Osprey which had been caught on what was described as a poaching hook and line.

          1. You’re probably right, since you pointed it out I’ve realised how incredibly easy it would be for fishing tackle to end up in an osprey nest. Even ‘low’ breaking strain fishing line would be too strong for an osprey chick or for that matter adult to deal with. I really wish incidents where fishing tackle is found in a nest were flagged up whether or not they’d injured a bird. I happened to visit a fishing lake today where I was told old line is often left behind.

            1. Slightly off topic but wasn’t an Osprey skeleton found attached to a carp that had been caught in a lake somewhere?

              1. Wasn’t that a really large fish: the Osprey having got hold couldn’t let go, couldn’t take off so was dragged under and drowned?

  3. Interesting that you make mention of interaction between released and wild birds. Was it not the case in a particular year, perhaps the second of the project, that birds in that cohort were attacked, possibly killed, by an eagle from an earlier release which had established a territory in the release area? I seem to recall the birds were caught back up for release elsewhere. Presumably lessons have been learned from the quite basic error of resusing the same release site without consideration of the existing birds in the area.

  4. According the article on the BBC website- the program to increase Golden Eagles numbers in southern Scotland has cost £1.3 million. So by my reckoning that makes the 12 birds successfully released worth just over £108,300 each.
    How much is a grouse worth??? About £6.95 according to some game meat internet retailers.
    Whilst I do not think of the value of nature in monetary terms (nature is priceless, and hopefully these 12 eagles will go on to successfully breed and rear future generations of eagles). It does means these eagles are incredibly valuable, not just for their value to nature, but also for the cost associated with their release.
    Recent reports of eagle persecution in the Highlands do not fill me with hope that these birds will not fall prey to wildlife criminals. ​
    I hope nothing bad ever happens to these birds, but if it does I hope the police, the Scottish government and the public will consider just what it has cost to release these birds and act accordingly. …and if that also means banning any activity which has any association with any criminal activity which has led to that persecution, then surely that would be justified???
    £1.3 million is a lot of money to spend on a conservation project that could be wrecked because of a failure to effectively deal with those who see raptors as a threat.

    1. Hi John L, we are in agreement but I was just wanting to point out that the pro- DGS side will contend that the price of a grouse as a piece of meat is irrelevant, and that it is the capital cost and the ongoing ‘management cost’ making each bird (be it shot or not shot or predated pre-season or never even in existence due to predation in spring) worth the oft quoted hundreds or thousands (depending on a complex set of circumstances that vary year to year).

      Still, in the real world (one with an ethical compass) the real price of grouse is even more contentious. You quote the figure that each Eagle has cost, likely it is true. Well, let’s also consider how much is effectively being spent by DGS on manpower right now at this minute to kill those eight Eagles and any other raptors that pop up as opportunity arises. How much does it cost the industry every day to ensure enough keepers (of “the right sort”) are in place in enough geographical places and are willing to take their chances (and the risks) to shoot or trap or poison one or more of these Eagles when the time comes? In my opinion if DGS was conducted 100% within the law, then at very least a third of it’s workforce could be made redundant. So the effective price of a “successfully” killed Eagle will also have a big price tag…maybe even £100k as well! Would the grouse industry big-boys both sides of the border get together and happily fund-raise £1 million and have all of these birds killed right now, with no legal ramifications? I would say yes, they certainly would.

  5. No mention in the film whether these chicks are taken from 1 chick nests or 2 chick nests. Surely one chick should be left for the adults to complete their natural roles of rearing young. If not then that nest would have to be classed as a failure. Surely the same non-ethics as in HH brood meddling ??

    1. In several places on the South of Scotland website I read and heard that eagles are only taken from nests which have 2 chicks. This is as might be expected.

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