A juvenile white-tailed eagle, (Haliaeetus albicilla) of BBC Springwatch and Mull Eagle Watch fame, has been thrilling residents of Stranraer for more than a month now, having been sighted at various locations around the town and surrounding areas, in close proximity to both the North and South Rhins.
As the UK’s largest bird of prey, the bird’s huge stature (adults birds can have a wingspan of up to eight feet) has made the eagle highly visible against the backdrop of the town centre and harbour front, much to the delight of local resident and Scottish Ornithologists’ Club (SOC) member Brian Henderson, who managed to photograph the eagle on his phone.
“Being in the right place at the right time while out birding on Christmas Day provided me with an unforgettable and mesmerising, jaw-dropping experience as I watched the natural behaviour of the eagle at close quarters from the comfort of my car for over an hour and a half. During this time, the eagle repeatedly flew from its select vantage perch to feast on a nearby (carrion) carcass and then subsequently returned to the same vantage perch for vital plumage maintenance and drying. Phone-scoped images were captured detailing the majestic nature of the eagle and allowed for some detailed close-ups to be taken, which I doubt I will ever have the occasion to repeat again. Surely a once-in-a-lifetime experience, one that will remain firmly etched in my memory forever.”
The juvenile eagle, ringed as Black G1 55, was a wild bred chick from the Mull Eagle Watch project, a partnership between Forestry Commission Scotland, RSPB, Scottish Natural Heritage, Police Scotland and the Mull and Iona Community Trust.
At less than a year-old, Black G1 55 is no stranger to the news having featured as a chick on the BBC’s popular Springwatch programme. It is also the same individual captured on CCTV being evicted from its treetop nest on Mull by an immature white-tailed eagle last July. The intruder was thought to have spied the chick’s ready supply of food in the nest and was quick to seek out a free meal. Thankfully, local staff were quickly alerted to the drama unfolding and were able to recover the chick and return it to the nest from which it successfully fledged last year.
Juvenile white-tailed eagles are known to range widely in the search for food and so the sighting of the bird around Stranraer is not unusual.
RSPB Conservation Officer, Dr Alison MacLennan, said: “After they leave the nest, young birds will wander widely, usually within the range of the population as they are quite social birds and will visit communal roosts and territorial adults away from their natal area. But some birds – such as G1 55 will wander more freely to seek out a good food supply – and there is no shortage of food for a White-tailed Eagle wintering in the Solway.”
If you are interested to find out more about birds locally, or are keen to meet other like-minded individuals, the Scottish Ornithologists’ Club have a West Galloway branch which meets on a regular basis in Stranraer. For more information please visit www.the-soc.org.uk, or call 01875 871 330.
The White-tailed Eagle Project Team is keen to receive sightings of White-tailed Eagles and to encourage observers to send reports to the RSPB who collate sightings on the group’s behalf. Please phone or email sightings to your nearest RSPB office, or to the North Scotland regional office in Inverness. Contact details can be found here: http://www.rspb.org.uk/contactus/offices/scotland/index.aspx