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Released East Coast Sea Eagle Seen on Mull

Britain’s biggest bird of prey is spreading over the country once more, with a white tailed eagle released last year in Fife meeting up with birds on Mull, the descendants of the original Rum reintroduction which began in 1975. 

RSPB Scotland staff spotted ‘bird F’ on Mull flying with two natives, and its sense of adventure is good news for the future of the species in Scotland and the whole of the British Isles, as well as the public who are often amazed to see such a large bird in British skies.

Bird F was one of 15 chicks released last summer, the first of the 5 year East Scotland Sea Eagle Project (ESSE).  He was last been spotted with the aid of radio tracking equipment at Grantown on Spey in September, until RSPB Scotland Mull Officer Dave Sexton spotted a strange bird flying near Loch Frisa.

“I saw this young sea eagle flying in to roost at Loch Frisa with two other young wing-tagged eagles for company” said Dave.  “I knew the other two were wild bred chicks from the west coast but I thought I spotted a radio aerial on the back of the third bird and my heart skipped a beat! Could this be one of the east coast birds or even one of the 15 sea eagles released in Ireland last summer? By then it was getting dark and I lost sight of the bird”.

The team on Mull called RSPB Scotland’s ESSE project officer Claire Smith, who travelled to Mull with the special radio tracking equipment she uses to try and keep up with the East Scotland birds.  

Claire Smith said, “sea eagles can wander a long way very quickly so it could have been one of several birds. After checking a couple of feeding areas we returned to Loch Frisa and picked up a regular beep.  After a couple of hours I was delighted to see it was bird F who I last saw in Grantown on Spey in September.  He appeared to be on the move but we managed to see him the next day.”

This bird is already quite a trend setter. He was the first chick to be collected from Norway in 2007 and first to be released from the holding cages. He also has an unusual and distinctive feature in that he has two white talons on one foot. He has spent most of his time since release near St Fergus eating rabbits and geese.

“This is fantastic news” added Dave Sexton.  “The fact that the Eastern and Western birds are already mingling bodes well for the future of the species, which was extinct in the UK due to human persecution by 1918 despite once being widespread all over the country.  This bird is too young to breed and will have to wait a few more years, but we’d expect some of the Western birds to eventually head East too, recolonising the species former range and enhancing its genetic diversity.  We hope that bird F, who locals on Mull are calling Fifer, hangs around for a while longer.  People will have a great chance of seeing him and others at the Loch Frisa viewing hide on Mull which opens over Easter.”

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