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Plans to return sea eagles to Isle of Wight (1 Viewer)

Kits

Picture Picker
Conservationists are planning to reintroduce the UK's largest bird of prey to the south coast of England.

White-tailed eagles, which have a wingspan of up to 2.5 metres (8ft), were once widespread but were wiped out in the UK a century ago.

Now a charity is working with the Forestry Commission on a project to return the birds to the Isle of Wight.

A similar scheme in Scotland has already proved a success and there are now more than 130 breeding pairs.

The birds, also known as sea eagles, are currently deemed extinct in England but have been reintroduced in Scotland and Ireland.




Full article here.
 

Farnboro John

Well-known member
Superficially an attractive idea, but the Isle of Wight is not big enough for a population on its own, and the nearest breeding birds are in Scotland, so this is presumably a vanity project? Bit unfair on the birds. It would be better to let them colonise southwards from Western Scotland I'd have thought.

John
 

PYRTLE

Old Berkshire Boy
They talked about this for North Norfolk about 12 years ago but changed their minds. Based on fossil remains that the species naturally occurred in the county.
Even though there is plenty of wildfowl along the coast, especially The Wash through to Cley, other reasons scuppered the idea. I remember farmers talking about lambs and pigs being taken, I'm sure this will be the case again by some objectors. Let's not talk about the " gentleman" sporting pursuits yet but probably not too bad "darn sarf".
Can imagine one causing havoc at Pagham Harbour.
Agree that natural colonization is the way forward and reintroduction is a waste of money that could be spent saving and improving habitat, also protecting some fragile species.
 
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Jos Stratford

Beast from the East
Superficially an attractive idea, but the Isle of Wight is not big enough for a population on its own, and the nearest breeding birds are in Scotland, so this is presumably a vanity project? Bit unfair on the birds. It would be better to let them colonise southwards from Western Scotland I'd have thought.

John

I presume they would expand out from the Isle of Wight, I see no real reason to object to this idea.
 
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Hauksen

Forum member
Hi John,

Superficially an attractive idea, but the Isle of Wight is not big enough for a population on its own, and the nearest breeding birds are in Scotland, so this is presumably a vanity project?

In Germany, bird populations are tracked by map squares of ca. 130 km^2 , and in well-suited regions, one of these squares is home to up to 8 breeding pairs of Sea Eagles.

It looks like the Isle of Wight is about three map squares in size, and not so different topographically from the East of Schleswig-Holstein where four pairs of Sea Eagle "held the fort" during the 1970s' population minimum.

As juvenile Sea Eagles have been observed up to 1000 km away from their hatching sites, I don't think the Isle of Wight would necessarily be isolated from other populations either.

Regards,

Henning
 

Farnboro John

Well-known member
Hi John,



In Germany, bird populations are tracked by map squares of ca. 130 km^2 , and in well-suited regions, one of these squares is home to up to 8 breeding pairs of Sea Eagles.

It looks like the Isle of Wight is about three map squares in size, and not so different topographically from the East of Schleswig-Holstein where four pairs of Sea Eagle "held the fort" during the 1970s' population minimum.

As juvenile Sea Eagles have been observed up to 1000 km away from their hatching sites, I don't think the Isle of Wight would necessarily be isolated from other populations either.

Regards,

Henning

I don't know how heavily populated the East of Schleswig-Holstein is, but the Isle of Wight is part of the South Coast playground of Britain. In summer (breeding season) it is rammed with screaming holidaymakers, many of whom spill over onto the seas round about - full beaches, inshore waters with kite surfers, wind surfers, dinghy sailors, yachts, jet-skis, speed boats, anglers.... who did I forget?

On shore the island is full of ramblers, dog walkers, cyclists and people attending and moving between a thousand attractions built to pull them in. There is not much quiet space. How tolerant of noisy humans are breeding White-tailed Eagles?

While I take your point about movement of juvenile White-tailed Eagles I'd like to point out that the other side of that coin is that the last couple of them that travelled to Hampshire did so for their first winter and then disappeared off, presumably back whence they came, in one case that being known to be Finland. So how far they move in their youth is not necessarily indicative of the likelihood of them joining or founding a local population.

What we haven't had in Hampshire is a continuous stream of Scottish first-winter White-tailed Eagles checking out the big island, either temporarily or permanently. So a few birds on the Isle of Wight are likely to be isolated from Scotland, let alone Central/Eastern/Northern Europe.

So far as persecution goes I think it is fairly light in Hampshire and round about: we've plenty of Buzzards, the Kites are going from strength to strength, Goshawks do well in the New Forest - but we're not exactly over-run with them up here in NE Hampshire yet..... Peregrines we do have but half of them breed and roost in towns where shotgun-toting gamekeepers are rarely seen, so that may not be much of a guide to what happens to really predatory raptors in rural areas. Hopefully it would be OK.

John
 

Sangahyando

Well-known member
I don't know how heavily populated the East of Schleswig-Holstein is, but the Isle of Wight is part of the South Coast playground of Britain.
According to Wikipedia, the population densities of some of the districts where WTEs are doing well are 119 people per square km for Plön, 144 for East Holstein, 125 for Rendsburg-Eckernförde, and 96 for Schleswig-Flensburg (AKA Anglia). Compared to 370 people per square km for the Isle of Wight.
So yeah, there is a difference there. Why wouldn't they rather encourage WTEs to settle in Cornwall or other coastal counties? Wight could still serve as a staging point for passing eagles.
Also, I think the concerns for livestock are a bit overblown. Over here, we don't hear much about eagles stealing lambs, let alone pigs (I'm trying to picture eagles preying on pigs...). Of course, any dissent about eagles is overshadowed by the fact that our state has a transient wolf population which has already claimed dozens of sheep...


Surprisingly so.
Depends on the situation, I'd say. For example, AFAIK one of our resident eagle pairs on "my" local patch hasn't bred this year.
 
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jurek

Well-known member
White-tailed Eagles in Poland and Germany are now breeding in densely populated landscape (for over a decade, there has been a breeding pair within the borders of Berlin, for example). And dispersal of juveniles is hundreds of kilometers, so they can easily spread outside the island if the population grows.

Like other user, I am puzzled why only British farmers are intolerant of White-tailed Eagles. Farmers in Europe don't care. White-taileds eat fish, ducks, coots and carrion. But the same story was with wild boars, pine martens and beavers. Wild animals which people simply accept in suburban Europe are seen as some monstrous problem pests in Britain.
 

Hauksen

Forum member
Hi John,

How tolerant of noisy humans are breeding White-tailed Eagles?

Here in the vicinity of Hamburg, they are fairly cool with people. There are two breeding pairs within the city borders, both very close to side arms of the Elbe river. Another well-known pair breeds on an island in the Elbe river, and these can be seen resting on the groynes even on days when the banks are crowded with people, and there are a lot of pleasure craft underway on the river.

They certainly keep their distance, but while they're reserved, they're not really shy.

Since others have already mentioned it: I've never heard about Sea Eagles taking sheep either, though these are ubiquitious on the coast. They really prefer fish over everything else, and they certainly go after ducks and geese as well. I presume they just know what the perfect snack size is ... taking big prey involves an injury risk that makes it unattractive, evolutionary.

Regards,

Henning
 

WalterRayle

Emeritus Prof at University of the Bearded Clam
United Kingdom
From what I've heard from someone who's been at some of the consultation meetings, one of the reasons for choosing the Isle of Wight is because the area around it and onto mainland Hampshire, Dorset and Sussex is one of the least densely populated areas of Britain for sheep and pigs, meaning there will be limited opportunities for the eagles to take them (if the release was being funded by Natural England they would be responsible for compensation claims from farmers, as it's being privately funded there is no obligation for compensation to be paid, as I understand it). The other main reason being the historic presence of the species on the island (The planned release in Norfolk 12 years ago was NE funded and scrapped when the recession kicked in). Also, I gather that it is thought that the eagles will hunt around the relatively quiet (from a people point of view) harbours and estuaries at Lymington, Beaulieu, Sotuhampton Water and the Portsmouth to Pagham complexes and possibly Christchurch and then onto Poole harbour.

As to it being a 'waste of money' it is being funded entirely by the Roy Dennis Foundation, so no tax payer money is being spent on it, and it is private land owners on the island who are providing release areas for them. There is a knock-on effect that they will probably bring a lot of money into the area from people who don't want to go to Scotland to see them. I often used the argument seen above about how the money for the bustard introduction could have been spent on species we're currently losing, like other farmland birds, but having seen huge increases in Yellowhammer and Corn Bunting in particular at one of the bustard release areas, I've slightly, but only slightly changed my mind a little - these increases wouldn't have happened without the bustards.

As to where they could spread to, there are plenty of cliffs along the Dorset coast, with easy fishing/feeding nearby which they could spread along to.
 

PYRTLE

Old Berkshire Boy
Also, I think the concerns for livestock are a bit overblown. Over here, we don't hear much about eagles stealing lambs, let alone pigs (I'm trying to picture eagles preying on pigs...).

Piglets when reared outdoor.

There are many examples and footage of wild golden eagles taking lambs, hunting Chamois and even one of a child being lifted off the ground in Canada. Others show a white tailed eagle returning to it's nest with a lamb ( video by Gordon Buchannan on Isle of Mull ).
I cite these purely as examples of the capabilities of this immensely powerful family of birds.

Personally I would have loved to see White tailed Eagles soaring over the North Norfolk coastline and I recall a juvenile hanging around not too far away from Sandringham c.15 years ago during winter.

R.D. has done wonders for bird of prey study and reintroduction. Why haven't they looked at reintroducing W.T. Eagle along the North East Coast of Scotland? Closer to Scandanavia and plenty of habitatl for feeding and nesting whilst not too densely populated.
 

John Cantelo

Well-known member
If the species is going to be reintroduced into England then I'd have thought that there are a number of better areas to attempt doing so and which would be likely to better support the species. One reason why the IoW has been chosen above other areas appears to be the claim that they bred on Culver Cliff in the 18th C. The evidence for this seems weak and I know has been doubted by Hampshire ornithologists in the past.
 

Hauksen

Forum member
Hi Pyrtle,

Others show a white tailed eagle returning to it's nest with a lamb ( video by Gordon Buchannan on Isle of Mull ).
I cite these purely as examples of the capabilities of this immensely powerful family of birds.

Quite interesting, I hadn't been aware that is actually a documented thing.

I didn't mean to suggest it was impossible, just that it never caused any concern in Germany, as far as I can tell. Even googling it, I only found a single mention of Sea Eagles as potential sheep predators, and that in very en passant way in a discussion of crows and ravens as sheep predators. (These are accused of preying on new-born sheep - which has long caused real concern among German shepherds.)

With regard to Golden Eagles, I believe they are mammal hunters primarily, while for Sea Eagles, the order of preference is fish - birds - mammals, with mammals often being accessed as carrion.

Regards,

Henning
 

PYRTLE

Old Berkshire Boy
Quite interesting, I hadn't been aware that is actually a documented thing.
With regard to Golden Eagles, I believe they are mammal hunters primarily, while for Sea Eagles, the order of preference is fish - birds - mammals, with mammals often being accessed as carrion.

Henning, I've refrained from posting the link as some members may get upset and yes I think it would be extremely rare that a live lamb would be taken rather than a fresh fish or carrion.
 

Hauksen

Forum member
Hi Pyrtle,

Henning, I've refrained from posting the link as some members may get upset and yes I think it would be extremely rare that a live lamb would be taken rather than a fresh fish or carrion.

Not a problem ... I take your word for the existence of the video, what I meant to say was merely that I googled for German-language reports of Sea Eagle preying on sheep :)

Regards,

Henning
 

Xenospiza

Distracted
Supporter
Give it 30 years and White-tailed Eagles might spread from the continent. Already quite a few breeding pairs in the Netherlands. I know the British like to "return" all these flagship species, but you might want to spend your money on wildlife that is actually endangered...
 

Farnboro John

Well-known member
Give it 30 years and White-tailed Eagles might spread from the continent. Already quite a few breeding pairs in the Netherlands. I know the British like to "return" all these flagship species, but you might want to spend your money on wildlife that is actually endangered...

That was pretty much our point. And looking at the British Isles holistically, these are already back, so this is a crazy waste of resources.

John
 

david kelly

Drive-by Birder
Give it 30 years and White-tailed Eagles might spread from the continent. Already quite a few breeding pairs in the Netherlands. I know the British like to "return" all these flagship species, but you might want to spend your money on wildlife that is actually endangered...

No need to wait there are 100 or so pairs in Scotland.

David
 

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