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Guided Walking Holidays in Mayo & Connemara, Ireland

 

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White Tailed Eagle Weekend

On Friday last, I tweeted the following :

“Not 1 but 2 WT Eagles above me in Killarney NP ! I will die happy.”

I was out walking around the lakes in Kerry, under the cover of mostly oak trees. When I emerged from beneath early summer’s developing canopy, I looked up to see a pair of magnificent White Tailed Eagles soaring up in the thermals above my head. It was a beautiful, sunny, dry and warmish day. I lay down on my back on the forest track and had a wonderful view of these magnificent birds through my binoculars for quite a few minutes. They were huge – we’ve all heard they’re called “flying barndoors”. I had seen eagles before in France, Spain and Poland, but nothing as big as these guys, and to think they’re possibly still immature. Had they even grown to their maximum size ?

After a while, they disappeared over the nearest mountain and were gone. A little later, one of them reappeared on my side of the hill again, but a little further away.

Now I decided that I would visit Clare on the way home Saturday to see the nesting pair on Lough Derg. Unfortunately, I ddin’t manage that, as I ran out of time to swing by and witness what would have made for a perfect White Tailed Eagle Weekend down south. Anyway, I was going to “die happy”, so it was no big deal and I thought I would surely get down there at some point over the coming weeks **.

White Tailed Eagle

White Tailed Eagle (source: Commons Wikimedia)

Die happy ? I’m afraid I didn’t even end the weekend happy. Back in Mayo on Sunday, I was told that “our” White Tailed Eagle, Lochlann, had been found dead near Castlebar.

Lochlann (“Place of the Lakes”, a name of Viking origin) liked Mayo and its lakes, big time. He first came here at the end of April 2011, spent almost all summer 2011 here, with the odd foray into Galway and had returned from winter roosting in Kerry at the end of March for this coming Mayo season.

Last summer, I spent three full 8-hour days out in the mountains looking for Lochlann. In addition, I spent god-knows-how-many sets of 1, 2, or 3 hours trying to spot him, when on the way to or from somewhere up in the wilds of west Mayo. I’d check out his satellite fixes on http://www.goldeneagle.ie/, which are time-delay released (three days later) and discover he was maybe just 500m from me on such-and-such a date. Alas, I never got to see our very own White Tailed Eagle.

It is beyond my comprehension how a person could poison or raise a weapon, point it and deliberately shoot such a magnificent creature of our shared planet. But the fact that I can’t fathom such actions is not what is important. What is vital is that it become incomprehensible to the type of person who actually did this.

What is required here is education. People like the person who did this need to be educated. The Irish Farmers’ Association and other rural bodies should play an active role in educating people about these magnificent birds and the level of threat (or lack thereof) they pose to livestock.

I am well aware of the attitude of many country people to “environmental” bodies, like An Taisce and the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS). Frankly, many country people do not trust them. Some think these bodies would prefer if all farming and rural activity was stopped and the whole country turned into one big National Park.

The people who work on these projects are undoubtedly wonderful. I am terribly sorry for them and the obstacles they seem to so regularly be confronted with.

Here is what I think must be done.  NPWS, together with the IFA and other rural organisations (what about Leader?), should get Norwegian, Welsh and Scottish farmers and other rural dwellers, who live with these magnificent birds in their countries, in to talk to Irish rural communities and farmers. Get them to tell the Irish what, if any, threat is posed by eagles and other birds of prey. Brand the events “IFA”, not “NPWS”, for greater buy-in.

Do it now, before any more are needlessly slaughtered.

Two years ago, Conall, a Golden Eagle, was poisoned up in Leitrim. I blogged angrily about that here.

** Today, May 18th, I read that the nesting effort at Mountshannon has unfortunately failed. However, those are young birds and hopefully they will find success in 2013 or beyond.

White Tailed Eagle

Measuring up to 95 cm in length and with a wingspan up to 245 cm, the White Tailed Eagle is a massive bird. Also known as the Sea Eagle, or indeed the White Tailed Sea Eagle, it is the largest raptor of northern Europe. Ireland’s reintroduced birds were donated by Norway, which boasts the largest population in Europe. These eagles mostly eat fish, small mammals and other seabirds.

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Conall Brutally Killed

Conall, barely 10 months old, was recently found brutally killed in the mountains of the Sligo Leitrim border.

Not the first child of his kind to have his short life savagely ended in this disgusting way, serious questions must be asked of the supposed law enforcement authorities in this country and of those charged with the care of such a young male.

How can people who poison the likes of Conall still be out there, rather than in prison, where they clearly belong ? How many people are there willfully poisoning their neighbours in this fashion ? How difficult can it really be to apprehend and punish severely those who willfully poison others ?

The communities in which this type of scandalous act of killing occur, whether Sligo, Leitrim, Kerry, or wherever, are small. Johnny knows Mick and Mick knows Billy. Get out and catch them and spare our society these criminals, who have no compassion, much less love, for those we share this island nation with.

I have enormous sympathy and respect for the NPWS team who work on these re-introduction programmes. I’m just not sure that this is a good thing.

But more questions :

How can Scotland and Norway continue to send their children to our shores, to be put at very real risk of falling victim to this wanton destruction ? How can their governments allow the exporting of their defenceless sons and daughters to another country where, seemingly, not enough is done to protect them ?

What role has education played in these eagle re-introduction programmes ? Have rural people and farmers been educated about these birds ? Farmers from the donating countries should be talking to our farmers about these birds and co-existing with them.

Shame on Scotland. Shame on Norway. Most of all, shame on Ireland. I am disgusted by all three of you.

Read more here. And here.

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Lesser Spotted Eagle – Nice Story from Poland

Lesser Spotted Eagle : Cows to protect rare birds

Twenty five cows are to be handed over to farmers in eastern Poland to graze in the open, thereby creating an ideal habitat for the Lesser Spotted Eagle, Polskie Radio reported on January 5.

Lesser Spotted Eagle

Lesser Spotted Eagle

This is part of a project aimed at protecting this large Eastern European bird of prey, launched in Poland with funding from the EU and the National Nature Protection Fund.

“The farmers are expected to breed the cattle and hand over the young to other farmers in the region. The programme focuses on improving the habitat of the Lesser Spotted Eagle in Bialowieza and Knyszynska Forests,” the radio said.

The project, which is costing some 4.6 million euro, also provides for erecting 300 wooden posts enabling the eagles to look out for prey in the open fields, mowing overgrown deserted fields and creating small water reservoirs.

About 1,900 pairs of the Lesser Spotted Eagle nest in Poland. I’ve been lucky enough to see two and other magnificent wildlife on visits during springtime in recent years.

This story is quite reminiscent of the project underway for the last several years down in the Burren : BurrenLIfe – Farming for Conservation.

While this certainly sounds like a worthwhile project to save such an iconic species as the Lesser Spotted Eagle, I’d have two basic questions :

1. How could 25 cows, 300 wooden posts and “project management” possibly cost € 4.6 m ?

2. Won’t there be other birds and animal species that will lose out, as a result of the mowing of overgrown, deserted fields which might be perfect habitat for them ?

[Original story from The Financial – www.finchannel.com]

Lesser Spotted Eagle

At around 60 cm in length and with a wingspan of ca. 140 – 160 cm, this is a relatively small eagle. Indeed, the beak is also quite small for an eagle and the bird is not that dissimilar to a Buzzard. Eating mainly small mammals, frogs and insects, they like to perch at low level above fields, hence the erection of the wooden posts as part of this project. Absent in western Europe.

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