Tag Archives: UK

White-tailed eagles return to southern Britain after 240 years

Patrick Barkham The Guardian

A white-tailed eagle, Britain’s largest bird of prey.
 A white-tailed eagle, Britain’s largest bird of prey. Photograph: Mike Crutch/Forestry England/PA

White-tailed eagles are gracing the skies of southern Britain for the first time in 240 years after six eaglets were released on the Isle of Wight.

The huge birds, which are fitted with satellite tags, are expected to disperse along the south coast of England in a scheme backed by the environment secretary, Theresa Villiers, who welcomed the return of the “majestic” species.

It is hoped Britain’s largest bird of prey will eventually breed in the wild and mirror the success of the reintroduction scheme in Scotland.

The birds, which grow to have a wingspan of up to 8ft (2.4 metres) and are also known as sea eagles, were persecuted to extinction across Britain by the start of the 20th century. It took several decades after chicks from Norway were returned to Scotland in the 1970s before the birds bred and expanded their range. There are now 130 breeding pairs across Scotland, and the six young Isle of Wight birds were taken from Scotland under special licence.

“This release is a great opportunity for the Isle of Wight to expand its ecotourism market, creating wealth and jobs in the local economy,” Villiers said.

The Scottish reintroduction, which centred on the Isle of Mull, was found to have bolstered the local economy by up to £5m a year.

In the five-year reintroduction programme led by Forestry England and the Roy Dennis Wildlife Foundation, up to 60 white-tailed eagles will eventually be released. At first they will be offered food at feeding stations to encourage them to settle along the south coast.

Roy Dennis, founder of the foundation, said: “I have spent much of my life working on the reintroduction of these amazing birds and so watching them take to the skies of the Isle of Wight has been a truly special moment.

“Establishing a population of white-tailed eagles in the south of England will link and support emerging populations of these birds in the Netherlands, France and Ireland, with the aim of restoring the species to the southern half of Europe.”

Tony Juniper, the chair of Natural England, which is licensing the trial, said: “The return of these spectacular birds to England is a real landmark for conservation. I very much hope that it will also provide a practical demonstration of the fact that we can actually reverse the historic decline of our depleted natural environment.

“It will also show how helping the recovery of our wildlife can be done at the same time as bringing benefits for people, in this case by offering a boost to the local economy through wildlife tourism.”

Moves to reintroduce white-tailed eagles into East Anglia 10 years ago were defeated by opposition from local farmers, who feared the birds would terrorise young pigs and take lambs.

The Isle of Wight was chosen as the location to reintroduce the species because its quieter coasts, cliffs and woodlands provide potential nesting and resting sites, while the Solent and surrounding estuaries offer plenty of food, with fish such as grey mullet and water birds forming the bulk of the eagles’ diet.

Bird found dead in Scotland was UK’s oldest Arctic tern

SCOTSMAN REPORTER Published: 06:00Monday 08 July 2019

image from Pixabay.com
A seabird found dead on a nature reserve has been named the UK’s oldest ever recorded Arctic tern – beating the previous record by nearly two years.

First ringed as a chick at Buddon Ness in Angus, the tern was discovered at the Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) Forvie National Nature Reserve in Aberdeenshire. The bird was found to be 32 years old, almost to the day, when it died, which is more than double the average tern lifespan of around 13 years.

The previous record holder was a tern recaptured on the Farne Islands, off the coast of Northumberland, in 2010, just over 30 years after being ringed as a chick.

Arctic terns are among the most remarkable birds that visit Scottish shores. Their pole-to-pole migration is the longest known annual journey by any animal. By moving continually between Arctic summer and the Antarctic summer, terns see more daylight than any other creature on earth. Clocking up up to 44,000 miles each year, the record-breaking bird may have flown up to 1.408 million miles during its lifetime.

Daryl Short, Reserve Officer at Forvie, who found the deceased bird, said: “It’s incredible to think that the bird I found flew the equivalent of to the moon and back, and then back to the moon and some way home again. Arctic terns are amazing animals. The birds are currently protecting their chicks at Forvie and other nature reserves around the country and they’re not afraid to give you a bump on the back of the head if you get too close to their nests.

“But unfortunately for them, terns are prey for some other seabirds, such as falcons and large gulls. So there was certainly an element of luck to this bird’s long life.”

The record-breaking tern will have survived predators, storms and food shortages to possibly parent well over 50 chicks. It probably travelled well over a million miles in its lifetime.

Stuart MacQuarrie, head of nature reserves for SNH, said: “This incredible little bird was first ringed on a Special Area of Conservation and found again 32 years later, not too far away, on one of our national nature reserves. As well as evidence that the bird regularly returned to this part of Scotland to rear its chicks, this shows the importance of protected areas and nature reserves for wildlife.

“Scotland’s nature reserves are beautiful places for people to visit. They are also carefully managed for conservation and important places for research, making a real contribution to tackling biodiversity loss. Our reserves constantly surprise and delight in equal measure and this little bird captures something of what makes them so special.”