Nature lovers will be taken out in a boat at Killarney National Park this weekend in the hope of viewing two of the park’s most prized possessions, white-tailed sea eagle chicks.
It’s believed there are two such chicks in the nest at the park’s biggest lake, Lough Leane. However, there could be more, as park rangers have kept their distance for the past two weeks as the chicks can suffer stress if disturbed by humans.
These chicks are the latest of the 100 sea eagles re-introduced to Kerry from Norway between 2007 and 2011 as part of a joint National Parks and Wildlife Service and Golden Eagle Trust joint project. It is believed 30 to 40 of these birds, the largest avian predator, are still alive.
The lucky day trippers are visiting the park as part of the two-day Nithish Biodiversity Safari, which as part of National Biodiversity Week, will see participants trek the lakes and woods looking for species such as the Kerry slug and take part in a nocturnal nature ramble.
White-tailed sea eagles are renowned aviators and the mother of these chicks travelled as far as Scotland at one point since the re-introduction, according to Dr Allan Mee, White-Tailed Eagle project manager with the Golden Eagle Trust.
Another of these re-introduced eagles was recorded flying north of the Orkney islands.
There are up to 14 pairs of sea eagles in Ireland. The first successful breeding by a pair of re-introduced sea eagles was in 2013 at Mount Shannon in Clare.
Thirty-two of the original 100 have died in recent years with 14 dead from poisoning and two more shot. Scientists believe another seven or eight were likely poisoned but have been unable to confirm this. “The years of finding poisoned eagles was hard and so it’s great to see breeding and we hope that more will breed yet. It’s believed that farmers may have put out poison for foxes and the eagles ate it.
“At the time, Ireland was one of two countries in the EU that had a derogation from a wider European ban on using such poison. This derogation has since been lifted,” said Dr Mee.
The eagles were all tagged with transmitters. Up to nine of the females have bred since their introduction with chicks born in Cork, Kerry, Clare, and Galway.
According to Dr Mee, the chicks won’t make themselves fully visible to the public for another two weeks.
“Normally they lay two eggs, with the second seen as an insurance egg, but there could even be a third there,” he said.
The eagles, a big attraction in any of the counties that they have made their home, are viewed as having the potential to enhance rural economies through wildlife tourism, as is happening in countries such as Scotland and Norway.
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