Glengarriff Nature Reserve and its Park Rangers are delighted with their special new arrival – a White-Tailed Sea Eagle chick. It’s a rare occurrence, and a dedicated live-streaming webcam - clickable above - watched every moment, along with the parents-to-be, at the nest.
Parents Black P (female) and Blue W (male) are two of the 100 eagle chicks brought to Ireland from Norway from 2007 to 2011 as part of a programme to introduce this iconic species back to Irish skies after a century of extinction.
In all, around 26 chicks have fledged from other nests around the country since 2013, as the new arrivals created their own, Irish-born generation.
Conservation Ranger Clare Heardman, who’s been heavily involved with the eagle reintroduction programme, said of the newborn: “I was so excited to catch the first glimpses of a fluffy little chick in the nest. It was such a tender moment to see this massive bird feeding its tiny chick so delicately.
“Because of my work I get the chance to see eagles almost every day, but I never tire of it: I continue to pinch myself that we have these magnificent birds back in our skies after an absence of 100 years.”
Despite the pressures of the Covid-19 situation, Rangers have had a bird’s eye view of the latest developments. “Covid-19 has severely restricted the amount of monitoring we can do this year, so we are especially lucky to have this camera set up so we can remotely monitor the Glengarriff nest,” said Clare.
“It's a particular thrill this year to be able to share some of the excitement of watching eagles at the nest with a much wider audience. Many people are largely confined to home at the moment so I hope bringing this bit of nature to people, wherever they are, brings a spark of joy and a message of hope.”
This live-streaming webcam was set up by the National Parks and Wildlife Service, working with the OPW. The camera offered close-up insights of the parents' rituals as they awaited the birth of the chick, as yet unnamed.
"I hope bringing this bit of nature to people, wherever they are, brings a spark of joy and a message of hope”
Eagles have been nesting in Glengarriff since 2013. Three years later a pair of eagles at this nest raised the first eagle chick – named Eddie - to fledge in County Cork in over a century. In 2018 the original female (Green D) was ousted by the younger female P. This new pairing of parents have up to now not fledged a chick. Bad timing and weather, including Storm Hannah were the causes – so the Rangers are delighted with their successful hatch this year and are hoping they will finally manage to fledge a healthy chick..
Ireland’s new influx of eagles are gradually becoming established breeders with around a dozen nesting pairs currently in counties Cork, Kerry, Tipperary and Galway. It is Ireland’s largest bird, with a wingspan of up to 2.45m. And it’s easy to spot the sexes - the females are around 40pc larger than the males and can weigh up to 7kg.
“I am on the White-tailed Sea Eagle Steering Group, which was set up to oversee the reintroduction programme. I work closely with other National Parks and Wildlife Service colleagues and Dr Allan Mee (White-tailed Eagle Reintroduction Manager), who was employed by the Golden Eagle Trust,” said Clare.
Each year begins with Rangers trying to identify nests, hoping that the adults have survived another year, and waiting to see if eggs are laid and incubated. The tensest part comes with waiting to see if chicks will manage to hatch successfully and survive. The first three to four weeks of their lives are the most vulnerable, when many die due to inexperienced parents, bad weather or a lack of food.
After 10 weeks chicks are ready to take their first steps – or rather, flights – as they clumsily get used to taking off from the ground under the power of their massive 2.2m wingspan.
The eagles’ nest on the webcam is in a pine tree. Video clips have offered an insight into their daily lives. In one clip the female is seen settling into the nest in the run-up to egg-laying. At this stage she rarely leaves, except to gather more soft material to line the nest. When eagles meet they often call to each other: in a clip she is seen suddenly alert and then calling. In this case she is begging and male brings a fish to her as though she were a chick. This type of food-begging by adults at the nest is rarely witnessed but presumably forms part of a courtship and bonding process.
The White-Tailed Sea Eagle reintroduction programme is a joint initiative between the NPWS and Golden Eagle Trust in collaboration with the Norsk Institutt for Naturforskning and the Norwegian Ornithological Society. The project is managed by Dr Allan Mee.