Million euro eagles bring tourism flying back to Mountshannon
Lough Derg legends
A pair of White-tailed Sea Eagles will have brought at least a million euro into Mountshannon by the end of summer.
The pair, a seven-year-old male named Caimin and a six-year-old female called Saoirse, have been nesting on Lough Derg since 2011.
Two years after their arrival, Caimin and Saoirse created history when they reared the first chicks to fly from a nest in Ireland in 110 years.
In 2014, they hatched another chick, and locals are hopeful of a third this summer.
But chicks aren't all that have hatched.
Last year, a White-tailed Sea Eagle Viewing & Information Point opened on a pilot basis at Mountshannon Pier in Co. Clare. Over 10,000 people flocked to Lough Derg between July and September, generating more than half-a-million euro for the local economy in the process - according to Clare County Council, which funds the facility.
This year, the Council expects visitors to "at least" match that figure - with the birds on course to bring more than a million euro into the area over two short summers.
The viewing point on Lough Derg
A programme to reintroduce White-tailed Sea Eagles into Ireland began with the release of young Norwegian birds in Killarney National Park in 2007.
It is funded by the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht.
The programme hasn't won universal approval, of course. Some 13 birds have been poisoned since 2007 - with the most recent discovered in a nest in Connemara just this April.
However, a visitor survey conducted last year found that 43pc of people said the Co. Clare Viewing & Information Point was the primary factor influencing their decision to visit Mountshannon.
"Our trial opening in 2014 shows there is significant and genuine interest amongst the general public in these wonderful birds," said Congella McGuire, Clare Heritage Officer.
"People are especially fascinated by how and why the birds have settled and began to breed in Lough Derg. This project also demonstrates the potential in terms of tourism product development at this location."
Caimin and Saoirse's most recent chick, Aoibheall, has been tracked flying in Roscommon, Longford and Offaly and is currently believed to be around Lough Ree, according to the Golden Eagle Trust's Facebook page.
The Mountshannon viewpoint, which features telescopes, information and displays about the White-tailed Sea Eagles, is run by the Mountshannon Eagle Group in conjunction with the Golden Eagle Trust and Mountshannon Community Council.
The Mountshannon breeding pair of eagles were originally collected as chicks on the island of Frøya off the west coast of Norway by the Golden Eagle Trust.
See mountshannoneagles.ie for more info.