NINE white-tailed sea eaglets took to the skies yesterday as a project to reintroduce them to Killarney National Park continues.
So far, 64 white-tailed eagles have been released in Killarney, Co Kerry, 14 of which have died, including seven from poisoning.
This year, 11 protected birds of prey, including three kites, three white-tailed eagles, a golden eagle, three buzzards and a peregrine falcon, have been confirmed poisoned here.
The three white-tailed eagles were poisoned in a four-week period in the Beaufort area near Killarney, close to where they had been released.
Dr Allan Mee of the Golden Eagle Trust, and director of the Killarney project, yesterday said it was likely all three had fed on the same poisoned sheep carcass.
He was still hopeful, however, that the project would be successful, despite setbacks.
There has been strong farmer opposition to the project, amid fears eagles would kill lambs and that stricter regulations would be imposed on farming practices to facilitate the birds.
Farmers are liable to have their EU payments reduced if they are found to have killed protected wild birds such as eagles and red kites.
But, Dr Mee said there was also a huge amount of support for the project and felt what happened in Beaufort was most likely a single incident.
Following a recent meeting with the Irish Farmers' Association, the Irish Creamery and Milk Suppliers Association, Teagasc and other groups, he hoped the situation would improve.
"We must turn things around before next year's lambing season. I'm hopeful the meeting will be the start of a better relationship,'' he said.
Farm organisations have strongly rebutted suggestions the eagles were deliberately poisoned.
Farmer representatives maintain the poisonings were accidental, with the birds consuming substances that are normally put out for foxes, crows and other predators of lambs.
Gardai and the Department of Agriculture and Food are investigating the poisonings and nobody has been prosecuted, as yet.
The latest 22 birds -- 16 male and six female -- have again been donated by the Norwegian wildlife authorities.
Three of the birds have satellite tags that enables their movements to be tracked.
Some of the previously released birds have travelled all over this country and have been traced to parts of Co Antrim, Lough Neagh and the Orkney Islands in Scotland.