The eagles are landing... as first chicks on the way
THE first White-tailed Sea Eagles to be born here in more than a century are set to hatch within the next six weeks.
A four-year-old male and three-year-old female, which were imported from Norway, are currently guarding two eggs laid in a nest near the shores of Lough Derg, just outside Mountshannon, Co Clare.
Wildlife experts are now waiting anxiously to see if the eggs hatch, as the budding parents fight off threats of nature such as hooded crows.
Seeing the birds breed successfully would be a landmark moment for the Golden Eagle Trust, which has been re-introducing them to the Irish countryside.
"This is truly momentous," said Dr Allan Mee, project manager for the trust. "It seems a long time since we collected these birds as chicks from nests in the wild in Norway, and to see them now nesting in the wild themselves in Ireland is the day we have all been waiting for," he said.
However, conservation experts are adopting a cautious approach and have not yet visited the site in case they might disturb the nesting couple.
But at this point all the signs are that "mum and dad'', who went through a getting to know each other period in Killarney National Park, have taken to one another and that some offspring are on the way.
Last year both birds finally settled in their new habitat near Lough Derg and are now nesting just 2km from a famous early Christian monastic site at Holy Island.
White-tailed Sea Eagles, which became extinct in Ireland in 1898, normally breed when they turn five but breeding pairs as young as three have been recorded in Scotland.
The pair are now caring for two eggs which have between three and six weeks to hatch but observers are consoled by the fact that the birds have been quick to spot potential dangers -- such as the presence of the hooded crows.
The project has been developed and funded by the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht in partnership with the Golden Eagle Trust.
Norumm Myklebust of the Norwegian Institute for Nature Research (NINA) commented: "NINA is delighted to hear of the first breeding attempt of the White-tailed Eagle in Ireland for 110 years.
"The event is receiving considerable media attention in Norway and we hope the birds will be given the freedom from disturbance they need to maximise the chances of successful breeding."