Mull white-tails keep Isle of Wight project flying

RSPB Mull officer Dave Sexton collecting a chick for translocating to Isle of Wight. Photo Nic Davies

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Mull continues to help release white-tailed sea eagles into the English skies.

Chicks from the island in 2019 were part of a first consignment that winged its way under a NatureScot licence to be part of a re-introduction project on the Isle of Wight led by Forestry England and the Roy Dennis Wildlife Foundation to bring the birds back to the landscape down south.

Mull missed sending more chicks in 2020 but was able to help again this year, says RSPB Mull officer Dave Sexton.

Pair of released birds. Photo: Forestry England

A cohort of birds from Scotland were flown down south in a plane to cut down their travelling time rather than facing a road journey.

White-tailed eagles, once widespread across England, are Britain’s largest birds of prey with a wingspan of up to 2.5 metres.

Mr Sexton said: ‘It’s an honour and a privilege to be involved in the collection of sea eagle chicks for this wonderful project.

‘Chicks from the Isle of Mull were part of the first consignment in 2019 and were actually the first two to be released into English skies.

‘We missed 2020 but we’ve been able to assist again this year with a further two chicks from Mull heading south and now flying free.

‘Their siblings, back in their original nests on Mull, have also now fledged successfully having had the lion’s share of food brought in by the adults.

‘I’d especially like to thank the two Mull estates which have been so helpful with allowing eaglets from nests on their land to be donated to the project.

‘Just as Norway helped us with chicks from 1975 to 2012, it’s a sign of the great conservation success story of sea eagles in Scotland that we are now in a position to help other countries with their schemes. A fantastic result all round.’

A further 12 white-tailed eagles have just been released on the Isle of Wight in the next stage of the re-introduction project which released six birds in 2019 and then seven more last year.

Evidence from similar reintroductions suggests that the rate of survival to
breeding age is around 40 per cent – 10 of the 13 previously released birds are
doing well.

The Isle of Wight project plans to release more than 60 of them over its five years, establishing a starter population of six to eight pairs but they are not expected to begin breeding until 2024 at the earliest.

Fitted with satellite trackers to monitor them closely, one bird released in 2020
crossed the English Channel and has spent time in France, The
Netherlands, Germany and Denmark since earlier this year.

Birds from Europe have also been spotted in the South of England, says the project.

Bird enthusiasts and members of the public across England have been reporting sightings of the eagles via @seaeagleengland on social media or via the Roy Dennis Wildlife Foundation website.