One of the new Golden Eagle chicksTwo Golden Eagle chicks have flegded in Donegal this year.The chicks fledged in recent weeks fledged in Donegal in recent weeks. However a spokesman for the Golden Eagle Project said the population remains at a vulnerable level.There were three territorial pairs in Donegal this year with a further 5 territories occupied by single birds.However, it was encouraging to see two chicks fledge in 2013, after the failed breeding attempts in 2012.The Golden Eagle pair, in Glenveagh National Park, returned to a cliff ledge they first used in 2011, to breed in 2013. The pair was seen, for short periods, most days near the head of Glenveagh in the early spring. But by the middle of March they were sitting on two eggs.Indeed they did well to survive the prolonged cold spell in April, when the female was observed sitting tightly on her clutch, on the high cliff ledge, with a line of thick long icicles hanging down from the frozen rock face above her.Golden Eagles normally build their nests on ledges that are overhung by a rock face, several feet above, and thus get some shelter from the harsh upland weather in March and April.The Glenveagh pair only managed to hatch one of the two eggs laid and the chick was seen in the nest in May. The parents were seen hunting the mountain tops in the Derryveagh Mountains, especially in the late evening and early morning, and fed the chick primarily on hares.The local Rabbit population has dropped off in recent years, thus removing a valuable eagle food source. At least one Badger Cub, caught by the adults and eaten by the chick, was recorded during a nest visit. This female chick left the nest in late June in great condition. The Glenveagh pair has now fledged 6 wild young since 2007.The second pair laid and hatched two eggs. Unfortunately, the second weaker chick died after 4 weeks during a prolonged spell of wet weather. This pair is feeding on a wider range of prey items including hares, seabirds and rabbits. This year we were very surprised to find the long legs and skeleton of a freshly eaten well grown Grey Heron chick in the eyrie. The adults must have caught the chick either on its nest or shortly after fledged and carried it back to the eyrie. There were also feathers from a single grouse on the nest.The local farmers working the land near this nest have noticed a decrease in lamb losses to foxes and Hooded Crows, since the Golden Eagles established themselves in the area. This pair has now fledged four wild bred chicks since 2010.Now that 10 wild bred Golden Eagle chicks have fledged in Donegal, it is hoped that these Donegal eagles will gradually reach maturity and attempt to breed themselves.Wild bred individuals have been shown elsewhere to be more productive than the donor stock, released at the start of comparable restoration programmes. Donegal is the only county in Ireland to have breeding Golden Eagles and we hope in time that the tolerance of Golden Eagles by landowners in Donegal can be replicated in neighbouring counties on this island. The Golden Eagle Project – a background PoisoningThe Golden Eagle population in County Donegal is estimated at slightly over 20 individuals. Many of the birds have wandered far afield, to the Northeast of Scotland and Kerry. We estimate that between 30-50% of the 61 birds released to date may have been poisoned or persecuted. The 61 Golden Eagles were released as part of the reintroduction programme, managed by the Golden Eagle Trust in partnership with the National Parks and Wildlife Service. These estimates seem to suggest that this illegal mortality is evenly spread between Donegal, Northern Ireland and elsewhere in the Northwest of Ireland.Despite the proven support of the Donegal farming community for Golden Eagles, a small number of individuals continue to use poison on this island. Poisoning is still the primary threat to our vulnerable eagle population. However, an increasing number of people are using legal and discriminate legal control methods, which proves that there is an alternative to the illegal poisoning of foxes and crows.Golden Eagle Habitat and FoodThe Golden Eagle habitat and food availability in the Donegal Mountains is another concern. Uncontrolled mountain fires have had an untold impact on several potential viable Golden Eagle territories. Though some of the vegetation may recover within a period of several months, the affected Hare and Grouse numbers can take years to recover. They are dependent on clumps of taller heather and rank vegetation for cover, which can take 6-12 years to grow back before providing adequate cover, after an uncontrolled fire. There is a clear need, in some areas, for controlled annual burning of small patches of vegetation, on a 8-10 year rotational cycle, and also the need to encourage pockets of scrub and upland woodlands to provide shelter for both livestock and wildlife.Increased monitoring and enforcement of the Single Farm Payment conditions has placed an onus on upland sheep farmers to ensure that the land parcels they submit for payment are “fit for grazing”. The land classified as “unfit for grazing”, and therefore ineligible for payment, includes rank heather, scrub and taller vegetation, which is the required cover for Hares, rabbits and other animals and birds that the eagles depend on.The Single Farm Payment subsidy systems, which is central to the entire Irish Agri-Food Sector, is very complex and contains clear contradictions with its own Cross Compliance measures in relation to the protection of bird habitats. The key decisions makers, including the Department of Agriculture, Teagasc, National Parks and Wildlife Service and the farming representative bodies are working hard to resolve these inherent conflicts and adopt a broader landscape approach, under forthcoming Common Agricultural Policy changes.If the new farm payment scheme can incorporate a new system that recognises and rewards the less intensive upland farmer for producing food, enhancing the scenic landscape and protecting wildlife, the Donegal Mountains habitats can quickly respond and improve. This is also critical for An Bord Bia’s primary foreign marketing mantra that Irish food is green and sustainable. Recent research, including farm viability analysis by Teagasc and recent Population Census analysis by NUI Maynooth, shows that the current systems are not adequately supporting small farmers on the western seaboard.There is a real concern that upland farms on the western seaboard are perceived as “non viable”, in terms of food production alone. However, the economic, social and political consequences of increased farm abandonment go far beyond the Agri-food sector. Crucially, there has been a growing level of co-operation amongst the farming representative organisations, community groups, the tourism sector and a range of wildlife and recreational charities. The agreed consensus is that Upland farm management has a vital role, not just for the Agri-Food Sector, but also for managing the landscape as a tourism asset, its wildlife heritage and in supporting the social fabric of our unique cultural heritage, in Gaeltacht regions and other communities.The Golden Eagle population will always clearly reflect the land management policies in place and the wider wildlife richness of the mountains they occupy.TWO MORE GOLDEN EAGLE CHICKS BUT POPULATION STILL VULNERABLE was last modified: July 29th, 2013 by StephenShare this:Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Reddit (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pocket (Opens in new window)Click to share on Telegram (Opens in new window)Click to share on WhatsApp (Opens in new window)Click to share on Skype (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)
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