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Friday, December 19, 2014

19/12/2014: Sea eagles eat more lamb than fish


White-tailed sea eagles eat more lamb than fish, despite their name, according to images captured on the west coast of Scotland, the Telegraph reports.

A camera study set up in the Lorn area of Argyll to determine what the eagles were eating found that the birds brought eight or nine lambs back to the nest, and just seven fish.

Nearly 7000 images were taken of the nest during the breeding season earlier this year using motion sensitive cameras.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/earth/wildlife/11302220/Sea-eagles-eat-more-lamb-than-fish-despite-their-name-according-to-research.html

The study, carried out under a Scottish Natural Heritage licence, recorded 117 prey items being taken to the nest between January and July, nearly 70 of which were unidentifiable.

A total of 21 mammals were identified, as well as 14 birds, seven fish and a number of lambs.

The camera trial was set up after farmers and crofters repeatedly complained that sea eagles were responsible for killing their lambs.

Crofters on the Gairloch peninsula said in 2008 that the controversial raptors, which have been the subject of a successful reintroduction programme in Scotland, took 200 lambs in a single season.

Earlier this year, Willie Fraser, a crofter from the area, told a cross-party Hoyrood group earlier this year that some people had reduced the number of sheep they were keeping and others had given up altogether.

The trial is likely to be extended to other nests in 2015 to get a wider picture of what the birds are eating.

A sea eagle “steering group”, including representatives from SNH, the National Farmers’ Union, the Forestry Commission and the RSPB, has been set up in a bid to balance the needs of sheep farmers and crofters with the conservation of sea eagles.

A number of local “stakeholder groups” are also being established, covering areas including Mull, Argyll, Lochaber, Skye and Wester Ross.

Lachie Maclean, chairman of the Mull/Argyll/Lochaber group, said the photographs gave objective information on the number of lamb carcasses being brought to the nest and how often it occurred compared to other food sources.

He added that the survey provided a better idea of when lambs were most likely to be taken by sea eagles.

The group agreed cameras should be used at other nests next year, and that attempts to divert the attention of sea eagles from lambing areas should be trialled, including the use of scaring devices and diversionary feeding.

Earlier this year, SNH claimed the predation of lambs by the birds of prey was not widespread. But according to farmers in Argyll, there is now one lamb-eating sea eagle for every sheep farm in their area.

In May, Britain's biggest raptor was photographed in the skies over the Ardnamurchan peninsula carrying a lamb to its eyrie.


Read the article HERE.

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