These majestic birds were once commonplace along the whole of the south coast, but as with many of these apex predators, persecution ended their reign in the late 1700’s.
As a closet birdwatcher myself, and having spent a lot of time on the west coast of Scotland, you can imagine my excitement when the idea was first publicised. The re-introduction would be a dream come true. Of course, there is a lot of hard work to be done to ensure the welfare of the birds, but also to ensure land owners, farmers and locals are given the chance to express their concerns.
On a personal level, I feel the project has great potential. I sit at my desk and look out over Tennyson Down, imagining that at some point in the near future I might be watching eagles.
But what is the flip side to this? Is there a negative impact?
I have read the facebook posts and coverage in the local paper and there seems to be real concerns from various parts of the community. Whether you agree with them or not, these concerns must be addressed. It is important to highlight these issues, so that we can all base our decision on fair and relevant information.
As mentioned earlier, I have spent a lot of time in Scotland where there are healthy numbers of both Golden and White Tailed Eagles. I regularly visit the Isle of Mull specifically to see these birds and other species.
I have been visiting Mull at least twice a year for the past 5-6 years and have seen first hand what the Raptors bring to the Island. There is a thriving tourism industry based around the birds, from guided walks to boat trips out to photograph the eagles feeding. This has allowed local business and land owners to diversify and cater for the influx of tourists each year. I defy anyone seeing these birds in the wild not to be in awe. This is what brings me back time and time again.
So what will all this mean for us? Putting aside the obvious tourism benefits what else will this bring to the fore?
Well, the Island environment lends itself perfectly to the needs of these birds. With rich fishing grounds available through the spring and summer, and countless water birds on our estuaries during the winter. With the introduction of this species comes extensive protection of these environments, ensuring they are kept pristine for generations to come. I have heard concerns over our red squirrel population, but in reality a bird with a 2.5m wingspan would struggle to catch one. Red squirrels already live harmoniously with eagles in Scotland.
During the lambing season I have seen eagles feeding on lambs. Whether the lambs were dead or not prior to eagle feeding I can only guess, but with all the times I have visited Mull I have seen this only once. Mostly I have seen them feeding around the coast.
As an Islander, I support this project fully.
As a birder, I await the outcome of the public consultation with baited breath.
From an ecology point of view I feel we have an obligation to support a species that we were responsible for removing. I look forward to the possibility of seeing these birds alongside all the other wonderful species that call our Island home.