Sea eagle lost for 4 years discovered with family in Sutherland

A sea eagle, which went off the radar four years ago, has been found successfully raising a family in the Highlands. Picture: SWNS
A sea eagle, which went off the radar four years ago, has been found successfully raising a family in the Highlands. Picture: SWNS
Share this article
0
Have your say

She was a scruffy chick who blossomed into a thriving young bird, only to disappear below the radar.

But four years after the last sighting of a rare sea eagle who charmed conservationists, she has reemerged from the wilderness.

The bird, known as Shelly, was fitted with a satellite tag as a chick on Mull in 2010 as part of a pioneering project funded by Scottish Natural Heritage and Natural Research Ltd.

Her every movement was tracked by RSPB Scotland Mull Eagle Watch, with a dedicated web page set up to document her travels.

As Shelly grew, she began to embark on longer journeys from her nest in Tiroran, a community owned forest 
in the shadow of Ben More, wandering as far afield as Lewis.

But one day in 2013, Roy Dennis, an eagle expert at the Highland Foundation for Widlife, noticed the movements picked up by her tag – which had been designed to last for five years –suddenly stopped.

The tag itself was eventually recovered from Lewis, but there was no sign of Shelly, and those who had followed her adventures resigned themselves to the fact they would never know what happened to her.

This summer, however, Iain Paterson, a photographer and keen birder, was visiting a remote sea loch in Sutherland when he spotted a sea eagle diving for fish.

He captured the bird’s photograph, its blue and silver coloured leg ring - featuring the figures ‘C9 39’ - clearly visible in the picture.

After passing on the authorities, RSPB Scotland discovered it was Shelly, many miles from her home, but thriving.

Dave Sexton, the charity’s Mull officer, said: “I knew the blue and silver combo meant 2010 and my heart was racing as I looked back at the ringing and tagging records for that year.

“I’d always wondered how Shelly was and where she might be. And there it was on the breeding summary: ‘C9 39; chick satellite tagged’. We’d found her.”

Mr Sexton said Shelly, now seven, has “transformed” from the “rather scruffy brown chick” that nested in Mull.

Mr Paterson has since reported that she has paired up with a male, and that this year they were raising two chicks.

He said: “One thing I can say about Shelly is her elegance for such a big bird. When she picks up a fish there’s hardly a splash.”