TWO sea eagles have returned to Orkney, boosting excitement that the islands may see its first chicks in nearly 150 years.
The young pair are preparing to nest on RSPB Scotland’s Hoy Nature Reserve, and experts are excited about the prospect of chicks being bred.
The sea eagles are believed to be the same pair which nested on the reserve last year – the first breeding attempt seen in the county since 1873.
Although last year’s eggs were infertile, hopes are high that with their growing maturity and experience from last season the birds may be successful this spring.
Alan Leitch, RSPB Scotland’s sites manager in Orkney, said: “It is very exciting to see Hoy’s sea eagles back on the cliffs.
“It’s been quite a journey from their national extinction in 1918 to seeing these birds soaring over Orkney’s hills and coasts again.
“And with luck we may all witness the next step in their story this year.”
Orkney has a long association with sea eagles.
A Pictish symbol stone found at Harray features a carving of the bird, and sea eagle bones were found inside a Neolithic tomb on South Ronaldsay.
But the species became extinct across the British Isles due to widespread habitat loss and human persecution. The last bird was shot in Shetland in 1918.
Sea eagles were re-introduced to the country in the 1970s, and now a pair have decided to build a home in Orkney.
Mr Leitch added: “With a wingspan of 2.4metres, or eight feet, sea eagles are one of the most magnificent birds you can hope to experience in Orkney.
“We’re looking forward to helping people spot this pair at an informal watchpoint at the small roadside car park for the Dwarfie Stane, opposite the Dwarfie Hamars, the cliffs where the birds have recently been seen displaying.
“To give these birds the best chance of success, please don’t approach the cliffs and keep dogs under very close control in the vicinity.”
He added: “There’s no problem with visiting the Dwarfie Stone, but to be on the safe side we would recommend not lingering too long or gathering in large groups there – the best views are to be had from the car park in any case.”
“Nesting sea eagles are specially protected by law, so if you see any signs of disturbance please pass your concerns onto the police straightaway.”