Return of the sea eagle

Image courtesy of Laurie Campbell & the North Harris Trust.
Image courtesy of Laurie Campbell & the North Harris Trust.

The new Lewis & Harris branch of Curracag – the Western Isles natural history society – is kicking off its spring programme of events with a fascinating illustrated talk on the return of the White Tailed Sea Eagle to the Western Isles.

The talk will take place on Thursday 7th March at 7.30pm at the Bridge Centre, Stornoway.

Known in Gaelic as Iolaire Suile na Grein - The Eagle with the Sunlit Eye - the white-tailed sea eagle is our largest bird of prey and is, frankly, enormous. It has a wing span of up to 7 feet and is the fourth largest eagle in the world.

Its huge rectangular wings have led it to being nicknamed ‘the flying barn door’. Seeing a sea eagle close up is an unforgettable experience, and a sighting is always a highlight of any walk or boat trip to the wilder parts of the islands.

The white-tailed sea eagle was once very widespread, even nesting as far south as the Isle of Wight in 1780. However, the species became extinct in the UK when the last known bird was shot in Shetland 1918.

After several failed reintroduction attempts, the sea eagle finally returned to Britain in the 1970s, when a number of Norwegian birds were flown to Scotland and released on the Isle of Rum. Since then they have slowly started to return to some of their old haunts – including secluded coastlines around Lewis and Harris.

The talk will be given by Robin Reid, Western Isle Conservation Officer for the RSPB. Having studied island eagles at close quarters for many years, he is keen to raise awareness of this iconic species.

“Having lost many of our largest predators to human persecution, I feel very lucky to have experienced the return of the Sea Eagle across large areas of the Scottish West coast over the last 10 years” says Robin. “This species is part of history and culture as well as our rich and varied natural history.”

If you’d like to learn more about the fortunes, habits and challenges facing this amazing bird, do come along to the talk.

To find out more, and to see the full spring events programme, visit the Curracag website www.curracag.org.uk or search for ‘Curracag’ on Facebook. You can also phone Mick Blunt on 01851 820981 or email him at mick@jmt.org,