Carinish pupils come eye to eye with the mighty Sea Eagle

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A group of local schoolchildren enjoyed a spectacular wildlife experience after RSPB Scotland staff organised a number of wildlife boat trips recently.

More than seventy people participated in the outings from Lochmaddy which took them into the territory of a breeding pair of sea eagles.

Jamie Boyle, site manager of the RSPB’s Uist reserves, said: “Terns, auks, gulls and divers were all seen but the highlight of the trips was definitely the local sea eagles! “They were first spotted perched on a vantage point overlooking the bay. The school children threw bread into the water to attract gulls, and this in turn attracted the sea eagles.

“Two eagles came over the boat to see what all the commotion was about and at this point a large liathe (pollack) was thrown into the water. After circling half a dozen times the female eagle came down and picked up the liathe then headed to the shore to devour it. It was quite a sight!”

Mr Boyle added, “These awesome birds, a familiar sight throughout Britain for thousands of years were hunted to extinction by 1918.

“In 1975 sea eagles were re-introduced to the Isle of Rum and since then their population has grown slowly. The first pair of sea eagles for almost 100 years appeared in Lochmaddy Bay, North Uist in 2003.

“Since then they have produced 15 chicks, which have gone on to breed on other islands including Skye and Lewis. Sea eagles are our only eagle that regularly eat fish. They are the pirates of the loch and get most of their fish by forcing other birds, especially gannets, to give up their catch.

“The Lochmaddy pair have learned to follow fishing boats in the hope of fish discards being thrown over the side. This behaviour was encouraged by the late Dr John MacLeod who regularly went out in his boat and threw fish for the eagles. It’s great that so many more people can now enjoy seeing the birds in their ancestral home here in the Western Isles.”

Pictured are the Carinish school children aboard, picture courtesy of Jamie Boyle