White-tailed eagle nest discovered in Caithness
A breeding pair of white-tailed eagles has set up home in a Caithness woodland.
The birds, thought to be the first successful breeding pair in the area for almost 100 years, were found nesting in a stand of sitka spruce trees within a windblown area of lodgepole pine. It’s believed that the eagles selected the sitka because it offered a stronger platform on which to build their eyrie than the neighbouring trees.
Eilidh Thompson, one of our environment rangers, identified the nest while carrying out a pre-harvesting biodiversity check. The area had been due to be felled ahead of peatland restoration work, but our foresters have since altered their plans so that the nesting area can be left undisturbed and will shift their focus to an alternative peatland restoration site.
An exciting discovery
Eilidh described the moment she realised she'd found something special:
“It was a final check in an area of woodland where we’ve never had any previous record of eagles being sighted.
“An adult eagle began circling me overhead and calling continuously, which indicated that its nest was nearby and that my presence was unwelcome. I immediately left the area and watched the eagle’s activity from a safe distance to get an idea of the nest’s location.
“Once we’d confirmed it, colleagues across the environment, harvesting, peatland, planning, and wildlife teams pulled together to completely adjust our work programmes to give the birds the space required to ensure their breeding success.
It was quite an extraordinary and special experience to encounter these incredible birds in the wild, especially in a location where they have not been known for such a long time. Absolutely awe-inspiring.
Hope for the future
The nesting pair has produced one chick that successfully fledged and was ringed (by Justin Grant of the Highland Raptor Study Group). It is hoped that this exciting discovery might mark the beginning of an increase in white-tailed eagles in the area.
Reflecting on the experience, Eilidh added:
“The fact that we found the eagles quite close to some hen harriers that are breeding on one of our peatland restoration sites is testament to the value of the work we do to extend and enhance the habitat network and the benefits that this is bringing for biodiversity."