Dr. John A.J. Macleod, MBE,DL,FRCGP,FRCP (Hon),FFCS.
“Tigh na Hearradh,” Lochmaddy, Isle of North Uist, HS6 5AE.
Tel/fax 01876 500224.
This giant bird with its wing span of 2.5 metres is the fourth largest Eagle in the world. It is also known as the White Tailed Eagle and in Gaelic Iolaire mhara.
It was common in UK and especially in the North West of Scotland but many were shot for eating lambs and it was last known to breed in the UK in 1916 and became extinct in 1918. There were several attempts to re-introduce it but it is only since 1975 that this has been successful. The major programme has been a joint effort by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB). Young ones were selected in Norway and then flown to Scotland by the RAF and carefully released on the Inner Hebridean Island of Rum. A secondary programme of releasing some in Wester Ross has also succeeded. The birds have spread over the west coast and, for some years, several have nested in the Outer Hebrides. One pair have made their base in North Uist and a pair of chicks that they raised some five years ago have now mated in the Isle of Lewis and, in 2007, they raised two chicks.
For two years, I have been regularly feeding the North Uist pair. First I catch some Pollack and select those that are larger than a Black Backed Gull can lift. Then, using a 60ml syringe and a slightly blunted white needle, I inject air under the skin to give added buoyancy.
When in their vicinity, I wave the fish and throw it out. I move my boat (Sula) a slight distance away and we are then able to admire the giant and majestic birds as they soar over, glide down, lower their talons, pick up the fish and then fly back to shore either to the nest or to the area where their chicks are perched. A truly wonderful sight. An Osprey will go into the water to catch a fish and then grips and carries it in the fore and aft position. The Eagle does not enter the water and grips the fish transversely.
Sometimes the Eagle is chased away by a Gull and other times it is the Eagle that does the chasing. On two occasions in 2006, we watched as a pair of tiny Merlins hounded the huge Eagle and the big bird soared and twisted to try and evade them.
I have done these trips on behalf of www.comann-na-mara.org which is a charity based in Lochmaddy with the aim of establishing an aquatic education and research centre. Of the 34 Marine SAC`s…Special Areas of Conservation…in Scotland, Lochmaddy Bay is the only one to have spawned such a supportive organisation.