A HUGE bird of prey, that was once a common sight around Fermanagh but was completely wiped out at the end of the last century, has returned home for just the second time in well over 100 years.
A magnificent sea eagle has been causing a stir around the county in recent times having been spotted on both the Upper and Lower loughs, with reports coming in from various parts of the county, such as Roscor on the Lower Lough two weeks ago and on the Upper Lough last week.
While a rare sight today, sea eagles were once commonplace across a lough they may be named after, or which could possibly be named after them. While the name “sea eagle” may indicate a coastal bird, the birds are also known appropriately as ‘erne’.
The sea eagle that has been spotted across the Erne in recent times has it’s own name however, Cealtra, having been named by school children in it’s native Co Clare.
“It’s a female bird that hatched in Co Clare in 2015,” explained Brad Robson from Fermanagh RSPB. “It has been in Fermanagh for quite a lot of this year. It took off for a while, and went up into Donegal around Portnoo, and has now come back.”
Mr Robson explained sea eagles, which he said looked like “flying barn doors” due to their large size, were reintroduced to Ireland by the Golden Eagle Trust in Kerry several years ago, when the Trust also reintroduced golden eagle to Donegal. He said the sea eagles had since spread out across the country, and lived on fresh water as well as the coast, feeding on fish and carrion.
“Sea eagles used to breed on the Erne, and throughout Ireland,” said Mr Robson. “The last ones were shot in Donegal at the end of the 1800s and the early 1900s. When they were reintroduced by the Golden Eagle Trust, we had the first breeding pair in Ireland for 100 years.”
Mr Robson added, with it’s tall trees and lakeland islands, Fermanagh was the ideal habitat for the birds, and he said he hoped they could become a common sight here once more.
“They are a long-lived bird, and it takes a long time for them to mature, so it’s a slow process breeding,” he explained, adding it was encouraging Cealtra had arrived in Fermanagh so soon after hatching, and had stayed.
“Our hope is that we’d get a pair that would settle and breed on Lough Erne. It’s only a matter of time,” he said.
Mr Robson added Cealtra, who is tagged and fitted with a radio transmitter as part of the reintroduction project, was not the first sea eagle to return to Fermanagh, with a male known as Ingar making his home here a couple of years ago, and which was even seen flying over the town of Enniskillen. Sadly, Ingar died in early 2015 of suspected poisoning.
To read more.. Subscribe to current edition