The population of the Orkney island of Hoy has grown by two recently – and there are hopes that number could rise further later this year!
Two young sea eagles have arrived in the barren landscape of the island and it’s assumed it is the same pair that made the RSPB Scotland Reserve their home last year.
There are real hopes their attempts to breed this season will be successful too – potentially bringing Orkney its first sea eagle chicks for around 150 years.
All eyes were on the pair last year as they nested on the rugged Dwarfie Hammars cliffs, high above the Dwarfie Stone tomb just off the road to Rackwick. Unfortunately the eggs they produced were infertile and local bird enthusiasts faced an anxious wait to see if the pair would return.
Thankfully it looks like they’re back and are fast becoming a regular attraction in the area again. More than 1000 people headed to Hoy to try and catch a glimpse of the beautiful birds last year. They can have a wingspan of around eight feet and are a magnificent sight to see, gliding smoothly over the landscape.
Sea eagles became extinct in the UK in the early 19th Century but successful reintroductions have been taking place in Scotland since the 1970s. The Hoy pair have been returning to Orkney of their own accord for three or four years now with last year marking their first attempt to breed.
Also known as white-tailed eagles, they are the UK’s largest bird of prey. They take around five years to be mature enough to breed – it’s thought the Orkney pair are around four or five years old.
The origins of the birds are still not known – they could have been hatched in the wild in Scotland or travelled across from Scandinavia.
There is a small car-park at the start of the trail down to the Dwarfie Stone where people can safely observe the sea eagles at their eyrie. The advice from the RSPB though is to not approach the cliffs themselves and keep dogs under very close control in the area.
Folk can still visit the Dwarfie Stone itself but it’s recommended that people don’t spend too much time there or gather in large groups.
Follow RSPB Orkney on Facebook for the latest updates on the eagles and the rest of Orkney's wonderful wildlife attractions. You can also view our section on Orkney's birdlife and read some of the local recommendations from Orkney wildlife cameraman Raymond Besant.
Find out more about Hoy from the Visit Orkney website. The island was also the focus of our March newsletter’s featured area. You can travel to the island with Orkney Ferries.