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11 December, 2014

First meeting of sea eagle stakeholder group in North Argyll and Lochaber

Conservationists, farmers and land managers have joined forces to discuss a range of management issues related to sea eagle management in North Argyll and Lochaber.

The Sea Eagle Regional Steering Group initially includes representatives from NFU Scotland, Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), the Scottish Government Rural Payments and Inspections Division (SGRPID), Forestry Commission Scotland and RSPB. Representatives from other groups, such as wildlife tourism, may be asked to join if and when required.

This meeting follows a joint statement of intent in September between SNH and NFU Scotland, agreeing to balance the needs of sheep farmers and crofters with the conservation of sea eagles. A number of other local stakeholder groups covering the main sea eagle areas are also being set up as part of the agreement. These will initially cover Mull/North Argyll/Lochaber; Skye/Lochalsh; and Gairloch/Wester Ross.

The Mull/Argyll/Lochaber group met on 2 December in Oban and discussed a number of issues, including a report on a licensed camera study looking at the prey taken to an eagle nest in the Lorn area.

The study photographed over 6,860 images on one nest throughout the 2014 breeding season via motion sensitive cameras.

The sea eagles brought a total of 117 prey items to the nest between January and July. Analysis confirmed that 67 items were unidentifiable, 21 were mammals, 14 were birds, 7 were fish, and either 8 or 9 were lambs.

The photographs give objective information on the number of lamb carcasses being brought to the nest and how often this occurs compared to other food sources.

Lachie Maclean, interim chair of the stakeholder group, said:

“This was a constructive and useful meeting where we could talk openly about issues relating to sea eagles on the west coast.

“We discussed the results of a nest camera survey carried out this year in our area. This is a useful piece of research which will help feed into the wider discussions about managing sea eagles in our area. The survey gives us a better idea of when lambs are more likely to be part of sea eagles’ diets.”

The group agreed that:

- As this was only a sample of one, this method could usefully be employed again under SNH licence in 2015 at more nests to help inform the work of the Steering Group;

- A number of techniques to divert the attention of sea eagles from lambing parks should be trialled including further use of scaring devices and, where possible, diversionary feeding during the period when lambs could be at greatest risk.

A new sea eagle management scheme will be in place by spring 2015, subject to funding approval by SNH. This will use experienced and trusted rapid response contractors to respond to farmers’ and crofters’ concerns about any sea eagle impacts on their flocks, and advise them on options to mitigate these impacts. It will also help those involved to make positive management changes. A Sea Eagle Action Plan will also be published by September 2016 and implemented by March 2017.

Notes to editors

NFU Scotland is the lead membership organisation representing Scotland’s farmers, growers and crofters.

Contact information

SNH Media

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Islay barnacle geese: Barnacle geese (Branta leucopsis), Loch Indaal, Islay. ©Lorne Gill/SNH

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