RSPB Scotland launches UK’s first eagle nest camera feed at Loch Garten Nature Centre
In what has been hailed as a first for the UK, a new live camera feed at RSPB Scotland’s Loch Garten Nature Centre is giving visitors an up-close look at Scotland’s largest bird of prey.
A pair of white-tailed eagles, Shona and Finn, have established a nest in the vast landscape of the Cairngorms Connect partnership, of which RSPB Scotland is part, with their activities beamed live to the Loch Garten Nature Centre at the charity’s Abernethy nature reserve. Using methods successfully trialled in other countries including Estonia and Latvia and under special license from NatureScot, experts from Wildlife Windows have installed a camera approximately 3 metres from the nest. As eagles will often become nervous about new items or changes around their nest, all work was undertaken in autumn when it was safe to do so and the camera has been hidden in a stick to avoid unsettling them.
Jason Fathers of Wildlife Windows said: “Wildlife Windows consider it a privilege to have installed this white-tailed eagle nest camera. As far as we are aware, this is the first camera of this quality on a white-tailed eagle nest in the UK. This has been one of the most challenging camera installations we have completed, due to the sensitivity of the species and remote location. We are very keen to see the story unfold while getting a close-up insight into white-tailed eagle life.”
The camera and live feed to RSPB Scotland’s Loch Garten Nature Centre have been funded by the European Regional Development Fund through NatureScot.
Jess Tomes, Abernethy Site Manager for People at RSPB Scotland, said, “This is an enormously exciting addition to the visitor offer at the Loch Garten Nature Centre. The images we’re getting live from the nest are phenomenal and our visitors will get a very rare and extremely privileged peek at the domestic life of a breeding white-tailed eagle pair. Already we’re noticing little personality traits in them – the male is very attentive to his mate and to tidying the nest – it’s fascinating to watch. We’re delighted and very relieved that they haven’t been phased by the camera at all and are now incubating two eggs, which we estimate could hatch around the second week in April.”
Also known as sea eagles, white-tailed eagles have a wingspan of 2.5 metres and are often referred to as ‘flying barn doors’. They were driven to extinction in Scotland in 1918 before birds from Scandinavia were re-introduced to the Isle of Rum in 1975. Subsequent re-introductions in other parts of the country, as well as the birds’ natural dispersal means there are now populations spread as far as Fife, Orkney and the northwest Highlands.
The nesting pair are direct descendants of these re-introduced birds. Finn is the great-grandson of the well-known Skye and Frisa pair of Mull Eagle Watch and BBC Springwatch fame. Skye is the oldest known white-tailed eagle at 28 years old. Frisa was the daughter of Blondie, the first eagle to successfully raise a chick in 1985 after the re-introduction.
Cairngorms Connect’s Communications and Involvement Manager, Sydney Henderson, said, “We’re lucky enough to share the Cairngorms Connect landscape with 11 species of raptors, including white-tailed eagles. It’s so exciting to have this insight into their world, and I just know that visitors to the Loch Garten Nature Centre are going to love this rare opportunity. Moments like this fill me with even more hope for a wilder future!”
To avoid disturbance of the birds, the exact location of the nest is not being disclosed to the public. Visitors to RSPB Scotland’s Loch Garten Nature Centre can view the live feed daily throughout the spring and summer.