Thursday, January 07, 2010

Sea Eagles

Read a worrying article in Today's Telegraph under the headline 'Return of sea eagles is a PR stunt'. So I googled to see what else has been written about this issue. This is a good article by Libby Purves in the Times. It seems that the RSPB and Natural England are planning to introduce 60 pairs of sea eagles (white tailed eagles) to the Suffolk area. I use the term 'introduction' rather than 're-introduction', as the sponsors of this project would prefer. There is some dispute about whether there has ever been sea eagles in Suffolk.

I have never seen a sea eagle in the wild. It must be a wondrous experience. I can imagine how thrilled wildlife lovers in Scotland must have been when the first sea eagle returned after a few decades absence. Many years ago, I used to spend many happy hours sitting on a mountain in the Cwmystwyth area of Mid Wales, satisfied with just one sighting of a Red Kite, when this lovely bird was reduced to near extinction by the carelessness of man. Today, they are almost as common as sparrows. I'm also hugely supportive of the work being done to support the re-establishment of the osprey (sometimes called a sea eagle) in Mid Wales. But all the work to support kites and ospreys has been in support of what is a natural process - not some stunt created by man.

In general, I do not like the idea of introduction of alien species, though the sea eagle is not alien to Britain of course. I'm not that keen on re-introductions either. We have to be careful to understand all the unintended consequences. We had a similar discussion about the re-introduction of the European Beaver last year. The sea eagle is a huge bird, which is thought to kill lambs (and rumoured to take cats, dogs and babies as well). I think the people of Suffolk would be far more understanding of the odd misdemeanor committed by a sea eagle, if it was thought to be one of theirs. They are not going to be so considerate of some outsider coming in and causing trouble. The RSPB and Natural England had better think this proposal through very carefully indeed. It does not sound a good idea to me.

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