Amazing how many newspapers get the wrong end of the stick!!

A recent picture of a dead lamb being carried by a White tailed Eagle has really got the press going but most of the lines of their stories seem to be lost in a Victorian storybook about monsters and evil when the truth out there is quite amazing.

white-tailed eagle (1 of 1)

White-tailed eagles are predominately fish eaters, but will often scavenge dead animals.

The picture was taken on the Isle of Mull where around 32 pairs of Golden Eagles are found and 22 pairs of White tailed Eagles along with a number of immature eagles not ready for breeding. The island itself has a mass tourism industry based on wildlife which the eagles are just part of. A staggering 85% of these visitors come to watch and admire the wildlife bringing around £12 million each year to the local economy. This money is expanding with the season spreading not just in the spring and summer but also during the autumn and winter.

Holiday self catering is one of the major winners here with many farmers using their subsidies to purchase and build up to 6 cottages where they gain a large % of their profits for the year. So much so that locals wanting to buy a property on the island struggle to pay for a house as prices rise.

Community ownership of land here has a long way to go to help the community in this matter.

So what drives this island’s tourism? Eagles are just one part of the bigger picture. Spring and summer sees large numbers of sea birds in the area and, with the fish stocks, Whales and Dolphins and even Basking Sharks. New boats have been bought in recent years to keep up with the demand from tourists, but this part of the industry is limited due to the big mammals leaving the area as autumn sets in. Eagles then become the main draw to the island and with present day ‘cheap’ ferries thanks to the EU, off season tourists help to keep the island going.

 Red-Deerweb

Another factor is the large Red Deer population on Mull. Tourists like to see these mammals and eagles benefit from deer carrion as well as removing a number of Red Deer calves. Otters are another attraction and White tailed Eagles have learnt how to rob these mammals of their catch. A factor not lost to the naturalists studying the eagles is that these eagles control the number of Mink, Polecats, Stoats and even Pine Martens on the island with their skulls been found in their eyries [nests].

Another species starting to increase is the Red Grouse. There are no Red Grouse shooting estates on the island which means no game keepers. What is new are ‘re-wilding’ schemes where broad leaved trees are encouraged not non native conifers. You can see the heather spring into condition as a deer fence is needed to keep the Red Deer and sheep out of the enclosure.

Red-Grouse-web

Heather is the food of the Red Grouse and also helps to hide the nest and young. In these same areas Hen Harriers gain food with recent counts suggesting 42 pairs on the island along with Short eared and Long eared Owls and even Barn Owls have moved into these areas to feed on voles that also benefit from the lack of the big grazers. Mountain Hares numbers also explode helping especially the Golden Eagles.

One new ‘Re-wilding’ project is hoping to plant 750,000 trees all from native seed collected on the island itself. With more of these projects appearing on the island wildlife is expanding which will mean even more tourists coming to the island.

With changes of the payments to the farmer after Brexit tourism will be one way the farmer who has yet to change to tourism, can benefit from the loss of income and the better the farm is managed for wildlife, the more money he/she will make. As they say one Swallow does not make a summer. Likewise one dead lamb is not the end of farming!

1 comment to Amazing how many newspapers get the wrong end of the stick!!

  • David Holden

    What a lazy ,poor inaccurate article . Not sure if the author is just poorly informed or is trolling but either way it is an F- from me .The only thing that could have made it worse if it had trotted out the old sea eagles bring 4 or 5 million pounds into the island . Mull is rightly a world class wildlife tourist destination and the sea eagle is one small part of that and is likely to become less important as they are breeding so well and with a new reintroduction in the South and the successful one in Ireland are becoming common . Hare numbers on the island have not exploded but decreased in the 30 years I have been walking these hills as have red grouse . Forestry schemes do help until the canopy starts to close then they are lost to both types of eagle .As to the sea eagle being a draw in the Winter this is rubbish with the tour boats shut down and the birds not nesting . Short eared owls are down and harriers may be stable . The tourists I run into seem to want a good look at otters and golden eagles as they are a bit harder to get with the mountain hare also a big tick . The picture of the eagle with the lamb is taken in the Duart area on a farm that has suffered a lot of losses over the years and has worked with RSPB to try to solve the problem . It is a fact of life that both eagles take lambs the fact that the golden eagle tends to shun man means it is not witnessed so often . As to sea eagles keeping mink etc down if you believe that I will sell you a bridge in London .

    Editor’s Comment. Interesting response from some one who probable lives on the island. So you also know that this pair are being fed to prevent lambs being taken? As for other parts of the article there is plenty of evidence to show it is true. Your forestry example is correct hence why the re-wilding areas are far more important as they do not ‘close in’ as conifers are not planted. Mountain Hares were being shot on one estate to prevent tree damage! As for ‘trolling’ the income from Sea Eagles it was not mentioned as a figure for one species because people come to Mull for the ‘full’ experience with sea eagles only part of that but thank you for your comments.