A pair of Golden Eagles nesting in a uniquely created habitat management area beside ScottishPower Renewables’ Beinn an Tuirc windfarm in Argyll have successfully hatched two chicks – the first eaglets that have been recorded from this nest in more than a decade. The conservation area is the largest of its kind for Golden Eagles in the UK, and was created by ScottishPower Renewables with investment of more than £2m during the construction of the windfarm.
The chicks were hatched in May and have been closely observed by researchers from Natural Research Projects Ltd, ornithological consultants to ScottishPower Renewables. The fact that two chicks have now fledged is a remarkable feat in itself - the younger chick statistically only has a 20% chance of surviving the crucial first weeks.
The healthy eaglet siblings have recently taken their maiden flights from the nest and both chicks have been fitted with satellite transmitters to monitor their movements over the next 2-3 years.
The 30MW Beinn an Tuirc windfarm site, which consists of 46 turbines, was commissioned in 2001. During its construction a major habitat restoration project was initiated to enhance the local environment in order to support the eagles – which had experienced a number of fallow years prior to the windfarm project, thought to have been caused by poor quality hunting in the surrounding land.
At 1215 hectares, the windfarm site has the largest conservation project of its kind for Golden Eagles in the UK. The scheme is delivered by ScottishPower Renewables and managed in partnership with SNH, RSPB the Local Authority and Forestry Commission Scotland.
David Macarthur, ecologist for ScottishPower Renewables, said: “The loss of open foraging areas in West Scotland has had a devastating effect on the Golden Eagle population in recent times so we are delighted with the success of our habitat restoration project. We fund an experienced conservation ranger in the local community to deliver much of the habitat management work and have invested over £2m restoring the habitat and hunting grounds for the nesting eagles beside our windfarm.
“Initially 450 hectares of conifer plantation was cleared allowing for the return of traditional heather moorland which encouraged the resurgence of red grouse – a key prey source for the eagles. Now we have heather, blaeberry and cotton grass all re-established in the conservation area and healthy populations of red and black grouse.
“The news of two healthy golden eagle chicks, after a few barren years, is fantastic for the golden eagle population and proof that our habitat management programme is paying real dividends. We hope that this continues for generations to come.”
Zoe Clelland, RSPB Scotland's senior conservation officer for the region, said: "RSPB Scotland welcomes the great news that two golden eagle chicks have successfully fledged from a nest site at Beinn an Tuirc. We have worked very closely with ScottishPower over a number of years to try and ensure that the risk to golden eagles from the windfarm would be minimised. We particularly welcome the substantial investment of time, effort and money that ScottishPower has put into the restoration and management of a large area of alternative eagle habitat. This appears to have been successful in encouraging the eagles to hunt over the area of restored habitat rather than the windfarm site.”
Notes to Editors:
Windfarm Habitat Management Areas
ScottishPower Renewables is a leader in the field of developing habitat management plans at its windfarm developments. ScottishPower currently operates habitat management areas covering 3,424 hectares. Planned habitat management areas at Whitelee Windfarm and others in the planning process would bring the total area managed for biodiversity at ScottishPower's windfarms to 57 km2 - an area approaching the size of the city of Dundee (65 km2).
Media Information: Simon McMillan 0141 566 4875 / 07753 622 257