28 March 2023

Meet Rowan and Fergus


by Rick T.

28 March 2023

Meet Rowan (H33) and Fergus (H42), two sub-adult Golden Eagles translocated from the Western Isles during the last two winter releases.

Rowan (H33) was first to arrive in the south of Scotland and was named after raptor worker Robin Reid’s daughter. Robin and Rowan assisted Dave Anderson, trapping eagles at carcasses, using specialised equipment to ensure the birds safety, in order to fit satellite tags to increase our knowledge and understanding of these magnificent birds.

If one of the eagles is a sub-adult (not yet of breeding age or holding a territory), and is in good health, the bird may be selected for translocation to the south.

Rowan speaks of her eagle experience below:

My name is Rowan, I live on a croft on the isle of Harris on the northwest coast of Scotland. I’m twelve years old and I am lucky to live on an island where we have lots of eagles, both white tailed eagles (sea eagles) and golden eagles. Sometimes we see them from the house or the school bus. My dad has studied eagles here for twenty years and over the last few years I have started helping him. I go with my dad to nests in the breeding season to help him ring the eagle chicks. The rings we fit to the eagle’s legs are a way of identifying them to help us study them.

In 2021 my dad started working with Dave Anderson to catch sub-adult golden eagles on our island to relocate in the south of Scotland. Sub-adult golden eagles are young birds that haven’t yet got a territory of their own so we hope that they will find a territory in the south of Scotland and the population there will increase. There are lots of eagles here so we have enough to be able to relocate a few to the mainland. I think this project is important because we are releasing eagles where they were before but almost became extinct in that area because of humans. We caused the problem so we should fix it.

Below: Golden Eagle at Red Deer carcass - Western Isles

We got to name a one-year old golden eagle after me! My granny and grandad were excited that Rowan (ring number H33) was going to the Borders because that’s where my grandad grew up and my granny lived there too for a while when she was young. This year my brother and I helped my dad and Dave catch more young golden eagles to release in south Scotland and we got to name a one-year old male golden eagle after my brother Fergus.

Dave has a special licence to catch the eagles. We put deer meat out at bait sites to attract the eagles. Sometimes we have to wait a lot of hours (or days) before an eagle lands at the catching site but it’s really exiting when we catch an eagle (and also quite stressful because we have to be very careful). When we catch one we take them home in a special eagle box and when we get home we put them in cages overnight that my dad built in our shed. The next day the eagle is transported from the island by ferry to be released in the south of Scotland as soon as possible. I really want to be able to hold the eagles but I’m not strong or old enough to hold them yet. Its amazing to see them up close they have really long, powerful talons and huge wings.

It’s going to be exciting to follow eagles Rowan and Fergus from the satellite tag information and see where they go. Maybe we will be able to go and see them again one day.

Rowan’s father Robin, who has worked with raptors for many years added:

Having been fortunate to study the recovery of white-tailed eagle on the Outer Hebrides following their re-introduction to Scotland from Norway, it’s great to have the opportunity to support a similar project to secure the recovery of golden eagles in the south of Scotland and hopefully into northern England. It’s also been nice to introduce the next generation of energetic conservationists to this work!

Below: White tailed Eagle (left) and Golden Eagle (right) accompanied at a carcass by Ravens - Western Isles.

Dave Anderson added:

The birds are translocated under a scientific license issued and supported by the Scottish government to help reinforce the existing population of golden eagles in the borders. This is a first for golden eagles anywhere in the world and we look forward to the results.

A huge thanks to Rowan for her wonderful blog and to Robin and Dave for their continued efforts to suppoert the project!