Three Golden Eagles of Cairngorms are tagged with the latest technology


One of the golden eagle chicks that was tagged as part of the project. Photo: Dr Ewan Weston.

Three golden eagle chicks from Cairngorms National Park have been successfully tagged using the latest innovative technology to give better insight than ever into the life of the magnificent bird of prey.

Three estates – including two in Strathspey – are part of this latest raptor tagging initiative.

Bird movements are now tracked in real time by Cairngorms National Park Authority staff and partners with daily transmissions.

The data provides a wealth of data that can help better understand the lives of juvenile golden eagles.

A built-in alert system will report any death involving all three birds, whether from natural causes, persecution, or other man-made influences.

The “Celltrack” beacons used come from the United States and are among the most advanced technologies in the field of raptor tagging.

They can detect unusual behavior and send alerts with specific locations.

The project was developed and funded by the CNPA and NatureScot, formerly Scottish Natural Heritage.

Dr Ewan Weston, a freelance research ecologist, has been tasked with tagging the trio of licensed golden eagle chicks.

He commented: “After being involved with installing beacons on eagles for 14 years, technological advancements in the beacons we use are now bringing in data that was previously unimaginable.

“The data we receive feeds into broader research on the species and covers aspects of the biology and environment of the golden eagle, providing insight into aspects of their lives in incredible detail.

“This work has included aspects of their dispersal behavior, interaction with the landscape, and developments such as wind farms.”

One of the chicks being tagged.  Photo: Ewan Archer.
One of the chicks being tagged. Photo: Ewan Archer.

The “Celltrack” beacons use an innovative dual communication system with data sent over the mobile telephone network as well as via a satellite network (ARGOS).

Using this hybrid communication system, the large amount of locations acquired each day can be transmitted over the mobile phone network with the added security of satellite communications when the birds are off signal.

Dr Pete Mayhew, CNPA’s Director of Nature and Climate Change, said: “The more we know about golden eagles in Cairngorms National Park – from their flight to acquiring their own territories – the better we can. conserve and improve their populations for the future. .

“This is another great conservation partnership project involving government agencies and private sectors who all want to see a healthy future for our raptor species.”

The CNPA presented plans for a golden eagle tagging project in 2019, which included the use of the British Trust for tags provided by birdwatching.

However, production delays, technical issues and the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic caused the project to switch to the use of “Celltrack” beacons.

The CNPA has said so and its partners will continue to work closely with BTO over the coming months, including sharing data from the three tagged golden eagle chicks.

Seafield & Strathspey Estates is one of the project partners and General Manager Will Anderson said: “We are very proud of our raptor populations here and therefore we are involved in several tagging projects.

“We are especially pleased to partner with the Park Authority on this initiative, as the type and volume of data collected will likely be incredibly beneficial in being able to plan for the future with the needs of birds in mind. “

RSPB Scotland also had one of its young golden eagles tagged as part of the project.

Fraser Cormack, Director of RSPB Scotland Abernethy, said: “With raptors still being persecuted in Scotland, the data provided by these tags could be crucial in helping stop such crimes.

“Also, given that this is potentially new territory, it will be great to see the movements of the chicks after fledging and where they disperse in the future.”

Andy Turner, Head of Wildlife Crime at NatureScot, said: “NatureScot is providing strong support to CNPA on this project.

“This innovative technological development will strengthen our understanding of the movements of the Golden Eagle, aiding both research and, hopefully, acting as a deterrent against illegal persecution.

“The capability for instant alerts and complex movement data will provide welcome new information on the movements of these special birds.

“If this is successful, I hope we can deploy this technology more widely. “

Licenses to tag golden eagles are granted on behalf of NatureScot by the British Trust for Ornithology which examines various criteria, in particular animal welfare.

Tagging data will be managed by a small, dedicated team from the CNPA and Dr Ewan Weston, NatureScot and the Scottish Police Wildlife Crime Unit.

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