Sea eagles are very resilient birds. They can withstand freezing temperatures, snow storms, day after day of heavy rain and gale force winds, making use of their large size and insulating feathers to survive the cold. Here in East Scotland our satellite-tagged young sea eagles have spent much of the winter in the harshest environment Scotland has to offer; the Cairngorms. So when the ‘beast from the east’ hit the east coast at the end of February, I naturally assumed they would just tough it out as usual.

East Scotland sea eagles usual winter home.

Most of the young sea eagles it seems had other ideas. Sensing perhaps that this particular weather front was more beastly than usual, 5 of them fled west. They reached Skye, Fort William and Mull before stopping to rest. Here, in the core of the much larger west coast population, they must have met many other sea eagles for the first time. Most of these young birds had never flown out over the sea before, but this didn’t put them off. Three ended up visiting Mull and one very confident young male crossed the 7 mile stretch of sea from Skye to the isle Eigg, then on to Muck before returning the the mainland at Ardnamurchan.

Satellite tracks from 4 of the young sea eagles as they made their way west.

With so many other sea eagles on the west coast to meet and investigate I was concerned they would simply stay there. For the birds it is a great adventure but it would be a set back to our hopes of a strong population in East Scotland. I needn’t have worried however, three weeks later they have all returned. They join the two that did decide to tough out the weather and I’m pleased to report they’re both thriving. The beast from the east met its match in two of our young sea eagles at least.