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Giant Sea Eagle spotted in Solway Firth

Fisherman Colin Murray couldn’t believe his eyes when he looked out at the Solway from his garden and spotted a giant eagle on the sands.

Sea eagle photo
The sea eagle at Bowness. Photo: Jean Murray

He knew what he was seeing was rare, but had no idea that this bird was the first white-tailed eagle to be seen in Cumbria for at least 200 years.

He and wife Jean were mesmerised by the massive creature and managed to capture this spectacular – and historic – image on the right on camera.

Mr Murray, a haaf netter who lives right on the coast at Bowness-on-Solway, was one of the first to see the white-tailed eagle, also known as a sea eagle, yesterday morning.

Shortly afterwards fellow haaf netter Johnny Hogg spotted it gliding in the skies around Port Carlisle.

He initially thought it was a golden eagle and immediately alerted local bird expert Dr Roy Armstrong, a lecturer in wildlife conservation at the university of Cumbria.

He went out with his telescope and looked for a while without success. He was starting to lose hope when all of a sudden he glanced towards the old viaduct and saw a giant brown lump sat on the end.

When he realised it was a sea eagle he said it was a dream come true: “I was absolutely elated. I was trying to text a friend and was so excited I couldn’t press the buttons. I was like a little kid.”

Word of the eagle soon spread and by early afternoon, people with telescopes were dotted along the coast.

Many were rewarded with sightings of the giant eagle soaring over the sands and standing on the marsh edge eating fish, before heading over to the Scottish side of the Solway. It sat in trees there before returning to Cumbria, then flew off back towards Dumfries at about 2pm.

Mr Murray, watched the bird – which is three-times the size of a buzzard with a 10ft wing span – as it sat on a log opposite his home.

He said at one point a group of around 10 crows tried to attack it.

“It was absolutely amazing to see. It had a massive beak. It could have done some real damage with that,” he said.

“To me though it didn’t seem that wild. It kept turning round to watch us if we made a noise, and one man even went past with two dogs and it just sat there. You don’t expect to get that close to an eagle.”

Experts are still unsure where the eagle came from. The birds, known as ‘flying barn doors’ because of their size, were once native to the Lake District and other parts of the UK, but were wiped out over 200 years ago and there hasn’t been a reported sighting in Cumbria since.

Experts say it may have come down from the Isle of Mull, in western Scotland, where there were reintroduced about 30 years ago, or across from Scandanavia.

Have you seen the White-Tailed Eagle? Have you got any photos you can share? Send them to Ian Brogden

What do you think about the appearance of the bird? Does it reflect a strong and healthy environment? Tell us below . . .

Have your say

I think Tony is being too cynical about teh RSPB. Of course they want people to see birds but they have spent huge sums restoring habitats and protecting species in remote places (hen harriers at Geltsdale golden eagle in the Lakes and a fortune spent in Scotland)

Posted by Dave Shaw on 3 April 2009 at 18:33

Driving back from Scotland on Friday 6 March - at about 12.30pm - I spotted an eagle sitting on a fence post about 50 yards off the A69 bear Carlisle - it was a magnificent sight - I wonder if it could be this one ?

Posted by Bryan Waugh on 8 March 2009 at 17:25

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