New paper documents history of eagles in Wales

An important new scientific paper has just emerged documenting the history of golden and white-tailed eagles in Wales.

Published in the journal Conservation Science & Practice, this new paper builds on the earlier, painstaking work of the much missed Richard Evans who, along with colleagues (see here), mapped the historical distribution of eagles across Britain and Ireland.

This latest paper, authored by Cardiff University PhD student Sophie-lee Williams et al, thoroughly evaluates the evidence for both species in Wales and maps their likely core distributions. The authors conclude there is strong evidence that both species were widespread across Wales but fell victim to persecution and haven’t bred there for over 150 years.

This paper is open access which means it is freely available to everyone.

Download it here: Williams et al 2020_Past distribution eagles Wales

The significance of this paper relates to a proposed reintroduction of golden and/or white-tailed eagles to Wales. Many blog readers will recall that this prospect has been on the table for a while and whilst there is still a lot more work to complete before licence applications are submitted, understanding the species’ past historical ranges is important.

Some blog readers may recognise some of the names involved in this latest research. They are part of the Eagle Reintroduction Wales Project (ERWP) (website here) who we blogged about last year when news emerged that a different team was also contemplating an eagle reintroduction in Wales, but apparently without the careful research assessment being undertaken by the Cardiff University team (see here). Fortunately, so far, that alternative approach hasn’t advanced very far (see here and here).

Hopefully it won’t be too long before we see more research results from the ERWP that’ll take us another step closer to restoring these eagles back to Wales.

4 Responses to “New paper documents history of eagles in Wales”

  1. 1 Carl Jones
    June 25, 2020 at 5:56 pm

    This is an excellent study and demonstrates the need for ecological histories. This has been a much neglected area of research that is going to be increasingly important when designing re-introductions and the rebuilding of lost and damaged ecosystems.

  2. 2 Paul Fisher
    June 25, 2020 at 7:18 pm

    It is often the case that the farming sector has a louder voice than the tourist sector. It shouldn’t. This would be a huge boost for Welsh tourism. Albeit a shame that we have to think about money when discussing putting back something that should never have been eliminated.

    • 3 Les Wallace
      June 25, 2020 at 8:34 pm

      Well said Paul. The situation in Wales re even basic conservation far less proper rewilding, reintroductions is woeful. The farming (i.e subsidy ranching) community there really plays the victim ad nauseum, they want everybody else to give them money to keep going, but they’ve to dictate the terms which is doing what’s most convenient for them – business as usual, marginal farming sod all for wildlife. It’s incredibly frustrating no matter what it does the conservation community is painted as a baddy, local ‘communities’ are never in the wrong of course and good projects like Summit to Sea have been really struggling to make progress. When the Vincent Wildlife Trust first proposed on doing a pine marten translocation to Wales they did the obligatory public consultation (pine martens FFS) – some of the recorded interviews with hill farmers showed a jaw dropping ignorance and kneejerk reaction against it that made you wonder if tales of rural incest/inbreeding might have some foundation. The farmers have been particularly vehement about bringing beaver back there too – notice how there as yet no queue of landowners wanting them on their land in Wales as in there is in England. Beavers of course would do a lot for reducing the flood peaks from all that water pouring off those hills, but then again sod everybody else – nobody worries how Gloucester at the bottom of the Severn is affected.

      We MUST stop treating the farming community as a sacred cow especially the part of it that gets subsidies when we throw about 40% of our food away and have an obesity crisis, but social services are struggling for money. My experiences on Lewis dealing with crofters means I’ve now got a hair trigger response for anytime I hear how hard up farmers are. If they truly are then better some of the stacks of public dosh going to the croftocracy are redirected than the rest of us are tapped for it even more. Re how particularly bloody awful the subsidy ranchers in Wales are here is the exception that proves the rule – a group of progressive sheep farmers who took it upon themselves to do fantastic work integrating tree planting with sheep farming for the benefit of biodiversity, rural economics and flood prevention. https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/media/4808/pontbren-project-sustainable-uplands-management.pdf .And who has been championing them as a positive example, the National Sheep Association, NFU Wales? Fat chance it’s been conservation organisations like the Woodland Trust, and even George Monbiot which says an awful lot. Fantastic people trying to bring eagles back to Wales, but I really worry without some arses that need it getting a very hard foot up them then it’s going to be a struggle.

      • September 24, 2020 at 10:11 am

        I’ve only just seen this post but I do agree with you. Some of the misinformation put about by the FUW about Summit to Sea was appalling. I just don’t know how they got away with it. it really is time that some of the conservation organisations stood up to the Welsh sheep farming lobby. They still seem to believe that it is their god-given right to carry on doing what they have been doing for the last 50 years and continue being paid from the public purse to do it. There’s no doubt, however, that the sheep-farming “community” is a reservoir for the welsh language. And that remains a big stumbling block for anyone who even suggests that they might change their ways. It’s not long before the “nuclear option” is deployed……..

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