Visitors to Scotland in recent years, and especially to the Inner Hebrides, have had an ever increasing chance of witnessing a spectacle that had been absent from these shores for far, far too long. The White-tailed Sea Eagle was persecuted to extinction in Britain in the early years of the 1900s. Efforts to reintroduce it began, using young birds donated by the Norwegians, on the island of Rum in 1975, and they have continued ever since, with birds being released elsewhere on the west coast from 1993, and on the eastern side of Scotland from 2007.
The first "Gaelic-speaking chick" successfully fledged in 1983. In what has been a remarkable success story, the numbers have increased steadily, with 66 territorial pairs in Scotland in 2012 producing 60 fledglings. The impact has been far reaching. Areas like Mull, which have found favour with White-tailed Sea Eagles, now attract a steady stream of human visitors primarily there to see what have been described as "flying barn doors". We saw our first White-tailed Sea Eagle, an unforgettable experience, near Talisker Bay on Skye, and have since seen them on Mull. There is no doubt that Scotland is a better place because they are here.
How did all this come about? John A. Love was intimately involved in the reintroduction of the White-tailed Sea Eagle to Rum over many years, and in 1983 wrote an account of the story up to that point, "The Return of the Sea Eagle". The current book "A Saga of Sea Eagles" brings the story up to date by 30 years, but does far more besides. The nearly 250 pages that make up this deceptively slim volume might well have been called "Everything you ever wanted to know about White-tailed Sea Eagles but were afraid to ask". The result is a magnificent book that does full justice to its equally magnificent subject, and to the efforts of all those who have worked so very hard over a period of decades to give the bird a secure footing in Scotland. This book should be considered essential reading for anyone with an interest in birds: and more widely for anyone with an interest in the future of Scotland's wild places.
Within the book the story of the reintroduction is told in considerable detail, but there is also a great deal of background about Sea Eagles themselves; about their historical role in Britain; about their role in fiction; about the persecution that led to their extinction (and the modern research that shows they are much less dangerous to livestock than was believed when they were being killed in large numbers); and about living with Sea Eagles.