At the beginning of the 1970s the situation for many of the Swedish birds of prey looked bad. The peregrine had decreased to only some ten pairs. The number of breeding white tailed eagles along the Baltic sea coast were less than 50 pairs and their reproduction was very low. The kite in the landscape of Skåne was threatened and the eagle owl had disappeared from the west part of Sweden altogether. The Swedish golden eagle population was estimated to just 200 pairs.
Jump forward to 2018 and Sweden’s bird of prey populations are soaring and growing each year, partly due to the power of feeding grounds. “By feeding the eagles during the winter with food without toxin, it is possible to improve the breeding result. The feeding also increase the possibility for the young eagles to survive the winter”. That’s was project Eagle72’s statement envisioned almost 30 years ago, and they was not wrong, we now know, from detailed research that the increased number of young eagles surviving the first winters is higher than it has ever been.
When, at the millennium-shift, Eagle72 looked back on their work they could see that all efforts had been very successful. The white-tailed eagle population, which when started was close to a collapse, was rescued, mainly because of the winter feeding. The Swedish population had more than three-doubled since the start and in the breeding season 1999 there were 200 flying chicks, the best result during the 1900s. During the 2000s the breeding population has continued to increase and now there are about 600 breeding pairs in Sweden. The white-tailed eagle does also spread to areas where it has been disappeared for a very long time, In Vänern, the largest lake in Sweden, the eagles were back in 2001, breeding for the first time in 100 years.
These findings alone show the importance of how correctly run and sustainable supplemented feeding of species can play a huge role in successful breeding and conservation efforts.
Deep In the heart of Västerbotten, just 2 hours drive from the artic circle in the north of Sweden, live, what in my personal opinion, the greatest individual bird in Europe, Male Golden Eagle – X7222.
This old male eagle is almost 20 years and was ringed on 2nd July 1999 in the Swedish landscape of Vindeln. It has rings on both legs, the area ring (black) and the ring on the left leg (year ring) shall be blue over red with the number 243D.
Last winter was my first visit to the area where i had the pleasure of observing and photographing this incredible bird and his mating rituals with his female. He always has had, and still has a plummage of a much younger eagle which makes him look much younger than 20 years.
Last summer (2017) he and his female succeed to get 2 youngsters on their wings. His current female is the second. Normally Golden eagles stay together the whole life through, but his first female was older and disappeared some years ago (probably dead). The new ”wife” showed up a couple of years ago and they became a couple, the rest in sweet history.
This winter I headed back out to Västerbotten and Conny Lundstrom’s feeding grounds to catch up to see how the big boy was getting on and if the couple had reunited ready for, what we hope will be another successful breeding year. It’s safe to say he didn’t disappoint and put on an amazing show for myself and my guests.
If you want to visit the famous X7222 check out my photography holidays at: www.wildexposures.co.uk
Watch our YouTube video of this male eagle here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c6Phgw6MM9c