The popular White Tailed Sea Eagle Viewing & Information Point at Mountshannon Pier in Co. Clare has reopened to the public following a hugely successful pilot opening period last summer.
More than 10,000 people flocked to the shores of Lough Derg between mid-July and September 2014 to catch a glimpse of the first successful breeding pair of White Tailed Sea Eagles in Ireland in 110 years.
The Viewing & Information Point is operated by the Mountshannon Eagle Group, in conjunction with the Golden Eagle Trust and Mountshannon Community Council.
It features telescopes and information and displays about the White Tailed Sea Eagles, regarded as Ireland’s largest and most spectacular breeding birds.
Clare County Council, which funds the facility, says the facility generated more than half a million euro for the local economy in 2014. A visitor survey conducted last year found that 43% of people said the attraction was the primary factor influencing their decision to visit Mountshannon.
The Mountshannon breeding pair of eagles, a seven-year-old male and six-year-old female, were originally collected as chicks on the island of Frøya off the west coast of Norway by the Golden Eagle Trust.
The birds were released in Killarney National Park before relocating to Lough Derg in 2011. The pair, named Saoirse and Caimin, created history in 2013 when they reared the first chicks to fly from a nest in Ireland in 110 years.
The pair successfully hatched another chick in 2014 with the local community in Mountshannon expressing hope of another successful hatching this summer.
“Our trial opening in 2014 shows there is significant and genuine interest amongst the general public in these wonderful birds. People are especially fascinated by how and why the birds have settled and began to breed in Lough Derg.
“This project also demonstrates the potential in terms of tourism product development at this location,” said Congella McGuire, Clare Heritage Officer.
She also said that the visitor figures compare well to the Island of Mull in Scotland where White-tailed Sea Eagles watching has been popular for more than 10 years.
A greater percentage of people came to Mountshannon (43%) specifically to see the Eagle pair than to the Island of Mull (23%) where eagle tourism brings in an estimated €5 million annually.