Eddie the Eagle. To many this will no doubt conjure images of an enthusiastic, yet fairly unsuccessful British skier and ski jumper. Eddie’s lack of success has put him in the history books, yet nobody could accuse Eddie of being lazy, his underdog story stealing the hearts of the British nation and many others (so my German friend tells me), but this Eddie the Eagle coin has two sides. On one the skier and on the other, the golden eagle. A magnificent bird of prey and master of the skies, who has a rather tumultuous relationship with the lands that belong to the UK. Like many of his fellow birds of prey, the golden eagle has suffered major persecution over the years. In the 18th century, when the most noticeable decline began, the eagles suffered at the hands of farmers who feared for the safety of their livestock. Come the 19th century, their populations were strained even further, when they were also targeted by gamekeepers. Sadly, by 1850, England and Wales could declare themselves golden eagle free, whilst Ireland followed later in 1912. Now, this may have pleased some, in fact, it may even have been a cause for celebration! However, the golden eagle was not yet beaten and proved his metal, with small populations defiantly surviving in Scotland.
Unfortunately, the story of hardship did not end there for our golden eagles. In the 1950s, our old foe organochlorine pesticides, which caused thinning eggshells and infertility, meant that the species took a major hit, and their populations again suffered. However, once again the golden eagle managed to struggle through. Populations in Scotland began to recover and eventually, in 1969, a pair were spotted breeding in England, in the beauty of the Lake District. Sadly, this remained the only nest in England, whilst 430 breeding pairs existed elsewhere.
So, now we know the history, what is the new development in the story of the golden eagle? Well, sadly, it is not a happy one. If you have not heard the rumours, let me enlighten you, because recently news has reached us that England’s last golden eagle is feared dead. Although he has not been found so, the absence of the eagle, locally and fondly known as Eddie, has failed to appear in his usual Lake District haunt this spring. At this time of year, he would be expected to be seen building a nest in order to attract a mate.
The disappearance of Eddie, who has been alone since 2004 when his mate died, means that England now once again finds itself without golden eagles. Although there may be whisperings of foul play, and justified whisperings at that, it still remains perfectly possible that Eddie died from natural causes, he was after all thought to be around 20 years old, a good age for an eagle. Eddie’s story as the only golden eagle of England has been quite an attraction over the years, with many travelling across the country to catch a glimpse of him swooping low across the heather. It is unlikely that any new eagles will take over the residence here immediately, but an extensive habitat restoration project is underway to once again attract golden eagles to nest in the Haweswater area of the Lake District.
For now, the fate of this eagle, or Eddie, remains unknown. We may discover his fate in the future and we may not, but let us hope that golden eagles will return to England soon. But for now let me say Eddie the eagle, we salute you and you will be missed! Whichever form of Eddie the eagle you apply that to is up to you, but for the sake of this article, I refer to the magnificent golden form!
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