A £1.3 million grant from Heritage Lottery is going towards a south of Scotland golden eagle project to boost numbers in the region.
The project is a partnership of RSPB Scotland, Scottish Land and Estates, Forestry Commission Scotland, Scottish Natural Heritage, Buccleuch Estates and the Langholm Initiative, and they have been working on it for over 10 years.
There are currently only two to four pairs of golden eagles in the south of Scotland, but a supporting project study has shown that there is suitable habitat for between ten and 16 breeding pairs.
The project has also identified that the best way of enhancing the region’s population of golden eagles is through increasing the supply of young eagles, which will eventually recruit into the breeding population. Recent satellite tagging work of golden eagles has shown that the south of Scotland golden eagle population is greatly isolated from larger populations of this species in the Highlands.
Work on the project starts in the autumn, subject to a licence application lodged with Scottish Natural Heritage being approved.
In summer 2018 and for the next four years it is planned to bring between 5-10 young eagles south. The project team will use tried and tested methods for rear and release of the young golden eagles, collecting single eagle chicks from broods of two young in the Highlands and raise and release them in a hidden location in the Borders.
Work will be done on trying to get former and potential nesting sites reoccupied; identifying any additional habitat management measures that will bring in better food supplies in these areas; and local communities, schools, and enterprises will be encouraged to take part.
Each released golden eagle will be satellite tagged to allow the project team to build up information on the behaviour, survival, and health of the birds.
Project manager Cat Barlow said: “In the years ahead hundreds of people will have the opportunity, through trails, events and CCTV, to learn more about the golden eagle.”
Mark Oddy, chairman of the project added: “This venture is not just about birds, but is also about people, and in the coming months we will continue to work closely with people living and working in the south of Scotland so everyone can get behind our endeavour.
I thank the Heritage Lottery Fund for their huge support – it is fantastic news for nature.”