A new project to help golden eagles in the South of Scotland has received initial support of more than £1 million from the Heritage Lottery Fund.
The scheme aims to boost numbers of this iconic bird to up to 16 pairs in Dumfries and Galloway and the Scottish Borders – with the potential to release eagle chicks into the wild in the years ahead. CCTV ‘eagle cams’ will give the public an opportunity to keep an eagle eye on the chicks as they grow. At present, there are only two to four pairs in the south of the country with limited nesting success.
The South of Scotland Golden Eagle project has been awarded a ‘first round pass’ of £1,150,500 from the Heritage Lottery Fund including a development grant of £50,900. This means the project meets HLF criteria for funding with potential to deliver high-quality benefits and value for lottery money.
The initiative has the support of Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform, Roseanna Cunningham MSP, who says: ‘The golden eagle is a truly magnificent bird and is one of Scotland’s most iconic species. This project aims to boost the population of eagles in the south of Scotland and I heartily welcome the Heritage Lottery Fund support to help achieve this.
‘We know that the area could potentially support more than a dozen pairs of eagles, which offers tremendous opportunities for wildlife tourism and biodiversity. I’m especially pleased to see such strong partnership work to hopefully make golden eagles a regular sight in the skies above the South of Scotland once again.’
In 2008, Scottish Land & Estates and RSPB Scotland formed a joint proposal to work together to try and understand what was limiting the golden eagle population in the South of Scotland. Detailed ecological work was carried out and a report on the findings was published in 2014 by Scottish Natural Heritage [SNH].
Following an approach by Scottish Land & Estates, RSPB Scotland and Buccleuch to the Minister, a partnership was formed to take forward work to reinforce the population. His was the Langholm Initiative, with SNH and Forestry Commission Scotland subsequently joined the partnership – which will now begin a public consultation involving a wide range of stakeholders.
This new project builds on a 2014 SNH report, which found that southern Scotland could potentially support up to 16 pairs of these raptors. Work is planned to examine how food supplies could be improved, nesting sites made secure, additional habitat management measures identified and prospects consideed for bringing eaglets into the area for release to reinforce the existing population.
Mark Oddy, chair of the group, says: ‘We were delighted to receive so many letters of support from organisations willing us on with this project. A revived population of golden eagles offers wonderful opportunities for tourism and wider benefits for people and nature in the south of Scotland. And of course, it would be thrilling to see more golden eagles in this wonderful part of Scotland.’
Details of the public consultation will be made available shortly on the project’s website here.
In addition, the project team will hold meetings with the main stakeholders in south Scotland and will develop a formal and detailed project plan for consideration by the HLF over the winter period.
Note: Both images above are by Laurie Campbell for SNH.