Love Could Be In The Air As Borders Estate Champions Eyrie First For Groundbreaking South Of Scotland Golden Eagle Project

Working closely with a pioneering charity conservation project, the Duke of Northumberland’s Burncastle Estate near the Lammermuir Hills has become the first estate to build two new artificial golden eagle eyries (nesting sites) to help restore a once thriving population in the south of Scotland.


As the project’s first translocated birds begin to settle and reach breeding age, the South of Scotland Golden Eagle Project believes artificial eyries such as those now located in Burncastle Estate will play a vital role in helping golden eagles re-establish even more territories in which they once thrived.


The latest development follows a series of groundbreaking translocations by the award-winning project which, thanks to support from more than 17 privately-owned estates, have increased the local population of golden eagles to 38 (the highest number recorded for three centuries).


Speaking about their work with Burncastle Estate, Project Manager, Dr Cat Barlow said: “We’re incredibly grateful to Northumberland Estates for being the first to create these very welcoming, carefully constructed eyries.
“Golden eagles typically begin to breed at around three to four years of age, so this is a particularly crucial time for the birds we first released in 2018 to have plenty of places to settle. Before the Project’s translocations began, we spent 11 years working with project partners and raptor experts to identify a significant number of areas where they could do this. After so many years it is fantastic to witness the eagles now doing just that and exploring long-empty historical ranges.
“With support from estates such as the Northumberland Estates and raptor experts, along with a team of highly skilled climbers and the Southern Upland Moorland Group, we’re hoping these new artificial platforms will help the birds settle in areas we thought previously lost as nesting areas.”


The Duke of Northumberland added: “We’ve been thrilled that the work of the Project has led to golden eagles re-establishing a presence in the south of Scotland and it has been exciting to see these magnificent birds occupy a range close to Burncastle. The estate was very keen to play a part in helping the birds, and the opportunity to build the eyries on Burncastle will hopefully raise the prospects of new chicks being born in the future.
“Burncastle and other moorland estates in the Southern Uplands of Scotland manage the habitat which allows a range of species including curlew, black grouse and golden plover to flourish. Helping the golden eagle population as we are doing complements that work.
“Our estate has many land uses such as farming, forestry and management for grouse but we are eager that supporting biodiversity and conservation is at the heart of what we do.”


Explaining further benefits of golden eagles, Chair of the South of Scotland Golden Eagle Project, Michael Clarke said: “We are delighted to see so many estates supporting the South of Scotland Golden Eagle Project and recognising the importance of this iconic species. As a top predator, golden eagles help to maintain healthy ecosystems. They support the survival and prosperity of all healthy prey species, and are brilliant for eco-tourism too.”


Ross Ewing, Moorland Director at Scottish Land & Estates, added: “The role of private estates – many of which have grouse shooting interests – in supporting the South of Scotland Golden Eagle Project has been pivotal in many ways, including the provision of 90% of the eagle chicks translocated from north to south.


“Northumberland Estates’ choice to build artificial eyries on Burncastle – an active grouse moor – underlines the estate’s desire to help golden eagles establish a thriving population around the region. The eyries will not only help current and future generations of the birds, but will add to the wonderful range of species already present on the estate, which is aided in no small part by the management carried out by skilled gamekeepers.”


The project’s first two artificial eyries have been carefully placed by expert climbers in difficult to reach locations, high in the trees within the Burncastle Estate. The team has deliberately selected secluded areas close to where three of the project’s 18-month-old satellite-tagged golden eagles (two females and one male) have been spotted (in Burncastle and Western Lammermuirs). As eagle eyries need to blend into the natural surroundings, the eyries have been built with natural materials, using techniques that have been tried and tested by expert raptor workers elsewhere in Scotland.


Welcoming the development, Pip Tabor, Manager of the Southern Uplands Partnership, a key project partner said: “Working with local people, communities, businesses and estates to make sustainable use of our natural and cultural heritage is at the very heart of all that we do at the Southern Uplands Partnership. This approach has played, and will continue to play, a pivotal role in the success of the award-winning South of Scotland Golden Eagle Project. And it’s fantastic to see the approach being embraced by estates like Burncastle, who’ve truly taken the birds under their wings and gone above and beyond to help this iconic bird soar in the southern uplands once again.”


Francesca Osowska, NatureScot’s Chief Executive, added: “We’re committed to protecting and restoring nature across Scotland, so we’re delighted that estates like Burncastle are working with the groundbreaking South of Scotland Golden Eagle Project. Golden eagles are a vital part of Scotland’s wildlife, and it’s brilliant to see so many people and organisations working together to bring them back to the areas where they used to thrive.”


Caroline Clark, Director for Scotland, The National Lottery Heritage Fund said: “This is a fantastic development for the South of Scotland Golden Eagle Project. It is because of the project’s ground-breaking work, impressive partnership working and outstanding community engagement, that the project was named as 2022’s National Lottery Scottish Project of the Year.
“Through our conversations with National Lottery players, we know that nature is incredibly important to them and it is thanks to them that our £1.5m support for the South of Scotland Golden Eagle Project is helping to protect the south of Scotland’s outstanding wildlife, landscapes and biodiversity.”


The development is viewed as another significant milestone for the project and partners South of Scotland Golden Eagle Project partners include the Southern Uplands Partnership, RSPB Scotland, Scottish Land & Estates, Scottish Forestry and NatureScot.


Funded by The National Lottery Heritage Fund, project partners, the South of Scotland Enterprise (SOSE) and the Scottish Government, the initiative is a key project under ‘Scotland’s Biodiversity. A Route Map to 2020’, supporting the Government’s ‘2020 Challenge for Scotland’s Biodiversity’.


For the latest project and festival news, or to donate to the charity initiative, visit: www.goldeneaglessouthofscotland.co.uk

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