Scottish Land & Estates has strongly welcomed the launch of phase two of South of Scotland Golden Eagle Project which the landowners’ organisation has jointly led and which aims to boost the number of golden eagles in the region in future years.
The project was launched by Minister for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Dr Aileen McLeod at Langholm Moor this morning.
This development is latest step in a long-running project to help golden eagle numbers in the region that has been spearheaded by Scottish Land & Estates and RSPB Scotland.
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. As part of this process, Scottish Natural Heritage published a report ‘Golden eagles in the south of Scotland: an overview’, by Drs Paul Haworth and Alan Fielding.
That report found that, with suitable conditions, many more breeding golden eagle pairs could inhabit South Scotland.
The Scottish Natural Heritage study explored what was affecting breeding pairs in the south and found several factors including historic conifer plantings, poor food supplies, poor productivity of pairs in currently and recently occupied ranges, a lack of potential nest sites, recreational disturbance, persecution, and a shortage of potential recruits from other parts of Scotland.
The report suggested the next steps involve monitoring the ranges for any golden eagle activity, developing work to improve habitats and other conditions for eagles and assessing where further eagles might come from.
Following an approach last year by Scottish Land & Estates, RSPB Scotland and Buccleuch Estates to the Minister, a partnership has been formed to take this work forward, along with SNH. The partnership is currently looking to involve a wide range of stakeholders.
Douglas McAdam, Chief Executive of Scottish Land & Estates, welcomed the new project: “This project began as a collaboration between Scottish Land & Estates and RSPB Scotland when we agreed to work together to try and understand what was limiting the golden eagle population in the South of Scotland in summer 2008.
“The 2014 report was a thorough and detailed study that made clear that SNH believes that habitat improvements are needed to encourage more breeding golden eagle pairs in the south of the country. We fully support this conclusion and through this new phase, we will encourage land managers to work in partnership with SNH and other bodies to make improvements to these habitats wherever possible.
“Other factors, including climate change, lack of availability of prey base for eagles - often because these areas are no longer actively managed by gamekeepers – as well as expansion of forestry and changing land use may also be inhibiting eagle presence in the south.
“Golden Eagles are iconic Scottish birds, adding greatly to Scotland's natural landscape and welcomed by estates as part of our natural heritage. We are therefore delighted to be working with our partners towards increasing the number of golden eagles in the South of Scotland in this new phase of the project.”