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 the 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 only 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 said:
“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; the Langholm Initiative, SNH and Forestry Commission Scotland have subsequently joined the partnership. The partnership 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. Presently, there are only two to four pairs, with limited nesting success. Work is planned to examine how food supplies could be improved and nest sites be made secure, identify additional habitat management measures that may be needed, and if necessary consider prospects for bringing eaglets into the area for release to reinforce the existing population.
Chairman of the group, Mark Oddy commented:
“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.”
Lucy Casot, Head of the Heritage Lottery Fund in Scotland, said:
“HLF is delighted to give its initial support to a project which will help the return of this marvellous bird of prey to the skies of the south of Scotland. Thanks to players of the National Lottery, many hundreds of people will have the opportunity, through trails, events and CCTV, to learn more about the golden eagle and its role in Scotland’s biodiversity. I hope it will inspire and empower them to safeguard its existence for future generations.”
Dr Cat Barlow has been appointed as Project Manager, and is currently forming a small support team. The team will focus on identifying areas/sites and management measures which should benefit the birds. Guided by the National Species Reintroduction Code, the team is undertaking a formal assessment of habitat and other management measures to reinforce the population.
Details of the public consultation will be made available shortly on the project’s web site www.goldeneaglessouthofscotland.co.uk . 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.
- First round pass means the project meets HLF criteria for funding and HLF believes the project has potential to deliver high-quality benefits and value for Lottery money. The application was in competition with other supportable projects, so this is an endorsement of outline proposals. The project now has up to two years to submit fully developed proposals to secure a firm award.
- For the full commissioned Report no 626 by Drs Paul Haworth and Alan Fielding ‘Golden Eagles in the south of Scotland: an overview’ : http://www.snh.org.uk/pdfs/publications/commissioned_reports/626.pdf
- The National Species Reintroduction Forum met in Autumn 2014 and considered how the South Scotland population could be reinforced. The Forum considered a detailed summary on the work done to date, and further proposals. It noted that the project had drawn on the experiences of the Irish Golden Eagle Project, and the practical and stakeholder related work involved in the East Scotland Sea Eagle Reintroduction
- The Forum commented on the summary assessment of prospects for a reinforced population against the criteria set out in the recently published Code. The Forum concluded that the prospects for golden eagles were potentially very good if a project was devised to follow a number of steps.
- The South of Scotland Golden Eagle Project is being supported by: Buccleuch, Scottish Land & Estates, RSPB Scotland, Forestry Commission Scotland, Scottish Natural Heritage and The Langholm Initiative.