As part of a series of groundbreaking translocations addressing low numbers of golden eagles in the south of Scotland, the South of Scotland Golden Eagle Project has recently successfully transported eight golden eagle chicks from the Scottish Highlands to a secret location in the southern uplands of Scotland. This brings the total number of golden eagles successfully translocated by the charity Project to the area to 12 – already almost doubling the local population of golden eagles.
The eight newly fledged eagle chicks have been named by a range of individuals and organisations, including BBC Autumnwatch and Springwatch presenter Iolo Williams, renowned wildlife film maker Gordon Buchanan, Moffat Mountain Rescue, Southern Uplands Moorland Group, Golden Eagle Champion Lorna Slater MSP, local school children, Daniel Lacey (a volunteer who built aviaries for the chicks) and the project team. Blackadder screenwriter Richard Curtis and actor Rowan Atkinson have also given permission to officially name one of the birds ‘Speckled Jim’ – the project team nicknamed him after General Melchett’s favourite carrier pigeon, as he has a very unusual speckled plumage. The other birds’ names include Iona, Sinclair, Ellenabeich ‘Ellena’, Heather, (Golden) Shine and Emma (named after the women’s equality and rights champion Emma Ritch).
News of the birds’ translocation comes as the charity Project prepares to celebrate the new arrivals at the UK’s first Golden Eagle Festival in Moffat, funded by The National Lottery Heritage Fund. The festival takes place between 19 and 26 of September 2021 and has been organised to help secure vital support for the charity’s continued conservation efforts and celebrate the vibrant town of Moffat becoming Scotland’s (indeed the UK’s) first Eagle Town. With a keynote speech by Gordon Buchanan, a family fun day, a Big Tree Climb, and live music sessions, the festival will also showcase ways in which people can help golden eagles to flourish in southern skies once again.
Led by the South of Scotland Golden Eagle Project, Scottish Raptor Study Group workers in the Scottish Highlands carefully collected chicks earlier this year under license from NatureScot, before taking them to the release site in a confidential location in the Moffat Hills. The birds were then cared for in specially-designed release aviaries and supplementary fed to help them adjust to their new habitat before their release. Experts at the University of Edinburgh’s Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies also provided considerable support throughout the process to monitor the health and wellbeing of the birds.
The birds’ names were chosen shortly before their release. Iolo Williams, host of BBC’s Spring Watch and Autumn Watch chose the name “Iona” for one of the eagles. He said: “Thank you for the honour of being asked to name one of the eagles released in the south of Scotland this year. I wish Iona all the best and hope she’s given time to settle and breed in the south of Scotland before too long.”
Project partners RSPB Scotland, Scottish Land & Estates, Scottish Forestry, NatureScot and the Southern Uplands Partnership, worked on the project together for more than 11 years before releasing the first eagle chicks in 2018. Funded by The National Lottery Heritage Fund, project partners 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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