Published: 14/12/2017 16:00 - Updated: 15/12/2017 15:17

Golden eagle numbers in Monadhliath Mountains on rise

Written byMike Merritt


The majestic golden eagle is establishing itself in mountain range
The majestic golden eagle is establishing itself in mountain range


Golden eagles are flying high again over an ancient mountain range in the Highlands where they have suffered illegal persecution.

The majestic bird of prey's numbers are now at their highest in over a century in certain parts of the Monadhliath Mountains.

The eagles are also returning to areas from which they have been previously absent, said the Highland Partnership Against Wildlife Crime.

Following the conclusion of the nesting and breeding season for 2017, the HPAW North Monadhliaths Subgroup said that there are "positive signs" in the area, but there is still room for improvement.

Reports from the Royal Society for Protection of Birds (RSPB) and the Highland Raptor Study Group show that the overall population of golden eagles in the area has increased and positive sightings of goshawks, buzzards, ospreys and red kites have also been recorded by Forest Enterprise Scotland.

A previously targeted area of Moy Forest - managed by Forest Enterprise Scotland - has not been so fortunate with limited success regarding the number buzzards hatched and no goshawks.

Ian Wilson, of NFU Scotland, who leads the HPAW group, said: “It is positive in that we have a recorded increase in golden eagles in the area and also other high profile species but it is also disappointing that the area of the Moy Forest has not been as successful as we had hoped.”

Ian Thomson from the RSPB said breeding golden eagles have had one of their best years ever in the range of hills south of Inverness, the Monadhliaths.

"Historically, these hills have held few pairs with the overwhelming evidence pointing towards illegal persecution associated with intensive management for driven grouse shooting being the cause,” he said.

"The suspicious disappearance of eight satellite tagged golden eagles in the northern Monadhliaths led to the Scottish Government announcing a range of measures earlier this year designed to give further protection to birds of prey. 

"However, in recent years a recovery on some grouse moors has taken place with territories becoming established for often the first time in decades and birds rearing good numbers of eaglets.

"This has helped boost the local population to what is believed to be their highest numbers in well over a century.

"Whilst this is extremely welcome news and we praise this positive step forward, it is calculated that even with the recent increase, the Monadhliaths could still hold a further dozen or so pairs with the vast majority of that shortfall coming from intensive grouse moors showing that much work still needs to be done."

Inspector Mike Middlehurst of Police Scotland, who is leading the HPAW Subgroup, said: “There is a very positive overall result with the golden eagle population and I think we should be clear that this is due to buy in from estates in the area."

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