A breeding pair of White-tailed Eagles has set up home in a Caithness woodland managed by Forestry and Land Scotland.
Thought to be the first successful breeding pair in the area in almost 100 years, the birds were found to be nesting in a stand of Sitka spruce within a windblown area of lodgepole pine that was due to be felled ahead of peatland restoration work.
It is thought that the eagles selected the Sitka because it offered a stronger platform on which to build their eyrie than the neighbouring Lodgepole pine.
Foresters are now altering their plans to leave the nesting area undisturbed and will shift their focus to an alternative peatland restoration site.
FLS’ Environment Ranger, Eilidh Thompson, discovered the nest while carrying out a pre-harvesting biodiversity check.
“It was a final check in an area of woodland where we’ve never had any previous record of eagles being sighted.
“An adult eagle began circling me overhead and calling continuously, which indicated that its nest was nearby and that my presence was unwelcome.
“I immediately left the area watched the eagle’s activity from a safe distance to get an idea of the nest’s location.
“Once we’d confirmed it, colleagues across the environment, harvesting, peatland, planning, and wildlife teams, pulled together to completely adjust our work programmes to give the birds the space required to ensure their breeding success.
“It was quite an extraordinary and special experience to encounter these incredible birds in the wild, especially in a location where they have not been known for such a long time.
The pair has produced one chick that was ringed (by Justin Grant, Highland Raptor Study Group) and that successfully fledged.
It is hoped that this might mark the beginning both of an increase of the white-tailed eagles in the area.
“The fact that we found the eagles quite close to some hen harriers that are breeding on one of our peatland restoration sites is testament to the value of the work we do to extend and enhance the habitat network and the benefits that this is bringing for biodiversity. “