GOLDEN eagles have bred for the first time in 40 years on charity Trees for Life’s flagship Dundreggan rewilding estate at Glenmoriston between Loch Ness and Skye.
Renowned conservationist Roy Dennis set up an eagle nest – or “eyrie” – on the estate five years ago.
Estate manager Doug Gilbert said: “This is a rewilding success story beyond our wildest dreams.
“I’ve been checking the eyrie regularly since we built it in 2015, hoping to see evidence that the eagles had returned – and now they have.
“As golden eagles may use their nesting sites for generations, we’re hoping they are back for the long-term.”
Stuart Benn, a golden eagle expert and member of the Highland Raptor Study Group, said: “This is terrific news – the first time golden eagles have definitely bred at Dundreggan since 1980.
“Eagles are undergoing a marked expansion in the Highlands just now, re-colonising ground they haven’t been on for many years and even colonising some completely new areas.”
Trees for Life bought Dundreggan, a 10,000-acre former deer stalking estate, in 2008 and has been replanting Scots pine and other tree species.
The charity said its work has included restoring “golden-eagle-friendly mountaintop forests of tough, waist-high ‘wee trees’, such as dwarf birch and downy willow”.
It added: “Known as ‘montane’ species because they can grow near mountain summits despite harsh conditions, these once-common woodlands are now rare in Scotland following centuries of overgrazing by sheep and deer.
“A marked rise in black grouse numbers as habitats have recovered has also probably helped the eagles in their breeding attempt, as these are favourite prey for eagles.”
Read more stories about birds and other creatures on Scottish Field’s wildlife pages.