A SCOTTISH estate has built two new artificial golden eagle eyries in a bid to help restore a once-thriving population of the birds.

The Duke of Northumberland’s Burncastle Estate near the Lammermuir Hills between East Lothian and the Borders has worked on the nests with a pioneering charity project titled the South of Scotland Golden Eagle Project.

As the project’s first translocated birds begin to settle and reach breeding age, project managers believe artificial eyries will play a vital role in helping golden eagles re-establish even more territories in which they once thrived.

The latest development follows a series of translocations by the project which, thanks to support from more than 17 privately owned estates, has increased the local population of golden eagles to 38 – the highest number recorded for three centuries.

Project manager Dr Cat Barlow said: “Before the project’s translocations began, we spent 11 years working with partners and raptor experts to identify a significant number of areas where they could do this. After so many years, it is fantastic to witness the eagles exploring long-empty historical ranges.

“We’re hoping these new artificial platforms will help the birds settle in areas we thought previously lost as nesting areas.”

The project’s first two artificial eyries have been carefully placed by expert climbers high in the trees within the Burncastle Estate. The team has deliberately selected secluded areas close to where three of the project’s satellite-tagged golden eagles have been spotted.

Welcoming the development, project partner Pip Tabor, of the Southern Uplands Partnership, said: “Working with local people, communities, businesses, and estates to make sustainable use of our natural and cultural heritage is at the very heart of all that we do at the Southern Uplands Partnership. It’s fantastic to see the approach being embraced by estates like Burncastle, who’ve truly taken the birds under their wings and gone above and beyond to help this iconic bird soar in the southern uplands once again.”

NatureScot chief executive Francesca Osowska added: “We’re committed to protecting and restoring nature across Scotland, so we’re delighted that estates like Burncastle are working with the ground-breaking South of Scotland Golden Eagle Project. Golden eagles are a vital part of Scotland’s wildlife and it’s brilliant to see so many people and organisations working together to bring them back to the areas where they used to thrive.”