Eagle eyes: exciting line-up revealed for first ever festival celebrating Scotland's national bird

Fancy getting up close and personal with Scotland’s national bird, learning to tell your harriers from your hawks, having a go at fell-running or showing off your tree-climbing skills?

You can do all this and plenty more at a unique new festival taking place in the Scottish Borders later this year.

Moffat Golden Eagle Festival, the first of its kind dedicated to the iconic bird of prey in the UK, has unveiled its inaugural programme.

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The week-long celebration is the brainchild of the team behind the South of Scotland Golden Eagle Project, a pioneering conservation initiative that aims to restore a thriving population of the birds in the region.

The new Moffat Golden Eagle Festival, led by the pioneering South of Scotland Golden Eagle Project, is the first of its kind in the UK. Photo: Phil Wilkinson
The new Moffat Golden Eagle Festival, led by the pioneering South of Scotland Golden Eagle Project, is the first of its kind in the UK. Photo: Phil Wilkinson

Running from 19 to 26 September, it will offer a diverse range of events focused on wildlife and the environment with offerings for all ages.

Highlights include educational walks, raptor identification courses, talks by renowned bird of prey experts, live music, a wildlife photography workshop and a family fun day.

The festival will also showcase pioneering ways in which landowners and managers, residents and visitors can help golden eagles to flourish in southern skies once again.

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Since 2018 the South of Scotland Golden Eagle Project has successfully translocated four golden eagles from the Scottish Highlands to the south of Scotland, with more due to be released this year. Picture: John Wright/South of Scotland Golden Eagle Project

The programme also offers events and activities delivered by a range of leading wildlife groups, including RSPB Scotland, NatureScot, Scottish Forestry, Scottish Land & Estates, Scottish Wildlife Trust, Saving Scotland’s Red Squirrels, Wild Eskdale and the Scottish Raptor Study Group.

Esteemed wildlife film-maker Gordon Buchanan will deliver the festival’s first virtual keynote speech about golden eagles and other Scottish wildlife on Friday 24 September.

He said: “I’m delighted to be part of the South of Scotland Golden Eagle Project’s first ever Golden Eagle Festival and to support their important conservation work to ensure golden eagles once again flourish in southern skies.

“The thrill of seeing a golden eagle soaring over a Scottish hillside is an unbeatable experience.

“Each glimpse of this magical bird is special, but they should and could be more common in the south of Scotland.”

Cat Barlow, project manager for the South of Scotland Golden Eagle Project, said: “Support from forestry and land managers, local communities, funders, volunteers, raptor specialists and other participants is absolutely vital in helping us to ensure golden eagles continue to grow in numbers and thrive in the area.”

The festival has been made possible due to support from the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

Caroline Clark, the National Lottery Heritage Fund’s director for Scotland, said: “The Golden Eagle Festival is yet another innovative way in which the South of Scotland Golden Eagle Project is helping communities learn about this awe-inspiring bird of prey and the role it plays in Scotland’s biodiversity.

“Not only will the festival bring new visitors to discover this beautiful part of Scotland, but it will help safeguard the golden eagle’s existence for future generations.”

Leys Geddes, chair of tourism agency Visit Moffat, welcomed the town’s role in supporting the project and hosting the festival.

He said: “The Moffat hills are often described as mini-Highlands, owing to our 300 square kilometres of hills, outstanding scenery and rich wildlife, so the perfect area for golden eagles to thrive.

“It would be wonderful to ensure they become a regular sighting for visitors to the area.”

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