A PAIR of sea eagles are preparing to nest on RSPB Scotland's Hoy nature reserve, raising hopes that this year may see Orkney's first chicks in nearly 150 years.

The young pair are assumed to be the birds that nested on the nature reserve last year - the first breeding attempt seen in the county since 1873. Last year's eggs proved to be infertile, but hopes are high that with their growing maturity and experience, the birds may be more successful this spring.

RSPB Scotland's sites manager in Orkney, Alan Leitch, said: "It's very exciting to see Hoy's sea eagles back on the cliffs. It's been quite a journey from their national extinction in 1918 to seeing these birds soaring over Orkney's hills and coasts again, and with luck we may all witness the next step in their story this year.

"We're looking forward to helping people spot this pair at an informal watchpoint at the small roadside car park for the Dwarfie Stone, opposite the Dwarfie Hamars, the cliffs where the birds have recently been seen displaying," he added.

"To give these birds the best chance of success, please don't approach the cliffs and keep dogs under very close control in the vicinity. There's no problem with visiting the Dwarfie Stone, but to be on the safe side we would recommend not lingering too long or gathering in large groups there - the best views are to be had from the car park in any case."