WHITE-TAILED EAGLES appearing on Loch Lomond for the first time in over a hundred years could ruffle feathers with local sheep farmers.

A pair of the reintroduced species were first spotted at Loch Lomond National Nature Reserve in early March this year and are believed to have been searching for suitable nests.

The National Farmers Union of Scotland has warned that this could be a big concern for sheep farmers in the area.

“NatureScot has previously recognised the serious economic impact that some eagles have had on many flocks on the West Coast," said NFU Scotland president Martin Kennedy.

“With the growing number of sightings of adult and juvenile birds, farmers had been expecting that, at some point, pairs of eagles would create territories within the Loch Lomond area. Knowing about the serious impacts that territorial pairs of eagles have already had on some of the West Coast’s farms and crofts, Loch Lomond farmers had hoped it would have been a few more years before they would start to nest in the Loch Lomond area," he continued.

“It will now be a case of watching and monitoring any impacts the birds may have on sheep flocks in the area and whether their numbers continue to grow.

“As there is not a local WTE stakeholder group in the area, it is vital that such a group is created and that local famers have representation on any national park forum regarding WTEs in the Loch Lomond area,” added Mr Kennedy.

NatureScot, Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park Authority and RSPB Scotland are working together to monitor the birds’ behaviour, and to put in place protection and visitor management measures to ensure the birds are not disturbed by other loch users.

This includes an exclusion zone, signs asking visitors to keep their distance and monitoring of the area during regular Ranger patrols.

“This is the latest chapter in the continuing success story of sea eagle conservation," said NatureScot operations manager Paul Roberts. “Along with our partners, we carefully manage the reserve to offer rich and diverse habitats to support a wide range of birds and other wildlife, so it’s very rewarding to see the sea eagles return to Loch Lomond after all these years.

“We’re working closely with LLTNPA and RSPB Scotland to protect the birds and we are urging visitors to enjoy the reserve responsibly and make sure they don’t disturb them.”

Director of Environment and Visitor Services at Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park Authority, Simon Jones, added: “White Tailed Eagles are the UK’s largest bird of prey and to have them here in the National Park is something we are excited about.

“We all have a responsibility to help keep these special birds safe and try to minimise disturbance to them. We are engaging with a range of stakeholders who may be impacted by the birds’ arrival in the area, including loch users, visitors and local farmers.

“Protecting the natural environment and the wildlife here in the National Park is a priority for the Park Authority and we have plenty of experience of doing this, including our work to protect nesting ospreys, for whom we have put similar protections in place,” he concluded.