Sea eagles have appeared on Loch Lomond for the first time in more than a century.
A pair of white-tailed eagles, commonly known as sea eagles, were first spotted at Loch Lomond National Nature Reserve in early March this year.
They have since been observed “nest prospecting” – searching for suitable nest sites – suggesting they intend to stay.
Nature bodies are working together to protect the native birds and minimise disturbance, and an exclusion zone has been put in place around the area where they have been seen.
It is believed that this is the first time sea eagles have settled at Loch Lomond since their extinction in the early 20th century due to persecution and habitat changes, with the last known bird reported in Shetland in 1918.
NatureScot operations manager Paul Roberts said: “This is the latest chapter in the continuing success story of sea eagle conservation.
“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 Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park Authority (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.”
Sea eagles are the UK’s largest bird of prey, with a wingspan of 200-240cm.
NatureScot, LLTNPA and RSPB Scotland are working together to monitor the birds’ behaviour, and to put in place protection and visitor management measures to ensure they 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.
Police Scotland are also aware of the presence of the sea eagles.
Simon Jones, director of environment and visitor services at LLTNPA, said: “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 and little ringed plovers, for whom we have put similar protections in place.”
Sea eagles were reintroduced to Scotland in the 1970s and again in the 1990s and early 2000s, and there are now estimated to be more than 150 breeding pairs.
White-tailed eagles’ natural prey includes seabirds, fish, hare and geese and they are also known scavengers.
NatureScot said there have been no reported livestock predation issues related to the sea eagles at Loch Lomond but in some locations sea eagles can impact on farming and crofting by preying on lambs.