If your idea of a dream job is helping to ensure more golden eagles grace the Borders skies, then Christmas may just have come early.
The South of Scotland Golden Eagle Project, which aims to boost the numbers of this iconic bird in southern Scotland, is set to take off.
And organisers are now looking to recruit four high-fliers to get their ambitious programme off the ground.
Over the next five years, the team will be collecting eagle chicks from the Highlands and Islands in the summer and raising and releasing them as satellite-tagged juveniles in early autumn.
They are now seeking new team members to work with local schools, communities, landowners and gamekeepers in Dumfries and Galloway and the Borders to help raise awareness, engage and enthuse locals aboutthe magnificent birds and their conservation needs.
The five-year project, which was announced last year, has already secured £1.3 million from The Heritage Lottery Fund.
They have now received £158,024 match funding from Dumfries & Galloway and Scottish Borders Leader programmes, plus a licence from Scottish Natural Heritage to undertake the work. This paves the way for the project to begin before the end of the year – and to recruit the team they need to help the programme take flight.
“This is a really exciting time as the project is now starting to happen and we will soon start to see tangible local benefits,” says project manager Cat Barlow.
“Work will start in earnest next summer, when we will collect a number of golden eagle chicks in the Highlands and Islands and bring them south to be reared and released from an already-identified location.
“We’d now like to appoint a number of local officers who can work in the community to build support in advance of the first eagles’ arrival.”
The team plan to recruit two community outreach officers who will work with schools and the local communities, and a part-time stakeholder engagement officer who will work with local landowners and gamekeepers.
They are also seeking a full-time eagle officer to lead on the collection and reintroduction programme. The eagle officer post is highly specialised and the team has already been in contact with a number of expert candidates from countries around the world.
The project will be headquartered at the Southern Uplands Partnership’s offices in Galashiels and interviews will take place early next year.
Cabinet secretary for the environment, climate change and land reform, Roseanna Cunningham, said: “This is good news for nature and good news for communities across the south of Scotland.
“This new funding allows the project to recruit staff and push ahead with its exciting plans.
“We must protect and enhance Scotland’s biodiversity and the new team will be doing exactly that.
“Their work will help secure the future of golden eagles in the south of Scotland and benefit local communities through a range of tourism and educational opportunities.
“I commend the efforts of this special partnership.”
And Mark Oddy, chair of the South of Scotland Golden Eagle Project, said: “This venture is not just about birds, but is also about people, and in the coming months we will be working closely with people living and working in the south of Scotland, so everyone can get behind our endeavour.
“In the years ahead, many hundreds of people will have the opportunity, through trails, events and CCTV, to learn more about the golden eagle and its role in Scotland’s biodiversity. I hope it will inspire and empower them to safeguard its existence for future generations.”