MOFFAT has been officially crowned Scotland’s new home of Golden Eagles.
New status as the UK’s first Eagle Town adds to the Burgh’s existing accolades, with conservation town and Dark Sky Town titles already under its belt.
It follows a pioneering initiative launched by the South of Scotland Golden Eagle Project in 2008 to grow the area’s eagle population.
More than a decade on, 12 of the rare birds now inhabit the Moffat Hills.
To celebrate the project’s success, and Moffat’s new designation, a free week-long festival brought eagle experts, wildlife filmmakers, conservationists and falconers to the town to deliver a series of talks.
The inaugural Golden Eagle Festival also featured a range of events and activities, live music and guided eagle-spotting walks.
After coming to a close on Sunday, Rick Taylor, festival organiser and community engagement officer at the South of Scotland Golden Eagle Project, said: “It has been amazing to see everything come together for the UK’s very first Eagle Festival in Moffat.
“The support we have received from the community, entertainers, conservationists, funders, project partners, festival-goers, local media and our wider project work been truly incredible – it all plays an absolutely vital role in protecting Golden Eagles in the south of Scotland.
“We’d also like say a special thank you to all those who have been fundraising throughout the festival to support our project’s continued work. Every penny raised will help to ensure that we all see even more of this magnificent species across the south of Scotland’s skies for many generations to come.”
The festival’s keynote speech was delivered by famed wildlife documentarian, Gordon Buchanan, who praised organisers for “raising awareness of how everyone can help to protect this magical and iconic bird”.
He said: “It has been a real privilege to have been 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.
“Each glimpse of a golden eagle is special, but they should and could be more common in the south of Scotland.”
Moffat’s new Eagle Town status is now marked with an official street sign and eagle bench, crafted by local chainsaw carver Sam Bowsher and unveiled at the festival by Green MSP Lorna Slater, who is the Government’s Golden Eagle Champion.
Accepting the town’s new title, chair of Visit Moffat Leys Geddes said: “It’s been a wonderful week. Many of our local businesses are saying that the town is busier than it has been for a very long time – helping our town to recover from lockdowns, restrictions and uncertainty.
“This little town is the gateway to the 300 sq km of the Moffat Hills. Our hills are like a mini-Highlands, providing outstanding scenery, green grass for our sheep farmers and a rich variety of wildlife.
“So Moffat is ideally situated to becoming Scotland’s First Eagle Town and to celebrate, and be hosts to, one of Scotland’s most iconic species – the Golden Eagle.
“The people of Moffat, and our thousands of visitors, have taken the South of Scotland Golden Eagle Project under their wings and are playing a vital role in welcoming eight more golden eagles, making 12 in total, to their new home.”