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The eagle has landed!

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By Donald Turvill
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The eagle has landed!
ON SHOW . . . eagle handler Ray Lowden with Sapphire, who was brought from Kielder Water Bird Of Prey Centre in Hexham, and festival organiser Rick Taylor at the launch day

Moffat’s first Golden Eagle Festival is underway – and the best is yet to come.

Sunday’s launch saw the Eagle Town’s High Street lined with people eager to catch a glimpse of one of the rare, dazzling birds.

And with a female Golden Eagle, named Sapphire, on display by the iconic Moffat Ram throughout the day, visitors were not left disappointed.

Rick Taylor from the South of Scotland Golden Eagle Project, which has meticulously devised the programme, described the response so far as “monumentally positive”.

He said: “We were on the High Street all day, we had a Golden Eagle with us which drew in the crowds.

“With Moffat being Scotland’s very first Eagle Town and getting that accolade, people have taken a lot of pride in that title and they really want to build on it.

“They’re very proud of the fact that not only were they chosen to be Scotland’s first Eagle Town, but they’ve got the mini Highlands out the back where the eagles are flourishing – there’s 12 birds out there now.”

Allowing people the chance to see the birds up close, he added, gives them a completely unique perspective wholly different to sighting an eagle from a distance in the wild.

“They’re almost like mythical creatures,” he said, “it’s kind of like ‘do they really exist – are they really out there?’ because you never see them. But until you’ve seen an eagle up close, just to actually look into an eagle’s eye, you kind of see why they’ve been admired – even worshipped – for centuries and millenia.

“It’s nice to be able to give people, especially the younger people who are going to be the custodians of these birds, the chance to see them up close. Even if we took them out into the hills you’d get some good views but never that close to a wild eagle.”

The festival wraps up on Sunday with a family fun day, eagle hill run, eaglet run for youngsters, stand up paddle boarding and a ukelele workshop – plus the chance to meet eagles and alpacas.

Looking ahead to what’s still to come, Rick said: “We’ve got the Bigger Tour and that leaves daily from the big stage in the centre of Moffat, that’s at 10.30 am 12.45 pm and 3 pm. This is your best chance to see a wild Golden Eagle at the festival.

“On Friday, there will be a tour around Carrifran Wild Woods with the Borders Forest Trust and a keynote speech from top wildlife filmmaker Gordon Buchanan at the town hall.

Saturday’s offerings include an enviro-fair at Moffat Town Hall and a ‘meet an eagle’ event in the town centre. Furthermore, Rick said if any volunteers are able to help out at the eaglet fun run at Hope Johnstone Park on Saturday at 1 pm to email him at [email protected]

All events are free to attend, however prior booking is essential.

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