North nature lovers are celebrating some welcome good news after a pair of red kites set up home near a historic landmark.
The RSPB said the birds nesting next to Cawdor Castle were the first breeding pair in Nairnshire for more than 150 years.
The new arrivals have delighted castle owner, the Dowager Countess of Cawdor, and are a source of optimism for supporters following the recent mass poisoning on the Black Isle.
The deaths of a total of 22 raptors – 16 – are being investigated by police.
One of the birds at Cawdor was born on the Black Isle. It was satellite tagged before it flew the nest and its movements have been tracked by RSPB staff since it fledged.
It can now been seen from the 14th-century castle, flying to and from its new home with its mate.
Lady Cawdor said: “As the guardian of this historic woodland I am thrilled at the return of the red kites. These birds are, in a sense, part of the history of this area.
“At Cawdor we do our best to promote and nurture the environment. Our gardens have been organic since 1979 and we are keen to promote nature conservation wherever possible.”
RSPB conservation officer Stewart Blair said nesting red kites had not been spotted in the area since the early 19th century.
He said: “Records indicate that kites have not bred in Nairnshire since the early 1800s. Cawdor Castle has been the scene of many historic events over the centuries so it seems very appropriate that the grounds of the castle have been chosen by the kites.
“Red kites would, undoubtedly, have been a familiar sight to William the 3rd Thane of Cawdor, who built the castle in around 1370. It’s very rewarding to think that part of nature’s historic fabric is slowly being restored.”
He added: “After the awful events in the Black Isle when 16 kites were found dead it is great to have a bit of good news. Let’s hope the kites go from strength to strength in Nairnshire and bring delight to even more people.”