Jonathan Ames from Rothiemurchus Falconry, trains two young Maremma sheep dogs, called Luigi and Peaches, to protect livestock from the threat of Sea Eagles, in Aviemore, in the Scottish Highlands, on July 26, 2023. Image: Andy Buchanan / AFP
Dotted among a small flock of sheep in a field in the Scottish Highlands, Luigi and Peaches, two young working dogs with thick white coats, are busy being trained to keep watch on the skies above.
The pair, who descend from the Roman-era Maremma breed reared by shepherds to protect their livestock from wolves, are learning to guard against Scotland's resurgent sea eagles, formally known as white-tailed eagles.
The birds, an endangered species with only around 10,000 pairs across the globe, have since established a breeding population on Scotland's west coast and are now thriving -- but at a cost to some farmers.
Searching for a solution, Jonny Ames tapped into his experiences working with the Cheetah Conservation Project in Namibia, where Maremmas were trained to keep the big cats away from livestock.
To teach his latest canine recruits, he attaches a lure designed to resemble an eagle to a drone and hovers it over the dogs in a sheep field.
"The drone has a big eagle hanging on the bottom of it and it kind of dive bombs the dogs a little bit," he told AFP.
"If you can imagine an eagle in the wild, if it's coming in to a kill and there's a wolf there, it isn't going to land."
He and Daisy also allow a sea eagle kept at the falconry to feed from a carcass in front of the dogs in a controlled environment.
"They can't reach each other but we want to try and show the dogs that the eagle is a predator and if there is one near the lambs then you want to scare it off," Jonny explained.
One of the benefits of the dogs is that they are "completely soft" when it comes to humans, he noted.