Patrick Preston is volunteering at Loch Garten this week. Patrick has been making his annual volunteering trip here for more years than he can remember, and over that time he has become something of a poet laureate for Loch Garten and the osprey. He penned this poem this week, and I thought that today would be a good day to publish it here on the blog, after Odin's fantastic fish total of nine yesterday!
They call me Odin, wise Norse god
I'll live up to that name
I'll break all records, fish like mad
We gods must play the game
To keep this reputation
In a tolerable state
Isn't always easy
As I shall now relate
Our nest is in an ideal spot
A des-res - what a catch
So many other osprey
Come intruding on our patch
I haven't got a ring on
So they can't tell who is who
and even my mate EJ
Sometime puzzles what to do
I came upon some fishing line
It was no use to me
But as I flew about
It nearly tied me to a tree
I felt a little poorly
For two days I stayed away
When I returned two fish were there
And a Tesco's bill to pay!
As mentioned earlier, Odin brought in nine fish yesterday, equalling his personal best. As I type, EJ and the chicks have just finished the second fish of the day.
We await the next fish.....
Just a brief blog post to up-date you on the satellite tracking fund total. I've just received the following figure; £3,825. This, plus the £693 that visitors have given us here on site at Loch Garten takes us to £4,518. Wow! This is simply fantastic. Our thanks go out to all of you who have helped make this happen. It has been a marvellous response from you, and very much appreciated.
The original figure we asked for help with was £4,500 to cover tag costs and initial download costs. We desperately hope that the two tagged chicks this year will fare better than Deshar and Nethy, and can be tracked for a few years to come.
Your tremendous support for this project and the huge following out there of our ospreys has been of real encouragement and a real boost to the Loch Garten team. They are thrilled and feel really good about their work here, knowing that you, and all our visitors are right behind them. It was great to meet several blog readers and contributors at the Osprey Centre over the weekend.
If any of you wish to donate to the work of the team at the Osprey Centre and/or our wider work here at Abernethy, we would still welcome donations to the Abernethy appeal.
I just took a phone call from Mrs Mckintosh a teacher at Quarryhill Primary School in Aberdeen. "Just to let you know", she said, "that you're on speaker" and I found myself talking and listening to the pupils of her Primary 4/5 class. They wanted to tell me some news.
At the count of three from Mrs McKintosh, in unison the children yelled out very loudly "£345".
This was the amount that the children had raised for the Loch Garten ospreys, the proceeds from an art competition and sale. The children were given blank canvases and created art in the style of Jackson (Jack The Dripper) Pollock. Their works of art were then sold to over 100 people who attended their exhibition including staff, parents, friends and family of the children, raising this amazing sum for out work here at Loch Garten.
So, Primary 4/5 of Quarryhill, I know you'll be reading this, so from all of us here at Loch Garten, a huge THANK YOU to you all for this fantastic fund-raising effort on our behalf.. It was a very kind, thoughtful and wonderful thing for you to do for the Loch Garten ospreys. We appreciate it very much and the staff here are very proud of what you have acheived. You should all stand up in the classroom right now and take a very well-deserved bow. You're brilliant.
Don't panic! All's well. Really well, in fact.
First, the great news. Has our boy got back to tip-top form or what? Whatever it was that impacted on Odin's fishing ability has certainly now passed. Since Friday 4th June his daily catches have been; 4, 3, 2, 4, 6, 5, 7, 7, 6 and an astounding 9 yesterday! What's he using, a trawler?!
Many of these fish have been whoppers too, so there has been no shortage of food available for the chick. At times, surplus fish have been littering the nest awaiting to be eaten and at other times if seemed like EJ was force-feeding her brood, so completely replete were they. Even the youngest is getting just about all the food it can handle. Wih so much food, the squabbling between the chicks had eased a little and they spend a lot of time just sleeping off their big meals.
Some of you have asked will all this food mean that they will fledge earlier? Unlikely, not by any significant difference anyway, more that they will hopefully develop into big strong healthy young ospreys. So on this front anyway, you can imagine how relieved and pleased we are that we appear to be through that vulnerable and worrying period of Odin's impaired performance. Phew!
More great news: Saturday, was our Golden Anniversary - 50 years of osprey viewing at Loch Garten. Over 350 people came along to the Centre on Saturday to join us in celebrating this quite amazing milestone. When it all began back in 1959, it was no doubt a hope and an aspiration that it was the beginning of something big, certainly from the birds' point of view. And it has been. From that original pair way back then, to a population now of between 200-210, it has been a magnificent conservation success story for Scotland. However, what I don't think was imagined back in 1959, was the phenomenal interest and the enduring appeal of the ospreys story to so many people. Over two million people have visited the Loch Garten Osprey Centre since it all began.
The day dawned damp. No, wet in fact, very wet. But it couldn't dampen the excitment of the occasion. There was a real buzz in the Centre all day, with the usual eclectic mix of visitors. Many, (more than usual), who had visited many moons ago, making a return visit, others for whom the ospreys were new. It was particularly pleasing to see some local faces amongst the crowd - folk who too no doubt visited way back, but not since.
We were delight to have three guests of honours with us. Firstly, Frank and Kathleen Hamilton and also Fiona Thomson, from Edinburgh, the winner of our poetry competition, who first visited Loch Garten when she was 7 years old. Frank, who was Director RSPB Scotland (1975-1995), but perhaps more importantly on this occasion, was present back in 1959 when osprey viewing at Loch Garten first began, at a time when stalwart Kathleen cooked for the staff and volunteers back then. Frank said some fine celebratory words to mark the occasion and then we called upon Fiona, to recite her winning poem:
Loch Garten, where my heart is home.
No matter how long I am away you welcome me back with open arms.
Ancient roots remaining,
new shoots sustaining,
you will out live us all in your glorious splendour.
After which we called upon Frank and Fiona to attach the golden fish to the Osprey Centre sign, and all in all it was great occasion.
The disappointing news: Sadly our weekend of excitement was spoiled somewhat by the discovery this morning that we had had break-in last night at Reception, down at the car park. Doors had been forced and broken and a window smashed, and all the for the princely sum of £4 taken from a pin-badge box. The money wasn't much, the damage can be rapaired, it's the intent that's upsetting and has got us off to a downcast start to our week at a point when our season was at an all-time high.
But we'll rally.
A quick and brief up-date for you, with a mix of good and reassuring news plus, I'm afraid, some more bad news for ospreys.
Things are fine and have settled down here at Loch Garten. Both Odin (and us here!) seem to have overcome the trauma of last week's events, but it was a close call. Odin is fishing very well and piling in the fish, and all three chicks are feeding very well. The weather has been/is glorious too, so it's all upbeat news from here, thankfully.
Except that is... for a press release just issued today by our local boys and girls in blue, Northern Constabulary, about the robbing by egg-thieves of another osprey nest somewhere in our area, between late April and the end of May. As if ospreys and other birds didn't have enough (both natural and un-natural) hurdles to overcome and contend with!
We can assume that the nest robbed will have contained a clutch of three eggs, so that's three young ospreys that will not be entering the Scottish osprey population this year. Will this completely illegal, but also socially unacceptable, obsessive and irrational behaviour ever end?
So our relief that here at Loch Garten things are back on track has been tempered by this sad news.