Each year, the ospreys at Loch Garten have people across the world gripped in their tale of violence, adultery and... well... fishing.
This year's diary, written by the Osprey Information Assistants at the Loch Garten Osprey Centre, picks up the saga where we left off.
We update the blog at least twice a week - more often when there's high drama here. We hope you enjoy reading as the nest-side story unfolds...
Read more about Loch Garten
The Loch Garten emotional rollercoaster ride continues, and presently we're climbing, thankfully.
Odin seems to be back on form now, in fact back on better form than before! He delivered no less than six fish to the nest yesterday. This return to form strongly suggests that he has now overcome the dual problems he was having early last week, of possible impaired fishing ability due to injury, and a relentless onslaught of intruding ospreys to deal with.
As you know, on Wednesday last week we added a few trout to the nest. This was in order to tide-over EJ and newly hatched brood, at what for them was a very vulnerable time, and to buy some time until we knew quite where Odin was at, in terms of possible injury and trauma following his entanglement with fishing line.
We are firmly of the view that he had sustained some sort of damage after what we think was a struggle with fishing line, for example strained muscles perhaps, when fighting to free himself? This, at a time when he needed to be fishing fervently, and perhaps requiring all the more time to do so, due to reduced efficiency because of injury. And yet he had his work cut out repelling intruders too.
Given that his change in behaviour appeared to have resulted from an anthropogenic (man-made)cause - the fishing line - rather than a more natural mishap, after much careful thought and deliberation, we decided to intervene and add a few fish to the nest. We did this just once last week and it was our hope that he would get through whatever was ailing him, that the incidence of intruding ospreys would subside and that Odin would return to full fitness and to being the in-form osprey he had proved himself to be thus far.
At the time we couldn't know what the outcome for Odin would be - would he survive at all, would he recuperate fully, and would he get through this problem period, caused by man and his activities.
Our actions would appear to have helped and to have worked. Those added fish, just eased the situation for hungry EJ and brood, eased the pressure on the recovering Odin, and in so doing gave him some respite from dual duties, enabling him to concentrate on dishing out short-shrift to the marauders.
Odin seems to have made a complete recovery and the smiles amongst us here have not just returned, but have got broader and broader at each arriving fish. The huge relief, glee and excitement were palpable yesterday amongst us all; oursleves here, our visitors, those involved in the conference-call between the recently convened Odin think-tank group, formed to review the situation, and of course you all out there in the ether. When checking the blog comments late last night as that sixth fish of the day came in, it was abundantly clear that you were all also ecstatic.
A day at a time, mind. Odin does seem to be back on form, but given what's happened, I think we cannot take everything for granted and we should be pleased, but measured in our confidence. The three chicks would appear to have had a surfeit of food in the past few days, to the point, as some of you have commented, that EJ almost has to force feed them. When stuffed full, they are likely to just lie there motionless which I know can alarm you, as and when you first log on, but they are currently doing very well.
I know also, that the rivalry between siblings concerns some of you too. This is perfectly natural behaviour. We tend to see more of it, when food is short and they are sparring with each other for dominance in the nest in order to secure the lion's share of fish. Nevertheless, such bickering between chicks can occur at any time, its just the chicks asserting themselves, learning combative skills, learning to live alongside each other - all of which may serve them well in later life etc.
We've seen it all before, many times and have always shared your concerns, especially when it gets particularly brutal and unpalatable to watch. But as I type this, this sort of behaviour is going on in every bird of prey nest with young, the world over - it's just what happens. In this case, it's the down-side of being able to watch & witness all the other amazing, fascinating and enjoyable behaviour. A classic case of the rough with the smooth, I'm afraid.
If my memory serves me (and it does so, less than it did), such bullying hasn't led to the death of a chick here at Loch Garten, except last year, when we lost the smallest one due to a lack of food, because OVS was just so utterly useless at provisioning EJ - (cue howls from OVS fans, no doubt). We didn't step in then and supplimentary feed, because as far as we knew the short-fall in food was a result of OVS' natural incompetence.
Another year, the third and smallest chick took one hell of a battering from his siblings to the point where his proudly, newly acquired brand new head feathering lasted about a week before it was all pecked out - Baldrick, I think we called him that year! But he made it through to fledging.
So, with Odin seemingly back on the best of form, even if the youngest chick were to go into a natural decline, we will not be intervening with fish, and from this point on we will let nature take its course. Quite frankly the way fish are arriving, I feel confident all three chicks will survive. Some have suggested removing the larger chick to alleviate the attacks on the younger two. We'll not be doing that either. They will be left to their own devices now, unless some further unforeseen anthropogenic problem arises, and then we will review the situation.
It has to be the way. Some of you will no doubt disagree and think us heartless if anything were to happen, but that just has to be the way forward now. If a chick goes under for natural reasons, that was its fate, its destiny. Lending a helping hand might never turn that weakling into a viable, healthy, thriving young osprey, capable of migrating successfully. Think Deshar, last year. With hindsight, was he in poor condition through a lack of food?
Honestly though, looking at these rotund, weeble-like chicks lolling around in the nest, replete to the point of bursting, I am confident all three will succeed, especially given how many of you have reported how large our chicks are in comparison to those at The Lowes, who are at least a week ahead of ours, I think.
It's up to them now. Here's hoping.
Our ospreys of course steal the show here at Loch Garten, but there is a varied supporting cast too. Currently redstarts are nesting right in front of the Osprey Centre and showing very well. Red squirrels - a rare mammal in UK terms - are a fixture, with up to six present throughout the day. Even capercaillie sometimes still show, in the afternoons, seen from the Centre.
Talking of Caper, our fingers are crossed this week, for them and Black Grouse, two iconic species here at Aberenthy. It is this week, that we can expect and hope to see the first broods appearing. The weather has been reasonably kind so far, though typically just when we need it to least, it has turned showery, but at least it is not heavy rain. It's turned a wee bit cool too, which seems to be the pattern nowadays, just when grouse chicks need fine weather to get them through there first few weeks of life. But we've had it worse, at this time of year, so we are desperately hoping that the current spell of weather, ideally improves or at least stays as is, to help the fortunes of these two species.
Finally, this weekend marks 50 years since we started showing people ospreys at Loch Garten. If you are able to come along on Saturday (or at any time), please do. We'd be delighted to see you. Given the events of the past two weeks, it's further cause to celebrate. Hope you can come along.
You've no doubt just been watching so will know that we have had two fish in this evening, plus that one at 05.11am this morning. So it is all together looking much better.
There is some debate out there as to who that male was, on the nest this afternoon. The team at the Centre phoned to tell me they thought that it wasn't Odin. I went down to Centre at 6.30pm to look at some footage that they had recorded, and I concur. Yes I know, EJ seemed accepting of him suggesting that it was Odin, but she must be full of uncertainty at the moment about Odin's behaviour and this could well make her more tolerant towards male intruders, in the hope that they might take her on and bring her fish, even if Odin doesn't.
This evening, I didn't see the fish arrive, but trusty duty volunteer Dan kept me informed by phone as to events and he is of the opinion that it was indeed Odin who delivered the goods tonight, and I have no cause to doubt him. And hey, in any case, whilst it would be interesting and preferrable to know that it was Odin for sure, and I'm sure it would have been, what is important is that today EJ and chicks have had three fish and all is well. With light fading, it couldn't be easy to tell for sure, but I for one will sleep easy in my bed tonight, and you should too, but remember, a day at a time. That's all for now.
By the way, thanks Soosin.
Super Odin, Odin the Magnificent, Odin the Great, Odin the Fish Dude, Fishy Odin....... ok so maybe not the last one but whatever way you look at it we could not have asked for a better male! He seems intent on breaking every and any record we have, just last night he brought two fish to the nest within 15 minutes of each other, 15MINUTES!! Here we were all thinking how amazing it was that he had brought in two fish within an hour of each other a couple of times and then he goes and does this!
So including that burst from last night the overall total for the past week is 51 fish, an average of over 7 a day! Quite an achievment when you imagine all he has been through over the past few weeks, no fishing line can stop this osprey. I think the Superman 'S' would quite suit Odin at the moment.
You would think therefore that EJ wouldn't have to worry about anything apart from looking after the nest but she's been at it as well! Yesterday EJ went off fishing herself again (twice!), there is certainly no need for her to be fishing (unlike last year) but perhaps she was just a bit bored on the nest. All the more fish for the chicks which has to be a good thing.
The result of all these fishing shannanigans is that we now have three healthy chicks on the nest, in fact the chicks seem to spend most of their time sleeping off the last meal. If this keeps up then we certainly have a good chance of three chicks fledging the nest in a couple of weeks time. I am sure you will be joining us in keeping everything crossed in the hope that all three chicks will be flying off to Africa in late August.
Unfortunately have to finish on a slightly down note, we seem to have run out of cake..............