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 first movements of Rothes and Mallachie have now been posted - see the tracking page. Alice and I (well, Alice really - remember her from last year?) inputted some data earlier this evening and it seems to have worked! On the map, you can see the Osprey Centre, in the native pine forests near to Loch Garten and about 150m from the Centre ,you can see where the nest is, on a drier knoll of moranic material out in an extensive area of forest peat bog.
Rothes can be seen to have ventured around a bit, towards Loch Garten itself and towards the township of Tulloch. Rarely do we see adult ospreys fish in Loch Garten, despite the close proximity to the nest. Two reasons for that, a) there are hardly any fish in the loch, just some stunted jack pike, and b) because the water is very brown and peaty, like tea without the milk, and so seeing what few fish there are in there is very difficult. So adult ospreys just head out towards the nearby River Spey, other local lochs better for fish and of course the fish farm near Aviemore.
Just been to collect my visiting nephew from the train station, and from the platform, I saw an osprey stack, above the fish farm which is unseen behind the railway station - three ospreys all circling the waters below. Anyway, over the years, once young from our nest fledge, at first they do not know any different, so we do sometimes see instinct kicking-in and our juvenile ospreys circling Loch Garten attempting to fish there. Before long though, they soon either realise that it's not a good spot or notice their parents ignoring the loch and venturing further. We can expect to see this from Rothes and Mallachie in days and weeks to come.
In case you wondering why we do not stock Loch Garten with fish, to make it a good spot for ospreys to hunt, well, it is because the loch is part of an SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest) a UK Governmanet nature conservation designation, in this case, on account of the lochs natural characteristics as they are, albeit poor for fish. To stock the loch would potentially irreparably alter the natural ecology of the loch ecosystem, counter to its status as an SSSI - tempting though it is! Sadly, there is enough ecosystem change and damage going on the world over, so why would we want to add to that?
As I've mentioned the subject of designations, the Abernethy reserve must rate as one of the most heavily conservation designated places on the planet, and for very good reason. It is SSSI, NNR (National Nature Reserve), SAC (Special Area for Conservation), SPA (Special Protection Area), NSA (part of a National Scenic Area), it includes a RAMSAR Site, and is part of the CNP (Cairngorm National Park). That surely leaves you in no doubt what so ever how ultra important and precious Abernethy is for nature conservation. More on that anon.
Anyway, meantime, it's been a busy day at the Centre, with as many as six ospreys viewable on site at some points today, our family of five plus an intruder. All good learning experiences for Rothes, Mallachie and Garten, to see intruders coming in about the nest and to see them repelled by Odin and/or EJ - all good stuff for them to be witnessing, soaking up and storing, as part of their steep learning curve to help equip them, in their lives ahead.
It's great to see you enjoying our new online community. It launched on Friday and though we're working to fix a few minor teething problems, we're delighted that so many Loch Garten osprey followers are exploring the site.
Here are a few tips to help you get the most from it:
And about those birds...
As Richard has mentioned, our young ospreys are starting to explore their surroundings. It's an exciting time! I can't wait to see which routes our birds will take this year. As with Nethy and Deshar, you'll be able to follow Rothes and Mallachie's progress on our map and also on Google Earth. You'll be the first to know as soon it's ready.
No, don't panic! All's well on the technical front (fingers crossed), but the interrupted viewing to which I refer is the absence of our ospreys from the nest for much of the day, meaning you will not have seen much of them. I'm afraid that's how it gets at this stage in the season when the birds have fledged and spend increasing amounts of time perched in trees in the vicinity of the nest but not in or on the nest itself.
We have had ospreys on site all day today, but we have struggled a bit to see them, as they have chosen to perch in trees behind the nest, 200-300 metres from the Osprey Centre itself. Virtually all our visitors today to the Centre, will have seen them though, through our telescopes, but you, our virtual visiting audience will not have. Sorry, but we cannot do much about that. Changing cables back and forth to put one then another camera on the live-streaming system , would I'm afraid be a bit of a faff, and we'd end up doing nothing else, as they have been tree-hopping all day, in one tree one minute seen from one camera, then in another tree moments later, seen from another camera.
We have been very busy with visitors today enjoying the ospreys of course, but also thrilling at our red squirrels too, especially children, chuckling at the antics of these, one of our rarer mammals in UK, yet seen so well here at Loch Garten, given their confiding nature. There are usually 4-6 squirrels on view somewhere here at any one time. The feeders have proved poular too, with juvenile great spotted woodpeckers now a fixture, for all to see. Though not rare, and everyone knows of the bird, if only from cartoons, but they are not a bird that it is easy to see well. Here at the Osprey Centre they feed within 3m from the Centre windows, and when seen at that distance, and through a 'scope, they prove to be a complete WOW for visitors.
Some of you have noticed the juvenile redstarts hopping about in the empty osprey nest. They are taking advantage of the ospreys' absence to forage there for flies and other invertebrates, attracted by fish remains. I mentioned previously in answer to a Q about what happens to the nest, that we do remove material from time to time, often in Spring before the ospreys arrive back. When we have done this, we have discovered that the nest is full of flies, finding a warm place to over-winter, owing to the heat generated by the well-fertilised compacted compost that the nest platform becomes by the end of the season.
Years ago, we examined the invertebrate content of the osprey nest and a nationally rare beetle was discovered living in the nest. It has been found in the nests of Common Buzzard ans Eurasian Sparrowhawk too, but in very few other places. It's not a beetle that lives on carrion, like fish bits,as you might expect, but on those bits of feather sheaths that you will perhaps have seen blowing around the nest when the young ospreys are on the nest busy preening their new feathers, it's the sheath material through which the feathers grow - the equivalent of bird dandruff I guess!?
So, we have rare birds, supporting rare beetles. A couple of flies have been found here too, that bear the site's name, with the specific parts of the name being gartensii and abernethii. It's not just all about ospreys here, there's much more besides.
STOP PRESS: Not just redstarts, but crested tits seen on the osprey nest this morning (28th July) at 09.00hrs. Perhaps we should start to keep an osprey nest species list? - Richard