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...
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.......before you plan to visit us, for the next few days!
Winter has returned with avengeance. The webcam picture of the Loch Garten osprey nest says it all. A full 2ft (I'm an imperial sort of a guy), that's 60cm in new money, fell last night and still it is piling down. Roads are blocked again, buses and trains are off, there are power outages everywhere - but ironically, because we still have a generator, we are fine! (Progress with installing the mains supply has now ground to a halt, again!). The car parks are blocked with deep snow and we are not likely any time immediately, to get them clear, with other priorities to focus on, like trying to keep roads open, removing the latest fallen branches and limbs from the roads and just trying to keep everything together etc. Basically, it is weather-caused chaos here, again. Radio Scotland this morning singled-out Badenoch & Strathspey as likely to get the most of the further snow that is forecast widely. Bah!
Tomorrow, 1st April (Thursday) is when we plan to open, and we will try too, but the weather has hampered our last minute preparations, so if you do brave the elements, and get here by dog-team, you'll just have to take us as you find us. If these conditions persist, you will though struggle to get to us, so my advice is to postpone your visit. Many of you I know were planning to come and see us on our first day, which would have been great, and of course you are welcome, but please think twice before you set off. Not just my advice, but it chimes with Police advice too.
And besides, we haven't now seen EJ since 2pm yesterday (Tuesday). As you can see on the webcam, her nest is consumed by deep snow. Is she under there somewhere perhaps?! No, my guess is that she will have cleared off to somewhere more sheltered. By doing so, and leaving her nest unoccupied, she runs the risk of another insurgent osprey taking over, but in this weather? I think that's unlikely. I reckon EJ has made a calculated decision to go off to shelter, and take care of herself and leave her nest for now, knowing that her age, experience and dominace at Loch Garten will enable her to oust any chancer that happens to move in. I suspect she might be hanging around a good fishing site somewhere, close to food, but will not bother to bring fish back to her nest to eat it, but eat it on site where she catches it.
Similarly, Caper-watch starts tomorrow, but frankly I'd forget it, in these conditions. We haven't been seeing birds yet, and are unlikely to whilst we have all this snow. We start on 1st April because we have to start at somepoint, but it is early for there to be much , if any activity, even in the best of conditions, but when it is like this, no chance. Also, at this rate, Caper-staff might not make it through to work anyway. Give it a day or two, I'd suggest.
We'll keep you posted on developments. Meantime, now where's the snow-shovel.......
EJ the resident female osprey at Loch Garten retrurned today, for her 8th season. But I guess you all know that already!
It's confession time, as I suspect we were the last to find out, it would seem the world knew before we did. You'll mock us for this, we know, but we were eating cake at the time! Well not entirely true. We were all in our pre-season staff meeting, discussing the season ahead, Osprey Centre procedures and practices, staff team working arrangements etc etc. So we missed EJ's arrival. Ooops! Shameful some will say, but hey, we knew you'd all be watching and would let us know if anything happened, and you did. I came out of the meeting went back to my desk, took an answermachine message from Carole F-W and an e-mail from Pru, both to say EJ had returned. Thanks both. We then hot-footed it down to the Centre, and lo, there she was sat in the dead tree adjacent to the nest, scoffing a freshly caught fish. The relief amongst the team was palpable and the glee on our faces, a picture. Mobile phones were going off, texts coming in, as this great news spread amongst our avid viewership. EJ looks to be in good shape, though the light was fading by now, we'll take a closer look tomorrow.
So strap yourselves in folks, as here we go, another Loch Garten osprey season in prospect and a rollercoaster of emotion all over again. All we need now is Odin. The weather forecast for the weekend is not brilliant and yet more snow is forecast for next week, so how soon will we see other ospreys at our nest. More anon.
Meantime, whilst EJ's arrival is of course fantastic news and, like us, you'll all be very excited, but as previously mentioned, if you're minded to visit us at some point, please be patient. The Osprey Centre will open for visitors on Thursday 1st April, not before. These early days after the bird's arrive are vital, to give them every chance to settle. If we get Odin back, then he will have seen it all before, and like EJ, will be more readily accepting of the site, but if we get a new male, he will have to get used to things - the nest site, the camera, the Centre building etc, and could so be easily be spooked. Please help us with this by resisting the temptation to visit before 1st April. Thank you.
It was remiss of us, we know, not to be there when EJ arrived, but it was an important meeting for us to have, and the cake was particularly good. And given that none of your cakes have arrived yet........
Once again I'm late getting the data in - though this week it was because the satellite wouldn't let me connect to it to download the data. Don't know what was wrong because it worked today, so sorry for keeping you all waiting. Rothes hasn't left Ilha de Unhocomozinho. She's moving about, in the same area of the island. But that's all I can say about her.
Things are slightly more exciting here at Abernethy (not that knowing Rothes is still alive and well isn't a good thing, but I have to say the anticipation of 'our' ospreys coming back to Loch Garten is more exciting right now). With reports coming in of ospreys seen on their way back it's only a matter of time... The new team at LG are busy with all the preparation for the new season (with one eye to the sky no doubt!).
There are a million and one things to do before the end of March, goldeneye nestboxes need preparing for the coming season, signage that gets taken down over the winter found and put back up.... The list seems never ending!
Stewart, our longest serving member of staff (34 years) is retiring at the end of March. He was the first permanant warden at Loch Garten from the 70s when rspb first bought land there (though obviously rspb had a presence there from the 50s, though back then the wardens were seasonal and migrated with the ospreys). He's seen the reserve grow from just a relatively small area to the massive site it is now. We'd all like to wish him well, and I'm sure the time he no longer has to spend in the office will be enjoyably spent in the forest and wider reserve finding more species new to the reserve.
More next week - though all being well, the new osprey team will be taking to the helm to bring you all the up to the minute (so to speak) happenings from the nest.