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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At 17.09, as the visitors had trickled away and we were standing in the visitor centre chatting to one another, we suddenly heard the familiar high-pitched call of an osprey overhead. He flew right over the top of the centre towards the nest, clutching a fish in his talons, and started displaying to EJ. We rushed to the window, and the volunteers who had just been walking down the path came running back in again. Frantically we started searching the sky – EJ wasn’t mantling or alarm calling, could it be..?! It definitely sounded like Odin’s call, but it could have just been wishful thinking.
The displaying male then flew down low behind the nest to perch and eat the fish. He can’t have been more than 50 yards from the nest, but still EJ didn’t alarm call or get up to chase this bird away. We scanned the area with our cameras, and finally picked up the bird perched in a pine tree on the other side of the nest. The camera was far away from him, zoomed in so much that the picture was fuzzy, and the bird was obscured behind branches. Still, as soon as I saw the brilliant white on his front, I thought it had to be him. EJ sat patiently on the nest, making only a softly chirruping contact call every now and again.
We were all gathered round in the centre, watching, waiting, not even wanting to go to the toilet in case we missed something! For over an hour we waited, we were all convinced it was Odin – tentatively texting and calling friends, warning them they might want to keep an eye on the webcam – but we didn’t want to say for sure.
Then, at 18.20, someone called out ‘he’s flown, he’s flown!’ and we all rushed to the windows to see where he would go. Someone else was shouting ‘she’s standing back, she’s going to let him land on the nest!’ and sure enough, there he was – Odin – right in front of us on the nest! No doubt about it now! It was definitely him! We were all shouting and cheering and hugging, I’m surprised you didn’t hear us on the webcam!! He gave her the remains of the fish, which she took to the camera tree immediately, while he stayed on the nest and started rearranging nesting material & even scraping out the nest cup.
Even though my heart was telling me this was definitely him, I wanted to be absolutely sure before I put it on here, so I checked his markings. Then, as a final confirmation, she came back onto the nest and at 1834 they mated successfully, the first of many matings to come over the next week or two!!
So there we have it folks, osprey season 2011 is now well and truly under way. Now I’m off home for a celebratory drink!
Thought you might like to see this amazing photo of EJ landing with some nesting material. Check out those wings!! This was taken yesterday evening, shortly after Odin arrived back. Huge thanks to Simon who took the photo & let me repost it from the Speyside Wildlife facebook page.
Well hello there bloggers! What a privilege it is to be here, both here at Loch Garten and also here on the famous blogging page!
I’m Abbi, part of the brand new team here at Operation Osprey. And I can tell you that I’m very happy to be here. Leaving the streets and parks of London town behind me to come to the treetops of Abernethy, upping sticks was definitely the right move to make. The welcome here has been outstanding and with EJ and Odin both now back, its time to get down to business.
And that is precisely what the birds have been up to. A lot. In fact, since our last blog the Loch Garten pair have successfully mated 68 times! This is pretty good going as our male Odin [now here for the 3rd year] only arrived back on Saturday. The mating is all part of the breeding ritual and they can mate up to a hundred times before she lays eggs. Maybe these two are going for a record?
You might think they’ve not had time for much else but actually the matings are very brief so they’ve had plenty of time to get new nesting materials and rearrange the family home. If you’ve been watching the nest closely for the last few days, you’ll have seen some interesting bits and pieces arrive. Yesterday saw Odin drop a huge bundle of straw and it took EJ a while to work out what she was going to do with it. Then earlier today, Odin had disappeared for about half an hour and we were starting to wonder what he would bring on his return. My money was on a stick, the others said a fish and then in he flew in with 2 sturdy looking pieces of bark. In 3 ½ days they’ve brought 66 new items of nesting materials. Between them they’ll make the nest fit for raising chicks and Odin will keep bringing in the goods to remind her what a great mate he is. Keep watching to see how cosy they can make it for those eggs that should be coming soon...
Last year the first egg was laid on 16 April so we are getting very close indeed. If you see them leaning forward and kicking their legs back, that’s them scraping a nest cup to hold the eggs. You can imagine that 3 wee eggs up there would just roll around in the elements without a bit of support. The nest is about the size of a double bed across so they need a good little dint to steady them.
Hello again Bloggers!
Prior to starting at Loch Garten, I was chatting with a colleague about how much I was looking forward to a summer in the Highlands. I confess, his rather dry retort of “Summer? You’d better hope you’re not working that day!” was probably closer to my expectations than I liked to admit.. However, I’m pleased to report that the sun has been positively beaming down on Abernethy for the last week!
Things are very quiet nest-side. EJ and Odin seem to have settled nicely into their incubation routine; though they both look a wee bit warm from time to time, this pleasant weather is ideal for the sitting birds. Although, as a result of the clear night skies there have been mornings when we’ve arrived at the centre to find poor EJ covered in a thin film of frost! The 26th particularly springs to mind. I was recently looking at footage from the same period in 2009. It shows EJ bracing herself against some standard-issue horizontal rain, and I suspect she’s not missing it just yet.
Earlier in the week, I was treated to some stunning views of Red Grouse courting at top end of the reserve. The calls of the males (which, should you ever hear them, are rather comical) reverberated around the valley, their owners tramping lustily through the heather in hot pursuit of the girls. When the sun catches their plumage, it really is the most glorious burnished copper.
I must also give a big shout-out to Nicola, Olivia and Felicity who recognised me from the centre when out birding! It was great to chat to them again, and it was my pleasure to share the things that I’ve learned about Ospreys with such a lovely family.
We’re bidding a fond farewell to one of our tem this week – Dan is leaving the centre staff, having stood in temporarily at short notice from the beginning of the season. We wish him the very best in his future endeavours, and his wicked sense of humour (not to mention his DIY skills?!) will be much missed by everyone who worked with him.
So, that’s all for now folks - just a quick check in, and I hope this finds you all well out there.
Spare a thought for the team at Abernethy, going about our daily duties in shorts & t-shirts beneath the sunlit pines... it’s a tough job, but someone’s got to do it!