I’ve just settled down with a nice cup of tea and a biscuit (shhhhh, don’t tell Richard I’m eating in the office) to deliver the latest from Loch Garten. Are you sitting comfortably? Well, let’s begin...
At the time of writing, it’s a warm and muggy day. The air smells rich and earthy, and the sound of the Red Squirrels skittering up and down the pine bark can be heard from the benches by the main door. There have been both Crossbills and Crested Tits seen in the immediate area of the Centre this afternoon, which has made for some very happy visitors. The Greater Spotted woodpecker family have also been busy, and have taken to dining on the nut feeder right next to the viewing windows! Roe Deer quite frequently appear during opening hours, wandering blithely through the bog cotton beyond the pines that conceal the Forward Hide. A very handsome male Sparrowhawk has also been frequenting these pines, though admittedly, I’m not sure that the Chaffinches are as pleased to see him as we are?!
Nest side, events have taken an interesting turn... Around 4.15pm yesterday afternoon, Odin returned (bearing trout) to find his lady gone. Looking slightly ruffled, he (and the trout) took a short flight around the nest tree. This presumably was intended to lure EJ back with the promise of food – and really, can we fault his strategy?!
However, when EJ still didn’t materialise, Odin returned to the nest (probably not too disappointed) and started to tuck into the trout himself. But he wasn’t alone! The chicks advanced on him, beaks open, begging calls reeling, trying to grab the morsels before he could swallow. Baffled, Odin retreated... and with grim determination, they followed.
He finished-up teetering on the side of the nest hollow, eyes half closed for fear of being pecked, allowing bits of fish to be snatched from him by alternate offspring. I think it’s safe to say he’s more ‘Norse God’ than ‘Domestic Goddess’...
But where was the lovely EJ??? The mystery was solved when she whistled in at 5pm with a 14” Rainbow Trout! Evidently, a certain somebody had paid a little visit to the fish farm... Brown Trout just don’t cut it sometimes, hey EJ?
This is the first time she’s been fishing since the eggs were laid, and shows that she feels able to leave the chicks unsupervised for a little while. It was just slightly earlier than her first fishing foray last season - all good signs that they’re maturing nicely, and I’m sure Odin is delighted at the prospect of spending more time with his ravenous progeny.
So, with hopes to ring / tag the chicks towards the close of the coming week, I’ll leave you. We’re all bursting to hear the latest from Rothes, and hopefully it won’t be long until the next update comes in...
Fingers and toes crossed for the ringing folks! *Think sunny thoughts*
This week's special guests at Loch Garten were pupils from Aviemore Primary school, and at their request, their local MP Danny Alexander, Chief Secretary to the Treasury no less. The visit was organised to raise the profile of school demands for access to the outdoor classroom and for MPs to see at first-hand the benefits of learning outdoors.
Teachers are calling for more outside facilities to ensure all children and young people have the opportunity to learn outdoors and have contact with nature. Some of the UK's biggest environmental education organisers, RSPB, the Field Studies Council and the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust, joined forces and opened their doors to all their teaching sites and Centres. Today (Friday 24th June), more than 50 sites responded to this demand by hosting visits from their local school and MP as part of a UK-wide initiaitve to get every child outdoors. For the first time, school children invited their local MP to come and share an outdoor learning experience with them and see first-hand the benefits contact with nature brings. Mr Alexander also heard from teachers how valuable these opportunities are educationally.
This initiative came in response to new research, commissioned by RSPB, from Ipos MORI that asked teachers what resources or support would encourage them to do more of their teaching outdoors. After additional funding, primary teachers most often said that the thing they need to do more of their teaching outdoors, was greater access to outside classrooms and outdoor facilities. Each year, RSPB, the Field Studies Council and the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust, welcomes a quarter of a million children and young people to their centres, providing outdoor learning facilities to schools and universities, and believe that every child should have regular contact with nature, whether in their school grounds, local environment, further afield, or with family and friends.
Speaking about this initiative, Kate Humble, TV wildlife presenter and RSPB President, said, " If a child hasn't ever got their hands dirty, climbed a tree or been wowed by weird and wonderful pond creatures, how can we expect them to care enough to protect wildlife? Having access to discover, learn and play outdoors in nature is surely an essential part of childhood".
Mr Alexander said: “As someone who grew up on Colonsay and in Glengarry I am fortunate to have had the opportunity to play outdoors and experience both island and inland wildlife. That has given me both a love of the outdoors and a real appreciation of the importance of the natural environment. Outdoor education is hugely important for all children. I am delighted to have had the opportunity to see so many young people getting the chance to learn outdoors - it is great that organisations like the RSPB see sharing these wonderful outdoor experience with children from across the country as a key part of their mission. There is no doubt as to the importance of understanding the environment around you and having the opportunity to learn at a reserve like Loch Garten. Hopefully, the experience will give these children a better understand of the wildlife in their area and how to care for it in future".
Today the children from Aviemore Primary and Mr Alexander were hosted by RSPB Lead Field Teacher at Loch Garten, Paul Kendall who commented; “Children respond enthusiastically to learning outdoors, and every year school classes from Badenoch, Strathspey, Moray and Aberdeenshire visit our National Nature Reserve at Abernethy to experience the forest habitat through engaging activities and individual exploration, as well as seeing our world famous ospreys at first hand at Loch Garten. Developing an understanding and appreciation of the natural world enhances both their concern for nature as well as their ongoing enjoyment of the great outdoors throughout their lives. Hopefully Mr Alexander will share his experience with colleagues in Westminster and we can work together to ensure all children can get out of the classroom and closer to nature”.
The weather was kind-ish on the day, and the children had a great time with Paul and other staff learning about the natural world through play. Our thanks to Danny Alexander for taking the time to join in with this event.
Meantime, Rothes has been on the move. From north of the east Atlas National park she headed to the coast of the Mediterranean, near the town of Axaanem. Then back-tracked south-west inland to a marshy lake area – to fish presumably - then continued further south-west, back towards Fez (“just like that”), for those that remember the late, great Tommy Cooper. Her last point was heading on a north-west bearing, near the town of Souk el Arba du Rharb.
Tagging news: Roy Dennis called in last night to take a further look at our chicks’ growth and development, and tagging is likely one day next week, all being well.
To round off the week, we are having our belated hatching party tonight, to celebrate our charges and our season so far. Being summer, the obvious choice of course, is to have a BBQ, if we can light it! It continues to hammer down with rain and, can you believe it, we are forecast snow tonight too!!!! Admittedly, on higher ground, but for goodness sake, when will we get a summer? Anyway, we would like to thank those of you out there, visitors and bloggers, who have chipped-in, in various ways towards this and indeed throughout the season so far. Many thanks indeed
Midsummer’s day - the longest day of the year, the height of summer, constant daylight & sunshine, or, at Loch Garten, rain, rain and a bit more rain... What a surprise!
Odin was on top form with the fish deliveries yesterday, bringing in a whopping 8 fish over the course of the day – equalling his season’s personal best. The first fish of the day came in just after 4.15am, a pretty early start! While the latest we’ve had a fish delivery this year has been about 11.15pm. However, weather like this makes it a bit more difficult for him as the constant rain on the surface of the water will mean he can’t spot the fish below the surface quite as easily.
In between the fish, EJ has been trying to shelter the two chicks – despite their now enormous size! With rain smudging our view on the cameras, you can just make out her sodden shape sitting with wings outstretched over her young.
It really is amazing to see how much they have grown – it was exactly 4 weeks ago this morning that Charlotte came running into the shop while I was on the phone, shouting that the second chick had hatched and it is just incredible looking back at our recorded footage to see how quickly they have grown in that time. That’s what a good high protein diet will do for you! From their first fluffy couple of weeks, we have watched them get bigger and bigger, during their ‘reptilian’ stage (when their newly emerging feathers give them a bit of a scaly, dinosaur look!), and now their feathers re nearly all out.
You will notice that the youngsters’ feathers have pale tips, unlike the adult birds. This makes them brilliantly camouflaged on the nest when EJ’s alarm calling signals to them to lie down and play dead when she senses danger. And she’s been doing this quite a lot over the past couple of days as a young male osprey has made his presence known around the nest. He has been turning up quite regularly, flying around, perching in the camera tree and we even heard him doing a display call high over the nest yesterday afternoon, trying to impress EJ into accepting him. Impressed she was not; constantly alarm calling at him until eventually Odin flew in, carrying a fish and saw him off!
A lot of you have been asking if & when these two juveniles will be fitted with their leg rings and satellite trackers. Well, we don’t choose a date to put in our diaries – it’s a case of watching and waiting for the chicks to be big enough. We’ll keep you updated over the next week or so, but don’t worry, we’ll tell you before we do it so you can be watching the webcam!
Talking of satellite tracking, Rothes is now in the Atlas Mountains of Morocco having travelled 138 miles over the weekend, looks like she's heading for the coast... Spain soon?!
Finally, to cheer you up on this soggy solstice, here is the footage of our goldeneye Gloria and her jumping ducklings leaving their nestbox last week... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hc-S7xNEvxk Enjoy!
PS. Happy Birthday Doi!
That’s right folks, tiny wee goldeneye jump to the sky.
Recently you may have become familiar with the downward view of a female goldeneye incubating her clutch of eggs. Well the last 24 hours have been proper exciting in their world.
As Richard explained in a previous blog, we weren’t sure exactly when to expect the hatchings so each morning we’ve been rushing into the centre to have a look at the screens. Nothing, nothing, nothing and nothing. Then yesterday, Caroline, John and myself switched on and there was something. There was a wriggling, squiggling little bundle of duckling. And another; tiny, black, fluffy ducklings with white stripes on their cheeks and white spots on their backs. They were moving around a fair bit and with Gloria still incubating the other eggs, it was a bit of a challenge to work out how many there were.
We saw three, then four, then, when I was down at the kiosk, one man told me he was definitely, absolutely sure he’d seen five. What a special day! Interspersed with the usual and dedicated osprey feeds by Odin and EJ, we were busy showing people the action in the goldeneye box and explaining what a short delight it is to witness because in about 24 hours they would be gone.
After that time, they are ready to eat and get each other excited enough to leap out of the box. Our trail warden, Ian, describes it as popcorn cooking in a pan. As soon as they reach optimum energy levels, they almost fire out of the hole! The funniest thing about the whole process is that the box or nest could be 10 foot off the ground and of course, they cannot fly. So how do they make it? Well they hit the ground and bounce! It is an extreme way to come into the world and after that, the adventure continues with a walk all the way to the nearest water.
When we arrived this morning, they were still in the box, jumping, bouncing and bubbling around. We weren’t sure how long it would take before they jumped so Julie and I went out to make a cup of tea. Bad move, we missed it! Luckily John was there to record it and managed to see the first few leaving the box from the inside and then the rest firing out from the front. What an incredible sight. They really do fire out like little missiles and everyone here in the centre has been reacting brilliantly to this slightly ridiculous acrobatic display.
About half an hour later, Ian came up to say he had seen Gloria and all six little ones safely on Loch Garten. Ready for their first feed after all that action.
It’s amazing what can happen in a day.
It will not have escaped your notice how rapidly our two osprey chicks are growing. The younger of the two seems to gained on his/her older sibling and caught up somewhat in size. Some of the plumage features are beginning to show and all of a sudden they seem to have tails! So it is steady as you go. They are doing fine thus far, Odin continues to bring in plenty of fish, having discovered what appears to be a rich seam of native brown trout, quite from where I couldn't possibly say!.
Our visitors continue to be enthralled by osprey family life and this week will also be eagerly awaiting goldeneye Gloria hatching her eggs. It should be any day now, from yesterday 12th, through to Friday 17th. We are not exactly sure, as we do not know quite when she started to incubate. Several weeks ago, having not seen her for several days, we thought that she might have given up, so we switched the camera off. A last minute check however, showed her to be sitting but quite when she began that, we don't know, hence we can only give you a range of likely hatching dates - but sometime this week.
Meanwhile, there seems to a bit of unusual bird interest this week too, Last week it was swifts, this week we have a wood warbler. For the past few days it has been singing near the Osprey Centre car park. For some of you, not that remarkable I guess, but for us, this attractive warbler is a rarity, with maybe only a record of such every 2-3 years. Being a bird predominantly of oak and in particular beech woodland, they don't often turn up with us, being pine. There are often one or two elsewhere in the Strath, but rarely here. It has been singing continually in the hope of attracting a mate, but I suspect to no avail. Nice to hear though, it's a wonderful songster with an accelerating series of sharp metallic notes, described as "a coin spinning on a marble slab". Quite why marble specifically, and not any other stone, who knows?! The song does have though, sibilant qualities, hence the scientific name Phylloscopus ("leaf explorer") sibilatrix. What with the chiffchaff we reported earlier on in the season, now wood warbler, and a scattering of grasshopper warblers locally, plus seemingly more blackcaps this year than you can shake a stick at, - all these species are unusual here - it's turning out to be a warbler summer.
If you are in the area currently or within reach, heres a few suggestions for you.
Team LG 2011 are all fine & dandy, though Charlotte's a little hoarse (made sure I spelt that correctly!) after a busy weekend talking to all our visitors, several bloggers amongst them. Thanks for coming to see us. The weather's been cold and damp for over a week now - we even had two nights of frost - in mid-June! So the purchase of a new microwave gives the team chance for a warming lunchtime cup of soup.
Data check on Rothes tomorrow. More anon.