Over the last couple of weeks the ospreys (and us!) have endured some very testing weather. We’ve had wind, rain, sleet, hail, snow, with everything else in between. EJ has done a sterling job of protecting the eggs from this weather, whilst Odin has been keeping her fed with a fish or two each day.
But all this is behind us (for now...) and we are currently being rewarded with clear blue skies and brilliant sunshine. After such a long period of cold and wet, it’s absolutely glorious to see the nest and loch swathed in sunshine. And with the snow covered mountains providing a fitting backdrop, it’s simply stunning here at the moment. Long may it last! We’re not the only ones enjoying this sunshine: several common lizards and a dor beetle have been seen basking outside the Centre today.
It’s three weeks tomorrow since the first egg was laid. With the average incubation period of around five to six weeks, it hopefully won’t be long until the first hatching. Things are moving quickly and we’re all very excited, particularly as the weather seems to be picking up.
There are plenty more signs that Spring is on its way. There was a male redstart flitting around the camera tree earlier this week. You may remember redstarts were nesting in the lower branches of the osprey nest last year, and they will certainly be a welcome side-attraction if they chose to do so again. We have seen several swallows in the area, willow warblers are singing everywhere and common sandpipers have been displaying on the loch this week. Oh, and I saw a beautiful male wheatear on my way to work this morning, which is the first one I’ve ever seen round here.
Just a quick word on the upcoming inaugural Scottish Birdfair. It’s taking place on the 19th and 20th May at Hopetoun House, just outside Edinburgh. It promises to be a fantastic event with something for everyone. Further details can be found on the website at: www.scottishbirdfair.org.uk
And last but certainly by no means least, the intrepid Black Jaguar (Brian in real life) has today completed his bike ride from Loch Garten to Rutland. It sounds like he’s been up against the weather, which I’m sure will give him a greater sense of achievement and pride. So on behalf of the whole Loch Garten team, I’d like to express our sincere thanks to Brian for raising so much money for us. It was great to meet you on Monday Brian, so huge congratulations on making it down there in one piece.
The rain continues to pour down, stottin' as we say up here. And cold with it. A max of 5 degrees yesterday. And the forecast for the next ten, (yes ten!) days is...........sorry, I can't bring myself to say.
Mercifully, EJ sits tight on her eggs, but looks completely sodden. In weather like this Odin might be struggling to fish, fish staying deeper in cooler weather rather than rising or basking on or near the surface, and with the loch surfaces blurred by the pounding rain, he'll likely struggle. A good fish, preferably two, a day is fine for EJ, so worry ye not. Odin will be doing his best under the circumstances.
He is though being a bit of tease. I was at Caper-watch this morning at 5am and Odin came back with a fish at about 05.40am and whilst yes, we expected him to perch nearby and eat the head, once he'd finished eating, he just sat with it, out of sight of EJ, still there until I left at 08.20am. Only then as you perhaps saw on-line, at 08.33am does he deign to deliver it! I reckon he didn't want to swap with EJ and sit on a soggy nest, the wooss.
Despite the horrendous weather, Caper-watch has been good, with birds seen most if not every morning. Sometimes a wait is required, but a capercaillie usually ends up showing. This morning we had 30+ people in the Centre at 05.30am, including an American birdwatching group, and all saw a cock caper, just head and neck poking out of the heather to start with but then it flew up into a tree in full view and for a prolonged view.
How's this for a moment - Odin was perched in a small dead tree away to the right of the Centre and looked fantastic in the 'scope. On re-focussing the 'scope, on the same line, to the trees beyond him, lo, there was a cock capercaillie sat atop a pine tree! Scotlands two most iconic birds in the same field of view. In all my time, I've never seen that before and 30+ people were there to see, share and enjoy it.
I was disappointed, given the efforts we go to to try and enable people to see caper, to read an (elsewhere) website comment describing what we do as "dire". Ok so yes the views can sometimes be distant, and sometimes poor, yet at other times the experience is spectacular. Last week, two people arrived promptly at Caper-watch at 05.30 and were instantly shown a bird in a telescope - a result you'd think, but no, their comment was " is that the view we're going to get?" and they promptly left, in a huff. 30 minutes later the male hove into full view, and it too, flew to the top of a tree giving those who kept the faith and waited, superb views. Just no pleasing some people.
During this awful weather, spare a thought not just for our nesting ospreys and lekking capercaillie, but for Black Jaguar aka Brian Anderson. Intrepid chap that he is, he is somewhere between Loch Garten and Rutland Water on his epic sponsored cycle ride. He was here on Monday morning as were we to wish him well and wave him off. It will not be pleasant for him. Brian is raising money for Loch Garten, and many of you have chipped in to support his endeavour, so thank you. He faces quite a task anyway, covering that distance, but with this awful weather seemingly UK-wide, he needs all our support, encouragement and best wishes. Yesterday, he reached RSPB Loch Leven (formerly known as Vane Farm) and called in to see Caroline (Team LG in 2011).
Whilst at Caper-watch this morning, I managed to wire-up Gloria. Glor. is our female goldeneye duck, who has just started to incubate a clutch of eggs in a nestbox, to which we've fitted a camera. You should be able to find the pictures of her at http://www.rspb.org.uk/reserves/guide/l/lochgarten/goldeneyewebcam.aspx .The camera is above her in the lid of the box looking down on her. If she is not there, then what you will see is just a pile of her duck down, which she carefully pulls over the clutch when she leaves the box to go and feed & bathe - the proverbial duck down duvet, to keep her eggs snug in her absence.
Some migrant redstarts have arrived - I bet they wished they hadn't - from having wintered in warmer climes. A male has been singing from the dead tree adjacent to the osprey nest tree, so you just might hear him over the nest microphone. (If I thought I could get away with saying that redstarts sound like an awful electronic buzzing noise, I would! But please can that last remark not be a cue for a barrage of comments about the buzz. Thanks.
THE LIVE CAMERA FEED IS DOWN.
We are aware of this and we are working on the issue as best we can.
The still images are still there and these update every two minutes so you can all still get a good idea of what's going on at the nest. I can assure you, you're not missing an awful lot: EJ is sitting on the nest, sheltering her eggs from rain and hailstones, and Odin is occasionally taking his turn at incubating. He brought her a nice big brown trout this morning so she is being well looked after. And we were lucky enough to have some nice views of a crested tit at the kiosk this morning.
So please bear with us. We will have the live feed back up and running as soon as we can.
ps. yes we received your cards too ChloeB. Thank you very much.
And thank you all for your continued support and understanding.
I wrote this on Sunday but we've been having a few technical problems and I haven't been able to post it until now.
As most of you have probably already noticed, there are now three eggs on the nest! EJ became rather fidgety just before 1 o clock on Sunday afternoon. The telltale signs of heavy breathing and fluffed-out feathers were there and sure enough, a couple of minutes later she stood up to reveal the clutch of three eggs.
Odin has been doing his bit too, bringing in regular meals. At this stage in the season they can survive on a fish or two per day, sometimes less. Odin brought a whopper of a trout on to the nest this morning, which they shared between them, and this obviously gave EJ enough energy to lay the egg, whilst still keeping herself, and the eggs warm.
If you’ve been watching the webcam you’ve probably noticed a fair amount of snow coming down. As the season gets into full swing, the weather seems to have forgotten that it is now supposed to be Spring. It has been snowing on and off all week, with temperatures dropping as low as minus 4. In fact as I type this in the nice warm office with a steaming hot cup of tea, EJ is braving yet another flurry of the white stuff. This just goes to show how important it is that she sits tight for the next few weeks to ensure the eggs are incubated, and hopefully three strong healthy chicks will hatch.
So we are putting questions of paternity to one side, as Odin is doing his share of incubating, and settling into his role of providing enough fish for his partner and her chicks to see through the season. Last year Odin delivered 522 fish to the nest and hopefully he will do another fantastic job this year. His total so far is 14 in 15 days: a pretty solid start.
Caper-watch is also doing well so far, with several males and females showing well most mornings. The fantastic daytime views we had last weekend have unfortunately not continued so if you want to see capercaillies, your best chance is to get down here early. Caper-watch will be running until Friday 18th May.
At the last count, there were also three eggs in the goldeneye nest box. She has now started to pluck downy feathers to cover the eggs and keep them warm so we are no longer able to see how many eggs are now in there. We will of course be providing further updates as and when they happen.
It’s been a bit of a roller-coaster ride since we opened, with over 3,300 people coming in to see the action. It’s hard to believe we’ve only been open for two weeks. If you’re planning a trip up here at some point, we look forward to meeting you.
The whole Loch Garten Team wish Black Jaguar the very best of luck and a safe cycle from Loch Garten Osprey Centre to Rutland Water. It’ll be great to wave him off from here next Monday, 23rd April. We are delighted that he is pledging the funds he raises from this epic cycle ride, to our work here at Loch Garten, to the on-going osprey tracking data download costs. Best wishes and cycle safe Black Jag.
Finally, I saw my first ever short-eared owl last week. Just thought you all needed to know.
I would just like to confirm that just after 2pm today, EJ laid her second egg.
She was getting a bit fidgety on the nest, and with terrible timing, Odin just happened to bring in a fish at that moment. EJ was clearly occupied with more important things and ignored the fish. Odin eventually took the fish away again and when EJ briefly stood up, she revealed the second egg.
So who's the daddy of this one??