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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Not the best picture, but the only one we've got. As some of you have noticed, Alba has darker eyes than Caledonia.
We only have a short window of opportunity to fit the satellite trackers onto the chicks. There is a bit more flexibility if it’s just leg rings, but with the trackers we have to wait until the chicks are almost fully grown but before they are too close to fledging: we don’t want to spook them when we climb to the nest and cause them to panic and try to fledge too early. This window is when the chicks are around six weeks old.
So the date was set for this Tuesday evening. We all gathered excitedly at the Centre and waited for the last visitors to depart. I even came in on my day off after spending the day relaxing in the sunshine. Roy Dennis arrived, we set up the table and equipment, the ladders were brought out and we were ready to go. Then it started to rain. We don’t take the chicks from the nest when they are wet because it would add further stress to them at a time when they are already bedraggled and exhausted. It is also much more difficult to handle the birds when wet, not to mention more dangerous climbing up a 40ft ladder!So we had to abandon the first attempt, and agreed to try again the following morning.
I was awoken at 7 o clock by Richard’s excited call. “The weather is ok, we’re going to try again for 8 o clock” he said. So I hurriedly got dressed and was about to leave the house when the phone rang again. This time it was a rather less enthusiastic Richard, his only words being “It’s raining”. Oh well, at least I got to go back to bed for another hour.
This process was repeated again yesterday and we were starting to think we were looking at a repeat of 2010 when it was so windy all week that we weren’t able to reach the nest at all. The awful prospect of another brood of chicks fledging the nest without us ever knowing what happens to them was starting to become more likely.
Until, that is, this morning when we awoke at 7 to clear blue skies and brilliant sunshine. So once again we all gathered here, this time sure that it was going to happen. The only things we had to worry about were the midges, but we can put up with that for such a momentous occasion.
The operation went very smoothly. The ospreys undoubtedly know that we’re here and they can hear us, but they never see humans from the nest or on their ‘patch’. So as soon as we step out from the trees with the ladders, EJ is up off the nest and alarm calling. As well as a warning to any potential threat, this is a signal to the chicks to play dead on the nest, the defence being that they are well camouflaged and harder to see by an aerial predator. So we were able to approach the nest and carefully bring the chicks down without any problems.
Each chick was fitted with a BTO leg ring on its right leg, a coloured ID ring on its left leg, and a satellite tracker strapped onto its back like a little rucksack. They were also measured and weighed which has determined that they are both female. The details are as follows:
Chick 1:BTO number 1410572Blue/white AA1Tail:150mmWing: 365mmWeight: 1680g
Chick 2:BTO number:1410571Blue/white AA2Tail: 150mmWing: 353mmWeight: 1680g
And now the moment you’ve all been waiting for, which I’ve purposely left ‘til last to make sure you read the rest of my blog first! You may remember the sad demise of the Loch Garten chick called Deshar from 2008. This was named after the school in Boat of Garten so this year we let the children from that school name the chicks once more. They have come up with the appropriate names of Caledonia and Alba. These being the Roman and Gaelic names for what is now Scotland. We think Caledonia’s name may be shortened, hence the title of this blog!
So the newly named chicks were quickly returned to the nest and EJ was soon back on the camera tree keeping a watchful eye on things. Within the hour, Odin had brought a fish to the nest and EJ fed them. The chicks have since been moving around the nest freely. Hopefully they will spend the next couple of weeks flapping their wings and building up strength ready to fledge. And when they do, we will be able to follow their progress and further understand this magnificent species of bird.