A few words from Tom

Loch Garten ospreys

Loch Garten ospreys
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Loch Garten osprey diary

The ospreys at Loch Garten have people across the world gripped in their tale of violence, adultery and... well... fishing.

A few words from Tom

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Hello Loch Garten blog land!

My name is Tom Simon and I’ve been let loose on this weeks blog post! I’m here for just 2 weeks as part of my internship with the RSPB which has up until now been at Loch of Strathbeg near Peterhead.

This is a bit different to my normal work as I’m usually doing practical estate work and habitat management (although missing out on the last few days of ragwort pulling is something I’m not too upset about!) so I’m getting used to being indoors!

Kicking off with the Osprey news so far this week: a chicks first attempt at fishing was observed earlier by Ian the Trail Warden over Loch Garten this morning at about 8. Ian was cursing that at the time he didn’t have the right lens on his camera so we don’t know which chick it was but as it’s getting to the sort of time they should be attempting to fish it’s a very encouraging sign!

 Caledonia did give us a great acrobatic display yesterday though when, seemingly for no reason, she came swooping and diving towards the centre, circled up until she got quite small before dropping at an impressive speed to land on the nest again.

The chicks, for the last 2 days at least, are spending less time at the nest and perching on the trees behind the nest and even devouring fish there instead of the nest.

Rogue Ospreys have been seen occasionally this week still and one actually landed on the nest earlier today! It wasn’t ringed but the general consensus is that it was not Odin. Buzzards and Ravens have been seen in the area too but not harassing any of the resident Ospreys.

The usual lack of food sharing between the chicks is going on which is giving Caledonia and reason to screech when Alba is having her fish. The funny thing is that Caledonia screeches even when she has a fish so couple that with when a parent is sitting on a tree next to the nest and not doing anything which causes her to screech even more means that there’s not a lot of time that this bird isn’t making a racket!

Away from watching the goings on at the nest, I’ve just been getting used to the routine of the centre, setting up the telescopes trying to make sure that everyone knows what’s happening. Getting used to using the till is a challenge but other than that it’s generally ok! There was a nice moment the other day when I was helping a little boy with ‘digiscope’ and when I looked round all the other telescopes had someone taking a photo through it too!

This is my first time in this part of Scotland and it wasn’t until the evening of my 3rd day here that with the evening sun on the pine trees I got a feel that I really was in the magical land of Ospreys, Crested Tits, Red Squirrels and what I can only assume are mythical Capercaillies as I’ve never seen one!!!

Before I came here I was aware of the history of the Loch Garten and it really is a privilege to be here and even to write the blog! 

  • Lovely to read your comments Tom, it looks like you'll be keeping busy! Great also for those like myself who live too far away and are unlikely to visit LG any time soon, I for one depend on others' descriptions and a good imagination! Somehow I don't think you're going to want to leave :-)

  • Thank you for your blog Tom and lovely to meet you during this past week.  I am just back from another brilliant week's volunteering at Loch Garten and what a privilege it is.  Thank you to Richard, John, Abby, Jen, Laura, Mairi and Ian, Julie Q, Julie S and Ruth.  Although Caledonia can do her fair share of screeching, I think Alba has to get the medal.  Both chicks gave us some wonderful views of their flying skills this week - lots of "wows," "oohs" and "arrhs" were heard both in the centre and the forward hide.  And an added plus was that we had some lovely weather too, despite the midges.

  • Hello and welcome Tom Simon.  So glad you took the time to write a blog as it really is very good to hear about the things we can't see.  Hope you will find the time to write another one before you leave as you are a great story teller!

    Thanke for the info re the wide-cam Richard.  You had me believing you for a bit!  (Richard our hero!!)  Anyway, however you did it, thanks-a-million.

  • hi Richard ok thanks for the reply i unstand that while its working to leave it alone

  • As you will have noticed, I trust, the wide camera shot is back up and running, for now at least, he says with crossed fingers.

    To fix it, in the dark, I carefully crawled out on my stomach, across the bog, slowly inching my way towards the nest, through clouds of murderous blood-sucking midges. Halfway out, I was stopped in my tracks by something moving ahead of me in the gloom and on straining to see in the darkness, I found myself confronted by a huge imperious red deer stag standing over me, threatening. At this point, completely terrified, I remembered that scene in the film Crocodile Dundee, when Mick points his fingers at that buffalo and hypnotises it, getting it to sink to the ground and sleep, so I though this is my only chance, I'd better give it a go......

    I'm guessing that you've rumbled me by now, right? Believe that and you'll believe anything.

    What actually happened is this; The camera has been intermittently faulty most of the season, we kept losing contact with it and our ability to control it's movement. We are not sure why, but by throwing the fuse at the Centre and then re-booting the camera it seemed to do the trick, kick starting it into action. Only to have to repeat the process the following day. Annoying but at least it worked.

    Then three weeks ago, in an unguarded moment, when Centre staff were busy and backs were turned, a young child managed to reach up to the camera control joystick and move it / wrench it - we're not sure quite what, but from that point onwards the camera seized in one position, pointing skywards. Everyday since, for the past 3-4 weeks, on opening the Centre, I or one of the team have tried to re-set it, but no amount of our re-booting trick would enable us to regain control. Bah!

    To fix it would involve going out to the nest, distrubing the birds, which I hope you can appreciate, we were loath to do. We did of course have a scheduled opportunity when out at the nest to collect the chicks for ringing and tagging. However, the tagging process is quite long enough in itself, and to attend to the camera at the same time might have taken us a couple of hours to run tests and fix. As you can appreciate, I'm sure, we wanted to get the chicks tagged & ringed as quickly as possible, and back in the nest with EJ and not delay her return to them any longer by faffing about with cameras. And, as it happened, having waited for a good weather window in which to do the tagging, within a few minutes of us returning the chicks to the nest, it began to rain. So we were right to get out of there, pdq.

    From then on, as the chicks got ever closer to fledging, a camera-fixing nest visit was out of the question, for fear of spooking the chicks into an early jump.  So I'm afraid we have been unable to sort the camera problem.

    Once fledging had taken place, nevertheless the birds are almost always in the immediate vicinity of the nest, even though you viewers at home might not be able to see them, and whilst fledged, it is still important not to disturb them unnecessarily when they are still completely reliant on fish provision by the adults.

    In recent days the chicks have started to venture off site, albeit not far as yet, often perched in trees in view of the nest, so not ideal either for going out there. However, now a full fortnight after first fledging, I have been hoping that as their independence has grown, and that they have gradually ventured further & further away, and begun to roost away from the nest, that we just might get chance to go out and fix the camera.

    Then yesterday, at the Centre, I did my routine of trying to gain control of the camera, not remotely expecting anything to happen, when lo, it moved when I touched the controls!  The explanation? Well, we think that there must be a loose conection somewhere, exacerbated by the cold, and damp imparticular, causing a short perhaps. The weather, as you well know, has been relentlessly damp, since April it seems, but coincidentally we have a had a dry, warm and breezy week of weather and could this have dried out the faulty connection? For now at least, we have control of the camera, which we have fixed on a wide view of the nest and all staff and volunteers are under orders not to touch the controls, for fear we lose it again.

    Whether the fault will return if we get further rain, remains to be seen, and meantime we are reluctant to attempt to move the camera to relay you shots of the birds when perched in the trees adjacent to the nest, in case it seizes again, sorry, but at least you have the wide nest shot, for now.

  • Thanks Tom for such a good blog.  Glad you are enjoying your time at LG and can see you have been drawn in by the beautiful scenery and of course watching EJ, Odin and their 2 lovely girls.  How magnifincent they look now but with the parents they have, no wonder.

  • Hi sorry to  bother you but is it possible to move the wide angled camera to see the ospreys if and when they are in the tree PLEASE

  • Tom, thank you very much for the blog, it's really interesting to know that the girls are attempting to fish and that they eat out of sight (for us webcam-watchers).

    I've been to both Loch Garten and Loch of Strathbeg and loved them both. I wish you to enjoy your stay at ospreyland; keep writing/blogging while you are there!

    PS I too thought that Alba was 'The Voice'... maybe she is only louder? Or maybe it's just that I like all the noise she makes :-)

  • Tom, a brilliant blog, you may be a budding nature journalist. A scoop for you was the first report of a sighting of a fishing attempt by a young 'un at LG. Well for me it was, as I do not recall reading about one before in five years of blog reads. The GE tracking in the past has not shown any evidence, of what could be linked to fishing there, it is a pity that there is nothing much to catch in the loch, but hey, it is still good for diving/plunging practice.

  • Hi Tom and welcome, do hope you enjoy your internship time there at Loch Garten.

    Thankyou for a very informative blog and update onto what is going on around the nest.

    We do miss the wide view cam and so are missing out on a lot of what is happening.

  • Interesting that you mentioned Cally screeching - I thought Alba was winning in the 'screeching and talking to her food' stakes!

  • Thank you so much LG team for fixing the wide cam :o)

  • Thank you Tom for a lovely descriptive blog. To see one of the girls trying to fish must have been a real thrill for Ian to see. I saw the rogue unringed bird on the nest this morning, just after 10.30, and thought that it was Odin. www.youtube.com/watch Enjoy the rest of your stay at LG. A most magical place to be right now.

  • Thank you for your very descriptive blog, Tom.  Enjoy your time at Loch Garten.  It really is a magical place.  I love it.

  • Welcome to Loch Garten, the Blog and the Bloggers.  Pleased to meet you and thank you for your informative update.  I am familiar with the area and suspect you will now have a lifelong interest in ospreys. How fantastic to see Caledonia showing off her flying skills. Enjoy your time with Richard and the team.  They are very special.