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...
Read more about Loch Garten
Caledonia has been quite active this week. It appears that she is still roosting on the Rivera de Huelva, but most days she has been recorded away from this site.
Her bullet-point whereabouts are as follows;
The head, at the end of of an arm with a 10m reach contains a chainsaw blade to reach up and high-top the trees, selecting those trees that are around "feature trees" which are those to be favoured and left , these have the most well-developed, deepest crowns, the most spreading canopy branches, and include any multi-stemmed specimens. These feature trees, given the space and light by topping those others around them, will become feature trees all the more with age.
You can see in the picture above how devoid of cover the forest floor is, and what you are seeing is a fieldlayer of shade-tolerant mosses and grasses - not the best for capercaillie (CP). The re-structuring leaves the topped tree tops on the forest floor, providing cover (even when the needles have fallen off the brash), and the adjusted irradiance (light levels) at forest floor level) that results from topping some trees, will promote the growth and development of a blaeberry (bilberry) fieldlayer- which is the best for CP. Blaeberry is key for CP; they feed on (amongst other things) the fresh shoots of it in Spring, they feed on the fruits of it in late summer, and most impostantly of all, though CP are ultimately vegetarian, for the first few weeks of their lives after hatching, CP chicks require a diet of wee beasties, all the caterpillars, spiders, flies etc that live and thrive in a rich fieldlayer of blaeberry. So developing blaeberry through our management is key for the future of CP.
The brash, as mentioned above, helps provide ground cover, but also creates niches where, in time, we hope to see regeneration of seedling rowan and birch trees becoming established, protected and unnoticed by browsing deer.
The high stumps provide stranding dead wood, valuable for all sorts of saproxylic biodiversity, including, in time, when they are rotten, many cavity-nesting species of birds including crested tit, redstart, spotted flycatcher, blue, great and coal tits, treecreepers, woodpeckers of course, and swifts.
This is what those fresh cut high stumps will become in years to come, soft and rotten and a larder for and home to, potentially all the species mentioned above.
I went back into the wood this afternoon and as the sun was shining, I took this picture to show how much light is now entering the wood compared to before, and remember, that's low winter sunshine in late November. In spring & summer it will be all the greater, conditions which will foster good development of the blaeberry fieldlayer.
So this work might look destructive and be a different approach to more mainstream commercial plantation management, but our objectives are different. In time, and sadly for us mere mortals, trees and forest habitats take time to change and develop, but it's management that's a win-win for wildlie and nature conservation. The forest will become more diverse, the habitat will develop to CP's liking, a more natural species mix of trees, fieldlayer and understorey will develop, hole-nesting birds will have a bonanza, as well as all the other critters that will benefit from deadwood creation. And, it looks better, in my opinion. We've lost touch with what a wild wood looks like, because in UK we hardly have any left. So often, we are only exposed to more sanitised, neat, tidy, manicured, homogenized habitats, whereas natural forest habitats are usually often a complete "mess", or bourach.
As I made site checks yesterday, discussing progress with the machine operatror, we heard some very vocal crested tits chattering away like mad in the background. They were not there quite so instanly as a result of the immediate work, but no doubt there already, but I'd like to think, I was hearing crestie-talk for "love what you're doing here guys, all that lovely deadwood and future housing needs for us - nice one. Cheers" ;-)
Have good weekends everyone.
Your blog is so interesting, Richard. I've learned a lot and will look at Forests somewhat differently now.
Just left a comment on last blog. Thanks for pictures of the sidewinder. That is some machine.
Good luck with all your planned hard work.
It's really fascinating to see the work going on - I'm going to be able to see the forest for myself in May when I bring my family to visit! I'm so looking forward to seeing LG - and the magnificent Ospreys, of course. I do hope EJ the Beautiful makes it for her eleventh season.
Thanks for the update Richard good to hear that Caley is safe and very interesting information and photos of your work in Abernethy Forest.
Working for the future then Richard? You may not be around there to see the all results but it must be so amazing to know that you and all those involved are making such a difference in your part of the world. Thank you for the pictures, updates and information........ so pleased to hear that Caledonia is going so well too..... all pluses for you and your team.
Thanks Richard for the good news on Cally. Like others here, I really enjoyed reading your blog and seeing those wonderful pictures of the forest. Now when I see a 'mess' in the woods, I shall view it all differently. Thank you for taking the time to write such an informative blog.
I've really enjoyed your Blog, Richard and am fascinated about all the forestry work and finding out how it all works together with the creatures of the forest. Thank you.
Thanks Richard for the update on Cally.
Interesting work going on in the forest and I'm sure that given time, natural forest and ground plants etc will take over. Great work trying to get it back to a more natural habitat.
Richard what a wonderful blog and firstly so pleased to hear Caledonia is ok and always good news.
I am fascinated by your work in the forests and a lot to take in. A brilliant and interesting blog.
Thanks Richard, glad Caledonia is doing well. I have always worried about the wildlife when I see forests being chopped down, but your explanation has helped me understand more about the reasons behind it, and how it is for their future welfare.
Boys and their toys eh Richard! You just need to design something suitable for compost toilet emptying next!
Very interesting to hear about forestry management. I am glad Cally is still happy in Spain.
Fingers crossed everyone for blue 44 to transmit soon as well.
Thanks Richard for update of Caledonia.
Your explanation of what is happening in the forest and why it is necessary, is excellent. It must have taken some time to write. Thank you.
Thanks Richard for news of Caledonia, good to know she is safe. Can see you are really busy still at LG.