Loch Garten osprey diary

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.
  • Boy oh Boy!

    Good afternoon Osprey fans! Chris here, reporting on a big day at Loch Garten.

    This morning the Osprey Centre has been a hive of activity for a very important moment in the season - the leg ringing of our two chicks. A ring is put on each leg of the birds; a metal ring holding BTO information and a coloured ring with a unique code of letters and/or numbers - as a way of identification in the future. Our own EJ is so called because of her white ring emblazoned with the letters EJ (we are very creative at the RSPB!). So, at approximately 8:30am, some of the more avid webcam watchers among you may have seen a pair of hands belonging to Abernethy’s fantastic Conservation Manager, Ian Perks, appear on screen. As Ian and his helpers had approached the nest, the adult birds, EJ and Odin, had flown into the air and begun alarm calling to alert the chicks to his presence. The youngsters responded by lying completely flat on the nest, relying on their brown feathers to camouflage them among the moss and twigs. Ian is a very experienced and highly qualified “ringer” and, after scaling a quickly erected ladder, carefully placed our beautiful chicks into a bag before gently lowering them, one-by-one, to the ground.

    Ian at the nest...closely watched from the sky by EJ!           (photo:Val Webber /Alison Elder)

    Waiting at the bottom of the nest tree to ring the chicks was Roy Dennis who, as some of you may know, has dedicated much of his life to the conservation, protection and monitoring of Ospreys. Roy is the authority on all things Osprey and has been a major factor in their successful recolonisation of Scotland so it’s always a genuine honour to see him at Loch Garten. While Ian waited at the top of the ladder (dodging a couple of dive bombs from Odin!) the chicks were also carefully weighed and measured. These measurements are important as they give us insight into the health of the chicks and how far they are through their development. I am delighted to report that both of our chicks are extremely healthy and have been very well fed (good work EJ and Odin). The measurements also tell us whether the birds are females or males (females will tend to be bigger by this stage) and after checking various aspects of the birds wing and tail feathers as well as the size of their feet, Roy concluded that this year we have two males.

    Roy Dennis ringing the leg of one of the chicks                  (photo:Val Webber /Alison Elder)


    Brothers in arms (well, hands!)                                               (photo:Val Webber /Alison Elder)

    This brings us nicely onto names. This year we asked listeners of BBC Radio Scotlands “Out for the Weekend” programme to offer suggestions for names and they didn’t disappoint! There were loads of great ideas but the names we have gone for, after much debate, are Rowan and Willow. Rowan (with an "a" rather than an "e") is the older of the two and has been given a blue leg ring with the code “PP0”. Willow, who is still slightly smaller than his big brother, has “AF0” on his blue ring. Make a mental note of these codes and remember to watch the skies throughout the UK in August and September as these birds start their migration south. If you catch a glimpse of a blue leg ring, who knows, it might be one of our guys!

    Travelling in style!                                                                      (photo:Val Webber /Alison Elder)

    Once all the ringing, weighing and measuring was completed (the whole process takes around 15 minutes) the birds were once again placed back on the nest by Ian, who had not been idle during this period. The opportunity was taken to give the camera a little clean and rid the lens of an annoying blemish caused by a well aimed Osprey poop! Cleaning duties over, Ian carefully placed the chicks back in more familiar surroundings and withdrew from the vicinity. Within a few moments, EJ and Odin had landed on the tree next to the nest, cautiously surveying the area to make sure all was safe, leaving Rowan and Willow to bask in the warm sunshine. Odin had already brought in 2 fish by the time we arrived so both youngsters are quite content and full.

    It’s important to point out that this ringing process has been happening at many Osprey (and other bird) nests for many years and has no negative effect on the relationship between parent and chick, or the future development of the young. This is EJ’s 14th year at Loch Garten so she’s seen and done it all many times before anyway! If Ospreys wore T-shirts, she’d have one.

    Before I go I'd like to say a massive thank you to Alison Elder and Valerie Webber, two of our Operation Osprey volunteers this week, who have provided all of the photos for this blog. Alison and Val have been volunteering with us for a number of years and it was great to have them involved today, especially with such great camera work. If it was left to me you would be stuck with pictures containing a few fuzzy blobs in the far distance! Check our Facebook page for more photos over the next coupe of days. 

    For now I'll sign off. Thanks to you all for your continued support and interest in this years story at Loch Garten. It'll be fledging time before we know it...

  • Moth-ing to see here!

    Here's Sarah White with some information on some (alternative) amazing winged creatures found at Loch Garten! 

    Due to our recent spell of warm weather the insects of the forest are out in force. We get a huge number and variety of insects on the reserve from beetles and butterflies to the slightly irritating (bit of understatement?) but no doubt under-appreciated midge!

    Last Thursday evening, our lovely Community Ranger Alison and the very knowledgeable Pete Moore (RSPB Warden at Insh Marshes) set up 3 moth traps in Mallachie Car Park, the start of our "Two Lochs Trail".  This was part of Moth Night, an annual event run by Butterfly Conservation to celebrate moths in all their glory. So, on Friday morning we arrived at work bright and early to see what treasures had been caught.

    Before I reveal the exciting contents of the traps, I want to talk a bit about how awesome moths are! To many people they are seen as dull, brown and slightly frantic. However, what many people do not know is that here in the UK we are blessed with an incredible variety of moth species. We have over 800 species of macro (or large) moth regularly seen across the UK and thousands of micro (small) moths, in contrast to just 60 species of butterfly. And the contents of our moth traps are a perfect illustration of just how exciting and colourful moths can be!

    We had an incredible haul of moths from the traps, with over 22 species of macro-moths and many more micros. I won’t include an exhaustive list, but the highlights included some of the most fantastically named species I have heard of (a fact we have the romantic Victorian naturalists to thank for). These included: Broken-Barred Carpet (a first for the season), Saxon Seraphim, Nut-tree Tussock and Scalloped Hook Tip.

     A species which was numerous in the traps and perfectly illustrates the beauty of moths is the  vibrantly coloured Brimstone (Opisthograptis luteolata).

    Brimstone Moth (credit: Alison Greggans)

    The clear highlight of the event (for me anyway) was the monster of the moth world, The Poplar Hawk-moth (Laothoe populi), a big bruising moth which flashes the red tops of its underwings when irritated.

    Poplar Hawk Moth (credit: Alison Greggans)

    We also caught Bordered White (Bupalus piniaria). One (or two!) of the first things you probably notice about this moth are the impressive feathered antennae which tell us this is a male. The antennae are an incredible sensory organ, which allow the males to follow the faint pheromone trail left in the air by the females. This species is a bit of a pest in the pine forest and without the help of the Scottish wood ant keeping its population in check would thoroughly defoliate many of the pine trees. A great example of the role insects can play in keeping the forest ecosystem balanced!)

    Bordered White (Credit. Steve Everett)

    For more photos of the moths caught you can check out Alison’s facebook post. https://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=843692045736880&id=615842298521857

    As for an update on our lovely birds, the chicks are growing at an astonishing rate. They have now well and truly passed the reptilian- dinosaur-esque phase and are now looking like beautiful mini Ospreys! It's amazing to think that in just another 4 or 5 weeks the chicks will be flying! Come and see them while you still have the chance. EJ is still being a devoted mum and answering their persistent requests to be fed (a fantastic sign of healthy chicks) and Odin is demonstrating with fantastic ease his superior fishing skills. For the past few days he has managed to relax for over 12 hours (whilst the centre is open), chilling on a perch, before delivering up to 5 fish out of hours, Thanks Odin! 

  • If you like Pine-a Coladas...

    Hello everyone! My name is Fergus, and I am lucky enough to be let loose on the blog to recount to you the intriguing goings-on of the Ospreys and the RSPB Abernethy reserve.  This is my first season at Loch Garten and my first position in my chosen field since graduating university.

    I first became interested in Abernethy during my time studying zoology in Aberdeen. The stories of the last remnant woodland holding an abundance of rare species is a biological mecca for every zoologist! My pilgrimage however, was not particularly difficult or very far.  I am from Edinburgh originally, which is only 127 miles from Loch Garten. The species that you find in the central belt are not nearly as unique as those in the Highlands, but have still given me some of my greatest wildlife memories. My first sighting of Puffins was sailing out to the Bass rock close to Edinburgh and coming across cunning urban Foxes on my way home from the library (pub) was always a pleasure when living in the city.

    Unlike some of my esteemed colleagues, birds are not my immediate calling. I like trees. Specifically ancient Caledonian ones, but I’m not fussy.  When I was given the chance to work in the forest all summer, I couldn’t wait! Don’t get me wrong, the opportunity of working with Ospreys was also pretty cool.  In my short time here I have already seen a Crested Tit momentarily perch on the side of the Osprey nest, heard the echoing pops of a Capercaillie displaying in dense woodland and witnessed Odin see-off a persistent murder of Crows. I can’t wait to see what the next 3 months have in store for us this season.

    It is a pleasure and an honour to be part of the osprey team. I am glad to be telling a chapter in the story of the Loch Garten ospreys. If you see me in the centre, I will be the one pointing out the beautiful pines around the eyrie, come say hello. 

    As for the latest news, 7 of the 13 golden eye eggs have successfully hatched and have made their perilous journey to the waters of Loch Garten. We were delighted to watch the ducklings on the nest box cam throughout the day on Sunday but unfortunately missed their "jump for freedom" as this happened early yesterday morning. This was followed by a 300 meter dash through thick woodland heather and across the road but it was a lovely warm day and it looks like they all made it safely; we have since witnessed a proud Goldeneye Mum on Loch Garten with 7 ducklings in her wake.


    Newly hatched Goldeneye ducklings!                                                                                                                               First outing on the water.

    Our osprey chicks are looking more and more like ospreys every day and Odin is keeping everyone well fed on large trout! My calls for the chicks to be named David and Goliath have been rebutted by almost everybody but not to worry. David is still getting enough food even though he (it) is the smaller of the two. With all the lovely weather we have been having we often see the disappearance of EJ to go for a dip in Loch Mallachie, arriving back with dripping belly feathers. We have also been observing the cooling pants (pants like a dog, not like underwear) of our osprey chicks as they attempt to dissipate their body heat in the hot Scottish sun!

    We have been regularly seeing two squirrel kits around the kiosk playing and learning how to climb trees around the centre. The squirrel drey was located by one of our lovely visitors and we all revel in showing people how to find it at the kiosk! They appear to be healthy and regularly put on quite a show as they jump acrobatically between the Birches and Pines. Make sure you ask whoever is in the kiosk to point out the drey as you enter. If you're lucky, the young squirrels may even be munching on the peanuts from the feeder so keep your eyes peeled!

    To finish, I'll leave you with an amazing picture taken by our fantastic Retail Manager here at Loch Garten, Julie Quirie. An expert on Ospreys, Optics and Odonata!

    A Glorious Four-spotted Chaser enjoying the sun!