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 just better news, but fantastic new!
Millicent has made it to Spain - and having done so by crossing the Bay of Biscay! Compared to poor Seasca, luck was mercifully on Millie's side.
This is a huge relief to us all, I'm quite sure of that, but for the near-departing Team LG 2104, it's a massive relief. Since losing Seasca so soon, and before our season here was over, understandably we were despondent and very worried for Millie too. We took some comfort from her chosen more easterly route, fetching up in Derbyshire. We hoped that by continuing to head due south from there, this would drop her nicely down to the Channel coast and then make for a convenient, short, risk-averse sea crossing into France, then in time, surely down to Spain, before a likely short hop across the Strait of Gibraltar into Africa.
But oh no! Instead she chose to scare the living daylights out of us by veering more south-west from Derbyshire to the Gloucestershire/Monmouthshire border area. All a bit too far west for my liking, appearing as it did, to be tee-ing herself up also for a possible Bay of Biscay onward leg. I kept my thoughts on this from the team, and they no-doubt kept theirs from me, and each other, fearing for a risky crossing of the Bay, like Seasca.
Thankfully though, luck was on Millie's side, or maybe the weather was just more favourable out there for her at the time, than it was for Seasca, or simply that she took the sensible option of stopping for roosting mid-afternoon over the last few days to gather her strength, to brace herself for the next leg. This probably put her in good stead for what was a mammoth overnight flight across the Bay of Biscay.
On 27 August she flew some 170 km travelling W of Bridgewater, N Devon at 09.00 GMT, W of Exeter at 11.00 GMT where she stopped. She then flew S stopping again at 13.00 GMT W of Widecombe in the Moor before changing direction to a more southerly route coming to roost at 15.00 GMT in woods 2 km W of Buckfastleigh at the edge of the Dartmoor NP. She was close to water at the reservoir on the River Avon and a lake in Buckfastleigh.
She started early at 05.00 GMT on 28 August setting off in a SW direction towards Bigbury Bay, S Devon changing to a SE direction to fly over Salcombe before leaving the coast at 07.00 GMT to cross the English Channel. At 11.00 GMT she changed direction to S and crossed the French coast at around 12.30 GMT near Plouézec in the Côtes d’Amour region of Brittany. At 15.00 GMT she came to roost in a wooded area just N of Pleto having covered a total of 235 km for the day.
The 29 August was to see her complete an incredible journey of 635 km. She left early and flew S, perching at 09.00 GMT near a lake at Le Quélennec and may have also stopped at Le Blavel River which she passed over at around 15.00 GMT. At around 16.45 GMT she left France passing close to Quiberon before starting what turned out to be a 13 hour night flight over the Bay of Biscay! She initially headed for the short route to N Spain but at 21.00 GMT changed to a SW direction. She eventually arrived on the N Spain coast between Avilés and Candas at 05.00 GMT on 30 August.
At 07.00 GMT on 30 August she was perched a little distance further S then flew S over an industrial area of Avilés where there are some large bodies of water. The last downloaded data point had her flying S at 11.00 GMT over a mountainous region. Overall, Millie had flown around 1100 km over the last 3 days.
You, like us, will be hugely relieved at this news. Ok, as we know, these young ospreys are never completely out of the woods, as they say, but to have put the dreaded Bay of Biscay behind her, is uplifting, and give us hope. Phew!
My thanks to data-Mike for the latest. He was as anxious as the rest of us and though the data download was this morning, Mike couldn't wait to know the latest, so he thought he'd take a look to see if any data had come in yesterday (Saturday). Some had, it was incomplete, but some of what arrived said SPAIN! He texted me to let me know, but we've waited overnight for a more complete data-picture, to be sure, before giving you the full up-date.
Though we didn't know that Millie was safe, for now, in Spain, Team LG 2014 put their worries for her and their disappointment at the loss of Seasca behind them and partied heavily on Friday night, dancing the night away. Amongst some somewhat less than elegant performances (Chris), Rachel, a trained dancer, blew us away with her own balletic interpretation of ospreys, in tribute to Seasca. There wasn't a dry eye in the house. Rachel's performance was beautiful.
I've now added some cake pictures, below.
Meanwhile, Breagha continues with his somewhat less exciting travels around his home area in S. Senegal. Next download is on Wednesday 3rd September.
Today is our last day of the 2014 season, we close the Osprey Centre doors at 6pm tonight, until April 2015. Next week is pack-up week, so we'll be about the Centre putting the season to bed. What follows is the latest edition of Osprey Times, the notice we put up at the entrance gate tonight, on closure.
Osprey Times 2014
This year at Loch Garten we celebrated the 60th anniversary of ospreys returning to Scotland. The 24th March saw the arrival of our first Loch Garten osprey – our regular female, EJ, back for her twelfth season. She settled back in quickly and began bringing in some fresh sticks and moss to the nest. Odin, our regular male, soon followed and arrived back on the 30th March, returning for his sixth season. A loyal and dutiful male, he showed up with a fish for his mate and impressed her with a flight display known as skydancing. EJ was suitably impressed and no time was wasted as both birds began mating and preparing the nest for eggs.
On 11th April EJ laid her first egg. Incubation started and EJ began to rely on Odin for fish as she kept the egg warm. The second egg was laid on 14th April, shortly followed by the third and final egg three days later on 17th April.
After five weeks of dedicated incubation, the first egg hatched on 17th May. Chick 2 followed three days later on 19th May and last but not least, Chick 3 arrived 22nd May. Chick 3 had an uncertain start to life when she got her head trapped in the egg shell she had hatched from only moments earlier. We watched on in despair as her siblings were fed regularly throughout the day whilst she struggled to wriggle free. Clearly a fighter from the start, she managed to break free and quickly caught up with her sisters by pushing in front at feeding time. We watched avidly as they grew and grew. Odin has built up a reputation for providing plenty of food for his family, and this year he brought in some of the biggest fish he has ever carried back to the nest. A grand total of 388 fish were faithfully delivered to the Loch Garten nest. A warm and relatively dry summer allowed for a good breeding season and the chicks grew healthy and strong.
We had luck on our side again this year with regards to the weather and on 28th June were able to climb up to the nest to ring the chicks and fit the eldest two with satellite trackers. You can follow their migration routes on our website at: www.rspb.org.uk/wildlife/tracking/lochgartenospreys/index.asp
At ringing we discovered that all three chicks were female. In anticipation of Chick 1 being the first to fly the nest, she was named Millicent (cent meaning 100), as she would be the 100th chick to fledge the Loch Garten nest. Chick 2 was named Seasca (Gaelic for 60) in celebration of the 60th anniversary of ospreys returning to Scotland. Chick 3 was named Druie, after the River Druie, which runs into the fish farm at Rothiemurchus, where EJ does her fishing. True to her name, Millicent fledged first on 12th July, making her the 100th Loch Garten chick. Seasca took her first flight 15th July and Druie fledged 17th July. They then spent several weeks practicing and preparing before beginning their migration south towards Africa.
EJ was last seen at the nest on 18th August, Seasca soon followed and started her journey the following day. Millicent and Druie were both last seen 23rd August and Odin was last to leave, last seen on 25th August.
The team here would like to thank all the visitors, volunteers and on-line viewers who have supported our work this year. Hopefully we will see a safe return of our birds in 2015. The Osprey Centre will open its doors once again on 1st April.
I just thought we'd share with you some pictures of our end-of-season party cakes.
How amazing is this cake, made by Julie Quirie! Look at the attention to detail - it's even got the metal straps holding the nest-camera wooden block housing.
These osprey fairy cakes were made by Lizzie and Jenna
These osprey nests complete with eggs were made by Jen and Rachel - 100 of them, one for each osprey fledged from the Loch Garten nest.
..........Seasca is lost. There is no further data for her in the latest download so we must assume the worst that she has literally ‘sunk without trace’.
Her last recorded speed on 21 August was 25 kph so to reach landfall in N Spain would have taken around 12 hours (less if she speeded up) but still over 6 hours. We can only assume that she just got exhausted, landed on the sea and drowned. This would explain no satellite signal after 21 August.
Millicent's missing data for 24 August is now available so I have attached an image of her whole route from Loch Garten to the current location. She roosted on 26 August in S Wales.
The detail is as follows: At around 10.30 GMT on 24 August she passed into England just N of Catcleugh Reservoir, Northumberland where she may have had a refuelling stop. At 13.00 GMT she was W of Barnard Castle and crossed into S Yorkshire just after 15.00 GMT travelling S to pass between Bradford and Leeds before finally coming to roost at 19.00 GMT in woods N of Rowsley and E of Bakewell in Derbyshire. She travelled 310 km on this day.
There is limited data for 25 August but she appears to have had a late start at 11.00 GMT travelling SSE. She may have spent some time exploring the River Derwent in the Matlock area. She may have only travelled 12 km or so during the day. On 26 August at 09.00 GMT she was travelling SSW from Cromford, Derbyshire passing over Birmingham and Ross on Wye before coming to roost at 19.00 GMT in woods on the Gloucestershire/Monmouthshire border, 6 km SSE of Monmouth. Millie travelled 170 km today and overall around 490 km for the three days. She has also reached some real heights of 1320 m and speeds of 41 kph!
Breagha is still doing his ‘thing’ of moving around a small area in S Senegal. Most of the trips were short except for a round trip 10 km NE of his home area. Please note that the Google Earth updates are now back in operation.
Odin was last seen on site here at Loch Garten at 5.45pm on Monday 25th August, so he's set off on his migration travels to we know not where. We have though had several intruders on site during the week so far, including three at once yesterday. These are presumably birds from further north, heading south, and calling in on the neighbours - only to find no-one at home.
The Osprey Centre closes for this season at 6pm this coming Sunday 31st August.
I think you know what's coming, but why did it have to be so gut-wrenchingly soon?! Before our osprey season at Loch Garten is even over, it pains me to report that it's not looking good for one of our young ospreys, Seasca, the middle one of this year's Garten-Sisters .
The last recorded data point we had last Thursday was at 21.00 GMT 21 August when she was flying at an altitude of 110m over the Bay of Biscay with around 300 km still to go before achieving landfall on the Spanish mainland. The mere mention of The Bay I'm sure gives us all the jitters, and we, like you no doubt, have had an anxious weekend awaiting further news.
Our hope was that the opening title of this latest blog post would begin; Phew! She made it, but it is looking very much like she hasn't made it. The route across The Bay is a high risk journey. We know it can cut up rough out there and can be something of a Bermuda Triangle for migrant ospreys, and we fear it has claimed another.
The map below shows Seasca's route. Having flown over the coastal tip of France, what possessed her, the silly mare, to press on further that day, heading out into the Bay of Biscay?! At her last data point, she had already travelled 500 km that day, so with a further 300 km to go before reaching Spain, it would make for an 800 km-day of flight for her, a tall order for a young, inexperienced osprey.
There is though, a glimmer of hope, but I repeat, just a mere glimmer. In the past our birds have often covered this distance. Alba for example flew over 500 km over the Bay of Biscay in August 2012 travelling overnight. But with no further data for Seasca, I'm afraid that we fear the worst.
However, we do have some data collection problems with Millicent (see below) and this just may be the situation with Seasca too. Mike has looked at the Argos site and there does not appear to be a problem with any of the satellites and there was certainly not an issue with satellite passes over Seasca’s last recorded location. However, the data download for Millicent is incomplete with lots of data missing 22 and 24 August. This is not unusual and usually it gets sorted at the next data download. It just may mean that Seasca’s download has also been affected by missing data, but seriously, honestly and with hand on heart, I suggest you don't hold your breath. The next data download on Thursday 28 August will clarify the situation, for sure :-(
You can, I am sure, imagine the atmosphere at the Osprey Centre today when this news reached us. It's a very forlorn place today, the staff are completely gutted. Alas, we know this sort of thing can happen, and we've almost come to expect it of one or other of our young birds, in time, because amongst the many things we are learning from the tracking project, sadly key amongst them is that mortality is high and many migrant young ospreys just don't make their first migration, But our season is not even over yet, for Pete's sake! This happens, when we still have visitors to meet & greet, and with whom to enthuse and thrill about ospreys. It's going to be a very tough final week for Team LG 2014 after an otherwise very successful season. We're due to party on Friday, to celebrate our season, add now to which, we'll have to toast poor Seasca, we knew her well.
Thankfully there is better news concerning Millicent. She left the nest on Saturday 23 August around 11.00 GMT. At 13.00 GMT she was over the Grampians flying at 52 kph and 950 m altitude. She passed over Dundee, flew 5 km W of St Andrews and crossed the Firth of Forth before crossing the coast over N Berwick. She eventually came to roost E of Gavrald in E Lothian. Most of the data is missing for 24 August but we know she came to roost in woods 1.5 km N of Rowsley in Derbyshire. Let's hope that she continues on this more eastward route meaning she'll hopefully cross into France and avoid the osprey graveyard that appears to be the Bay of Biscay to the west.
Good news too on Breagha. She is still in Senegal and exploring his home territory each day. Finally just to let you know, there appear to be some problems in updating Google which we cannot sort until Tuesday/tomorrow. Consequently, there is no Google data for Seasca, Millie or Breagha.
Gutted of Garten.