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
Choppers, baggers and stackers.
Today we held our annual, well, we did it last year too, combo of a Festive "Thank You" to our trusty local volunteers, our Christmas staff do and completeing a major task in double-quick time - filling 300 sacks of festive Yule-tide logs for distribution next week to the Senior Citizens of our two local villages of Nethybridge and Boat of Garten.
It was an epic example of many hands make light work, a vertitable prouduction line and conveyor belt of log processing. This year a massive pile of logs had been pre-cut ahead of today, so that this year we didn't have to suffer the incessant buzz of multiple chainsaws as we undertook other tasks - a great idea, by who ever thought of it! . Compared to last year, this meant conversation was possible and the craic amongst us all today was great, as everyone mucked-in and set-to to complete the task and had a right ol' natter and fun at the same time.
We divided ourselves up into carters of barrows of logs to the chopping blocks, the axe-men & women, the carters of the then split logs back to the bagging pile for the baggers to bag and load onto the trailer. It went remarkable smoothly.
An inventory of fingers and limbs was taken before we started, and all were accounted for - and in their rightful places - when we'd finished.
300 hundred bags filled
7 trailer-fulls of bagged logs were carted to the store, to await distribution.
Hot drinks and mince pies keep us fortified at the mid-point break, but between starting at 10am and finishing at 1pm, we'd filled 300 bags of logs. Phew. And the weather was kind, to boot. Last year when we did this it was a Baltic -6 degrees C. Today it was a Spring-like balmy 14 degrees C!!! We'd settle for temperature like that in July. All in all making for a great team exercise.
We then retired to the meeting room to rest and indulge in a vertibale feast of Christmas fare, mulled wine and a blether. And a good time was had by all. A hearty thanks to all involved - the front-line workers and those behind the scenes who prepared lunch and cleared up afterwards.
Sorry folks, I've been busy with other things and not had time to embellish recent blog posts, just had time to keep you in the picture as to the whereabouts and fortunes of our sat-tracked ospreys. All's well currently. I've a bit more time now, so, what other news...........?
A week or so ago, an e-mail popped up on the office computer from a colleague working at home, to say he'd just received a text (from a reliable source) saying "Two sea eagles seen high-circling over Nethybridge!!!!!.
Without further ado, as they say - meaning you didn't see us for dust, Ian (he of the orange-gloved hands in EJ's nest), Jayne and I suddenly remembered that we..... er.....had to go and check something, in the forest on the edge of Nethybridge.....that would..... er.....take all three of us to do, as it does!
To be fair, Jayne was effectively kidnapped, bundled in to the pick-up, not knowing what was going on. She has though, seen our fervour before, when such a call comes into the office - remember the cranes at the end of May this year?
- so she guessed what was up, that something had been seen. We said nothing at first, but then gave her a clue; "If the sun suddenly goes in and there's a solar eclipse, look up". She guessed correctly, instanly: sea eagle, knowing that these birds are enormous with a huge wingspan of up to 9ft/ 240cm, often referred to as a flying mattress or barn door.
Scan the forest, as we did, from several vantage points, the sun remained shining, no eclipse caused by massive wings, no sea eagles were seen, not relocated by anyone else either over subsequent days. Bah! Och well, it was fun trying, to add this important bird record to the reserve species list data-base. Aye, right!
Had we seen said birds, and if heading in the right direction, in my mind I'd already made up some cock-&-bull story, about needing to nip home immediately because I'd left the iron on! My ruse of course was in hope of adding sea eagle to my garden list - airpsace counts remember. Had it come to pass, it would have taken my garden list to the tidy 100 mark. But it was not to be, hey-ho. One day. It is on my short-list of next likely species.
I did once almost include (by proxy) sea eagle on my garden list, back in 1993. I came home late one evening and noticed a message on the answering machine, (in the days before mobiles!). On pressing the play button, the shrill message rang out "Richard, there's a sea eagle going over your house RIGHT NOW!!!!" It was Roy Dennis, my then neighbour, shouting the message down the phone. Alas, I wasn't in when he called, I had been in Perth all day. Bah!
Though these recent birds seen near Nethybridge last week, were not seen by any of us from the reserve, it counts as a reserve record and it's exciting to know that these birds were in the area. From whence they came, who knows? I subsequently heard that one had been seen in the previous week, further up the Strath at RSPB Insh Marshes reserve. Were these birds from the reintroduced and establishing population on Scotland's west coast, or the more recently reintroduced birds on Scotland's east? With Abernethy, located between the two in central Highland, they could have been either. Other sightings will surely follow in future. The one that flew over my house in '93 was a wild-bred west coast bird.
Artwork by Mike Langman
Scottish sea eagles share a similar, sad history to Scottish ospreys. They too were persecuted relentlessly to the point of oblivion, both species thought to have become extirpated in the same year, 1916. Yet both have had and are getting second bites of the cherry. Ospreys firmly established now, sea eagles slowly but surely too, despite set-backs from latter-day raptor persecution-ists. They actually once nesting in this area, in previous centuries, at Loch Laggan, on the way from here to Fort William, within Badenoch & Strathspey. Maybe one day, they, like ospreys will return to this former haunt too.
If you are wondering what the blog title means, well erne is an archaic name for sea eagle or white-tailed eagle. The name harks mainly from Orkney and Shetland, and quite often crops up in crosswords. Other names for the erne include; grey sea eagle, grey eagle and fen eagle. This latter name reflects the wider haunts & habitats in which they can be found. In Britain we tend to associate them with the wilder, remote, more mountainous & coastal parts of Highland Scotland. Yet they are indeed birds equally at home in marshes and fens. RSPB Insh Marshes has had a number of records since the west coast reintroduction and would in time surely make for a likely place for them to establish themselves. I've seen them in similar marsh & wetland habitats abroad, in the Danube delta in Romania and the Hortobagy in Hungary. So here's hoping Insh gets them, one day.
Apart from the sea eagles, it has been quite quiet otherwise. The winter thrushes have been and gone, the migrant pink-footed geese have passed through, but we do have up to 800+ greylags flighting-in to Loch Garten at dusk to roost overnight. Plus a few rumours of the odd waxwings.
The other news of late, is that of the great storm of 2013. On Thursday 5th December we had ourselves one hell of a night of 80-90mph winds. The wet weather of days before and the mild, frost-free conditions made it soft underfoot and easy for winds of that force to blow trees over.
The reserve is littered with them, some felled giants. For scale of the one above you can see a person silhouetted against the sun. Reserve roads and tracks were blocked, the power was out for 24 hours, phones down too and many a residence shipped roof tiles too.
It was all very scary. The tracks and road have, necessarily, been cleared of wind-blown trees and debris, but those out in the forest will be left untouched, in situ, the result of a natural process with all the attendant benefits mentioned before, as outcomes of our forest management in plantations - whereby we have deliberately winched trees over to mimic wind-blow.
The upended root-plate of the tree shown above is 20ft high !
....whilst Oighrig and Caledonia are not so active. The latest inforamtion we have on the whereabouts of our young ospreys is as follow;
Breagha is exploring his new location in Southern Senegal some 20 km N of the border with Guinea Bissau. Most of the data points are in a small area within 3.5 km S of Cachouane which is near the mouth of the Casamance River and some significant tributaries. Presumably this is a good fishing area with plenty of water and woodland. One or two excursions have been a little further afield. This is an area that both Rothes and Malachie explored in October 2009.
His recordings place him in his now usual area N of Joal Fadiouth with most of the location near the coast.
Caley has apparently not moved far from the favourite Rio Guadalquivir haunt with just a few excursions S down the Rio towards N Seville and one short hop to another favourite spot NE of the Rio site.
My thanks to data-Mike for the information. The next download will be on Monday, 16 December.