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.
What lurks at the bottom of this murky pond?
Well, it is hard to tell! The peat has made the water dark and difficult to see into, however, there is plenty of life concealed and thriving below the surface. From common newts to dragonfly nymphs and great diving beetles, there is lots to discover when you plunge into the unknown world of Abernethy’s underwater wildlife. Our chief dragon hunter, Chris, has been uncovering the depths of our dragonfly pond to share with families and visitors to the Osprey Centre everyday (except Saturday) from 10.30am to 3.30pm. So if you want to submerge yourself in our pond life, please stop by!
It isn’t only our pond that has a hidden treasure of wildlife, the forest floor is alive with woodland creatures that go unnoticed by passing visitors as they walk up our forest path to the visitor centre. As well as being chief dragon hunter, Chris is an expert creepy crawly catcher and will also be around to help small hands sweep nets across the forest floor to uncover what crawls in the undergrowth. Will it be a hairy caterpillar? Or a jumping froghopper? Come and find out!
Our family drop-in sessions, which will include dragon hunting, beastie finding, nest building and fish carrying will be on every day (except Saturday) between 10.30am and 3.30pm. Children must be accompanied by an adult. Activities will stop for a staff lunch break at 12.45 - 1.30pm.
Odin continues to keep EJ sweet at the nest. Yesterday we seen EJ follow him onto the nest where she quickly took to soliciting for a fish. It took minutes for him to give into her request and he soon flew off in search of a fish. Less than two hours later (it was raining so we’ll forgive his tardiness) he returned with a brown trout for his girl, which she was more than happy to accept. Unfortunately the fish was a tiddler which she soon gulped it down before nagging poor Odin for another one! No rest for the wicked, eh?!
*Last minute edit!!*
We just had an osprey with a satellite tracker hover above the osprey nest!!!
Breagha is still on the Loire in France. Over the last 7 days he has continued to travel the river but has also spent some of the time on the land south of the river. He does not show any signs of either continuing his migration north or returning to Senegal.
Here is a blog from Hannah:
With no chicks to tether them to the nest, EJ and Odin have been spending their time on a number of different perches over the last couple of weeks. You might have seen some of them when we move the webcam around during Osprey Centre opening hours. Some of these perches aren’t visible from the osprey centre so it’s great to be able to show visitors where our pair are hanging out! I thought I’d give you a rundown of these perches and where they are in relation to the nest.
Odin’s Sentry Perch
This perch is a long way away, along the tree line south of the nest. This tall, bare, dead tree acts as the perfect perch for Odin to view his territory from. He often sits here when EJ isn’t around or when he’s trying to keep out of her way!
The “Love” Perch
This one is aptly named because EJ and Odin often sit on it together. Sometimes facing each other, sometimes away, they are obviously enjoying each other’s company. It is a low branching tree behind the nest with lots of room for two. This is EJ and Odin sat together in May, it’s a tricky perch to photograph!
The “Birds Eye View” Perch
This perch is the top of a broken off dead tree in front of our camera mast. Odin loves to sit here, near to his nest. There’s a great view of this perch from the centre but with the camera we can only see the top of his head as it’s right below it.
The “Fish” Perch
The osprey staff like this one as it is visible from the hide with a telescope! EJ especially likes this perch when she spends many hours eating her morning rainbow trout. It’s obviously the perfect horizontal branch for fish eating. This perch also provided some drama earlier in the season when a raven sat next to EJ hungrily eyeing her catch. This perch is quite near the Love Perch and is to the right of the camera tree.
This is EJ sitting on the “Fish” Perch last Friday at the moment an intruding male osprey decided to sit next to her!
The Top of the Camera
Finally, another one of Odin’s favourites, I’m sure he knows we can’t see him on this one!
The top of the nest cam is also popular, this looks pretty uncomfortable!
Often EJ and Odin sit still for hours at a time digesting the fish they’ve eaten, except for the odd foray to the nest. Odin is still nest building and scraping, taking ownership of his territory. The other day he even lay down in the nest as if he was incubating eggs! He also treated EJ to some sky dancing on Wednesday before grudgingly giving her a big fish. We’ve also had a couple of intruder birds over the past few of days, neither causing much trouble. One sat on a perch eating a fish near the nest until Odin noticed him and chased him away!
Breagha is still in France on the River Loire spending most of his time around an area on an island and river bank opposite Le Batardeau. Some flights have been short at ca. 4 km west along the river on 3, 6 and 9 July. Others have been longer. On 5 July he flew NW and at 13.00 GMT was flying NW near the town of Bréhémont before returning to the river at 21.00 GMT having flown 25 km or more. Similarly, on 8 July he went ESE and did a round trip of 12 km.
After a long spell of cold, unsummer like weather, we are happy to back in short sleeves and sunglasses at Loch Garten. This change in the weather has offered a much missed opportunity to enjoy the reserve on these long summer evenings. The overwhelming beauty of Abernethy can sometimes make it easy to miss the smaller things that dwell on the forest floor. With crested tits calling overhead, it is easy to walk around with binoculars pointing skywards and therefore missing out on what is right by your feet, sometimes things that aren’t always obvious. Like the lesser twayblade, for example (twayblade referring to its two leaves – two blades) – a very small orchid that grows on boggy, mossy ground and can easily be overlooked due to its small size. Its preference for shady sites, usually underneath heather, can also make it harder to locate. The necessity to look a littler harder to find it makes it even more exciting when you come across one. Not as showy as some orchids but with small, reddish, star-like flowers, it is still stunning in its simplicity.
Another easy to miss orchid and one that is mostly found in Scotland is the creeping lady’s tresses. It will be another few weeks before it makes an appearance and the Osprey Centre is one of the best places to see it. It is mostly found in remnants of the Caledonian pine forest, making Abernethy an important home for this tiny orchid. If visiting in a month’s time ask staff to point out this blink-and-you’ll-miss it orchid, you’ll be surprised at how easy it is to miss something so special. Another Osprey Centre flower that will have you on your hands and knees to admire its miniature beauty is the common wintergreen, which again, staff at the Osprey Centre can show you.
Creeping Lady's Tresses by Ian Maltravers
One more iconic Abernethy and Caledonian pinewood speciality is the twinflower, which is also small in stature at only 5cm but a single plant can spread for up for a metre across the forest floor. The twinflower spreads by vegetative clonal reproduction and cannot self fertilise. It therefore requires cross pollination by insects to produce viable seeds but the distance between twinflower patches is too great for insects to travel between, making twinflower even more precious.
Twinflower by Ian Maltravers
So next time you go for a walk, especially at Abernethy, don’t forget to look at what is by your feet!
Breagha is still in France. On 20 June between 05.00 and 13.00 GMT he moved north to the Loire River close to a nuclear power station west of Le Némen. Over the next six days he has travelled leisurely along a 9 km stretch of the Loire from Chouzé-Sur-Loire in the west to Le Batardeau in the east. He has not shown a preferred roost site.