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.
  • (very nearly) All grown up! - latest Osprey updates

    Good afternoon all! Now that our chicks are past the ten week stage, they are well and truly finding their feet (or rather, their wings) with regards to flying, and they’ve been delighting everyone in the Osprey Centre with their frequent movements from perch to perch.

    Likewise, EJ and Odin seem to be doing some swapping around of their favourite perching spots – just recently they’ve been making a habit of sitting next to each other at the top of a bare tree over to the right of the nest. As Richard commented the other day in the Centre, although it’s easy sometimes to anthropomorphise the birds, it’s almost as if Odin’s spending time with his lady love while he still can.

    EJ will, after all, be off before too long – you may have noticed that she’s starting to bring a greater number of fish to the nest, which is typical behaviour prior to her leaving the rest of the family. Even as I type, she’s been sat on the nest clutching the remains of a rainbow trout – obviously she hasn’t lost the urge to play mum, still feeding her (rather large) chicks on occasion when they come to the nest.

    They too will be at the business of fishing before too long – indeed, it’s about time for an update from Mike as to the latest movements of our eldest chicks – over to Mike...

    Hi Folks. There has been more activity from the newbies this week.

    Millicent and Seasca

    Both birds have been recorded to spend most of their time around the nest site even though we have not always seen them from the Osprey Centre or on camera.

    On 24 July, both Millie and Seasca were over the south end of Loch Garten some 1 km from the nest site and at the same time of 13.00 hrs GMT. Both were flying although recorded to be in opposite directions. It would be touching to think that they were travelling together at some stage! Perhaps this trip was the start of a fishing expedition. In previous years our juveniles have spent some time perched in a similar spot on the Loch.


    He has continued with his 'normal routine' of exploring his small 'home' area in Senegal. However, this week he has expanded his travelling area a little and has continued to roost at different locations.


    That's all for now folks - stay tuned for the latest news in what's sure to be a very important stage in our chicks' young lives...

  • The future: Perhaps coming to a pylon near you........?


    The picture below taken recently by my erstwhile colleague Stewart Taylor shows an osprey nesting on a purpose-added nesting tray to an electricity pylon. Is this the future for ospreys, or at least part of it?


    There are a few such nests on pylons now and it can perhaps be assumed that young ospreys reared at these sites, will, when they are old enough to nest and breed themselves, have a "search-image" in their brains for a similar nesting location. Will or does pylon-nesting beget pylon-nesting? If so, we could see a developing pylon-nesting culture among future osprey populations throughout UK. No shortage of potential nesting sites for such predisposed birds eh? Think how many pylons there are throughout the UK, a proportion of which will be adjacent to suitable fishing grounds for ospreys.

    Currently, all bar a handful of osprey nests UK-wide are in trees, albeit some on man-made nests in trees. A few others are on look-a-like trees, poles or similar.. The vast majority though are in trees. So is it that young ospreys reared from tree nests have a "search-image" for a tree in which to nest when their time comes? The few slightly "off-piste" nests like on pylons are a  relatively new thing. Are we beginning to see a gradual change in osprey nesting culture, or perhaps a breakdown in their innate "culture of fear" in which the returning and spreading osprey population of Scotland and the wider UK has been living all these years?

    Historically, here in Scotland, some ospreys did nest in non-tree locations. For example the castle wall ruin on the island at Loch an Eilein, on Rothiemurchus, the last place they nested in Strathspey before their extirpation. Having been pushed over the brink into oblivion as nesting birds in UK, at the hand of man, through persecution and extermination, could it be that there exists a "culture" within the since returned osprey population that causes them to avoid nesting close to man and his activities? They are just too wary. For now.


    In North America, and elsewhere in the world where ospreys nest, where they were perhaps not subject to, or at least to the level, of persecution that UK and European ospreys were way back, that ospreys in those parts of the world are less wary, have nothing (or less) to fear and are altogether less of a bunch of  "fearties" that UK ospreys were forced to become.

    The two pictures below were taken at Fulford, Lake Kootenay, British Columbia. They were sent to me as photographic prints back in May 1994, which I thought I'd lost but I have just unearthed them. And with the advent of modern technology can now be scanned and shared with you. I cannot recall who sent them to me 20-odd years ago, but thank you again, and I hope you don't mind me posting them here now.

    The first shows an osprey nesting on the wooden pilings of a lake quayside, a quay used on a daily basis by a ferry, back & forth and berthing right alongside the nest. I've added an arrow to show you quite where. This, despite the potential for tree nesting in the forest seen in the background.



    This would surely be unheard of here, for now. But will we gradually see the breakdown of the "culture of fear" that perhaps our ospreys have? 

    It never ceases to amaze me that the Loch Garten ospreys return every year to rear their family at what must be one of the closest osprey nests to man and his activities in the UK, the Osprey Centre at just about 160m from the nest. Other viewing sites too are relatively close. Have we contributed to a gradual breakdown of that "culture of fear"? In the future, hopefully, when Millicent, Seasca and Druie are on the lookout for a nest site, will they be that bit more predisposed to nesting close, or closer to man?

    In Florida, in Australia and elsewhere, osprey nest in peoples' backyards, on poles, on purposely erected cartwheels and other man-made structure. Pylon-nesting ospreys here are a step in that direction too. Who knows, with our change in attitude towards ospreys, this their second time around, perhaps one day we too might get ospreys nesting in harbours, marinas and other such locations comfortably closer to us.  Be nice, eh?

  • Ospreys fly when they're having fun...

    It has been over a week now since our first chick fledged and these young ospreys have been enjoying their new found freedom.  Even Druie, who continued to spend a lot of time on the nest after fledging last week, has been growing in confidence and taking many practice flights.  Her landings, however, still need perfecting!  Millie in particular has been adventurous and we delighted in seeing her gain some real height in the thermals today.

    The next few days will see them learn the tricky skill of taking off with a fish and the even trickier task of landing, holding onto a branch and NOT dropping the fish.  Seasca is proving to be a feisty youngster, being very quick to snatch a fish and even showing enough confidence to steal food from her older sister, Millie.  This behaviour might encourage Millie to fly off with her fish before Seasca gets the chance to pinch it from her.  However, EJ is still on hand to do her motherly duties and we are still seeing her occasionally feeding the young, sharing a fish out equally amongst the three of them.

    For those of you watching the webcam at home, you might have seen a rather empty nest yesterday.  The birds, however, were not far from the nest.  EJ and Odin were perched together in Odin’s favourite faraway tree, having a bit of quiet time away from the kids, who were perched mostly in the camera tree.  A very relaxing day in contrast to Sunday when they were harassed for most of the afternoon by an intruding osprey.  This was one persistent bird that battled in the skies with both EJ and Odin, stooped at EJ on the nest and even landed on the Camera Tree above Seasca, who displayed her annoyance by mantling and alarm calling frantically. 

    We now have the first downloads from the new trackers and we can now discover where they are spending time when we can’t see them from the centre.  So it is over to Mike...

    Millicent’s and Seasca’s First Flights

    As we might expect at this stage our two girls have not apparently moved far.  By now you will be used to my use of ‘apparently’ because at the moment there are only three satellite data points per day so they do not reflect the detail of what the birds are doing.  However, on around 10th August this will change in readiness for the migration when  there will be eight data points per day downloaded every three days until end October.

    Millie seems to have travelled the farthest with a ‘long’ journey of 200 m NE of the nest with local tree hopping for the remainder of the week.  Seasca appears to have been less adventurous with local tree hopping of around 50m.  That will all change over the next weeks or so as they become more adventurous.  The next download for the newbies will be on 26 July.  Attached is an image of these first steps around LG.


    Meanwhile Breagha has continued his travels around his ‘home’ area in Senegal.  The biggest trip was of at least 5 km NW of his normal range on 10 July and was still travelling N at 14.00 GMT.  He has changed his recent pattern of a favoured overnight roost and in the last week has used several different roost sites.  The next download of his data will be on 24 July but unless there is a significant change reporting will be held over until 26 July.

    Notes on some recent tracking changes:

    Firstly, we have added a new menu item on the Loch Garten website called Satellite Tracking.  This gives direct access to the RSPB tracking page which has now been set up for Millicent and Seasca.  The link on this page (below the map) to the instructions for setting up Google Earth tracking has been made more prominent.  Hopefully these changes will make things easier for those who have not used the tracking sites before or have forgotten how to do it.

    Secondly, we have run out of colours to use for tracking birds on Google Earth!  This is a technical issue which cannot be resolved easily.  So, we have changed the colours of Nethy, Deshar and Mallachie to black, Breagha to red (from black) and set up magenta/purple for Millicent and blue for Seasca.  We will have to make similar changes in future years.

    And finally, for those of you in the local area, there is a talk at the Grant Arms Hotel tomorrow evening about ospreys by our very own, Ian Perks, the man behind the nest-hands at ringing!  The talk is titled 'Scotland's Ospreys, a Conservation Success Story' and starts at 8.30pm.  More details on the Grant Arms website:  http://www.bwwc.co.uk/talks-and-other-events.php