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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Fundraising for satellite tags
We need to raise funds to enable us to track this year's Loch Garten ospreys. To donate to our appeal, please go to our JustGiving page. Thank you for your support.
When I posted my last blog on Wednesday, the snow had just started to fall...and then it didn’t stop for the next three days! It was more a duvet than a blanket of snow that covered the reserve; it was even up to my knees in places.
Abernethy in the snow
It was the perfect festive weather for our annual ‘Log Day’ which we held last Thursday. Every year the Abernethy staff and volunteers all come together to split and bag logs of firewood which we then distribute to the senior citizens of the neighboring villages, Nethybridge and Boat of Garten, as a festive gesture. With 300 sacks to fill, it is a mammoth task that would otherwise take days to complete but thanks to the many devoted volunteers who braved the snowy roads and turned up to help, we managed it in 3 hours.
It was a great display of team work as we split the roles and formed a production line. A team of ‘wheelbarrowers’ delivered logs to the ‘axmen/women’...
...who then split the logs...
...and then another team of ‘wheelbarrowers’ took the split wood to the ‘baggers’...
who then filled the sacks. The sacks were then loaded onto the trailer.
It wasn’t all work and no play, there were plenty of snow ball fights between chopping and bagging and a welcomed break of coffee and mince pies at the midway point.
We worked and played so hard that we barely noticed the below freezing temperatures...quite a contrast to last year’s log day which was warm enough to carry out in t-shirts!
Having all our volunteers together like this makes it a great opportunity to have a ‘thank you’ event for them - to say thank you for not just their help on the day, but thank you for all their year round help and hard work. And so, just as the last sack was filled, the lunch bell rang and it was time to go inside for a Christmas feast complete with mulled wine and mince pies...prepared by another team of hard working volunteers! A fantastic day! Thank you to everyone who turned up to help, to Alice for organising it all and for those who worked hard in the kitchen to prepare an outstanding lunch.
Yesterday we had a festive deer themed nature trail for the kiddies, which was also a lot of fun. Paddy Smyth, a local from Tulloch, kindly jigsawed some wood into the shape of deer bottoms for us. We then painted them to look like roe and red deer bottoms with the exception of one, which we painted as a reindeer bottom, or more specifically, Rudolph’s bottom.
These were then placed throughout the forest, along with red, roe and reindeer antlers and a red nose. The kids were given an activity sheet and were challenged to find and count as many red and roe bottoms and antlers as possible, and then to find Rudolph.
There was mulled wine (and hot blackcurrant juice!) and mince pies as a reward for completing the challenge.
Christmas is fast approaching and if you’re stuck for a present idea for someone, then why not give an RSPB gift membership?
There are memberships available for adults, families and children and the membership money goes directly to our conservation work. And the best thing about it is that the gift lasts all year! The new member will get a membership card that allows them free access to over 100 RSPB reserves, a quarterly nature magazine (6 times a year for children) and a choice of joining gift.
If you want to inspire a loved one and help save nature, then sign them up now! For every member made at Loch Garten/Abernethy, part of the membership donation goes directly to our reserve so if you do want to give a gift membership but also want to directly help our work here, then why not give us a call and we can sort it out for you. Call us here at the reserve office on 01479 821409 and ask for me (Jen) or Richard. We look forward to hearing from you. Many thanks.
And now to Mike for his latest on Breagha and Millicent...
Breagha seems to have been the most active over the last week. Between 17.00 GMT on 11 December and 17.00 GMT on 12 December he did at least a 13 km round trip NW of his adopted territory. This took him to a large tributary of and near the mouth of the mighty Casamance River where he may well have roosted overnight.
Millicent on the other hand has continued to travel around her adopted area of the small lake and rivers just inside Mauritania and N of Richard Toll in Senegal. Her range appears to be no more than about 4 km.
The next download is scheduled for 20th December.
A couple of weeks ago the skies at Abernethy were blue and the hills weren’t showing any signs of turning white when BAM, as we roll into December winter catches up with us and billows of frosty snow is turning everything white.
We woke this morning to a blanket of white, untouched snow, and it is still falling heavily now. Phil who has been with us in a variety of capacities since 2010, first as a long term residential volunteer over the winter of 2010 and now as an apprentice pinewood ecologist has been unlucky enough to miss every bout of snow Abernethy has had. He is leaving us next week to move onto other things and so it seems a fitting leaving present for him to finally experience snow at Abernethy.
The current cold weather has created a feeding frenzy at the feeder. There is a constant queue of coal tits, waiting (not so patiently!) for their turn on the feeder. And who can blame them, considering how small they are it is remarkable that they survive the harsh weather that Abernethy offers them.
Even the squirrels don’t put them off.
With the snow settling in, and Christmas fast approaching, have you all bought your Christmas presents yet? If you are looking for some stocking fillers and want to help support Abernethy then how about some Walker’s Shortbread? Walker’s Shortbread has teamed up with the RSPB to help generate money for the native forest expansion at Abernethy by donating 10p from every promotional pack of shortbread that they sell. Go here for more information on how to get some tasty shortbread: http://www.walkersshortbread.com/uk/about/rspb/?utm_content=/uk/about/rspb/&utm_medium=redirect&utm_source=/rspb/&utm_campaign=/rspb/
Last month, a team from Walker’s – Head of Marketing, Alistair Gronbach and Jacqui Walker, the great-granddaughter of company founder Joseph Walker - paid a visit to Abernethy and were given the grand tour by site manager, Desmond.
Included in their visit was a long and bumpy drive out to the forest edge where RSPB staff and volunteers have been planting native trees in an attempt to expand the size of the native woodland. Desmond encouraged the pair to get their hands dirty and so Jacqui planted an aspen tree to celebrate the partnership.
Jacqui planting an aspen
Jacqui Walker said, “Planting an aspen tree in such a wild environment made it a really special day. The fact that it was blowing a gale with a fair amount of rain mixed in did nothing to dampen the atmosphere. In fact, it positively added to it!”
The aspen planted by Jacqui is one of several thousand native broad-leaved trees that RSPB Scotland is planting on the reserve to increase its biodiversity and restore the forest to its original condition. It is part of RSPB Scotland’s 200-year vision for the future of the reserve.
Alistair Gronbach said, “Walkers Shortbread is itself over a hundred years old – just like the RSPB. And, like the RSPB, we like to look to the long-term. Therefore RSPB Scotland’s 200-year vision for the reserve really appealed to us and is a cause that we wish to support not just for ourselves but for the generations to come in the future.”
Desmond showing off the tree nursery to Jacqui and Alistair
Desmond said, “It was a real pleasure showing the folk from Walkers around the reserve. In fact they proved to have a very good knowledge of the local wildlife and particularly enjoyed seeing the hen salmon on station above her “redd” (nest) in the river.
“It was interesting to discuss how important maintaining the quality of the environment is in Strathspey. It’s important for nature and it’s important for local businesses like Walkers and their employees. Walkers have a keen interest in making their business as environmentally sustainable as possible and that, of course, is something that the RSPB enthusiastically supports.”
Now from the below freezing conditions at Abernethy to the humid 27C of Senegal...
Mike tells us that both our birds are still doing well. Still little movement from them, but enough for us to know they are settled and doing ok. The record points for Breagha place him on one of the small (80 m width) tidal rivers/streams in the mangroves SW of Elinkin and Millicent has spent her time on the mouth of the lake (2.5 m long) bordering the paddy fields and 4.5 km NE of Richard Toll.
And last but not least...
We are running a festive family event this Sunday 14th Dec. There will be a Christmas themed deer nature trail with mince pies and mulled wine (with pretend wine for under 18s and drivers!) to warm up with. Prizes for anyone who can find Rudolph! If you are nearby, please do come along. We will be there from 2.30pm. Adults are free, £3 for kids or £2 for RSPB Wildlife Explorer members.
Just a quick update on Breagha and Millicent. They have just continued what they have been doing over the last several weeks. Both birds appear to be well and continue to travel around their small adopted territories in W Africa.