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.
Right on cue, 12 days after Odin’s return, EJ is successfully up the duff! EJ started looking ‘eggy’ at around 15.43 this afternoon and so we had our noses pressed up against the TV screens, trying to peak underneath her to see if she was indeed laying an egg. At 15.48 she shuffled about and gave us a glimpse of the first egg of 2015. Odin was perched at the top of the camera tree with his eyes closed, sunning himself and clearly oblivious to what was happening at the osprey nest. Our new set of osprey watch volunteers for the week arrived 10 minutes later, and were informed that they’ll have to stay awake tonight to keep watch over the eggs - as I’m sure you can imagine, they weren’t quite as eggstatic as the rest of us were about the arrival! Ospreys lay their eggs 2-3 days apart so it’ll be another couple of days before we can eggspect the second egg. EJ has started incubation already and it’ll be another five weeks before the first chick hatches. During this incubation period she will rely upon Odin to provide her with fish. However, she will not eat fish on the nest now and any food he brings in for her, she will fly off with to eat on a nearby perch whilst he incubates the eggs for her.
It has been an eventful day for these two. They had a cold start to the morning, with frost on their feathers and a thick mist surrounding their nest. Intruding ospreys have harassed them for most of the day, with two ospreys circling the nest at one point, and one even stooped at EJ. In the afternoon they were bothered again, but this time by a pair of buzzards. However, being the experienced old bird that she is, EJ didn’t let any of this put her off and after making sure that Odin had brought her in a fish for the day, she took to the nest and went into osprey-labour.
And what a gorgeous day to lay an egg! The sun has been splitting the sky here, despite the cold start to the day. Common lizards have been seen scurrying across the paths, and I even had my first redstart of the year from the hide this morning.
Loch Garten this morning
Isn’t the nest coming along nicely? Odin has had his work cut out for him this year, with a great big pine marten sized hole to fill in and a lot of greenery to remove. It looks like The Hole issue has been resolved by filling it in with a variety of moss, lichens and sticks. It is still deep enough for Odin, the clumsier of the two, to fall into it on occasion, and yesterday EJ dropped a fish into it, causing her to spend a good part of the day trying to retrieve it. However, it looks as though The Hole will become the egg cup that EJ will lay into. Our first egg is expected to be here by the weekend, ospreys lay their first egg roughly 12 days after they start mating. I would put my money on Saturday for the first egg but after we ALL lost our bets on EJ’s arrival this year, I’m going to keep my money in my pocket this time!
Romance is in the air at Loch Garten, with Odin fetching stick after stick for EJ (the osprey equivalent to a bunch of flowers) and the nest. Odin is well known for bringing in sticks bigger than he can sometimes handle, and this year hasn’t been any different. Some have been dropped onto EJ’s back, others he has tripped himself up with, and some he just can’t seem to fit into the space he wants. Each stick is followed by a mating attempt, many of them being successful and so we are now sitting patiently waiting for a nest full of eggs. Ospreys lay their eggs two or three days apart and usually lay a clutch of three eggs, so it’ll be well into next week before we can expect a full clutch.
Odin (left) and EJ (right)
We had some issues with the sound shortly after EJ returned, which we have now fixed. Sorry for the down time! Last year the wire for our microphone was chewed by something, and so the wire was replaced before the microphone was installed this year. When sound went down again this year, we were concerned that the wire had been chewed again. Thankfully, though, the issue was one that we could fix from the centre. We use an aerial to connect with the microphone, and the trees have grown up between the centre and the osprey nest, causing us to lose signal. We were able to reposition the aerial at the centre to give us a better signal, and hey presto, we have sound again. So turn your speakers up again people, EJ has a lot to say!
Breagha still continues to do well in Senegal, travelling around his usual territory.
Yesterday was a beautiful sunny day. The skies were clear and EJ sat soaking up the rays on her favourite perch, expectantly waiting for a handsome male osprey with a fish to take notice of her. We too were hopeful and expectant, regularly muttering to ourselves ‘isn’t today a perfect day for Odin to arrive?’ Our ears were pricked, listening for the sound of sky dancing, the impressive flight display that male ospreys perform to show the female their strength and suitability as a mate. And when did Odin arrive? At half past one in the morning, under the cover of darkness! Like a rock star avoiding his fans by entering through the back door, Odin turned up when most of us were in our beds, fast asleep. He usually arrives in daylight, armed with a welcome home fish for EJ which he sky dances with before ceremoniously dropping off at the nest. EJ, however, was obviously pleased to see him. She soon flew to the nest to greet her man and even let him mate with her, despite having not received a fish from him yet! Being the house-proud osprey that he is, he was soon rearranging the sticks in the nest and making himself at home – despite the late hour. He hasn’t forgotten his manners though, and when the sun came up he treated EJ to a sky dance and then went out to get her a great big brown trout.
This is Odin’s 7th season at Loch Garten, making him EJ’s longest standing partner to date. Both birds are very experienced and so we hope to see them successfully raise chicks again this year. Mating is well under way already so we hope to have our first egg within the next couple of weeks. We are all thrilled to have our boy back again and can’t wait to see what this season holds for this renowned pair of ospreys.
Odin this morning, surveying his kingdom after his long journey from Africa
Competing with Odin’s screen time this morning was a capercaillie at Caper-Watch. Caper-watch started on 1st April and runs every morning until 17th May. The Osprey Centre is open from 5.30am – 8am for Caper-watch and there is no charge, and no need to book. No capers were seen the first couple of mornings, and there was a fleeting glimpse of one on Saturday morning. This morning, however, a male capercaillie showed at around 7.15am and showed for the remainder of Caper-Watch, and everyone in attendance managed to get a good look at him.