This blog is written by Abernethy staff throughout the changing seasons here on the reserve.
During summer it's likely there'll be more frequent blogs as the ospreys return to breed at the Loch Garten nest and the drama unfolds.
We hope you enjoy following life at Abernethy reserve.
Thanks for reading!
Good afternoon. Chris here...remember me?
Firstly, apologies for the long wait on this latest blog. The more cynical among you may say that you hadn’t noticed it was any longer than normal but I can assure you that I have had this blog “on ice” for at least ten days. The problem has been our internet connection – lost due to the lightning storms we experienced last week – so I am sorry it has been so long since I last updated you from the nest.
So yes, last week saw the onslaught of thunder and lightning, accompanied by bouts of torrential rain at Loch Garten. I must admit, I managed to sleep through the whole thing, however, arriving here the morning after I was greeted by the sight of four, very damp-looking Ospreys! We’ve also seen a number of intruding Ospreys around the nest recently, causing EJ to mantle and give a very high-pitched alarm call. The sound is usually enough to drive the unwanted bird away, and to force us to turn the microphone down! An unknown Osprey even had the cheek to land on the camera tree next to the nest. I’m all for the “right to roam” but this bird was really pushing it. Whereas I would have taken the softly, softly approach and engaged in polite conversation, explaining to the newcomer that, although they were welcome in the area, this nest was occupied and really warranted the presence of no more birds, EJ decided the best way to deal with the situation was to chase away the intruder while flapping madly and shrieking loudly. Each to their own I suppose. And, to be fair to EJ, she has much more experience than I in raising and protecting Osprey chicks. Where Rowan and Willow represent her 24th and 25th fledglings, I am yet to lay a single egg or, indeed, spend 6 weeks sitting on them while eating only raw fish. I don't have any plans for next summer though so never say never.
There was excitement one morning last week when Julie Q (Retail Manager to the stars) witnessed one of our youngsters, probably Rowan given his slight age advantage, practicing his fishing dive in Loch Garten! The chances are this was instinctive behaviour and a chance to hone the necessary skills rather than a genuine fishing attempt. The water in the loch is incredibly dark due to the peat from the surrounding bog so our birds struggle to pick out fish from the air and therefore never hunt there. It’s great to see the young going through this process, though, as the better they become at catching their own food, the more chance they’ll have of surviving the long migration south and the next couple of years in Africa (or possibly Southern Europe). Rowan and Willow have also started taking fish of the nest to eat on a nearby perch – another necessary skill to learn. This does, however, normally result in at least one or two fish being dropped to the ground, followed by desperate calls for another! Imagine going out to buy fish and chips, getting all the way home, giving it to your child and watching them throw it all over the floor before sitting on the sofa and shouting at you to go and get some more. Kids, eh?
All four of our birds are spending longer and longer away from the nest. For the most part they are probably just perched out of sight somewhere nearby but it does mean there are periods where we can see no Ospreys from the Osprey centre - we are considering changing our name to the Chaffinch Centre. This absence from the nest is yet another sign that the birds are soon to be Arica-bound. If you’re thinking of a visit to Loch Garten, I implore you to come sooner rather than later, while they’re still here. EJ might decide to head off any day now (although we are hopeful she’ll be around for at least another week or two). Don’t get me wrong, once they’re gone, the centre is still worth a visit – not only for all of the other incredible wildlife on show, but also for the chance to meet Nimrod.
Some "other" reasons to visit Loch Garten (top-bottom):
Greenfinch, Red Squirrel, Creeping Lady's-Tresses, Nimrod.
On Sunday 17th July we had a Fun Day here at the Osprey Centre. Families were invited to participate in a host of activities including building an Osprey nest, hunting for minibeasts, meeting trees and creating masterpieces of “wild art”. Face painting was provided by the aforementioned Nimrod, our resident artist, who had a constant queue of at least four children (big and small) eager to have their favourite animal painted on their cheek. I even noticed a couple of staff members who had undergone the paintbrush! It was great to see so many people getting involved and the atmosphere throughout the day was one of fun and laughter. It was especially nice to see that some fairies have made their homes in the trees around the centre...
If only Sarah Loudon would write a blog telling us the latest news from Loch Garten. Oh, hang on, what do we have here...
Afternoon folks, Sarah here!
It’s my pleasure to tell you all the good news (although I’m sure there are lots of you who already know this) - we officially have an empty nest for the first time this season because Willow, our youngest chick, fledged just before 9 this morning. The team at the centre have been watching with anticipation for the past couple of days and the centre has been full of visitors all watching and cheering him on every time he helicoptered above the nest! But it was this morning (before the team arrived at work mind you) that he finally took the leap. Our wonderful volunteers Sue and Luke watched the whole thing and have kindly provided us with photos of the event. I tell you what, we do feel like rather proud parents right now. And I’m sure we’re not the only ones - Willow is EJ’s 25th chick to fledge from this nest! She really is a very good mother.
Up,up and away! Willow's first flight! (courtesy of Susan Freeman)
Since flying around for a few minutes Willow has spent most of the day sitting on the camers tree practising his perching skills. After living on a relatively flat nest he has to get his balance right while sitting in trees. He has been facing into the wind and using his strong talons to grip on tightly, but even then he has been wobbling just a wee bit. He’ll soon get the hang of it just like his brother Rowan has. As for their parents- Odin is still the provider of food, EJ has yet to fish for herself but that is likely to happen soon now that her chicks have fledged. Then before we know it the family will start their migration one by one and we will look forward to the beginning of next season.
We have touch down. Willow (top) joins EJ and Rowan on the camera tree. (courtesy of Susan Freeman)
Before that happens though please visit us if you can! There is not only the osprey family to see but Blue tit, Crested Tit and Greater Spotted Woodpecker youngsters have been growing up around the centre. From the kiosk you might see a persistent blue tit chick feeding itself or check out the peanut feeder up at the centre to see the woodpecker youngsters with their bright red caps on their heads.
If there are any human youngsters that fancy a bit of extra fun we have lots of new activities to try. As you walk up from the kiosk there are activity boxes next to the path in which are instructions for self-led fun. Try your hand at building your very own osprey nest before you sit on the eggs or carry a trout in. Or if you have an adventurous spirit you can go hunting for minibeasts to look at under a magnifying glass. Or perhaps my favourite activity which is called “Hug a tree”. Now I won’t ruin the surprise but I can tell you there are blindfolds and spinning involved before you really test your senses.
One of our self-led activity boxes...come and try them all!
Right that’s all from me folks. TTFN.
Hello my fellow Osprey followers. I hope you are all well. Chris here, with some exciting news...
Today at Loch Garten we feel like proud parents who have just watched their child take his first, unaided steps or utter his first words that we are sure sounded like “Mama” (but were probably just wind). This morning Rowan, the elder of our two chicks, fledged the nest and took to the air on his maiden flight. At the time I was sitting in the kiosk chatting to a lovely visitor about the delights of dragonflies and it was only a phone call from Julie Q in the shop that alerted me to the event. I will be sure to have words with young Rowan about not waiting for me to be in the centre and for not giving us some warning. Doesn’t he realise he’s famous? Since leaving the nest Rowan has been perched in the tree next door looking, if I’m honest, a little unsure about his new surroundings. If you’ve ever climbed a tree and got to a point where you suddenly look around in a panic, thinking, “How did I get here and, more importantly, how do I get down?” you’ll understand how Rowan looked at that moment. Luckily he soon remembered that he has wings (going back to my tree analogy, at this stage I would start crying and shout for my Mum) and has since been gleefully flitting between tree and nest.
Don't look down...Rowan moments after his first flight.
When Rowan left the nest for the first time, Willow gave a few mournful calls and jealously watched his brother alight on the nearby perch. Due to the 5 days difference in age between the two, we would expect Willow to be a little behind Rowan in terms of fledging, but his time will come in the next couple of days and we will then have the ever-depressing sight of an empty nest again. Luckily, the whole family will stay in the area for a while yet though, as the youngsters will still be reliant on Odin (and EJ soon) to bring fish to the nest. Lots of feeding is still needed as the birds prepare themselves for their long flight south.
Anything you can do? Willow preparing to fledge soon.
Over recent weeks we’ve had lots of school visits to the centre and it’s always great fun showing classes around. Maybe we have a little too much fun with the fish game as I’m sure the noise levels pick up slightly (if you don’t know what our fish game is, come to the centre and have a go...are you as strong as an Osprey?). Special mention must go to the P1 class from Mortlach Primary School in Dufftown and the P2’s from Banchory Primary in Tullibody. These classes have been following every step (and flap) of the Ospreys and have been learning all about them. It was great to meet the students when they visited and to see how much they know and how much they love nature!
I’d like to take a moment to say a HUGE thank you to Miss McIntosh and her P4 class from East End Primary School in Elgin. The class visited the Osprey Centre recently and amazingly, brought with them a donation of £180! The students have been putting their artistic skills to use and recently held an art auction to raise the money. Bidders were given the chance to buy original masterpieces by the pupils and during the evening were also treated to Osprey information and facts from the class Osprey experts! On their visit they soon told me that have been learning all about Ospreys and following the events at our nest closely on the webcam. Spending time with them soon revealed that they know a LOT about Ospreys, especially all things EJ and Odin, and (despite our best efforts and fiendishly difficult questions) they were able to answer everything we threw at them. Their passion and enthusiasm was brilliant to see and it was a pleasure to have the class visit. Our thanks go out to everyone for the amazingly generous donation and we hope to see you guys back at Loch Garten soon.
Community Learning Officer Sarah Walker, Me and East End Primary with a (literally) HUGE donation!
Some of the amazing artwork by East End Primary.
Another special mention must go to a visitor I was lucky enough to meet recently. Finlay Hamilton is 8 years old and lives in Inverness. He came to the Osprey Centre a little while ago with his Mum, Dad and brother Euan. Finlay presented us with a box full of money that he had been collecting and saving up and that he wanted to donate to the Ospreys here at Loch Garten. We are so, so grateful for this amazing gift and it will be incredibly helpful as it goes towards the valuable work of the RSPB. I learnt from Finlay that he loves all wildlife and he is also a keen artist, drawing pictures of many different animals. He did tell me, however, that Ospreys are his favourite bird to draw. I think we can all see the sense in that! Thank you Finlay.
That's it from me for now. Take care of yourselves and remember, if you climb any trees, always know your way back down!