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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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.
The reserve is alive with the flitting and fluttering of winter thrush flocks, roving the forest and gleaning up the last of the berry crop. Mistle thrush, fieldfares and redwings have descended upon us in their thousands and the forest is a buzzing hub of activity that has your eyes darting from tree to tree, trying to get a good look at the foraging flocks as they flee your approach. Despite their safety in numbers, the redwings in particular are flighty and as you walk along the paths your presence creates an upwelling of wings, giving away the vast numbers that were hidden in the undergrowth. It is hard to know where to look, trying to choose one to focus on and follow, hoping it will land nearby to allow for a good view. Sorting out who is who in the flock isn’t too difficult despite their game of musical trees. Earning their name from their red underwing, and being the smallest UK thrush the redwings are easy to distinguish from the larger mistle thrush and fieldfare. Fieldfares make themselves obvious with their slate-grey head and rump, whilst mistle thrushes give away their identity as they make their rattling call in flight, a contrast to the seeping of the redwings.
Redwing by Chris Gomersall (rspb-images.com)
Fieldfare by Mike Hems
The ospreys are doing well in their wintering grounds in Africa, nothing much having changed since the last update. Millie is still in Mauritania, just inside the border with Senegal, whilst Breagha is still in south Senegal. Mike has the latest on their travels:
“Millie has stayed in her favoured location over the last three days. She did make one longer round trip of at least 3 km on 20th October and at 12.00 GMT she was flying north at 200 m altitude (see image). Breagha has also spent most of his time around his home area although on 18th October he was some 5 km to the NE flying SE and was back at the home range by 14.00 GMT.”
Over the last few days Breagha has spent most of his time around his home territory but has been a little more adventurous on two days. On 14 October at 12.00 GMT he was 6.5 km NW of his normal area and flying N at 110 m altitude towards the mouth of the Casamance River but was back to base by 14.00 GMT. On 15 October he did a similar journey. At 16.00 GMT he was 5 km NW of his home area and flying S at 180 m altitude arriving back ‘home’ by 18.00 GMT.
Millicent has moved very little from the patch she has adopted near the rice paddy fields NE of Keur Madike but on 14 and 15 October she did make short trips to the lake area W of the paddy fields.
The next download will be on Tuesday.
It has been rather miserable weather wise of late up here but today it is back to sunshine and blue skies. The forecast for here reports it to get as high as 16 degrees over the weekend. Not bad for the Highlands in October! Millie and Breagha on the other hand currently have a sweltering 30 degrees to boast about in Senegal. Obviously too hot to do any travelling. These two are still relaxing, keeping it local and not doing very much, which is why I’m talking about the weather instead of all the exciting things that our youngsters have been getting up to. Mike has the latest:
“Once again over the last three days our two birds have done very little but stay in the areas they have frequented over the past couple of weeks for Millicent and many months for Breagha. On 12th October, Breagha did manage at least a 7.5 km round trip NE from his home area and he was actually still flying E at 16.00 GMT but apart from that he is recorded as not travelling very far. Whilst these stories may be getting less interesting than earlier reports the good news is that both our birds still appear to be healthy and have found good fishing spots so why move!”
With the sun shining, I couldn’t resist popping out and snapping a few photos on the reserve.
Quite a contrast to the video I took last week of a very windy Loch Garten, which had taken on the character of a choppy, stormy sea rather than the glassy, millpond of a Loch that we are used to.
The wind did eventually stop a few days later and allowed for me to take a stroll down to Loch Mallachie without the risk of tree parts flying at me. I sat down with my bins to watch the ducks dabbling on the opposite side of the loch when suddenly they all took fright. A hen harrier had swiftly soared over the reeds and made a half hearted grab for a horrified wigeon. Failing in its attempts, the harrier took a leisurely flight towards me, and then flew over my shoulder on its way to Loch Garten, probably to have a go at the ducks on there. An incredible sight and a first on the reserve for me. Being a winter visitor to the reserve, it isn’t an unlikely sighting this time of year but something I wouldn’t usually see during the spring/summer season.
Hen Harrier by Andy Hay (rspb-images.com)