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 osprey season is fast approaching and it won’t be long before we start hearing reports of ospreys in France and south England as they head back to their breeding grounds. There is one osprey in particular whose movements we all have our eye on this year, and that is Breagha. In his second year now, will he or won’t he start to move North? Both Breagha and Millicent have remained relatively unadventurous for the past few months, not travelling any further than their chosen local patches in West Africa. So when Mike downloaded the data yesterday he was surprised to see that one of our birds had done a significant amount of country hopping...and it wasn’t Breagha travelling north, it was Millicent travelling south! Whereas in contrast, Breagha has continued to stick close to his adopted home territories.
Here is the latest from Mike on our youngest osprey’s long journey south....to Sierra Leone!
Millicent has decided to move south and over the last 7 days has travelled around 1070 km and at times at altitudes of over a 1000 m to a new location in Sierra Leone. This is the furthest south any of the Loch Garten tagged Ospreys has travelled.
Sometime on 17 January she decided to move SE from her adopted territory N of Richard Toll and travelled around 235 km to just S of Tionok Sangué, Senegal flying at altitudes of up to 1040 m. This was followed on 18 January by another 235 km, crossing over the E end of Gambia and flying at altitudes up to 470 m before coming to roost 5 km S of Paunca in Guinea Bissau. 19 January saw her continuing her journey S for 180 km, again reaching high altitudes up to 930 m before coming to roost on the upper reaches of the Rio Nunëz 2.5 km SW of Boke in Guinea. On the 20 January she travelled another 120 km or so SSE to the Atlantic coast of Guinea roosting in an estuary 6 km W of the small town of Diksin. Another 185 km on 21 January took her SE inland to roost just N of Kamalu in Sierra Leone. On 22 January she continued SE passing to the S of Dar-es-Salam and after 75 km roosted just SW of Bumbuna. The next day she only travelled 37 km SSW to roost 1 km SE of Mayinda, Sierra Leone on the River Pampan in a forested hilly area. She stayed in this area on 24 January.
Abernethy has had a bit of a thaw this weekend, with most of the snow melting. However, before it all disappeared I managed to take some photos of the incredible ice formations on a river that runs through the reserve.
For those of you who are local, or might be in the area this weekend, we will be welcoming visitors to come and taste Famous Grouse, Black Grouse and Snow Grouse whisky outside the Osprey Centre on 31st January and 1st February from 10.30-14.30, while taking in the wildlife at the feeders. Famous Grouse is a big supporter of the RSPB and has raised money for black grouse conservation through Black Grouse whisky sales. So do please come along and try some! There will be tea and coffee for drivers and under 18s.
This weekend is the RSPB’s Big Garden Bird Watch, where thousands of people across the UK spend an hour counting the wildlife in their garden and then submit their results. If you want to take part in the UK’s biggest wildlife survey, you’ll find all the information you need here: https://www.rspb.org.uk/birdwatch/?gclid=CN7zsM_nosMCFQj4wgodxUYAQQ
In preparation for the Big Garden Bird Watch we ran an event last weekend to help people get ready for the survey this weekend. On Saturday we braved the wintery roads to spend the day at the Speyside Heather Centre where they have a year round feeding station.
As well as giving out advice and survey forms, we also made bird feeders using pine cones and recycled yoghurt pots. The pine cones were smeared in peanut butter and then rolled in bird seed. We also encouraged kids to come up with their own bird food recipe to fill yoghurt pots with. Choosing from a selection of tasty bird treats, from mealworms to chopped apple, the kids mixed this together with suet, flower, water and bird seed and then spooned it into a yoghurt pot. The kids took them home to hang in their garden to encourage the birds into the garden for the Bird Watch next weekend.
Then on the Sunday we spent a (very cold!) morning in the Osprey Centre car park doing the same thing, where the flocks of coal tits were delighted to see us turn up with tubs of bird food. The below freezing temperatures had obviously made their tummies much hungrier than usual as our marquee was a frenzy of coal and crested tits zipping in and out, pinching food from not only our table but also from our hands.
Two visitors from Lincolnshire, Steve and Zoe, were thrilled to have coal tits feeding from their hands. Steve even managed to get a cracking photo of a crested tit.
Photo by Steve Smith
Despite the cold, it was a beautiful day. The frozen loch had a fresh dusting of snow and looked spectacular in the sunshine.
Photo by John Ingham
One bird that certainly won’t be on our Big Garden Bird Watch survey results is an osprey. They are still soaking up the sun in Africa, and two ospreys in particular are taking in the winter sun of Senegal and Mauritania. Both Breagha and Millicent are still sticking close to their chosen local patches, with no new changes in their movements since the last report.
I am sure that is what our birds are doing in W Africa which is more than can be said for us in the Highlands. We have had gale force winds followed by a large dump of snow yesterday/last night which has now turned to sleet with more snow forecast. At least it gave me an opportunity to get the snow blower out!
Over the last week our two birds have really repeated the previous week's movements with nothing exciting to report. Both continue to appear well and are making regular visits to potential fishing areas in their adopted territories.