‘LG Blogger’s Round Britain Tour’ of Osprey reserves and associated Osprey habitats.

Loch Garten ospreys

Loch Garten ospreys
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Loch Garten ospreys

‘LG Blogger’s Round Britain Tour’ of Osprey reserves and associated Osprey habitats.

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    ‘LG Blogger’s Round Britain Tour’ of Osprey reserves and associated Osprey habitats.

    Summary.

    This is written in MS Word as a precaution (technical tip). I decided to make this a new thread, as disjointed blogs on different threads would be too difficult to follow. I shall put ‘signposts’ to here on relevant threads to draw attention to the additions that will follow over the next few days.

    The last visits that I paid to LG were in the 1960’s as a young graduate, keen hill-walker and climber. My recollection of LG then, is not very clear, but I recall the pioneering spirit of those involved and the nest itself being easy to view. I remember being struck by the idea that Osprey could exist on an exclusive diet of raw fish.

    I set off from Surrey, just south of London on the 15th June 2010. Apart from LG, other sites were first time visits. I shall expand my comments on the locations in later blogs.

    15th. Rutland Water, to get an idea of the layout of the South Shore locations and to meet the staff at the Lyndon Centre.

    16th. RW Lyndon Centre and the hides which have excellent views of the nest.

    17th. Kielder Forest, Cumbria. Monitor only in the castle exhibition and shop. The RSPB man a viewpoint with a telescope, but only at weekends. The nest was invisible to me in the distance.

    Tweed Valley, near Peebles, has two locations, the Kailzie Gardens (pronounced ‘caillie’ rhymes with daily!), and a small exhibition with a monitor of the nest, at Glentress, which is just outside Peebles.

    18th to 21st am, with relatives celebrating my cousin’s golden wedding in Fife and Edinburgh.

    21st am left for Dundee, visited Carnoustie, had lunch at the pub, ‘19th Hole’, I said,”I have not been in for a while”, “41 years, or so”, then to my old bed-sit, by the sea at West Haven.

    I had heard about, Piperdam, near Foulis on the Coupar Angus road out of Dundee, it is called ‘The Osprey Centre’, but I discovered that the ospreys left there seven years ago, much to their disappointment the fishing centre manager told me. I strongly suspect the quad biking, among other activites being responsible.

    Alan, I bet you are sitting up and taking notice, :o), you have probably guessed where I was off to next…..along the back road to Loch of the Lowes….yes, on the 21st June, of all days, that could easily have been Lady’s last day. Nobody had expected what was about to happen, just after 6.15pm, when she took off, to the water’s edge. I had arrived just after 4pm, just behind the BBC satellite truck and they set about writing the script, for the news item, which was about to change, little did they know. So events took a dramatic turn for the better. More of that later, in a subsequent blog. I watched the news item in the hotel in Birnam and after that the place was buzzing.

    22nd I returned to LotL and watched Lady on their superb HD monitor. The staff use the joystick to demonstrate the points being discussed and we were watching Lady close up, noting how ill she looked, but, enough of that, now that she has improved a lot.

    Then, Pitlochry and some of my old haunts, including the fish ladder at the hydro power station, which was only ticking over at 5% of capacity, as water stocks were being conserved.

    Then to Loch Morlich and a spot of summer skiing in my kilt, only joking, but some people were doing just that, the remains of the big freeze still being enjoyed by some. On the way I had checked where the Rothiemurchus Fish Farm was, it was where I thought it was, but the new road system makes it feel much closer to Aviemore.

    Since I prefer back roads, I passed the LG turning, after closing time on my way to Nethy Bridge Hotel, where I intended to stay four days, subsequently extended, because of the good weather.

    To be continued…..

  • Fortunate you JSB - I read with envy and look forward to more of the saga.

  • Thanks JSB. It certainly was a wonderful trip round the osprey centres of UK. I wonder if anyone else has done it in so short a time? You are right  I did sit up and take notice when you mentioned all those well known places especially Carnoustie, West Haven and Coupar Angus. Things must have changed somewhat after all those years as would be the case for me if I went back there. I have been to Loch Garten as recently as June 2008 but have never been to LOTL since there have been ospreys nesting there.

    Looking forward to the next episode.

  • What a wonderful trip you have had:  good idea to make it a new thread and keep it all together, so it can be read as one, later.

  • Thanks for the 1st installment jsb - really looking forward to the detailed descriptions and the pics.

  • Summary Part 2.

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    23rd. LG Arrived 9.15am even although I knew that they opened at 10am. More details later. But I only plan to cover the areas of interest, either, not known to me, or not properly understood. Otherwise I would only be repeating stuff that is familiar to you.

    Boat of Garten for a snack lunch on the banks of the Spey, joined by mother duck and ducklings and a white goose, which shared my sandwiches. I tried various points on the Spey, where there were paths, hoping to see Osprey fishing, but saw none.

    Then back to LG for more time watching the monitors and viewing the nest through the telescopes, as it is about a fifth of a mile away from the Centre. (My estimate)

    At the hotel, the remote control for my camera had arrived, so I could take proper photos now, instead of only using the small one.

    24th I went back to Loch Morlich and walked up the track and then the path to the start of the Lairig Grhu, which knew of old, but this time my Achilles tendonitis, which is on the mend, began to complain, at the limit of the tree line, so I returned. Again I saw no Ospreys.

    After lunch at Glenmore Forestry Commission, I went to Rothiemurchus Fish Farm and sat in the hide, patiently watching fishermen for a couple of hours, occasionally looking through the glazed windows behind me. Then I realised when a local couple joined me, that, that was the better direction to look. I was then told that the hide had been moved and the position now was not ideal. So, then we saw three or four Osprey, who were fishing in the fish tanks close to the entrance, but the area was fenced off and the actual water surface was obscured by trees. But we could see them easily in the air. As I walked back to the exit, the Osprey were still present, but the fencing was the problem. The fee for the afternoon was £5, also escorted photo shoot sessions are available at 5am, costing £125.

    After dinner in the evening, I passed by the Fish Farm again, but saw nothing. I then went for an evening stroll at Loch An Eilean, which is fantastic, very scenic and met a local man with his dog and told me that one of his jobs involved building Osprey nests, which are kept secret, as we know. Sometimes Osprey do fish in this loch.

    25th At the hotel a professional photographer had told me of the ‘Raptor Valley’ as it is known, it is Strathdearn, a valley that runs South West, from Tomatin. Leaving the village, I followed the estate road as far as one can to a small car park, the area is almost uninhabited and I continued on foot for about four miles on a stony track. At the head of the glen there is a very large lodge with many windows and the distant noise of a generator could be heard. But I had the place to myself, after a man with a van drove off in the distance.

    I sighted an eagle at height soaring majestically, a peregrine and some buzzards.  Many red deer were all over the mountains and in the valley as well. One small herd allowed me to get within one hundred yards, but as I raised my camera, for a shot, they moved cautiously away.

    If one used a mountain bike, I believe that it would be possible to make a circular tour, from this valley to the west then north-west. I drove over a road that was barely single track, with many warning signs, via Farr, to Inverness. My sat-nav had stopped working and I wanted to let Halfords have a look at it. It still did not work though.

    There was still time to fit in Findhorn Bay, one of Roy Dennis’s viewing areas, but the traffic on the road was nearing rush-hour and jams were building up so I abandoned that idea, returning to Nethy Bridge.

     

  • Just seen this thread, jsb , and it seems I nearly met you....!  I intended to do my trip on 21 -25th June, but things conspired, and I went this week instead ie 28th to 2nd July.

    I stayed 3 nights in Boat of Garten visiting the osprey centre on morning of 29th and late on the 30th. Also went to L an Eilean, and L Morlich, but saw no ospreys. I enquired about the fish farm and went as far as the car park, but it was 5 pm by then. I did go to Finhorn Bay but did not stay long, not knowing where would be good for sighting ospreys. I did not do much on Thursday as it was raining and windy, Also stayed one night at the Birnam Hotel (!!) then on Friday I spent the morning at Lof Lowes. I saw an osprey make several fishing attempts, uncuccessful, at the far end of the Loch, not sure if it was Laird or another osprey. The large headless trout was brought in just as I was about to leave, then I headed home to Cumbria.

  • jsb

    glad you've decided to post this - looking forward to the next instalment...........

  • Thanks for the 2nd chapter of your Osprey Odyssey jsb. It makes fascinating reading.

  • Hi ChrisyB, I met a couple, probably more senior citizens that I am, who were bloggers on these threads and they had heard of me (so they may read this) on the first morning at LG, the lady had arranged a birthday treat for her husband, which Richard had something to do with, so they went off together. In Birnam, I was at the Birnam Hotel and was entertained ? by a Canadian couple, farmers, who discussed the reproductive system of imported cattle, while I was trying to enjoy my dinner. It was actually a lot worse than that, but, I would not wish to put on here what they really said. The sandwiches that the ducks enjoyed, came from the little shop in B o G. Paths crossing and all that! Take care,

    jsb.

  • I forgot to say that due to reading this blog I took to LG some Cake  - It was enthusiastically received !

    I dont think there  wereany other bloggers there, a nice couple from Northumberland had been several times and I asked them, but they did not 'do' computers.

     

  • jsb - Thanks very much. I am enjoying reading about your tour.

  • Summary, Last Part.

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    26th I spent the morning at one of the locations in the area, where a ‘secret’ nest is located. I am sure that you will understand that I wish to protect the birds, by not saying any more about this part of my trip.

    In the afternoon I went to LG for the main purpose of photography. However, as many of you will know, visitors including members are restricted to the Centre and only volunteers are permitted to go to the forward hide. So even with a 500mm telephoto lens the pictures of the nest are not zoomed in as close as one would like. Nevertheless I shall post what I have in due course.

    27th I travelled north again to Findhorn Bay with the intention of trying to get photographs of Osprey fishing. The weather was fine, sunny and warm. I stopped at the bird hide, opposite the airfield and it was not in a very pleasant condition, with beer cans etc. Moving quickly on I got to the village Findhorn, which has a yachting centre, places to eat, two piers and some boatyards. The bay is almost enclosed by the Culbin sands beach, with a narrow neck, allowing the tide to come in very fast. The seals were coming into the bay to fish and some kayaks were enjoying the currents, no swimming definitely everywhere, as it would be far too dangerous. The basking Sharks failed to put in an appearance. The forest on the other side looked inviting, but, although there is a small boat, possibly a motor boat ferry, for trips to the opposite beach, the forest is notorious for people getting lost once inside and just to add to the excitement, there are some unexploded munitions, dating from the Second World War, practice of the D-Day landings.

    I was advised that the best time to see the Osprey would be in the evening when the tide was going out, between 6 to 8pm from the piers. I was prepared to wait and enjoyed the afternoon sight-seeing. During the afternoon the small group of boys, who had been fishing for crabs, from the pier had gone and the clouds began to appear, then the wind got up and the yachts started rattling their lines and bells started clanking, the wind was now quite strong, then the rain, which was only for a few minutes, cleared all the visitors quickly, me included. So I am afraid, it was back for dinner with no photos.

    28th I was due in London for a group lunch on Wednesday and I had extended my stay by two days, so it was time to head south. I found that in future I should allow at least two days per location, to complete all the aspects of each visit. After leaving Nethy Bridge, I took the back road to Coylumbridge for the last time and passed the LG turn off, with a lump in my throat, heading for Loch of the Lowes again, I had no news of Lady, due to no hotel Wi-Fi and o2 had told me in Inverness that it was not worthwhile buying a mobile broadband dongle, as Nethy Bridge was only served by GPRS, which is voice and not practical for surfing the web. I had not been to Aviemore, during this visit, if you do not count the fish farm.

    After some shopping at House of Bruar at Blair Atholl, Pitlochry and lunch in Dunkeld, I returned to LotL. I was really pleased to see the change in Lady, the first thing I noticed that her eyes were open again and she was eating and feeding, but still frail and a bit unsteady. This was before she went fishing on Tuesday, the following day, as I was later to hear. What I learned from the staff, was how she got back to the nest the previous Monday. There she was at the water’s edge and after resting, she made a laboured climb and circled to gain height, remember she was blind or almost blind, when she was above the trees trying to find the nest, the chicks called out to her and she was able to land safely on the nest. Truly remarkable, the chicks seem to have saved their mother’s life. The staff also said that  Roy Dennis, had never heard of the type of illness or symptoms that she suffered, so as far as I know it remains a mystery. During the visit I joined the SWT and took some photos from the hide, which I need to process and compress to get them to upload.

    I then headed for Glentress in the Tweed Valley, for a brief visit to the exhibition, which includes a monitor of the nest. I shall try to scan the leaflets I collected and post the images in due course.

    I treated myself to a night in the Peebles Hydro and got an upgrade for the accommodation, this hotel is superb and the room was immaculate, dinner was first class, head waiter, service and politeness, there are not many hotels these days, like this one. Just to bring me down to earth, I informed the reception lady, apart from holding conferences there in the past, as a 21 year old student, I used to deliver their fish from Edinburgh in my fish lorry!

    29th As I said before I like back roads. So I wanted to go to the woollen mills factory shops in Hawick. I headed for Traquiar, the Gordon Arms Hotel, Tushielaw Inn, Roberton, then to Hawick. The reason being that the countryside in this area is suitable for Osprey and I stopped on the way a few times, also to chase lambs from the road, that refused to budge.

     I thought I may see some Osprey, but no luck, that day although the countryside was ideal. I left Hawick for Surrey via the A7, M6, M6Toll, M42, M40 and M25.

    I am thinking of returning to LG for the migration, meantime I will be busy putting up my photos on the thread. You will have to bear with me, if some of you remember, from the weekly blog; the package containing the new cameras was tampered with, just before I left, so the camera software is not on the computer yet, which is what I have to do next.

  • Thanks very much JSB for part  3 of your Osprey Odyssey. It is interesting that you mentioned the Peebles Hydro Hotel as I spent one night of my  honeymoon there when I was 24. It really is a lovely place as is Peebles. I also know Glentress very well as I did lots of walking in the area when I lived near Glasgow. I think you will recognise this photo of Findhorn Bay with a view across to Culbin forest:

  • Hi Alan: Re Findhorn picture, just as I saw it. Thanks. My sister lived in Peebles for a while. The Forestry have changed Glentress into a very popular activity centre, as I am sure you know. There were many mountain bikers getting ready to go home when I was there.