RSPB Scotland is celebrating the return of EJ the osprey to its Loch Garten nature reserve in Speyside, a full 12 days earlier than she appeared last year.
EJ, a female osprey, has been a regular resident at the site since 2003 and has raised a total 23 chicks there to date, mainly with her usual partner Odin.
Julie Quirie manages the Osprey Centre shop, and was the first member of RSPB Scotland staff to spot EJ. She said: "I had just arrived at work for my first day of the new season, threw open the flaps at the Osprey Centre, and there, sitting on a branch, eating a fish was EJ!
"She had just arrived, having completed her epic flight from the far south. It may seem strange, but even after eight years working at Loch Garten, the return of the ospreys still brings a lump to my throat."
Ospreys migrate to Africa in August and September before returning to Scotland for spring and summer, usually in March or early April.
Jess Tomes, from RSPB Scotland, manages the Osprey Centre. She said: "Last year was like something out of a soap opera at Loch Garten. Both EJ and Odin were present but we had an interloping male osprey visiting the nest attempting to ingratiate himself with EJ while Odin was away on hunting trips.
"The rival male actually kicked Odin and EJ's eggs from the nest! In the end things got so torrid that the birds failed to raise a family for the first time in years. This season we're hoping for plainer sailing and a happy osprey family. With EJ back home our thoughts are already turning to Odin. Will he reappear? Will other male ospreys try to get in on the act? Life is never dull at Loch Garten!"
Loch Garten is famous for being the home of breeding ospreys since the 1950s, and the site is where the birds first returned to after becoming locally extinct as a breeding species in the early twentieth century. RSPB Scotland has been protecting ospreys at Loch Garten since 1958, and 2016 will mark the 58th season of "Operation Osprey".
The Osprey Centre at Loch Garten will reopen for the season on April 1, so visitors can get a closer look at these birds, as well as a host of other species, and enjoy a daily range of family activities.
The Loch Garten Osprey Centre provides fantastic views of the resident ospreys on the nest, as well as close up views via non-invasive CCTV cameras. The reserve also has some excellent walks, with the chance to see red squirrels, dragonflies and crested tits.
The Osprey Centre is open daily, 10 am to 6 pm from April 1 until the end of August. During spring, the centre is also open daily for Caper-watch (to see capercaillies) from 5.30 am to 8 am.
Last Updated: Tuesday 28 August 2018