RSPB Scotland is appealing for help from members of the public who are being asked to report nesting ospreys and sightings of ospreys across Aberdeenshire and Moray this spring.
The conservation charity monitors nesting ospreys in Aberdeenshire and Moray to keep an eye on how they are doing. Ospreys first bred in Aberdeenshire in the early 1990s. After slowly increasing, numbers have levelled off recently at around 20 pairs. This is partly because they are colonising further south in Scotland and in England, but RSPB Scotland's local conservation team believe they might be missing nesting pairs because ospreys can be surprisingly elusive.
Ian Francis is a Conservation Manager for RSPB Scotland based in Aberdeen. He said: "Although ospreys are one of Scotland's largest and most characteristic breeding birds, they can be very secretive and their nests are often difficult to find. So we are sure there are local nests that we don't know about. We are urging people to get in touch, by phone, email or a private message on social media, to tell us about where they have seen ospreys, particularly if they've seen one carrying a fish or if they think they have spotted a nest."
Ospreys can nest in any suitable tree or woodland, often far from rivers and lochs. They create large distinctive stick nests, known as eyries, usually in the tops of trees. At this time of year, they should be incubating eggs, but parents will become more active as they start to bring food to the young birds from late May.
Ian added: "Even if people think we already know about a nest, we'd like them to contact us because we'd really like to make sure we have a full picture of what these birds are up to!"
If you have spotted an osprey you can contact RSPB Scotland by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 01224 624824. All information will be kept securely, and only used as part of the annual osprey monitoring scheme.
1. Having become extinct as a breeding bird in England in 1840 and in Scotland in 1916, ospreys re-colonised naturally in 1954, setting up home at Loch Garten. Their recovery was hampered by egg collecting and egg-thinning caused by DDT, but by 2013, the UK population numbered over 210 pairs. The main UK stronghold for ospreys is in Scotland.
2. Ospreys arrive back from Africa in late March and April, leaving again in August and September. Although, immature ospreys may return to the UK, pair up and even build trial nests when they are two years old, they normally breed for the first time in their third to fifth year. Ospreys are long-lived and are mainly site faithful; some nests have been in use for some 20 years, with the same birds adding to it each year.
3. Ospreys are large birds of prey, with wingspans of 180 cm. Their diet consists almost exclusively of fish.
4. The RSPB is the UK's largest nature conservation charity, inspiring everyone to give nature a home. Together with our partners, we protect threatened birds and wildlife so our towns, coast and countryside will teem with life once again. We play a leading role in BirdLife International, a worldwide partnership of nature conservation organisations.