The bird thought to be oldest breeding female of its kind ever recorded in the UK has returned for the 20th consecutive year to the Scottish Wildlife Trust’s (SWT) Loch of the Lowes Wildlife Reserve astonishing wildlife experts, it was announced by the SWT today (25 March).
Spotted landing on her usual nesting site, known as an eyrie, at 2.00 pm on 23 March, this female osprey, estimated to now be 25 years of age which is over three times the average lifespan of an osprey, has once again completed a 3,000 mile migration from West Africa to her summer breeding ground at Loch of the Lowes. Her arrival could signal the beginning of another breeding process for one of Scotland’s most magnificent bird species.
Emma Rawling, SWT Perthshire Ranger appointed to protect the osprey during the breeding season thanks to funding from SITA Tayside Biodiversity Fund, said: “We are truly amazed at the tenacity and endurance of this particular female osprey. Defying her age, she has made it back to us again and from initial sightings she looks like she is in remarkably good condition.
“She is now waiting for her mate to arrive to begin her 20th breeding season. So far, this one bird has laid 55 eggs, 46 of which have hatched into chicks which have successfully left the nest. She is a hardy old bird, that’s for sure, and I can’t wait to watch her progress over the next few months.”
It is expected that the female osprey’s breeding partner, a male osprey identified with a green leg ring, will arrive within a week. This resident male will then chase any other males, known as interlopers, away before initiating the breeding process.
SWT’s Rawling explained: “Usually after mating, we would expect the female to lay between two to four eggs in early April, and six weeks later the eggs should hatch. However, as a very old bird, her fertility is now in doubt. We will be watching the nest with baited breathe to see if our female can hatch any chicks again this year. And the best part is that the public can now watch the action of another exciting breeding season along with us. Thanks to our high definition nest-cam, live footage will be aired both in our visitor centre and online at www.swt.org.uk all season.”
Once the first egg is laid, SWT staff, helped by nearly 70 volunteers, will man a round-the-clock watch to safeguard the osprey and their eggs from threats including thieves and poachers who steal unhatched eggs for private collections. Once a common sight in Britain, the osprey was all but extinct by 1916 due to persecution. Conservation efforts continue to re-establish the species as part of Scotland’s rich wildlife. Today, 200 pairs of osprey now breed in Scotland during summer months.
Peter Ferns, SWT Visitor Centre Manager, said: “Over 20,000 visitors come to Loch of the Lowes each year to enjoy watching the osprey, and our high definition nest camera makes viewing the action a far more exciting and intimate experience. You can see stunning views of the nest and close up pictures of the bird while enjoying the Centre’s beautiful surroundings or you can watch online from the comfort of your own home.
“Every year, for the last 41 years, we do everything we can at Loch of the Lowes to ensure that our osprey’s breeding season is successful, including manning a 24hr osprey watch to protect our birds.”
Ospreys are just one of many wildlife attractions at Loch of the Lowes Wildlife Reserve. Red squirrels and pine martens are regularly seen along with woodland birds of all types and sizes.
SWT’s Loch of the Lowes Visitor Centre is open all year, offering visitors the chance to observe wildlife in its natural setting while ensuring minimum disturbance to the animals. Nature enthusiasts can now visit Loch of the Lowes or log on to www.swt.org.uk to watch the osprey mate and hopefully raise young chicks.