This evening at Loch of the Lowes there is a palpable sense of anticipation as our Ospreys near the end of their long incubation. For 35 days so far the birds have both sat through sun, hail, drenching rain, high winds and all, to keep their precious eggs warm and well insulated. They have seen off Carrion Crows, Herons, and even Buzzards and Red Kites, all of whom may have been a direct threat to the eggs (or young chicks) as well as other ospreys who have come ‘visiting’ the nest.
Both our male and female birds have been shown incredible dedication to their duty and have shared the task about 1/3 to 2/3 respectively. The eggs have never been left alone for more than a couple of minutes, which hopefully has ensured no repeat of last years damage to eggs, caused we think by exposure to bad weather, the cold and damp killing off the embryos inside.
The Ospreys did give us a fright this afternoon though, when the female took off from the nest, whilst the male was in full view a few trees away. She sometime does this and expects him to take over promptly, but he had other ideas: he was just at that moment intent on diving on a fish near the shore, and didn’t notice her ‘signal’. The moments stretched into minutes, and the staff on watch duty rushed out to the hides to make sure there was nothing amiss on the loch (no human or animal intruder near the nest that might have scared her off). After almost 8 minutes, the female returned from her wee wander to great sighs of relief from all here, and of course no harm was done. We should remember that last year, the previous male Osprey used to do this regularly and we often had to chew our fingernails in anxiety when he got ‘distracted’ whilst on incubation duty and wandered off. This left the eggs perilously exposed and vulnerable to opportunistic predators etc. Thankfully such incidents have been almost unheard of this year- and my nerves are the better for it!
Though she had a lovely pike delivered by her mate this morning, our female has spent much of the afternoon ‘nagging’ with her food begging call ( just one of the varied vocalisations Ospreys make) to encourage her mate to fish again. There has also been some more intruder Osprey activity this afternoon with another bird overflying the nest, being given chase by our resident male.
So the wait continues: will the first egg hatch tonight or tomorrow or will we have to wait into the new week? Will I be lucky enough to be on shift to see it happen this year? (though with me on nightwatch this weekend that seems less likely alas) We will all be glued to the nest for any signs….fingers crossed!