What a busy day here at Loch of the Lowes, with so many visitors arriving to enjoy the spring sunshine and see our famous female osprey and her mate on their nest. We are acutely aware of just how lucky we are to have both our birds back safely in such a difficult spring when many birds are struggling on migration, and arriving late to their traditional nests. What makes it extra special for us is that we are now as certain as we can possibly be that the bird affectionately known to many as “Lady” has made it back for her record 23rd breeding year here at Loch of the Lowes- a real reason to celebrate!
The matings and nest renovations by the pair have continued apace today, and the male osprey has had some better luck fishing- including a whooper of a brown trout this lunchtime. No sign of other birds over the loch today, so both our birds have seemed very settled and content.
I have received over 20 osprey related questions today – thank you to everyone who has sent their queries and kind comments in. I will try to get through answering them here a few a day, so thanks for your patience. A special shout out to Suzanne in Brazil who wrote to say she had recently flown from France to Senegal and gained a new insight into just how far our birds have to travel and the kind of terrain they encounter- she said from the comfort of her airplane it was still daunting!
Q: How do you tell the male and female osprey apart?
A: The male is quite a lot smaller, is darker over the wings, has a pale, whiter chest and has very long wing tips that meet beyond his tail. The female has a very dark chest, paler brown wing plumage and is heftier bird altogether. Their behaviour is also different, with the male bringing in the fish, and the female spending most time on the nest just now.
Q: Did the rival females fight over the nest ?
A: Not really. The new younger female who was here all last week, was chased off by our resident female, and has not been seen again since. Perhaps she thought better of putting up a fight, seeing how authoritive our “Lady” was. A lot of osprey ‘battles’ are like this- lots of bluster, posturing and shouting, and no blood ( thank goodness!)
Q: Was the female rival her daughter? Could this be why she resembles “Lady” so much?
A: This is entirely possible, but we will never know for sure, as she is an unringed bird. We know most ospreys return to the general area of their birth to begin their breeding lives, though many females also get attracted to males and nests in new areas on route- nature’s way of avoiding too much inbreeding.
Q: Could “Lady” be short stopping on migration, that is , overwintering in Spain, which might explain her longevity?
A: This is entirely possible- we know some ospreys have been overwintering in Spain etc since at least the 1990’s so she could be one of them. Without any leg rings to be easily seen from a distance, or a satellite tracker, we have never been able to follow her movements in detail- which is why we want to track her chicks.
Q: How long will she stay fertile and how old do birds of prey breed?
A: Every bird of prey has a different lifespan and this can be different in captivity vs. the wild too. We do not have much information about Ospreys fertility vs age- we are all still learning about what is normal for such an old bird as she is so unusual. We do know that this female is very well over the average osprey age, and that her chick productivity on average is declining, but we cannot be sure this is due to her fertility or other factors such as weather and bad luck. We still have every hope she will produce eggs and chicks this year.
Q: What are the night sounds we can here on the web camera?
A: Great question! You are likely to hear Canada geese calling ( honking) as they come into roost on the lochs, as well as tawny owls hooting and fallow deer barking. At the moment you will still be able to hear the huge gull roost on the loch and all its attendant chatter between dusk and dawn. These birds roost at night on the water ( or ice!) in winter for safety. Normally by this time of year they have moved off to their breeding grounds on local river shingle islands etc, but this year they are late in leaving- who can blame them! They are mostly black headed and common gulls.