Watching over ospreys at Loch of the Lowes

I became involved with Osprey Watch after volunteering at the Loch of the Lowes Visitor Centre during the summer of 2018.

I’ve always enjoyed watching wildlife and I was enthusiastic to take part in the 2019 watch. I wanted to see the season from beginning to end and learn more about these special ospreys.

My first shift was on Friday 5 April and my last was as a ‘guide in the hide’ on 13 May. At the beginning I would start or finish in the darkness surrounded by bare trees, but by the end my shifts were spent in daylight and the landscape was green.

© Janice Willsher

We work in pairs to monitor the ospreys. During my time as a volunteer I noted which parent was incubating the eggs, what fish were being brought to the nest, their behaviour and any other activity of interest. We also look out for intruders, such as other ospreys. We are always vigilantly looking out for more worrying activity – such as boats on the loch and people approaching the nest.

I learned to identify the male LM12. His sleek white stripe above the wing and the ‘Spanish dancer’ on the back of his head. He also fidgets and moves sticks around, sometimes he will even put sticks on himself and LF15!

I’ve studied the beauty of LF15, the female when she sat on a tree stump on the opposite side of the loch. In the sunlight her feathers shone with different shades of auburn. Her bright yellow eyes with black pupils would sometimes catch your own, and when snoozing you would see her third eyelid close.

LF15 and LM12 incubating together © Scottish Wildlife Trust

Sometimes ospreys sit and do nothing. Our attention is then drawn to the other wildlife around.

On the early shift we had the best views of beavers, one morning witnessing four swimming across the loch. You notice a ‘v’ shaped wake and their head above the water, with an occasional tail popping up. On another morning we watched a beaver dive down and come back up with lily roots and eat them on the bank.

There is plenty of bird life around the loch, including a pair of mute swans who use their own backs as a pillow for their long necks. One morning one of the swans woke up and started paddling. It was soon followed by a very sleepy mate, still with its head on pillow!

Mute swans at loch of the lowes

We’ve watched great crested grebes calling out against intruders, dancing with their mates and picking up weeds to show off in courtship. Goldeneye were also there for most of the time and made some lovely sounds in the darkness as well as during the day. Black headed gulls were also particularly loud throughout the night and on one occasion we saw a swarm of sand martins flying over the loch.

Being almost alone at the lochside at 6am on a sunny morning, with just another volunteer and wildlife is an amazing experience. You really do get to see nature at its best. Of course, it is not always sunny (and sometimes it is bitterly cold!) but the wildlife is always there keeping you company.

© Janice Willsher

Janice Willsher

Osprey Watch Volunteer, Loch of the Lowes

More than 40 volunteers help to watch the osprey nest at Loch of the Lowes Visitor Centre & Wildlife Reserve around the clock to ensure breeding ospreys are protected from disturbance. Our Osprey Protection Programme is supported by players of People’s Postcode Lottery.

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Preface

I became involved with Osprey Watch after volunteering at the Loch of the Lowes Visitor Centre during the summer of 2018. I’ve always enjoyed watching wildlife and I was enthusiastic …

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