What to Expect from this Year’s Osprey Season at Loch of the Lowes – A Glance Back at the Events of 2021.
This year’s season at Loch of the Lowes, the 53rd year of Ospreys at the reserve, has already got off to an eventful start, with our resident male LM12 arriving earlier than ever before, and exceptionally unseasonal mild weather across the UK at the end of March.
But now that the weather has returned to normal, and both of our resident Ospreys have arrived and are settling in, what can we expect to happen over the next few months? One of our Species Protection Officers for 2022, Katie Berry, looks at the events of last year to provide us with some clues:
Very happily we don’t need to predict this, as both LM12 and NC0 are back from their winter holidays safe and sound! LM12 beat all previous records, arriving earlier than ever before on the 13th March, giving the team at Lowes quite the wakeup call as we were preparing for the season! You can see footage of his arrival, and reunion with our female, NC0, on the 23rd March below:
Mating and Nesting
In 2021 both birds arrived a little later, with LM12 touching down on the 21st of March, and NCO following shortly after on the 25th. They then spent the following days and weeks setting back in and getting reacquainted after their winter apart, with over 80 mating attempts observed, and lots of collecting of sticks and rebuilding of the nest. One of the more amusing moments came when LM12 quite enthusiastically brought a very big stick to the nest and plonked it down right on top of his mate!
Egg Laying and Incubation
The next big excitement in 2021 came when the first egg was laid on the 11th April, 17 days after the first successful mating attempt was observed. Eggs can be laid in as little as 10 days from the fist successful matings, but as a relatively new pair, it took them a wee while to strengthen their bond and successfully mate regularly. Two more eggs followed shortly after, each three days apart on the 14th and 17th respectively.
From this moment on NC0 took up the majority of incubation duties, sitting on the nest for around 80% of the time until hatching. We observed LM12 bringing her plenty of fish each day, and he also incubated occasionally whilst NC0 had a break. Bar a couple of occasions when the nest was uncovered due to intruders and/or disturbance (the longest being 53 minutes when LM12 was disturbed off by a plane) both birds made sure their eggs were kept toasty warm and protected for a total of 36 days!
The moment everyone was waiting for, human watchers and osprey parents alike, came on the 17th May at 10pm when the first chick hatched (followed on the 20th and 22nd May by its siblings). Its first ever meal was breakfast at 8am the next morning, when LM12 brought fish to the nest. After a couple of wobbly moments the meal was consumed happily with careful feeding by Mum! Ospreys chicks feed an extraordinary amount in their first weeks of life, gaining about 75% of their body weight in their first 4 to 5 weeks.
We sadly then had some less happy news as on the 25th May the third and youngest chick died. A period of incredibly wet, cold and windy weather meant that NC0 had to ensure that feeding sessions were kept as short as possible to prevent the chicks from dying of exposure. Unfortunately, this meant that the youngest chick could not compete with its stronger siblings in the short feeding window, and was not strong enough to make it through the period of poor weather.
Juveniles in the Nest
The remaining two chicks then spent the following weeks being fed and protected by NC0 and LM12, with LM12 being the sole ‘fishwinner’. Indeed, after the chicks hatched LM12 increased his fishing dramatically, bringing an average of 4 catches to the nest each day (compared with an average of 2 prior to hatching), with the a maximum of 6 fish on one single day!
Once they were a little older both chicks were ringed by local expert Keith Brockie. Each bird receives two rings, a small metal BTO ring with a code on its right leg, and a larger coloured Darvic ring on its left leg (in Scotland). The codes identifying the two youngsters were Blue LR1 and Blue LR2, with LR1 being the eldest chick and thought to be a female, and LR2 a male. You can see a video of them here with their shiny new tags on, along with their distinctive juvenile pale fringed feathers which help them to be camouflaged in the nest:
After many weeks of eating to their hearts content our young ones were ready for flight LR1 was the first to take the plunge, lifting off on the 9th July, much to the surprise of her brother! He following shortly after on the 12th July. Juvenile Ospreys tend to fledge from the nest about 7-8 weeks after hatching, so they were in perfect time. After some very slightly ungainly landings, they then spent the following weeks practicing and exploring the area – all under the watchful eyes, and with continued feeding, by LM12 and NC0.
There was one final surprise in store in 2021 when, very unusually for ospreys, one of the juveniles LR1 left on migration prior to the NC0. It is usual for adult females to leave first, followed by their young and then lastly the adult males. However, this particular family wanted to do things slightly differently, with not only NC0 leaving after her first chick but also LM12 leaving prior to the second chick LR2! All will then have travelled south separately to one another, escaping the Scottish winter for sunnier climes!
Looking to 2022
What is in store for 2022 we do not know for certain, but the above gives us a good idea. With LM12s record early arrival, and the unusual departure pattern at the end of last year, everything is to play for! To keep up to date do watch our Live 24/7 Osprey Nest Camera, and keep an eye on this blog for further updates as we bring you all the breaking Osprey news from Loch of the Lowes.
Katie Berry, Species Protection Officer
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What to Expect from this Year’s Osprey Season at Loch of the Lowes – A Glance Back at the Events of 2021. This year’s season at Loch of the Lowes, …