Fears are mounting across the globe for the future survival of the UK’s oldest breeding female osprey, which astounded wildlife experts when it returned to the Scottish Wildlife Trust’s Loch of the Lowes Wildlife Reserve for the 20th consecutive year this March.
The 25-year-old bird, which has significantly outstripped the average eight-year lifespan of an osprey, began showing signs of poor health last Friday night (18 June) and continued to decline over the weekend as it became unable to open its eyes, stand over its chicks, and stopped eating.
As the demise was watched by Scottish Wildlife Trust staff along with thousands of online followers of the Trust’s live osprey nest cam at www.swt.org.uk, a policy of non-intervention is being followed by the wildlife charity as it is believed that the bird is finally succumbing naturally to old age.
It was feared that the bird’s final moments were imminent on Sunday, however today (21 June) the bird famed for its record-breaking fortitude appears to be rallying its strength and shows signs of some improvement.
Peter Ferns, Scottish Wildlife Trust’s Loch of the Lowes Visitor Centre Manager, said: “The last 72 hours has been a real emotional rollercoaster for our dedicated team of staff at Loch of the Lowes who have watched over this amazingly resilient female as she has returned each breeding season.
“Year after year, we watched the skies with baited breathe fearing that she would fail to complete her 3,000 mile migratory journey from West Africa. Now however, we could be watching her final days on the nest as she struggles to keep going and care for her latest two chicks – part of the amazing tally of 48 chicks she has raised during her lifetime.
“Today she seems to be rallying her strength and can once again be seen holding her head up and occasionally standing over her chicks to shade them from the sun, but sadly we anticipate that this show of strength will be short-lived. If she continues to reject the food brought to the nest by her mate, she risks dehydration and we estimate that by Tuesday or Wednesday we could lose her.
“Her fight for survival is showing her in all her glory as a magnificent bird capable of enduring life against all odds.
“If and when she does pass on, we will remove her body with minimal disturbance to her male mate and the remaining chicks in the nest. We hope that the male will continue to feed these chicks and that we will still see them successfully fledge from the nest next month.”
Simon Milne, Scottish Wildlife Trust’s Chief Executive, said: “Our policy of non-intervention is quite appropriate in this instance and while it is sad we must let nature take its course. The Scottish Wildlife Trust is dedicated to protecting Scotland’s wildlife for the future and conserving our wildlife and wild places in a natural and healthy state. Life and death is part of this natural cycle.
“Our individual female osprey, which has produced 48 chicks over 20 years, has played a phenomenal role in the recovery of Scotland’s osprey population, which due to persecution was driven to extinction in Scotland in 1916. It was not until the 1950s that ospreys returned to breed. Since her appearance in Scotland around 1985, established breeding osprey pairs have increased from 50 to over 200 across Scotland. The protection and support of the revival of the osprey is an excellent example of how conservationists are striving to maintain and re-build Scottish biodiversity.”
A surge of reactions to the osprey’s decline from wildlife watchers across the globe can be seen on the Scottish Wildlife Trust osprey blog at www.swt.org.uk
, with many still hoping that the old bird will survive against all odds.
One blogger calling herself ‘PattiO’ from the USA said today: “My heart is breaking with all of you. I can’t comprehend watching such an amazing bird pass away. What a lucky, unbelievable creature she is.”
Another called ‘Steff from Oz’ posted this morning: “We’re all willing her on.”
And closer to home, ‘Pat (Tayside)’ said: “Although she is rallying… I suppose we all grasped at straws, but common sense must tell us that she needs 100% health to be able to follow her instincts further than the nest site. It’s so nice to watch dad feeding the youngsters again.”
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION OR IMAGE REQUESTS, PLEASE CONTACT:
Nicola McGovern, SWT PR and Communications Manager
0131 312 4742
Notes to Editors
1. Stock still images and high definition footage of the osprey are available. Please contact SWT’s PR Officer with requests.
2. Photographers and broadcast journalists are welcome at the Loch of the Lowes Wildlife Reserve but are requested to contact the PR Officer before arriving.
3. SWT is the largest voluntary body working for all the wildlife of Scotland, representing more than 35,000 members who care for wildlife and the environment. SWT seeks to raise public awareness of threatened habitats and species and manages over 120 reserves Scotland-wide.
4. SWT receives financial assistance and support from a range of organisations, funders and individuals including Scottish Natural Heritage and the People’s Postcode Lottery.