Archives for May 2011

Checking nests

I checked 15 osprey nests in Badenoch & Strathspey and West Moray today and all were intact – they had withstood the gales but two had failed. I found eggshell under one of the nests and I think they may have failed with small chicks due to heavy rains and very poor conditions for male ospreys to catch fish. In these conditions chicks get cold and wet and sometimes die. The other nest probably failed because of heavy rain and winds, and an annoying branch above the nest which would have been hitting the incubating female.

In the morning, along with hundreds of other people, I was on the main street in Forres, my local town, to witness the last march past by RAF Kinloss. The three squadrons which flew Nimrod reconnaissance aircraft are being disbanded this month – it’s a very sad time for Forres and Moray. It was also a time to remember the great help that these aircraft and their crews gave to the projects to successfully reintroduce white-tailed eagles and red kites to the British Isles. To remember people, who are no longer with us, like Flight Lieutenant Steve Rooke, who so often organised the RAF input, and Morton Boyd of the Nature Conservancy. The flights from Boda in Norway with the young Sea Eagles, after the RAF had finished their exercises over the northern seas, or from Malmo with young red kites from Sweden are remembered fondly.

RAF Kinloss march past in Forres, May 24th

Not a good day to be an osprey

Today has been a dreadful day of weather in Scotland – certainly not what we expect in May. After two weeks of cold westerly winds, with snow showers at times in the mountains, we have had an howling gale all day, with wind speeds up to 100 miles an hour reported in Scotland. Trees have been blown down and and wherever you walk there are torn off leaves and branches. In the afternoon, I had a look at my nearest osprey nest. The female was struggling to hang on in her eyrie at the top of a 120 foot high Douglas fir. The top of the tree was whipping around in the gusts and on top of that there were frequent heavy showers of chilling rain. I’m afraid the gale will have caused losses in the osprey population – probably some nests have been dislodged and the eggs lost. It’s also likely that some newly hatched young will die because of the rain and cold, and also there’s no doubt that the male ospreys will be having real troubles in catching enough fish in these very windy conditions to supply their families. I’m looking out of my office window at dusk watching the treetops swaying in the wind, and my thoughts turn to the breeding pairs of ospreys trying to hatch eggs or rear young out there in the cold. Let’s hope tomorrow brings better weather and we don’t find too many destroyed nesting attempts.