Sunday, 25 August 2013

Loch Garten stories

(Note - uploading the next 3 posts after my placements due to lack of wifi!)

My newest adventure has been volunteering at the RSPB nature reserve Loch Garten in Abernethy for the last week.  The focus of this reserve is protecting and monitoring an osprey pair that have been returning to this same area to breed for the last few years.
Loch Garten

Ospreys are on the Amber list (endangered but not critically so) with the RSPB as they were once relatively common in the UK but they were exterminated by 1916.  Since then their numbers have increased to 160 pairs but they are still threatened by egg-robbers so they require constant protection which is often where volunteers come into play.  My duties here involve monitoring the ospreys in a hide where any notable behaviour is recorded such as the parents bring in fish/nest material, the chicks flying, where and when they are doing so etc.  This monitoring is on a rotation system with the other volunteers so that the ospreys are constantly under surveillance, we even sleep there!

This year, the ospreys  have successfully managed to raise 2 chicks (Breagh and Oighrig), although the beginning of this season did not run entirely smoothly as there were originally 4 eggs but the male discarded  2 out of the nest.  The reason for this was that the female had not been entirely faithful as she mated with another male before her partner returned and therefore the male realised that these first 2 chicks were not his. 
Adult male

However, the season is ending on a high note as these surviving chicks are well developed enough to be flying now and they are spending more and more time away from the nest.  The parents are still bring them fish (primarily brown trout) although they are decreasing the amount of fish they provide (1-3 a day on average) and the purpose of this is thought to be to encourage the chicks to find their own food.  These chicks will have to be fully independent within the next week or so as this species heads south in mid-August to their wintering grounds in Africa which they will reach in late September.  
I know that everyone at the centre will be crossing their fingers for a safe journey for these chicks and a hope that these ospreys will return for yet another year.

Osprey chicks, waiting for parents to arrive with fish!

This week has been very different from Eigg as there are actual shifts organised whereas the work on Eigg was a lot more laid back in terms of timings.  However, the work here was more straightforward and definitely less strenuous than Eigg and I would describe this week as a working holiday.  All of my volunteering placements are different from one another but each one is similar in the fact that they provide my with yet more experience to help fuel my future career, as well of giving me the privilege of helping such special species find their way in this human-dominated world.

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