As I am sure you are aware, we are in the midst of getting ready for a busy and exciting new season at the Nature Centre. Each year we see the sun return, a fresh-faced team and a renewed sense of optimism in what the season holds for us. This year has brought an even greater sense of optimism that could be the planet giving us a sign of good things to come.
To fully set the scene, I might have to go back a couple of years to our original osprey gal EJ. When I first started working at the centre, the common spiel that we told visitors was that we had never seen any of EJ’s chicks return in all the 15 years she had spent breeding at Loch Garten. Being such a famous and charismatic osprey, it was a bitter pill to swallow to think that out of the 25 chicks that had fledged(I think), not one had survived to make it back from migration. There were a few theories that we would ponder that probably had no scientific relevance, but when left alone in the centre too long…your mind does start to wander.
My favourite theory was that it was all Oden’s doing. The story went that he was a Scandinavian bird (a Scandi-avian if you will) who had a different migration programming that would take him more southwesterly from Sweden down to West Africa. This Satnav works quite well from Sweden, but not so well if you are programming the same route into your Scottish osprey fledging’s. This is how we would explain so many of the chicks flying straight into the Atlantic Ocean never to see land again.
I think I am letting my mind wander again. I am going to take you back to the present day and introduce you to a less feather friend, Alison. Alison is a dedicated volunteer and osprey fanatic that I think most of you will have met even if that is only virtually. I have tried to convince her to do a podcast with me to no avail and I am sure that one day she will write a book with all the osprey knowledge she has. Alison is very well connected in the osprey world. It would appear to an outsider that she is the Don Corleone to the esteemed Haliaetus syndicate, the osprey godfather. That is how she was able to pull all the strings to make this exciting discovery.
While Alison had been scanning the ospreys feeds online, she came across a photo taken on the Cromarty Forth by Graeme Hill. This would not be out of the ordinary to see a photograph of a ringed bird, but Alison believed she had seen this bird before. Could it be one of the long-lost ospreys from EJ? She got in touch with Tim Mckrill to confirm her suspicions. Although he first thought it may have been a Spanish osprey, after some deeper digging it would appear that it was a Scottish ring. In a strange twist of fate…not all of EJ’s offspring perished. There is now officially proof that at least one has survived. The leg ring that Alison had been chasing was ‘YELLOW/BLACK 27’ belonging to a chick ringed 17 years ago and is still presiding on the leg of an osprey that was now enjoying middle age on the Scottish coast. It is astounding to think that this bird had evaded detection for so long, but I guess like all good mafias it is not a question of if they find you, it is a question of when. Thank you, Alison, for all your hard work in making this discovery. It really shows the power of ringing projects and what we can all do to monitor species.
This feels like a good omen for the season ahead and I look forward to bringing you more exciting news from Garten. In case you were wondering…Oden wasn’t the father of YELLOW/BLACK 27. Makes you think, doesn’t it?
What amazing news! Thank you Fergus, and thank you Alison. So maybe there are more shy ones out there waiting to be sighted.
Thank you for bringing us that fab news, Fergus - and a special thank-you to Alison!
Indeed wonderful news Fergus. I have long hoped to hear news of a surviving chick of EJ, particularly EJ & Odin, but it wasn't to be until Yellow 27 was seen. Where has he been hiding all that time! There were rumours of a sighting of Baldrick, 27's sibling, but it was never confirmed. Baldrick is another story to be told!
Oden Fergus !!! and it is Dr Tim Mackrill - just saying - otherwise not bad x