Merry Christmas everyone!
Amazingly, it’s that time of year again already! 2018 has simply flown by, in a whirlwind of osprey drama, scorching summer heat and incredible news revelations. The announcement of the ground-breaking Cairngorms Connect project followed by the news that Winterwatch, Springwatch and Autumnwatch are all coming live from this area in 2019, came after another summer soap opera that is the Loch Garten osprey nest. Alas, EJ and her new male, George, were ultimately unsuccessful in their breeding attempt (due to George’s apparent refusal to feed EJ) but the season was nonetheless filled with moments of captivating drama. One that stands out for me was the sudden appearance of a white-tailed eagle over the nest in spring. Looking not dissimilar to a flying barn door, the young eagle was undoubtedly just passing through but this didn’t stop EJ from shooting out of her nest to see off the bigger bird. As we watched, transfixed, from the ground below, EJ buzzed around the eagle, repeatedly dive-bombing the unwanted (from her point of view) visitor. The white-tailed eagle, turning upside down to protect itself from her attacks with its enormous talons, eventually disappeared from sight and our intrepid EJ returned, triumphant, to her nest.
Another amazing moment was the time EJ came face-to-face with an inquisitive pine marten. “Pineys” quite often build dens inside the osprey nest over winter and come spring, we still regularly see them popping in and out. However, this particular individual was pushing it a bit by checking out the nest in June and received quite a shock when he popped his head over the side, only to be confronted by an enormous, ferocious-looking bird who did not appear at all pleased to see him. Suffice to say, we didn’t see the pine marten around the nest again after that!
And after all that drama and big news, there is one more piece of information I must share with you all. Now, this might ruin your day (probably not), it might make your Christmas (more likely) or you might not really care either way (almost certainly). The news is that I am leaving my role as Visitor Experience Manager at Loch Garten (cue wailing and sobbing)! From January, I will be moving into an Assistant Warden role on Abernethy, with a particular focus on monitoring, surveying and all things sciencey (I’m already picking up the lingo). The good news for me is that I will be staying on Abernethy, undoubtedly the most amazing nature reserve in the universe and I will hopefully still be required to pop into the Osprey Centre every now and then (trust me, I’ll find reasons to make sure I am). The bad news (or maybe it’s more good news for you) is that I won’t be writing these blogs or posting on social media or spending my summers at Loch Garten anymore! In all seriousness, I am very sad that this is the case. I have no doubt that my new job will be brilliant and I can’t wait to start but I will miss so many things about the Osprey Centre. I’ll certainly miss everybody I work with. The people at Loch Garten are amazing – the staff, local volunteers and residential volunteers work so, so hard to make sure our visitors have a top-class experience and to educate and inspire everyone about the incredible local wildlife. They help to create a friendly and inspiring environment with just the right amount of fun and mischief thrown in for good measure! If you haven’t already (or even if you have), I would urge you to visit Loch Garten. The centre will be open from 1st April, when you can meet the team and witness the natural beauty of the loch and the surrounding Abernethy Forest. I promise you won’t be disappointed.
I’ll also miss the ospreys of course. EJ, especially, holds a very special place in my heart, as I’m sure she does in many of yours, and I’m very glad I’ll still be around to follow her trials and tribulations. (I won’t, however, miss her food soliciting call as she “peeps” away day in and day out throughout the summer...in the past I’ve woken up in the middle of the night still able to hear it)! And, of course, I’ll miss our visitors and our online followers (our “bloggers”). Spending days chatting to lovely people about amazing animals and plants never really felt like a job and it’s allowed me to meet visitors from all over the world, sharing their stories about nature, conservation, football (more importantly) and much, much more. Thank you.
And so, 2018 is nearly at an end. I hope you all have an amazing Christmas and a Happy New Year. Eat, drink and be merry and don’t forget to keep checking the Loch Garten webcam (I filled up the feeder just this afternoon). If you spot the crested tit wearing a Santa hat, you win a fabulous prize…
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