The picture below taken recently by my erstwhile colleague Stewart Taylor shows an osprey nesting on a purpose-added nesting tray to an electricity pylon. Is this the future for ospreys, or at least part of it?

  


There are a few such nests on pylons now and it can perhaps be assumed that young ospreys reared at these sites, will, when they are old enough to nest and breed themselves, have a "search-image" in their brains for a similar nesting location. Will or does pylon-nesting beget pylon-nesting? If so, we could see a developing pylon-nesting culture among future osprey populations throughout UK. No shortage of potential nesting sites for such predisposed birds eh? Think how many pylons there are throughout the UK, a proportion of which will be adjacent to suitable fishing grounds for ospreys.

Currently, all bar a handful of osprey nests UK-wide are in trees, albeit some on man-made nests in trees. A few others are on look-a-like trees, poles or similar.. The vast majority though are in trees. So is it that young ospreys reared from tree nests have a "search-image" for a tree in which to nest when their time comes? The few slightly "off-piste" nests like on pylons are a  relatively new thing. Are we beginning to see a gradual change in osprey nesting culture, or perhaps a breakdown in their innate "culture of fear" in which the returning and spreading osprey population of Scotland and the wider UK has been living all these years?

Historically, here in Scotland, some ospreys did nest in non-tree locations. For example the castle wall ruin on the island at Loch an Eilein, on Rothiemurchus, the last place they nested in Strathspey before their extirpation. Having been pushed over the brink into oblivion as nesting birds in UK, at the hand of man, through persecution and extermination, could it be that there exists a "culture" within the since returned osprey population that causes them to avoid nesting close to man and his activities? They are just too wary. For now.

 

In North America, and elsewhere in the world where ospreys nest, where they were perhaps not subject to, or at least to the level, of persecution that UK and European ospreys were way back, that ospreys in those parts of the world are less wary, have nothing (or less) to fear and are altogether less of a bunch of  "fearties" that UK ospreys were forced to become.


The two pictures below were taken at Fulford, Lake Kootenay, British Columbia. They were sent to me as photographic prints back in May 1994, which I thought I'd lost but I have just unearthed them. And with the advent of modern technology can now be scanned and shared with you. I cannot recall who sent them to me 20-odd years ago, but thank you again, and I hope you don't mind me posting them here now.


The first shows an osprey nesting on the wooden pilings of a lake quayside, a quay used on a daily basis by a ferry, back & forth and berthing right alongside the nest. I've added an arrow to show you quite where. This, despite the potential for tree nesting in the forest seen in the background.


 

 


This would surely be unheard of here, for now. But will we gradually see the breakdown of the "culture of fear" that perhaps our ospreys have? 

It never ceases to amaze me that the Loch Garten ospreys return every year to rear their family at what must be one of the closest osprey nests to man and his activities in the UK, the Osprey Centre at just about 160m from the nest. Other viewing sites too are relatively close. Have we contributed to a gradual breakdown of that "culture of fear"? In the future, hopefully, when Millicent, Seasca and Druie are on the lookout for a nest site, will they be that bit more predisposed to nesting close, or closer to man?

In Florida, in Australia and elsewhere, osprey nest in peoples' backyards, on poles, on purposely erected cartwheels and other man-made structure. Pylon-nesting ospreys here are a step in that direction too. Who knows, with our change in attitude towards ospreys, this their second time around, perhaps one day we too might get ospreys nesting in harbours, marinas and other such locations comfortably closer to us.  Be nice, eh?

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