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Strange goings-on at Loch of the Lowes

In March, the Scottish Wildlife Trust welcomed back one of its star attraction, the ospreys, to its Loch of Lowes reserve in Dunkeld. Amid speculation as to whether the elderly female would manage possibly her final visit to her summer home, staff have now discovered that the first-ringed male she had an amorous encounter with on her return, was in fact her son.

Peter Ferns, Visitor Centre Manager at Loch of the Lowes visitors said, “Until now we weren’t sure who the rogue male with the yellow ring was, but the tag definitely confirms this bird was one of three chicks that hatched on the reserve 13 years ago. The female has had brief dalliances with other males before, but this is the first known incident we have had with her mating with one of her offspring.”

“Seeing this visiting male was a very special moment for me as this was the first time I had seen it since it fledged all those years ago. At the time I was one of the volunteers at Loch of Lowes manning the protection watch so it is lovely to see that he has made it back to his birth home and made such a big impression!.”

Birds such as ospreys are ringed in order that bird experts can study changes on population size, breeding success and survival of bird species. This information builds greater understanding of the causes of population declines as well as helps to identify the environmental factors responsible. Each ring has a unique number and also has an address so that anyone who comes across a ringed bird can help by reporting where and when it was found and what happened to it. Some ringers also use coloured rings to allow individual birds to be identified without being caught.

The very next day, the resident male returned to the nest and ousted his love-rival from the nest. Now the female osprey and her long-term partner have now settled in. Once the home was up to scratch, the original ospreys pair began mating (nearly ten times in the day!) with breaks for feeding and bringing back nest material. All this efforts and amorous adventures should result in eggs being laid soon and once laid, staff and nearly 70 volunteers will take it in turns to man the round-the-clock watch to safeguard these magnificent creatures.

Without a DNA test it would be difficult to tell the paternity of any resulting chick. Experts believe the frequency of mating is designed to stimulate the female’s ovary to increase in size after lying dormant over the winter months in readiness to produce an egg. Earlier attempts will assist this process and although not unheard of, would be unlikely to fertilise any resulting eggs laid.

Once a common species in Britain by 1916 ospreys were all but extinct. The first pair to return to the Loch of the Lowes Wildlife Reserve was in 1969 when they were only the fifth known pair in Scotland. This year staff hope to celebrate a major achievement at the reserve with the female laying her 50th egg this season. Thanks to the wonders of technology and to support from Chevron Upstream Europe, those not able to visit the reserve can see and hear the ospreys live through our webcam from our new High Definition camera on SWT’s website at www.swt.org.uk

Around 30,000 visitors come to the Loch of the Lowes each season to enjoy observing wildlife in its natural setting and most importantly, in a controlled environment offering minimum disturbance.

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