Ospreys at Loch Arkaig

Providing a home for one of the UK's most iconic migrating birds

History of the ospreys at Lock Arkaig

Ospreys were absent from the UK for around forty years in the early half of the twentieth century, due to persecution and egg theft. Since the late 1950s they have slowly returned, recolonising naturally and, thanks to increased legal protection and reintroduction projects, their numbers have steadily risen.

Every year in springtime, ospreys undertake an incredible journey from West Africa to their breeding grounds in the UK and northern Europe, where they will reunite with their mate at an habitual nest site. Ospreys mate for life, and will return to the same mate and usually the same nest year after year as long as both ospreys remain able to do so. The Caledonian pine trees provide commanding locations for osprey nests that stand up to the Scottish storms, while the waters of Loch Arkaig provide rich fishing grounds to nourish the ospreys and their growing young throughout the summer.

The Glen Mallie pine forest’s resident male osprey has been visiting for seven seasons and has so far successfully reared a total of eleven chicks with two different females. When our male osprey lost his first partner of four years, with whom he had raised six chicks, he paired up with a new female and moved to a new nesting platform with her. They went on to successfully raise another five chicks over the following three years.

At the end of each season the family separate, each departing independently for their wintering grounds. Most ospreys head to Senegal or Gambia, but some now overwinter in southern Spain and Portugal. The adult female is the first to leave in August after the chicks have fledged, while the male stays on to fatten up the chicks with a steady supply of fish. The chicks will eventually leave one by one and the adult male is the last to leave, usually by mid-September.

Currently there are two nesting sites in the forest and it’s hoped that another pair will take up residence at the empty nest platform in 2024. Both nests have live-streaming cameras which operate using solar power. The cameras, which are funded by the People’s Postcode Lottery and Woodland Trust, attract thousands of viewers from across the world and can be viewed during the breeding season from March - October.

Credit: Lewis Pate
Credit: Lewis Pate
Credit: Lewis Pate
Credit: Lewis Pate
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