Apr 06 2020

Thoughts from an ospreycam volunteer

Michelle Kelly is one of a team of Scotland Ospreycam volunteers, who every year help us make this exciting project run smoothly by watching, reviewing and editing footage from our camera at Loch Arkaig.  


Luckily, this is a project that pesky Covid-19 cannot halt, as our 7 volunteers are able to continue with their roles from the comfort of their own homes.  All we need now is for our beautiful pair, Aila and Louis, to arrive back with us.  They are due around the 4th April, which is the date they arrived last year, before successfully rearing 2 healthy female chicks.  Michelle has kindly written a piece for us about her experience as part of Team Ospreycam!


Here are Michelle’s lovely words:


The Woodland Trust value the work their volunteers do from woodlands to wildlife, and that’s where I come in!


I am proud and excited every year to be part of the vital work observing our Osprey pair Louis and Aila, which entails observing their whole journey from arrival, usually in April to their departure around Sept. I am privileged to be able to do this thanks to technology.


Louis at the back, Aila front right, and the two female chicks in 2019 – a successful family of four


I have observed them from their first year in 2017 when they laid 3 eggs but only one survived; he was later named Lachlan and was loved by the nation! We all hope he will be seen somewhere one day in Scotland on a nest of his own!




Ringing beautiful Lachlan in 2017 – we hope he’s still safe and well in Africa – perhaps Senegal or Gambia. He may well make his first journey back to Scotland this year!

Lewis, our raptor expert, on his climb up the tree to ring Lachlan

Feisty Lachlan


2018 brought our pair back again but sadly their 3 eggs were taken by a pine marten in the night when a strong wind had caused a branch to fall against the tree and he managed to get to the nest. Louis and Aila stayed until it was time to go just to bond. This was a heartbreaking time but all part of volunteering.


2019 was much more successful with our pair arriving together! Unheard of but they did! And from 3 eggs they successfully raised 2 chicks named Mallie and Rannoch who are hopefully still enjoying the sun in Africa!


Mallie – the dominant one of the two sisters!


No one knows what 2020 will bring but we are all on tenterhooks waiting for the arrival of our pair hoping that we will again all witness them mating with fish deliveries by Louis (which are usually plentiful but concerning when the weather is wild and he cant see fish in the choppy rough water).  Wild weather means Louise can be a few hours to a day late with food for the chicks!  We see the Aila mantling, cloaking her food with her wings, egg laying and chicks hatching, and  Aila and Louis tearing off tiny pieces with their big strong beaks to feed the bobbleheads (so called as when the chicks stretch up for food their head struggles to be supported by their skinny little necks). They take it in turns to incubate the eggs, and when Louis gets a shot he is always reluctant to get up and let Aila back on but she doesn’t take no for an answer! Lots of little birds land on the nest, but not for long though, and there are owls who sometimes pass by in the night! There are so many pivotal moments in the short time they are here. The view from the nest is spectacular and changes constantly. The sunrise and early morning mist and birdsong first thing has to be seen and heard!  What a great job I have!


Michelle and her lovely dog, Lily, photo credit Michelle Kelly.


I observe them from home on my laptop over a 24 hour period on my allocated day, via a server that I log into.  This stream runs constantly and is also online for the public to see and they love it!  Lots of people watch and comment on the thread running on the page and they are a great help for the volunteers if they’ve spotted something unusual or eventful happening!


Being able to log onto the server allows me to observe and clip important events of that day from midnight right round to the end of the day. It’s important to study and archive this data for historical purposes of the lives of the Ospreys visiting Loch Arkaig in Scotland and I love being part of that study by live stream!


It’s good to know that it can continue even during this time with Covid-19 virus because we monitor them from afar all thanks to funding by the players of Peoples’ Postcode Lottery.


We all get together at the end of the year and although we are all in contact throughout the year, we are of course scattered across the country, so its great to meet up and put faces to names!  We were taken out on a boat on Loch Arkaig and to see our nest being checked after the family had flown.


I love volunteering to help adults and children learn about these amazing birds who travel thousands of miles to Africa and all the way back again to Scotland to breed!




Hot off the press is the news that our Osprey pair, Louis and Aila, have just arrive back at the Loch Arkaig Pine Forest – Louis on Sunday 5 April and Aila on Mon 6 April.

You can follow this year’s story at our Osprey nest here: https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/trees-woods-and-wildlife/osprey-cam/


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