Aileen Louden has volunteered with us for several years now as a Loch Arkaig ospreycam researcher volunteer, carefully viewing and clipping footage of key moments on our nest at Loch Arkaig for us to use on social media and our website.
Aileen has written this lovely article for us about her volunteering and an amazing opportunity to photograph ospreys in the Cairngorms. Enjoy her breathtaking images; they are spectacular!
Since I was a young girl Ospreys have been my favourite bird. My first encounter was when I was on holiday with my parents as a young lass, on the Moray Coast in Scotland. I remember my dad pointing out a bird diving into the River Spey and it emerging from the water with a fish, turning the fish into the wind for maximum streamlining and heading off with his prize. It was so exciting! And so began my osprey “habit” 😊 .
Over the years I discovered that there were webcams set up and that you could watch life unfold over spring and summer on various osprey nests – I was hooked! Then one day I saw on social media that the Woodland Trust were looking for volunteers to help monitor goings on at the Loch Arkaig site. How amazing would be it be to actually help out – I volunteered straight away and have been lucky to have been involved for the last two years.
What a treat it has been to get to know Louis and Aila, our resident pair, as they build their relationship and successfully raise their chicks to fledging. I know it is something that has enriched many lives, especially this strange year while we have been in lock down. It has been particularly special to engage with these wonderful wild birds and get to know their quirks and enjoy their antics.
My one hope for the summer was – would I be able to go and see Ospreys “in the feather”? I had booked two days in August to go to a location near Aviemore to not only to see these amazing birds fish but also to try to photograph them too. I was thrilled when lock down restrictions lifted and I could safely travel. But would the birds be there?
Oh yes! What an incredible two days I had sitting in a small hide beside a lochan stocked with trout. A four thirty start in the morning, as the sun rises, and a we gather. We were given a radio, and guide stands several hundred meters away, watching the skies for birds arriving. Then all of a sudden the radio bursts into life – “osprey diving, diving” shouts the guide. Before the end of the second word the osprey has hit the water – like a brick! There is no dainty plucking of the fish from the surface. Oh no the bird goes straight into the water with a huge splash. They then grapple with the first and sometimes even float on the water, wings out, before summoning the strength to lift their catch. Then a “shimmy” – like a dog shaking water off – and the fly into the distance to take their breakfast back to the next and their chicks.
What a privilege it was to observe these beautiful creatures in action – it was simply exhilarating. Over the two days there were a ridiculous number of birds came to fish – the sky was almost raining with ospreys. And how special to observe their behaviour away from the nest environment. To learn that there is a dominant male bird in the area, who will chase away all others until he catches his fish. Then the other lads can race in and take their chance – sometimes three or four in the sky at a time, and to hear them chupping and calling to each other.
And yes, I did manage to get some photographs – here are a small selection for you, I hope you enjoy them.
Aileen Louden, Osprey Cam Volunteer