As osprey season is almost over and the birds, who have hopefully successfully bred, begin their migration to West Africa for the winter we thought it would be a good time to share some images from one of our favourite places to watch these beautiful birds of prey, Loch of the Lowes.
Just outside of Dunkeld this loch provides the perfect environment for a pair of ospreys to nest and rear their young from April through to August. This year the pair LF15 (the female) and LM12 (the male) have been successful in rearing three chicks, which is fantastic for a species whose status is still listed as a conservation concern.
The reserve has two hides – which provide spectacular views across the loch – and a visitor centre which were built and are run by The Scottish Wildlife Trust.
The hides are perfectly positioned to watch the Ospreys with the nest easily visible just across the water.
The Trust also provide a livestream of the nest online as well as in the hides during visitor centre opening hours from a camera placed above the nest (you can just make it out in the photos above). It’s great to watch especially while the birds are feeding.
The Osprey’s require a lot of food, especially the chicks so you can see them regularly hunt on the loch. Their diet consists of many different types of medium sized fish which they catch by diving into the loch, throwing their feet forward and exposing their talons at the last second before using the momentum of their dive and the power of their wings to escape the loch and eat.
They are very successful hunters and do catch a lot of fish just not on the occasion we got on camera, typical!
In between hunting the birds can be seen chilling out on their favourite perches and flying between them.
We also witnessed an osprey imposter! What looked like an unidentified male flew onto the nest before chased away by the resident male.
As well as the Ospreys the reserve is home to many different animals. Nearby the hides and the visitor centre the Trust have set up lots of bird feeders where you can see..
The reserve is also a sanctuary for red squirrels where they don’t have to compete with grey’s. To the right of the hides you can see them run about freely and eat from their own dedicated feeders.
They also follow you to the toilet….
On the loch there are many different species to watch in between the osprey’s diving for fish.
If you are really lucky you might even see one of these guys….
We saw this beaver swim across the lake on a late Sunday evening heading for an area where they sometimes go to eat during the night.
My dad and I decided to visit the loch on a misty wednesday for sunrise at 5 am and couldn’t believe our eyes when we saw 4 individuals take turns to head across the loch back home to their beds. It was an amazing morning.
They all followed the same routine. They would swim across the lake and in among the lillypads where they would dive and dig up the lillies and take them ashore among the long grass. It was amazing to watch and well worth the early start.
It’s great to see beavers begin to thrive all over Scotland considering they have recently been re-introduced, unfortunately they are still being shot and killed in some areas due to the lack of legal protection provided by the Scottish Government, however it is illegal to possess a dead or live beaver without a license. Hopefully in the short term we will be to enjoy watching this amazing animal without being concerned for it’s future in Scotland. Anyone interested in these amazing ecosystem engineers can find more information from the Tayside Beaver Study Group or the Scottish Wild Beaver Group.
Our visiting tips:
1.) If you visit during the visitor centre opening hours there is an entrance fee of £4, in my opinion its well worth it as the Trust provide spotting scopes in the hides during opening hours and set up a tv with the live feed of the osprey nest playing. There is also typically a volunteer on hand who can answer any questions, point out all sorts of wildlife and help to make your visit better all round.
2.) The main hide is open 24 hours a day so there is the opportunity to visit outside of the normal hours. If you visit outside of the visitor centre open hours there’s no entrance fee, outwith the normal hours is the best time to see beavers in the loch or roe deer visiting for a drink and a swim. The ospreys are typically more active in the early morning or late evening as well.
3.) When you go take a good pair of binoculars with you and plan to spend some time there as you will see a lot more than in a flying visit (I know this sounds obvious but the amount of people we have witnessed spend less than 10 minutes in a hide makes me feel I need to add this in).
4.) Make a day of it. The nearby town of Dunkeld is a beautiful place to visit. It has a lovely Cathedral right on the River Tay which is the perfect place for a picnic on a nice day or there are a few cafe’s nearby. The Hermitage is also very close and offers a beautiful woodland walk before overlooking the incredible Black Linn waterfall. Also, Pitlochry is not too far away, another picturesque village well worth a visit.
Until next time,
Elliot & Kirsten.