A livestreaming osprey nest camera supported by players of People's Postcode Lottery has just been switched off after an absolutely stellar summer season.
Viewers of the Woodland Trust nest at Loch Arkaig Pine Forest in Lochaber saw parent ospreys Louis and Aila raise three chicks named Doddie, Vera and Captain. The siblings were named in honour of Scottish rugby legend Doddie Weir, Forces' Sweetheart Dame Vera Lynn and centenarian NHS fundraiser Captain Tom Moore.
George Anderson of Woodland Trust Scotland said, "Our osprey nest livestream found a huge audience this summer, as people at home during lockdown craved contact with nature. When it came to naming the chicks people wanted to honour these individuals who for different reasons have all been prominent in the public consciousness this year."
10,000 people voted to name the young ospreys.
The nest camera at Loch Arkaig Pine Forest in Lochaber has been running since 2017. Last year it attracted an audience of 60,000 viewers. This year, it has seen its audience shoot up to nearly 400,000.
The birds began leaving the nest one at a time during August to migrate south for the winter.
Just as things were coming to the end of what already seemed like a perfect season, there was a surprise bonus. Oldest chick Doddie broke off his migration at a nature reserve in Somerset where he was filmed and photographed by several bird watchers. This was the first time there has been a sighting of any of the Loch Arkaig ospreys on their travels. It caused major excitement among the audience in early September still watching two of the ospreys on camera at Lochaber at the time.
Doddie is still in Somerset having been in the area for around a month now. He is expected to leave soon to complete his migration - probably to West Africa.
The osprey family's story began in 2017 when an inexperienced young male took possession of the nest at Loch Arkaig. He was nicknamed Lonesome Louis as it didn't look like he would attract a mate. But, after 18 days Aila arrived and that first year they raised a single chick - Lachlan. In 2018 all three of the pair's eggs were taken by a pine marten. In 2019 they successfully raised two female chicks - Rannoch and Mallie.
Loch Arkaig was the last known breeding site of ospreys in Britain before the species was wiped out around the time of the First World War. The species has been making a gradual comeback since returning to Loch Garten on Speyside in the 1950s.
Woodland Trust Scotland bought Loch Arkaig Pine Forest in 2016 in partnership with local group Arkaig Community Forest, and with support from players of People's Postcode Lottery. They have long term plans to restore the ancient forest while stimulating economic activity in the local community. The livestreaming nest camera offers a wild slice of forest life with the aim of publicising the restoration.
The camera will be back on in March 2021 in plenty of time for Louis and Aila's expected return in April - for their fifth season on the nest.
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