HOPES for the survival of a rare osprey chick that failed to return to its nest grew last night when satellite images showed it was close by and still alive.
The two-month-old fledgling took its first flight on Monday but has not yet returned to its parents, Britain’s most famous osprey pair, at the Loch of the Lowes reserve near Dunkeld, Perthshire.
Bird enthusiasts around the world have been anxiously watching satellite imagery from a tracking device attached to the young bird being shown on the Scottish Wildlife Trust website.
Yesterday images transmitted from the device showed that the young bird was still alive and located in thick woodland, possibly as close as ten to 20m from the nest.
Experts believe that the bad weather and earlier attempts to locate the bird, with volunteers searching on foot and by canoe, may have deterred the chick from going back to the nest sooner.
Called Blue 44, it was born to 27-year-old Lady, who is thought to be Britain’s oldest breeding osprey and has returned to the reserve every year for more than two decades.
A statement on the SWT website yesterday read: “It is unusual for an osprey chick to fledge and not return to the nest within 24 hours, but not unheard of. Sometimes the birds give themselves a bit of a fright on their first flight and seem reluctant to try again, and sometimes, of course, they get into trouble with their first landing, injuring themselves, or get grounded and then predated.
“We were worried this may have happened to Blue 44 as he hadn’t been seen at the nest since Monday.
“As you can see from the images, however, he has moved since he fledged – not far, but he has been using his wings and has been wandering in short hops between trees between Loch of the Lowes and Craiglush Loch.
“The ‘activity’ meter on the tag, the altitude log and the distance between readings all indicate the chick is alive and well, and Roy Dennis, who has used these tags for many years, is sure this data is a good sign. This news is a huge relief to us all.”
The bird’s disappearance created considerable interest, with groups of birdwatchers gathering at the SWT visitor centre opposite the nesting site.
Scottish Wildlife Trust ranger Emma Rawling, who is based at Loch of the Lowes, said: “It has been a very hard couple of days.
“We were all so excited when the chick successfully left the nest but when he didn’t come back, we started to worry.
“It is not normal for young to fledge and then not return, which means it is likely something has happened.
“We are trying to stay positive and there is nothing to indicate the chick has come to any harm. However, it is obviously a target for predators, such as foxes and pine martens.
“Fledglings can get into trouble – something can frighten them, making them too scared to return to the nest, or they can crash land and injure themselves.”
Lady and the male osprey, named Laddie, have been spotted leaving the nest and calling to their missing chick. Some observers also believe they could be attempting to provide food for Blue 44.
Miss Rawling added: “The parents are still on site but have been leaving the nest at different points, possibly to go to the chick.”
Better weather yesterday increased hopes that the chick would re-emerge.