THE UK’s oldest breeding osprey, who defied all the odds by fledging her 50th chick this summer, has left her nesting site in Highland Perthshire for what may be her last annual migration to Africa.
The 28-year-old raptor, affectionately named Lady by rangers at the Loch of the Lowes nature reserve near Dunkeld, staggered wildlife watchers earlier this year when she returned to her nest at the end of March for a record 23rd year.
She laid four eggs, one of which successfully fledged. And her 50th chick - known as Blue YZ - is also expected to leave the nest in the next few days to begin the 3,000-mile journey back to Africa.
Emma Rawling, the Scottish Wildlife Trust Perthshire Ranger, said: “At her advanced age - her late 20s - we are all aware that every year she makes the migration back to Perthshire it may be her last.
“She is already so far past ‘normal’ life expectancy and there are so many hazards and so much luck involved in migration, we know the odds are now against her realistically. However, if there’s one thing we know about this particular osprey it’s that she often confounds expectations!
“Everyone at the Scottish Wildlife Trust wishes her and all the birds migrating from UK to southern wintering grounds luck, fair winds and safe journeys.”
Ms Rawling posted on her blog: “It seems like only a couple of weeks ago we were welcoming her back in spring, with the whole breeding season ahead of her. She arrived in fine form back on 30 March to a great welcome for her 23rd year at this nest. She then kept us all waiting an extra week or so for egg laying, then surprised us with a truly remarkable four eggs. She displayed her usual tender and expert parental care and has raised this years chick Blue YZ to fledging as a healthy and very confident young bird who we hope will have every advantage for the journey ahead.
“So far in her breeding ‘career’ this remarkable bird has laid 66 eggs and raised 50 chicks to fledging at this nest. She has taught us all so much about osprey behaviour and has surprised us more than a few times, not least when she became so very ill in 2010 and managed to pull through when all the experts had told us to expect the worst.”
She continued: “At her advanced age (her late 20′s) we are all aware that every year she makes the migration back to Perthshire successfully may be her last. She is already so far past ‘normal’ life expectancy and there are so many hazards and so much luck involved in migration, we know the odds are now against her realistically. So we all fervently hope but don’t dare count on her returning next year to set yet another record for UK ospreys.
“We all wish her and all the birds migrating from UK to southern wintering grounds luck, fair winds and safe journeys.”
Ospreys became extinct in England 1847 following widespread persecution for their feathers and habitat loss. They were wiped out in Scotland by 1916. However, the species has gradually returned thanks to a re-introduction scheme south of the Border in the late 1990s and natural recolonisation of Scotland from 1954.